Santa Clara County Voter's Guide On Children's Issues

San José Unified School District, Area 2

Helen Chapman

As a mother of two children, both graduates of SJUSD, I will bring the perspective of a parent, and a former district employee to the role of Trustee. For 30 years, I have dedicated my public service career toward improving our schools and communities for all children and families.

  1. What do you think are the top three issues affecting our children and families and how do you propose to address them?

    The lack of affordable housing is pushing children, families, and teachers out of the area. Between 2013 and 2017, the number of homeless minors and families increased while others moved away entirely. Decline in student enrollment then affects school district budgets and their ability to attract and retain teachers who already cannot afford to live here. Families are also working more than one job to put food on the table. While SJUSD high school graduation rates have increased, Latino students continue to fall behind. Latinos make up 53% of SJUSD students but only 35% are college ready upon graduation.

  2. How will the priorities you addressed in the first question be reflected in the way that you approach the budget process?

    Leveraging existing resources and working with the City, County, and State to address affordable housing will be a top priority of mine. Other school districts are beginning to explore supportive housing solutions for teachers, students and their families. It is time that SJUSD do the same. Working with the County and nutrition/food assistance programs will be a priority in addressing food insecurity for SJUSD students, especially during the summer vacation and school holiday breaks. Closing the achievement gap among Latinos and all students will necessitate investing in after-school programs, and summer programming for those who need additional academic support.

  3. What steps will you take to address the high cost and lack of availability of quality child care and preschool programs in our communities, especially for low-income children and English language learners?

    As a SJUSD school board member, I will champion efforts to invest in publicly-funded, universal pre-school education and transitional kindergarten across our entire district. Household income, a family’s zip code, or language ability should not determine whether a child has access to early childhood education.

  4. What steps will you take to improve inclusion and outcomes for children with special needs or with disabilities?

    In SJUSD, 10% of the student population has a special need or disability. Communicating and listening to the needs of special education teachers, parents, and caregivers will be the first step I would take to improve inclusion and outcomes for students with special needs or disabilities. I would work with them to address those issues before the school board and champion policies that are informed by their experience.

  5. Much of the student achievement gap has been linked to the "opportunity gap" that low-income children and children of color experience, including lack of access to healthy food, preschool, tutors and enrichment activities. If elected, what steps will you take to address this issue?

    Establishing partnerships with the County of Santa Clara and community service agencies that provide social and behavioral health services will be important in addressing the opportunity gap. I will work to bring these partners into our school campuses so that students and families have the social services they need to thrive. This means expanding School-Linked Services across all our campuses, and holding existing partners accountable. Students cannot succeed in the classroom if the conditions they live in are not meeting their personal and family needs.