What pandemic policies do you think were successes in terms protecting students and staff and what did you disagree with? What should schools do if the city gets hit with a new surge of infections?
I believe that requiring vaccines and masks were major successes in helping to reduce local transmissions of the pandemic keeping students, staff and families safe, as well as partnering with the Long Beach Health Department and the city to make vaccines accessible and prioritizing teachers when the vaccines became available. I applaud the district for taking swift action, as other school districts did in the state to close our schools down and making distance learning accessible from home.
Within two days, schools closed down and after a week of planning, teachers and staff organized books, materials and Chromebooks to be picked up at school, so that kids could learn from home. Schools kept lunch programs open and available to the community for those who needed it. The schools closing down was not a perfect process, but it really demonstrated a community effort to keep everyone safe and I support and appreciate greatly all that was accomplished over the past two years.
I think that if there is a new surge, we should require vaccinations and/or rapid test results for all students and educators. To prevent any possible surges for the coming fall, schools should work in partnership with the city and the health department to make vaccines accessible and continue education around vaccines—especially this coming summer.
Given the October 2021 killing of Mona Rodriguez by a Millikan High School safety officer, would you support the removal of all armed security and police from school campuses?
Currently we do not have armed security and policy on school campuses. This is based on information shared at our current school board meetings. Safety officers patrol areas around the schools to ensure they are available should a major incident occur. I would continue to support investment in the use of de-escalation techniques to reduce violence. The safety and security of our students will always be a priority for me.
The death of Mona Rodriguez was unnecessary and deepest sympathies are with the family, who are changed forever. Her death made a serious impact in our community and I join the many voices who advocate for a thorough vetting process for all those looking to work around our students.
The district has warned for decades that declining enrollment could ultimately lead to budget cuts across the LBUSD. Where would you make reductions and what would you fight to protect?
Instead of waiting for the possibility of these reductions, I will be a proactive advocate for our schools and collaborate with local and state leaders to secure and protect funding for our schools. I will help to advocate for a revision in the funding formula that is greatly impacting our Title I schools, which are our schools with a high population of students participating in free and reduced lunch programs, who make up two-thirds of our district. The district has been consistently experiencing declining enrollment and this year it’s at 2.65%. This is particularly impacting “unduplicated” students (high need students: socio-economically disadvantaged, foster and emerging bilinguals); these are the students we are losing at a higher rate.
I would advocate and support the close monitoring of our district’s deficit spending and look for places where reductions could be made that don’t impact our teachers and students in the classroom.
We cannot negotiate away the quality of our public education. If cuts must ultimately be made, I will always fight for protecting the needs of the students first.
The LBUSD is unique because it blends together inner-city and suburban students into one educational setting. What will you do to ensure that the achievement gap currently experienced by some students is closed?
I would propose looking at it through an equity lens and focusing on opportunity gaps at some of our schools.
Every student deserves the same access to a high-quality education, regardless of where they live or what school they attend. As a school board member for Area 1, I hope to build relationships with teachers and administrators at each school and organize a detailed review of our schools that shows us where we need to refocus our efforts and areas of need. Each school has different needs, and some may need more educators, staff, counselors, or social workers. The school community of Hamilton Middle School is different from the Hughes Middle School community, with different needs and resources.
With this in mind, planning and organizing supports for each school community should include partnerships from the teachers, staff, parents and community stakeholders in the neighborhoods that want to help our schools flourish and students succeed. Achievement is linked to opportunity and equity. There are reasons why we have gaps among our population of students. The equity piece—we need to center our BIPOC students [Black, Indigenous, and people of color] and students with disabilities that are not succeeding at the same rates as others and it is because of a lack of opportunities and resources, which vary from school to school.
This is where my experience will help me be an effective school board member, having been a parent advocate/organizer for eight years within our LBUSD schools. I’ve been a longtime member of LBUSD’s Community Advisory Committee advising on policy to increase access and support for our students with disabilities and I was part of the Equity Policy Leadership team that helped write LBUSD’s equity policy which lays out steps for addressing achievement gaps.
The LBUSD is the city’s largest employer but is at an impasse in contract negotiations with one of its largest unions. What perspective would you bring to the position to help ensure that the district is not affected by work stoppages?
It is important to me that we not allow work stoppages to hinder the education of our students. Two-thirds of LBUSD students are on free and reduced lunch programs and 88% of students are students of color and these are the populations that will be the most impacted. LBUSD staff and employees are part of this population, they are working families supporting our students inside and outside of the classroom. Any labor discussion includes taking a look at the greater issues, housing, health care for all and safe and healthy work conditions.
As someone with a history of working with labor and as a parent organizer, I understand the stakeholders involved, and I know how to reach a consensus. I bring with me the lived experience of having been raised in a labor family and I attribute my own success as a first generation American to my parents’ ability to have two union jobs. My mother was a Teamster and my father was United Steelworkers, and because they both had consistent work with health insurance, worker protections and time off as needed, it brought stability to our home. Making sure that we can prevent work stoppages will ensure that people’s livelihoods are not affected and that our students continue to have stability in the classroom.
I am confident that my skills as an education advocate can bring a helpful perspective and productive solutions to contract negotiations.
What is your position on the district’s plan for gender-neutral locker rooms?
I want all students, LGBTQ, BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and people of color] and disabled students, to feel welcome at our schools, which is why I support this plan so that they can feel comfortable and safe. I do not want any student to feel excluded from participating in school activities. We should be increasing opportunities for our students, not limiting them.
I agree with the district listening to the community and putting a pause on the discussion around the building of locker rooms, however, I want all students to feel safe and welcomed. ALL students—I would support the building of gender-neutral locker rooms, which already are becoming part of our community. You can visit our local family gyms and have the option to go into a “gender-neutral” locker room, except they’re called “family changing rooms.” Building gender-neutral locker rooms ensures that we have safe, inclusive, accessible and private options for all students.