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  • Writer's pictureBen Avey

Capitol Public Radio Candidate Guide

Capitol Public Radio recently published a school board voter guide. Here are my answers! Scroll to the bottom for a link to the full candidate guide.


Ben Avey

BenAvey.com


Nonprofit administrator, parent


Political support: San Juan Parents Association and other groups


What makes you a qualified candidate for school board?


I’m a dad with four school-age kids who is running to represent parents on the San Juan Unified School District Board of Education in Trustee Area 6.


I was born and raised in Fair Oaks attending San Juan Unified School District schools. When COVID-19 emerged, I came together with other families to form the San Juan Parents Association to be a voice for our kids as we navigated the chaos of shutdowns and distance learning. We successfully advocated for a safe return to in-person learning.


Professionally, I have dedicated my career to lifting up local communities through mission driven non-profits, now serving in a leadership role at a large community health system where I’m responsible for community engagement and advocating for the vulnerable people we serve.


Why are you running for the school board?


It started with a simple request in Fall 2020: Please add COVID-19 to the agenda at each Board of Education meeting.


We were months into lockdown distance learning and parents needed a dedicated place where they could hear the latest information on the pandemic and hear Trustees discuss it with the Superintendent. More importantly, we needed a dedicated place where Trustees could hear a parents’ perspective of what was happening with their children at home.


The request was ignored.


COVID-19 was deferred to ad hoc staff reports buried throughout the meeting. If parents wanted to speak, they were relegated to visitor comments, a catchall forum for any item not on the agenda where board and staff are prohibited from responding.


We organized. We spoke up during visitor comment. We wrote e-mails and direct messages. With masks on and safety protocols in place, we protested at the district office and special interest corporate offices.


Eventually, they listened. COVID-19 was placed on the agenda.


The Board adopted a schedule for a safe return to in-person learning, first part-time and then full time.


In each case our argument was simple: parents see firsthand the impact of district policies on our kids. We saw the impact on their mental health, physical health, and learning loss. We saw our teachers, desperate to help, bend and twist in every way allowed to be the educators they knew kids needed. We saw what needed to happen from a student perspective.


I’m running to continue our efforts. I’m running to bring parents into the conversation. I’m running to give my kids, and yours, a voice in their education.


What are your views on race and equity issues?


Transparency is the most significant barrier to race and equity in San Juan Unified School District today. The school board has to have a better line of sight on outcomes, not effort, so we can begin to address the race and equity issues within the district. I would begin with a school-by-school analysis of demographics, test score outcomes, mean teacher tenure, budget and demographics to determine gaps and inequities.


How do you plan to address the achievement gap?


We cannot address the achievement gap until we begin to focus on outcomes rather than effort. We know that teachers are working incredibly hard, going above and beyond everyone's expectations. But in certain schools, that isn’t translating to improved outcomes. More concretely, I would use data.


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