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 lock-down 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. We waited intently during each meeting, listening for hints of information when a Trustee or staff member spoke. Sometimes we got something, sometimes we didn’t. 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. Conversely, well funded special interest groups that donate to school board political campaigns were given dedicated time on the agenda to discuss their perspective on the pandemic at each meeting.
The message to parents was clear – speak when spoken too.
Our response was just as clear – no.
Parents are the voice of our children, both legally and morally. We are responsible for keeping them safe, healthy, and raising them to be good people. It is a solemn duty that we welcome without reward or compensation. When our children enroll in San Juan Unified School District, our voice must follow.
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.
We demanded information. We demanded action. We demanded a voice.
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. Sports resumed. In September 2021, after another advocacy campaign, modified Homecoming Dances returned as well.
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 sat with them as they cried – as they raged. 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.
In the same breath we allowed
ourselves to think outside the box, challenging special interest narratives. We talked to real people and asked what would work and what would not. We compromised and agreed that small steps were still steps. We pushed, even when it was uncomfortable.
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.
I’m running for school board to put kids first.
I hope I can count on your support.