The Coronado Times is conducting short interviews with all candidates for Coronado Unified School District board of trustees. All candidates have received the same six questions and the answers are in their own words; each candidate is invited to share photos; interviews are published in the order received. November 8, 2022 is election day.
Q: What experience will you bring to the school board?
A: First and foremost, I am the mother of three CUSD students: a fourth grader at Village, a seventh grader at CMS, and a sophomore in CoSA at CHS. With my children in ¾ of the schools in the district, I have great perspective of the varied obstacles we face at each level of education and I have the opportunity to interact with students, parents, teachers, and staff to garner information in real time.
I am a former teacher with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and the daughter of the first Hispanic woman inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame. I understand the different ways children learn, the challenges our teachers face on a daily basis, and the tremendous rewards they reap when seeing a new concept “click” with their students. I was also able to compare my experiences as a teacher to those of my mother, and the wisdom and lessons she has imparted upon me are a daily source of insight and inspiration.
I am a military spouse of over 18 years, and I have supported my family through my husband’s five deployments while working full time as an attorney. 41% of CUSD students are military kids, and many of their parents don’t vote in California. These families deserve a say in their children’s education, and with my first-hand understanding of the challenges they face, I will be a devoted champion for military families.
As an attorney, I’ve always been an advocate – for children, victims of domestic violence, veterans, and immigrants – and my legal training and practice provides me with the tools, knowledge, and skills to navigate the various federal and state statutes that govern our school system.
Finally, I am deeply invested in our community. My husband and I chose to make Coronado our forever home, and we have established roots. I have served as President of the Board for Safe Harbor Coronado, Treasurer for the Coronado Band and Choir Boosters, co-chair of the League of Wives Memorial Project, President of the San Diego Naval Officers’ Spouses Club, Youth Chair for the Coronado Flower Show, CHS’s JV girl’s tennis coach, and I am a member of both the Coronado Junior Woman’s Club and the Coronado Woman’s Club. Each of these experiences afforded me the opportunity to meet new people and understand their challenges and concerns. It has also given me an even greater appreciation of just how lucky we are to live in such a special place, and I will continue serving our community in any way that I can.
Q: In your mind, what are the biggest challenges facing CUSD today?
A: Trust, transparency, civility, mental health, and the budget.
I aim to re-establish a trusting relationship between the School Board and our community. Several events over the past two years have fractured the bond between the board and the community, and the healing process will be slow, but it must be undertaken. This starts with transparency – in meetings, in communication, and in action – and is furthered by civility. Debates and disagreements are an important feature of our democracy, and we can all be passionate about our beliefs. But I believe it is absolutely essential that we treat everyone, especially those with whom we disagree, with civility, decency, and respect. Personal attacks and name-calling accomplish nothing.
Next, our understanding of and focus on mental health is something that is still relatively new, yet far overdue. As we continue to learn about the critical ways that our students and staff are affected, especially coming out of the unprecedented challenges of the COVID pandemic, we can make great strides in building a foundation of resources that support their mental health. Investment in our community starts here, and every tool we can provide them now will be of great benefit for years to come.
Finally, CUSD faces a budget deficit. It is absolutely essential that we get back to a place where we are funding ourselves, through our own community. While it is forecast that we will return to Basic Aid on or before 2027, in my role as School Board Trustee, I will be serious about fiscal responsibility and focus on the planned spend down of reserves over the next three years of the budget cycle as part of the current long-range planning goal. I will utilize all available resources in an effort to balance our budget so that we may again access the abundance of resources provided by the members of our own community.
Q: What is something CUSD does well?
A: Community. We live in a small town and we are a tight-knit community, which has always shown in our schools. This is one of the main reasons why my spouse and I chose to live here and send our children through CUSD. We have amazing teachers who truly care about our students and their futures. I see first-hand the time and attention they invest to ensure positive outcomes. These last two years have been extremely difficult and trying on all of us – we were faced with obstacles we could have never imagined, and we were forced to adapt in ways that were beyond our control. And yet our teachers showed up and showed out. They stood as pillars of strength, creativity, and abundance, and I am thankful to have had them as leaders during this time.
Q: How do you feel about local control?
A: In general, I’m in favor of local control to the maximum extent practical. I believe that elected officials who are closest to their community best understand the needs and challenges of their community and can make the best decisions. That being said, I also believe in the rule of law and recognize that we are bound to follow federal, state, and county mandates, even if we don’t necessarily agree with them. It is essential that we model this behavior for our children and the community. As a CUSD trustee, I will ensure the district follows the law of the land, but I also won’t be afraid to question or oppose mandates that don’t work for our district by working through the appropriate legal channels.
Q: What is your stance on social-emotional learning? Do you think that teaching children empathy, responsible decision-making and emotional awareness is important in schools?
A: First, I would like to start by defining social-emotional learning (SEL) as the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success, according to the Committee for Children.
As California has adopted the principles of social-emotional learning, it is our responsibility to implement and integrate its various mandates and guidelines. Much like mental health, emotional intelligence is an area where we have only scratched the surface. The more tools we can give our students – to understand their own cognitive process, as well as those of others – the better equipped they will be as they go forth in their education and as they enter the workforce. Employers now look for emotional intelligence as part of their hiring processes, stating that it is possible for them to impart professional traits during training, but not so with social-emotional traits such as empathy, compassion, and communicative proficiency, as those are best learned at an early-age, amongst peer-group settings.
It has been shown that for individuals to reach their highest potential, we must ensure first that their physiological needs are met, they must feel safe, and they must feel a sense of belonging. Only then are they able to develop the esteem necessary to pursue their ambitions and aspirations – to achieve excellence.
With all that in mind, I believe that it is not only important, but essential, to teach SEL in schools to ensure our students have all the tools they need to become our next global leaders.
Q: As you must be aware, school board meetings can be contentious, but it’s important for board members to work together. Do you think you are good at building consensus? Please provide an example if possible.
A: I excel at bringing people together and at building consensus amongst a broad spectrum of interests. It is important to me that people feel included and heard, and indeed I value the insight I receive from listening to a diversity of views and perspectives. I had the opportunity to work within many groups and public agencies, composed of nearly a dozen stakeholders, each with different roles and objectives, in situations where we worked together to accomplish a common goal. For instance, my work at the San Diego Family Justice Center required me to work with victims of domestic violence, police officers, prosecutors, social workers, counselors, and other resource providers under enormous pressure in high-risk cases, and my ability to meet conflict head-on in each instance allowed the group to reach a consensus. As a School Board Trustee, I will utilize experiences such as these to effectively communicate with my fellow Trustees and community stakeholders, with my most sacred principle being to treat everyone with civility, dignity, and respect.
More information about the candidate can be found at vote4alexia.com.