What Exactly I Want To Do
I received a lot of questions after my article came out in the Pueblo Chieftain announcing that I was running for the Pueblo City School Board. What do you know about the district? What specific changes do you want to make? My platform continues to evolve as I meet with teachers, parents, and leaders in the community. I learn more from every single individual I meet, and as my knowledge expands, I’m sure my platform will as well.
In my role as the Community Engagement Director with the Pueblo Triple Aim Corporation, health equity is a huge topic. Health equity refers to the study and causes of differences in the quality of health and healthcare across different populations. Equity is different from equality in that equality is treating everyone the same; equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equity in education means that personal or social circumstances such as gender, ethnic origin, or family background are not obstacles to achieving educational potential. Educational equity is the centerpiece of my platform.
The best indicator of the socioeconomic status of Pueblo City Schools students is the percentage of students that qualify for free lunch. I’m currently looking for more recent data, but as of data compiled in 2014 by Justin Holman, CEO of Aftermarket Analytics and professor of statistics at CSU-Pueblo’s Hasan School of Business, 6,235 students qualified for free lunch. That’s 63.46% of our students. To put that in perspective, more students qualify for free lunch in Pueblo City Schools than there are total number of students in District 70. Professor Holman also found there’s a high correlation between low test scores and low economic status. You can find his data here.
To begin making progress in Pueblo City Schools, I believe we must do a better job of supporting and empowering the more than 60% of students who face socioeconomic challenges at home. Many of these students are not sure where their next meal is going to come from; over 1,000 students in our district are homeless and don’t have a consistent bed to sleep in; and a large number of these students lack support and encouragement in their lives.
If I’m elected to the School Board, my first initiative will be to launch a city-wide mentoring program in all elementary and middle schools. United Way of Pueblo County has an incredible Middle School Mentoring Program which is aimed at pairing nurturing adults as positive mentors one-on-one with 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students for one hour a week during the lunch period at school. 80% of students in the United Way Mentoring Program have shown significant improvements in the measurement areas of attendance, academic achievement, behavior, and engagement. To get enough mentors for a city-wide program, we need to recruit more professionals in the community to volunteer, but we also need to utilize students in athletic programs and service organizations at CSU-Pueblo and all four high schools in the city. I plan to partner with United Way to model their program and expand it city-wide. I believe that would have a tremendous impact on the lives of students in Pueblo City Schools.
Our students are the future of our community. We need schools that spark their passion for education, and properly prepare them for an ever-changing world. I want to invest heavily in STEM programs, computer science, and biomedical programs; not just at a few schools, but at every school, so every student can take advantage of these programs. Those are the programs that are going to promote curiosity, discovery, and imagination, and will truly prepare our students for the future. I also believe every student deserves art, music, and physical education, because it’s those kinds of programs that make school fun, and by making school fun we get the youth of our community more invested in their education.
Advocate for Teachers
Teachers are the backbone of society and they are absolutely the backbone of this community. They need to be valued, and that value needs to be shown by providing resources, as well as through respect and praise. Every student deserves highly qualified educators in their classroom. But if we expect our educators to be the best of the best, then we as a district need to compensate as such. I plan to explore creative ways to provide that compensation.
Transparent and Accessible to the Community
Change is needed in our schools. To achieve this change, I challenge the community to get more involved, and I promise to be open and accessible to hear the community’s ideas and opinions. Massive change and progress does not come from a few people on a board, but instead from an entirely engaged and organized community effort. We must have a sense of urgency. The time for sitting at home and complaining about our schools has passed. Pueblo’s future depends on whether or not we’re successful in improving our schools. We all must act now.
To get the community more involved, I believe we need to actively build relationships and alliances with as many partners as we possibly can. A better partnership between Pueblo City Schools and CSU-Pueblo and Pueblo Community College can make up for a lack of resources in certain areas, but also offer a unique and extremely valuable educational experience for our students.
I also believe we need to have mental health professionals available for our students in the schools. Teen suicide is an important issue in our community that needs to be addressed, and I want to put a greater focus and emphasis on making services readily available to our students. With my background in health, I can easily build the community collaboration to make that possible.
A Young Voice
Boards are most effective when they are diverse, and made up of people with different backgrounds and different perspectives. It’s incredibly important to have established leaders in the community serving on the School board because of the tremendous experience they can bring. But it’s also vitally important to have a young voice on the board; someone who can better connect to education today and better relate to our students; someone who can bring a fresh perspective, new ideas, and a spark of energy to revitalize education in Pueblo. I believe we as a community are ready for young leaders to start stepping up. I came to realize that I needed to be the change I seek, and I believe I have the passion and determination to lead that change in education.