By Juan Lopez –
The new shoes have been bought. Backpacks are ready by the front door. The entire household is abuzz with anticipation—the new school year begins!
Students throughout the Inland Empire have started a new school year. Their excitement about meeting new friends and greeting old ones is coupled with anticipation and expectations. Students expect that we, their parents, the schools, and the community will provide them the opportunity and the environment to prepare for their futures.
My wife is a public school teacher. My three children attend public schools. I have been the beneficiary of our San Bernardino public schools and of Cal State, San Bernardino, where my wife and I met and earned our bachelor’s degrees. As a father, a husband and a community activist, I believe our schools can do better for our students. That is why I am a candidate for the San Bernardino City Unified School District.
I know that we have caring teachers and staff working with our children. Education takes place in the classroom, and the school board’s efforts must focus on providing an enriching environment in the classroom. Communication is a key element in creating this environment: communication between schools and parents, between schools and the community, between the school board and the parents and schools. However, in this communication matrix, there are voices that are not being heard—the students’ voices.
In November 2006, students who live and attend the seven high schools in San Bernardino spoke out in a letter-to-the-editor in the San Bernardino Sun, asking that the community “elect school board members who will help unite our community and work with us to overcome the huge obstacles we face in school.” In November 2011, five years later, our community will elect four school board members. I can only wonder, did we meet the expectations voiced by the students in 2006?
As an elected school board member, I will propose that the board create a position for a student board representative who will participate freely in all board meetings and discussions.
Rialto Unified School District, under the leadership of Wilmer Amina Carter, established a student board member position in 2001. These students are are recognized as full members at board meetings, receiving all materials presented to board members (except those for closed session). They may question witnesses and discuss issues. Board members and the public are thus able to hear the voices of the students in the district schools through the student representative. This model would enrich communication between all stakeholders in our San Bernardino City schools. I will make this my first action when I join the school board.
As a parent, I am passionate about our schools and believe that our students deserve the best. As a school board member, I will continually push for excellence, ask the tough questions and demand thorough and transparent answers so we can better ensure that our students can be successful and productive citizens. My efforts as a board member would center on serving all of the children in our district; one child is no more important than another. Schools cannot be successful in isolation; we must all be involved in this endeavor.
I am excited at the possibility of serving my family and my community as a member of the San Bernardino City Unified School Board. My goals include:
Support our teachers and staff as they educate our children.
Be responsive and receptive to parents and students, encouraging an open dialogue.
Create a vision and structure that provides the opportunities for students to reach their full potential.
Increase our graduation rates and decrease dropout rates.
Prepare students for college.