THE WORK AHEAD: Newly-elected WCCUSD trustees confront key questions on budget cuts, map lawsuit, and how to strengthen academic success
As two newly-elected trustees join the three continuing School Board members tonight to lead the West Contra Costa Unified School District, we extend our sincere congratulations to incumbent Val Cuevas and new trustees Consuelo Lara and Stephanie Hernández-Jarvis on their successful 2018 School Board campaigns.
Their election night victories unseated two incumbents, and, for the first time in our district’s history, elected a Latina board majority in a district with a 52% Latinx population. Despite divergent views on some issues, their rise to district governance (in Trustee Cuevas’ case, her continuation) marks an important milestone in the district’s progress toward electing a governing board that more closely reflects the demographics of the students and families it serves.
As individuals, Cuevas, Lara, and Hernández-Jarvis bring significant experience, diverse viewpoints, and a clear commitment to the continued growth and improvement of students, teachers and schools. Collectively, they now stand as leaders whose governance must rise above partisan echo chambers and divisive politics in pursuit of a unifying goal: To deliver high-quality schools and transformative growth for all West Contra Costa students.
When tonight’s meeting is called to order, the five trustees (including sitting board members Mister Phillips, who will assume his new role as Board President, and incumbent Tom Panas) will face urgent, high-stakes challenges as they convene for the first time as a governing body.
For starters, the board must make sizable budget cuts and work to increase district revenue to address a $12 million shortfall projected in 2019-2020. Tonight’s agenda calls for review and discussion of these priority financial needs.
The board must also move quickly to settle a nearly year-long lawsuit over district-wide ward maps, which must be enacted prior to the 2020 election. A swift settlement will protect the district from the incredibly high cost of continued legal action that draws scarce resources away from our classrooms, teachers and students.
Above all else, the trustees must devise bold, affordable remedies for the disastrously low achievement that plagues low-income students and students of color concentrated in the Richmond High School and Kennedy High School families. Recent district-wide academic achievement scores remain discouragingly flat for the fourth year in a row, underscoring the district’s continued underperformance in serving its highest-need students.
This work will not be easy. Unlike campaigning, governing will require collaboration and alignment across differences of belief, priority, and preference.
To fulfill its promise to our kids, our newly elected board must show exemplary political courage, align around bold, student-centered solutions, and ensure that the children in our district receive an education that exceeds their highest ambitions. If our board governs with an unflinching focus on teaching and learning, these trustees can prove that significant student growth and ongoing school improvement are within reach.
ABOUT THE WINNING SCHOOL BOARD TRUSTEES
Earning the most votes this year, Stephanie Hernández-Jarvis promises to offer an exciting and insightful viewpoint to the school board. Trustee Hernández-Jarvis ran as the only current teacher and current district parent in this year’s race. She brings an urgency and a rich personal perspective that is sorely needed as the board confronts budget challenges and hones its focus on teaching and learning.
As a kindergarten teacher in a dual language immersion school, Trustee Hernández-Jarvis will bring considerable expertise and first-hand knowledge to address the district’s significant achievement gaps in early literacy and its challenges serving English learners. As an immigrant and as the sister of a Dreamer, she will fight to ensure that immigrant communities are heard, protected, and well-served by our district. Trustee Hernández-Jarvis earned endorsements from Trustee Tom Panas, the East Bay Times, the El Cerrito Democratic Club, GO Public Schools, and the mayors of both El Cerrito and Pinole.
Newly re-elected incumbent (and outgoing Board President) Val Cuevas has been a fierce advocate for students and their families since winning her seat in 2014. She has fought to make sure we balance our budget while ensuring that as much funding as possible goes directly to school sites, and not to district bureaucracy.
During her first term, Trustee Cuevas has helped move the board’s focus away from buildings and bonds toward an emphasis on teaching and learning. Of the 11 candidates who ran this year, Trustee Cuevas was the only one to earn support from groups representing differing perspectives on many key issues – a testament to her strong independence and clear passion to serve our students and their families. These included endorsements from GO Public Schools, the Contra Costa Young Democrats, the East Bay Times, and the United Teachers of Richmond, among many others.
Retired teacher Consuelo Lara brings nearly four decades of education experience to the school board, including 16 years in WCCUSD. Beginning in 1998, she taught at Juan Crespi Middle School, Helms Middle School, and Richmond High School.
During her tenure, she served on multiple school site councils and as a representative for UTR. Trustee Lara is a vocal proponent of the Full Service Community Schools model, and advocates for improved school climate and culture as one of her top priorities. She secured endorsements from United Teachers of Richmond, Richmond Progressive Alliance, outgoing trustee Madeline Kronenberg, and the California Democratic Party, among others.