Another issue that's absolutely critical to the district's success is how we support our students with special needs — who represent more than 10% of enrollment...
I believe in a culture of inclusion and would look to secure the resources we need to ensure that all students can learn, live, and play together. In the case of students with special needs, the resources we need are funding and people, both of which are in short supply. That means working closely with our state officials to steer legislation that could help districts do more and making a career in education a more viable option for our youth.
Of course, funding tends to be the beginning and end of the conversation — and not just related to special education — and I'd like to change that mentality. We need to find a path to "yes" instead of excuses to say "no". If it means working harder to find the dollars and cents we need to support our students, then so be it. That's why we're here. We can also explore creative options with the resources we have, such as co-teaching.
San José Unified also needs to become more empathetic with our students and families. I was proud to play a role in a districtwide rebrand while serving as Public Information Officer. But I don't believe the district has fully embraced the change, and I hear it when I talk to parents in the community who feel frustrated by a lack of communication and a lack of respect. Our community deserves better, and the trustees play a huge role in creating transparency and accountability.
We can also do more to educate and train our employees — from bus drivers to student nutritionists to instructional aides — in best practices for working with students with special needs. If educators develop a greater sensitivity to the challenges these students face every day, we will see a decline in disciplinary actions and more time spent in the classroom.