UAC 2022 School Board Candidate Survey Responses
Tell us about yourself: this could include biographical details, a list of hobbies, professional accomplishments, or anything you’d like to highlight.
As the daughter of a working-class Mexican family, I grew up raised by my mother, grandmother, aunties, and godmothers in Los Angeles. When we left LA, we lost a big part of our support system. My parents did their best to manage the needs of three daughters, but we struggled emotionally and financially without our community. My parents worked long and odd hours to ensure that we could have a car to get to school. For a time, I woke up at 4 am to take my dad to work so that my sisters and I could have a car to get to school. Despite being unable to help with my homework or attend parent-teacher conferences or community council meetings, my parents would say, “Did you do your homework?” “I got a call from the school saying you missed 1st period. What happened?” and “You were supposed to be home by 3:45 pm, where were you, young lady?” Some assumed that my parents didn’t care about my education because they were not physically present, but trust me, they were very involved when they asked me for updates on my academics, attendance, etc.
As a student, I silently navigated my experiences as an ESL student and my financial and mental health struggles. Despite not always knowing who I could turn to for help, I studied hard. As an ESL student, I recall feeling isolated and unsmart. It wasn’t until my mom said, “But Mija, why are you still in the program?” that I felt emboldened to ask my counselor to test out of ESL. As I participated in mainstream courses, I took note of what my classmates were doing. I inquired about honors and AP classes. I got involved with soccer and dance company and even ran for student body president. I still felt inadequate, but I knew my parents counted on me to do my part at school and at home. In my junior year of high school, Mr. J, my career advisor, recommended me to a conference called Meeting of the Minds, a program for first-generation college students, which was held in Seattle, WA. At the conference, I met others with similar experiences to mine. This was my first time out of state and being a part of an experience that had me considering possibilities outside of working after graduation. As graduation approached, Mrs. T, a representative from the U of U, came to the career center at Granger High. She talked to me about college, federal financial aid, and scholarships. She told me her story – she was a first-generation college student with similar worries and dreams for her family. She told me I was worthy and capable. That day, her story made the invisible facts of my life feel seen. I felt like Mr. J and Mrs. T believed in me.
I would not have made it without my parents, those resources for kids like me, and people in the school who believed in me. They all taught me about engagement, the importance of collaboration between schools and outside resources, and compassion. Today, I am a proud graduate of Granger High with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and a Master’s in Social Work. I am also a small business owner of a private practice called Madre Tierra Counseling & Consulting, where I provide trauma-informed services to individuals, communities, families, and organizations.
Describe your strategy for victory in your campaign; i.e., what is your messaging? How will it appeal to a majority of voters in your district? Are you working closely with any other campaigns?
My strategy for victory is door-to-door interactions and targeted social media content. All of my content is available in English and Spanish. My message is that we need someone who has lived the same challenges many students face and has expertise in mental health and trauma to help the Granite community recover from COVID. Most voters agree that we need more mental health support for our students, especially from trained professionals (social workers and counselors).
A decision to run for office can often be a difficult one: why did you decide to run for school board, i.e. what are your guiding principles?
As an educator and social worker, I have been on the front line of answering calls for help from students and the broader community. I love serving the community, but the last two years have been hard, especially for residents of the West Side. Our community has experienced significant instability, losses, and trauma. As a person with expertise in mental health and trauma, I know we will experience the effects of COVID for years to come. More than ever, we need someone who has lived the same challenges our students face and understands the importance of making thoughtful decisions that prioritize the well-being of our students, teachers, and school personnel. My guiding principles are compassion, engagement, and collaboration.
What professional or volunteer experience do you have in the Utah education system?
AVID Tutor – Granite School District
Summer School Teacher – Granger High School
College Access Advisor – Granger High School
Professor – College of Social Work, University of Utah (current)
What community groups, nonprofit organizations, or professional organizations do you belong to or align with?
Association of Women in Psychology, Association of Latina/Latino Social Work Educators, National Association of Social Workers.
What local community members, professional associates, or elected officials have encouraged you to run for office or endorsed your campaign?
Richard Jaramillo, Jim Gonzales, Rep. Angela Romero, Councilman Fitisemanu, Fatima Dirie (Candidate for HD 30). I have been formally endorsed by the Central Utah Federation of Labor, O2, Run for Something, Utah Tech Leads, Women’s Democratic Club, and Salt Lake County Hispanic Democratic Caucus.
Force for Good
Based on your educational philosophy/core values, what is at least one way that you can positively influence your school district as a school board member?
Advocate for a full-time social worker in every school, starting with our most impacted schools.
What do you believe is the best way for local or state school boards to support administrators?
*Workforce: Address pipeline issues (creating a healthy pool of applicants)
*Resources & ability to use funds as needed (student & need-centered decisions by admin)
What do you believe is the best way for local or state school boards to support teachers?
*Recruitment & retention efforts: financial support, more prep days, space to practice creativity
*Lower classroom sizes
*Treating teachers as professionals
What do you believe is the best way for local or state school boards to support students?
*Wealth of options for educational activities
*Mental Health support
*Build environments that make every student feel valued and represented in the curriculum
What do you believe is the best way for local or state school boards to support parents?
*Resources like after-school programs
*Greater efforts to engage working parents who can't make it to CSC and board meetings (ex., home visits, phone calls, translation of information, and accessibility of resources).
*Programs that support the parents' ability to promote their child's holistic development
What is something the school board you are running for has done right?
Listened to teacher voices by approving three additional days of paid prep-time.
As a school board member, what specific, achievable goals do you have?
*Full-time social worker at every school
*Hold town halls at local libraries to support greater engagement of community members
*Support efforts to reduce the district's carbon footprint
There is a well-established and transparent process for book challenges and removals; recently, a minority of parents and parent-groups have advocated for testing the limits of established practice by using social media to spread disinformation about books and librarians. How do you feel about the existing policy and efforts to circumvent it?
I support policies that allow for a wide range of books representing the students' and community's identities and experiences. In addition, I support any policy that allows for collaboration between librarians and community members.
Teaching American History
Another ongoing debate is focused on the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in Utah’s K-12 schools. If you are asked: “Are you promoting Critical Race Theory in K-12 schools?" How would you respond?
It is not currently taught in our schools and would not be appropriate in k-12 public schools.
What role do school boards have in establishing policies that promote inclusion and diversity?
I support any policy that celebrates inclusion and diversity.
Mental Health in Schools
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions are prevalent among Utah’s youth. Do you believe Utah’s educational system has a role to play in supporting the social and emotional wellness of its students? How can school boards support the needs of Utah students?
Kids are better prepared to learn when their well-being is intact. Similarly, teachers and employees can best serve their students when their well-being is intact. I want to ensure that every decision prioritizes the mental health and well-being of our students, teachers, and school personnel.
Do you support governmental appropriation of taxpayer funds to provide support to parents who wish to have their children attend private schools?
I do not support school vouchers. I support providing greater options of programs within the school district to make it the first choice for parents/community.
Politicization of Education
How has the politicization of education changed the campaigning process—and the nature of school boards, themselves? Is this change beneficial to Utah's public school system?
I believe school issues are non-partisan, and the offices should remain non-partisan.
Is there an unasked question you would love to answer? Please tell us about the issue you are passionate about that we have not touched upon.