CEPS Candidate Interview Questions – SCHOOL BOARD – 2012
Maria Leon-Vazquez is has been a member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education for twelve years and is running for re-election to her fourth term.
What is your record or your personal accomplishments over the last four years in promoting these ideals of shared community vision and collaboration?
The hiring of Sandy Lyons brought a new and supportive perspective to this District. With her leadership and that of the Board, we were able to move forward Districtwide fundraising. She truly gets this District in terms of the disparity of wealth because she comes from a more working class community. I have supported the many academic endeavors brought forth from our central office to promote academic achievement of all our students and have personally used my SMC grants to enhance academic support to bridge the academic gap. I have exercised my political role and have had continuous conversation with our city council and college trustees along with our CBOs, i.e. BNG Club, CCSM to find mutual points of collaboration and activity.
In what additional ways do you think that the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu can work with SMMUSD to support educational opportunities? How would you work with the cities to advance these initiatives?
Both cities have to continuously work in collaboration with SMMUSD to look for opportunities to work together whether it is through the Joint Powers agreement or support of future economic incentives. Some of the areas that have not been pursued are the creation of student internships within the city municipalities and the creation of work incentives for our high school graduates. I would work with both cities and reconvene the quarterly meeting amongst the City of Santa Monica, SMC and SMMUSD executive leadership and include the City of Malibu with a set agenda and goals to maximize our work and tax dollars. At present, the Board is not at the table of discussion and only the City Manager and Superintendents of both SMC and SMMUSD meet. If we are truly politicos, then we must act like one and sit at the table of decision making with all.
What educational program or issue would you like to focus on in the next term? What steps would you take?
The educational gap will always be on the front burner for me until we can get closer to achievement for all. In the last six years, the district has made great inroads with all of our schools reaching the API goal of 800+, except for SMASH, Olympic High School. But for the Title I schools, reaching their AYP goals is the next challenge. Our school leadership along with our central office leadership is constantly working with teachers for solutions. I work at SMC and have begun to bring resources from that institution to SAMOHI, JAMS, and Lincoln MS through the Career Technical Educations grants that I administer. I currently have SMC consultants at SAMOHI and JAMS with conversations at the table with the Boys and Girls Club and Community Corporation of Santa Monica to expand to Lincoln MS and wherever BNG Club have centers in CCSM housing complexes.
What is your position on districtwide fundraising? Now that the board has put the policy in place, has your position changed and how would you advance that position?
I supported Districtwide fundraising from the beginning. I will continue to support the issue and use my influence to make sure that as a District we move forward as planned and support SMMEF as the entity that will carry out the work for the District. I am the Board liaison to SMMEF and know that they can build the capacity to undertake the large task. I do believe that as a District we will be able to raise more funds than as individual schools. My role will be to be more political and strategic as to how we move the plan forward and making sure everyone is on the same page.
What is your position on SMMUSD’s bond measure on November’s ballot? If you support the measure would you carry that support on your campaign literature?
I was onboard from day one and did not have to be convinced. We definitely need high quality academic structures to match our academic programming, especially SAMOHI. I will put the measure on all my literature, walk the measure literature and coordinate precinct walking with the measure campaign.
What is your position on Prop 30 and Prop 38? If the measures both fail, what do you foresee doing, as a School Board member? What options do you foresee? What might you propose?
I support both. At this point in the campaign, we can’t use negativity in opposing either because voters will not vote for either. The polls don’t look great and there doesn’t appear that there is much of a concerted effort to organize a strong campaign for either. If they fail, I will move the Board to move forward with a parcel tax, accelerate negotiations with our three unions regarding work furloughs, and anticipating that the Measure will pass, delay the sale of any bonds until our operational needs are brought to some level of safety, and lastly, raise hell with all the other school and college districts that will be in bankruptcy to bring some relief from Sacramento?
Do you feel you can fairly and adequately represent the needs and interests of students in both Malibu and Santa Monica? What have you done to date to work with families and students in both cities?
Since my election in November 2001, I have fairly and adequately represented the needs and interests of all students in both cities. The whole Board has done a great job in doing so and as I ask those who question the Board’s role on this to sight specific examples of the Board not representing the best interest of all students, and the responses are in generalities but no specifics. I have attended open houses, welcome backs, PTA meetings, middle school exit interviews at our MS in SM and Malibu, music performances, inquiry groups in Malibu when the HS student population were having issues of isolationism, made presentations to the Latina student population at both our HS’s, have invited students from both HS’s to the SMC Latina/o Youth Conference, utilized my SMC grants for support of our students, and many more activities in my 30 hour day.
What would be/have been your priorities if you win/as a current School Board member? Why are you running (again)? How do you think you have had or would have an impact on the BOE?
As I responded in #3, I will continue to prioritize the educational gap, the financial stability of the District and the “Bringing Together SMMUSD” concept. I am running for re-election because there needs to be a good cross section of representatives sitting at the table representing the same cross section of students. It is very difficult to be on the SMMUSD Board where there are such extreme differences of socio-economic, academic, racial and political differences. I personally understand the benefits of an education and its results in bettering one’s quality of life. I have raised two children and a niece who came to live with me in HS with many disadvantages through SMMUSD and into four-year colleges. My reason for staying on the Board is to answer the BIG question as to how my work with my children and niece translates to successful work at SMMUSD for those students who fall within the educational gap. Education has been my passion since my student leadership days at SMC in the mid-70’s.
What is your position on “unification” of the district? Since the exploration of “unification” and the process that follow could take years, what ideas do you have for improving the working relationships between the Malibu and SM parts of the District in the meantime, and possibly permanently?
I do not support the unification because at the end of the day, the loss in terms of academic programming and what is associated with the excellence of this District will be diminished. I am not convinced that the Malibu electorate will support the unification because of the anticipation of future taxes to be imposed. In the meantime as the exploration process is underway, I would make sure that we extend our meetings in Malibu so we have at least 10 meetings during the year. Continue to attend events at Malibu and PTA meetings, along with moving forward my idea in my response to question 2 where the Executive Boards of both cities, SMC and SMMUSD would convene quarterly meetings.