The San Leandro School Board has two seats open this November. The election is by plurality vote – whoever gets the most votes wins, even if they get under 50% of the total vote -, and all registered voters who live within the boundaries of the San Leandro School District can vote in both races.
The race for Area 4 is between three parents: Latrina Dumas, Chike Udemezue and Leo Sheridan. Parents Evelyn Gonzalez and Monique Taste, retired New Haven teacher Jean Kinkella, and Peter Oshinski, who runs Hayward Unified’s school lunch program, are contesting for the At-Large seat.
Among these candidates, Latrina Dumas and Evelyn Gonzalez are the clear choice: they have the most experience with our schools, a far better understanding of the challenges facing the School district and have demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to improve not just specific schools, but the district as a whole.
There are great similarities between Dumas and Gonzalez and, indeed, they have worked together over the years. They both have children that have made their way through San Leandro public schools from elementary onwards (Duma’s youngest daughter is in 5th grade). They both have been extremely involved in their kids’ schools as class parents, PTA presidents, Site Council members and more. They’ve even helped other schools with fundraising and other issues – when McKinley Elementary needed to get a computer lab, it was Gonzalez who lined up the donors and made the lab a reality.
As parents of a special needs child, they’ve both experienced the disfunctions of the special education department at the school district. They understand how it needs to be reformed to serve what is a growing population. And as parents of children of color, they’ve seen the challenges that minority children face in schools that have a mostly white faculty.
Serving in the School Board requires more than just knowing how a school works. You need to understand budgets, funding sources, state policies and the competing interests of different stakeholders. Dumas and Gonzalez, alone among the candidates, have been attending School Board meetings for a decade, reading the materials, engaging with Board members and administrators, helping craft policy and advocating on specific issues. If they are elected, they’ll be able to hit the ground running, rather than spend years trying to get up to speed.
Neither Gonzalez nor Dumas are very political, but they are both personally committed to social justice. They both volunteer with different organizations helping those in need, and they stand up for the rights of the marginalized. Finally, they are both caring and non-judgmental people. They see the potential in children, what they can do, rather than what they can’t. They believe in instilling personal responsibility, but also offering support to kids that are struggling. They will bring a sense of humanity and compassion into the School Board that is, frankly, missing.
I know less about the other candidates, in part because they haven’t been as involved in the school district. Udemezue, Sheridan and Tate are active parents in their children’s schools, but they’ve shown little interest in reaching out to the community as a whole and no desire to learn the actual mechanics of the district and the issues it faces. I don’t think Kinkella and Oshinski have had any relationship with the schools or the district. In any case, given the vast experience, knowledge and commitment that Gonzalez and Dumas have demonstrated, they are the obvious choice for School Board.
More info on Latrina Dumas: Smart Voter