Gonzales for School Board 2014
Oakland School Board, District 6 in CA http://www.gonzalesforschools.com
7427 Holly St
Primary Election Date: 2014-11-04 General Election Date: 2014-11-04
Who am I?
Shanthi grew up in a activist family, with a father who organized for Chavez and the United Farm Workers before going to law school to become a legal aid attorney for California Rural Legal Assistance. She grew up on picket lines and at protest rallies and community organizing meetings. She did her first phonebanking around the age of 10 for a progressive candidate in Hayward.
Shanthi's first campaign was during high school, when she was recruited to the No on Proposition 187 campaign by Californians for Justice (CFJ). Proposition 187, if implemented, would have denied access to any public services for undocumented families in California, including schools. While they did not defeat the initiative, they were successful in every precinct that CFJ worked in. She was hooked by the realization that her organizing had made a difference. She went on to work with CFJ on many economic justice campaigns, as well as the No on Proposition 209 campaign.
When Shanthi started working, she went to work for SEIU United Healthcare Workers West, where she organized home care workers, most of whom earned minimum wage and no benefits prior to unionization. She realized how critical a strong labor movement is in creating economic security for low-income communities of color, and also discovered a passion for leadership development that has stayed with her to this day. The most joyous days for Shanthi are days when she can develop the skills and capacities of other activists.
Leadership development has been an important role Shanthi plays in the organizations she is involved in. She serves as Vice Chair of the Oakland Library Advisory Commission (LAC), and is proud of the role she has played in reviving the LAC, developing capacity for advocacy for Oakland's libraries and helping to bring about greater cooperation and coordination of all library advocates in Oakland. She also serves as Vice President of the Board of La Raza Centro Legal, where she has also helped to build the internal capacity of the board, which has freed up staff time to focus more on serving clients.
During the day, Shanthi works for the Women Donors Network, a national network of progressive women donors, in membership and programs. She develops skills-building programs for WDN's members and does a wide range of donor cultivation and stewardship activities.
Shanthi studied Political Science and History in college at Cal State East Bay, where she worked for The Pioneer student newspaper, covering local politics in Southern Alameda County and also briefly served as Editor in Chief. She also has an MA in Political Science from San Francisco State University, and studied International Relations and Political Economy in a PhD program at the University of Maryland, but has not written her dissertation. Maybe someday!
Why am I running?
I learned firsthand as a child how powerful good schools are in nurturing and supporting students.
My family was like a lot of families in Oakland; I spent a lot of time as a kid alone, and schools and libraries were havens for me as a good student. I found caring adults there who paid attention to me, and made me feel valued. Especially critical were some of the high school teachers I had, some of whom I am still in touch with.
Good schools are about so much more than covering the curriculum, managing classrooms and preparing students for life after high school. Good schools help students to feel accepted, safe and loved.
I am running because I want all students to have what I had: schools with caring adults who lovingly help them become the people they want to be.
So many of our students are struggling with all kinds of challenges at home, which inevitably affects their ability to focus and succeed in school. This makes the role of schools in creating safe and loving spaces even more critical. It also means that we have to look at the educational system in context.
One thing I hope to bring to this race is a focus on the way that all the systems in Oakland work in determining how students show up to school (or do not show up).
Teachers cannot do this work alone. It matters whether the families of our students have stable housing, food security, health insurance, employment, mental health treatment services, and all the rest of it. The community schools movement is a good start in addressing this issue, but we need to think bigger, starting with the way that schools are financed in California.
I am so grateful for the education I received from my public schools, and the caring adults who nurtured me. I want that for every child, in every neighborhood in Oakland.
It is not enough to have some great schools, because we are all in this together, and our success as a city depends on ensuring that every Oakland child gets a great education.
When elected to the Oakland School Board, I plan to put my energy into:
1. Addressing the churn of teachers in Oakland's schools. We have to better support Oakland teachers to help them be successful. This means improving not just compensation, but also the supports they and School Administrators get from the district, and ensuring that Oakland teachers have a more robust career ladder.
2. Addressing the wasted resources at the district level. We need to move more resources into Oakland classrooms, and prevent further spending at the district level that doesn't support student success.
3. Ensuring that the people closest to students - teachers, parents, administrators - are regularly and meaningfully included in decision-making. This is how we will achieve a more realistic and practicable strategic plan for the district.
My DFA Values
The DFA value that resonates most with my campaign is Community. One of the critical issues in Oakland is helping people to understand that we are all in this together. It is not enough to have some good schools in Oakland, because our fates are linked.
So when nearly half of Oakland's black and Latino student's don't graduate, we are all affected, and all the things we want for Oakland are in question. Having better schools helps to secure more safety, more prosperity and more opportunity for all Oaklanders.
My Campaign is People Powered!
One of the reasons I am running for School Board is that the city has been systematically divesting from public services in Oakland. My primary work in Oakland has been through libraries. I am a Friend of the Martin Luther King Branch Library in Oakland, which is one of Oakland's low-income, "Deep East" neighborhoods, which is also where I live.
I serve on Oakland's Library Advisory Commission, which is currently working to address a city budget shortfall that further threatens library services, which have already been cut nearly in half in terms of library service hours. The city's Bookmobile service was also shut down, which is how seniors and others with mobility issues got reading materials.
Many families in my neighborhood do not have internet access at home, or reading materials for their children. If the library is closed, they cannot get needed information and services. We also have a huge re-entry (formerly incarcerated) population in my neighborhood. If these folks can't get access to computers and internet, they cannot apply for jobs or services.
The commission has taken a leadership role in building the capacity of Oakland's library lovers to be involved and informed advocates for library services, and has trained them to work with elected officials, testify at budget hearings, and built our own capacity to take a leadership role in this work. We have also created space for new people to get involved in our work, deliberately reaching out to a more diverse group of Oaklanders, to build a commission that looks like Oakland and provide leadership opportunities to a broader group of people.
My first volunteers and campaign funders have come from Oakland's library lovers, who know that I am a hard worker, and will be as tireless on the School Board as I have been on the commission.
Additionally, many of my campaign volunteers come from the labor movement, which is where I received much of my training as an organizer and a progressive. I have been attending the Central Labor Council meetings for several months now, in an effort to strengthen those relationships and recruit campaign volunteers.
Now that I have the resources to hire a Campaign Manager, the campaign will also begin outreach to progressive churches, African American community organizations, and other community organizations to seek involvement from other grassroots organizations.