Across California, educators are rising to answer another call to public service – by running for election to school boards this November.
Seeking to bring their knowledge and experience about schools and education to school boards in their home communities, these educators are stepping up to build the schools all students deserve as elected policymakers. We’ll be spotlighting a number of educators running for school board here at the digital home of California Educator as the November Election approaches.
Meet one of these education champions: Maimona Afzal Berta, a special education teacher, Alum Rock Educators Association member and Franklin-McKinley School Board trustee, who is running for a seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Education.
Why are you running for election?
I’m running for the Santa Clara County Board of Education because our students and community deserve to have an elected leader whose sole focus is education. As a public school teacher, community leader and local school board elected official, I’ve had the opportunity to learn, collaborate, and establish a track record of putting students first and leading systems-level change. I’ve led policy changes to: close the achievement and opportunity gap, champion ethnic studies and prioritize inclusion for vulnerable populations, including LGBTQ+ and special education students.
What are your top priorities for the county office of education?
1) Model trailblazing policies for academic excellence. The COE has the unique position of being able to lead and prioritize initiatives that support our most vulnerable students.
2) Expand early learning, youth leadership development and alternative education pathways. Students need multiple pathways for success in school and these supports must start before students even begin kindergarten.
3) Improve countywide resource equity and accessibility. We know that districts are not equitably funded and while that’s outside the jurisdiction of the county board, it does have the responsibility to review district budgets to ensure resources and Local Control Accountability Plans are addressing the greatest needs of students.
Why did you decide that now is the time to serve your community in this capacity?
There has never been a more crucial time in education when it comes to meeting student needs and creating supportive school systems, especially coming out of this pandemic. When COVID-19 hit, I co-founded the Digital Equity Coalition because having access to the internet was literally a seat in the virtual classroom. As a result of our advocacy efforts at the city and county level, we helped 15,000 vulnerable families connect to the internet with devices and hot spots. I now lead these efforts serving as president of the coalition and organizing legislative efforts in Santa Clara County and across the state to work toward long term solutions. We need an elected leader on the Santa Clara County Board of Education who understands how to address existing inequities in education, as well as drive change on issues that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Why is it so important to elect educators to school boards?
Understanding the work happening in classrooms and across our schools is critically important to being able to make informed decisions on behalf of thousands of students and teachers. I’m the only candidate with direct experience teaching students and working with educators in all school districts in Trustee Area 6: Alum Rock, Franklin-McKinley, East Side, Mt. Pleasant and San Jose Unified School District. Having a personal connection to serving each of these communities, whether as a teacher, educator-mentor or board member gives me the experience, expertise, and insight to lead change and collaboration across all 32 districts in our county including the county office of education.
What would you like to say to your fellow CTA members about running for elected office?
We need more teachers in elected office. The individuals making decisions on behalf of students and our communities must be grounded in the reality and challenges that our schools and districts face. Educators are uniquely positioned to lead because we are leaders in the system already and bring an unmatched perspective on what works and what doesn’t.