I was a San Lorenzo Board of Education Trustee Candidate.
In case you didn’t already know, let me give you a quick back story. In the San Lorenzo Unified School District, there were two Board of Education seats available. One Board Member decided to run again, but was unopposed. He automatically got the seat. Now, here’s where it gets a little confusing. At least, for me. Somehow, there turned out to be two seats available. I’m not exactly sure why. Moving on. Since the first seat was now taken by an existing Trustee and there were no candidates for the second seat, a call for Applicants was issued.
This was my chance.
I found out from a mass text message that went out on the Friday before the interview date. That didn’t exactly allow for time to campaign. I knew the San Lorenzo Board of Eduction was going to appoint someone, because if they didn’t, they would need to hold a special election that would cost at least $200,000. The moment I saw the call for applicants, I believed it was meant to be. This was my chance to make a big difference. This was my chance to give back to other students, families and staff. I was going to be on the San Lorenzo Board of Education. I was fully invested.
Becoming a parent advocate.
Three of my children (triplets), born as micro-preemies, have Autism and I have advocated for them since the day they were born! This is especially true when it comes to their education. Navigating Special Needs education and IEPs is no joke. There is a learning curve that some parents just can’t overcome. It’s not easy. Still, I’ve always been able to get my children the support they need for their education. I’ve become friends with so many educators and administrators over the years. Even when we seem to be on opposing sides regarding my children’s education, I’ve learned to appreciate and respect their roles. They’ve reciprocated that respect. In fact, most of them are happy to engage with a parent who advocates so fiercely.
I was not heart-broken when I found out that my children had Autism, because I already knew. Sure, I was scared, but I was okay. Over the years, I’ve helped so many other parents be okay, too. More than okay. Helping others was a calling. It’s a part of me. I was never extremely sad over their diagnosis. You know what did break my heart, though?
Realizing I couldn’t do it alone, broke my heart.
I wanted to help my children. I was the mom. It was my job to take care of them, protect them and teach them. They needed more help than the hours per day I had available. By the time they were two-years-old, they were getting 5 hours per day of one-to-one ABA therapy. That’s 15 hours per day, not including their Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Home Health Nurse visits and more. I also had two other children and a husband who needed me. There literally were not enough hours in the day for me to give them the help they needed. So, I needed help.
I struggled with guilt and wishing that I could do more for them. I was not a licensed Speech Pathologist, Nurse or Occupational Therapist, had no experience with ABA Therapy and really couldn’t do it alone. Getting them to where they are today took a village of support. They still have two hours per day of one-to-one therapy. Now, I am a Registered Behavior Technician and work P/T providing therapy to other children with Autism. Still, it would take six hours per day for me to give the triplets the amount of support they get now. There aren’t six hours per day after school. I still have two other children and a husband.
We don’t have to do it alone.
I don’t feel guilty anymore. I’m not sad or disappointed that I can’t do everything by myself. The best thing I’ve ever done for my children is build them a support team. They are stronger because I didn’t do it alone. I recognized their needs and put them before my ego, pride and disappointment. When people come together for a common goal, the results can exceed expectations.
When we are tasked with a job that we can’t do alone, we can feel hopeless, until we get the support we need.
I wanted to build a supportive Team in San Lorenzo. That doesn’t mean I can’t make difficult decisions and take even harder actions. I’ve done it before.
The last job I had before the triplets were born was as an Operations Manager for a multi-million-dollar company that was closing after over 20 years in business. I managed the entire closure, from legal and environmental compliance to the layoff of every single employee, one by one.
During the many months of layoffs, I called business competitors and arranged interviews for as many employees as possible. I made decisions and took actions that were temporarily life-altering for real people, but I did it with kindness, empathy and a supportive approach. People thanked me and hugged me as I handed them their final paychecks. They weren’t angry with me. They understood what was happening and appreciated that I went above and beyond to make it as painless as possible for them.
Why Being a San Lorenzo Board of Education Trustee Candidate Broke My Heart
I wasn’t expecting to be so very disappointed about losing the appointment to the San Lorenzo Board of Education. Don’t get me wrong, the winning candidate is fine. I’m sure he will do the best job he can and be considerate of students and staff. He has some great experience that is relevant to the budget issues in our District. However, I also know that I would have done a great job for this community. My focus of advocacy for students, families and staff is not a second priority. It does not come after budget cuts. It needs to be first.
Have we not learned the power of community? It’s all around us! Every. Day.
The Seal Beach, CA community is buying up all the donuts it can so the owner can hurry home to care for his wife. Read more.
In Boston, the community is rallying to stop gun violence. Read more.
This community just helped a member get a $20,000 custom-built wheel chair. Read more.
When a community comes together for a cause, circumstances change.
Lives change. United, we will always be stronger. When a community is divided, it is weakened. Hardships can shatter a divided community. Although it is likely unintentional, we begin to take on an “every (wo)man for him/her self” mentality.
Let’s suppose that severe budget cuts are inevitable. Okay. We could get through that, together. But first, WE HAVE TO COME TOGETHER. That was my priority. That is where my heart lays. It’s where my mind is focused. This community is divided. It’s a loyal and forgiving community, but students, families and staff are feeling isolated. Many do not believe that the San Lorenzo Board of Education is thinking of their bests interests. It’s not a point of debate. Arguing only fuels the disconnect.
Public Officials are elected and appointed to be Public Servants. It’s their job to serve others. Every decision and action should be in the interest of best serving the people who you are elected or appointed to govern. Unfortunately, if the public doesn’t believe the intentions, it won’t support the actions.
Being a San Lorenzo Board of Education Trustee Candidate broke my heart because I feel like I let people down.
I had an opportunity be part of the decision making process of things that affect the lives of everyone in this community and I failed. I keep asking myself if I should have focused more on the budget issues, shared more information about my fiscal-focused experience and talked more about recent meeting topics. Instead of money, I focused on people.
Would I do it differently next time around? Well, I might include more information to help present myself as a much more well-rounded candidate, but people will always be my focus.
I’ll keep trying.
Just because I’m not on the Board doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying to make a difference, but it certainly makes the job a lot harder. I will not have any decision-making authority. But, I can still be an Advocate.
By: Alicia Gonzalez
Also published on Medium.