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Know Your School Board Candidate: Kaysa Moreno

Image courtesy of Kaysa Moreno

 


The Alhambra Source reached out to each candidate, asking for a biography, platform statement and a few reader-generated questions. The Source does not endorse any candidates nor statements.


 

Biography

A proud daughter of immigrants, Professor Kaysa Moreno has been an educator for over 15 years. Her mother pushed her to focus on her education so that she could achieve her dreams and as a result, she was the first in her family to graduate from college.

After graduating, Kaysa volunteered her time tutoring underserved college students which inspired her to become a community college professor. She went on to earn her Master’s Degree and now is a professor of mathematics. She currently teaches at El Camino College and is the chair of the mathematics department’s distance learning committee.

Professor Kaysa Moreno is proud to raise her three children within the Alhambra Unified School District. Her son is in the Spanish Dual Immersion Program at Fremont Elementary School, and her two young daughters will follow in his footsteps. Kaysa’s husband, Josh Moreno, is a teacher at Alhambra High School and was recently recognized as “AUSD District Teacher of the Year.”

Kaysa serves as the current 2020-2021 PTA President at Fremont Elementary, is a member of Los Amigos de Fremont Booster Club, and a Traffic Commissioner for the City of Alhambra.

Platform

I am passionate about public education. As a mother of three young children in the district and an educator for over 15 years, I am personally invested in seeing Alhambra’s School District excel. With my experience in student assessment and as the lead coordinator in distance learning for the Mathematics Department at El Camino College, I am aware of the difficulties as well as the possibilities for distance & hybrid learning.

I will prioritize achieving academic excellence through an equity lens for ALL of our students. Addressing gaps in education that our students are facing is crucial. Alhambra reflects the economic, social, and racial diversity in our country yet the district has not tapped into these funds of knowledge as a source of academic excellence. We need to ensure that our diversities are seen as assets and not as deficits.

Creating transparency with our programs, policies, and procedures in our schools is crucial. All stakeholders (parents, teachers, staff, and students) should be part of the conversation and feel welcomed when they attend and participate in virtual and in-person meetings. As a board member, I will prioritize inviting parents to board meetings that impact their child’s education. Together, we can build a collaborative partnership between the school board, the school district, and our community.

As we prepare to come back to the classroom, we must continue to address safety in our schools. Ensuring we follow guidelines that are mandated by the county and health experts is key. It is imperative that our students and staff feel safe because you cannot learn or teach if you do not feel safe. School safety needs to be a transparent process our community is invested in because a strong connection and clear communication between the district and the wider community is key to facilitating student success.

Responses

The pandemic has greatly affected learning in our schools. How are you going to ensure that every student receives a quality education?

When we consider a quality education, we need to consider the wellbeing of the whole student. Food security, affordable housing, and access to technology are all factors in a student’s success academically. These factors have always been there, it is only now, because of the pandemic, that these issues have been brought to light. The physical, social, and emotional well-being of our youth directly impact student achievement. As a school board member, my goal is to ensure these multiple gaps continue to be addressed, during and after the pandemic.

For example, AUSD has a flagship program to address the social and emotional needs of our students in Gateway to Success. How can we ensure this program does not diminish but grow and expand during these difficult times? For years, the conversation has always focused on a singular “achievement gap” without considering the multiple other gaps, like the social and emotional wellbeing of our children, which inform academic achievement.

As a product of public education and a math professor for fifteen years, I know how important it is to give our students the best possible education for upward economic and social mobility.  A quality education has a basis of establishing a safe and secure place for students to learn. It is only after establishing this for our students that we can provide the tools and support to have a quality education that engages students in a meaningful way and ensure academic rigor.

Do you have plans for addressing the long-term effects of the pandemic on Alhambra’s schools and their students to ensure there is not a “lost generation”? Please explain.

As a mother of three children under the age of ten in the district, I do not consider my son, two daughters, or any of our students in the district to be labeled as a “lost generation.” On the contrary, how can the obstacles and challenges that our students have been forced to face in this pandemic be assets as they continue to grow and mature towards lifelong learners?

For example, as a professor of higher education, a major obstacle my students face is their ability to navigate and utilize technology for their own academic success. This generation, K-12, is learning this right now. How can we use this time as an opportunity to build on the technical skills our students and teachers need and will need in the future? How can we educate this generation to utilize technology correctly and efficiently? These questions should be the focus as we move forward as a district.

To be clear, there are limitations with technology and learning, but we do not know where those boundaries are drawn. We are living this experiment right now. Through expertise, transparency, and community involvement, it is imperative to clearly identify, not only any attrition in academic learning but build and enhance the skills and assets our students are gaining to maximize their potential into the workforce.

As mentioned earlier, we need to address the social and emotional effects the pandemic has had on our students and its effect on academic achievement. What I love and admire about our community is their resiliency and ability to adapt to these challenging times. This is why I live here, this is why my husband teaches here, this is why my children go to school here. This generation is our generation and our future is bright with them.

What is your plan for increasing funding for AUSD schools? Where would you allocate these funds first?

First and foremost, the passage of Proposition 15 is more important than ever. California currently ranks 41st of all 50 states in per pupil spending. This is mostly because of the unfair tax system Proposition 15 will fix by taxing only our wealthiest businesses fairly and equally. It has become clear the role our schools play beyond academics. Schools are centers of connection for our community. They serve as a place of belonging: socially, emotionally, physically, and academically for our students. Because of this, Proposition 15 would greatly benefit our schools and community and bring the very much needed funds our schools need.

It is also crucial to assess how our current resources are being used. As stated earlier, it is crucial we educate and give our students the skills necessary for the 21st century. We need to have an open transparent dialogue to evaluate our current programs and see how effective they are for their academic achievement for now and in the future. Then we can explore new ways to increase our funding in the areas that are needed. This can include partnering with the city of Alhambra, our local community colleges and universities, as well as local businesses to establish innovative programs that will increase student success and generate funds for our district.

The pandemic has brought about great economic uncertainty and the decisions that we make moving forward cannot be done alone or in isolation or without expert knowledge on education. We need to ensure our district leaders are in dialogue with all stakeholders as we make key decisions such as how to allocate our resources. When given the opportunity, our community will tell us their needs.

What recommendations would you make to the district when creating the curriculum for its social justice and equity training program for teachers and administrators?

There has been a lot of talk nationally and at the state level about an ethnic studies course as a graduation requirement. If we create this course it should be a part of a larger curriculum that reflects our whole community, where all stakeholders are a part of the process. For example, what are the ethnic traditions in our own communities and how can this be reflected in the curriculum?

Social justice and equity training programs for our teachers and administrators must be grounded with the voices of our own community. We are a community of immigrants, and our stories are the stories of the American dream. These stories are the key to breaking down any stereotypes and implicit biases that have fraught our minority-majority communities for years. These stories are the building blocks for curriculum development and training in our district in terms of social justice and equity. Our teachers and administrators are also a part of this story and contribute to who we are as a district.

We need to invest into the funds of knowledge which are always already the fabric of our community. Seen through this lens, social justice and equity are not training programs but a way of life.

Visit Kaysa’s website.

 

Return to the main page for the other candidates’ biographies, platforms and responses.

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