Shoreline Unified School District board trustees are weighing the merits of appointing a Latino liaison to facilitate engagement with the district’s growing Spanish-speaking population.
The idea made its way onto the board’s agenda after Avito Miranda’s campaign for trustee called attention to the lack of Latino representation on the board. Though the majority of the student body is Hispanic, the six current members of the school board are white.
Mr. Miranda was defeated in November,
but trustees are considering ways to ensure the Latino community feels adequately represented as the district confronts a gap in test scores between Latino students and their white counterparts that expanded over the last year—and proposes new solutions like a dual language immersion program.
“It’s a chance for a bridge that hasn’t existed yet,” said Kegan Stedwell, a trustee. “It’s so important that the Latino community has representation at board meetings that they currently don’t have.”
Creating a position was placed on the November agenda as an action item, but trustees delayed their decision by a 4-1 vote while awaiting more input and
Jane Healy, the board’s new president, proposed the delay, saying that it was a hasty move and that all stakeholders had not been included in the discussion. Her the motion was seconded by Tim Kehoe, who won re-election over Mr. Miranda by 67 votes, or 4.4 percent, in November; Ms. Stedwell cast the sole dissenting vote.
“We try not to be a top-down board,” Ms. Healy said, adding that she has heard a range of opinions: some say becoming an elected official is one of the rights of citizenship, but others want the board to improve relations with all of their constituents.
Superintendent Tom Stubbs is currently researching different models for the position that have been implemented across the country. For most school districts, the position is advisory, akin to the position of student representative that Shoreline currently has.
If they do vote in favor of establishing a liaison, as seems likely, the trustees will still need to hash out the specifics of the job. Will the representative be elected or appointed? How long will the position’s term last? Would it rotate to ensure local needs are met in the northern and southern ends of the district? And what will the person’s responsibilities be to the board and the community?
What is known is that the liaison would not vote with trustees; nor would it be included in closed-session discussions.
“But at least it creates a seat at the table for Latino representation,” Ms. Stedwell said.
The reaction from the audience in Point Reyes Station and last week’s meeting in Tomales were polar opposites.
In the south, almost everyone voiced support for the idea; the few who had complaints felt an advisory position was inadequate compared to a trustee.
But the idea was not warmly received in Tomales. One woman said she did not understand the need for more input. “These are the people we voted for,” she said to the board.