by David Safier
After writing a longish post about the TUSD candidates a few weeks ago, I want to boil it down to my final endorsements. My recommendations: Absolutely vote for Cam Juarez and Kristel Foster. As the last vote for the three open slots, I recommend Betts Putnam-Hidalgo.
Here's the breakdown. Four credible progressive candidates -- the three I'm endorsing and Ralph Ellinwood -- are running for three slots. The problem is, if the Democratic/progressive vote is spread evenly among the four of them, the diluted vote can lead to close losses that should have been wins. That's why I'm recommending everyone vote for Cam and Kristel, the two strongest candidates, to give them the best shot at spots on the Board. While I recommend Betts, I can't give anyone a good reason not to vote for Ralph, so while it would be best politically if everyone pulls together and agrees with my choice, I know it's not going to happen.
Cam Juarez is the strongest candidate for the Board. He's intelligent, insightful and possesses the kind of emotional understanding you want from someone who will make decisions affecting young people's futures. His life experiences give him insight -- from the inside -- about the kinds of challenges many TUSD students face every day. Another strength is Cam's recently earned Masters Degree in Urban Planning, which will be an invaluable asset on the Board. It gives him a deep, academic understanding of the urban landscape, adding a new and valuable perspective to the Board's discussions and decision making process. While Cam is a strong supporter of Mexican American Studies, he has staked out his own carefully considered opinions on the issue.
Kristel Foster is another very strong candidate. She would be the only K-12 teacher on the Board, which gives her insight -- from the inside -- about the day-to-day workings of the classroom, which is where the rubber meets the road in education. It's easy for people who aren't teachers to overlook the "obvious" when making decisions, and Kristel can help ground the rest of the Board in the realities of the classroom. Kristel was given a bad rap as a fairweather friend of Mexican American Studies because of an answer she gave to a gotcha question early in the campaign. It was the kind of error people new to campaigning often make. One of the reasons Kristol got into the race in the first place was her strong advocacy for the Mexican American Studies program. She definitely is a supporter.
Betts Putnam-Hidalgo has been a very active parent who sees possibilities for TUSD others are less focused on. That's her greatest strength, that she will bring up ideas like making better neighborhood use of schools (including school-based medical clinics), making current school buildings more energy efficient (possibly using JTED students to complete part of the work, giving them hands-on experience) and expanding school vegetable gardens. We need an idea person on the Board to stimulate new, innovative thinking about ways to energize the district.
It was a tough call between Betts and Ralph Ellinwood. Ralph is an experienced lawyer who knows how to negotiate and arbitrate when compromise is needed. That's a valuable skill to bring to a Board that tends to have deep divisions. However, while I agree with Ralph on basic educational and social ideas, I don't get the sense that he is focused on the issues that are most important to improving education in the District.