By Robin N. Kendall
October 8, 2020 (La Mesa-Spring Valley) -- Voters in the southern part of Spring Valley will have a choice of four candidates to fill the open seat for trustee on the La Mesa Spring Valley School District Board. The seat was previously filled by Jim Long, whose term has expired. This part of the district is called Area 5 and includes Avondale, Rancho, and La Presa Elementary Schools, as well as STEAM Academy and Kempton Literacy Academy.
Changes this year resulted from The California Voting Rights Act which aims to assure that minorities in a neighborhood have a better chance to elect a minority representative. To find out which trustee area you live in, the district has posted a map at https://www.lmsvschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/LaMesaSVSD_ApprovedTrusteeAreas.pdf
In the previous story, Part One, we reported on the candidates for Area 4. Three of the four candidates responded in Area 4.
East County Magazine emailed a set of questions to two of the four candidates on the ballot: Coldon Leon Owens, Sr., and Lorena A. Smith. The other two candidates,Tyra Fleming and Minerva Martinez Scott, did not list their email addresses with the Registrar of Voters, and when contacted, the LMSV School District Office did not have any contact information for them.
Lorena Smith returned a response in time for this article. Coldon Owens replied but has not yet been able to send his responses due to being on deployment. (If any candidates still wish to respond, please contact the editor.)
Lorena A. Smith, candidate for LMSV School Board, Area 5
Biography: Lorena A. Smith has been a Spring Valley native since 1984. She attended Rancho Elementary, La Presa Jr. High School (now Steam Academy) and graduated from Mount Miguel High School in 1990. Shortly after graduation, she worked in a low-income elementary school as a teacher's aide, which motivated her to work in higher education. For over 18 years, she has served the community as a Research Analyst at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). She primarily reviews Education and Social & Behavioral Sciences research done on human subjects.
She says, “However, I am first and foremost my children’s mother. I care deeply about their education which is why I am taking an interest in representing our families in Spring Valley. As Trustee, I would like to ensure that our tax dollars are not spent frivolously, but support our teachers, and children in their quest for knowledge.”
Smith’s response to ECM’s questions:
1. What are the most significant current challenges facing education in this community? How can the school board address these challenges?
As a parent, one of my biggest concerns is the current educational situation, as a result of COVID-19, and the associated challenges of distance learning. While electronic capacity—Wi-Fi, tablets, computers, etc. may work for some children, the lack of having a physical infrastructure, or a ‘safe space’, and abbreviated instruction, may have long term implications once these children do return to school. It would prudent for the school board to have a plan in place for returning students to be evaluated, and brought back up to speed, educationally and socially—apart from necessary safeguards—facemasks, pods, social distancing, etc., that will need to be implemented as a result of COVID-19.
2. What motivates you to want to serve on the school board? Were there experiences in your education or career that sparked you to do this?
The motivation to run for Trustee 5 resulted from my own interest in educational research. I currently sit on UCSD’s Institutional Review Board as an alternate member and assist in the review of experimental teaching methods, comparative studies, and behavioral studies that are done in children. Having the ability to review and ensure that studies are conducted ethically, I feel that the Trustee role will allow me to assist in providing thoughtful and considerate discussion that will assist the board members in making sound determinations that will be in the interest of our children and educators.
3. For incumbents, what accomplishments on the board are you most proud of? For challengers, what do you most hope to change?
As a challenger, one of my hopes would be to part of a team that is focused on ensuring that we have an effective and efficient infrastructure in place for our children that is comprised of values, standards, and accountability on how our tax dollars are spent.
4. Who has endorsed your candidacy?
My candidacy has been endorsed by my family and friends. However, I recently picked up a nod from Carl DeMaio, and can be found in his voter guide.
5. What is your vision for education in this community?
6. Please discuss your views on how you, if elected, could address the issue of racial inequities in the school district. For example, do you think there is a need for more diversity training?
While diversity training has been shown to be successful, it is my feeling that we must address racial inequality by applying a global approach that engages all stakeholders in the community. Beginning at the district level, policies should be developed that will address the needs of the families attending our schools. Do they need after-school help? In-class tutoring? What limitations do they have that will impede them from improving on the statewide testing? The questions are many but when trying to address them, we must engage our families, and challenge them to be part of the solution. I also believe we must value and encourage diversity-- and celebrate it so that our children have an understanding of the different cultures and races in our community. We could even go a step further and develop policies that address integration when new students join our schools.
Smith’s Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/lorena.smith1.