NUSD Race: Preserving Non-Academic Programs

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

THE NATOMAS BUZZ invited the 10 candidates running for Natomas Unified school board to participate in a series of articles wherein they answer questions submitted by readers.

Today’s question was sent to us by reader Ana Sandoval who asked, “How do the candidates feel about the non-academic programs at NUSD and what is their commitment to protecting funding for arts, sports, vocational programs and extracurricular activities?”

Here are the answers submitted by the deadline, in the order they were received: 


Scholars come from all backgrounds. That’s why for dozens of decades America’s education system has awarded scholarships to many deserving athletes and artists. I fully support having a variety of ways in which students can learn in Natomas. These programs teach our students the value of competition, the need to be creative, and instills in them the courage to believe in their abilities when others doubt them. These programs represent opportunity, and many students who can’t afford higher education have a chance to have their college funded through an athletic or performing arts scholarship. The last time I checked, the definition of a student is “a person formally engaged in learning.” I aim to encourage learning, in every positive way possible.


As a product of a school system that offered all of these programs for free, I feel that these programs need to be preserved. These programs give the students many different outlets. They teach how to expand your mind. They show how to be creative. You would be amazed what wonderful things are in young people’s minds. They also build leadership skills that will follow them for the rest of your life. I was captain of my soccer and hockey team growing up and I find myself to this day using these leadership skills in my everyday life. We need to find a way to make these programs thrive, so every student will have the opportunity to learn and grow from them. We do not want to raise a generation of robots. We need to build a group that will make the world a better place for everyone.


My kids have never told me that didn’t want to go to school. They are so excited – especially on days where they have PE, Art, or Spanish. As kids get older, their attendance begins to lag and absenteeism increases. We have to make sure we are offering programs that will increase their attendance and attentiveness. As a trustee, I will advocate for a restoration of programs like ROTC that teach students vital life skills such as leadership, discipline, and civic engagement. As the Managing Director for the California Association of Local Conservation Corps, I worked with high school dropouts, providing them with paid on-the-job training, education, and life skills. It is vital that we reduce the dropout rate by, among other strategies, ensuring that programs like Natomas High’s STEM program have a hands-on vocational component that trains students with job skills that are relevant to the growing green collar workforce.


As the mom of two sons who participated in sports and music I know the importance of extracurricular activities. Sports, for example, teach children life-long skills: teamwork; how to cope with disappointments; and, how to critically evaluate and determine a team’s next steps. These skills play a critical role in the personal and emotional development of students. I strongly support vocational programs because they provide a foundation and framework for students seeking a profession outside the university experience. Sadly, I often meet students who attend college only to please their parents. We need to improve our vocational program offerings and make sure that parents understand the value of this career pathway. Finally, I know that extracurricular activities and vocational programs keep students in school and require them to remain focused on their academics. I’m committed to working with the community in maintaining extracurricular activities and vocational programs.


Non-academic programs are vital to a well rounded education. Students need to be exposed to rich and comprehensive programs allowing them to explore their individual interests. This exploration can often help students choose career pathways. These programs keep students engaged in fun yet rewarding ways and may provide relief from the pressures of the core academic subjects. Some non-academic programs can also provide skills necessary for college success and/or life in general such as critical thinking, social-emotional skills, self-discipline, time management, leadership skills, character development, team building and much more. Non-academic does not mean non-challenging. We should actively be looking for enriching programs that will benefit our students long-term, some of which can be developed through community partnerships with no additional cost to the district. I strongly support non-academic programs and am fully committed to protecting funding to the best of my ability.


As a trustee, I want to make sure that NUSD students have vital non-academic programs that promote creativity and critical thinking, technical and life-long skills, and exposure to disciplines that are transferable to other academic areas, just as students in wealthier communities do. In addition, these programs allow us to help students build healthy relationships with adults, promote the pursuit of higher education, and increase the number of career choices and paths for our students. I will work to ensure these programs receive proper funding. I would also enhance NUSD relationships and partnerships with cultural and arts organizations, local universities, and community organizations to further increase the number of programs and volunteers available to our schools. Lastly, I’d like to increase teachers collaboration across NUSD schools so we can have an integrated visual and performing arts curriculum and agree on the college and career skills our students need to succeed.


Having earned a BFA in Fine Arts and working as an artist for years, I know firsthand the benefits of a strong arts education. As a sculptor, I painted and learned the practical skills of welding and woodworking. Minoring in color theory and art history, I provided slide notes for professors whenever they lectured on the historical significance of art. I learned how important art was to the working knowledge of history in general, especially politics. Art will always communicate ideas and possess a power beyond words alone. The painting ‘Guernica’, the film ‘Philadelphia’, tunes by The Beatles, plays by Moliere – are just some of the many examples of that power which comes to mind. It all started for me in public schools. Without it, I would have never travelled to faraway places to work my craft. I owe my life to the arts having been there.


I feel that non-academic programs are important to a child development. In my mind there is no question on the value these programs bring. NUSD does provide non-academic programs for it’s students, but there is always room to improve when it comes to our children. As a board member, I promise to go beyond simply protecting funds for these programs and actively partner with parents and community members to raise funds for these programs. By using all methods available from grant writing to car washes, the power is in our hands to provide or students with a complete education.

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