Natomas School Board Race: Equity in Programs

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz


We invited the 10 candidates running for Natomas Unified school board to answer questions submitted by readers. Today’s question asked:

“Several programs that have been highlighted within Natomas Unified, including IB and CECA, require an application to enroll. The application asks families to provide teacher recommendations, student essays, and may present other barriers as well. In addition, the acceptance process and demographic data for these programs is not readily transparent to the public. As a governing board member, and looking through the lens of equity, do you believe the stringent application and vague acceptance practice is appropriate? What information would you bring forward to show the public that these programs are as diverse as Natomas?”

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

Micah Grant

As part of an effort to increase rigor in our schools and provide more learning opportunities district wide, the board voted to expand IB programs to our K-8 schools. I believe this is one step that helps provide expanded learning opportunities for Natomas students, and I also support expanding the CECA program to other high schools. These programs have fairly stringent application requirements, but I believe the requirements are a necessary component in assessing student readiness. I’m open to expanding the criteria to determine readiness, as long as the expansion of the criteria is reasonable, reviewed by the community and is based on research. As a board member, I support releasing demographic information related to program admittance and retention in both the IB and CECA programs.

Mariana Corona Sabeniano

Unfortunately, equity is typically an afterthought when important decisions are made. I will ensure equity is discussed when making policy and reviewing enrollment data of all programs offered by NUSD. Demographics, social-economic status, and other data must be available to the public and collected from students who applied, enrolled or were not accepted. The review must include students that were interested, but did not apply. For various reasons, programs that require an application and supplemental materials can be a barrier to accessing such programs. For example, not knowing the program is available or learning about the program too late in the application process to request a strong recommendation. I was pleased to see the IB enrollment data is representative of the districtwide enrollment data. However, I am concerned with the access barrier posed geographically. We must strike a better balance in the placement of programs between North and South Natomas.

Sumiti Mehta

IB and CECA are great programs that help students not only prepare but excel in college and life. I don’t believe IB or CECA programs represent the diversity of student population. According to CA Dashboard both black and students with disabilities in Natomas are significantly behind their peers in Math, ELA, and College Readiness. English learners and homeless students are also struggling. As your representative on board, I will redirect money from admin budget to elementary and middle school classrooms and ensure ALL students are ready for competitive programs like IB and CECA. District has expanded IB to more K-8 schools in the district. I’ll ensure that the teachers and principals also get adequate resources to successfully implement these programs. I would also work to expand capacity of CECA program. Goal is not to lower the bar but better prepare ALL students to excel in college, career, and life.

Ericka Harden

My mission as a public advocate is to have an open-door policy and provide assistance and resources for all constituents in the Natomas Unified School District. There are clearly barriers in navigating through the bureaucracy that keeps people from accessing information and processing applications in many of the district programs such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) and the California Early College Academy (CECA), and more. Therefore, the most important role for a member of the board should be to aim for complete transparency of the public operations in the spirit of representing the people with honesty and integrity. There also needs to be proper demographic information available to ensure equity and accountability for a diverse population. Where there is truth, there is light.

Monica Barrios

Specialty programs should be accessible to all students. The selection process should be transparent and neutral. Every eligible student and their parents/guardians should be notified of the program opportunities they qualify for. During the evaluation and selection process, identifying information for each student should be masked, to eliminate the possibility of bias. The best way for ensuring enrollment in these programs reflects the diversity of the district is by helping every student achieve grade level starting in kindergarten.

Christopher Alvarez

There is no doubt that our district is one of the most diverse in the nation, and we must ensure that there is equity and equal access for all students. As a board member, I would work to address the barriers that plague these programs. We need to ensure the enrollment requirements do not have the unintended consequences of creating obstacles that are arbitrary or disproportionately affect our underserved communities. General information about the demographics of those who apply and who are accepted into these programs should be readily available, and there must be transparency in the process. The board must continually assess whether we are ensuring all students of our diverse district are aware of these programs and have the information and assistance they need to participate.

Raynette Johnson

I believe that the application is appropriate because ”there is no one measure that will eliminate a candidate, nor is there one measure that will ensure admission into the program.” To me, it seems fair. As a governing member of the school board, sharing rubric stats with the community is safeguarding that the programs are diverse.

Dr. Susan Heredia

I’m proud to serve as a school board member in the second most diverse district in the United States. I began my teaching career as a bilingual teacher in Sacramento City USD before moving to chair the Bilingual Multicultural Education Department at Sacramento State. In recognition of my expertise, the Superintendent of Public Instruction appointed me to the “Culturally Responsive Professional Development for all School Personnel Expert Panel.” This committee was charged with identifying criteria for a culturally responsive learning environment for California students and core components of culturally responsive professional development for educators. I am using this expertise as a trustee to ensure equity with every action I take to benefit our students; that is why I voted to expand our I.B. and CECA programs, which currently reflect the diversity of our student population. See the presentation “Investing in Our Students: Academics, Social Emotional Well-Being and Facilities.”

Scott Dosick

The New York Times has rated the Natomas Unified School District as the second most diverse in the nation. It is our obligation to ensure that we offer diverse programs that meet the needs of our students. A list of our Career Technical Education programs and college readiness resources is available at 6 years ago, Inderkum High School became the first Natomas school with and International Baccalaureate (IB) program – the academically premier IB Diploma Programme. To increase diversity to better align with our District’s population, and to provide select academic opportunities to all our students, I championed expanding IB to some of our most diverse schools: H Allen Hight, Jefferson, American Lakes, and Bannon Creek. We are in essence creating a diverse pipeline for IB. I have also been a strong supporter of creating other programs to support our students, including the elite AP Capstone (Natomas High) and CECA.

The Natomas Buzz is hosting a second online candidate forum. Register at here for the second forum 6-8 p.m. on Oct. 22. Students from Natomas Charter School, Westlake Charter School, and Natomas Pacific Pathways Prep will host a student-facilitated candidate forum 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20 which will be broadcast live via YouTube.

The deadline to register to vote in California is Oct. 19. Register online at

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