Natomas School Board Race: Program Priorities

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:

“What are your program priorities for the Natomas Unified School District — specifically for low-income, special needs, and high-performing students.”

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

Micah Grant

I don’t see the student groups provided in the question above as being mutually exclusive. There is often tremendous overlap between our student groups, so as a trustee, my focus has been to ensure there are opportunities for those who choose to go to college and those who choose a more vocational or non-traditional path. As a board member, I’ve supported the expansion of college and career pathways and investments made in vocational education. Personally, I would love to bring a cosmetology program to the district. If re-elected, I will also push to bring augmented reality technology to our classrooms to assist students with disabilities and those interested in new and emerging technologies.

Monica Barrios

Until the pandemic is over, we must fully focus on helping students recover the learning lost during the pandemic. Nothing else is more important. We must start planning now to safely reopen schools and provide all students with instructional supports that go above and beyond the traditional education model once it is safe again to resume in-class instruction. Expanded learning programs will be needed including after school, summer school and weekends. Our students will need personalized and targeted supports through these expanded learning programs to recover academically and emotionally from this crisis. They will need extra face time with their teachers, counselors, and peers. I will work with parents, teachers and our community to reimagine education by focusing on helping students recover learning lost and gaining skills for the jobs of the future.

Christopher Alvarez

Our district is one of the most diverse in the nation; we must ensure all of our students get the educational quality they need to succeed in their academic career. The unfortunate reality is that many students who are low-income and who have special needs often lag behind their peers academically, and an achievement gap is expected to widen during the pandemic. I believe programs that assist our vulnerable students should be prioritized, especially during these unprecedented times. Importantly, we must work to give our teachers and educators the support they need for the programs. Regarding programs that benefit our high-performing students, I believe these programs should be maintained, at the very least, and expanded to the extent they are successful. Additionally, we need to ensure the enrollment requirements for these programs do not have the unintended consequences of creating obstacles that are arbitrary or disproportionately affect our underserved communities.

Ericka Harden

Special Education is one of my program priorities. Such as getting Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) into the classrooms, especially those that incorporate the needs of the students on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. Also, there is a serious need to take action to implement a program for our deaf and hard of hearing children, which is the most underserve community in SPED. There is also a need for tutoring our lower performing students. This can possibly become an option to utilize the GATE students in a mutually beneficial way. There is a need for more GATE classes at all the schools in the district. These students have revealed a greater capacity for enhanced learning it makes sense to foster and direct their talents for their ultimate support and success. Let us not forget our students that are both SPED and GATE which is not as rare as one might think.

Sumiti Mehta

More career technical education options and pathways specially focused on 21st-century jobs in the medical and computer industry. My policy will prioritize partnerships with businesses and promote internships for high school students. I would hire more counselors to help students make informed decisions during the transition from school to college/career. I will focus on an individualized teaching approach by adding instructional aids and reading specialists in elementary schools. I will strongly advocate for early childhood education, no cost / low-cost childcare programs, and partnerships with local mentorship programs for under-supported youth and will encourage teacher input in decision making. I will also ensure that training that is provided for teachers, counseling staff, and administrators in the areas of cultural relevancy, language acquisition, and general understanding of relevant issues to the underserved population. I will strengthen dual language immersion programs, hire more bilingual teachers, and encourage parent involvement in schools

Scott Dosick

As your NUSD board member for the last eight years, I fought to invest in programs and resources to meet the needs of the second most diverse school district in the nation. By becoming a Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA), NUSD now receives approximately $1 million in additional funding annually while increasing services and supports for our special education students and families. To strengthen intervention and differentiation efforts, NUSD implemented “What I Need” (WIN) time that provides individualized supports for students who may be struggling to achieve grade-level proficiency in one or more subjects. We have seen increased academic performance since H Allen Hight became an IB World School — so we are seeking to duplicate that success by transforming Jefferson, American Lakes, and Bannon Creek to PreK-8 IB schools with modern facilities. We must continue aligning our budget to provide the programs that students need and parents want.

Mariana Corona Sabeniano

My priorities include expanding access to early-learning programs and career preparation pathways (i.e. IB, CECA, CTE) . I will create an emphasis on the “R” in STREAM, which stands for reading. Students who are not proficient readers by third grade struggle in other subjects. I applaud NUSD for making plans to establish a dual-immersion school and if elected, I will support the expansion of these programs so that ALL students have the opportunity to graduate from high school having attained the State Seal of Biliteracy. Bilingualism must be part of our career readiness goals to prepare students to be global citizens that
understand the importance of language and culture. As programs are established, I will fight to ensure equitable access by requesting data and plans to ensure that low-income, special needs, ELs, and other historically disadvantaged students succeed. I will also ask for research and data to ensure student success.

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. Register here for the online candidate forum The Natomas Buzz is hosting 6-8 p.m. on Oct. 22.

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

Image of flyer with details about Oct. 22 online candidate forum being hosted by The Natomas Buzz.

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