Six questions were posed to Walla Walla School Board candidates Joshua Gonzales and Sam Wells, who are running to fill the Director 1 seat on the board. These are responses from Gonzales.
Name: Joshua Gonzalez
Occupation: Executive director of Camp Fire Walla Walla
Community service: Volunteer with Exchange Club, Member of the Sherwood Trust Leadership class, served on the WWPS Graduates of Distinction Selection Committee for 3 years, 11 years of non-profit experience.
Education: Bachelor of Science degree from Portland State University, 2002.
Family: Wife, Carrie, and two daughters.
(1) How could the school district best improve its education programs and services to prepare graduates for life in the 21st century?
— Preparing students to excel in a world that is only becoming more dominated by technology and a workplace that is much more demanding of traits such as critical thinking, problem solving, creativity and innovation. In the classroom I think this means supporting expanded technology, project-based learning, and providing students with hands-on and real-life learning experiences.
— Focus on creating empowered student leaders. This applies to both the integration of skills, such as team work and communication, and resiliency, but also the practical preparation for life after high school, including increased exposure to career pathways and a realistic understanding of how they will achieve their goals.
(2) How could the board and district do a better job communicating with constituents?
— Involving and empowering students: for example, coordinating student attendance at board meetings and working together to prepare students to then communicate what is happening with their education both to their peers and parents.
— Ensuring communication is accessible and feels relevant: for example, working with a focus group of parents not as familiar with issues to ensure information is understandable, communicates how it might impact them and how they can get involved.
— Working to bridge the connection with community members without students attending the school district: finding ways to highlight the student and parent perspectives to those who might not experience them first-hand. For example, incorporating personal stories and points of view into news articles.
(3) How would you have voted as a school board member on whether to put the Feb. 12 bond proposal on the ballot and why?
As a parent and community member I felt it important to educate myself on the bond measure before the February vote. There was a definite need to modernize the facility in order to ensure that students were being prepared to be competitive in both the job and college spheres and to provide a strong foundation for a campus that would endure into the future.
As such, if I were a school board member I would have voted to put the bond measure on the ballot because I do believe it would have been the best long-term investment for our community, but most importantly given this is a community issue would want to have this be a decision that we were making as a collective.
(4) What criteria would you use to evaluate whether a bond or levy measure should be placed before voters?
— Need: is there a clear and compelling reason for this measure
— Proposed solution: would the allocation of funding meet the determined need
— Return on investment: would the benefits of doing outweigh the costs
(5) Do you think there is room for more tax-supported school funding measures in the current local economy?
Given the vital role of education on everything from economics to an engaged citizenry, it seems essential that we prioritize our schools and one way we must do so is financially. For many years we have been able to take pride in the strength of our schools because the generations before us have made the difficult decision to prioritize the future and I believe we can and must continue to do so.
(6) Is there an issue you would like to raise not covered by the previous questions?
I am running for school board because of my love for and belief in children and their unlimited potential when provided with a strong education and a supportive learning environment. I have deep connections to the school district as both a parent and the Executive Director of Camp Fire, partnering with several elementary schools for after school programming. While I have big dreams for our students, schools and communities I’m also a realist who understands that everything comes with a cost and as a board member it is vital to be vigilant about representing the best interest of both the students and the tax payers.