The Mt. San Jacinto College (MSJC) Political Science Club hosted a virtual Board of Trustees Forum Oct.15. The forum was moderated by James Crawford of the political science club. The candidates included Edison Gomez-Krauss, Brian Sylva and Joseph Williams. Questions were provided to the candidates ahead of time so they could prepare responses. The elected candidate will represent the mountain communities.
Gomez-Krauss is an ESL teacher who lives in Anza. Sylva works at College of the Desert and lives in Beaumont. Williams is the executive director of technology for the Perris Union High School District.
Sylva’s motivation for becoming a board member involves prioritizing with a limited budget. Williams wants to collaboratively transform education and bring an innovative program. Gomez-Krauss wants to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, address the high dropout rate and create racial equity.
As far as priorities for the district go, Williams wants to look at how to tie together facilities and programs that are relevant and meaningful while looking at the changing economy and future-proof the district. Gomez-Krauss is prioritizing the board’s connection with students. He continued, if it comes down to budget, the district needs to give money to fund the best ideas and trust students more. Sylva is looking to close the achievement gap and digital divide and revise the facilities master plan.
What is the plan to better serve the mountain communities? Gomez-Krauss, being from a mountain community, said he understands the struggle and how commuting impacts the dropout rate. There are also hurdles to access technology in remote locations and the district needs to push the board of supervisors for public transportation. Sylva also addressed the need for Wi-Fi access and that can be accomplished by completing grants with internet providers. Williams believes that access to technology is a civil right and that parents should also be encouraged to utilize the hot spots.
How can MSJC best address hardships brought on by COVID-19 when it comes to online access, food insecurity and housing? Sylva suggests the continued loaning of devices, food support, adding Wi-Fi to district parking lots, adding telehealth and virtual counseling. Williams said it is important that students know about food banks and know that they can receive Chromebooks on loan. Gomez-Krauss agreed with the access to technology and food banks and that COVID-19 has presented a resurgence in hate speech and that mental health is important and that campus should be a safe space and adopt a zero-tolerance policy for bigotry and hate on campus.
When it comes to budget cuts or surplus, which programs did the candidates see as needing reductions or increases? Williams stated that a budget is a direct translation of values and that the district needs to invest in human capital and staff that represent students on campus. Gomez-Krauss said he would like to see more teachers that look like students, equity-minded teaching and investments in ESL and distance learning. Sylva is concerned about the 2021/22 budget and that the district needs a good leader to make hard decisions.
What ways do the candidates see as possible ways to celebrate diversity and eliminate equity gaps of historically marginalized communities? Sylva suggests knocking down education barriers by providing better opportunities through fiscal and facilities management, increasing opportunities for all students, making sure students have a voice and that they are listened to. Williams responded that they need to dismantle racism and prejudice at all levels and that he has been listening to students on campus, taken part in events on campus, and that this is just the beginning. Gomez-Krauss stated that you can’t attempt to solve a problem and pretend it doesn’t exist. Students need to feel empowered so they can thrive and marginalized communities need resource centers.