Former Santa Maria-Bonita School District teacher Vedamarie Alvarez-Flores hopes voters will elect her to a full four-year term when they head to the polls on Nov. 6.
One of five elected members of the district's board of education, Alvarez-Flores was appointed in May 2016 to fill the vacancy left by retired board member (the late) Fidenzio "Bruno" Brunello. The 39-year former teacher and longtime mentor to rookie educators was elected by voters that November to fill the remainder of his two-year term.
Alvarez-Flores and incumbent Ricky Lara face a re-election challenge from two district residents — first-time candidate and nonprofit community organizer Abraham Melendrez, and e-rate consultant Gary Michaels.
"I have to always have a linear idea of the importance and what I need to do in life," Alvarez-Flores said. "My family is always first ... but the interest and job I feel I started is not finished. There are still a lot of things that are moving so nicely and I'd like to serve four more years."
Alvarez-Flores said implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), the new funding model for K-12 education, has "empowered" sites to embrace parents and families and expand on the traditional role played by public schools. Through the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), she said the district has morphed into a "powerful, strong and vital [institution]" that assures educational equity for all students.
"We have a very knowledgeable board and a group of individuals that work very hard," she said. "People are now taking responsibility for what's going on at the sites in a big way. I want to see that continue."
If re-elected, Alvarez-Flores said she would ensure the district continues its parent engagement and empowerment programs. She would also like to increase awareness and engagement between the public and members of the board, and pursue a comprehensive and holistic evaluation of student needs.
"When you are looking at a child's report card, it might look foreign to you," she said. "There's a better way to understand what is going on with your child ... and how they're doing in school. A test score is a test score; you need to know [much more than that.]"
Alvarez-Flores understands the desire to seek greater diversity among new credentialed hires but said the district has a tendency to attract — and retain — teachers who were born and raised in the district.
"Our district tries to hire back — we have a lot of personnel that are homegrown," she said. "We're very proud to have them back — they know the culture, diversity and needs and wants [of students.] They want to make it better ... or want to complement what they had as an experience."