Editor’s note: This is among the articles on local candidates in advance of Tuesday’s general election.
Rose Muñoz, the current president of the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s board and the first social worker to be elected to the body, is running her first re-election campaign since joining the board in 2018.
She is running against Phebe Mansur, a small business owner and community activist, who operates CopyRight Printing Systems in Old Town Goleta.
If re-elected, Ms. Muñoz told the News-Press that her top three priorities will be to increase literacy rates and student achievement in mathematics, ensure safe campuses and learning environments for students, and increase teacher and staff retention throughout the district.
“Contemporary education should include instruction, intervention and support,” Ms. Muñoz said of her vision for K-12 education in our current era. “There is a framework called multi-tiered systems of support, and this framework helps teachers identify how students best respond to the curriculum and also addresses their behavioral needs. Not all students will respond in the same way, some need more support than others, and I think that’s an improvement in terms of what our students are needing.”
“The other thing is also universal access to education,” she continued. “For example: if students that have been in honors class are in the same class with students that have been struggling more academically, all the students benefit. They’re all brought up and their achievement is brought up, and those kinds of approaches, I think, are what we need to do to be able to make improvements in how students achieve in school.”
One aspect of K-12 education that Ms. Muñoz is seeking to change relates to the “college for all” mindset that has dominated American educational objectives for the past two decades.
“Not everyone wants to go to college, and not everyone is geared to go to college,” Ms. Muñoz said. “Vocations are a real strength and something that should be advocated for strongly. There are students that are more hands-on that can go into apprenticeships, for example, with the construction union (or) with the ironworkers union. They could become contractors, they could go into the field of graphic design, they can go into the art field. We don’t necessarily have to prepare every student to go to college, and I think by doing that we’re setting up for failure.”
When asked about the nationwide trend of hostile interactions between community members and local school boards and how she would address it, Ms. Muñoz stated that she would work to find the common ground between different groups and beliefs, and encouraged community members to voice their opinions.
“I think that there’s been a lot of anger on certain contentious issues — the way that I would best address it is to listen to the concerns and try to find a common ground,” Ms. Muñoz said. “I really appreciate the involvement of the community and their interest in having the best schools available for our students and families and our community … I really feel it’s important to include those voices and try to be a liaison in terms of decisions around the schools.”
Along this vein, Ms. Muñoz also stated that she supported including parents in the decision making process, stating that “(the district) should be communicating with the parents all along the way,” and that “(parents) should have a voice in decisions about their students at school.”
In terms of her views on teachers unions, Ms. Muñoz stated that she believed them to be a net positive in K-12 education and that “unions … are a really strong backbone in our country because they advocate for benefits, they advocate for good retirement and for salaries for their members.”
However, she also expressed that she would approach charter schools in a productive manner “to see that they are inclusive, that their budgets are responsibly managed and that … they have the support that they need from the school district to be successful.”