Virginia Alvarez uses her personal experience as inspiration
Virginia Alvarez, the newest member on the Santa Barbara Unified school board, still keeps her San Marcos High School Royal Award in a special place many years after being recognized for her work.
Ms. Alvarez, who’s also the chief business official for the Montecito Union School District, was a student at San Marcos and later served as a classified employee.
Her strong connection to Santa Barbara Unified is what brought her back to the district as a board member.
“I knew my professional experience coupled with my personal experience would make a good contribution to the schools,” Ms. Alvarez told the News-Press. “It’s one thing to be told about something, but it’s another thing to have experienced it.”
After immigrating with her family, she joined the district as a fifth-grade student at McKinley Elementary School. She was the only non-native speaker in her class, but she knew how to read well in her native language.
“A big difference is that some of our students may not have that strong foundation, so that’s why they struggle to grasp that subject matter,” Ms. Alvarez said. “We need to make an effort to improve our processes to make sure these students have the strong foundation of making sure they know how to read, write and do mathematics at a young age.”
As she advanced through high school, she took classes in finance, learning skills she now uses everyday as the chief business official at the Montecito Union School District. But she performs tasks not covered in her master’s degree.
“Don’t be surprised if you see me helping with recess duty or drop off (for students),” Ms. Alvarez said.
“Given that it’s a one-school district, we do what it takes. Wherever we’re needed, that’s what we do.”
She has worked at Montecito Union for about 20 years, and she loves it.
“At Montecito Union, I’m very, very fortunate because when you go to a job that you love, it’s not work,” Ms. Alvarez said. “I love the teachers, and I love the people I work with.”
She confirmed with her boss and co-workers that she could run for Santa Barbara Unified’s board. She keeps the two positions separate.
But her family’s approval was what she loved most.
“The best outcome of this race is that my kids were my biggest fan,” she said.
Her kids, young adults in their early 20s, helped her campaign every weekend. They took to social media and went canvassing for support.
Family is important to Ms. Alvarez, and part of the reason she got into education. She grew up living with teachers and watching her aunt grade papers.
“My formative years were all public education. That became a very important component of my life,” Ms. Alvarez said.
“Public education is very very important in society,” she said. “If society focused more on public education, we would be so much better. It’s a place for everyone.”
She hopes to encourage higher levels of achievement in Santa Barbara Unified.
Right now, she’d like to get students back into the schools when the metrics allow the district to reopen. She said she believes it can happen if the community follows the recommendations of health officials.
Ms. Alvarez wants the public to know that she is ready to listen and encourages the community to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or write a letter.