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Danielle Marie Gonzales

District 3 Candidate: Danielle Marie Gonzales

Candidate Questions and Answers

Affiliations

Do you currently hold another public office?

No

Do you have any affiliations with the Albuquerque Public Schools?

No

Availability

Are you available to attend board meetings on the first and third Wednesday nights of the month at 5:00 p.m. and special board meetings at additional times?

Yes

Additionally, there are five board committees that mostly meet once a month at 7:30 a.m., 3:00 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 4:00 p.m., or 5:00 p.m. Are you available to attend all committee meetings? Board committees are committees of the whole, which means that all board members attend all committee meetings.

Yes

Periodically, the board must meet during daytime hours for board meetings, budget hearings, and luncheons. Are you available during daytime hours for these activities?

Yes

In addition to regularly scheduled meetings, the board minimally requires approximately 20-25 hours a week in reading, researching, miscellaneous meetings, school visits, telephone calls, and e-mail correspondence; many board members spend much more time than that. Can your schedule accommodate the extra time involved in serving as a member of the Board of Education?

Yes


Experience

Answers should be brief and concise.

Why do you want to be a board member for Albuquerque Public Schools?

I'm running because I want every child in our city to get an excellent education that prepares them for success in life. I have seen personally how education can change a person's life, and I know we can do better, especially for students of color. We have a unique opportunity, more federal funding than we ever could have imagined, and significant needs in our community. The board will play a critical role in the year's ahead to enable recovery for our schools and our city, which ought to prioritize integrated approaches to academic acceleration and mental health and healing.

What is your interest in education?

I watched my peers and family members struggle in school. My own brother dropped out of high school and has struggled to land on his feet. His experience is far too common. He - and all young people like him - are the reason I dedicated my life to working in education. I believe in the power of education to enable fulfillment and economic and social mobility. The premise of the American Dream has never been real for far too many, but especially so for people of color. In this ongoing moment of crisis, all paths to recovery-for civics and democracy, work employment and the economy, and for racial healing - run through our schools. Our society overall is at an inflection point and there is an opportunity to change the way we do schooling to align more to research on child development, to focus more on equity and agency and to foster greater belonging and mobility.

In what ways will you support the mission and vision of the district?

I am driven by the commitment to ensure that all students succeed. I will filter decisions through the lens of what is good for students, and what is supported by research, evidence and data. I will prioritize listening to those stakeholders that are closest to the issues: students, families, and educators. I will recognize the assets and strengths that are brought by students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, LGBTQ students, English learners, and students with learning disabilities and differences -so solutions meet their needs first. I will lift up and celebrate the district's success and not shy away from the challenges or the hard debates. I will bring examples of lessons-learned and promising practices from other districts and education improvement efforts from across the state and across the country.

How will you work with the superintendent?

I will work to establish a healthy and trusting relationship with the superintendent and seek his perspective on the issues and questions that come before the board. I would love to visit schools and talk to community members alongside the superintendent. Communication will be critical; I will provide honest feedback and suggestions for improvement and seek the same from him in return. I recognize that the duties of the board are around policy, oversight and effective governance and I will focus on those roles, allowing the superintendent to lead the district. I will also take seriously the responsibility of the board to evaluate the superintendent, and if needed, replace the superintendent.

What is your past and current involvement with Albuquerque Public Schools?

As a student, I attended Cochiti and Chaparral Elementary, John Adams Middle, and Valley High School. As a parent, to students at APS charters Montessori of the Rio Grande and Native American Community Academy.

What should be the relationship between the superintendent and Board of Education?

The school board governs, and the superintendent administers the school district. As such, the board and superintendent should work together to set priorities. This requires a relationship grounded in trust, collaboration, communication, and shared commitment to the students of Albuquerque. Additionally, the school board hires and replaces the superintendent, so there is an employer-employee relationship which I will honor. 

What qualities and skills would you bring to the Board of Education?

Expertise in urban school leadership and improvement strategies, given my work with the Aspen lnstitute's urban district networks.

Knowledge of federal and state education policy, including allowable uses of federal funds, given my decades of work in state and federal education policy.

A commitment to equity, and experience privileging the voices and perspectives of stakeholders furthest from opportunity.

I have significant management and board governance experience, which includes both creating and managing budgets, making challenging personnel and strategic decisions, development of strategic plans and metrics and tracking and managing toward goals.

I work to stay up to date on the latest research in education and child development and would also bring that knowledge to bear, including new findings in neuroscience and the science of learning and implications for schooling.

I am also a parent/guardian to four school-age children - and will bring perspective from day-to­-day experiences navigating pandemic learning, including child stress, anxiety and mental health struggles and experience with mental health providers and other systems of support.

What school or community volunteer activities have you participated in related to the community?

I serve on the Equity Councils for two schools and supported the NM Public Education Department as a consultant on equity, with a focus on supports for local equity councils.

I serve as the Treasurer for the NM Bataan Corregidor Memorial Foundation and as a founding member of the Albuquerque Women's Giving Circle.

How do you plan to work with constituents?

I plan to proactively seek input from constituents and groups, through PTA/PTOs, community­based organizations, the APS family engagement collaborative and through in-person and virtual listening sessions within District 3. I will also establish a relationship with each of the principals of the District 3 schools to hear from them about the issues that are most important for their school. I will be responsive to constituent outreach and requests.

What do you see as opportunities and challenges to the district?

By far the biggest opportunity and challenge will be responding to the impacts of the pandemic, economic recession, racial unrest, and related stress. The district is fortunate to have an influx of federal funds through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) that come with a lot of flexibility in allowable uses. The challenge will be to balance reactive response to technical fixes, such as PPE, air filters, and capital outlays, along with more innovative and proactive investments that will drive improvements for the long-term. Because the dollars are one-time, the district should not spend on things that will need sustained funded, making investments in much-needed personnel additions (such as counselors, social workers and other mental health specialists) challenging.

Academic performance for the district has been stagnant since 2011 and is lower than comparable large-city school districts nationwide. The district must find a way to turn this around and improve academic outcomes. 

There is also a tremendous challenge and opportunity to regain the trust of the community. Extended school closures, debates over masks and vaccinations, have contributed to higher levels of stress and lower levels of patience. District leaders - the board included - have the opportunity to "build back better," including building back trust.

What do you think is the best way for the district to accomplish the district’s goals?

  • Albuquerque Public Schools will provide equitable access and opportunity in a safe and supportive environment that addresses the individual needs of students. Measure and publicly report student, educator and parent perceptions of learning environment, using culturally relevant surveys. Compare survey data to other data such as student performance data, chronic absenteeism, exclusionary discipline data and opportunity to learn indicators (such as access to advanced courses, access to technology and safe passages, etc.). Disaggregate survey and other data by student groups, including race/ethnicity, gender, LGBTQ status, citizenship status, English learning classification and other indicators. Identify gaps in access to safe and supportive environments by student groups and by school, then provide targeted training and support strategies depending on the identified gaps. For example, if data shows that Native-American 6th graders have a lower sense of academic belonging, the district and school can provide training to educators and support staff on strategies to foster belonging for Native Students. This will likely include contracts with technical assistance providers to bring specific expertise in target areas.
  • Albuquerque Public Schools will align the work of schools and departments and create a system of high-quality accountability for instruction, social, emotional and physical health and safety.  Academics and social and emotional wellbeing are inextricably linked in the brain and in life, and thus strategies must also be fully integrated. Across the superintendent's cabinet, leadership team and divisions of the district, there should be shared responsibility for meeting process goals and outcome goals for both the content and rigor of academics and instruction, as well as the social-emotional aspects of learning. This should include a balance of summative, formative, and curriculum-aligned assessments, as well as other indicators of student experience and school climate. The system should leverage the existing data to produce reports and provide data analysis and support for principals and their school leadership teams, so they can, in partnership with the district, identify gaps and target resources. Principals, Associate Superintendents, and the Superintendent should be held accountable for improvement and be provided with training in improvement science and strategies. The board, the media, families and community partners should have access to information and data to shine a light on promising practices and areas for improvement.  There are many examples from peer districts that we can adapt to our unique context, namely Denver, DC, Chicago, Boston, San Antonio and Dallas. 
  • Albuquerque Public Schools will create a clear direction for efficient and effective operations to better serve students and improve staff morale.  All job descriptions for APS staff should be aligned to the same mission and goals, and all staff should be provided with opportunities to share their perspectives on what works and what needs improvement in operations. The district should have clear goals and metrics related to operations and should provide adequate funding and oversight. The district should partner with Union leaders and representatives to negotiate fair contracts and clear expectations. Staff deserve to have a voice in decisions that will influence their work and lives. Too often support staff are treated merely as cogs, but they too deserve chances to be celebrated themselves and to be involved in the celebration of district and school successes.
  • Albuquerque Public Schools will improve all modes of communications to better inform and engage the Albuquerque community invested in public education. The district can partner with community-based organizations to offer trainings to district­ and school-based staff in effective and culturally responsive communication. This could include the use of platforms such as Class Dojo, Remind and other software and apps, as well as traditional communication such as calls and emails. Home visits are an effective strategy for improving communication and two-way trust and have also been shown to improve student and overall outcomes. The district and school teams should seek feedback from students, families and educators, prior to making and communicating decisions and also proactively communicate what they don't know.

If elected, how will you work with the current board?

If elected, I will treat other board members with respect, I will listen to their perspectives, and disagree respectfully when needed. I will respect their time by coming on-time and prepared to each meeting. I will ask productive questions and contribute thoughtful insights or perspectives. I will prioritize the needs of all students and families served by the district - not just of those in District 3 - and collaborate with other Board members to gain a better understanding of the perspectives and experiences of students in their districts.

 

School Board Candidate Questionnaire for District 3 from The Paper

Q&A  APS Board District 3 Danielle M. Gonzales from the Albuquerque Journal