Lupe Conchas has been a community organizer in Maricopa County for the last several years primarily working on issues such as education, elections, and hunger.
He is currently running for a seat on the Alhambra School District Governing Board.
Mr. Conchas feels he can bring a real-world understanding to the board because he understands the basic needs of the families residing in the district, especially during this time of COVID 19.
If elected, he will work to:
- Be a children’s advocate (for increased school funding) at the State Legislature.
- Work for better teacher pay and working conditions.
- Reducing the digital divide, improving food security, and providing assistance with other basic needs.
Mr. Conchas graciously took the time to discuss his candidacy for the Alhambra School Board.
The questions and his responses are below.
·What are your qualifications to serve on the board?
“I understand the needs of our students who lack food, shelter, laundry service, health care, transportation, and safety. Addressing the basic needs of our students will help improve education and student success in the Alhambra Elementary School District #68. I am a proud product of Arizona’s public schools. I attended the University of Arizona and became the first person in my family to graduate college in 2015. I became a public servant for the Arizona Department of Economic Security doing food stamps and AHCCCS healthcare applications and interviews. In 2016, I served in the Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools office administering all 58 school board elections. I have also been community organizing in the West Valley around elections, education, and economic issues for years. I am empathetic, knowledgeable, and qualified to serve on Day One!”
Please tell us three reasons you are running for the school board.
“I am running for this position because the students in my district deserve an advocate who will address systemic barriers and issues affecting our local public schools. I remember when I was in 3rd grade my teacher told me she was going to be furloughed due to budget cuts, which was 20 years ago and we continue to cut public school budgets year after year. I have worked closely with educators to organize around issues like school funding and stood against the expansion of the school choice voucher program in 2018. The reality is that we are in a time of uncertainty due to the pandemic and our public education funding budgets continue to be at risk. As a school governing board member, I can impact the lives of all the students, families, teachers, and staff by listening to their needs. I am passionate and knowledgeable about issues relating to school meals, child nutrition, and basic needs.”
How would you rate the current school board you are running to stay part of and please explain why?
“I believe that the current school board members are demonstrating leadership for the entire state. The Alhambra Elementary School District was the 1st school district to close in the beginning of March 2020 before the Governor and Superintendent of Schools announced statewide school closures. Our governing board members are very proactive and work in collaboration with stakeholders in the community and across the state to keep our communities and kids safe. I am proud of the work they have done and wish to continue the legacy of Governing Board Clerk Adam Lopez Falk who has also served as the Governing Board President in previous terms.”
In your opinion, what are the three most important education issues schools and all stakeholders in the district face?
- “We need a large investment in teacher salaries and benefits if we hope to attract and retain certified and qualified professionals in the classrooms. We have many Arizonans who are certified to teach through the Arizona Department of Education but do not want to apply at a local school district due to harsh working conditions and little pay.”
2. “We need to review our discipline policies, safety protocols, and curriculum with a racial equity lens and protect our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) students from discrimination, racism, and police violence. We have an opportunity to implement ethnic studies and cultural studies in our classrooms.”
3. “COVID-19 has deepened the digital divide and revealed inequities to accessing the internet and other critical services. The pandemic has made access to basic needs such as food and housing more challenging for some parents. The wrap-around services that are provided to our families in the district need to continue and expand.”
What are your views on the implementation of the district reopening in the fall? Or for summer?
“Alhambra Elementary School District has started on the reopening plan for the district. This plan includes a 4 day school week with Wednesdays off for deep cleaning of the school facilities. My main concerns for the fall include school meals, affordable childcare, and the health and safety of our employees, students, and families. We need a laid out plan from the Child Nutrition division on the administration of school meals for Wednesdays during the school year. Many families cannot afford childcare on Wednesdays, which creates a safety issue for kids left at home by themselves or with older children. The local, state, and federal governments have a responsibility to address this issue and invest in affordable child care for our Alhambra families.”
To what extent should your school district ensure all students have access to high broadband and a laptop/tablet for virtual learning should the fall opening be delayed?
“The school district will be investing in technology that will allow the students to complete a digital assignment on Wednesdays when they are not at school. We need to acknowledge that online learning is not for every student and there are many barriers that exist with online learning compared to in-person instruction. The students who have a hard time focusing in the classroom will have a worse time attempting to pay attention to a screen for an hour. We need to think innovatively about how to provide internet to students and their families. Many of our students who live in poverty do not have access to the internet at home. It is time that accessing the internet becomes a basic human right.”
In your opinion, please advise at least one way your school district should make up for any of the lost learning time of this last academic quarter.
“My answer to this question is that there should be no need to make up “lost” learning time because we are in the middle of a global pandemic. During this pandemic, students have experienced social and emotional trauma caused by the changing environments around them. These real-life experiences cannot be documented on a scanned test.”
“Our AZ Education system needs to be revamped post-COVID 19 along with standardized testing. This is a pivotal moment in Arizona history where we have a chance to stop, reflect, and propose new & innovative ways of improving our education system. The AZ State Legislature should call a special session this summer to address public education.”
Is there anything not covered in the first seven questions that you would like the reader to know?
“I am a fourth-generation Arizonan and trusted public education advocate. I have worked in the Alhambra community as an organizer, government official, and community leader. I am bilingual in English and Spanish. My relationships with local school board members across Maricopa County has shown me the amount of work that it takes to successfully serve on a local school board. I am a proud supporter of the Red for Ed movement and support the teacher’s right to unionize. I will fight side by side our educators to get things done. I support Invest in Ed ballot initiative and pro-education candidates at the local, state, and federal levels. I am eager and ready to lead.”
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