Staff Editorial: Editorial board endorses Dr. Darshana Patel for PUSD school board

As PUSD students, staff and parents face struggles and confusion with virtual learning and the future of reopening our schools, the school board needs elected officials who understand and listen to the concerns of the PUSD community.

For this reason, our Editorial Board endorses candidate Dr. Darshana Patel in her re-election to represent Trustee Area A on the Poway Unified Board of Education. 

Patel has served as President, Vice President, and Clerk on the Board of Education since being elected in 2016. Since 2010, Patel has served her community on the California School Boards Association, Rancho Penasquitos Planning Board, SDPD Police Captain’s Advisory Board, and the Park Village Elementary School PTA and Foundation.

In an interview with The Nexus, Patel said all of her work is influenced by her community.

“I have built relationships with parents across the district and used their input to inform my decisions,” Patel said. “In my first term [as a school board trustee], I have visited every school in my trustee area, attended a range of school events throughout the District, and observed our community committees in action.”

Her opponent, Tim Dougherty, has never served as an elected official, and is currently working as a Senior Director of Supply Chain for a local retailer. Dougherty’s involvement in the San Diego community includes coaching the wrestling team at Torrey Pines High School and coaching softball for the team of his kindergarten-age twin daughters.

As of Wednesday, Dougherty had not responded to requests for an interview with The Nexus.

With three daughters in third, eighth and tenth grade in the district, Patel is familiar with PUSD students at the elementary, middle and high school level. Patel thoroughly understands the needs of students and the environments at PUSD schools because of her daughters and her involvement within their schools. 

As made clear by the @BlackinPUSD Instagram posts exposing instances of racism in schools across the district, many PUSD students care about combating racism within our schools. Patel heard these student voices. In response, she worked as a co-author of PUSD Board Resolution 116-2020, which seeks to confront systemic racism by aligning resources to meet student needs and re-examining curriculum text selections, hiring practices, student discipline, and program access. The Board Resolution 116-2020, or the Racial Justice and Equity Plan, passed on Oct. 15. 

In a 2020 Virtual Candidates Forum hosted by The Poway Chamber of Commerce, Green Valley Civic Association, COX, and Poway Kiwanis, Dougherty was asked whether or not he believed that “there are systemic issues of racial injustice present in the school district.” Dougherty answered that his family had not experienced it during their three years in the school district, yet said he understands the need to address race in hiring practices and schools. 

“If qualified candidates were overlooked because of race; that is a problem,” Dougherty said. “As for the student incidents, we need to use those as opportunities to educate those involved. I believe people are inherently good and deserve a chance to correct their actions. This education starts at home. Parents and students need to be accountable.”

Though students and parents do need to work to be anti-racist, there is still much work to be done at the district level to make our schools a more diverse and welcoming environment and the district must take responsibility for that. Patel plans to continue to hold the school district accountable for making these necessary changes.

“I will champion the PUSD Racial Justice and Equity Plan by allocating resources through our budgeting process,” Patel said. “I will seek feedback from students, staff and parents to determine whether our district-wide initiatives are effective, with the goal of continuous improvement.”

Patel also emphasized social-emotional wellness for students at all grade levels, as she elaborated on in an interview with The Nexus

“Clearly, there is a need to balance our high academic achievement with social-emotional wellness,” Patel said. “With COVID-19 physical distancing health policies, [the need for] expanding social-emotional wellness resources have increased. I will continue to push the district to provide more resources for student services, counseling and intervention programs.”

Advocating for adequate public school funding is also among Patel’s top three priorities.

“Now, more than ever, public education is essential to a strong economy, not just in the short term, but in preparing our future leaders, innovators and artists,” she said. “I will build on my experience from the last four years to actively lobby for increased public education funding through my positions as a member of the Poway Unified School District Board of Education, San Diego County School Boards Association Vice President of Legislation, and Delegate to the California School Boards Association.”

Patel seeks to do, and has already done, what elected officials are meant to do: represent the needs of their communities. In the 2020 Virtual Candidates Forum, Patel voiced the importance of prioritizing student safety in reopening plans, making sure to follow all local and state guidelines for mask and social distancing protocols. 

Endorsed by the Poway Federation of Teachers and the Poway Employees Federation, Patel represents the views of many teachers as well.

With so much change happening within our schools due to the pandemic, it’s more important than ever that students, staff and parents are able to have their voices heard in the decision-making process to ensure that students are protected. Patel listens to the concerns of the community and acts, always, for students.

“Students are my inspiration and motivation; every decision I make as a board member prioritizes their best interests,” Patel said. 

 To the editorial board of The Nexus, Patel has proven this. She responds to all questions in a timely and thorough manner and always  shows active engagement in the topics we cover, viewing our concerns as students and journalists as valid.

The editorial board encourages you to vote for Dr. Darshana Patel in her re-election to represent Trustee Area A on the Poway Unified Board of Education.