Valerie Cuevas, School Board Candidate

on January 31, 2018

Valerie Cuevas comes from humble beginnings. As a child of a working-class family, beset by problems that put her at risk of academic failure, Cuevas attached to her family’s belief in the transformative power of education.

“My family believed in the innate ability and potential of all the kids to succeed, and to succeed at high levels,” Cuevas said, and education, “was a transformational experience that would allow me to transcend those conditions.”

Now, as president of the West Contra Costa Unified School Board, Cuevas’s trust in education has not diminished. Cuevas, 45, became the first Latina and LGBTQ member of the school board in 2014. She is running to retain her seat for another two years. Her focus is much as it was in her first term: on best serving the people of the district — from students to employees to members of the local community, she said.

Cuevas, of Richmond, said her achievements on the board include securing the district’s teachers a pay raise that made them the highest paid—as opposed to the lowest paid—in the county, rewriting the district’s policy to create a supportive work environment for people from diverse backgrounds and improving financial accountability when raising money for construction.

Recently, during a Sept. 26 school board meeting, Cuevas spearheaded a motion to move forward with revocation proceedings against John Henry High School, a Richmond charter school, due to an alleged mandatory reporting violation that was brought up at the meeting.

Though the issue has not yet been resolved, Cuevas said she took the allegation seriously, and wanted the school to take it seriously, as well.

“Keeping a school open is exactly what I want to do, but when I look at an allegation of a potential malpractice in a way that might actually hurt children, then I’m very clear about what side I’m going to err on,” Cuevas said.

According to Cuevas, most of the challenges faced by the district relate to a lack of resources. Cuevas said serving on the board has shown her the urgency of the district’s problems, but also the board’s slow, sometimes off-priority process — despite its best intentions.

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