Innovate Public Schools’ San Jose Regional Vice President, Silvia Scandar Mahan, delivered the following testimony to San José Unified School District board members on Thursday, March 26 during the bimonthly board meeting’s public comment.

Hello, I am Silvia Scandar Mahan, Regional Vice President for San Jose at Innovate Public Schools.

First, let me acknowledge that right now San Jose Unified is faced with a tremendous and sudden challenge. Solutions are not easy to come by. And yet, we must all move quickly to get to even imperfect solutions that meet the needs of our most vulnerable students. Over the last week, we have heard from parents of students with special needs, Latino students, and low-income students are particularly vulnerable right now. Many have lost their jobs, are worried about losing their homes, and on top of all that, are worried that their kids are going to fall further behind.

My message to you is this: not educating our kids is exacerbating existing inequities. Waiting for the perfect solution for all kids is exacerbating existing inequities. School is in session for privileged students. Their parents are finding resources for them online. So long as San Jose Unified does not implement distance learning, underserved students will be the most gravely affected. I am glad to hear that there is a distance learning plan that will be released soon. I urge you to move quickly to release and implement this plan. I urge you to communicate regularly when this plan is hard to implement. I urge you, as part of this plan, to ask teachers to be reaching out daily to students to check in on and help facilitate their learning. We are worried about immigrant families and want to be helpful in advocating for state and federal resources to be able to serve our undocumented communities. I urge you to reach out to us at Innovate and other community organizations to ask us to help however we can. We are all seeking to do all we can for our most vulnerable families and we should all be moving quickly and in this together. 

One last note: I strongly urge you all to provide translation at these board meetings. Particularly at this time of crisis, people may not be able to let you know in advance, and it’s important that members of the public can understand the decisions being made by their elected officials.