FAIRVIEW, Ore. — One school district in Oregon is getting attention for its historically diverse school board.
Steve Padilla, spokesman for the Reynolds School District, said the school board is more diverse than it’s ever been and is the only one in the state of Oregon made up entirely of people of color.
Padilla said 44% of the student population identifies as Hispanic, 28% as white, 10% African American, 7% Asian, 3% Pacific Islander, 1% American Indian and 7% identify as multiracial.
“We have approximately 70 languages spoken within the student population,” said Padilla.
While seven diverse school board members can’t represent every group in the district, Ana Gonzalez Munoz, who is the school board chair, said it’s a step in the right direction.
“I think there's a value of bringing that authentic connection with the community that you're from. Yes, I'm Latina, Mexican-American, and so for me to be able to share that perspective of personal experience makes a big difference,” said Munoz.
She said a number of the issues she’s committed to addressing involve equity and inclusion. They’re issues she’s seen firsthand over her more than 25 years of being an educator. She said she wants to make sure schools are serving students that have been marginalized or fell through the cracks. Munoz also said she wants to ensure that when school leaders say their buildings welcome everyone, that it’s not just empty words.
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“I am so proud because you know traditionally, the school boards […] have been represented by demographics that are similar, you know, white folks, male, retired folks. And there's nothing wrong with that, except that a lot of times when we have that consistency, that means that there's no different perspectives,” Munoz said.
Padilla said having a diverse board as well as a superintendent who is Latina is good for students.
“The student population across the state of Oregon is more diverse today than at any time,” said Padilla. “Nationwide studies have shown that students have higher achievement if they have teachers and administrators and board members that look like them.”
“For me to see more people of different cultures stepping up wanting to represent their community in this space, as like the school board, it's a win. It's a win for everyone,” Munoz said.
She said race and diversity aside, one of the most important things she and her fellow board members share is a passion to make sure schools and students thrive.
As for the Reynolds School District, like many others, administrators continue to work on hiring diverse teachers to better reflect their student population.
“The fact that Reynolds School District has, you know, a Latina superintendent and a BIPOC board isn’t important just to say, ‘look at us.’ It’s important to say, ‘look at us, this is how we’re going to make a difference in young people’s lives,’” Padilla said.