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ELLENSBURG School District 401 Position 5 - At Large

No Salary, some districts offer small per diem for evening meetings. School Board Members are the elected governing body of the school district, with responsibilities that fall in four major areas: Vision – focuses the work on student achievement through a comprehensive strategic planning process; Structure – provides prudent financial planning and oversight; diligent and innovative policymaking; Accountability – sets specific goals and a process for evaluation, reporting and recommendations for improvements; and Advocacy – champions public education in the local community and before state and federal policy makers. The School Board sets the general policies of the district.

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    Hilda Pena-Alfaro

  • Michael Rowley

Biographical Information

What is your record of public service?

What, in your opinion, are the three most pressing issues facing your school district at this time?

How would you address these issues?

How would you balance educational opportunities between schools?

How would you assure the safety of all students in your schools?

What are the issues that need to be addressed to provide racial equality in the schools?

How can the schools provide adequate education for homeless, immigrant, refugee and non-English speaking children at all levels?

Phone () -
Town where you live Ellensburg
Experience (300 characters max) Hilda Pena-Alfaro has been working in Education for over 25 years. With a master’s Degree in Business and Economics and most recently, and a Ph.D. in Cultural Literacy and Language, Hilda’s diverse educational background provides a distinct and empathetic perspective to the work she engages in.
I moved to the US 20 years ago. My husband, David, and I, decided to enroll our two girls in public schools. I started to volunteer there as a mentor. Later, I became part of the PTA and I also helped volunteering at the Choir, once both my girls were part of it during middle school. Finally, at Lady Bird High School, I was a member of the Orchestra and the Cross-Country group of parent’s volunteers. As a business owner I also volunteer in the community by helping undeserved students, not only committing my time, but also providing scholarships. Here in Ellensburg, I have been serving as a Board Member of the Ellensburg School District for the last year. It was a very challenging year for everyone, students, teachers, staff and families, but we managed to successfully start the school year in different ways in order to comply with the State mandates. We ended the school year in a very successful way, with an in-person graduation for our High school students.

I think that the most urgent challenge that we are facing at the School District is mental health. Many of our students are struggling with depression, anxiety, and other emotional and mental issues. Currently the School District hired two Mental Health Experts to help our students, but the crisis we are facing is very complex and we need to pay close attention to this matter. The second challenge is absenteeism. In our community the white children living in poverty are the ones who are struggling the most with absenteeism and we, as a community, need to continue our efforts to supporting the families that are struggling. The third challenge is technology, which is changing at a very fast pace. We need to ensure not only that we are up to date but also that all the families and students of the district have access to technology, including computers, knowledge to use the technology, and internet access.

My plan is to continue working hard with other Board members and the Superintendent to improve our school district. There are many challenges ahead and the resources as scarce, but I want to help to use those resources in the best way possible. Board members are part of a team that make suggestions and raise issues that we consider important for our students and the School District. The Superintendent is in charge of implementations of the plans, and she decides how to address the particular of the issues. My plan is to listen to the community and to continue to work as a team with the Superintendent and other board members.

In my opinion, one of the most pressing issues to balance educational opportunities is transportation. Currently we have a transportation system that does not provide service for all students to attend the extracurricular activities. We also face some problems regarding time gaps. Fortunately, the district started working on these concerns by organizing different gatherings with the families of our district. Next school year we will have a Committee to decide about boundaries, which I think will help solve this problem.
The School Board has put in place a Strategic Plan that we called Board Ends and that centers its attention on outcomes for students. One of the foundations for Academic and “Future Ready Skills” is Connections. Its main goal is that students feel academically and socially connected to their school. Students need to internalize that the school is a safe place for them, they need to feel that they belong and that the school is where they can share and solve their struggles. Safety for all students is accomplished by achieving the Board Ends.
We live in a very complex and diverse society and the School District needs to emphasis that a more egalitarian school is better for all children and for our community in general. All students benefit from a personalized learning as well as by having books and materials that present different cultures and ways to understand the world. Currently, the District is implementing WIN time which is a powerful way to provide equality and equity. Basically, Win Time is a skills-based remediation or enrichment grounded on what each student needs. Win provides flexible services with high quality instruction and erase program labels.
It is very important that we as a society view children using an asset-based approach. Each student has a lot of resources that need to be incorporated into the school. Many children are bilingual, many of them understand a different culture, some others know how to navigate adversity. We need to use the resources that our city offers. For example, if a child is homeless reach out to HopeSource, if food is needed, take advantage of the food banks in town, etc. The School District needs to be ready to provide an outstanding education for all children and to accomplish this goal we need to work side by side with the community.
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