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Valentino Silva Talks Fiscal Accountability, Board Politics

October 21, 2020 at 9:10 pm

Valentino Silva

Valentino Silva

Valentino Silva is running for the Stockton Unified School District Board of Education in Trustee Area 3. The district is responsible for Elmwood, Fillmore, Henry, King, Pittman, and Roosevelt Elementary Schools, Franklin High School, and the Health Careers Academy. The current trustee, Kathy Garcia, is termed out and is running for the Delta College Board of Education instead.

Silva grew up in Stockton, graduating from the Health Careers Academy High School. He has previously worked as a field staffer for Jerry McNerney’s 2018 congressional campaign and Susan Eggman’s 2020 campaign for state senate. Silva is currently a special education technician and a board member of the Stockton Crime Stoppers. He is also pursuing a legal studies degree at Humphreys University.

Silva has been endorsed by the San Joaquin County Democratic Party, Assemblymember Susan Eggman, San Joaquin County Supervisor Miguel Villapudua, Stockton Unified Trustee Candelaria Vargas, the Teamsters Local 439, and the San Joaquin-Calaveras Central Labor Council. He said he decided to run because he was tired of the “politics” of the board and wanted to see more initiative and responsible budgeting.

Silva acknowledged the difficulty of online teaching and keeping students focused, quoting a statistic that students were receiving only 70% of their instruction online. He suggested providing additional professional development resources for staff and similar support services for parents.

COVID-19 is also going to bring budgetary challenges to the district due to the resulting economic downturn. Silva said that the board needed to drastically reduce its current expenses, particularly severance payments for the various outgoing superintendents as well as attorney costs. He stressed that services that directly contribute to students should not be cut when the district’s funding is reduced, and suggested that parents, community members, students, staff, and other stakeholder groups have an input on the budget.

The board has also been beset by infighting lately, particularly over the past year. In regards to that, Silva said, “We’re a school district. This should be the happiest place where people should work because we’re working to improve the lives of kids. So, with the political infighting, we just have to say enough is enough and not play into it.” He also claimed that the board’s infighting had undermined the district’s image in the community.

The position of superintendent has also been particularly unstable for a long period of time. The most recent holder of the job, John Deasy, resigned after less than two years. Silva emphasized that the board members should not bring their personal or political issues to the table when electing the superintendent.

He also said that the board had lost sight of the “bigger picture”, which he described as accountability, elimination of language and financial barriers, and adequate funding. Silva elaborated particularly on the last issue, suggesting that the district work with governments from the county to federal level to get more revenue.

Test scores have also been a problem for the district. Despite some recent improvements, they are still well below state standards. Silva talked about expanding teacher hours and ensuring that student-to-teacher and student-to-counselor ratios are adequate.

He also suggested programs both before and after school to address the issue, as well as partnering with local nonprofits and organizations like University of the Pacific. Silva added that expanding those programs would still be possible under a coronavirus-restricted budget. “What nonprofit wouldn’t be willing to volunteer their time to help local school children? What senior in college wouldn’t be willing to help a local school child?”, he said.

He then reemphasized the importance of bringing the board of education together in order to restore the “dignity” of the district that he believed has been lost. “Once that dignity is restored in the community, once relationships and bridges are rebuilt, the district should see an influx of donations, volunteer hours, just thrown at our students,” he explained.

Silva also addressed his age (he graduated from the Health Careers Academy in 2017), unprompted, which he said had rubbed some voters the wrong way. “Once I graduated high school, I made a commitment to myself that I’m going to commit my time to helping and serving the community. I believe this is a great way for me to start that, for me to bring more youth voices centered in on the problems that affect us here in the county,” he said.