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Meet the Encinitas Union School District board candidates

Voting
(La Jolla Light file photo)

Voters in the Encinitas Union School District will select three board members in the at-large November election. Six candidates will vie for three spots including Emily Andrade, Thomas Angel, Andre Johnson, Raquel Pfeifer, Marla Strich and Justin Ried.

Meet the candidates in their own words: (Thomas Angel could not be reached to participate, his responses will be added if received.)

Emily Andrade
(Courtesy of Emily Andrade)

Emily Andrade
Emily Andrade has served in education for 49 years. She was a principal in EUSD for 17 years serving: 5 years at La Costa Heights, 8 years at Olivenhain Pioneer and 4 years at Capri. She also worked for 20 years in the Santee School District as: an Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, Vice Principal, Curriculum Coordinator, Reading Specialist and classroom teacher. She has also had the pleasure of serving the children, families and community of Encinitas and South Carlsbad as a member of the EUSD School Board for the last 12 years.

Emily is a native of San Diego and has lived in Encinitas for 22 years. She attended San Diego State University earning a B.A. in English and a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Reading. She has three adult children who were all educated in public schools and the California university system.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district?
I believe the biggest issue facing the district is the need to continue our work to close the achievement gap and the opportunity gap for all students, focusing on the academic needs and social/emotional needs of every child in the district. Academically, we must ensure that every child is advancing. Both struggling students and high achieving students must receive instruction at the appropriate level that provides them with the opportunity to progress and achieve at a higher level. Additionally, we must address the social and emotional needs of every student. We must continue to provide multi-tiered support to every student providing assistance through the classroom teachers, TRAC counselors, psychologists, intervention/impact teachers and all other school staff. EUSD must continue its work to ensure that all children are thriving in all areas.

What do you think about how the board currently functions and what can you bring to this board?
I believe our Board is functioning very well. Every board member brings unique experience and perspectives, yet we come to consensus on decisions with student needs at the center. We set goals for our district. They are priorities in all decisions. Our goals include: increasing student achievement; increasing parent, staff and community communication and involvement; maintaining and improving safe, green and innovative learning spaces promoting health and wellness; training and retaining high qualified staff; and ensuring quality programs, adequate resources and digital learning opportunities to provide personalized learning for needs of diverse groups. These goals have guided us in financial, instructional, personnel, and financial decisions.

I bring 49 years of experience serving in education. My wide range of experiences have provided me with great knowledge regarding powerful instructional practices, budgets, working with others, and have given me a commitment to and passion for all children and their learning and well-being.

Andre Johnson
Andre Johnson
(Courtesy of Andre Johnson)

Andre Johnson
My name is Andre Johnson and I am running for EUSD School Board. I’m running because I believe primary education is one the foundational elements of success as an adult. We need to be focused on the kids as if they are the future leaders of the world, because they are. Education was my ticket out of poverty and is a pillar of my family’s success. I am passionate about creating a successful (or positive) learning environment for all students.

I am a married father of three, a businessman, youth mentor and coach. I have been a teacher and a board member and those experiences will allow me to listen with intention and compassion to the parents, teachers and administrators and do right by the kids.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district?
The Encinitas Union School District is highly sought after because of the high standard of excellence that has been set and maintained by the parents, teachers and administrators. All organizations that seek to operate at this high of a level must continue to get real feedback from all of its constituents. One of the biggest challenges for our district is ensuring that all stakeholders have a voice and can influence the direction we are headed. The feedback mechanisms and the ability to have real conversations about the shared goals and experiences for the children should be one of our core competencies as a Board.

What do you think about how the board currently functions and what can you bring to this board?
The current Board is coming off one of the most difficult seasons for school boards across the country. I am not in the position to critique the decisions or the functionality of the Board. I’m sure everyone did their best with the information they had at the time. I will bring my diverse background and leadership experience from relevant positions. My role will be to seek agreement among the stakeholders and make sure we hear from the parents on the direction of the schools, make sure that high academic standards are reached and that the schools are safe.

Raquel Pfeifer
(Courtesy of Raquel Pfeifer)

Raquel Pfeifer
I grew up in Encinitas and attended Ocean Knoll Elementary. I am the mother to two young children who attend elementary school in the Encinitas Union School District. In addition, I have worked in non profits to partner with communities to improve outcomes for children, youth, and families impacted by the child welfare system. Additionally, I have experience in implementation of grants, including ensuring reporting requirements are followed and met. In addition, I have been room parent in my children’s classrooms, as well as, co-leader of their Girl Scout Troops.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district?
The District has laid the groundwork and is working with the school communities to lift up the voices of students and families. There is intentional work to be done to ensure that all voices in the District are heard, including English language learners, children with special needs, LGBTQ families, and those of the students themselves. Encinitas has families where English is not the first language spoken in the home, where there are issues in accessing technology, and understanding communications that are sent home. As a community, we can create ways to make sure that all families are communicated with, and supported, in ways that work for them, so they can best support their student. Additionally, all children deserve to feel safe and valued at school. Mental health should continue to be a priority for our students.

What do you think about how the board currently functions and what can you bring to this board?
The Board works well with one another to remain student focused and prioritize that children receive a well-rounded, exceptional education. As a parent to children in school, I will bring that lens to the Board of how policies translate to the school level. My work in non profits, community engagement, and grant management will bring new ideas on how to engage the larger school community.

Marla Strich
(Laura Jucha Photography)

Marla Strich
Marla Strich has served on the EUSD Board since 1998. She began her involvement with EUSD by co-chairing the district’s 1996 bond campaign. She has been an active volunteer in both EUSD and the San Dieguito Union High School District, as well as Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and San Dieguito Academy’s robotics team. In 2017 Marla was appointed to the California School Boards Association Delegate Assembly. She serves as Legislative Chair for the San Diego County School Boards Association, and has advocated for public education multiple times in Sacramento and Washington, DC. Marla has resided with her husband in Encinitas for the past 37 years. Their two children attended Ocean Knoll Elementary from Kindergarten through sixth grade. Marla graduated from Northwestern University and earned her Master’s Degree in Social Work from USC. She worked for non-profit organizations for fifteen years.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district?
The biggest issue facing the district is continuing high academic achievement. It is important to educate the whole child, addressing their social emotional needs as well as academic needs. EUSD schools should be welcoming for all students and families. School safety is critical for both students and staff. Clean, green environments add to the ability to ensure excellent education for all. Educational success is more than test scores. It is ensuring our students are ready academically and socially to be civic leaders in the community they will inherit.

What do you think about how the board currently functions and what can you bring to this board?
I am currently serving as board president for the sixth time during my tenure. Our board will be recognized as a model of excellent governance by the California School Boards Association this coming December as the first-ever recipient of the Golden Gavel Award. Excellent governance requires working as a team with all board members and the superintendent. It requires respect for each other and knowledge of the legal responsibilities of the district. As current president it is my responsibility to lead meetings, and to work with the superintendent in shaping those meetings.

Justin Ried
(Copyright Justin Ried)

Justin Ried
I’m a local father of two beautiful girls, one of whom just started kindergarten at El Camino Creek Elementary. I’m a technology marketer by trade, but my motivation for entering this race is to give local parents a voice on the EUSD Board.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district?
We have several big issues to tackle including the learning gap caused by COVID and remote learning, a budget deficit, and ensuring that our schools remain safe and secure environments for our students, teachers and staff. But another issue I’m focused on is transparency, parental engagement and oversight of our curriculum. It’s important for actual parents to have representation on the board, and we need a new generation of board members to bring energy, enthusiasm and community engagement to those seats.

What do you think about how the board currently functions and what can you bring to this board?
The board is disconnected from local parents, the curriculum being taught in our classrooms, and the extracurricular activities that EUSD currently promotes. They’ve become a rubber stamp for district administrators. For example, EUSD was in the national news cycle this week, and not because of academic excellence. Why? We have to bring transparency and accountability to our school district. Our students and families deserve better.


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