Just two weeks after an East San Jose school board member quit, the board has chosen a replacement – and it’s a familiar face.

After two hours of deliberation, Andrea Flores Shelton was named the Alum Rock Union School District’s newest trustee at a special board meeting Monday night. Flores Shelton beat out three other contenders for the role. She will serve until December 2024.

“I’ve been deeply involved and passionate about young people and their futures for a long time, as someone who grew up and has seen the haves and have-nots of Silicon Valley,” Flores Shelton told San Jose Spotlight. “Our kids on the East Side and Alum Rock (must) receive everything that they deserve and achieve their full potential.”

Flores Shelton fills the seat left vacant after Ernesto Bejarano resigned on Feb. 10 citing personal reasons in the aftermath of a sexual assault scandal involving a teacher.

The district has faced turmoil following the arrest of an Adelante Dual Language Academy teacher in November on sexual assault charges. At a Jan. 26 parent meeting on the issue, a board member’s daughter chastised another Adelante teacher not connected to the sexual assault. The situation reached a boiling point earlier this month after dozens of teachers, parents and students defended the teacher at a board meeting. Bejarano resigned after saying the student’s voice should not be stifled.

Flores Shelton is an East San Jose resident, deputy director at the San Jose Department of Parks and Recreation and former Alum Rock trustee from 2012 to 2014. She said her priorities are to meet families’ basic needs to support student learning, increase teacher retention through housing and improve school facilities.

Other contenders vying for the seat were Minh Nguyen, Ricardo Garcia and Victoria Partida. The candidates were each asked eight questions and given scores by the trustees for their answers. Flores Shelton scored the highest with 150 points. During the meeting, trustees asked candidates about mental health, the district’s financial solvency and racial equity.

On the topic of racial equity and restorative justice in schools, Flores Shelton said decreasing suspensions and expulsions is important for students of color often disproportionately impacted by school discipline. She wants to see the school district invest in more mental health professionals to support students.

In response to a question about addressing budget shortfalls in the district, Flores Shelton said she would like to analyze spending patterns and ensure East Side families are involved in long-term financial decisions.

“This would really be about a lot of communication and community engagement… look at problem-solving together,” Flores Shelton said. “It’s a tough one, but it would really take all the stakeholders at the table.”

When asked whether she would support renting or selling district land, which is often done to bolster the district’s budget or build low-income teacher housing, Flores Shelton said any decision should be made with students in mind. In November, voters overwhelmingly renewed a tax bond to support subsidized teacher housing projects to help recruit new educators.

“It needs to be understood as to why. Why would we be making a move one way or the other?” Flores Shelton said. “How does any of the revenue that would be incurred from that decision, how does it support the bottom line or how does it get invested back into our classrooms?”

Some parents called on the new trustee to work closely with East Side families to address challenges faced by low-income and English language learner students.

“Parent engagement is important,” parent Teresa Gonzalez said. “Listening to the community and students is a must.”

The district is still recovering from pandemic-related learning loss, which disproportionately impacted low-income students and families. The district serves more than 8,500 students across more than 20 elementary and middle schools.

Partida, who came in second place, told San Jose Spotlight before the meeting that she hoped to bridge the digital divide in East San Jose, expand after-school programs and address student mental health.

“I am vested in our community and would like to be involved in the decision-making of our school district,” she said.

Garcia, who trailed in third place, touted his experience as a teacher of 25 years and parent of Alum Rock students. He teaches at Carlmont High School in Belmont and also ran in the district’s school board race last November.

“I’m running because it’s a crucial time in our district,” Garcia told San Jose Spotlight.

In fourth place, Nguyen said he wanted to focus on preparing students for high school as well as transparency and fiscal responsibility within the district.

“I am deeply invested in the success of my students, and the only way I can do more is to start from the very beginning of their education,” he told San Jose Spotlight before the meeting.

Flores Shelton will be sworn in during the school board’s next meeting on March 9.

This story was originally published by San Jose Spotlight. Please use the original link when sharing: https://sanjosespotlight.com/east-san-jose-school-district-to-fill-sudden-vacancy/