Meet Rochester School Board Candidate Vangie Castro
School Board Position 2
I was born in the Philippines and emigrated to the U.S. at age three when my family sought political asylum from Ferdinand Marcos' authoritarian regime in the late 1970s. We first arrived in Minnesota and later settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I was raised as the youngest of four siblings and two half-siblings.
After high school, I worked in the service industry for 12 years while earning an associate degree in liberal arts along the way. Personal experience and hearing the difficulties of others without an education drove me to work in the non-profit and public service sector to help people learn to navigate the system and escape poverty.
I returned to school to finish my bachelor degree in political science at California State University, East Bay. While a student, I interned at the campus Diversity Center, where we developed and presented curriculum on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, social justice, class and socio-economics. I moved to Rochester in 2010 and worked at the Diversity Council as education program manager from 2011-2017. I was the Board Chairperson for Gay & Lesbian Community Services from 2011-2013 and served as an appointee to Governor Dayton’s Task Force on the Prevention of School Bullying from 2012-2014.
Your key platforms
Creating an Inclusive Educational Ecosystem for all students, while addressing Social Pressures that can cause Campus Sexual Harassment
o For a holistic education system that works for everyone, we must look at education through the lens of community partnerships, cooperation, and co-learning.
o By celebrating gender diversity, we can create a gender equitable society through mutual respect. We must believe students when they tell us #MeToo.
Preparing students for college, trades, and the workforce
o The greatest return on our investment in education is higher graduation rates and a better-prepared workforce to take on jobs of the future and become the leaders we need to take us into the next century.
o My position as a board member is not to increase taxes, but to examine alternatives using the resources we have without compromising children’s education. In addition, we need to find new ways to generate funding for our district. Cost savings for the district is important, but not at the expense of student achievement.
You can also learn more about my platforms at https://www.vangiecastro.com/platform.
Why should Rochester vote for you?
I hope we can move back to doing what school districts are here for: Educating. All. Students. I want to be part of providing the best educational opportunities for all students by bringing in thoughtful and innovative ideas. That starts with a well-rounded education, founded on creative principals and experiential learning, producing informed students who become engaged citizens.
What do you envision for the future of Rochester schools?
When I worked at the Diversity Council, we partnered with the Rochester school district to provide anti-bias workshops for grades K-12. I’ve had the opportunity to work in dozens of classrooms in almost all of the local schools. What I’ve noticed, and what many Rochester residents don’t get the opportunity to see, is the changing diversity of the classrooms. Rochester is a wonderful city for families, and the school district is the 7th largest in the state. The district has similar struggles that other cities experience, but what’s different about Rochester is how involved community members are. We really do care about the success of all students and want to ensure that the school district continues to be a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment that continues to attract families to Rochester.
What is your stance on school security?
It’s important that we continue to make sure that all school buildings have secure entries, functioning security cameras, visible signage to direct people in case of emergencies, and more off-street drop-off areas. It’s also important that we don’t undermine the learning environment and trust between students and faculty by turning schools into prisons because of our fear of school campus violence. The purpose of school is to create an environment where young people can learn, develop, explore and grow. It’s difficult to do that when kids feel unsafe. But you also can’t do it by hardening schools and creating an atmosphere where students are on high security at all times. Those types of environments tend to make us feel more stressed and less able to relax when there are police liaisons with guns walking around. To be clear, more armed police presence is not the answer. What we need to do -- but people don’t like to hear it -- if we want safer schools, is to work on making our society safer for everyone than it is right now.
What is your stance on the potential referendum for new schools?
Referendums for new schools are important. Either we receive funding to build new schools and provide more classrooms or we don’t. If we choose the latter, it will mean more crowded schools for a growing Rochester. With larger class sizes, students will receive less one-on-one attention from teachers, which can lead to students who need a little more support falling through the cracks. Rochester is a growing and vibrant city with a future full of great potential. However, the administration and the school board need to be transparent and provide the community with the information they need in order to get any future referendums.
What is your stance on student discipline?
At a recent school board meeting, the district provided a report about the discipline numbers for 2016-17 in comparison to the last few years since the Office of Civil Rights agreement. To avoid fines from the Department of Justice, the district entered into an agreement that would work on lowering the discipline disparity rates. Even though reports of certain disciplinary actions have gone down across all school buildings, the disciplinary disparity is still the same. The rate of black and brown students in relation to enrollment is still three times higher than their white counterparts. Unless we’re truly honest about the root causes of discipline disparity, the $180,000 that the district plans to spend on training for the next two years will do absolutely nothing to change the disciplinary disparity. It is misguided to focus on trying to change the behavior of students without also examining the environment of racially biased discipline practices.
Favorite Rochester Moment?
I have many favorite Rochester moments. I’m not a native Rochesterite, but I’ve lived here long enough to develop a strong sense of pride in my community. When I was appointed to the Governor’s Task Force on the Prevention of School Bullying, I met a lot of amazing people who wanted to help end bullying in schools. One of my favorite moments was when I spoke to the school board about why it was important to support the Safe and Supportive Schools Act. There were a lot of community members there speaking about bullying, and it was wonderful to be part of an honorable cause. When the safe and supportive schools bill was voted into law, I felt a real sense of accomplishment and hope in the good that we as a community can do when we decide to work together.
What’s one thing you want the Rochester community to know about you?
I’ve really been enjoying learning to golf! Even though I’m still learning, I plan on playing in some golf tournaments soon. And, we seem to throw a lot of them. Another thing Rochester folks should know about me is that I’ll be the first openly LGBTQ School Board Member in Rochester. That’s kind of a big deal, because I believe elected officials should come from all sectors of the community they represent, including people of various color, national origin, sexual orientation, and the many other differences that create a vibrant, 21st-century community!