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November 25, 2020

Candidate Q&A: Gonzales Unified School District Board

Voters in South Monterey County will soon be choosing mayors, city council members and school board trustees in the upcoming Nov. 3 General Election. To help voters make an informed decision, Salinas Valley Tribune sent out a questionnaire to all the candidates running in contested races in King City, Greenfield, Soledad and Gonzales, asking for their stance on local issues. Read their responses below:


Four candidates are competing for two positions on the Gonzales Unified School District Board, with Cesar Ayon, Celeste Daniel, Monica Rico and Edna “Viry” Valdez in the running.

Cesar Ayon
Celeste Daniel
Mónica Rico
Edna “Viry” Valdez

What do you hope to accomplish as a school board member?

AYON: My primary goal as a school board member is to increase student achievement, focus on college and career readiness, increase programs and opportunities available to our students and improve the relationship between teachers, administrators, the District Office and the community. I hope to achieve these goals by working with all stakeholders in the spirit of collaboration and come up with new and innovative ideas with the goal of having better schools, a better learning and working environment. I want to partner with businesses and with our local government officials to offer our students opportunities to work while receiving credit hours.

DANIEL: As a board member, I want to bring back and incorporate new programs to enrich our students learning experience. Over the years, many of our enrichment programs have been cut, programs that will benefit our students as they continue their education or when choosing a career path. With the state of our accreditation, I want to work with all stakeholders and WASC to ensure we are providing the best learning environment for our students.

RICO: I want to work on improving the quality of education for all GUSD students. I’d like to work on developing a better way communication between the teachers, students and parent can be improved. It’s important that we can all work together as a team so that our children can receive a quality education from this district.

VALDEZ: As a school board member, I hope to empower our youth by providing opportunities and resources for their academic success. My vision is to work towards student achievement and success. My No. 1 priority as a school board member will be to collaborate with students, staff and community members to build a solid foundation at every step of the education process. I am passionate about student success and I am ready to pay it forward.

Which issues and concerns will be your main focus within your school district?

AYON: One of my main concerns are the classes and/or programs that have been eliminated. We need to have programs for all of our kids; from our kids that need additional help learning English, to our kids that are not at grade level in Math, Language or Science. We need to focus on helping every student to be at grade level so they may then have the opportunities to take more rigorous classes to better prepared them for life after GUSD. We also need to offer classes that inspire and challenge our kids while keeping them engaged.

DANIEL: Definitely the lack of programs that exist in our district will be a main focus, as well as student achievement. To increase student achievement, we need to ensure we are providing our students with the best possible resources and technology. Collaboration with parents, students, teachers and staff will be necessary in achieving this goal. Because of the disconnect between district, parents and teachers, I want to work together to build better relationships with all stakeholders.

RICO: Helping the students that are underserved and students who are in special education. I often see these are the students who are left behind, especially now with Covid-19 and distant learning. I’d like to work on making sure we address the needs of these students.

VALDEZ: I am an Advocate, an Alumni and an Educator. My goals as a GUSD board trustee are all focused on improving our students’ academic opportunities, I have no personal agenda. As a long-term community advocate, GUSD Alumni and a current educator at Rancho Cielo, I aim to work on providing resources to all staff to prepare students for college, strengthen community collaboration, and promote transparency between staff, students and parents.

Why are you the best candidate to tackle those issues?

AYON: I believe I am among the best candidates to address the issues at our schools based on my 10 years of experience working as a volunteer, substitute teacher and coach at GUSD. I have been inside of the classroom at La Gloria Elementary, Fairview Middle School and Gonzales High School. That experience has given me a unique opportunity to get to know our students, teachers, administrators and the issues at all three sites. I have seen how things are but more importantly how they can be improved for all of our students, teachers, parents and staff.

DANIEL: As an educator with her master’s degree in education, I have the experience and qualifications needed to serve as a board member. I am not a stranger to working with students, parents, teachers and staff. With my insight as a teacher I can provide the knowledge necessary and give insight when dealing with curriculum and instruction. While serving as a City of Gonzales Parks and Recreation commissioner, I have had the opportunity to work with city leaders to provide programs for our youth and want to continue giving our students what they need. I love my town and want to continue my purpose of civil service.

RICO: I think I’m the best candidate because I am a mother with children who attend school in this district. I have a history of working alongside parents, helping advocate for them and their kids. I have worked to advocate for teachers and concerns they’ve had about facilities, student achievement and retaining good teachers. I am passionate about our schools and our community and I have worked for years on addressing issues that have needed attention. I hope I am given the opportunity to do this as a school board member.

VALDEZ: As a lifelong resident of Chualar and Gonzales, I am the very product of GUSD and a proud parent of a GHS Scholar Athlete. The community of Gonzales has nurtured my passion for social justice and student advocacy. I saw first-hand the struggles our hard-working families endure, the tireless efforts of our teachers and the dedication our leaders demonstrate to make Gonzales a better place to live. I am proud to be a member of this community. Gonzales USD was instrumental in my early childhood education and was the stepping stone to my career path. I am passionate about education and want all students to receive a quality education. I am ready to give back to this community and serve as a school board member — the Gonzales Way.

Ryan Cronk
Ryan Cronk
Ryan Cronk is the managing editor for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers education, government and general news for King City and occasionally for the surrounding communities in South Monterey County.


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