Editor’s note: The Chronicle is profiling the 13 candidates for the six open positions on the D21 school board. This installment features Maggie Rocha and David Jones, who are seeking the Zone 3 position.
Each candidate was asked why they are running for school board, what skills they bring to the position, and their vision for the district. The election is May 21.
Maggie Rocha said, “I’m running because I am trying to represent the Latino community and I chose to run because I want my voice to be heard.”
She said she had a problem with a former school employee and complained, but no action was taken until other people also spoke up.
Rocha moved to The Dalles as a child and graduated from Wahtonka High School. For the last three years she’s worked in accounts receivable at H2Oregon. She has two kids in school and a young one not in school yet.
“From my experience I feel like your voice doesn’t get heard if you’re not nagging about a situation,” she said.
“I just want to be a voice that is being heard and also representing the Hispanic or Latino community,” she said. “People want to be heard, want to be treated equally in the Latino community.”
As for her skill set, she said, “I’m pretty meticulous when it comes to accounting stuff so I think that skill can be pretty useful, especially when it comes to budgeting and stuff. I’m also bi-lingual.”
She said she does not favor a bond for new buildings. “I don’t think that everything we have to improve in our school has to become a bond. I think there’s other ways if you research it and come up with other ideas.”
Voters soundly rejected a $235 million bond last fall that would have built four new schools.
Rocha said the district should make better use of its budget and set priorities.
“In reality we don’t need a brand new school. I think if you fix up some of the schools we already have with the budget that we get, I think we would be better off. Eventually buying a new school and everybody is paying higher taxes and eventually we can’t afford our homes,” she said.
She added, “I think you should have other priorities, not just bond, bond, bond.”
She also said that some of the information the school puts out in Spanish is poorly translated and doesn’t make sense. She’s had friends ask her, “Did you understand what this said?”
She said, “I want to know everything about the school and how it runs and I want to be involved for my kid and for other parents that are in the same situation that they don’t get heard.”
As for her vision for the school, she said, “I don’t have any ideas at this point because I’m not exactly 100 percent sure what the board does yet, so I’m still doing research but I’m sure it will come to me once I’m more involved.”
David Jones said he is running “because when all the bond stuff was coming out I noticed a big lack of communication between the board and the community. I coach a lot of youth sports and was constantly talking with parents and was amazed at how many didn’t know the slightest bit about the bond.”
He also said he has a lot of time on his hands—he is disabled—“and I figured it was something I could help out kids with, other than coaching.”
He said people told him they’d seen signs about the bond, but that was it. “They felt they had no say in anything. There’s just a big disconnect and that needs to be fixed.”
He has seven kids, and the last two are still in school. He’s done “a bit of everything,” from running the receiving dock at Walmart in Hermiston to running his own construction company. He’s also farmed.
He grew up in Hood River, moved to Hermiston, and then came to The Dalles about eight years ago.
He not only coaches, but helps the district regularly with softball field maintenance.
He said one of his attributes was, “I’m always up for a fight. I’ve been fighting tooth and nail” on the maintenance of softball fields for a year and work is finally getting done on it, and they’re getting the needed equipment to do the fields right.
He said that while education is top of the list, “our sports programs lack a lot, and that keeps the kids out of trouble. It teaches more than sports, it teaches a lot of stuff.”
He feels the disconnect between the school district and the community could be addressed with more community meetings, where “people in their zones can talk to their neighbors.”
He said he’s talked to a lot of people who didn’t know who was representing their zone on the school board.
He said if people can’t make it to school board meetings, board members should take the time to reach out to them and make themselves accessible.
Of his vision for the district, he said, “what I’d like to see in the district is the community and the district closer together at the meetings. There’s just a big lack of communication. I would love to see new schools and not to where we’re running people out of town because of costs. We’ve got to think outside the box.”
He said the need for new schools is evident. “I walk down in the basement of the high school and there’s cracks big enough to stick your hand in, and that’s the foundation, and I’m like, you gotta be kidding me.”
He said the maintenance program is suffering. “It’s not so much the workers, it’s from the top down, and the budget, I would say, There’s just, you can only do with what you got.”
He encouraged talking to the maintenance staff without their supervisors around, “because they’re not going to say anything with their bosses there.”