David Jaimes, Tigard-Tualatin School Board, Position 1 – Candidate Interview
By Michael Morrison, WCD Communications Team volunteer
WCD: After graduating from the University of Oregon, your career path started in banking and finance, then stay-at-home dad, then teacher’s assistant and now assistant principal. How has that journey informed your work today?
DJ: Starting in finance taught me a lot about keeping a budget and making good investment decisions. It taught me to be professional, thorough and detail oriented – qualities that are important for businesses and boards of any kind. Later, when I moved into the classroom it was as a classified employee, which means I didn’t yet have a teaching certificate. But working as a teacher’s assistant, I learned that classified employees are the ones that actually get to know the students better, especially the students that have been marginalized. They’re often the ones that are having problems. When I spent time with kids it was when they were out on recess, where they show their true colors. I got to know a lot of students very well.
That experience also exposed me to the teaching methods and styles of a lot of amazing educators, informing my own teaching practice. I was watching everybody during that time, but at the same time I was helping students and I was getting to know the families of historically marginalized students. Later, after becoming a teacher and assistant principal, I have found that all my experiences as a classified employee have come back to help me again, because I am able to reach out to students, families and teachers. If elected to the Tigard Tualatin School District Board, I won’t have to be caught up on how schools are run or budgeted because I know. I know what we need to do to run our schools better. I can hit the ground running.
WCD: Your campaign website notes that over the years you’ve been criticized for focusing on equitable outcomes for all students. Can you elaborate on that? Have you seen improvements in recent years? What gives you hope?
DJ: I am definitely optimistic about the future. I think some of the criticism I have received is because I want to have as much progress as possible. Some say I need to celebrate the victories that we have achieved – and I do. They’re significant, but I’m not satisfied. We have come a long way at Tigard-Tualatin. Since I started in the district eight years ago, we’ve built a dual language program from the ground up. That’s a success right there. We’re helping children who are multilingual learners reach grade-level academics. But what I fear is falling short of our aspirations. We have a dual language program, but we don’t have a dual language district culture.
And it’s not just language. Everybody’s culture needs to be represented, so for example LGBTQ kids can see themselves in the curriculum. We’ve got to be able to ensure that everybody is doing grade level academics so we’re eliminating the opportunity gap.
WCD: One of your endorsements states that you believe we can create systems that provide conditions for success for all students. What would that look like?
DJ: Today, we know the district and its policies and curriculum do an excellent job of preparing some students to become productive members of society. We need to make sure everybody’s getting what they need in order to succeed. That means we need to concentrate our efforts on getting supports and resources that have always been available to one student to other students who have been underserved. If you’re thinking about kids’ educational experiences as a big pie, one person shouldn’t get a smaller piece because someone else got a bigger piece. We must work to make the pie bigger, so that we can give the right amount of pie to every student.
WCD: You’re passionate about addressing underserved populations, especially those in the Latino/Latina/Latinx community. What do you think the district can do to be more inclusive for those families and other, often underserved constituencies?
DJ: When I talk about making sure that the underserved are well served, that means we’re pushing from the bottom up. If we’re infusing help into those least-served communities, it pushes them up. Those students then graduate and to become productive members of society which in turn breaks the cycle of poverty and low graduation rates. That then helps education, because we are contributing to a diverse, growing of the talent pool. It is a whole cycle, right? Everybody is doing better because we’re giving the least served what they need to succeed.
WCD: Which political figure do you admire most, present day or in the past? Why? How do your own objectives align with theirs?
DJ: I think I would have to say Barack Obama. In his earlier years, he was a people organizer before he became a politician. He made sure people were listened to and respected, then worked to get the outcomes they needed. As the first African American president, he had to face a lot of pushback. His resolve in the face of that criticism and hate was unbelievable. When I get tired of a few people accusing me of being a racist because I support equity in education, I remember that he endured it for eight years. It’s amazing.
WCD: Is there anything else you want voters to know?
DJ: I just want to let everybody know that I’m seeking this volunteer position because I really want to create equitable outcomes for all students, especially marginalized students who have been underserved. I am not doing this to further a political career. I just believe in education. I’m straightforward, honest and I get to the point. That’s how I will conduct myself as a member of the Tigard Tualatin School District Board.
Learn more about David Jaimes, Candidate for Tigard-Tualatin School Board, Position 1, at his campaign website.