Election years can get contentious, and this year is no exception. Reading a recent op-ed raising the issue of race in city council elections, and many posts and comments on social media regarding who is and is not acting “democratically”, I was surprised to see certain people strongly promote the position that we should focus on qualifications (and not race or dirty politics) in elections, given their conduct with respect to the SMMUSD school board election. What’s obvious to me and many others is that some of the most vocal supporters of the A Brighter Future slate felt compelled to immediately attack SMMUSD school board candidate Alicia Mignano, an immigrant and woman of color.
The initial attacks were based on her endorsements (which later turned into attempts to discredit public officials, such as Ted Lieu, and organizations, such as the Santa Monica Democratic Club and SMMUSD’s teachers’ union, for endorsing Alicia and the incumbents) and on the FALSE claims that Alicia Mignano was appointed, as opposed to elected, to the many positions she has held at her son’s school (Edison) and in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD). What are these positions? They include: District English Learners Advisory Committee (DELAC) Secretary; SMMPTA Council of PTA Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee Member; and Edison ELAC/DELAC Representative. She was elected to all of these positions by either parents or parents and teachers, and has passionately served on these committees, as well in the five additional positions not listed, to the great benefit of our SMMUSD students.
Next, they described Alicia as a “puppet” or “tool” of, or being “groomed” by, the incumbents. Why were these baseless statements made, especially about a woman of color? They certainly could not have been based upon Alicia Mignano’s well-established record of advocacy, both in the above-mentioned committees and at school board meetings, on behalf of SMMUSD students. One example is when Alicia spoke at a school board meeting to ask the district to allow students to keep district-issued Chromebooks and hotspots over the summer. For some of our low income students, these Chromebooks and hotspots were the only access they would have to educational materials and apps over the summer. Hearing the compelling arguments made by Alicia and other parents, the district gave all students the option to retain their Chromebooks and hotspots over the summer.
Then, the attacks moved to her “performance” at candidate forums, including a vocal anti-district Santa Monica resident (and Fox News contributor) posting on social media that “she [Alicia] had a great deal of trouble articulating herself” and stating that about a mother in the district and a former English learner who has dedicated countless hours to advocate on behalf of our SMMUSD English learner students. And, for the record, I have watched almost all of the school board candidate forums. In those forums, Alicia Mignano had a deep understanding of the major issues in our district and was passionate about ensuring that ALL students, especially our “at promise” students, receive the programs and services necessary to succeed.
If people are going to criticize others of “undemocratic” tactics, especially when those tactics are directed against candidates of color, perhaps, some of those people should consider why they either participated in, or failed to speak up against, the inappropriate and baseless attacks on an extremely qualified and committed SMMUSD parent and woman of color. If we focus solely on the qualifications of the school board candidates, Alicia Mignano is the right choice for the SMMUSD school board.
DeAnne Ozaki, Santa Monica