Name: Ysela Bravo
Hometown: Mount Airy
Current occupation and employer (may also list up to two previous jobs you’ve held); if retired, list your last job and employer: Human resources/community relations manager, Asian American Center of Frederick
Political experience (public offices held and when; as well as unsuccessful campaigns for office and which years; do not include political party positions): ran unsuccessfully for state delegate in District 4 in 2018
PTA or other school district-related experience: PTA treasurer, NMES; PTA president, NMES; substitute teacher; substitute for special education; active volunteer
1 – Why are you running for the school board? (75 words max)
I am running for school board because I believe that all children should have the broad educational choices and experiences that were afforded to my children. As a former PTA president and substitute teacher, I know firsthand that a nurturing learning environment comes about only through steadfast dedication and hard work. I look forward to meeting this challenge, to serving the community, and to expanding opportunities for success for every child in the county.
2 – What is the most important issue in this race? How specifically would you address it? (100 words max)
Retention is the most important issue in this race. From our bus drivers and custodians to our teachers and administrators, recruiting and retaining an energetic, talented staff must be a top priority because these individuals create the environment in which our children learn and thrive. Schools are just buildings until educators and staff invest in them to make them come alive. We, in turn, should be just as creative and committed to finding innovative ways to ensure that our great educators and staff want to stay in our schools and can afford to live in our community.
3 – What experience (work, political or other) has prepared you to hold this position? (100 words max)
My experience as a human resources manager has taught me the value of successful recruiting and retention plans. I also quickly learned the importance of establishing a sound understanding with employees through clear communication. I have successfully advocated for my employees under tight budgets. I have served as treasurer and president of NMES PTA and was a substitute teacher, including in special education classes. As the human resources and community relations manager at a local nonprofit that serves this community, I’ve gained invaluable insight into the experiences of families in need and the difficulties they face with school communications.
4 – What is one major issue the current school board has handled poorly? What would you have done differently? (100 words max)
Communication overall is lacking. Many educators I spoke to have pointed to mixed messages, and parents are confused about the rules that govern their children’s education. From questions about the exact protocol if your child is sneezing to the concerns of parents of children with special needs who need help navigating a complex system, people are unsure of how to get information. I would have asked the superintendent to look into making specific, measurable improvements in communication.
5 – Has the district responded appropriately to the U.S. Department of Justice investigation into restraints and seclusions? (100 words max)
The district has responded appropriately, but must be vigilant. We must earn back the community’s trust. We must formally train staff on appropriate behavioral interventions for students with disabilities. We must do a better job of reporting any instances of restraint and be able to demonstrate why they were necessary. We should appoint one dedicated administrator to supervise our compliance with the agreements we’ve made.
6 – What do you think of the district’s family life curriculum? (100 words max)
The family life curriculum uses appropriate language and ideas to remind children to respect one another despite their differences. Our schools must teach our children sensitive material in age-appropriate words and ideas. A committee of community members (the Family Life Advisory Committee) and school planning groups review the curriculum to ensure that the community has input and that lessons are up to date, accurate, and accessible to the age for which they are intended. I support this curriculum.
7 – What do you think of the school board’s choice of Cheryl Dyson as superintendent and of the process for choosing her? (100 words max)
I am very excited about this choice. After reviewing her resume, I’d say that she seems like a perfect choice to lead FCPS into a bright future. Her mantra, “every child, every day,” celebrates the individuality of each child while heralding a new opportunity for a fresh start. I’m especially excited about her degree in communications. I believe her background serves us extremely well.
8 – Frederick County ranks below other similar school districts for teacher pay. Does the district need to address that? How? (100 words max)
Yes, we need to address this. Our community deserves to have its residents teaching in our schools. We can achieve this partly by advocating for higher budgets in order to, at the very least, match other counties’ pay for teachers. We can also look for more creative ways to keep our teachers in our community, such as offering lower points on home loans. Our children deserve the best education possible, so we must ensure that we are recruiting top talent by paying teachers what they deserve.
9 – The school district has an achievement gap between students of different racial and ethnic groups. How should the district address this? (100 words max)
Addressing the achievement gap requires coordination among administrators, teachers, parents, and students. The district should encourage administrators to promote cultural competency training for teachers, so that all children benefit from the classroom experience.
The district should set high standards and encourage strong teacher-student relationships. Elementary school teachers should focus on improving reading and math proficiency before students leave Grade 3. In addition, all teachers should challenge students while supporting their progress.
Finally, the district should encourage family involvement because family support is positively associated with higher grades, as well as better attendance and behavior.
10 – How well did the district handle instruction and safety during the pandemic? (100 words max)
Not well. Though in fairness, not many things were handled well during this pandemic. We had conflicting information from the very beginning. Teachers and schools were given general directions to follow, but no allowance was made for the differences in our buildings, equipment, and staffing levels. Teachers were given little or no notice of the systemic changes they needed to make, and communication varied from school to school. I still get asked by parents about what the exact expectations are when a child experiences symptoms of a cold. Our district needs to do a much better job of communicating.