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Gonzales wants to learn about school system, healing through school board




Jaclyn Gonzales

Jaclyn Gonzales said she feels comfortable tackling complex issues through observation and analysis. She hopes her expertise can help provide a new perspective to Uvalde’s local school board.

“Healing in our community begins with our schools,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales, 47, is among seven candidates seeking one of three opening spots on the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District’s board. The four-year terms of Luis Fernandez, Rob Fowler, and Cal Lambert, are expiring this year. The role is unpaid.

Gonzales, a licensed professional counselor, wishes to help build community trust, advocate for transparency, and encourage officials to listen to community members if elected.

“I am driven by the belief that every student deserves not just an education, but an opportunity to thrive in a quality learning environment that is both safe and supportive,” Gonzales wrote in a statement.

Gonzales is competing with newcomers Erika Ayala Muñoz, Paul “Wayne” Moss Jr., Jesse Rizo, Lambert, Fernandez, and former board member Roland Sanchez.

Listening

Gonzales, who has provided counseling to families affected by the May 24, 2022, shooting, said she was spurred to run after seeing how greatly teachers are struggling in the classroom today. Through her work as a counselor she conducts classroom evaluations in neighboring school districts where she’s been able to get a first-hand look at behavioral and academic issues teachers are undertaking.

She added that behavioral issues, anxieties and stressors are particularly complex in Uvalde’s local schools and that the board needs to listen to teachers’ needs directly from them.

If elected, Gonzales intends to review current policies and procedures to see how students and teachers are supported. She said she’ll likely push for new policies to support teachers and to give teachers a platform to vocalize those needs.

Although Gonzales largely feels confident in the local school system, she knowns not all families feel that way in the aftermath of May 24, 2022. People feel a sense of mistrust and division toward the city and school, she said.

A key step in regaining that trust is through active listening, she said.

Uplifting students

One way to improve student outcomes and attendance is through small steps, Gonzales said.

Encouraging students through extracurricular, leadership and certificate programs can help bolster student confidence in themselves, which will ultimately translate to better outcomes, she said.

Providing support systems and nurturing student confidence can guide students through graduation and life after high school.

Addressing concerns

Gonzales said she understands working on Uvalde’s school board means she’ll be criticized in some capacities given division in the community. Although she thinks it’ll be tough to handle criticism on a personal note, she gets that that’s part of the job.

Gonzales said she’d like to see a space for people to vocalize their concerns in a way that would allow board members to better understand and respond to those issues.

Community members have continually expressed their concerns related to the district during public board meetings. Early on after the tragedy, the board held town hall meetings specifically dedicated to fielding public concerns.

Gonzales said she isn’t sure whether town hall meetings as they’ve been held in the past are the most effective way to go. She said that if a meeting of that kind is held, city and district leadership — as the most qualified on their respective subject matters — should be responsible for answering questions.

Gonzales acknowledged that not everyone is equipped to ask or respond to questions on the spot and in public. Rather, she’d like to see more intimate, one-on-one conversations or rountables that foster better understandings between constituents and the district.

Ultimately, she said she wants nothing more than to support Uvalde families.

About Gonzales

Gonzales graduated from Uvalde High School in 1995. She went on to study communications at the University of Texas at San Antonio and was a journalist at KSAT-12 for a stint. After returning to Uvalde in the early 2000s, Gonzales worked in financial aid and as a student success counselor at Southwest Texas Junior College. She also worked in federal and state programs to bring in funding to the college. She developed a love of working with and advising students. She later received her master’s in education and counseling from Sul Ross State University in 2014.

She is married to Southwest Texas Junior College President Hector Gonzales and has one daughter that graduated from Knippa High School and is in college in Austin.

When she’s not in counseling sessions, Gonzales serves on the board for the St. Henry de Osso Family Project. She also enjoys reconnecting with nature and going on runs.

Editor’s note: The Uvalde Leader-News is publishing free candidate announcements provided candidates meet with and answer questions from the newspaper. As of April 5, Roland Sanchez and Luis Fernandez were the only candidates who had not responded to a request for an interview. Cal Lambert declined to answer Leader-News questions.

Sofi Zeman (szeman@ulnnow.com, 830-278-3335) is a Report for America corps member who writes about education and crime for the Leader-News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep Sofi writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting tinyurl.com/995h5cka