Emily Zacarias

On The Issues

On The Issues

All parents want rigorous, engaging academic instruction for their children, and they want them to succeed in meeting grade level standards, which will ultimately prepare them for higher education and careers in our global economy. This includes: ensuring we hire the most experienced and highly trained teachers, providing ongoing training and professional development, selecting curriculum based on science, evidence, latest research and facts, having meaningful assessments for accountability, and intervention programs in place for students who are struggling. Achievement is not just about reading and math, but also about the whole child–nurturing their interests in the world, science, art, the natural environment, and music. Our school should be a place where all children can discover their interests and thrive. 

Currently, 67% of GUSD students are proficient in Reading and Math—meaning they are at or above grade level standards. However, when you break down the data further, there is an achievement gap—students of color are only 48% proficient in Reading, and 57% proficient in Math, while their white peers are performing at 89% and 85%, respectively. This achievement gap is something that needs to be actively addressed and solved–not just within the schools, but within society as a whole. This gap also applies to students with disabilities and those within the LGBTQ student community. We must create a culture in our local schools that respects and appreciates diversity, while promoting high achievement, health and wellness for all kids.

Curriculum should be current and reflect the most updated, factual and evidence-based strategies to teach reading, math, science, and social studies. This should also include specialist instruction in P.E., music, art, and STEM, which gives students a well-rounded education in which they can explore and uncover their own unique interests. I also believe there is an obligation of our public schools to teach the truth about subjects that some may consider “political” and give students a broader world view that will serve them well in a diverse and global society.

I am a firm believer in respecting and normalizing diversity, and creating a culture of tolerance and acceptance around people of color, neurodiverse students and students with disabilities, as well as the LGBTQ community. Teaching these values at a young age will better serve our children as they grow and develop into adults living in an increasingly diverse society. 

We are all still recovering from the fallout of the global pandemic; but even prior to 2020, the mental health of students was becoming more of an issue—childhood depression, anxiety, attention and behavioral disorders, and even rates of childhood suicide were on the rise. I am keenly aware of the challenges that parents and teachers face to try and ensure that our children will bounce back and continue to thrive and be resilient in an environment that seems to be changing every day. I support direct instruction in social emotional learning—from simple lessons in meditation, breathing, and empathy, to perspective-taking and conflict resolution. It is also imperative to have school psychologists, counselors, social workers, and community liaisons on our campuses and available for screenings, monitoring and direct counseling of students needing more support, including students with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s).

Our teachers and school staff are the greatest resources—their hard work and expertise is what makes GUSD such a high performing, unique and desirable school district to send your kids to, as well as work for. I support the 2 unions that represent the educators that make up GUSD (UPTG & CSEA) and their collective bargaining power. I support all staff from teachers, to paraeducators, to custodians to the food service workers to the technology specialists. All are necessary to provide a high quality public education, and I recognize and honor their hard work for our children every day. It is not easy to afford to live in our community, and by providing incentives and benefits to new recruits, we can help ensure better retention and overall job satisfaction.


Provide universal access to education–regardless of a student’s race, ethnicity, class, gender, disability or religion. 

Prepare students for the workforce or college–a focus on academics and skills that will enable a child to develop the knowledge needed to attend college, or enter the workforce in a specific trade or industry. 

Push students to achieve their highest potential–great teachers can inspire and motivate children to work through challenges and difficulties; pushing through boundaries helps children develop resilience and grit–two qualities that predict success later in life. 

Produce the future citizens of our democracy–knowledge is power; learning the basics of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic is fundamental, but exposing children to science, history, other cultures and viewpoints is crucial if we want to create positive change and advance our democracy. 

Pledge to have a school-wide culture that teaches empathy and kindness, embraces diversity, and is inclusive of all children.