SB Independent: Culture Wars Invade Goleta School Board Race

Five Candidates Represent a Wide Spectrum of Political and Educational Thought

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In retrospect, few complaints reached our ears regarding the Goleta schools during the pandemic, and even now, Goleta parents are upbeat about their schools. It’s a stark contrast to the Santa Barbara schools, which seemed to have villagers armed with metaphoric torches and pitchforks at every school board meeting.

Currently, two seats on the school board are in a competitive race: Trustee Area 1, which extends north of Highway 101 and up to Los Padres National Forest from El Capitan to a jagged line bordered by North Fairview, Cathedral Oaks, and North Patterson; and Trustee Area 3, which is south of that area and is shaped like a puzzle piece that includes the airport, university, Old Town, and More Mesa.

Emily Zacarias

“Public school is not just about Reading, Writing, and ’Rithmatic anymore,” said Emily Zacarias. “It’s about the whole child, and providing a learning experience that allows for the intellectual, social, and emotional growth of the child — to prepare them for life in a global society.” Zacarias grew up in what she called the “melting pot of culture” in the San Fernando Valley. She studied psychology at UCSB, including with Richard Mayer, graduating with a master’s in 2007. One of her children attends Kellogg School.

She described herself “an itinerant special education teacher” who worked for the Goleta district at all nine schools last year and is working through the County Education Office this year at Hollister School with severely disabled students. She hadn’t attended district meetings, she said, but kept up by “always making a point to read the minutes and reports, to keep abreast of any issues.”

She sees stable leadership at the district, as well as a focus on students that is reflected in the schools. During the pandemic, the response was swift and based on state public health directives, but Zacarias thought it was time to acknowledge the learning losses that occurred: “not only academic, but social and emotional. There was so much trauma that occurred during the pandemic…. We really need a path to healing, and that comes from outreach to families, validating the pain and suffering that occurred…. This is a topic that parents are talking about, but not as much within the district — possibly because grief usually occurs behind closed doors.”

Zacarias advocated re-teaching some basic skills students in the lower grades might have missed, such as “raising hands, sitting in chairs, interacting with peers in person.” She also said, “Moving away from a total reliance on devices/screens (due to a year of remote learning) would also go a long way in the path to healing. Parent education on ways to reduce screen time would be something I’d like to explore.”

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