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    Sofia Voz

    Please note: because we are committed to publishing a website that is accessible to all our readers including those who need ADA accommodations and language translations, we have not published PDF documents such as resumes the candidates may have submitted during the application process or links to non-Seattle Public Schools' PDF documents submitted with their questionnaire responses.

    Letter of Interest

    A photo of Sofia VozHello, My name is Sofia and I am a Rainier Beach resident, mother of a two year old, and passionate social justice leader who works every day with South Seattle schools to support students furthest from educational justice. For the past 10+ years, I have worked in and with Seattle Public Schools superintendents, administrators, teachers, families and students. I am applying for this position because I believe in the power of community to bring about change, and firmly believe that Seattle Public Schools can and should be a national leader in educational outcomes for ALL students.

    As a Mexican-American woman, I am applying because of the large disparities I see every day in outcomes between white students and students of color, despite the unlimited potential and ability of all students to succeed.

    Excellence must be present not just in small pockets in the district, but at a systems level. In my everyday work, I partner with district leaders, 11 South-end Seattle Public Schools principals, teachers and families through my role as a non-profit leader at City Year Seattle. I firmly believe that collaboration, with a firmly-rooted "students first" mentality, is needed and I seek to model that in how I show up in relationship with others.

    In my current work, I utilize strategic thinking in considering our work not just in one schoolhouse but how we can provide support and structures across schools. This requires best practice sharing, knowledge of how different systems interact with one another, and thinking about implementation across contexts.

    Seattle Public Schools is made up of an incredibly diverse and powerful student and family community. There are 143 different languages spoken in our schools, with students and families from countries around the world. With this diversity comes different perspectives that add to our pool of shared experiences, knowledge and understanding. Our communities and families, especially those in District VII, are strong and have creative solutions for some of our most pressing problems. I cannot wait to listen and learn from them.

    Dismantling and disrupting systems and cycles of oppression require learning and unlearning, shifting power, and an ongoing consideration of who is at the table when decisions are made. We must insist that people and institutions name and recognize when they perpetuate harm, and hold them accountable for doing better.

    Equity in our education system means providing more resources to those who are furthest away from educational justice. We work to close gaps by being unwavering in our commitment to providing those resources and support. We commit not just to dismantling an inequitable system, but to doing so while simultaneously building something that has never existed before. This requires vision, creativity, new ideas, bravery, and being willing to give something up. It requires more seats at the table, filled with those most impacted.

    I look forward to collaborating to build a system that ensures my daughter grows up where she is loved, supported, and her unlimited potential is met with unlimited opportunity.

    - Sofia Voz

    Resume or Related Experience

    Managing Director of Impact, City Year Seattle 2017- Present

    Lead and manage department of 110 people, including 16 full-time, permanent staff and 94 AmeriCorps members, each serving a 10 month term as full-time tutors and mentors to 5,000+ students in 11 South Seattle schools.

    Develop relationships with Principals, teachers, school staff and families to support and nurture young people.

    Responsible for leadership development and civic engagement of AmeriCorps members, and support setting strategic goals of organization.

    Selected accomplishments:

    • Developed and led a Race & Equity arc of year and curriculum map that is nationally recognized in the City Year network, and asked to co-lead a nation-wide DEI Community of Practice.
    • Implemented best practices in hiring and retaining a diverse workforce, leading to an increase in the % of people of color on staff from 37% to 85% in four years
    • Grew and maintained budget, negotiated contracts, and built partnerships with city and state officials, Seattle Public Schools Superintendent and other District staff, and state and federal grant-making officials
    • Asked to lead current Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau's first initiative in office, a Student Advisory Board. Designed relevant curriculum, built critical partnerships and facilitate that space to achieve the Superintendent's outcomes

    Program Director, City Year Seattle 2015 - 2017

    Coached and managed a team of 5 full-time staff members and built transformational relationships with district officials, school principals, staff, and communities, resulting in 100% re-commitment of contracts

    Served as New Partnerships Director and executed on partnership development from first interest meeting through deployment of full team for 7 new partnerships in Seattle Public Schools

    Utilized facilitation skills to design and lead department meetings, focused on group identity development, collaborative practices, and executing to department priorities

    Senior Program Manager, City Year Seattle 2012 - 2015

    Launched first-year partnership at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, providing management, coaching, and leadership development to a team of 7 full-time AmeriCorps members, and serving as a liaison to school staff

    Collaborated with other members of our department's leadership team in setting strategic planning benchmarks, including designing and executing an ambitious growth strategy

    Education Engagement Program Manager, Treehouse 2010-2012

    Coached and managed a team of 6 full-time certificated staff, each working in a school-based environment, supporting a caseload of youth in the foster-care system.

    Responsible for service delivery, building relationships with principals and other community-based partners, and crisis management.

    Served on department leadership team through staffing reorganization and led on strategic planning and organizational change-management.

    Researched, designed and implemented core components of Education Engagement program, including programmatic development, training and oversight of 4 paid part-time Check & Connect mentors embedded in schools our student's attended

    Education:

    Masters in Public Administration | University of Washington (Emphasis in Education Policy & Non-Profit Management)

    Bachelor of Arts, English Literature | Seattle University Minor: American Law & Politics

    Candidate Voz Questionnaire Responses

    On July 16, candidates were asked to provide responses to five School Board-selected questions and asked to select three questions submitted by community members in a recent survey. Read the submitted questions from the community.

     

    Board-selected questions and candidate responses:

    1. What is your connection to the Southeast Seattle District VII community, schools, families, and students? How do you foresee growing or expanding on those connections and relationships in your role as a school board director?

    Rainer Beach is where my family lives, where I feel home, and where I am raising my daughter. Through working in SE schools over the past 10 years, I have built and fostered relationships with principals, teachers, students, and families and spend my career thinking about how partnerships, relationships, and belonging support students in our schools. I spend time in classrooms, attend family engagement events, and work with principals to strategize around meeting their school priorities.

    In my role as a School Board Director I would grow and expand on those connections by proactively seeking input from students and families about their vision for their school communities. I can only aim to earn trust as a Director through trusting the community and building relationships that are not transactional. This cannot just be lip service, but needs to be embedded in the ways I operate and how the community holds me accountable. I see my role as not just gathering information and then taking it to create solutions, but engaging students and families in the naming, planning, and implementation of those solutions. I hold a belief that our communities are powerful and know what is best for them- and my role is to use my power to ensure my constituents have processes that work for them.

    2. What is your understanding of the role of school board director? How do you foresee working with your fellow directors, the superintendent, staff, and the public?

    While the role of a School Board Director is complex, my understanding of the role is to play essentially the following four roles:

    1. Power to hire, supervise (evaluate) and fire superintendent.

    In this way, the Board has a staff of one. The purpose of this is that we have many talented, knowledgeable experts who work within Seattle Public Schools. Our role is not to manage their work, but to hold their leader accountable for overall culture, educational outcomes, and execution of the strategic plan.

    2. Set the policy framework for the district, including revising, creating and eliminating policy. This includes management of the budget.

    Collectively, the Board’s responsibility is to build and maintain a policy framework that addresses both current and long term challenges our students and families are facing. This requires creativity and knowledge of how a given policy recommendation effects our students in implementation across the District.

    3. Ensure fiscal stability of school district. We are fiscally responsible for a budget exceeding $1 billion.

    We are tasked with being good stewards of the resources provided locally and by the state. I also see our role as advocates for centering students furthest from educational justice, and ensuring our fiscal policies represent the equity we talk about in our District.

    4. Act as a conduit of information from our community to the district and from the district to community.

    A major role of a School Board member is listen to and elevate the concerns of the community they represent. This includes setting up spaces that center the needs of families and students, and ensuring access to participation. It is my belief that as a Directors, we should participate in the communities’ process (and support the creation of that process when needed), rather than expecting community members to participate in our processes.

    Ultimately, as a member of the School Board, collaboration with all constituents is key. It means working with communities to prioritize and write policy, and with other Directors to get that policy passed. It requires listening to understand and simultaneously practicing patience while being persistent about what is just. Through my identity as an inquirer, I seek to enter spaces with others curious and holding space for multiple truths.

    3. How do you think Seattle Public Schools is doing? Do you support the district’s recently adopted strategic plan — why or why not? What does focusing on students that are the furthest from educational justice mean to you? Read the district's strategic plan.

    All across the District I have had the pleasure of meeting educators, administrators, and District personnel who care deeply about our students and who have committed their careers to advancing educational equity. However, we cannot collectively give ourselves a passing grade as long as our outcomes and access to an “excellent” education are determined by a student’s race. I agree with and appreciate the District’s commitment to “targeted universalism” in the new Strategic Plan, and using that philosophy, we are failing our students of color, especially our black male students. I appreciate the emphasis on community engagement, culturally responsive educators, and high quality learning experiences. And the details of these goals matter. How we choose to measure success and the resources we put in place to make these goals a reality show where our true commitments lie. For example, when it is stated that 3rd grade reading proficiency is a (very important) benchmark, and the only measure is 3rd grade SBA scores, it narrows our definition of success. An assessment that is inherently rooted in bias, administered electronically and taken for the first time in 3rd grade (and therefore students may or may not have access to the computer skills needed to accurately represent their knowledge) is one data point to consider in pursuit of this goal but should not be the only one. To me, educational justice means that each student is centered as an individual and has the opportunity to explore, find, and develop the skills and knowledge that align with their individual and community values. It is about honoring a student’s agency and offering unique pathways to success that meet a student where they are at. The phrase “students furthest from educational justice” takes into account both historical system of injustice that have impacted where a student starts in our system, and the current reality that opportunities in our education system are offered from a dominant-culture lens that does not offer a just education for all, especially for students of color.

    4. How does racism affect education in Seattle? What are your ideas for implementing School Board Policy No. 0030, Ensuring Educational and Racial Equity? Read Policy 0030.

    This country was founded through the genocide and commodification of Native People, and built on the backs of black Africans, who were brought to this country against their will, in the name of capitalism. Embedded into the fabric of its founding, the United States has actively fed the construction and narrative of race as a means of creating systems and structures that benefit white Americans and create barriers of entry for people of color, especially black and Native Americans and those without citizenship rights. This history cannot be ignored when we look at current inequitable outcomes across every possible sector including health, education, transportation, and criminal justice. Each of these systems was designed to uplift white Americans- when we wonder why outcomes for people of color are lagging, it is simply the system doing what it was designed to do. Dismantling and disrupting systems and cycles of oppression require learning and unlearning, shifting power, and an ongoing consideration of who is at the table when decisions are made.

    Seattle and Seattle Public Schools, no matter how progressive our policies, are not exempt from this reality. Racism effects the assumptions and expectations we hold for communities of color that start before birth and last long after the end of a child’s K-12 experience. It contributes to Seattle having the 5th largest opportunity gap in the country. It contributes to the fact that the lowest “performing” students in our district are often students of color attending high performing schools. The adults in our school systems matter and when 89% of teachers in Washington State are white, items within 0030 such as professional development, ensuring welcoming environments, recognizing diversity, and workforce equity come into play. We must provide the right training and resources around racial equity and make it a priority for educators to be constantly reflective in their practices. As a School Board, it means not always listening to the most persistent or loudest voices (especially when they represent the dominant culture), and being willing to make courageous decisions that center students before any other constituent.

    5. What do you want to focus on as a school board director and why? How do you foresee doing that work within the constraints of the role (law, existing policy, budget, staff, and public expectations)?

    Listening to members of the community in present day will ultimately determine what I focus on as a School Board Director. However, I will offer two trends that have arisen in my time working in SE Seattle schools that I would consider focusing on:

    • Investment in gap closing strategies. There is a myriad of research that points to ideas that work: investment in a student’s belonging at school through creating a welcoming and identity-safe environment, focusing on quality relationships between students and adults, differentiating instruction to raise academic skills, and school staff from multiple disciplines who continuously center students and collaborate effectively together to examine multiple, real-time data points and adjust instruction.
    • Increasing the number of educators who have a deep understanding of race and equity, and how their identity impacts the work they do with students. Programs aimed at diversifying the teaching workforce are incredibly valuable and should continue to be invested in AND that change is too slow to account for how urgently we need our overwhelmingly white teaching staff to support students. School-based Racial Equity teams are a good start, and need more robust support and resourcing to be effective and consistent across schools. Educators who hold and demonstrate a mindset that is harmful to our students must be held accountable.

    If we truly believe in targeted universalism, we need to be willing to revisit policy and ask ourselves, who does this serve? Who does this stand to benefit? Why are we doing this, and why are we doing this this way? Unless our answers are that it serves those furthest from educational justice, we need to be willing to collaborate with our communities and one another to write better policy. We live in a resource constrained world, and we need to focus on what we prioritize with the resources we already have, while being strong advocates for a better funding model long term.

     

    Community questions and candidate responses:

    Why do you want to serve on the school board? What is your personal and professional motivation?

    I began working in Seattle schools nearly 16 years ago as a tutor in an elementary school in our district. Since that time, I have worked supporting the system from the outside, first at Treehouse and then at City Year, focusing on partnerships that provide extra resources to our school communities. I have built relationships with Superintendents, local community leaders, principals, other community based organizations, parents and families. I have studied Education Policy, managed large budgets, led through organizational change, and built long-term strategic plans. I have led roundtables with teachers and principals, built and ran after school programs and worked directly with students in three years as an on-site staff member at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary.

    When I look around at the place our country is in, I believe we need disrupters both outside and within our systems. I believe we need to engage our families and students not just as a check box activity, but with the intent to find ways to move their solutions forward. Through my work co- facilitating Superintendent Juneau’s Student Advisory Board, students and what they cared about were centered. We paused our road map and co-created our focus with our students to address issues such as a comprehensive Ethnic Studies curriculum, a more inclusive and robust sex education curriculum, teacher accountability in creating a welcoming learning environment, and resources for our students who are differently abled. I want to utilize the professional skills I have cultivated and pair it with a mindset and belief that centers our students and families to disrupt and reimage our system from the inside.

    What kind of a collaborator are you? Can you engage families as well as staff?

    Engaging in dialogue with folks who hold multiple perspectives, personal storytelling, and entering every space with the acknowledgement that we don’t know what we don’t know all contribute to building relationships and a more equitable world. I seek to be a collaborator who does each of these things and a human who recognizes and repairs harm when I don’t. I believe there is often common ground when it comes to wanting good things for kids and that we cannot allow our adult pride and problems to get in the way of centering students.

    I have found that when asked, families are more than willing to share what they need to feel genuinely engaged- we need to do more asking and we also have some answers. In 2016, the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition (SESEC) surveyed over 630 families in the Southeast Seattle community and had a number of findings, including: 1) families of color prefer more personal styles of communication, including phone calls, meeting in person, and flyers over emails and 2) families of color are less likely than their dominant-culture counterparts to feel like their home culture and language are valued by school or that they have opportunities to influence decisions (More info at: SESEC Big Findings). As a School Board Director representing these families, it would be imperative that I listen to the data and honor that families know best by aligning my actions to their wishes. This means picking up the phone, visiting homes, and hosting public meetings in spaces and at times that are convenient for families. It means offering childcare and making sure families who speak a language other than English have access to our space. It means asking what feeling valued looks and sounds like and creating space where administrators and families can dialogue about making that a reality.

    What is your position on accepting PTA/PTSA/PTO funding to subsidize budgets at specific schools, especially for the purpose of supplementing staffing?

    PTA’s are a value add to schools for everyone- teachers, administrators, families, and students. An active and engaged parent community can support transparency and accountability at a school and district level. At the same time, they can be vehicles for inequity, especially when schools with a large portion of affluent families utilize their PTA’s to hoard resources and privileges that are already disproportionate. This is about what it means to be a member of a community, where supporting students at a different school with fewer resources mere miles down the road is what is best for all of us. There are districts in our state that have policies that allow families to contribute to their student’s public education- and where that money is also pooled in a foundation or other entity that distributes funds to schools that need it most. We cannot talk about equity as a city or a district if affluent, mostly dominant culture families are not willing to take a little less so that those who need more, have more. That is the definition of equity and I would support enacting policy changes that limit supplementing staffing using PTA funds and broadens the impact those dollars can have across the district.