Blog entry

Hope in the Schools

Zima Creason

Just saying … last year, during the Sacramento Women’s March, I ran into a well-respected colleague, Zima Creason. Zima was walking with friends and family. Yet she was doing more than just joining the many women that day. She was handing out her campaign t-shirts. Zima had decided to be one of the many women who would change our political system. She was campaigning to become one of the San Juan Unified School District’s board members. Fast track to November through December of 2018…they counted the votes and she WON! https://gem.godaddy.com/s/436a4d. You may ask who Zima Creason is. She holds an MBA and is the President and CEO of Mental Health America of California (MHAC) and other organizations including The California Youth Empowerment Network (CAYEN).

I decided to interview her about hope in the school district where her new role is to shape policy and program and provide oversight of the superintendent including their hiring and firing. My questions and her answers are as follows:

1. As a school board member, how will you inspire hope for students on campuses?

My primary duties and charge are to hire and fire the superintendent and shape policy and programs that stay true to our intent. I expect to hold the superintendent to policies and programs that inspire hope for students. Another avenue of hope is addressing gaps in communications about policy and programs on the books.

My first questions are: what exists, where are the gaps, where do we need more policies, and determine if the rollout of said policies is being implemented and sustained according to their original vision and intent. I want to make sure policies and programs inspire hope and do not suppress people, especially using the non-inclusive language. Policies and programs being rolled out must foster hope.

2. How will you infuse innovation into schools?

First, see what policies are out there as good innovative work has been done across the state. The California School Boards Association has a lot of data to share [see https://www.csba.org/]. We also should identify and see what has been implemented in other states.

We need more partnerships and collaborations with college students as they are recent graduates and a great voice of those with LIVED EXPERIENCE. We can assign them one of our issues and see how they would innovate it using their recent experience as students.

We need to elevate community-defined practices and look to stakeholders to define innovative practices that will support and educate our students. The people should also be empowered to come up with innovative ideas.

Once this is all done, we need to put true funding in place to implement these innovations.

3. Are you open to influencing curriculum to include mental health, so students can know what behavioral health is about? Do you have any thoughts on how to do this? or What are some evidence-based school curriculums you might consider?

I will bring both state-level issues and solutions to the local process and local issues and solutions to state processes. CAYEN will help identify priorities and research other state solutions. For instance, New York has passed a recent law – “Every Grade, Every Year” or Every Student Succeeds Act, for their students and educators. Although they may not have outcomes and data yet, we must watch and review their implementation and see if we can duplicate it.

We need to empower youth with tools that educate, provide coping skills, and support awareness about mental health. This will do a lot of good; if we spend energy and money on the front end, we will get better outcomes with adults, which helps students. Teach empowerment through learning advocacy and understand that

  • All sectors need to come together to foster better outcomes for youth
  • Parents and students in the district are the advocates and we need a more organized approach to help them become advocates

I will partner with CAYEN to model advocacy and empower communities to learn how to take part in change.

4. What are your thoughts on the many women who have joined Congress? Are you thinking about that type of political future?

I am thrilled and inspired to see the new Congress. So, amazing! We are finally seeing the diversity reflected in our communities … leadership is getting there, but until this comprehensively happens, we will keep seeing poor outcomes.

Although I don’t have the money of most successful politicians, I am open to the possibility of a political future. Right now my focus is on being a great school board member. Overall, during my tenure, I want to build and leave a community of stakeholders who know they have a meaningful role in this process. I want to leave our youth/students with a better outlook on their future and have successful outcomes [because … it’s all about that hope].

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