Name as it appears on the ballot: Mariela Hernandez
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: marielaforchccs.com
Occupation & employer: Rapid Rehousing Case Manager/ Orange County Housing Department
Years lived in the area: 35 years
1. In 300 words or less, please give us—and our readers—your elevator pitch: Why are you running? Why should voters entrust you with this position? What are your priorities, and what would you want to see the school board do differently or better over your term?
Mariela Hernandez is a native of Mexico and immigrated to the United States at the age of 7 years old to North Carolina. A United States citizen since 2018, she wants to give back to her community and is running as a candidate for the CHCCS school board. As a parent of four children, Mariela has seen first-hand the opportunity gap that exists in our district. Mariela Hernandez has years of experience working in anti-poverty activism and as a community health worker and has served on numerous boards: Piedmont Health Board of Directors for over four years, IFC board, SKJAJA board, Orange County Food Council co-chair, Affordable Housing Advisory Board, CHCCS PTA, SIT and Parent Ambassador. Mariela also worked for eight years as a Family Navigator for the Family Success Alliance Program, working to expand family engagement, family advocacy, and resource connections to empower the community.
Mariela Hernandez is committed to working in language access, pre-K-readiness expansion, and exceptional programs so those who need it CAN have access. Mariela has listened to and advocated for community needs for over 20 years and will continue to do so on the CHCCS School Board. I would love to bring community insight to the board.
2. Given the school district’s direction, would you say things are on the right course? If not, for what specific changes will you advocate if elected?
I believe so, I know that Dr. Hamlett has a deep understanding of where she wants the school to go.
3. What are the three main issues that you believe the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools Board of Education needs to address in the upcoming year?
School staffing, equity, and inclusion have been started, and our students’ mental health services have increased. We need to continue to focus on these areas.
4. Describe something the school board should have prioritized differently in the current budget. Does the budget support students from lower-income families as well as from affluent families? Does the budget meet the district’s infrastructure and staffing needs?
The school district has tried on paper to help our students from the underserved community, but really we are usually on our own. Language barriers and cultural differences can keep families separate from student support structures. We need to do a better job of reaching families and students where they are and extending the opportunities this district offers to all students, not just some.
5) Does the General Assembly have a constitutional obligation to comply with the state Supreme Court order in the Leandro case to fully fund public schools and give every child in North Carolina a sound primary education? What other policies should lawmakers enact at the state level to strengthen public education?
Yes, it does have an obligation to comply. Pay increases (living wage rate) and increased benefits for our teachers, staff, and others serving and working at our school system will strengthen public education.
6) Despite boasting a 94.8 percent graduation rate last academic year and ranking in the nation’s top four percent of all public school districts, an achievement/opportunity gap still exists between white students and students of color. What specific policies should CHCCS pursue to close this gap?
We have checked boxes for our students, and some students don’t fall in any of those boxes. We need to work on meeting them where they are. We need funding put into this practice. That does not mean that we lower the standards. It does mean that we deal with the barriers for our kids, whether economic, supports, learning differences, and the structures that keep this gap in place. We have a systemic racism issue. We must address that.
7) Despite working for CHCCS, many teachers and staff can’t afford to live in Chapel Hill or Carrboro. What role should the school district have in ensuring affordable housing is available for its workforce?
Conversation with our municipalities and see what can be planned or work towards affordable housing for our teachers and staff.
8) Recently, groups of parents with students in North Carolina public schools have mounted efforts to ban certain books from classrooms and libraries. How should school boards handle these efforts?
Growing up, I had two big buddies, both librarians, who showed me respect for books and the knowledge they may bring to our children, teens, and adults. School boards should resist movements to ban books by extreme political groups.
9) Do police officers (School Resource Officers) have a role in schools? Please explain your answer.
Police outside the school would be helpful for students and staff safety, yes. SROs in the school are complicated because we need them to be healthy and trained; even when this is done, we run into many issues including disproportionate actions taken toward black and brown students. I would like to see the district focus on mental health/conflict resolution staff in place to resolve internal issues where possible.
10) CHCCS was able to hire drivers for all bus routes this academic year, but, as with other school districts in the state, it has needed help filling transportation vacancies in the past. What steps should the community take to ensure enough bus drivers for all routes to get students to school on time going forward?
A reasonable pay rate.
11) If there is anything else you would like to address, please do so here.
Thanks for the opportunity. I would like to address my voting record. I became eligible to vote after becoming a U.S. Citizen in 2018. I was registered at a church voting drive and voted in the general election that year for Democrats. However, when I went to vote in the primary the next time, I discovered I had been registered as a Republican due to a paperwork error. I immediately changed my registration to Democrat and have voted for and supported Democrats in every election since. My community involvement and record of social service and justice work are consistent and are a match for values supported by the Democratic party.
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