October 17, 2008

Russell Coronado: Second try, a victory for sure for Chula Vista school board

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

When school psychologist Russell Coronado ran for the Chula Vista Elementary School District board four years ago, he didn’t get elected.

But even though he only had a handful of volunteers and no major endorsements, he was still able to garner nearly 34 percent of the vote with four candidates on the ticket.

Now that he’s running once again for Seat 4 of the Chula Vista Elementary School District, the panorama has completely changed in his favor, something that makes him confident he’ll be elected this time.

“This time I have a larger group of volunteers, I have been endorsed by Congressman Bob Filner, Councilman Rudy Ramirez, Nick Aguilar of the County Board of Education, along with the Democratic Party and a large volume of community members, teachers and parents,” Coronado said in an interview with La Prensa San Diego. “I am 100 percent confident that with the support and energy of all these individuals and organizations, I will be elected to the Chula Vista Elementary School Board.”

And he might be right. Coronado is not only the sole candidate for Seat 4 who still has two children as students in the district, but he’s also the only candidate who supported a community based proposal for equal representation in the board. (All of the board members reside in the Bonita area).

“I have a vested interest in what happens in the school because I have children who are directly impacted by the decisions the school board makes,” said Coronado, who’s 40 years old. “In addition, because I have elementary school aged children, I have the opportunity to interact on a daily basis with other parents in the district. I am able to relate on a personal level to their stories… their hopes, their concerns, their successes and their challenges. These real time conversations give me a perspective that the other candidates do not have.  These experiences will translate into a governing philosophy that values children’s well-being as well as placing their academic and social success as a top priority.”

The professional educational background that Coronado would bring to the board also makes him an ideal candidate.

As a former School Psychologist and School Director with the Chula Vista Elementary School District, he developed and directed an Alternative School, The Daly Academy, for children with significant behavior problems. It was recognized by the California Department of Education as a State Model.

Currently, he’s a Special Education Coordinator for the County Office of Education, serving the South County Special Education Local Plan Area. He’s also an instructor in the School Psychology program at National University.

“I am a child advocate, community organizer, volunteer and educator with over seventeen years of experience in education. My past experiences and current employment along with past and current committee and board work, have been driven by a simple philosophy: I am a voice for children. I believe that all children should be successful academically and socially. They should be proficient in reading, writing, math and computer skills,” Coronado said.

Being of Latino origin, Coronado also knows the challenges our children face, and with the majority of students in the school district also of Latino descent, he said parents and students will be able to relate to his own experience growing up in a bilingual, multicultural home.

“I come from a family of second language learners,” he said. “My parents tell me stories of when they were growing up and how they were physically punished in school for speaking Spanish. I myself spoke and was exposed to both English and Spanish until I started school. So, on a personal level, I can relate to the English learner population. I would also support teaching non-English-speaking students partially in their native language until they are fluent in English, because research has indicated that English Language Learners who participated in programs that provided extended instruction in their native language, such as dual immersion or two way programs, outperformed their ELL peers and their English-speaking peers who were educated in English-only mainstream classrooms and those who received short-term instruction through their first language. If our goal is fluency and proficiency in reading, writing and math, then we must promote the most effective way of reaching that goal.” 

Coronado was born in Brawley, in the Imperial Valley. He said he has fond memories of his mother volunteering in the local schools there, always encouraging her children to complete their education.

Family values are an important aspect of Coronado’s life. (His wife, Alice, who volunteers in the schools, is his campaign manager.) He will take those values and experiences to the board, he said.

“My mission as a School Board Member is to work tirelessly for our children’s future and our district, to accomplish the goals of accelerating gains in school performance and closing the achievement gap; support and promote professional development for our teachers, continue to meet regularly with local, state and federal legislators to advocate on behalf of our children, educators and our community. I know what success looks like and I know how to deliver it.”

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