February 25, 2005

Board member says he’s ‘student-oriented’

In January, Jaime Mercado began his first term at Sweetwater School District Board

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

Jaime Mercado knows the Sweetwater Union High School District right to its core.

He is a former student, teacher’s aid, teacher, assistant principal, principal, and, after winning a tight election in November, a board member.

“I pretty much know my way around Sweetwater,” Mercado said.

But it is his new role as a board member what he considers to be his most important period at the district, because he said he now can take part in the decisions being made.

So far, so good, he said.

“I’m working well with the other board members,” Mercado said. “The environment, so far, has been pretty good. There are no voting blocs. We’re all working to make positive changes in the district.”

Mercado has always been critical of the district’s administration, and during his campaign he said he would always vote in favor of the interests of students, even if it meant going against the current.

“I’m sure some of the board members will disagree with some of my points of view. It’s hard to tell at this moment. But I’m not that radical. My goals are student-oriented, I focus on students. I’m optimistic that we will work in benefit of the students. I hope we all make a positive impact,” he said.

Being a retired educator, Mercado said he has the time to become a full-time board member.

“I’m visiting schools to learn more closely about the challenges they face,” he said.

Mercado said that he has three main points he would like to tackle during his term:

1. District is top-heavy with administration: Mercado proposes the reorganization of administration in order to achieve positive changes in the district.

2. Classroom space: Mercado said the district needs more classrooms, so he is in favor of building more. “I’m very vocal about this issue,” he said.

3. L Street District headquarters: Mercado said he is completely against the proposed building of the District headquarters on L Street. “As long as students don’t have a proper environment for learning and teachers don’t have the right resources for teaching, the district’s leadership doesn’t deserve the privilege to have new offices,” Mercado said. “I don’t believe it’s right to take money away from the classrooms and invest it in office space.”

Mercado won a tight race against Archie McAllister, a retired Navy officer. During the first days after November 2, the results kept changing.

“Obviously it was frustrating to see one day that I was winning, and losing the next day,” he said.

But Mercado isn’t new to the region. In fact, he grew up in the South Bay.

“I was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, but my family moved to Tijuana and then to San Ysidro when I was little”, Mercado remembers. “I really enjoyed life in San Ysidro. It was a small community that was really fun to grow-up in.”

After dropping out from high school, Mercado worked in several jobs, including washing cars and picking tomatoes.

It was then that he realized the value of an education, so he returned to adult school and completed high school in six months.

He went on to get a B.A., M.A. and teaching and administrative credentials from San Diego State University.

Mercado said he hopes his life serves as an example for all families in the district, but especially Mexican immigrant families like his.

“I hope the voice of the people is expressed. I encourage everyone to become an active voter, an active person in the community. They must come to the board meetings. They must become active in their children’s schools. Visit the schools, meet with teachers and counselors. I know it’s difficult, but from time to time, you should find out what’s going on. It’s for the good of your children,” he said.

Mercado said he has more than 40 years of experience in education, experience which will add to the board’s perspective.

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