Name: Danielle M. Gonzales
Political party: Democratic
Education: Master of Education, University of Notre Dame, 2003; Bachelor of Arts in Spanish language and literature and political science, The George Washington University, 2001
Occupation: Nonprofit leader. Managing director at the Aspen Institute Education & Society Program, since January 2015
Family: Married to Tim Wahlers. Four children (three of my own, and guardian to a niece)
Relevant experience: I have over 20 years of experience in education leadership, at the U.S. Department of Education, as a classroom teacher, an advocate, and grant maker. I now manage a national nonprofit organization that works directly with school district leaders, state education leaders and policymakers to help improve education.
Campaign website: GonzalesforAPS.com
What’s the biggest issue APS faces? How would you address it?
COVID recovery: tending to students’ mental health, and accelerating learning. I would: allocate stimulus funding to professional development, and technical assistance around trauma-informed responses, social, emotional learning and improving learning environments; contracts with and incentives for mental health services; purchase high-quality, culturally-responsive instructional materials and aligned training; provide targeted tutoring.
In your opinion, what is the primary role of a school board member?
The board is responsible for governance through the establishment of policies; approval, management and oversight of the budget; and ensuring accountability for improvement, which includes hiring, evaluating, and firing the superintendent. We need a board that understands this, so they, too, are accountable to students and families.
How would you evaluate the current school board’s performance?
Given that only 20% of students are proficient in math, and 30% proficient in reading, the fact that there is declining enrollment, and mounting dissatisfaction and trust, I would say poor. Districts all across the country are improving while we remain stagnant. There are proven strategies to address our challenges, we just need leadership and know-how.
What experience do you have overseeing a budget?
I currently manage a budget of over $4 million. I serve in leadership positions on several nonprofit boards, including chair and treasurer, providing budgetary approval and oversight. I have made, managed and advised on philanthropic grants up to $100 million, considering revenue, expenditures, risks, and scenario modeling.
Would you support a vaccine mandate for APS students who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine? Why or why not?
Yes. We have required vaccines in schools since the 1800s and they work. Vaccines protect children from communicable diseases of all types, from measles, mumps and rubella to pertussis and tetanus. When students are healthy, safe and in school, they’re able to learn.
What’s your position on mask mandates at schools?
I support mask mandates and other mitigation measures in schools until we have reduced community transmission, increased adult immunization rates, mass administration of a childhood COVID vaccine, and as long as it continues to remain the recommendation of scientists and the Centers for Disease Control.
Under what circumstances, if any, would you support a return to remote learning?
Remote learning should be available to students under quarantine or exhibiting signs of infection. As individual schools experience enough positive cases that it poses significant risk to others or inhibits their ability to deliver in-person school, they should switch to remote until safe. This should be informed by medical experts.
Do you think superintendent applications should be public?
Yes, so that the public and the media can hold the board (and search firms) accountable for representing community voice in the search, ensuring a diverse and qualified applicant pool, and researching the candidates’ records. Given the amount of public funds spent on searches and salaries, transparency is critical.
How would you evaluate APS as a whole?
Our students, families and schools have many assets. Based on my experience as a parent, an education professional, and the data, I would evaluate APS as poor. Average scores for math and reading are lower than for public school students in large cities nationwide and stagnant or declining since 2011.
What’s your stance on charter schools?
Charters meet specific needs and provide access to relevant, engaging and culturally-aligned approaches. Traditional schools cannot meet all needs. Many families already make choices based on neighborhood. Charter policy democratizes choice, ensuring more families have excellent options. We need accountability and to share promising practices across charters and traditional schools.
APS has been sued numerous times for failing to release public records. What, if anything, would you do to ensure that the school district is adhering to state transparency laws, such as the Inspection of Public Records Act?
As a board member, it would be my job to ensure the district is adhering to all laws. I would use my role to ask questions of district leadership to ensure timely and accurate responses.
1. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?
2. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?
3. Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, or any misdemeanor or felony?
I was arrested in the U.S. Capitol in June 2018 for protesting the Trump administration’s child and family separation policies and the cruel treatment of children and other migrants seeking refuge from violence in their home countries. This was a misdemeanor charge for “Crowding, obstructing, or incommoding.”