AUSD Holds Q&A Session for School Board Candidates


Maryam Sadeghifard, A&E Editor

In an extensive process within the Board of Education, the elections commenced with candidates Leigh Chavez, Fenton Eng, and Ben Zhang campaigning for their spots on the Board of Education. This heated discussion on the issues of the Arcadia Unified School District (AUSD) exhibited the different perspectives of each candidate and what they have to offer to our School Board. The impromptu form of question-answering in the Q&A session that occurred on May 17 truly showcased their rawest selves and their views on what, in their eyes, would be best for AUSD.

When the candidates were asked what their most valuable asset to the Board of Education was, each candidate had their own unique answer. Going first, the current School Board Vice President, Fenton Eng reiterated his long past with the AUSD School Board and his vast involvement with and dedication to the community. Candidate Ben Zhang sought to focus on mental health, after conversing with students and parents from AUSD and realizing that this is an issue that “we all are facing.” Current School Board President Leigh Chavez, also running for reelection, reiterated her long past with AUSD and her experience on the Board of Education committee, which has excelled in the past years on the topic of mental health.

In response to a question asked by an AUSD fifth grader, “How will we all have a decision in your choices, specifically including student opinions?”, Ms. Chavez answered that when she was a part of the Board of Education, the Board held study sessions in which they invited communities from all demographics to keep up to date with differing opinions. Specifically for student voices, Student Representatives to the Board take the opinions of students and share them twice a month with the AUSD School Board. A recent widespread outcome of students voicing their opinions led to all Arcadia students now being eligible for free lunches due to increased funding.

“We do a lot currently, but we always feel like there is more to be done,” said Ms. Chavez in response to what needs to be changed within the School Board to acknowledge more student opinions.

Mr. Eng acknowledged that the increased amount of counseling at every level for students was an easy way to reach the district, but as Ms. Chavez said, students have their own student governments that are implemented to reach the district and have a say in the School Board. 

“It’s also why the PTA [Parent-Teacher Association] is there too. It’s not necessarily called PTA but we keep calling it that; it is more PTSA, Parent Teacher Students Association. That’s also another option for students to voice their opinion,” said Mr. Eng.

On the issue of free lunches, Mr. Eng concluded that with the funding received from COVID-19 relief, lunches will continue to be free. Yet with the implementation of free lunches, this also meant students who specifically needed help with funds for lunch could no longer be tracked, making it difficult to upkeep the “funding formula” and care for those students to better assist them, Mr. Eng emphasized.

Later, Mr. Eng began a discussion on how to tackle discrimination within the student body, such as students using racial slurs, mocking other students, and being uninformed about other races. He cited his experience growing up as the only Chinese boy at his school; he often faced discrimination and bullying. In knowing how this feels, his focus aims to specifically uphold the equity and diversity program we have at schools to further eliminate this type of behavior. 

When Mr. Zhang was asked “What is your plan to promote the mental health of each student within AUSD?”, he established his point of how mental health is crucial to “ensuring a student’s success.” By looking back to when he was in high school, compared to the students who are currently in high school, the issues are the same, recalled Mr. Zhang.

“The experiences are the same, not being able to communicate with parents because of a cultural disconnect or a cultural difference,” said Zhang. “Because of this, I’d like to implement assemblies at the beginning of the school year where students, parents, and professionals are brought in to talk about what a student goes through [and] the struggles that they go through during school.”

Overall, each candidate had several good opinions to better the AUSD Board of Education. These elections are crucial in reassuring that students in AUSD will be cared for in the way that is deemed best by Arcadians.


Photo courtesy of APN