While the presidential election has been in the spotlight, grassroots organizing continues to transform what happens locally in our cities, school districts and classrooms. This struggle for change has been on full display this year in the Southern California Hacienda La Puente Unified School District (HLPUSD) with the formation of ¡Juntos Podemos! — a multigenerational collective of educators, community organizers, and activists who first used the 2001 California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) to push the school district to move from at-large to by-trustee area elections and then endorsed two community members’ candidacies.
¡Juntos Podemos! celebrates the election of these two new school board members, Stephanie Serrano in Trustee Area #1, and Christine Salazar in Trustee Area #3, elected November 3, 2020 in historic school board election victories in the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District.
Both Salazar and Serrano are dynamic community organizers, tremendous advocates for students and our communities, and they are parents of HLPUSD students.
In early October, after a series of virtual community meetings and a candidate forum co-organized by Juntos Podemos and La Puente Mutual Aid, we enthusiastically endorsed their candidacies. Both Salazar and Serrano are dynamic community organizers, tremendous advocates for students and our communities, and they are parents of HLPUSD students. They bring refreshing new visions and experiences for transforming our schools and building on the strengths of our communities. Serrano and Salazar ran grassroots campaigns fueled by people power. Serrano's commitment to "luchando con la gente" and Salazar's calls for transparency, accountability, and equity resonated with ¡Juntos Podemos! and many community members.
These 2020 elections usher in an exciting new era and the beginning of a fundamental transformation of governance in this school district — building on years of activism, community organizing and local efforts to bring about equity in school board representation. With these elections in the newly formed Trustee Area #1 in Valinda and Trustee Area #3 (which is composed of neighborhoods within La Puente and Hacienda Heights), residents now are better ensured the vote and voice to enable meaningful access to representation. The years of dilution of the votes of the La Puente and Valinda residents finally ended in March 2020 with the restructuring of the electoral process through the California Voting Rights Act demand placed upon the HLPUSD by Juntos Podemos.
The structural changes of the voting process, created by the newly formed trustee areas, has helped to enfranchise the thousands of underrepresented residents in Trustee Areas #1 and #3 who have experienced fewer than four elected board members from these areas in over fifty years since the unification of the school district.
The by-trustee area election format makes grassroots and community-based candidates more competitive since the electoral area is smaller, neighbor to neighbor campaigning is more viable, and election costs are reduced. Grassroots campaigns in this new electoral climate can significantly reduce the disproportionate weight that wealthy regions and traditional party-based power brokers have on the outcome of the election.
These community victories are major accomplishments made through coalition building and collective action. They highlight the possibilities of transformation when grassroots organizing draws on community strengths and existing levers of change to reimagine and ultimately remake our school boards. Today we celebrate as we continue our collective journey and work toward improving our schools.
- María José Vides
- Maria Tucker
- Socorro Orozco
- María Oropeza Fujimoto
- Gilda L. Ochoa
- Enrique C. Ochoa
- Veronica Miranda Cordero
- Manuel Maldonado
- Eugene Fujimoto
- Jessica Coreas
- Bryan Coreas
Authorship is listed in reverse alphabetical order aligned with the horizontal approach of the ¡Juntos Podemos! Collective. All authors are members of the Collective