Reflecting back on 2017, my heart is filled with gratitude for you and everyone who advocated for our kids in Mt. Diablo schools. Together we passed a strong Safe Haven resolution, so that students can concentrate on their studies instead of their fears. We held donation drives for HOPE to help homeless students, and for the food bank to feed local families and victims of the Solano fires. We painted, pruned and planted the grounds of many schools on Community Service Day. And we coordinated with city and school leaders to build safer routes to school, with bike lanes, speed signs and crosswalks.
For my family, serving our community is a core value and responsibility. Our daughters Iris and Robyn this year launched Inventors University to teach girls computer coding every Saturday for 10 weeks at the Concord Library. In May, eight girls demonstrated their final projects at the Sun Terrace Elementary Open House, and each program graduate went home with a raspberry pi computer to continue on her own. Twenty two more students attended December workshops. (Iris and Robyn's vision became a reality thanks to my husband Sandy mentoring their entrepreneurial process, to teacher Karly Moura and principal Kris Martin Meyer at Sun Terrace, and Kimberli Buckley at Concord Library. Yet again, success takes a village!)
And I'm especially excited to announce that this month marked the launch of the brand new district-wide MDUSD Education Foundation, to ensure a quality education for every child regardless of zip code. I am honored to have been elected President of the Board, and look forward to engaging business, community, parents, teachers and staff towards that bold goal.
As Delaine Eastin said, a single pencil alone is easily broken, but a handful of pencils is not. We now have over 440 people who joined the Cherise for MDUSD School Board network, and we received 140 campaign donations large and small in 2017. Person by person, dollar by dollar, we are building a movement that gets stronger every day. Please continue to share our website and Facebook page to grow our team.
I look forward to reconnecting with each of you in 2018, and walking the tread off my shoes to hear from our neighbors and communities throughout Mt Diablo School District. But for now, may your holidays be filled with rest, rejuvenation, food, family, and community.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to pause and reflect on the year gone by. A year ago, I had just lost a tight election, while we were all denied the first female U.S. President. In the year since, I’ve been inspired by an amazing set of women and men who have filled my life with hope, purpose, and the desire to not only seek change, but demand justice. I truly have so much to be grateful for.
I’m thankful for my Emerge sisters, who continually remind me that the future is indeed female.
I’m thankful for a school district that understands the importance of establishing a Safe Haven to protect innocent students caught up in the hysteria of anti-immigration sentiment.
I’m thankful for those who fought to keep our diverse school district together, and I am hopeful that our entire Mt. Diablo community can now move forward with love and commitment to ALL students as "our students".
I’m thankful for a husband and family who remind me daily what I am fighting for, and who patiently accept the sacrifices required to make it happen.
I’m thankful for the countless mentors, allies, and supporters who encourage me to keep pursuing public office. It is because of all of YOU that I persist.
As a mother of two young girls, I have often walked or biked with my daughters and their friends to school. We chose to live in our neighborhood in part because of its proximity to schools. It feels great to be outdoors in the fresh air, starting our day by greeting other students along the way. But there was one particular spot near Foothill Middle School where we often found ourselves stranded, unable to cross the street or safely walk/bike along the busy road with no sidewalk. "Why isn't there a crosswalk here?" I thought, as I watched young kids sprint across that same spot on my way back from Walnut Acres Elementary. It seemed so simple and obvious, as if I could just grab some paint and create one myself.
I met other people who were concerned too, including parents of kids who had been hit or nearly hit while crossing streets in the neighborhood. It was clear that we needed additional precautions in place so our children could safely get to school.
So in May 2015, a group of us attended a city meeting to tell them exactly where that crosswalk was needed, along with the other key improvements. (photos are my daughter Iris participating in the meeting).
But nothing happened.
Eventually we decided we needed to show that this concern was held by more than just a few of us, so in November I sent out a change.org petition to our entire neighborhood that spelled out our specific requests, addressed to the city transportation director. 180 people signed it, and the director got right back to me!
It turns out he agreed with the need for these improvements, and had already submitted 6 grants that were each denied. Where could we find the funding? Determined to find a way, we brought together a team of key stakeholders at our local bagel shop, to work towards a solution. It was a challenging task, but by collaborating with the principals of both schools, PTA leaders, parents and neighbors, we prioritized the items, discussed regulations, and weighed trade-offs. City staff figured out what smaller items could roll into regular maintenance, and got one grant successfully approved. We timed the rest of the work with the previously planned road re-pavements.
Within 1 year, a digital speed sign and temporary improvements were in place. Within 2 years, construction was complete including two new flashing pedestrian beacons, three new crosswalks, a new bike lane on Cedro, digital speed signs, and sidewalk bulbouts that slow down cars and create safer and shorter crossings for pedestrians. And now, on Wednesday October 4th, we will celebrate, on National Walk to School Day!
I wrote the petition and persisted in keeping the group going to the end, but the biggest lesson I learned was that this is definitely not the kind of thing that any one person can do alone. It was ONLY successful because of the many people who took on key roles along the way, and who found consensus between schools and neighbors on all the nitty gritty details. We cannot expect a single city engineer to somehow intuit what is best for a particular neighborhood - they need community input as well - and as the director told us, our coalition paved the way for success.
When I first sent out that change.org petition two years ago, I had no idea that nearly 200 people would sign it, and that city staff would work so closely and cooperatively with us to bring our vision to a reality. Each and every one of you who signed, supported, met, shared feedback... this could not have been done without you. I am thrilled that the improvements are completed and helping our kids get to school safely! Seeing the photo of my daughter 2 years ago drawing in the ideas on the map brings tears to my eyes, as I am so thankful that people really can come together to make things better for everyone. It is true that Together We Can!
Thanks to our Coalition team: Principal Bush, Principal Dowd, Transportation staff Rafat Raie and Alex Wong, PFC/A Presidents Cherise Khaund and Anna Saunders, parents Ajit Chakradeo, Brooke Giddings, Jill Ridlehoover, Mike Seftchick, Ann Marie Titterton, Elizabeth Salmon-Omski, Linda Vanderjagt. and to StreetSmarts Diablo for providing our Walk n Roll to School Day prizes!
Welcome to my new website - a place for us all to join together to improve our schools and communities!
This year I graduated from Emerge California (recruits and trains Democrat women to run for office), and I continue to volunteer, inform and advocate for all our students and schools.
I was honored to be the Welcome speaker at our graduation ceremony at Oakland City Hall:
Read on for details of my 2017 work in volunteering, informing and advocating, and how you can get involved too!