Tonight Cindy Pickett gets to do something most officeholders do not get to do—preside over the meeting in which her replacement is filled. June 30 is her last day, and, while she is not voting on her replacement, she will still moderate the discussion among the trustees.
The Vanguard caught up with her this week and caught her thoughts on her time on the board and the challenges that the district faces.
Why did you decide not to run again?
I am leaving office to take a job at DePaul University as the Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. My role as Associate Vice-Provost for Faculty Equity and Inclusion at UC Davis was temporary. I found that I wanted to continue to do this work and DePaul presented me with an opportunity that was hard to pass up.
What are your thoughts on the direction of the district?
The district has made significant strides in retooling its curricular offerings to serve all students in the district. The creation of the new Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathways is exciting, and it will be great to see those courses get underway. Although in the beginning stages, the implementation of Ethnic Studies is also a move in the right direction. It is important that all students in the district have a deep and nuanced understanding of the history of various ethnic and racial groups in our country. I also believe that the district is getting better about supporting students and families of color, but that can be much improved. It is important that every administrator, every teacher, every site principal take on the work of promoting equity and racial justice and that it not be relegated to just a few individuals.
What do you believe you have accomplished in your term?
My time on the board was relatively short, but in that time, I helped with the passage of Measure G which will go a long way in addressing the compensation gap between DJUSD and other neighboring districts. As Board President, I was also heavily involved with the school shutdown in March due to COVID-19 and the discussions surrounding distance learning. A lot of what I did was simply communicate with the public. In times of uncertainty, people crave information and want to know what the plan will be. As much as possible, I tried to be accessible via email and social media to listen to the community’s concerns and respond to them, even when my response was not what they wanted to hear.
What is Your Biggest Regret?
My biggest regret is that I cannot complete my full term. My job situation changed after I took office. I had fully intended to serve a full term, if not more (subject to the will of the voters). However, I do not regret campaigning for my seat, which allowed me to connect with an array of students, families, and community members, nor do I regret the time served on the board.
What do you consider the most pressing needs going forward?
DJUSD, along with other districts in California, faces significant fiscal challenges. The district will need to make significant cuts to stay afloat while also maintaining its commitment to providing a high-quality education, supporting students’ social and emotional well-being, and maintaining a healthy and safe environment for staff and students amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a huge task, but I am heartened by the way that DJUSD staff has come together during this time and appreciate the sacrifices that have been made by all.
What have you learned in your tenure on the board about the need for diversity in the district office, on the school board and in the schools?
Representation matters. Having more diverse perspectives at the table leads to a more thorough analysis of problems and also greater creativity in finding solutions. It was great that the current board has diverse professional expertise represented on it. As a psychologist, I viewed issues in a slightly different way than Trustee Fernandes (a lawyer) or Trustee DiNunzio (an expert in business). I believe our discussions reflected this diversity. Going forward, it would be great to see additional forms of diversity represented on the board as well as in DJUSD’s administration and teaching staff.