By Paige Francis
Jhansi Kalapala is running for the FUSD School Board District 4 seat, against Yajing (Rachel) Zhang.
Kalapala has lived in Fremont for over seventeen years and has been both PTA President and Executive Vice President.
Kalapala has helped advise after school clubs, volunteered in classrooms, and wants her own children to have a safe and enjoyable learning environment.
Kalapala's Top Three Priorities:
Who Is Jhansi Kalapala?
Jhansi Kalapala has lived in Fremont and has raised her kids here since 2003. She has been involved with FUSD in many ways, such as serving as a PTA President, Executive Vice President, as well as operating as a general volunteer when needed. Kalapala enjoys making a contribution to the school and continues to get involved. She has helped tutor students math after school and has worked on a debate club at her kids’ school in partnership with the Fremont Debate Academy (FDA).
“These community projects have added so much to my personal and professional career that I want to continue in this fashion for more years to come,” said Kalapala.
Before getting involved with schools, Kalapala had a job as a Health IT Manager. She received her Doctorate in Healthcare Leadership and Information Management from California University, Irvine. Ms. Kalapala was also a Vice President of Operations for the Open Shores Services Company where she trained young graduates to do their jobs to the best of their abilities and taught them technical skills to improve in their professional careers.
Jhansi Kalapala is running against Yajing (Rachel) Zhang for the District 4 seat on the Fremont Unified School District Board. The schools in District 4 cover a combination of the Kennedy Attendance Area and the Irvington Attendance Area.
This is the first year of by-trustee area elections at FUSD. Currently there is no representation of District 4 on the FUSD School Board.
REOPENING SCHOOLS AND THE FUSD BUDGET
In March, all schools in FUSD shut down with no clear plan of education for the rest of the school year. At the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, however, plans were made for long-term virtual learning. FUSD has now implemented synchronous and asynchronous work periods within class time for more learning variety.
Jhansi Kalapala acknowledges this transition, but also thinks that the district needs better district-wide technical resources, training, and staff. For families struggling with connectivity, Kalapala hopes to look into tools that don’t need WiFi to work, and provide additional equipment to connect students.
Kalapala also believes that FUSD needs to “address the mental and physical health needs of the students and that counselors should be continually checking with the students, even if they must go to their homes, during COVID.” She advocates for a better balance between synchronous and asynchronous work time. In elementary schools, she wants to encourage students and teachers to bond over the camera and do activities like chatting and eating snacks together. As for high school, she advises students to “take a break every two hours and take a short walk to refocus.”
Eventually, schools will reopen, and Kalapala thinks that a return to school should be a hybrid model of traditional and distance learning, highlighting how classrooms are unfit to handle full in-person instruction class sizes. In addition, Kalapala believes that converting FUSD schools into SAT and ACT testing centers should also be considered in a reopening plan, especially since students have been had tests canceled due to COVID-19.
“I feel when we see numbers going down, we should think, ‘It's time to start reopening and doing more’ instead of ‘let us keep doing what we're doing,’” said Kalapala.
“We call FUSD diverse, but in the curriculum, it is not showing.”
Kalapala wants the FUSD School Board and the curriculum committee to work together to create a more diversified curriculum. Units and lessons on important world history and famous people should be added and equity in classrooms should be promoted.
In light of recent cuts to AP courses, Kalapala also believes that the FUSD must reinstate cut courses. “If there are fewer student registrations, we can take advantage of Zoom technology to combine multiple high school students in one class,” said Kalapala.
At many high schools in FUSD, AP classes have had extremely large class sizes, or even cut due to a lack of staff. Kalapala expects that class sizes will be evaluated and hopefully, reduced, in the coming months.
Regarding the toll AP classes have on students’ mental health, however, Kalapala understands that too many AP courses can lead to poor mental health: “Many of the benefits of AP courses are correlated to the socio-economic situation of the students taking them, rather than to the education itself. The stresses of too many AP courses can add up. High school students are often sleep-deprived due to hours spent on homework each night, face the need for extra tutoring to keep up with coursework, and can suffer poor performance due to the overload.”
RACE AND EQUITY
“Equity in the classroom or supporting students of all backgrounds and abilities is essential to a productive learning environment,” said Kalapala on the issue of racism and equity in the classroom. To encourage more equity, Kalapala has come up with a plan of what should be changed or completed to create equity classrooms.
Some of these adjustments include reducing racial barriers to learning and discouraging teachers from asking students of color to be experts on their race. Kalapala also wants schools to also be aware of religious holidays, highlighting that “When planning the school year, FUSD should remember to account for religious holidays and observances. Students may need to miss class on certain days and makeup assignments, quizzes, or exams. Kalapala hopes that this would create more equality in schools by accommodating all students and their religious requirements.
Kalapala believes that special education students should not be separated from students in regular education . She holds that “students with disabilities benefit from peer modeling and interaction,” and believes that students without disabilities will also learn empathy and kindness from their neurodiverse peers.
“Schools are bent on teaching and implementing diversity, so this is a great way to start that lesson. This is a lesson that can go all the way through college. When we separate students with disabilities, it deprives them of that chance, and they feel left out, and they should not,” said Kalapala.
Kalapala also wants more parents to get involved in school affairs, advocating for their children and their rights, especially within the special education community. She encourages parents to find out what is going on “and not settle on what the school says will happen.”
LEARN MORE ABOUT YAJING (RACHEL) ZHANG
Visit her website at: www.jhansi4schoolboard.com
Check out her Facebook at: www.facebook.com/jhansi4fremontschoolboard/