Yajing (Rachel) Zhang
By Jack Conner
Yajing (Rachel) Zhang is running for the FUSD School Board District 4 seat, against Jhansi Kalapala.
Zhang is a trained physicist, has worked in the technical and marketing fields in Silicon Valley for nine years, and is an investments business owner.
Zhang's Top Three Priorities:
Ensure quality education among all schools.
Represent all FUSD stakeholders.
Spend the FUSD budget wisely.
Who Is Yajing (Rachel) Zhang?
Yajing (Rachel) Zhang is new to local politics, having previously worked in the technical and marketing fields in Silicon Valley. She is not new to Fremont, however, and has lived within FUSD District 4 for sixteen years, giving her a close connection with the community she would represent if elected. Zhang also has two children attending FUSD schools, giving her important insight into the needs of the students for whom she would work.
When asked about her motivation to run for a position on the FUSD School Board, Zhang replied that she wants to help the community in any way she can. She believes that the current School Board could do better in supporting the students and teachers within District 4, and she wants to direct the FUSD School Board to optimize funding to benefit more schools. Zhang thinks that students need a variety of resources and opportunities to grow, and she hopes to work at providing these essential aspects of education to the students of Fremont. Zhang’s background in marketing and experiences with investments give her an advantage in terms of managing the FUSD budget, which she believes should be utilized to deliver students the strongest education possible.
Zhang is running against Jhansi Kalapala for the District 4 seat on the FUSD School Board. District 4 covers 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
The COVID-19 pandemic forced Fremont schools to shut down last March, and students have attended distance learning via Zoom and other electronic platforms for the current school year thus far. With her experience in new technologies, Zhang knows that FUSD can offer effective education through distance learning, and she believes that students should only be brought back to in-person education when it is safe to do so. Additionally, Zhang stated that the School Board should make sure the transition to in-person learning is done as effectively as possible, and only if enough money exists in the FUSD budget to purchase the necessary PPE for student, family, and teacher safety.
Zhang supports connections between teachers and students during the COVID-19 pandemic, and she believes that person-to-person communication (even if online) is the most effective form of teaching at this time. When asked about students returning to in-person learning, Zhang underscores that elementary students should return first since they need in-person social interactions more so than middle or high schoolers, but only when the pandemic can be handled safely, within a school setting.
“Most importantly, we should give families choices to decide whether to go back to school only when it is safe to return,” says Zhang.
As an investor in real estate, Zhang has been successful in the past balancing budgets, which leads her to believe that she could help the FUSD Board of Education do the most for schools with the money it has. Zhang also believes that FUSD schools should focus on increasing attendance, since their budget is based on the attendance of students. If more children attend FUSD schools, then the Board of Education will have more money to spend on improvements. However, according to Zhang, since 2018, school attendance has dropped, which could lead to a smaller budget for the School Board. Zhang is determined to help combat this issue by spending the FUSD budget in an effective manner, improving extracurricular programs that will encourage parents to keep their children in FUSD schools, rather than enroll them in private schools.
In recent months, the FUSD Board of Education has faced a number of controversies regarding cultural representation in school curricula and adequate health education. On the topic of whether non-white stories are emphasized enough within FUSD schools, Zhang thinks that all cultures and peoples should be represented fairly throughout the school’s curriculum. Once students reach high school, however, Zhang hopes that students will have discussions over topics such as racism and police reform, both within and outside the classroom.
With regards to sex education, Zhang believes that students should be taught the appropriate levels at different stages of school. In elementary school, students should learn about body functions, but there shouldn’t be a separate, dedicated health class. On the other hand, Zhang believes that sex education in high school should should include mental health and relaxation techniques on top of information about the gender spectrum, in a separate, dedicated health class.
Zhang believes younger students should be taught to love everyone equally, and that schools should focus on increasing students’ creativity and imagination, rather than push them to learn just to pass tests. In addition to this, Zhang hopes to help students reach their full potential by providing quality education for all students. This would mean providing extra support for students who are struggling, and supplemental lessons for students who wish to be challenged more.
Student mental health has been a critical concern for several years for FUSD, and Zhang believes that this problem stems from stressful school environments. She believes that schools focus too much on grades, and fail to encourage learning and growth as much as they should.
Zhang holds that “there is no failure, only detours.” She asserts that schools should teach students that failure is okay and is an opportunity to learn and grow as a person. She hopes that teaching this mindset will help reduce stress and anxiety levels in students.
To Zhang, another key aspect of encouraging a healthy school environment is proper counseling. She contends that school counselors must be qualified and prepared to deal with any issues students face, and thinks counselors have to be open-minded and attentive to the student body. If elected, Zhang would also focus on hearing more from students to get a grasp for school environment to allow the Board of Education to support students in any way possible.
RACE AND EQUITY
Recently, the racial disparities occurring within the United States have caused a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, bringing racial issues to the forefront of the nation’s politics. Schools have been targeted during this time of political tension, especially as activists accuse teachers of not doing their part in educating students about the racial issues that plague the country. In these troubling times, Zhang emphasizes the need for unity and respect. She insists that younger children should not be taught about racial differences, instead learning to love and care for everyone regardless of appearance. As kids grow and mature, however, she believes that open, healthy discussions on race should be encouraged between students to build a stronger community.
Zhang also thinks that a fair representation of all races within the school curriculum is essential, as mentioned earlier, and that there should be no emphasis on one race over another in lessons.
Zhang has not taken any particular position on the integration of special education students into regular classes, but wants to work with stakeholders to find the best solution to ensure that all students learn at their highest capacity. Zhang believes it is important to have an open mind, especially in a position such as a member of the Board of Education. By accepting others’ ideas, Zhang believes that the FUSD School Board can figure out a course of action that will benefit everyone.
Zhang also wants to provide open communication between parents, teachers, students, and the School Board. She affirms that by encouraging an open channel for all stakeholders to express their concerns to the School Board, the Board of Education will be able to better represent their interests and mold a school community that encourages growth and education among its students.
LEARN MORE ABOUT YAJING (RACHEL) ZHANG
Visit her website at: www.rachelforfremontschools.com
Check out her Facebook at: www.facebook.com/Zhang4schools