Santa Rosa school board appoints Sonoma County attorney to trustee seat
Equity is the signature issue for the newest trustee on the Santa Rosa school board.
Alegria De La Cruz, 43, a Santa Rosa mother and chief deputy Sonoma County counsel, was chosen unanimously by the board on Wednesday night to fill the vacant area 3 seat, which represents central Santa Rosa.
During her public interview, she applauded the board's controversial decision last year to make college-preparatory courses a graduation requirement, which she said moved the ball on equity.
'I understand equity as both a process and an outcome and the two need to go hand in hand to make that happen,' De La Cruz said.
Originally from the Central Valley and the daughter of labor activists, De La Cruz moved to Santa Rosa about four years ago. She and her husband have two children who attend Proctor Terrace Elementary, where she serves as secretary of the school's English learner advisory committee.
'School is not just a place where you know your kid is going to get a decent education. For many, school is where you are fed. For many, school is where you are safe. For many, school is where you are not worried about whether or not ICE is knocking on your door,' she said. 'It is an amazing responsibility to take all of those additional responsibilities on and to recognize that those are now ours.'
De La Cruz played a key role during the 2017 wildfires in translating emergency public communications into Spanish. She also serves on the board of Los Cien, the county's largest Latino leadership organization.
'She truly understands what it is to be bicultural, what it is to be bilingual, and the importance to be able to bridge the communities that exist in Santa Rosa City Schools,' said Herman G. Hernandez, trustee on the Sonoma County Board of Education.
With the addition of De La Cruz, the seven-member board now has three trustees who are Latino — more reflective of a district where 60 percent of the elementary school students are Latino, according to state figures. The district last year voted to scrap at-large elections in favor of elections by trustee area, commonly known as district elections. The move came amid allegations leveled mostly by a Southern California attorney that the previous system disenfranchised minorities. Malibu attorney Kevin Shenkman threatened to sue if the board did not overhaul its election system.
'District elections were created for that purpose — so that the non-status quo could have a chance at sitting in those seats you sit in today,' Ana Lugo, director of communications and community relations at Community Action Partnership Sonoma County, told the board.
'I have not met someone with such a depth of knowledge about what equity actually is in practical terms,' Lugo said about De La Cruz.
The central Santa Rosa seat was vacated after Evelyn Anderson resigned from the board last month to fill the interim co-principal position at the Santa Rosa French-American Charter School. De La Cruz will be sworn in on April 24, and with her current term ending after the November 2020 election.
The three other candidates publicly interviewed at Wednesday's board meeting included Pamela Devlin, the founding principal of Maria Carrillo High School, who was endorsed by Anderson; Diana Curtin, CEO of Community Matters; and Mike Behler, owner of Behler Construction Company.
You can reach Staff Writer Susan Minichiello at 707-521-5216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story had an incorrect spelling for Ana Lugo's last name.