On April 8, 2015, Somos Independents sent out a press release with regard to Denise Elsken -- a school board member for the Martinez Unified School District. Chicanos / Latinos rose awareness when Denise Elsken (who has a blemished history, lack of transparency and downplaying the needs of certain schools) made controversial statements with regard to a school with high Chicano/Latino population.
Essentially we believe Elsken holds views unbecoming of an official in education when she suggested planting trees at La Junta School (because these kids were more "acclimated" to the weather) while a school in an affluent area should be deserving of new air conditioning. A petition with approximately 1000 signatures was circulated on social media to call or email Superintendent Rami Muth of the Martinez Unified School District. To date, Muth has not apologized.
Denise Elsken Of Martinez School stated:
“I would say 95% of the students at La Juntas do not have air conditioning in their homes. So whether that means those students are more acclimated and can handle a little more heat than the John Swett students — which I would say 95% of their residences have air conditioning in their homes.”
According to CBS San Francisco:
Denise Elsken supports putting A/C at the more affluent John Swett Elementary. But when it comes to lower-income Las Juntas, Elsken said $2 million would be better spent on education and teachers. She said “cool roofs” and shade trees at Las Juntas would keep students cool.
Today we are happy to hear La Junta students will be getting air conditioning. Activists working with us on the ground have organized a list of parents who are interested in better educational conditions. We have been closely working a group of parents but became frustrated when we learned brown kids were complaining of headaches, dehydration symptoms, and dizziness due to the heat and lack of heat. We encouraged the community and parents to file OSHA complaints. We received news from OSHA who then told us the initial investigation process would begin and they sent a letter to MUSD officials last week.
La Junta students are a big win for us and we know more than ever that the squeaky wheel eventually gets fixed. It is our goal and our mission to continue in working with the parents that are already organized as we get Spanish translators involved at the school board meetings and as we pursue better educational test scores for these children. Our work will continue as we pursue better testing scores at La Junta.