Natrona School Board Interviews: Bujosa and Schmidt
This is the fifth article in a series of interviews on the 15 candidates running for the Natrona County School District (NCSD) board of trustees.
Fatima Bujosa has two children, an 18-year-old and a 21-year-old, and has been retired for the past six years.
She decided to run because she was encouraged to by several close friends.
"I was encouraged, so I went with it. Really close friends encouraged me when I was volunteering a lot at the schools," Bujosa said ".They were like 'oh you care about the kids,' that's what they said. I care about children and I really want to be there. And I like working in schools, and helping and volunteering. I do like that. It was some years ago, they were like 'your life is so busy to add something else.' But my kids are older now, so I could put more time."
Bujosa said she believes it's important to support teachers in the NCSD and not take money away from schools.
"It seems like any time there's an issue with the budget, we always take away from public schools," Bujosa said. "And we need to stop. We make it hard for parents, for the community, and for the children. And they're our futures, so let's push them up. Let's elevate them, give them what they need, you know. The arts back, trade again, like I said, just something to enjoy school. Support the teachers because you don't want to lose them, you know...I was a teachers assistant, it's hard work, and teachers need that. They need people to support them, to be on their side, to be their champion. And I want do that for them, they deserve it."
Bujosa said she likes the Pathways program and hopes to expand the program if elected.
"I do like Pathways, my daughter went there, and she did the veterinary program, and I love it, and I think we need more community involvement in there than we have," Bujosa said. "They were having like a horticulture class, and they were selling plants, and I was like we need to like really get this out there, let the parents and the teachers come...we also need to make sure we have ways for kids to get back and forth. I don't think there's issues about bus drivers, but just making sure kids can get to that program and then have more electives so people can actually take them because if you only have one, well I mean you know how many kids go to these schools? Thousands of kids and they don't get a chance to take some of those electives, and that would be great. I don't know, I would have to work with the board to see how to implement that change and how to add more resources to it."
Bujosa said she's against banning books because there are kids that want to be able to see themselves in these books.
"I don't like banning books. You hear it everywhere in every school district in every state and I think you want to give access to the people who are looking for things like that," Bujosa said. "Accessibility is important at every stage, at every kid's life stage and imagine if it's like 'well sorry you can't read this book,' and you're like, why? It represents me. These books help representation and helps guide people finding themselves in it, helps them realize they're not alone. So I think that's important. I read To Kill a Mockingbird, these are classics too and it shows you the past ideas. These are things, especially the old books, these are what people thought back then. How does it relate to now, has anything changed? These are good topics that make you think."
Mary Schmidt, a mother of five and a member of Moms for Liberty, said she's running to get certain books out of school libraries.
"A year and a half ago I started going to school board meetings because of the COVID situation, the masks, and I just didn't stop going. I discovered there were a lot of things that wasn't being addressed academically, teacher's issues, and I met a lot people that brought other important ideas. The porn, other things that have been occurring in the school district, that prompted me to say, well I guess nobody else is stepping up, so I will...I have four objectives, and they are the porn in school, get rid of it, and make the process of selecting books a lot more community-driven, not one person. And the second item is to stop the sexualization through social-emotional learning, those programs, the social identity, I want all that stuff out. The district office cleans that up, makes sure things are running the way they're supposed to be. And then the fourth one is teacher retention. Meet with their staff, the janitorial, and the food staff, and find out what's really going on in these schools. No administration, no principals, just find out from them directly."
Schmidt said that librarians should reach out to parents if children want to access difficult subject matter.
"It's social engineering. They're a child, they're human beings, they should have books to read, but it is not the librarian's job to ensure that because a child has a curiosity about a sexual issue or certain issues that they provide everything for them, especially if it's a controversial side. They should contact the parent and say 'hey look, your child was looking for this,' they're supposed to have forms to contact and to have this communication with the parents and they should be able to contact them and say 'hey you're child was looking for this, you might want to talk to them. They should get direction from the parents on how you'd want to proceed.' And that's the way it should be done...the families are the ones that are ultimately responsible for the child."
Schmidt said that she thinks it would be good for a committee of people to decide what books are allowed in libraries so that diverse viewpoints can be represented.
"Perhaps if we had a committee that represented that school, perhaps we'd have a little more people interested or varying viewpoints that could come in because it's not also just that. If you look at the list of books, there are questionable ones. They say they've got fair and balanced, for lack of a better term, I would disagree with that. I look at some of the books on that list and I think, well wait a minute. I use the classic example of, they have RGB, the Supreme Court, they have her book in there, her biography and it's fine. But do they have Clarance Thomas? They don't have Clarence Thomas. His biography is an incredible read, it's great, but he's not on there. So there are some discrepancies there on what's actually fair and balanced, and that's why. It's human nature, that if it's your decision you're gonna go to your viewpoints, it's just human nature. And that's why we always have varying viewpoints that are brought into decision-making, and that is not the case here."
Schmidt said the decision for a kid to be trans should only be between the family and their doctor, and that even if parents are unsupportive of their child being part of the LGBTQ community, the school shouldn't make decisions based on exceptions.
"If the family wants to take their child and show them these books if the family wants to do these things, that's their decision. That's up to them. It's not up to the librarian to determine that this child needs this prodding along, it's up to the parent. It's not up to the school counselor, it's not up to the teacher, it's really outside of the scope of education. If the family and the psychologist determine that's what needs to be done, that's their business, it's not mine. Not yours, not anybody's. But that family's decision. The problem is that decision is being taken outside of the family, and that's where I differ. Families have the ultimate say...You don't create policy based off of the minority, the exception, you don't create policy based off of that. You deal with the exceptions on an individual basis."
She also said, when asked if books like Gender Queer make more kids transgender, that it's "an influential factor without proper representation," which she clarified to mean "If you want to be trans and go forward with this, this is the effects, the physical effects. Not that a child could really totally grasp and understand that concept."
Schmidt said she wants to get to the root of the problems that teachers and other school staff are experiencing.
"I don't necessarily think it's money. Any teacher I've spoken to has never said it's about the money. So I want to take the teachers from all the schools, the teachers, the janitors, the like I told you before, everyday people just sit them down in a room, without principals, without administrators, without district employees, push all of those aside...And I'm hoping, and I'm sure it won't happen instantly, but I'm hoping to build that type of relationship so that they can feel comfortable, know there's no retaliation that can happen from me, nothing. I truly want to make their day easier. But I have to find out what that entails. What is it? Is it discipline? Is it bureaucracy? Is it compliance? Is it that they have no time to focus? Is it the curriculum? They don't like that they have to do all this work? It could be numerous reasons why, I want to find out why, and then we can go from there and figure out how to solve that problem."