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Women of Color Make Up Majority of New School Board

Published on Friday, November 11, 2022 | 5:04 am

The next Pasadena School Board will be the most diverse in modern history, and a super majority of the members will be women of color.

On Tuesday, Incumbents Michelle Richardson Bailey and Kim Kenne secured their seats in District 1 and District 3 respectively.

At the same time, Patrice Marshall McKenzie and Yarma Velászquez also captured seats in Districts 5 and 7.

The Board already was composed of a majority of women, but now with Velászquez winning the seat being vacated by Phelps, six-of-the-seven trustees are women.

Of the six women, four are women of color.

“The addition of two women of color brings the school Board closer to reflecting the student demographics of the district,” said Richardson Bailey.

About 80% of the students enrolled in the district are minorities. Four of the seven Board members are minorities, two are Black, one is Latina and one is Asian. 

The super majority comes at a time when women still struggle to make their mark in local and national politics.

Although more women are running for office they still face barriers their male counterparts do not face. 

“When there are fewer women on an elected body they tend to get scrutinized more,” said Felicia Williams, one of two women serving on the City Council. “It’s good there is a majority.”

According to the National School Boards Association, the first women to hold elected office in the U.S. were nominated to school Boards. 

Marietta Patrick and Lydia Hall were elected to the School Board of Ashfield, Massachusetts more than 60 years before the 19th Amendment was passed. 

“Diverse perspectives and experiences add value to the quality of policy making,” McKenzie told Pasadena Now. “I look forward to working with my new colleagues to serve the students of PUSD.”

McKenzie facilitated the The Black Student Success Task Force which was convened to address school discipline practices leading to disproportionate suspensions in black elementary schools students.

“While votes remain to be counted, I am honored that it appears in my favor that District 7 has chosen to elect the first-ever Latina to serve on the Pasadena Unified Board of Education,” Velászquez told Pasadena Now. “The diversity of our student population is one of the greatest strengths of PUSD schools. The Board will be stronger for better reflecting the lived experiences of our students and parents.” 

But getting there wasn’t easy, especially for Bailey. In the final month of the race, her contest against Pat Amsbry turned ugly over a mailer that Richardson Bailey said contained racial undertones.

She later received a cease and desist notice after a robocall by one of her supporters said there was no room for racism in the community.

Amsbry denied the allegations, but many community members sided with Bailey Richardson who was the sole African-American trustee at the time.

On election night, Bailey garnered 60% of the vote in the early results several post election results are due to be posted, but the results are all but final.

Bailey will serve as the Board president after she is sworn in next month. 

“As president, my focus for the school Board will be on leadership and culture,” Richardson Bailey told Pasadena Now

“Transformation is important at every level of the district and must be evidenced at the governing level as well as the classroom.

My plans for the district include working with district leaders, staff,  and parents to create systems of accountability and an environment of trust throughout the organization.”

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