December 16, 2020

Newly elected SLC School Board representatives make history

By Moana Uluave-Hafoka

When I was a junior at East High School in 2005, my father, ‘Alama ‘Ulu’ave became the first Tongan to be elected to the Salt Lake City School District Board of Education. There were very few POC (people of color) who had ever served on the board. This was my first foray into politics, campaigning for my father on a shoestring budget of $100 and watching him win by a single vote. My family and I gathered to witness him get sworn in at the district headquarters. I remember the room was full and the majority of faces did not look like mine – both those in attendance and the line of elected representatives who sat at the front table. I never imagined that this elected body would become the most diverse in Utah.

In January 2021, four of the seven board members will be BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) – finally representing the ethnic makeup of the city more accurately.

Ethnic representation is not everything. The new board still needs to meet. The dynamics of diverse representation will be tested to see if, in fact, it is better than the past, but this has always been the experiment of American democracy. How will the new policymakers fare under the pressure of competing needs of parents, teachers, and students? How will their COVID response change or remain the same in 2021? Will there be an institutional shift? The proof will be in the policy.

Regardless, many people believe that this board’s ethnic makeup is a step in the direction of creating a Salt Lake City School District where every student feels that they belong. That’s a promise that the SLCSD has long stated. And the voters of Salt Lake City are now holding them accountable to live up to their own vision of “Excellence and Equity: every student, every classroom, every day.”