[The following piece was co-authored by four candidates running for local school boards and is a response to an image and slogan used by opposing candidates in online campaigning efforts. The graphic in question is pictured below.]

# # #

Dear Community,

McKinleyville Union School District (MUSD) comprises 3 school campuses with 974 students. The Northern Humboldt Unified School District (NHUHSD) consists of 5 school campuses with 1544 students. The Districts cover a vast portion of Humboldt County, from Bayside to Orick and nearly to Willow Creek.  

The families of the roughly 2500 students are diverse: we have English learners, foster youth, houseless youth, students with disabilities, and a high proportion of socio-economically disadvantaged students. We have students of all races, family make-ups, and circumstances, which brings us to the reason for our letter. 

Recently, community members shared with us that some of the other candidates for the NHUHSD and MUSD school boards used the phase “vote faces you can trust” in a social media campaign post. Whatever the intent of the message, its impact on members of the MUSD and NHUHSD communities was immediate. As adults who are committed to the social and emotional health of the youth of our community, we are concerned that this sends a dangerous message to our students, families, and staff. 

Youth are more likely to be successful when they see themselves in leadership. Families are more likely to engage when they see themselves in school settings. Staff are happier when they have leaders who understand the importance of cultivating relationships across differences. To insinuate, even unintentionally, that some faces are more trustworthy than others sends the message that who you are and what you look like is more important than your personal achievements and the relationships you build.

The truth is that one’s trustworthiness or self-worth as a member of the MUSD and NHUHSD communities has nothing to do with one’s face, appearance, race, gender, or socioeconomic status. Students, families, and staff put in the hard work to create an environment of inclusiveness and belonging every day in our Districts. You belong here in NHUHSD and MUSD, and we are candidates who will stand for your right to belong.

If you are a community member that wants to join us in building trust and relationships, please reach out; we would love to chat. And more importantly, let’s work together to teach our students these skills for the betterment of their future communities.

Nicholas Som, McKinleyville
Manuel Fonseca, McKinleyville
   -candidates for McKinleyville Union School District

Aristea Saulsbury, McKinleyville
Cedric Aaron Jr., McKinleyville
   -candidates for Northern Humboldt Unified High School District Board