The #1 source for news for Dominion High School students and the Dominion High School community in Sterling, VA

DHS Press

The #1 source for news for Dominion High School students and the Dominion High School community in Sterling, VA

DHS Press

The #1 source for news for Dominion High School students and the Dominion High School community in Sterling, VA

DHS Press

Q&A with At Large Candidate Michael Rivera

Rivera talks school safety, policy changes and more.
Cynthia Gonzalez
School Board At-Large candidate, Michael Rivera, sat down at Dominion for a Q&A regarding his campaign.

Why should people vote for you?

I understand that students are different today than when I went to school. However, education is still objective and we really should stick towards giving students the tools that they need to be successful in life. My campaign is about restoring education, respecting parents’ rights, their religious rights, their constitutional rights in the Code of Virginia, to influence the education of their children. [I want to] work with teachers to make sure that their quality of life is good, so that we can retain good teachers.
You need to discipline kids according to what they do. Making sure that firearms are locked up properly at home, educating parents about safe gun storage and things like that and working with the school resource officers to build relationships with students. But again, it’s all pretty simple; Let’s just get back to education. Let’s get the politics out. Let’s get the ideologies out. Let’s get the rhetoric out. Even to the point where we should probably be listening to students to understand what their issues are, free from influence from adults, because what I see is a lot of adults are telling students what to think. That’s not necessarily true across the board, but that’s something that I see.

What motivated you to run for school board at large?

I got involved about three years ago, where my son was, in Harbor Park, and he was shown a video that claimed that the United States is systemically racist. I was curious as to why [the school] would be sourcing instructional materials, or videos like that, for kids from a news outlet on the West Coast. I said ‘why are they showing this to kids?’ As I peel the layers of the onion back some more, I found out about equity initiatives and things going on in the school system that parents weren’t necessarily in line with, followed by the sexual assaults at Stonebridge, and Broad Run and I’ve been involved ever since. My wife and I talked about it and we decided that I would get involved to help represent our family and other families to ensure that kids get a high quality education free from political ideologies and a lot of personal things that some of the board members have been putting forth.

School Safety is the first issue on your website. Why is the most important issue facing LCPS? And how is it applicable at the high school level?

(Photo: Cynthia Gonzalez)

School Safety is important to me as a police officer and because as a parent dropping my son off at Heritage, I don’t want to worry about what’s going to happen in the school. I don’t want to worry about his safety, I should be more concerned about his academic successes. And no parent should have to worry about the safety of their child in the school. I think it’s important to all students because if you look at the news, there have been instances where people have gone into schools, with firearms, with bad intentions. And basically students are sitting ducks, right? So it shouldn’t be something that you should be concerned about. But it shouldn’t be something that you’re worried about. You shouldn’t have to think about ‘am I going to be safe today?’ We should just make sure that the K-12 public school system should be completely safe for you to have an environment to learn without worrying about what’s going to happen.

Are there currently any policies regarding safety or discipline that you want to review?

The grading policy that says you cannot give less than 50%. I think it’s for grades six through 12. We need to look at that. Let’s just be clear, I’m not in favor of failing students. What I am in favor of is scholastic merit. So if you are a high achieving student, you should be recognized, you should be congratulated and you should be challenged to continue your learning at higher levels. If you’re a student that’s struggling, you should be given the resources to be able to overcome that. We have to make sure that all students get what they need to succeed. That’s a policy that hits home with me, because it doesn’t prepare you for life. It’s the grading policy, it doesn’t prepare you for life.
Governor Younkin recently put out new Virginia Department of Education model policies, which challenge the prior administrations model policies and go a different direction. We need to look at how that affects our school board and our school system, and how we need to adjust our policies here in LCPS. In the constitution of Virginia, parents have the right to influence their child’s education in their upbringing, it’s in our constitution. So to say that parents should be excluded from anything that’s happening with their children, whether it be a mental health issue, or a bullying issue, or an academic issue is categorically in conflict with that. There are some policies that say, we’re not going to tell parents about this. I disagree with that wholeheartedly. As a parent, I want to know what’s going on with my son. Minors rely on their parents to protect them, and nurture them and do things in their best interest. We as parents will be with our kids, for their entire life, school counselors are only going to be there for a year or two. What happens if life changing decisions are made to a child in K-12?

You also listed supporting educators under your like top priorities, how do you plan to support educators? What resources do you want to make available?

Right now what I’m hearing from teachers is [that they deal with] overburdening from the administration, a lot of paperwork, a lot of continuing education, a lot of testing, SOL testing and things like that. Immediately, a lot of people default to ‘well we got to pay teachers more money.’ They’re not necessarily going to be happier that it’s a band aid, and it only has a finite effect on a person’s overall feelings. I think that we need to work closely with teachers to understand exactly what is wrong. I have always said that we need to look at the whole teacher experience, which includes discipline, maybe dress codes, grading policies, paperwork and administration, testing,curriculum in some cases. So we need to do a better job at involving teachers in the planning and deployment process of things that affect their daily life.

How are you planning on making teachers feel more comfortable speaking out about issues without fear of retaliation?

I believe that teachers should have the ability to bargain collectively as a professional organization, because they deserve it. They’ve got their college degreed professionals, they are hired to do a professional job, and they should be represented so that they get the things that they need to be successful. I don’t necessarily believe that de facto should be a teachers union. What I would advocate for is a process by which no less than three organizations that are able to represent teachers are allowed to solicit all the teachers and the employees and say, ‘This is what we offer, this is the insurance that we offer, these are the things that we can do for you.’ I would like to see a vote from all of those people that are going to be affected, with at least a two thirds majority to adopt one of those three organizations. I’ll say this, if at the end of that process, two thirds of the population says we want a teachers union, then so be it. Right to be but at least you had a fair process to get there. I think the bus drivers would also fall into that union. I think the cafeteria workers may also fall under that union. So regardless of whether you voted to be part of that union, once it’s in place, you will be part of that union.

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About the Contributors
Alla Abdelhalim
Alla Abdelhalim, Assistant Editor
Alla Abdelhalim is an Assistant Editor currently serving her second year writing for DHS Press. Alla is a senior that has been involved with the journalism program since her freshman year. Along with Newspaper, she is also in her third year of photojournalism and is excited to move on to higher education next year.
Cynthia Gonzalez
Cynthia Gonzalez, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Cynthia Gonzalez is Co-Editor-in-Chief, and is a senior serving her fourth year writing for DHS Press. Her favorite pieces to write are ones relating to Latin and Hispanic culture and mental health. You can usually find her listening to her endless Spotify playlist of spanish music or on the pickleball courts.

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