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San Juan Board Member At the Forefront of COVID Pandemic

Politics are messy. Far too often we hear about corrupt politicians who only care about power, rather than someone like Zima Creason– an elected official and persistent activist in the Sacramento community who stated in an interview, “We were elected by the people, not the establishment. I’m willing to piss off the power to do what we need to for the people.” 

Zima Creason was first elected as a San Juan Unified School District board member in the year 2018. She explains that growing up in South Sacramento, she didn’t see diverse representation in her representatives, which convinced her to eventually run for a position. She has been serving on the board since she was elected, using her position to learn more about the issues in the school system, and working tirelessly to turn them around. 

Mrs. Creason spent her first year on the board talking to students and teachers, seeking out ways to bridge the community. During her second year, she focused on what she could do to help improve special education services in the district. She continually stresses the importance of hearing the voices of all stakeholders including that of students, parents, teachers, and other faculty. 

Among other significant accomplishments, Mrs. Creason and the San Juan Board were able to implement a curriculum change in history textbooks to honor LGBTQ leaders. She says, “It was a wonderful thing that happened but [it] was absolutely heartbreaking the process we went through. At the staff and board level it wasn’t a question. San Juan passed with a unanimous vote. There’s districts who didn’t pass it that way… in Sacramento county.” 

Mrs. Creason also acknowledges that our school district has a lot more work to do in order to promote safe and equitable learning environments across all campuses in the district. One issue she is passionate about is the student “achievement gap”, where students of color don’t have the same outcomes as caucasian or asian students. She believes that it is not the students’ faults, rather that it is a systemic issue that needs to be solved in all districts. However she states, “I feel that our district is a lot more woke. Over the summer we had teachers assigning books on white privilege. I don’t know any other districts doing that.”  

Additionally, Mrs. Creason is deeply concerned about the racism that is still rampant on our campuses. She recalls news about black baby dolls being hung at El Camino and Swastikas being painted at Rio. She states, “No one deserves that anywhere, especially children, especially at school.” Her goal is to work to keep racism out of schools and make it a safe space for every student, regardless of ethnic identity. 

As a board member, not only is Mrs. Creason concerned with the internal issues in the school system, she is also one of the few people in the district at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic. Simply put, she says that it is terrible and extremely hard to be at the forefront of the pandemic. Afterall, pandemics are hard, and even after over ten months of being quarantined, no one has all the answers. However, because of her position, Mrs. Creason receives a plethora of mixed emails, some of them being insults, and others expressing gratitude for not opening schools back up yet. She states, “We have over 40,000 kids. No matter what decision we make, a lot of people are going to be very upset, and they’re taking it very personally.” 

Mrs. Creason says that regardless of people’s opinions, safety always comes first. Even though some parents want students to go back to school, she says that we wouldn’t have enough teachers because many of them don’t want to go back. “If we don’t have teachers though, then how does that work? I stand up for our teachers, this is their workplace, they do deserve to be safe too.” Many students and staff on campuses rarely hear about the pandemic from the perspective of a board member. Mrs. Creason is extremely concerned about student and faculty members’ safety and reminds people that the board has county protocols to follow before they make any major decisions. She believes that distance learning is the right answer. 

Mrs. Creason expresses her gratitude for teachers by explaining that though the district had been working on virtual learning for a couple of years and thought it would take a couple more years, distance learning was put together in a couple of months. She is proud of all the staff and teachers for working hard and accommodating students’ needs.  

Aside from the school and district level, Mrs. Creason has always been an activist and a strong advocate for several causes in the community. She is a part of Sacramento’s very own “Squad” (including Mai Vang, Tamika L’Ecluse, and Katie Valenzuela), nicknamed by the community after the D.C. Squad consisting of AOC, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib. All eight of them are elected women of color who are politicians and advocates for social justice. 

The Sacramento Squad started the “Pledge to Reject”, a pledge asking elected officials not to accept campaign contributions from law enforcement. This includes the sheriffs, corrections, the police force, etc. Mrs. Creason says, “Can we really reform a system that pays us? And even if we can, then what does that look like for the community who’s dying?” She says that if we want reform in our justice system, we need to start by taking money off the table and removing the conflict of values. 

In addition to law enforcement changes, she points out examples of corruption in local elections. Mrs. Creason recalls one of the members of the Sacramento Squad, Mai Vang, having over $100,000 dumped into her opponents campaign for a position on the Sacramento County Board, from a different state. Mrs. Creason states that she is extremely proud of Mai for winning the election, but is infuriated at the corruption. She says, “It’s not the power of the people. An organization shouldn’t be able to drown out what the people want. It’s not right and it’s just not fair. So we have got to figure out what we can do with campaign reform to make sure elections are fair.” 

Though Mrs. Creason and other elected officials are working to implement change, she does not undermine the value of student voices. She says, “Get loud, stay loud. I’m loving all the activism… Call electeds and the power on their stuff. Don’t let anyone get away with anything.” Recently students have become increasingly active on social media, using various platforms to express their beliefs. Aside from being active on social media, Mrs. Creason says students can get involved in leadership. The San Juan District has many boards and committees, and Mrs. Creason says that students should bring their voice to the table where decisions are made. “If there isn’t a position, then don’t take no for an answer. Make them make a student position. Because students’ voices MATTER… Pick a system. Get yourselves a seat at the table and run for something. Your lived experience qualifies you for a lot. Don’t let anyone tell you you don’t have the stuff to make it.” 

She calls all students to get involved, loop in friends, and make sure they know what they can do to get involved too. Mrs. Creason also emphasizes the importance of voting, both in presidential and local elections. She encourages students to reach out to candidates, ask questions, go to forums, and do everything possible to stay informed. 

Mrs. Creason says, “My door is always open. Just call me and we’ll figure it out together. A lot of people don’t know that they can just call their elected officials.” She can also be contacted at her San Juan email address: zima.creason@sanjuan.edu 

As a final note Mrs. Creason states, “Be kind. Because if we could lead with kindness, a lot of the troubles we have in the world can be solved… Do what you can for other people. Think outside of yourself.” 

To listen to the full interview on Project Masterpiece Podcast, click here

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