Joe Otto

Joe Otto is one of nine candidates vying for three spots on the Bonita Unified School District Governing Board. Photo: Rommel Alcantara

What inspired you to run for School Board?
As a parent, I have always tried to be involved in my daughter’s education. When she started Kindergarten at Oak Mesa I immediately began looking for opportunities to become more involved! I truly just want to be involved and make a difference. I love this district, I love this community. I am friends with many teachers and staff in our schools, and I see the impact they are making, the tireless and often thankless work they do. I see this, and it makes it even more clear to me that I have an opportunity and a duty to help and be involved as much as I can be. Regardless of whether or not I am elected this cycle or not, I plan to continue to be a voice and a force for good in this district.

What experience do you have that would make you a good board member?
As the Chairman of the Oak Mesa School Site Council, PTA Historian and Board member, I am familiar with the workings of the school administration; however, as a small business owner who lives with and serves the people of La Verne and San Dimas, I know what it means to work hard for our community. What I lack in political experience, I make up tenfold with dedication to this district. As the father of a six-year-old who will attend Bonita district schools through high school, I am committed to the continued success of all Bonita schools. As the manager of a diverse and amazing group, I know firsthand what it means to make tough but necessary decisions. In these uncertain times, we all must be ready to make difficult decisions. I am ready, able, and willing to speak for our parents, our teachers, our staff, and our community to make tough decisions. I will represent us in maintaining and raising the level of excellence that Bonita Unified School District has accomplished. I will bring a fresh voice, passion, and dedication to our district, and I am excited to contribute positive changes.

What do you think we can do to keep our students safe and savvy in a more digital and technological environment?
Social media use has exploded in the last ten years: platforms like MySpace, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, and TikTok have become the dominant forms of communication, and in this time of social distancing, social media is not going away. My daughter can already work the Facebook Messenger for Kids app on her tablet to video chat with her friends, and in March she also learned how to navigate her Google Classroom quicker than I could have ever expected. We need to adapt to social media as the standard mode of communication where the formality of in-person meetings are not required. Our students must also learn how to protect themselves online. We teach our kids how to look both ways before crossing the street, but are they being taught how to protect their personal information online, like their full names, their birth dates, or passwords clues? Are we teaching our kids not to post their address or contact information on public sites? Our kids need modern and age-appropriate training to protect themselves online. 

What milestones would need to be reached in order for you to be comfortable with schools reopening and staying open?
As much as I wish that everything could go back to normal, it is imperative that the life of every single child, teacher, and parent of Bonita is protected from the virus. I want schools to reopen, but the health of every kid, friends, family, teacher, and staff member must come first. Any preventable loss of life to this district is unacceptable. More importantly, the board does not create law; they are not legislators. They create policies based on the laws handed down from the government. The state of California mandates distance learning, and our district is complying with the law of the land. If elected to the board, I would advocate for reopening the schools only when we know with certainty that it is safe to do so. We may not be able to override the state mandate at this time, but we can refine our own plans and technologies to ensure that, as soon as the law changes or offers alternatives, we are ready to move on! 

What other top issues do you care about?
As a contractor who also went to college I think it is CRUCIAL that we give our kids the opportunity to take whatever path makes them happy. When I was in school the overall attitude was: “If you don’t go to college you will never be successful.” While I whole-heartedly believe college is a wonderful goal to strive towards for many, the fact remains that for some students college may not make sense. We need to give these students options. We need to remove the stigma of trade school. We need to support these kids even when it seems unconventional

What is an interesting fact about yourself that your supporters may not already know?
I am that Dad who cries, and I am not ashamed! These are insanely emotional times. It breaks my heart seeing our kids miss out on the normalcy we have all taken for granted.  Let’s not be afraid to address our feelings of negativity, and move forward from a place of compassion. Most importantly, let’s be kind, if not for our own sake, for the sake of the little ones who are watching how we handle this situation.

Interviews were edited for clarity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.