Claudia Sandoval’s life was forever changed when her children became survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.
She chose to end her 12-year veterinarian career to become an advocate for gun violence prevention. She and her family now live in Union County, where her three children attend Union County Public Schools.
Her investment in the community and passion for school-related issues prompted her to run for the board of education at-large seat.
“I think Union County kids deserve a bright future, so I’m running for the board of education at-large to ensure that every child has access to public education that promotes both academic excellence and social-emotional competency,” Sandoval said.
Along with promoting social-emotional learning, advocating for safety in schools will be a top priority for Sandoval if she is elected. For the last year and a half, Sandoval has advocated to the board as a member of the safety committee. She advises on evidence-based school safety programs.
Sandoval also recently started working for Sandy Hook Promise, which was founded by parents who lost their loved ones in the 2012 shooting. She gets to visit schools in North Carolina and educate students on how to speak up anonymously, as well as find warning signs regarding gun violence.
“I’m really proud in this role of the partnership that the state of North Carolina has developed with the Sandy Hook Promise in using their Say Something anonymous reporting system,” Sandoval said. “I get to go into schools and do a 45-minute presentation on knowing warning signs and threats with middle-schoolers and high-schoolers and helping them on using the anonymous reporting app. That, for me, is really rewarding and fulfilling.”
Another priority for Sandoval is ensuring UCPS gets the funding it needs, both from North Carolina and from county commissioners.
She hopes to work with county commissioners to accomplish this goal.
“I know it can be challenging, especially based on history,” Sandoval said. “My hope is to be collaborative with the county commissioners, but I want to be an advocate to get the schools the vital resources that I feel they need.”
She also plans to fight for teachers and advocate for holistic learning, rather than learning based solely on test scores.
“I feel that teachers have limited resources and they don’t really feel valued, so I think teacher retention is a big issue,” Sandoval said. “I also want to advocate for policies that promote whole-child learning that are less focused on testing and foster more curiosity and problem-based learning and where children can be engaged in their education.”
She thinks UCPS is moving in the right direction when it comes to preparing students for the 21st-century workforce and focusing on students beyond their test scores, so she wants to further these efforts.
As an at-large member on the board, Sandoval recognizes the diverse needs throughout the county, rather than focusing on just one area.
Throughout her campaign, she plans to attend various events and get to know as many people as possible. She plans to continue to get her name out there and hear all voters’ concerns. This, she believes, will make her a better candidate as well as a better representative.
She hopes that all students feel recognized by the board and feel that the board is on their side. She plans to showcase that from the at-large perspective.
“For me, advocating for all children as I feel like I’ve done with safety and with social-emotional learning and seeing my own experiences with my own children with what they’re going through with the stresses and anxiety of testing and other things, I really want to focus on empowering children to invest in their own education and feel like we’re investing in them as well,” Sandoval said. “I want all children to feel like they deserve this bright future and they’re capable of amazing things.”
Sandoval is the only Democrat in this race, running against Republicans Todd Price and Sarah May. However, she does not think her political party affiliation should sway voters one way or another. She prefers to separate herself in terms of what she can bring to the board, rather than her political party.
“That day I experienced tragedy, it didn’t matter what political party you were from,” Sandoval said. “For me, what separates me from the others is my passion toward ensuring that all kids have a bright, successful future. I don’t focus on party because I care about all of our kids.”
She also believes her previous veterinary experience allows her to bring unique skills to the board as a creative problem-solver. She plans to use her passion for kids, community and education to advocate for the policies that matter most.
“When I’m elected and when I serve on the Union County Board of Education, people of Union County will get a tireless advocate for our children’s education because I’m dedicated to every student having a bright future,” Sandoval said.