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Verland Coker


1) Do you agree with climate scientists that we are facing a climate emergency?

I prefer the term crisis

2) Do you agree with climate scientists that greenhouse gas emissions must be reversed by 2030 to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees and to avoid catastrophic runaway climate disruption?

I believe our goals should be much more much earlier

3) If elected, what specific policies or actions will you initiate in your first year of service to begin transitioning our schools away from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy within the timeframe set by the world's leading scientists?

Transportation reform and ensuring that the "rightsizing" efforts and infrastructure investments are green, carbon neutral, or carbon negative.

4) What are the current needs you see at APS or SFPS and how do you plan on addressing those issues if you are elected? What is your vision for the ideal relationship between communities and schools? elected, what specific policies will you initiate and support to transition our economy to a net zero carbon economy in the timeframe set by the world’s leading scientists?

Pedagogical Reform. While the teacher shortage and equity concerns are valid and will be addressed, without robust change in curriculum, pedagogy, and structure, APS will continue to uphold and perpetuate a 19th century school system that strips students of their creativity and agency, things needed for the 21st century. The community should be able to rely on schools as a safe and creative environment for youth and the broader community.

5) What role do you believe education has in preparing students actively contribute as community members and to address the issues inherited and faced by each generation?

The world is unfair and we have the responsibility to equip our students with the skills and capacity to combat that unfairness. We need to bolster their ability to come up with the creative and innovative solutions to the climate crisis and the repercussions of our current inaction. To me, this position and system is the most important and influential when it comes to creating a more equitable and just society.

6) What are the pressing issues facing young people today?

Mental Health, Climate Grief, Bigotry, and the inherent injustice of late stage capitalism and its chokehold on society, including APS.

7) How can a student's race, class, and gender impact their education?

It effects everything from how much your bullied, to how much teachers believe in your success, to how your teachers and administration determine discipline. Keep in mind that our systems and practices at APS are universally bad for youth and the intersections of oppression exacerbate the harm we inflict.

8)Do you plan on engaging students and families as a board member? How?

A personal Open Door Policy, routine community engagement, and prioritizing the stories, experiences, and voice of the youth at Board Meetings.

9) Describe your previous experience working on social/health/environmental justice issues, do you have experience working with impacted communities to co-develop solutions?

Most efforts in ABQ are focused on lobbying and convincing those in power to enact justice. In my experience, co-development is nearly non-existent or is weaponized to provide a veil of anonymity for malicious policy. As a result I promise to ensure a genuine, community-to-policy pipeline that focuses on those most impacted by the policy we create.

10) Many schools are majority students of color, and if they were colleges would be considered Hispanic Serving Institutions. Recently, that term has been challenged and critics are now calling them Hispanic Enrolling institutions unless they can clearly show how they have been serving students, their families and their communities. The measures used include graduation rates, matriculation in the next level of education, success at the next level, equitable participation in Honors or AP classes and programs, a teaching staff that is representative of the students' cultural/national backgrounds, a governing board that is also representative, a curriculum that is reflective and representative of their histories, languages and experiences, equitable resource allocation in curricular and extra curricular areas, and meaningful engagement in decision making around policies and budgets. How is the district doing based on these measures and what are your plans for improving on each of these?

Generously, only about 3% of Indigenous students from APS enter college without the need for remediation. This means that at any given time, there are only about 12 Indigenous High School students who actually get a complete high school education. As tragic and daunting such a failure is, I would argue that most colleges are also in pedagogical decline, with degrees becoming less and less valuable as time goes on. While College is *a* path to success it's only financially and pedagogically worthwhile for fractions of the student body. A renewed and 21st century focused curriculum will better prepare all students, not just those that are college bound.

11) The role of public schools is currently very contested in the US, with corporations insisting that schools should prepare (and help stratify) future workers, and extremist groups like Moms for Liberty pushing the idea that schools should eliminate any critical discourse, ban books and punish un-Christian and anti-American behavior. There is another important, and growing school of thought that says schools should contribute to the "success" of the communities they serve. This thinking, which relates back the progressive schools movement as well as traditional and indigenous education practices, sees schools as a community asset rather than a corporate or ideological tool, and insists that all communities (and their children) can thrive through asset based work rather than just survive with the help of basic services. Which of these three roles do you support, and why, and what are your plans for enhancing the district's progress towards those goals?

A transformation such as this requires a critical examination of the systems and policies that are designed around control, colonization, and the dehumanization of students. It's a long, arduous, and expensive process but one that will be required of us regardless of the regressive positions most candidates and politicians focus on. It's a wholesale reinvestment and mobilization effort to ensure that policy changes and infrastructure isn't just lip service.

12)There is another shift in demographics occurring, aside from the racial and ethnic base, that sees students concentrated in newer areas of the district and in overcrowded schools, and schools being underutilized in older neighborhoods. Districts are also losing students due to lower birthrates, displacement from gentrification, and the preference of middle and higher income families for public charter and private schools. As a result, districts are under pressure to close schools, consolidate enrollments, and sell off properties. All of these options have potential serious negative consequences. What do you see as those negative consequences and what do you propose instead?

To clarify, the very notion that birthrates or demographic shifts are at fault for low enrollment serves only to absolve APS of its responsibility in creating a city that is harmful and detrimental to our youth. My proposal is that we rebuild community trust and investment by being honest about our shortcomings and build a district around the idea of low class sizes and sufficiently staffed schools. While staffing and enrollment are valid issues, the solution is not austerity but rather a concerted effort to make APS something worth being a part of, both for families and teachers. We shouldn't be closing schools we should be doing our job as leaders and refuse to leave these communities behind.

13) What connections do you believe exist between our education system and environmental and climate impacts? How will you work to ensure our education system our education system has a positive impact on environmental and climate justice if elected?

We are running headfirst into a global crisis that will require our students to step up against the hegemonic structures that got us here. The skills they will need to do that are the same goals and outcomes of 21st century skills: Communication, Collaboration, Critical thinking, and Creativity. The transference of these skills from academia into their daily lives is the best way to ensure a just transition.

14) How do you see public schools playing a role in a just transition away from fossil fuels for NM? How will you help move this if you are elected?

Considering we have a budget larger than the City of Albuquerque and the State has 11 Billion dollars of oil and gas much squirreled away, I would say our ability to remove this influence would go a long way to free our education from being held hostage by oil and gas. This is largely a lobbying effort but our ability to acquire and maintain alternative funding, infrastructure, and resources will be the front line for APS' role in fighting climate change.

15) Is it critical to include Indigenous and Traditional Land Base Knowledge when developing a curriculum around climate change?

It's necessary as the 21st century pedagogy we need is the exact same as Indigenous Pedagogy

16)Define environmental racism in your own words and provide an example in NM

Weaponizing of resource extraction and colonial control that perpetuates hardships and directly/indirectly harms and oppress people of color. Biggest examples are the exploitation of indigenous lands to test nuclear weapons and the complete disregard for the health of our aquifers.

17) Do you believe climate action is an issue of intergenerational justice? What is the responsibility of your generation to the youth and future generations? Explain. you believe climate action is an issue of intergenerational justice?


Our responsibility to our youth is advocacy, preparation, and direct action. We not only have a responsibility to give them the best opportunity to take their future back but we must also act in the spaces we have power in to do the work now. Relying on the youth is complacency.

18) How can pollution and contamination impact schools and students? Do you believe it is the fossil fuel industry and utility corporations' responsibility for clean up?

I've seen polluted water come out of our schools and we've been excessively flagrant with our own waste disposal. While I believe it should be their responsibility to clean it up, I'd rather just fix the problem first and send them the bill later with collection through litigation or direct action afterwards.

19) Do you support the State Land Office’s moratorium/prohibition on new oil and gas leasing on state trust lands within one mile of schools or other educational facilities?


20) What is your opinion on the fossil fuel divestment actions from different educational institutions throughout the country?

We should be the one's leading the charge and showing other institutions what is possible.

21) Have you accepted any donations from fossil fuel companies or utilities? Yes/No


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