Santa Ana Unified School District Trustee Nativo Lopez was elected last November to a four-year term and was elected board president shortly after he took office.

This week, he looks back on his first year in office.

Q What has been one of the most challenging jobs as school board president?

A Trying to build a consensus of opinion as far as setting the direction of the district and policy. Also, trying to unite diverse opinions on what may seem to be simple issues but what turn out not to be so simple.

Q Is the job different than what you expected?

A It is. I wasn’t ready to deal with the operational policies such as expenditures, contracts, personnel and student disciplinary issues. They don’t seem like big items debated publicly but they are important day-to-day operational issues.

Q What is the most valuable skill you’ve learned?

A Working with people representing diverse opinions and backgrounds, such as professional and classified employees, board members and the community all at once. To me, that’s very valuable, to be able to listen to these opinions. Sometimes they are very common, sometimes they are very contradictory.

Q How have you ensured the effectiveness of the bilingual education program?

A I’ve asked that the district be in compliance with state mandates for bilingual instructors and that teachers are certified. Also, that instructors assigned to English Language Development and English immersion programs have appropriate training. The district has formed a consensus on these issues. I’ve also advocated more hiring of certified bilingual instructors, principals and assistant principals. It has increased significantly this year.

Q You said you wanted to add a fundamental high school in the district. Where do you propose it be built?

A Saddleback High School was considered as a possible site. However, meetings and surveys showed that it wasn’t the desire of the majority of the parents. So, it’s still open to question. If it doesn’t come to pass, I’m still committed to ensuring the demand be met in the next couple of years.

Q What have you done to create more accountability between trustees, teachers, district staff and parents?

A I proposed forming a parent academy at every school for training parents and that all schools have a parent organization. I’ve also asked that district include additional criteria for evaluation of principals. I’ve visited all but four schools in district to interview principals and observe the classrooms. I intend to continue those visits.

Q What are your views on Above the Mean and how it relates to fundamental schools?

A I support the concept 100 percent. ATM compliments the fundamental school approach as far as emphasis on basics. All schools will benefit from this approach. The fundamental school program will be strengthened as a result.

Q What are your immediate and long-range plans?

A My immediate goals are to continue pursuing all elements of platform I ran on. This includes pursuing implementation of ATM, improving the quality of English language acquisition programs and increasing parent involvement. My long range plans include pursuing a more aggressive school construction program, reduction of overcrowding and improving the academic performance at all grade levels.

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