Editor's Note: Soo Yoo is running for the two-year seat left vacant by earlier this year by Cerritos City councilmember Mark Pulido. The candidates looking to fill this spot include Mansour Meisami, Cindy Yen Chen, Lynda Johnson, and Soo Yoo.
Get to know your ABC School Board candidate Soo Yoo a little more through Patch's Q&A session:
Name: Soo Yoo
Educational background: B.A. UC Irvine, M.A. Westminster Theological Seminary
Current job/career: Founder/ Director Gateway Academy (provide academic tutoring and educational guidance)
Married? Children? Yes, I have been married for 21 years to my husband Sam, who is a Pastor of New Life Mission Church in Buena Park. I have four daughters -- Hannah 18 , Amy 15, Rachel 9, Abigail 7.
What city do you live in? I live in Cerritos and I have been a city resident for the past 16 years.
What is your favorite book? I have two favorite books that are meaningful to me. First, the Bible, which is a collection of books that address history, poetry, prophecy, philosophy, theology, humor, sarcasm, irony, music, drama, love tales, war tales, tragedy, laws, jurisprudence, songs, travelogues, sermons, warnings and prayers - all which help me to be a better person.
Another book I enjoy is Little Women, where the sisters and the mom stuck together during the difficult times of the Civil War. This story is heartwarming as it reminds me of my own family (four girls also), and we were the best support for each other while growing up.
What is something unique the public doesn’t know about you? I am multilingual (I am fluent in English, Korean and Spanish) and multi-cultural. The advantage of growing up in Southern California is that there is the opportunity to learn and engage in many cultures and languages. I enjoy working with people of different ethnicity and cultural background.
What term are you running for in the Nov. 8 ABC School Board election? I am running for the 2-year unexpired term.
Why are you running for a spot on the ABC School Board? Investing in the lives of young children is invaluable. I strongly believe in the importance of giving optimal education opportunities to our kids. This is the reason why I see the value of serving in the district. My passion and dedication in working with students and parents will help enhance the district.
What is your personal experience or personal ties you have with the ? Hannah started with Heritage Park Tot Lot in 1996, , , and one daughter attended , with another daughter choosing to attend . We benefited from the various programs offered throughout the district and the city recreation programs.
I am also a regular speaker for PTA sponsored College Prep seminars throughout the district.
I was instrumental in supporting fundraising to support the Cerritos High Girls Tennis Team (under the leadership of Coach Alvin), to make up for the budget cuts, in order to purchase balls and other materials.
I have also supported the ABC High School newspapers by buying ads from Gahr HS, Whitney, Cerritos.
Because you are the Founder/Director of Gateway Academy, there are some who believe that this creates a conflict of interest in your desire to be elected to the School Board. Do you agree or disagree? I disagree with the few who raised this question. First, in the last 16 years of operating Gateway Academy, our company has never engaged nor will engage in a business transaction with any of the ABC Schools nor the district itself.
When Gateway first started 16 years ago, it was an after school tutoring center and majority were the ABC district students. Today, the majority of Gateway students come from other neighboring cities such as Cypress, La Palma, Fullerton and Irvine. Over the years, Gateway developed programs such as College Admission Consulting which attracts particular clientele.
When I am elected, I only foresee myself providing educational seminars and resources to the parents and the students from the wealth of my 16 years of experience in the education business. I do enjoy working with different communities, to educate and empower the parents. I strongly believe the parents are ultimately responsible and accountable for their children. My experiences in working with the students and parents will only serve as a positive asset to the school board.
In your opinion, what is the most critical problem that the district faces? The most critical problem facing the district is the state stealing money from all school districts and local governments to balance their budget, during these difficult economic times.
How do you feel about the district’s push to hire specialized and professionally trained individuals, such as counselors? Is this a necessity? I do agree with the district’s push to hire more counselors.
Counselors play a critical role in guiding the students academically as well as providing the future direction. The counselors have access to each student’s transcript which allows him/ her to diagnose any problem, such as a sudden drop in grades or improvements. This allows the counselors to intervene and help a failing student as well as provide challenging programs to those students who excel academically. The counselors also play a key role in supporting the relationships with the teachers, students and parents. When there is a problem, conflict, or misunderstanding, it is critical to understand the school policies, available programs, alternatives and the counselors can work with each family according to the needs. However, the reality is that there are too many students assigned to each counselor. It may not have been the case 30 years ago, but today, our children have more need in this area than ever before due to the increased distractions in the past decade.
Should the district have to undergo another round of budget cuts, where should the cuts be made? The district so far has worked efficiently to balance the budget. The next thing the district can do is to look for creative ways to generate income within the district such as renting out the facilities and the properties. The district also needs to work with other school districts to apply pressure to the State Legislature to stream line the state bureaucracy so more of the education dollars get down to the school district. By doing this, the various districts could potentially have an increase in our budgets as roughly half of the federal and state money spent on education does not get down to the local school district.
What is your stance on implementing more career-oriented and technical study courses in the school curriculum? As an Academic Coach, I had the opportunity to counsel and work with thousands of students. The more I work with students, I am convinced that not everyone is College bound, there are so many students who are gifted and interested in pursuing a non-academic career. These courses also provide for students going to college a set of skills that they can use to help them earn their way through college if scholarships and loans are not available or acceptable options (as may be the case with loans.)
I am committed to help these students from falling through the crack, by guiding them and directing them to different career path opportunities. This may include finding a way to expand the District's ROP classes, where the students have choices.
What sets you apart from the other candidates? My 16 years experience as the founder and director of a private academy, I have had the privilege to work directly with students and parents extensively which allowed me to develop insight and understanding of the school, teachers, and the district.
If elected, what will you do to make a difference in the district? As my campaign slogan states, “Think students First”, I would like to strengthen the existing programs to educate the parents and implement an effective method to communicate with the parents. By doing so, we can support and collaborate with teachers, students and parents to optimize academic achievement.
If anything, what needs to change in the district? We need to keep up the good work. However, there is always room for improvements. As my campaign slogan states, “Think Students First”, I would like to use my experience working with parents and students to successfully reach their full potential by expanding on a district program. Currently, the district works with a limited number of parents, mostly high school age students to improve their academic success. I want to start with parents as their children enter kindergarten and the early elementary years to teach them how to better help their children succeed academically. We can accomplish this by having each school meet with the parents to share with them the principles and ways to work together to be successful.