Last year, a parent in the Lake Oswego School District emailed the school board about his son, who was in middle school at the time, being called the n-word. Neelam Gupta, the newest member of the Lake Oswego School Board, said that was when she realized the school board needed to have more diverse representation.
"If not me, we needed to have someone who represents our changing community on the school board," she said. "It just showed the depth of the problems."
Gupta, who was the co-chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee before applying for school board, said she was planning to run for the board next year, but Rob Wagner's resignation expedited the process.
"When Rob announced that he was called to be the Senate majority leader, it just provided the perfect opportunity for me to accelerate that," she said.
Gupta has always had a passion for education and social justice.
"Part of who I am has been influenced by both sides of my family and both of my parents' experiences," Gupta said.
Her mom's parents were educators in India who ran a women's college and a women's secondary school.
"They were very dedicated to education and social justice," Gupta said.
She said her dad was the first person in his family to go to college, and the first to move to the U.S. to seek an advanced degree.
She was born in the Los Angeles area and when she was in preschool, her family moved to the Middle East where Gupta said she was able to witness the intersection of class and race.
Gupta attended college at the University of California, Los Angeles for her bachelor's and dual master's degrees. She was in college during the Rodney King trial.
"That experience for me is very reminiscent of what's happening right now," she said.
"I'm really excited about entering the school board at this time right after they passed the anti-racism resolution," Gupta said.
She said she realizes a lot of the actions in the resolution will take time and be an ongoing process.
"I would really like to see the school district come out with a few specific actions that they can roll out at the beginning of the school year," Gupta said.
She said she looks forward to taking a look at how equity can be threaded through every aspect of LOSD.
"Students are really hungry for learning about different cultures, for really creating a culture of inclusion and belonging," she said.
She added that there are wonderful teachers and staff in the district who also want to make changes, but they need help at a district level.
She said her experiences with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee, Lake Oswego Junior High Parent club, Lake Oswego Schools Foundation, Respond to Racism and LO for LOve have shaped her for her opportunity on the school board.
"The time is right … I'm really excited about the timing," she said.
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