After two new candidates and incumbent Alice Wong joined forces to challenge the SOGI policy, another candidate also pointed his finger at the school board’s approach in passing the policy last July.
Rahim Othman, a project manager and member of the Richmond Community Coalition, said he decided to run after feeling concerned about “divisiveness” within the community.
“It concerns me that what’s happening is more for political polarization – it is two worlds of people who feel very strongly about their ideology. I think this is not a healthy situation for our community,” said Othman.
“I don’t think anybody disagrees with the fact that each of us deserves protection and that people shouldn’t be discriminated against.
“Instead of this polarization, we should get common ground and try to resolve the misunderstanding between the two groups.”
Othman believes that the divisiveness originated from the way the SOGI policy was introduced and implemented by school board.
“To me, from a project management background, the current school board was not successful in bringing the community together,” said Othman.
“If I were there, I would not go and force the implementation of the policy until there was a majority agreeing on it.”
Othman said he recognizes the long consultation process the school board conducted before the vote.
“Whatever they tried, they either haven’t tried it properly, or they haven’t carried out the process properly,” said Othman.
“Many people will argue that there was a long consulting time, but whether those processes to engage people were efficient or not, I think there is a question mark.”
Being the chair of the Parents’ Advisory Council (PAC) of Mitchell elementary for three years, Othman said his is also concerned about the lack of engagement on school issues.
“This has been an issue for a long time,” said Othman.
“The school board should not only listen to them, but should also reach out to them to make them engage.
“One of the things on my priority list is to put programs in place that reach out to parents and youths, to educate them about civic policies and civic engagement, on a regular basis.”
Othman said he will also focus on seismic upgrade projects for Richmond schools if elected.