Talking on the phone with Barbara Nunes, a member of Board of Trustees of the Fremont Union High School District was an honor. Nunes has served as a professor in the SJSU Urban High School Leadership Program for administrative credential candidates; as co-director of Tomorrow’s Leaders Today (a community program for teens); and as a representative on the National Merit Scholarship Advisory Board. She was employed by FUSHD for over 35 years and is caring, hardworking and passionate about her career in education. Nunes discusses her personal reasons for entering the welcoming field of education and what her job has been like a trustee on the board. She also shares memorable aspects of her work as well as learning experiences that helped her grow and succeed.
Q: What prompted you to pursue a career in the field of education?
Barbara Nunes: I took some business classes in high school. When I started college, there were many people in my accounting class that were struggling because they had no background in the subject area. I ended up doing a lot of tutoring. I thought, “Gee, I’m not too bad at this!” I was an accounting major and I had decided that was a little dry. I liked working with people and it seemed like I was helping my fellow students, so I switched my major to education.
Q: What did you most enjoy about your time as an educator?
Barbara Nunes: It kept me with a young attitude. There were so many students around all of the time. It was fun to watch them grow from 14-year-old freshmen into 18-year-old adults. I also liked working with the teachers and the other staff. I enjoyed the challenge of thinking about the ways we could improve how we did things.
Q: What are some of your responsibilities as part of the Fremont Union High School District Board?
Barbara Nunes: I’m vice-president this year. We rotate through the positions. The board sets policy for the Fremont Union High School District. We also evaluate the superintendent’s progress in terms of working with the staff. We work with the superintendent to set the goals and the vision for the district.
We approve construction. We did a lot of work on Cupertino High School’s new building. There were many meetings about what the building should look like, construction costs, and whether we could stay on budget while keeping it nice for the students. We go out into the community to talk to people about what they would like to have in the schools, and what they like about our schools. We oversee the budget. We approve policies, such as, whether the city can use the school fields for fireworks.
Q: What is the most important thing you’ve learned from working in education for a long time?
Barbara Nunes: You have to balance between listening to what the people want, and what the district can afford, and what best prepares students for the future. That’s not always easy. I keep up with professional information about what help students learn best. I try to keep up with technology to know what really works for students. The staff comes and tells us things that they’re trying and I learn from that. Even as a member of the school board, I’m always learning from teachers, and other people, and that’s important to me.
Q: As a woman, did you experience any difficulties or challenges in your career, or in being elected to the district board?
Barbara Nunes: A long time ago, probably in the 1950’s, women weren’t accepted, across-the-board, in any field aside from education. But, women were accepted in education quicker than they were in other professions; it was okay back then for women to be in an administrative position. The education field was a little bit ahead of the rest of industry and the glass ceiling wasn’t there as much as in other places. Now, women are accepted on the board. But, if you went into the Fremont boardroom and looked at the pictures of people who were there in the very beginning of the district, you would see mostly men. I do think that over the years, education stepped out first; it was a little easier for women than it might have been in another industry.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mahima Dutt is currently a high school senior in the San Francisco Bay area. She has enjoyed her time as a Mosaic San Jose Mercury intern photographer, school yearbook copy editor, President of Northwest Delegation (Youth & Government), and President of the Key Club. She wants to pursue a career in Journalism and Communication.