Rep. Shanthi Gonzales: Oakland School Board Vice President
Shanthi is a Bay Area native, born in Hayward, and raised there, and in Modesto and Castro Valley, where she went to Canyon Middle School and Castro Valley High School.
Shanthi grew up in an activist family, with a father who organized for Chavez and the United Farm Workers before going to law school to become a legal aid attorney for California Rural Legal Assistance. Her mother was a former preschool teacher who was a social worker with Alameda County for over 40 years. Shanthi grew up on picket lines, at protest rallies and community organizing meetings. She did her first phonebanking around the age of 10 for a progressive candidate in Hayward.
Shanthi’s first organizing campaign was during high school, when she was recruited to the No on Proposition 187 campaign by Californians for Justice (CFJ). Proposition 187, if implemented, would have denied access to any public services for undocumented families in California, including schools. While they did not defeat the initiative, they were successful in every precinct that CFJ worked in. She was hooked by the realization that her organizing had made a difference. She went on to work with CFJ on many economic and racial justice campaigns, launching a career in organizing and service to her community.
When Shanthi started her career, she went to work for SEIU United Healthcare Workers West, where she organized home care workers, most of whom earned minimum wage and no benefits prior to unionization. She realized how critical a strong labor movement is in creating economic security for low-income communities of color, and also discovered a passion for leadership development, which is the focus of her volunteer work in the community today.
Leadership development has been an important role Shanthi plays in the organizations she is involved in. She is the co-founder of the Progressive Education Leaders Network, an effort to provide greater support to fellow School Board members during their first year on their boards.
On the OUSD Board of Education, Shanthi serves as Board Vice President and serves on the Facilities, Budget & Finance and Charter Matters Committees, and serves on the Legislative Task Force and is the Board Liasion to the Audit Committee.
Prior to being elected to the School Board, she served as Vice Chair of the Oakland Library Advisory Commission (LAC), and helped to lead the victorious Yes on Measure D campaign, bringing $20 million/year in new funding for Oakland libraries in 2018. Previously she also served as Vice President of the Board of La Raza Centro Legal. Shanthi was also the longtime Organizer of the East Bay Spanish Language Meetup.
Shanthi is currently a freelance Leadership Coach and works for the League of Conservation Voters, developing their candidate recruitment and training work.
Shanthi studied Political Science and History in college at Cal State East Bay, where she worked for The Pioneer student newspaper, covering local politics in Southern Alameda County and also briefly served as Editor in Chief. She is very proud to be an alum of Cal State East Bay. She also has an MA in Political Science from San Francisco State University, and studied International Relations and Political Economy in a PhD program at the University of Maryland.
Shanthi has lived in Oakland since 2002, and has lived in District 6 since she bought her home in 2009.