Cristina Puraci

Redlands Board of Education Area 4 incumbent Cristina Puraci wants kids back in the classroom as soon as it’s safe.

“That is my priority when it is safe,” said Puraci. “Distance learning is OK, but that is not what teachers signed up for, and everyone’s stress level is higher.”

Puraci, who lives in Highland, left Romania when she was 18.

“I always wanted to have a voice but couldn’t in communist Romania,” she said.

Puraci, a Republican, doesn’t feel her political affiliation and union membership are contradictory.

“I am my own person,” she said. “We have holidays, a five-day workweek and higher wages because of unions.”

A kindergarten teacher by trade, Puraci has worked in the Colton Joint Unified School District for 17 years. She now serves as the president of the Association of Colton Educators. She has also served the community on school site councils, PTAs and negotiation teams.

As for the pandemic, Puraci thinks Redlands Unified is handling it the best it can.

“The district is doing a good job, she said. “We handed out 16,000 distance learning devices and 500 hotshots. The curriculum was adjusted to only essential standards. We are focusing on social-emotional learning, as well.”

Puraci commends the district for rising to the occasion despite a lack of direction from the state.

“Things are fluid,” she said. “The lack of support only means that we have had to figure things out ourselves. The state gives us demands but doesn’t give us ways to carry them out. “

Despite the district’s impressive distance learning program, Puraci wants kids back in the classroom.

“That is my main goal,” she said. “We need to prepare. Teachers not being able to interact with their students in-person is hard. It breaks my heart every time to not have interaction with the kids. Not everyone has the same help at home, so the learning gap is unfortunately growing.”

On adding classes about race, Puraci said kids need to see themselves in the curriculum.

“We need to teach kids about inspirational figures from all backgrounds from kindergarten to 12th grade,” said Puraci. “There should be a better opportunity to learn about different things. High schools in Redlands have ethnic studies classes, but they are electives. They should be advertised better. My recommendation would be to wait for AB 331 to pass before adding required classes.”

The bill would add the completion of a one-semester course in ethnic studies, meeting specified requirements, to the high school graduation requirements commencing with students graduating in the 2029–30 school year.

“If we approve any classes before the state does, we might have to change them, so it is best to wait for the bill,” said Puraci.

Puraci said the district’s priority is learning, and funds for a new middle school are important.

“Some of our existing schools are old and need millions of dollars to fix,” she said. Cope Middle School is also at capacity.”

Puraci said the district would need 50% of the funds to build a new middle school if the state reinstates its matching program.  

“It would cost around $100 million to build a new school,” she said.

However, Puraci also feels a stadium for Redlands East Valley is important.

“If we can create a plan where we build the stadium in phases and still build a school, then we will,” she said.

Puraci said her top three priorities are a safe return to campus, addressing learning loss and social and emotional health.

“We also need to finish our STEM labs and improve our special education program,” she said.

Cristina Puraci

Age: 46

Education: Bachelor’s degree from California State University, San Bernardino. Multiple subject credential, master’s in education National University

Family: Husband who is a teacher at Beattie Middle School, son who is a teacher at Citrus Valley High School, daughter-in-law and 2-year-old grandson.

Area 4: North of Lugonia Avenue and east of Orange and Church streets and the east side of Highland.