School Boards in Action: 5 Questions with Dieema A. Wheaton, El Segundo USD

Dieema A. Wheaton, board president, El Segundo Unified School District in Los Angeles County

What are some promising practices taking place in your district?

El Segundo USD is committed to the overall well-being and mental health of our students. We offer a variety of programs and services to support students, including:

    • Trained mental health professionals at each school.
    • Partnerships with the South Bay Children’s Health Center and other non-public and nonprofit agencies.
    • A focus on social-emotional learning through the RULER program.

RULER is an evidence-based approach to integrating social and emotional learning in schools. It teaches students the skills of emotional intelligence, which includes recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing and regulating emotions. These skills are essential for teaching and learning, sound decision-making, physical and mental health, and success in school and beyond.

Our district is focused on making sure that all of our students feel seen, heard, supported and loved, and we are committed to providing the resources and services students need to thrive.

What are some ways the district is sharing positive news and/or support with families and the community?

El Segundo USD is committed to promoting parental and community engagement. We believe that strong partnerships between schools and families are essential for student success. We offer a variety of engagement opportunities and maintain strong relationships with our various stakeholders by ensuring accessibility, visibility and continuous access to board members.

To foster timely communication and increased engagement, our board members are assigned to subcommittees throughout the community. We also create opportunities for stakeholders to join our committees to provide additional input and oversight.

Lastly, our superintendent, Melissa Moore, sends regular emails to families to keep them informed about school news and events. These emails provide families with a way to stay connected with their schools.

What’s your ‘why’? What inspired you to become a school board member? 

The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it uncertainty and challenges. I knew that my professional and personal skills, as well as my passion for the El Segundo USD and my decade of experience as a PTA volunteer would be valuable in helping the district through those difficult times. I am grateful for the quality education that my three children have received, and this motivated me to run for school board so that I would do my part to ensure a legacy of success for the families that followed behind me. Three years later, I am proud to say that I remain committed to working toward the continued success of ESUSD.

What is one thing you’d most like to accomplish during your time as a trustee and why?

As a board member, my top priority is to ensure the overall academic success of El Segundo USD students. I know that this means balancing many different priorities, such as adequate funding, school safety, learning loss recovery, social-emotional support and more. However, I believe that it is essential to keep the focus on what matters most: providing our students with the education they need to succeed in a changing world.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I make the most of my free time by spending quality time with my family and friends and by engaging in community service. These activities provide me with opportunities to connect with others, to grow as a person and to give back to my community.

Responses have been edited for clarity and length.