CUSD Board of Education special election candidate profiles: Alex McDonald

Alex McDonald is one of three candidates vying for the Trustee Area 4 seat on Claremont Unified School District’s Board of Education in the July 25 special election. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

by Andrew Alonzo |

Alex McDonald, a 42-year-old family and sports medicine physician with Kaiser Permanente in Fontana, is one of three candidates vying for the vacant Trustee Area 4 seat on the Claremont Unified School District’s Board of Education. The special election is set for Tuesday, July 25.

The physician referenced his everyday work to explain his involvement in the race.

“Education is absolutely foundational to good health and my goal as a physician is to improve the health of my community,” he said. “So much of what I see in my office are the downstream effects of poor education: housing insecurity, food insecurity, unsafe neighborhoods and economic instability, chronic stress, you name it. All these pieces, which directly impact our health, are rooted in really poor education.

“If I can go work at Sacramento or at the school board and really focus on policy to improve education, then my efforts as a physician can be amplified a hundredfold.”

If elected, McDonald hopes to improve mental and physical health services and education for students and staff, advocate for better collaborative efforts between the board and CUSD stakeholders, and develop pathways to ensure steady student enrollment.

“I want to make sure that we really have the students front and center for everything we do, followed closely by parents and faculty too,” he said.

McDonald is treasurer of the San Bernardino County Medical Society and a trustee of the California Medical Association. This experience, along with the day-to-day responsibilities of his practice, help make him uniquely qualified to serve on the CUSD board, he said. And with collaboration among doctors sometimes tricky, McDonald hopes to replicate similar compromise efforts at the school board level.

“I worked on boards of directors and understand what a board of directors does and doesn’t do, really kind of setting that 30,000-foot policy lens and not getting into the nitty-gritty,” he said. “The [school] board is kind of that policy making group that is the liaison to the public, but that also helps hold the students and the staff and the superintendent accountable as well.”

Over the last few years school boards across the nation — including Bonita USD as reported in last week’s Courier — have been inundated by special interest groups looking to restrict students access to books pertaining to LGBTQ+ themes, racism, Black, Latino and Indigenous history, and other topics. McDonald, who has three children enrolled in CUSD schools, believes access to books and other forms of literature, thoughts or ideas should not be restricted.

“Education is about introducing students to different ideas and helping present sort of a balanced approach so that all voices are heard and understood,” he said. “I think banning books and limiting debate and limiting ideas is undemocratic and not appropriate.

“That being said, we need to make sure we are providing age-appropriate education and information. You’re going to talk to a 5-year-old about race very differently than you talk to a 15-year-old about race,” he added. “It’s important that we … make sure our curriculum and our education is age appropriate for both their physical and mental development. I think it’s really important that we create the appropriate framework and the guardrails to help students learn and educate, but also make so that it’s within a curriculum that makes sense and meets their needs as well.”

A product of Vermont’s Windsor Central Unified Union School District (then the Windsor Central Supervisory Union), McDonald is an advocate for public education. Despite being diagnosed with dyslexia in third grade, additional aid from the district’s special education program in the following years allowed him to catch up with his peers he said. “I base my professional success on a public education, which really met my individual needs.”

The 1999 Woodstock Union High School graduate earned a bachelor’s degree from Connecticut College in 2003. He graduated from The Robert Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont in 2008, and has been practicing family and sports medicine with Kaiser Permanente since 2012.

McDonald, his wife Ashley Zucker, and their three children moved to Claremont in 2013, in part due to Claremont’s highly regarded public school system. Ella Zucker, 13, attends El Roble Intermediate School, Penelope Zucker, 10, and Hudson Zucker, 7, are at Condit Elementary.

“I think the schools are absolutely foundational to the success of Claremont as a community as well,” he said.

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The Courier will profile each of the three candidates in the July 25 special election for the Trustee Area 4 seat on CUSD’s Board of Education. Next week: Aaron Peterson.


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