"how can the district approach equity and justice with honesty and integrity if it neglects and excludes the voices of the very communities it seeks to empower when these voices matter most?" - Board District 6 Candidate Marvin Rodriguez
A near-constant complaint about the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is that those who run the district do not listen to the constituents who are affected by their decisions. It is not unusual to watch board members play on their phones as the public attempts to express their concerns during meetings - if those elected officials even bother to sit in their seats at all. This was true when I started attending board meetings in 2015 and it is true today.
While inattentiveness during board meetings is symbolic of the difficulties that parents face as they try to be heard, it is not the only issue. The COVID-19 crisis has magnified the feelings of detachment that stakeholders feel, especially as decisions were made that seemed to ignore the needs of the most vulnerable students in favor of placating a vocal minority pushing an anti-mask, anti-vax agenda.
To understand how the candidates facing the voters on June 7 view issues regarding engagement, I sent the following questions to the email addresses that they have on file with the Los Angeles City Clerk:
- LAUSD Board meetings are currently scheduled during the same time that schools are in session which means that teachers and students, as well as most working parents, cannot engage with their representatives during these meetings. The Board Meeting Accessibility to the Public resolution was proposed to the board in 2019 and board members who were present at the meeting promised to look into these changes. However, no further action was taken. Do you support increasing community engagement either through this proposed resolution or through other measures?
- The district announced that Pio Pico Middle School would be shut down without including parents or the community in the planning process. Similarly, the community at Orville Wright STEAM Magnet was told without warning that their school would be evicted from their newly renovated campus to make way for an independent charter school. How would you ensure that local school communities have input into the decisions that affect their students
- As students struggled during the COVID shutdown, the Parent Engagement and Special Education Committees were not allowed to meet depriving parents of a much-needed voice. Do you commit to ensuring that both of these become standing committees that cannot be unilaterally shut down by the president of the board?
As was done with the series on Past Due Balances Owed By Charter Schools and Special Education, I will publish each response as a separate article. They will be presented in the order that they were received.
Up First: Marvin Rodriguez
Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with special education needs and public education. He is an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and serves as the Education Chair. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him "a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles." For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.