"if the school board wants to represent a model of honest and transparent community engagement, it must take a more proactive approach at giving representation to the voices of the communities it serves." - Board District 6 Candidate Marvin Rodriguez
This is the second in a series on engaging the LAUSD community. Please read the first part for an introduction to the issue.
Marvin Rodriguez is running against an incumbent who has shown that she will go to great lengths to prevent parents from having input into the policies of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). In fact, within minutes of becoming Board President, Kelly Gonez announced that she would keep the Parent Engagement Committee from holding meetings. When parents pressed for a resumption of these meetings, Gonez responded that parents already had enough of a voice. She also reneged on an agreement she reached with the committee's chair, Scott Schmerelson, to restart the committee meetings when her political allies Nick Melvoin, Monica Garcia, and Tanya Ortiz-Franklin complained.
As a parent of two children who attend LAUSD public schools, as well as a veteran teacher, Rodriguez understands the frustration felt by the district's stakeholders when they feel left out of the decision-making process. It is, therefore, not surprising that if elected, Rodriguez promises to set a course that would "create opportunities of engagement to empower students, parents, and teachers as partners" with the district.
The complete response from Rodriguez is as follows:
As much as the LAUSD talks about engaging our communities as partners during the decision-making process, one would hope that providing opportunities to maximize that engagement was a priority. Instead, the LAUSD school board continues to silence the voices of our communities by refusing to schedule meetings at times when working parents can attend those meetings to share their valuable input in support of their children's education.
In the communities the district serves, especially our most vulnerable communities, there is a high percentage of parents whose work schedules conflict with scheduled board meetings. And they, like any parent, want to participate in the process to help their children succeed. However, the current schedule of board meetings forces parents in these communities into a situation where they must choose between providing for their families or taking part in the decision-making process regarding the academic success of their children. For parents who must work to provide for their families, the decision is clear, work.
The district boasts of a commitment to equity and justice in its efforts to uplift and empower our communities. But 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? The school board must be courageous, transparent, and honest if it is serious about empowering our communities. Our communities deserve nothing less.
As a board member, I look to expand access to community participation through an honest and transparent approach. I look to engage the communities I serve at every level. From the classroom to the board room, the goal is to create opportunities for engagement to empower students, parents, and teachers as partners in the decision-making process. I will welcome their input to ensure their voices are amplified as decisions that affect their schools and educational opportunities are made on their behalf.
At the school board level, I will support increasing community engagement through the Board Meeting Accessibility to the Public resolution. This resolution not only provides transparency but also equitable opportunities for our most vulnerable communities to participate in the decision-making process. It ensures board meetings are scheduled to accommodate the schedules of working parents and other members of the school community. Thereby becoming truly public in granting students, parents, and teachers a representation to voice their support or concerns regarding decisions or implementation of policies that affect them. I also commit to ensuring both the Parent Engagement and Special Education Committees become standing committees that cannot be unilaterally shut down by the president of the board. This will encourage parent and community participation as decisions on the health, safety, and success of their children are made.
Moving forward, if the school board wants to represent a model of honest and transparent community engagement, it must take a more proactive approach to give representation to the voices of the communities it serves. Otherwise, it risks becoming the governing body of the privileged few making decisions for the underprivileged many.
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.