By Karen Wolfe, LAUSD parent leader.
Special to K12NN
Parent Watch: Some notes on yesterday’s LA School Board happenings
Parent representatives met with the Mayor’s office last week to express our concerns about the appointment of Melendez de Santa Ana. We pointed out that her political views and policy agenda conflict with the parents’ agenda, the voters’ mandate (both the school board elections and the Mayor’s race) and the far more moderate position Garcetti took as a candidate.
We were told the decision had been made but that all policy decisions would come from Mayor Garcetti, who has a track record as a city council member for having productively worked with schools in his district without interfering with education policy. However, news headlines like “Garcetti Picks Up Mantle From Villaraigosa” only underscore our concerns.
We were somewhat relieved to learn that she is not a Deputy Mayor, the highest positions of those advising the Mayor, but Associate Director of Education and Workforce Development UNDER the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development. As luck would have it, I ran into the Deputy Mayor at yesterday’s school board meeting. Again, she insisted that Ms. Melendez deSanta Ana would not be setting policy and that we would see the same Eric Garcetti that voters have known for years. Still, it was surprising that the school board’s ratification of her appointment was done on a consent calendar with no discussion whatsoever, not even a mention of her name. We will be watching closely to see whether or not the Mayor will leave education policy to the seven elected school board members.
If yesterday’s school board meeting was a preview of what is to come, parents have reason to feel confident in their representation. In the first board meeting since the elections, President Richard Vladovic’s tone alone marked a departure from the previous board. He repeatedly called LAUSD department heads to the front of the room to address concerns as they were brought to the board by parents and others. He stated his intention to convene a committee on parent engagement, headed by Board Member Bennett Kayser. His creation of additional committees promises more opportunities for debate and a deeper discussion of important issues, both markers of better decision-making. Additionally, he has stated that he expects the board to more proactively set policy rather than follow Superintendent Deasy’s lead.
The undertones of change rose most markedly to the surface when, late in the meeting, Board Member Steve Zimmer introduced a resolution that will press the state for relief from the implementation of Proposition 39, the voter initiative that changed state law to force neighborhood schools to move over and make room for unregulated charter schools on their own campuses. Public school parents have complained for years about the devastating impacts of the implementation. Next month, the board will vote on that resolution. As of this posting, the charter school lobby had not yet launched a massive PR campaign against it.