School Board Elections Have More Impact Than You May Think

School Board Elections Have More Impact Than You May Think
WRITTEN BY BRYTNEY REAVES

The upcoming Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) School Board election for District 1 spotlights the vital role school board members play in shaping the educational experience for the district's youth. Instead of casting votes arbitrarily based on appealing names or specific ethnic or background affiliations, Suite Life SoCal urges a more thoughtful evaluation. Now is the opportune moment to actively leverage collective influence on the environment in which our children are nurtured.

George McKenna spent the last 10 years being the District 1 representative and has been praised for his steadfast commitment to educational excellence and community engagement. Most known for his work with Washington Prep, his consistent advocacy for equitable access to quality education for all students inspired the 1996 film The George McKenna Story. Now planning to retire, it is up to the District 1 voters to select a new board member who will champion policies (like the ones that fund the Black Student Achievement Plan) that enhance educational opportunities. In today’s era, it is more than essential for the community to now use its voting power to shape the educational landscape, keep policymakers accountable, and empower students to reach their full potential.

The school board, composed of seven members, establishes policies for the second-largest school district in the nation, overseeing the education of approximately 420,000 students. The board passes the district's $10B annual general fund budget, despite limited control with programming and day-to-day administration. Additionally, the board supervises, selects, terminates, and assesses the superintendent. Board members also write and revise policy to ensure implementation across the district. Electing a representative with that much control should not be a thoughtless act.

District 1 includes Chinatown, Echo Park, Westlake, Pico Union, Koreatown, Lincoln Heights, MacArthur Park and other areas. Diversity is abundant in the district. It’s up to residents to discern who can and will accurately present the unique concerns a culture-rich community requires to thrive beyond its daily struggles. The elected school board members must be attuned to the needs and aspirations of the people while effectively advocating for equitable access to quality education. So, Suite Life has reached out to the D1 candidates to find out what residents can expect during their tenancy. To read more information about each candidate, click on their name.

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Kahllid Al-Alim is a community activist and parent of two former LAUSD students. According to his website, his main focus is on “parent engagement, ending the school-to-prison pipeline, and making sure every single child in BD1 gets the resources they deserve.”

John Brasfield is an educator and coach who believes that the LAUSD isn’t too big to manage effectively and is up for the task. He plans to improve student safety, increase reading and math proficiency, and reinforce transparency.

I'm pursuing a position as a school board member to be a catalyst for positive change within the LAUSD community. With roots in the district, spanning over two decades of employment and diverse roles, I possess a comprehensive understanding of its intricacies and challenges. Through collaboration with local agencies and active engagement in community events, I aim to gather valuable insights and create tailored opportunities to address the diverse needs of students and families. By fostering partnerships with local committees and school leaders, I intend to establish transparent communication channels and streamlined procedures.

Dewayne Davis is an educational strategist, adjunct professor at Columbia University Teachers College, and former classroom teacher and principal.

“Receiving an education in a safe, supportive, and clean school community where students are appropriately prepared for life is a basic right! Education lifts people out of poverty, diminishes inequalities, and prepares people to be productive members of society. Nearly sixty percent of our students do not meet performance standards in Language Arts, and over seventy percent do not meet performance standards in Mathematics. And for District One schools, the performance is far worse! We must do better than that… Our students and communities deserve better. Together, with community support and unwavering, tested, and proven leadership, we can change the trajectory of student outcomes and improve our communities. Let’s truly get “Back To School.”

Christian Flagg is Director of Training at Community Coalition, a nonprofit organization founded by Mayor Karen Bass. 

District 1 residents can expect a continued and unwavering focus on transforming systemic barriers that have hindered academic and social-emotional growth for the masses of our youth.”

Sherlett Newbill is a former teacher, basketball coach and mentor at Dorsey High School who says that voters can expect to “be heard and be available” if she is elected. 

For young boys, because one of the pieces that often, I believe, has failed - and this is when I say all stakeholders working together - oftentimes young black boys are living with single moms. And, whether it is public policy or best practice, creating spaces for more mentorships for the black boys and support [for] the black moms is critical to the success of our black boys.”

Rina Tambor is a New York native with children and grandchildren. She’s a tutor and plans to enhance the educational outcomes for children using a "back to basics" approach. She advocates for parent rights and reallocation of funds for special needs kids.

According to laist.com, Tambor has three areas of focus: 1) “A strategic fund reallocation to provide better support for special needs students,” 2) “Reducing class sizes. This is crucial for creating a more effective learning environment, achieved through a lower student-to-teacher ratio.” 3) “A significant emphasis on the involvement of parents in education.”

Didi Watts is a chief of staff for LAUSD Board District 7. Formerly a classroom teacher, school psychologist, and assistant director of special education, Watts believes in a responsive advisory council for students and parents and is passionate about the Black Student Achievement Plan.

“Board District One is an extremely diverse district, and it is a far-reaching district and so an advisory that has representation from each will be important to make sure that not only the concerns but also the thoughts of the community are able to be heard.”

School board members heavily influence the policies and decisions that shape the education system within their districts. They serve as a bridge between the community, parents, and the school administration, approve budgets, set educational goals, and ensure district operations accountability. From curriculum decisions to resource allocation, their choices shape the trajectory of education reform. Whether ensuring access to advanced placement courses or advocating for programs that support students with diverse learning or equity needs, our decision - or the lack thereof - will directly impact the quality of education our children receive. Be sure to cast your vote on March 5, 2024.

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