Pass / Fail

So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

South LA to elect a school board member; Can a new face turn things around?

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South Los Angles residents will vote Tuesday on a new school board member - but their decision will affect students all over the district.

A slate of seven candidates are vying for District One - which became vacant last year when Marguerite LaMotte died in the middle of her term. It's home to the poorest performing schools in Los Angeles.

Hopefuls include a former superintendent, an education consultant and a policy advisor — there's even a former reality TV show star in mix.

The next member will join a school board divided between two main philosophies: teachers union allies and those who believe in a particular brand of reform that likes charter schools and using student test scores to evaluate teachers, among other policies.  

LaMotte had been a strong union ally. But none of the three leading candidates to replace her are backed by United Teachers Los Angeles, meaning a political shift on the seven-member board.

KPCC interviewed each of the three main contenders on their vision for South L.A. schools and asked them what they'd like to accomplish on the school board.

Genethia Hudley-Hayes, education consultant

  • First Year Goal: Bring split board together. “Seven members coming together and working in concert to ask tough questions - in public.”
  • Budget: Wants more details from administration. Advocates for channeling more money to highest-need schools. Supports the “student need index,” created by advocacy groups to push for more funding for 242 schools, many of which are in South Los Angeles.
  • Superintendent John Deasy: Supporter
  • iPad program: Stop growth and reassess. “We should stop right now. We should go back and rethink how we will use them and whether [iPads] are appropriate.”
  • Charters: Supporter. “Some of them are abysmal, but some of them are absolutely wonderful.” Would like to see same relaxation of rules for traditional public schools.
  • Teacher Evaluations: Supporter of test scores used in evaluations — among other criteria.

Alex Johnson, education policy advisor

  • First Year Goal: Increase funding for highest need schools. “For too long this district has fallen by the wayside and for too long this district has been the step child in LAUSD and we’ve got to reverse that.”
  • Budget: Wants more money spent on early education,  in addition to high need schools.
  • Superintendent: Supporter.
  • iPad program: Supports slow growth. “Children should have technology. If there is a cheaper way, more cost-effective way to do it with the same quality device, that’s fine.”
  • Charters: Supporter. “Primarily minority children are benefiting from charter schools, particularly in District One. Something is working.”
  • Teacher Evaluations: Supporter of test scores used in evaluations — among other criteria.

George McKenna, former principal/superintendent

  • 1st Year Goal: “Zero tolerance policy for dropouts.”
  • Budget: Wants more money to go to highest needs schools.
  • Superintendent: Declines to comment. “I’m not running with him as an objective at all. I’m running as a school board member who will supervise the Superintendent.”
  • iPad program: Would not expand program without proof of effectiveness. “So we gave them [the devices] - and then we study? Doesn’t that sound backwards?”
  • Charters: Supporter.
  • Teacher Evaluations: Would limit the use, and would not fire teachers for low test scores.  “There are ways to use data, but there are ways to be punitive with data.”

Unless a candidate wins 50.1 percent of the vote Tuesday, the top two vote-getters will go to a runoff in November.

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