Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

Meet LAUSD's new school board member Kelly Gonez

by Kyle Stokes | Take Two®

151977 full
Kelly Gonez is running for the Los Angeles Unified School Board in the March 7 primary election. Gonez hopes to represent District 6, which covers the east San Fernando Valley. Campaign Photo

Kelly Gonez is a former teacher and the incoming LAUSD school board member for District 6, which covers eastern San Fernando Valley.

Gonez's term begins July 6, and her win was cast as a victory by those who back charter schools.

In a sit-down interview with KPCC education reporter Kyle Stokes, Gonez addresses her commitment to charter schools and what's on her agenda for Day 1.

Interview highlights

During the campaign you had written to KPCC that, "I am concerned that many charter operators are finding the renewal or approval process to be much more negative than it has been in the past." Could people read that as your desire to relax standards for charter applications?

For me, I don't think that was the best choice of words. ...

I draw a distinction between oversight and meaningful accountability. The renewal process, but oversight generally, has not always been focused on students, so I've been concerned about that. 

So I don't think it's about relaxing standards at all, but compliance does not equal accountability. Real accountability means that we are looking holistically at how schools are doing and then we provide supports so they can improve.

Some have read a lot into the four-vote majority of people on the board, including yourself, who have been supported by California Charter School Association. What if this is a signal to charter operators that they could find a more welcome environment for applications?

I'm not interested in a dramatic expansion or really any expansion, at all, in the number of independent charter schools in the district.

I understand why this narrative has picked up some steam, but I would urge people to dig a little bit deeper.

If you look at the many things that I have written, charter school expansion is not one of my stated priorities in my campaign.

What are your priorities when you take office?

The first is ensuring that every child who graduates from an LAUSD high school is graduating college and career ready.

The second priority for me is really supporting and empowering teachers and school leaders. I think that the district hasn't always done a great job with providing meaningful supports that help teachers grow and reach their full potential. 

The last priority for me is really making sure that every decision the district makes has meaningful community input. I think that the district has made efforts to hear from the community and hear from families, but I believe a lot more work needs to be done to make sure that, not only are we getting the input, but we're using it meaningfully.

This school board election has been framed as a rejection of the status quo. But the status quo is that test scores are up, graduation rates are up and the district projects a budget surplus. So what wrong with the way things are?

It's really more about continuing and accelerating the progress we've been making.

It's absolutely true when you look at the district's graduation rates that there's been a significant increase, and we have to celebrate the progress that has been made.

For me, it's about how do we push to the next level and really fulfill the promises that the district is making...

I think that a 100 percent graduation should be the expectation, but we shouldn't accept that as the end-all be-all.

Just weeks before you take office, the school board voted to renew the contract of LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King. Should they have offered that extension? 

Process-wise, it probably wasn't the most respectful move given that there's a new board that will be taking seat.

But substantively I don't disagree with them. I would have voted to extend Superintendent King's contract.

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