Lynwood Unified: Recipient of two Golden Bell Awards and Committed to Continued Progress

I grew up and attended school in Lynwood, the same community I now represent as School Board President. After graduating college and coming back to teach at a community that reminded me a lot of my own, I began to understand some of the opportunities and resources Lynwood had not provided many of us access too. This new understanding along with a new critical lens and a desire to help make a difference in a community that molded my core values, drove me to run for office. My mentor teacher put it best: “If you actually care, it shouldn’t be about opening your own school and creating the environment that you view as ideal; if you care, you’ll do whatever you can to help change the system from within. Don’t allow your vision to be obscured by your ego — make yourself an asset to the community.”

Three years after being elected to the school board, I find myself in a space of reflection. When I first ran for office, I ran on a very idealistic platform: I was young, excited and felt that I could change the system all  by myself. It took a whole year for me to navigate the political world and understand the meaning of partnerships and collaboration and then a couple of more months to learn the process of pushing forth policies and leading initiatives. The reality was, to create real change, no one could do it alone.  As I finish up my third year on the board, I can’t help but feel gratitude towards those people who inspired me to run for office, as well as an immense responsibility for continuing to lay the foundation for even better work.

In 2008, Lynwood Unified School Board, along with so many other school districts, suffered the negative impacts of the economic crash and the recession, which caused many layoffs. With budget cuts and hard decisions, even after the recession, many staff and community members were left with a bad taste of mouth. The reality was, even when the financial situation was out of the board’s hands, they were the ones that were in positions of power that unfortunately carried the responsibility of making tough cuts.

Fortunately, with the acquisition of a great CBO, Lynwood Unified was able to reach financial stability. In addition to this, many changes occurred in the last four years at the leadership level, that in one way or another, worked together to change the culture of the district and helped lead students, teachers and staff to new altitudes.

Two years ago, Lynwood Unified was awarded a Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association recognizing our work around a Data-Driven Culture. This award promotes excellence in education and school board governance by recognizing outstanding programs and governance practices of school boards and county offices of education throughout the state. With increased scores and demonstrated progress throughout all our schools, Lynwood gained positive recognition after years of tumult, highlighting the work that our staff had arduously put forth in efforts to push Lynwood in a positive, upward direction.

This year, of the almost 300 entries submitted for the prestigious Golden Bell Award, Lynwood Unified’s Career Technical Education (CTE) Pathways program and Health Collaborative initiative were selected as recipients of the most prestigious honor awarded to California school districts by the California School Boards Association (CSBA).

Lynwood Unified’s CTE Pathways include: Manufacturing and Engineering, Biomedical and Nursing, media and Design Arts (film), Performing Arts, Photography, Culinary Arts and Automotive. Through partnerships with local educational agencies, Lynwood students are able to take advantage of dual enrollment, earn college credit, have access to professional certification programs, internships and multiple scholarships.

The District’s Health Collaborative is an initiative that allows us to connect students and families to medical and mental health services, as we move towards serving the “whole child.” In helping remove barriers to basic needs, the Health Collaborative is supporting student academic achievement and well-being.

I share this as both a proud resident experiencing first-hand the progress of our community as well as a grateful board member, who better understands the educational system after the last couple of years. Our progress is by no means satisfying, as it is a constant reminder that we have a long way to go. Still, I value our LUSD administrative team, our teachers and our staff for bringing to fruition these programs that not only prepare our students for their futures in whatever career they choose, but take care of their minds, bodies and hearts.

As we continue to work towards removing barriers in our student’s educational journeys and creating more pathways of opportunity, I am inspired by the work of all those school leaders who chose to serve their communities, and rather than being a critic of it, joined the movement towards having a greater impact.

Although I am a public supporter of school choice, I am also a great supporter of smaller school districts that have taken it upon themselves to revamp their way of educating children in order to provide our students and parents the access to a quality education. Lynwood is by no means perfect, but it could serve as an example that things can get done at the district level. Progress and ultimately success requires teamwork and collaboration with a focused goal on the students.

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Alma Renteria

Alma Renteria

Alma-Delia Renteria is a proud product of Lynwood schools. After graduating UC Riverside, with a B.A. in English and a year earlier than anticipated, she decided to commit her “gap year” to City Year. After City Year Los Angeles, Alma went on to purse a teaching career with Teach For America Los Angeles. Upon joining TFA, Alma began her education career as a middle school teacher. It was while teaching that she realized the need to do her part to help serve the community she grew up in and decided to run for office, getting elected to the Lynwood School Board at only 23 years old. Alma completed her Master’s degree in Urban Education at Loyola Marymount University and is currently pursuing a 2nd Masters in Education Leadership and her Admin Credential. She was recently appointed by the Speaker to the Instructional Quality Commission and also serves as a Digital Learning Instructional Coach at a dual immersion school in Pico Rivera.

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