Even Though I’m Not a Board District 5 Parent, Why I Showed Up to District 5’s Special School Board Election Candidate Forum

In the summer, I attended a LAUSD Board Meeting, where one of the main issues on the table was Board District 5 (BD 5) and what should happen next to this district who are now without representation on the school board. On July 23, 2018, Ref Rodriguez stepped down from his position as the Board Member of District 5. I immediately assumed a special election would be taking place in District 5, and it will not happen until next year. So what will happen until then? Will this district go without representation for a number of months?

Board Member Schmerelson of District 3 was proposing the appointment of former School Board Member Jackie Goldberg in a resolution he authored. Jackie Goldberg was the School Board Member for part of BD5 thirty years ago. Ironically, this is the same woman that attended the meeting I was at in July, where she spoke in support of Board Member Schmerelson’s parcel tax. And now she’s trying to come back to the school board? It seemed odd to me at first, but it was easy to see at the July meeting that Schmerelson and Goldberg are old friends. So when I started to put the pieces together, it didn’t seem so surprising that she was the person he wanted appointed to BD5. There were a lot of people in attendance. In fact, this was such a high profile meeting that parents, organizations, and spectators from all over Los Angeles had starting lining up outside on Beaudry Drive to at 4:00 AM.

Once I was able to get inside the boardroom and get a seat, I could clearly see that the room was pretty divided. On my right-hand side was Jackie Goldberg already inside and being interviewed by reporters. I wasn’t sitting down long, when I heard Jackie Goldberg say, “They brought all these charter people here to try and keep me from getting on the school board,” as she gestured toward people sitting in the center. I was pretty shocked to hear this before the meeting even began. After hours of public comments from Goldberg supporters & opposers, the board took a vote. The board voted no on the appointment of Jackie Goldberg as interim Board Member of BD5, and like the BD5 parents who objected to her representation, also stated that if she wanted to represent their district, she could run in March. Goldberg did decide to run for the seat again and rumors are circulating that she is already endorsed by UTLA, which if it turns out to be true, is no surprise.

Fast forward, to this past Saturday, where a candidate forum was held in the City of Bell, there was a candidate forum organized by BD5 parents with the help of California Charter School Association (CCSA) Families. Two years ago in November 2016, I, along with my fellow charter school moms, organized a similar candidate forum at PUC’s Sylmar Complex. I traveled on a bus with fourteen charter school parents and children from Pacoima to Bell. Since we did similar work in our district for our recent election, we know how important it is to have these types of events in the community. We also want to support our fellow charter school parents in BD5 that we have been working with for awhile now. It is important for us to get involved in not just our local elections, but also in elections in other LAUSD board districts because these elected board members will have a say and vote in our children’s education.  

Currently, there is a total of seventeen candidates running to represent Board District 5. Out of these seventeen candidates, eleven of them were in attendance last Saturday morning. There were some that had prior engagements and some that refused to come. Coincidentally former board members, Jackie Goldberg and Bennett Kayser, who are both running, were not in attendance.

This blog would be really long, if wrote about all eleven candidates. So I will just mention the few that really stood out, which the parents I attended the forum with seemed to favor as well. Those are Allison Greenwood Bajracharya, Justine Gonzalez, Ana Cubas, and Eduardo Cisneros. Allison Greenwood Bajracharya is a parent and educator. She currently works at Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, overseeing all of the school’s educational programs such as special ed, mental health, college access programs, and fundraising. In the past, she has worked at LAUSD and with CCSA. Both of Allison’s children attend a traditional district school, and at the same time, she understands the benefits of charter schools. I think from her perspective and experience, she would be a good candidate to create a neutral space for district and charter school leader, educator, and parents to start working together.  

Justine Gonzalez is a trans woman and parent, who is also running for school board. Justine is a parent of a 5-year old daughter, who I heard her advocating for at the school board meeting, I mentioned above. Justine has worked on LGBTQ issues with former mayors Antonio Villaraigosa & current mayor Eric Garcetti. She has a powerful parent voice and passion that is more than refreshing to hear. It is the voice of someone who I believe is determined to get things done.

Ana Cubas is also very passionate about fighting for equity for all BD5 students. As an immigrant herself, she knows how important a high-quality education is, which is why she worked hard to be the first in her family to attend college and receive degrees from Berkeley and Princeton. She has worked at many different levels of government sectors including federal, state, and local government. Ana has a clear platform as an LAUSD Candidate for BD5 which includes focusing on accountability, literacy, English Language Learners, and college access.

Eduardo Cisneros is the director of the National Census Program for NALEO Educational Fund, a non-profit that educates and empowers Latinos to vote and become civically engaged. He has also served as a community liaison & policy advisor to former LAUSD Board Member of BD5, Yolie Flores. Eduardo has strong ties to unions and education reformers, suggesting that he might also be a neutral candidate who could bring district and education reformers together.  

There were a couple other candidates that have a lot of experience working as teachers in LAUSD, and I would like to hear more from but these are the candidates that stood out to me the most from this particular event. I will continue to follow this election in Board District 5 and update my Comadres, as more candidate information is released and any important endorsements are announced.

What do you think?

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Roxann Nazario

Roxann Nazario

Roxann Nazario is a charter parent living in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. Born and mostly raised in the Valley, Roxann experienced her own struggles as a student in LAUSD. In order to ensure that her daughter would receive the education she deserved, Roxann made sure she was an active parent volunteer at her daughter's charter school. From field trips, to book fairs, to her daughter's charter school renewal, Roxann has made a point not only to advocate for her daughter's education, but she advocates for all children attending LAUSD schools. She campaigned for Kelly Gonez during her campaign for school board member of board district 6. She fought against SB 808, a proposed bill that would deny charter schools the right to appeal if their charter was denied by their local school board. Even though Roxann's daughter attends an amazing and well-known charter school, the school did not have an active parent group. So Roxann teamed up with one of her fellow charter moms from the same school, and with the school's blessing, they started a parent group called, "Parent Voice." Most recently, she was involved in a "Teach-In"/Rally in front of the California Democratic Party Convention that took place in San Diego in February of this year to advocate against the California Democratic Party passing a moratorium resolution on charter schools. Roxann and five fellow charter school mothers, all from board district 6, are being awarded with the Hart Vision Award for Parent Volunteer of the Year at the 25th Annual California Charter Schools Conference taking place on Tuesday, March 27, 2018.

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