Meet Heather Repenning: An Everyday LAUSD Working Mom Running for School Board in District 5

Even though I have been covering this election for almost a year now, it seems as if it’s quickly coming to a close. Election day is May 14th! If you live in Board District 5, I hope you plan to go out and vote in this important election. After attending several Board District 5 forums and events, I wanted to sit down with Heather Repenning and talk about the real issues BD 5 is facing and what ideas she has for much needed improvements.  

Q: What is your main reason why you want to be the next Board Member for BD5? What are the three main things you are going to work on for the betterment of all students in our community?

(From Erika Martinez-Parent at Alliance Collins HS in Huntington Park & Aspire Titan)

Heather: “My main reason is I don’t think we’re doing well enough by our kids. I think that we owe them much better than what we are doing. And I don’t believe we are doing that universally or in a comprehensive way now. One program I would like to create is to help incentivize our best teachers, principles, and school, staff to go and work in our most struggling schools.”

Q: How would you propose to do that?

Heather: “Well I think it’s a matter of money, different types of benefits, and working with the union to put together a package. This would be on a voluntary basis because we need you. I don’t think it means agreeing to go to a certain school permanently. I think it’s a question of “can you come here for a couple years to share your gifts? And I think some would sign up to do that. I think when you’re running a large organization you want to put your best people on the toughest problems. Big challenge over here, I want my best people on it.

The other very specific idea I have that relates to the larger conversation of the state is early education. With the Governor really wanting to double down on early childhood education, I want LAUSD to get a big piece of that. When it comes to the achievement gap, I think that allowing many more kids to have affordable or free quality early education is going to make it much easier for them, their families, and for LAUSD schools and staff. A really strong start is something that I believe we should be able to offer them. And I think it’s a very powerful way, as well, to address English language learners.

College access and college readiness is a focus right now, as we are all watching in horror but not really surprised, as we understand the ways in which our system is rigged and that there are these side doors. But we can help. Obviously, it has to be addressed by those systems, by college admissions folks it needs to be addressed, but we can actually level the playing field for our kids. If we start with some of the basic tools that should be available to high school students; standardized test preparation, assistance in applying, real access to guidance counselors, and helping with applying for financial aid.”

Heather also wants to offer more support to students with special needs. She acknowledged that, “There just aren’t the services there that we have in other parts of the city. They feel very isolated. I think it’s partly about access to services and the overall process. I’m going to be working on a Bill of Rights for Special Ed families and students. The bottom line is we need to educate all of our kids, we need to support all of our kids. Let’s stop fighting families.”

Q: How do you plan to bring parents to the table and give them a real voice, if you’re elected to the board?

Heather: “First of all, I think the level of parent engagement is a huge indicator as to the success of a school. And I think having parents involved and obviously volunteering, supporting, raising money is all good, but also asking questions. I’m a huge believer in inclusion & engagement. Whatever you’re working on, whether it’s things I’ve done in the past, like, designing a new park, creating a policy around a clean water program, the more you involve people earlier on, it takes more work, but what you get at the end is always better.

I think there are two separate topics for parent involvement. One is governance, and how the school district functions, how decisions get made, all the way down to the local schools and who is making the decisions at the schools. And that’s very very important for parents to understand. To understand the different levers to use, to push back, to speak out. And then there’s the other issue of engaging parents in the academic life of their students. That’s usually not front and center of the conversation of parent involvement. But it’s very important to me because my main interest in running is I want our student achievement to improve. To me, a big part of that is the ability of parents to be aware of the curriculum, to be aware of what students are learning, how their days are structured, what are the classes they’re taking, what are the type of tests they’re taking, what are the expectations, so that they actually help prepare them.

The Partnership for LA Schools has something called the Parent college, which has long been an area of interest to me. It’s a curriculum, it’s something that takes place over a series of Saturdays, it’s really like a bootcamp on how everything works. Like how does the government work? Helping people understand to how organize in their community. I think that type of intensive training is something I would want to look at.”

Q: I’ve heard you say that you think all schools should offer free homework help and/or tutoring and that you think it is something we can quickly do to have an impact on student success. How do you plan to help parents with this challenge in District 5?

Heather: “I want to make homework assistance and academic support available after school. I don’t want the learning to stop when the bell rings. What I want to put in place at every school, is tutoring, which would be something that parents could come into, to be part of the tutoring session. So that they could take something away back home.”

After spending time with Heather, I learned that she has some amazing ideas to help improve outcomes for BD 5 students. I think this is mainly because she is a working parent with a child in the district, and she truly understands the challenges that students and parents are currently facing. This is why I believe that she is the best candidate to represent Board District 5.

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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