The selection of the next Superintendent for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is complicated by the lack of public participation in the process. The efforts of the School Board to involve all those interested in the election has been hampered by low public turnout and the exclusion of organizations representing community interests.
The School Board President Steve Zimmer committed himself to widespread participation, including parents, teachers, administrators and stakeholders, in the search for the successor of Ramón Cortines. Towards this end, the Board distributed a questionnaire to seek input on the characteristics that the next leader must have. There were also dozens of community meetings to listen to the concerns of the public, with the help of the search firm, Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, hired for the Superintendent process.
The problem is that there were only about 4,000 responses to the questionnaire, a very low figure in a district with more than 640,000 students. Public meetings also saw low attendance. Critics say that the questionnaire was not helpful and was unnecessarily complex, and that community meetings were not promoted properly. Whether due to these reasons or because of parental apath, community participation never really materialized. It’s now time to actively bring community organizations interested in education into the process.
Earlier this month, 37 community groups, under the umbrella of Communities for Los Angeles Student Success (CLASS), asked to be included in the process in a letter addressed to the Board of Education. They want to meet the top candidates and provide recommendations. The Board’s reaction was to vote down two motions presented by Board members Mónica Ratliff and Mónica García that would have allowed the participation of these groups.
Zimmer’s idea to extend the deadline for submission of the questionnaire in the hopes of more responses isn’t a solution since it simply follows the same unsuccessful path. Now its time for organizations such as Inner City Struggle and Community Coalition, among others, to play a more active role in this process
These groups are close to and familiar with the concerns of Latino parents. Their presence can fill an important void. It is time to set aside petty agendas in order to make room for real participation in choosing the next Superintendent.