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Los Angeles County, CA November 6, 2007 Election
Smart Voter Full Biography for Laura L. Santos

Candidate for
Governing Board Member; Bassett Unified School District

This information is provided by the candidate

I am from a working class Mexican family. My maternal grandparents were from San Diego and Bachima, Chihuahua. My paternal grandfather moved to Colorado from Valpariaso, Zacatecas. My father's mother was from Parras, Choahuila.

My mother and her family were farm workers in Colorado and Earlimart, located 8 miles from Delano. My father worked at General Motors in South Gate until it closed. He is retired but still active in the UAW. My mother retired as a Teacher Aide from Baldwin Park School District. My sister is a registered nurse at Pomona Valley Hospital: my older brother works at Bass Pro Shop; and my younger brother is an engineer for Cal Trans.

I was born in Pueblo, Colorado in 1954. My family moved to Echo Park in 1959 and to Bassett in 1964. I attended Van Wig and Torch, and I graduated from Bassett High School in 1971. I became fascinated with law, government, and politics due to the inspiration provided by Mr. Gustafson, my high school government teacher. I received a B.A. in Political Science from UCLA. I worked for a real estate attorney for 5 years, and then earned a law degree at UC Davis. At UCLA I studied comparative government. At Davis I focused on constitutional, international, and business law.

As a Baby Boomer from a working class Mexican family that grew up in the 1960's and `70s, I have always had a passionate interest in social justice. In law school I was awarded the Lorenzo Patiņo Service Award and I was a nominee for the Martin Luther King Service Award.

I have always been somewhat of a health nut. I ran a marathon in 1983, won the annual law school 5k race in 1986, and competed in the Venice Beach amateur body building contest in 1988. Now I enjoy biking, golf and other outdoor activities.

I practiced law in Los Angeles from 1991 to 2000. As a typical sole practitioner, I handled family law, bankruptcy, probate, and real estate cases. In the midst of being a lawyer working long hours, in 1998 I suddenly was awarded custody of my 2-month-old great niece. In 2000 I closed my law office to take care of my great niece full time.

One door closed, another opened. My brother-in- law told me that he had enrolled me and my great niece in the Chaffey College "Mommy and Me" class, so we drove to Rancho Cucamonga from Bassett twice a week for a year to attend those classes. When my great niece was three years old, I enrolled her in the Bassett Head Start program. I did not then realize that I had embarked on the road to becoming heavily involved with education issues and organizations.

In 2001, I also joined the Saturday Breakfast Roundtable (now the weekly Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable at Lucy Florence Coffee House in Leimert Park). For three years, I had the privilege of working at the right hand of Dr. Earl Ofari Hutchinson. As the Roundtable Coordinator, I contacted and booked speakers for our weekly public policy forum. I promoted and assisted in hosting the Roundtable. We presented esteemed elected officials, celebrities and community leaders, from then Police Chief Bernard Parks, to Arianna Huffington, to Maulana Karenga. I am indebted to Dr. Hutchinson for training me in media, public relations, and promotions.

I was clueless about the parent services provided by Head Start but I was ready for adult activities after living totally in a toddler's world for a year. When enrolling my great niece in Head Start, I requested to volunteer in the Head Start program. Although the federal regulations provide that the Head Start Program should actively recruit and encourage volunteer involvement, I was merely informed that I later would be told what I could do.

As part of President Johnson's War on Poverty, Head Start receives twice as much funding as state preschools to provide parents, families and the community with comprehensive services as a stepping stone out of poverty. To provide the families with training and experience, Head Start has a shared governance system where the parent Policy Committee/Council works with the board of education/directors to make policy decisions about the program. The parent Policy Committee/Council must participates in planning, approves the budget and all other financial matters, sits on employee interview panels, and approves the hiring and termination of all employees. Federal regulations require that parents receive "ongoing training" to allow them to fulfill their role in the program. Since I read and understood the bylaws, policies, and federal regulations, I understood my role, accepted my responsibilities, and fully exercised my rights as a Head Start parent.

I was active in the Bassett Head Start Policy Committee and sat on the Los Angeles County Office of Education Policy Council with Head Start parents from throughout Los Angeles County. As with many other parent involvement systems, rather than promoting shared governance, some programs keep Head Start parents in the dark so the first year parents do not really know what they are doing. After the third year, when they have figured it out, they are termed out of the Policy Committee/Council). In the first year, having only worked in the private sector and knowing nothing about parliamentary procedure, I knew I had rights but did not always know how to implement them.

Despite that, it was amazing to walk into the Los Angeles County Office of Education (the largest grantee with $200,000,000 in Head Start funds) with other parents living under the federal poverty level, many of whom do not speak English. It was amazing because we had no expertise in education, no experience in the public sector, but we were immediate insiders. Top administrators (who normally would not acknowledge us) attend Policy Committee/Council meetings and are available to answer the parent's questions. Without a functioning Policy Committee/Council, Head Start is not in compliance with federal regulations and at risk of losing its funding.

The training I received was phenomenal: Time management, stress management, leadership, governance, parliamentary procedure, the Brown Act, managing a union environment, parenting, curriculum, child development, advocacy, personnel policies, outcomes, domestic violence prevention etc.

I was the Bassett Policy Committee Chair in my second and third year. In my second year, after failing to obtain staff support to have Yasmin Davidds, author of Empowering Latinas, provide a workshop, I was amazed that by pursuing appropriate procedure in the Policy Committee I was able to bring Ms. Davidds to Bassett to train the Bassett Head Start parents. I am proud to say that I also arranged to have her provide training to LACOE Head Start parents (with the staff's support).

In my third year, after losing the election for the LACOE Policy Council Vice Chair, Betty Vicente nominated me as the Policy Council Representative to the LACOE Board of Education. I am grateful to Betty because a year of sitting in on LACOE board meetings twice a month, studying their inch thick agenda and preparing a written report for Head Start Policy Counil was another phenomenal educational process. Although there is supposed to be a system of shared decision making, during my training the LACOE staff informed me that under no circumstances was I to address the board when I attended the meetings. Now, after federal reviewers came down hard, the Head Start PC representative is on the agenda every month at both LACOE and Bassett board of education meetings.

I benefited so much from Head Start that I cannot walk away and let the parents following me fail to have the same benefits. I am still a supporter and advocate for Head Start. One lesson I learned is that leaders should identify and develop new leaders including their successors. Parents that I encouraged are now community leaders and organizers, including Theresa Velasco, my dear friend and President of the Hacienda-La Puente Council PTA.

Through Head Start my passion for children, public education, government, and advocacy was fulfilled. Head Start encouraged parents to continue to advocate for their children by joining PTA. Through PTA and EdSource, my education regarding public education issues continues, including accountability systems, public school finance, and much more. I now sit on the California State PTA Parent Involvement Commission.

Since leaving Head Start, I have worked on several campaigns, including Bassett school bond elections, the 2005 Special Election, the Dolores Huerta Foundation campaign against Proposition 85 (parental consent to terminate pregnancy), and Assemblyman Ed Hernandez's campaign. I am a active member of SGV-Inland Empire RESULTS, the Latino Roundtable, the Los Angeles Urban Police Roundtable and the SGV-IE Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.

I currently am employed as a Community Relations Representative for Royal Coaches Auto Body and Towing in Baldwin Park, a socially responsible, community-oriented family business.

My education, background and experience clearly make me the best candidate for Governing Board Member of the Bassett Unified School District.

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Created from information supplied by the candidate: October 13, 2007 10:43
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