This is an archive of a past election.
See for current information.
LWV League of Women Voters of California Education Fund

Smart Voter
Los Angeles County, CA March 3, 2015 Election
Candidates Answer Questions on the Issues
Board Member; Los Angeles Unified School District; District 3

The questions were prepared by the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles and asked of all candidates for this office.     See below for questions on Most Important Issue, Role of Board, Teacher Evaluation

Click on a name for candidate information.   See also more information about this contest.

? 1. What is the single most important issue facing LAUSD today? As a Board Member, what would you do to deal with it?

Answer from Ankur Patel:

The single most important issue facing LAUSD is the fact that not enough resources are getting to where they need to be -- the classroom. This is due to a combination of top-down governance, a lack of accountability, and insider politics.

Currently, the LAUSD budget is complicated and not transparent. As a Board Member I will make the budget more accessible and searchable, similar to what Control Panel LA has done for Los Angeles City.

Being able to follow the money easily will allow us to cut wasteful spending and direct those resources to directly benefit students.

Answer from Filiberto Gonzalez:

LAUSD has been overcome by corrosive politics. While some of that has changed with the departure of the former superintendent, more needs to be done.

I am running, in part, because I believe the incumbent perpetuated this toxic environment as the former superintendent's number one supporter. It is time that LAUSD turn the page on the corrosive politics that have consumed it for far too long.

Replacing the incumbent won't fix everything. Far from it. I want to give students of Los Angeles a real fighting chance at competitiveness in the 21st century global economy with a school district that serves them first and that parents can believe in. In many ways, we are wasting taxpayer dollars, and worse yet, the formative years of generation after generation expecting the leagues of bureaucrats at LAUSD to change themselves. We can't wait for them to change. Instead, I believe we should begin the process of providing real local control by breaking LAUSD into smaller and manageable school districts.

Answer from Elizabeth Badger Bartels:

Failing Education System. With low graduation rates of 62.4% down from 2010 of 69.7% and high drop out rates at 24.7% up from 17.3% in 2010, LAUSD has failed our children.

As a board member, I will work to invest in early childhood education. All statistics state that when we invest on the front end of a child's education reaps high preformance on the back end.

Answer from Tamar Galatzan:

The budget is unquestionably the most critical issue because it impacts everything we're able to do for our students, families, employees and schools. LAUSD faced a financial crisis of its own during the recession, when the state cut the district's funding by a half-billion dollars. The recovering economy has helped, along with the voters' approval of Proposition 30, but we still face a deficit for the coming years and competing priorities over how to spend the money that is available. The new Local Control Funding Formula provides additional money specifically to serve disadvantaged students, who make up nearly 80 percent of the district's enrollment. But LCFF also limits our flexibility in developing a budget, since we cannot spend that supplemental money areas that are needed like employee raises and benefits, lowering class sizes or paying off our $320 million deficit. Those expenses have to be covered by our base funding, which has also been tapped by a number of multimillion-dollar programs pushed through by my board colleagues outside of the regular budgeting process. As we develop a spending plan for 2015-16 and beyond, we need to take a hard look at our liabilities and priorities, and make the very difficult decisions about what we can afford and what we cannot. We have to make sure that all of our K-12 schools have high-quality teachers and the resources they need to help our students succeed. Equally important, the board must halt the reckless practice of passing costly resolutions after the budget has been approved. There are many worthwhile programs, but we cannot afford them all. Like every family in Los Angeles Unified, we simply must live within our means.

Answer from Carl J. Petersen:

Almost every major problem facing the LAUSD can be traced back to the size of the massive bureaucracy. With more than 640,000 students spread over 720 square miles in over 900 schools, the easiest way for the district to provide oversight of the system is by establishing a one-size-fits-all policy and mandating that everyone blindly follow it. This cookie-cutter technique may work fine in a factory where every widget must come off of the line exactly like the one before it and the economies of scale help drive down costs. However, the product of our public education system should not be identical bricks in the wall but individuals capable of critically thinking.

Teachers, parents, staff and administrators of a local school community are closest to the students and know best how to meet their own unique needs. As a Board Member I will actively work to get the district's bureaucracy out of the way so that these local communities are not hampered by red-tape. This will require a direct assault on the district's culture, including moving a lot of the staff who now sit downtown in the Beaudry building to school sites where they have to interact with the students that they serve. I will push to move Board meetings to times and locations where working parents, teachers and students can participate. If these initiatives fail, the only other solution may be to break the district into smaller, more manageable districts that can put the needs of the students first.

Answer from Scott Mark Schmerelson:

Class size is too large. Just this last semester I was employed as a substitute assistant principal at a comprehensive high school in Reseda. I also taught a Spanish class because of a delay in hiring a Spanish teacher. My class had 42 students. Other classes had even more students. I saw first hand how difficult it was to individualize instruction in such a large class. It was difficult to reach every student during the class period. As a Spanish teacher, I tried to interact with each student to develop their comprehension and speaking skills. This was not possible with so many students. Besides the teaching time, the grading of papers and other necessary mandatory tasks involving the students, was extremely difficult.

? 2. What is the role of the Board, and what is the role of the Superintendent? How should they interact?

Answer from Carl J. Petersen:

The failure of the MiSiS implementation, which contributed to what Superior Court Judge George Hernandez Jr. ruled were "severe and pervasive educational deprivations," is an example of how the established roles of the Board and the Superintendent are not being followed. (1) The Board is supposed to set policy and hold the Superintendent accountable. In turn, the Superintendent is in charge of running the daily operations of the district based on the policies implemented by the Board. When a Board member openly admits, as in the case of the MiSiS disaster, that "we don't supervise anyone who works for the superintendent", the Superintendent is clearly not being held accountable. (2)

According to the Los Angeles Times, former Superintendent John Deasy "accepted the job in 2009 with the understanding that he would be able to advance his own aggressive reforms." (3) This was an abdication of responsibility on the part of the Board. Additional problems are caused by the fact that the Superintendent and his senior staff are not exclusively loyal to the Board that they serve. It has been reported that, at one time, Eli "Broad partnered with [Bill] Gates and media executive Casey Wasserman... to fund some of [the] top administrative positions in Los Angeles Unified's central office. All of the recipients of these positions make six-figure salaries." (4) As a Board member, I would work to ban these types of arrangements so that these staff members answer exclusively to the elective Board.

In turn, the Board must also avoid micro-managing the Superintendent. The policies that they set must be broad enough so that they can be implemented in each individual school. A good example is the recent vote to include an ethnic studies class to the graduation requirement. Through this vote, the Board made it clear what they wanted the outcome to be, but allowed the Superintendent to study what the best way would be to implement it. This is how the relationship is supposed to work. The Superintendent must now report his findings and actions to the Board and the Board needs to make sure that the Superintendent meets their directives.

(1) (2) (3) (4)

Answer from Ankur Patel:

The School Board is the elected body responsible for making sure we have high-quality public education in Los Angeles. Primarily, the Board's role centers around approving the budget, setting policy directives, and hiring the Superintendent. I also feel that each Board Member should have a relationship with each school in their respective district and be able to help address problems as they come up.

The Superintendent is responsible for running the day-to-day operations of the LAUSD including many important personnel decisions. The Superintendent should be able to manage the many levels of bureaucracy, facilitate communication between different divisions of the District, and be responsive to the needs of all district staff.

The Board and the Superintendent need to have a strong working relationship based on respect and a focus on doing what is necessary to make sure that our schools are running smoothly.

Answer from Filiberto Gonzalez:

While the superintendent is essentially the District's CEO, the Board of Education is, in fact, the superintendent's boss.

The Board of Education is responsible for shaping education policy with directives to the superintendent that reflect their budget priorities. The superintendent is tasked with developing a budget based on the board's policies and priorities, and thereafter, implementing them.

In the wake of a serious child abuse scandal, an iPad scandal that has brought the FBI to LAUSD's door, and a complete breakdown of the District's student record system, the students and parents of LAUSD are in desperate need of a Board of Education that is ready to carry out robust and thorough oversight to help prevent similar disasters in the future. Indeed, school board members must, at all times, assume responsibility for the actions of school personnel, including the superintendent.

As a board member, I will fulfill the letter and spirit of the law by assuming my duties as the public's advocate, and not as an extension of the bureaucracy.

Answer from Tamar Galatzan:

The seven members of the Los Angeles Unified board each represent a large swath of Los Angeles, most encompassing about 100 schools and tens of thousands of students. Our role is to set a direction for LAUSD -- with the input of parents, labor partners and district staff -- so that our students graduate with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and the workforce.

The superintendent answers directly to the board and is responsible for implementing policies and programs to fulfill our goals. We have no direct authority over the day-to-day operations of the district or our schools. Decisions about classroom assignments, attendance boundaries, personnel and the like are made by the administration.

This governing structure means the superintendent essentially has seven bosses, each with their own set of priorities and their own vision for how the district should be run. Because we each represent vastly different constituencies and come from different backgrounds, it can be very difficult to achieve consensus on important issues.

Since I was first elected in 2007, I have worked with a number of different board members and with four superintendents (twice with the current superintendent, Ramon Cortines). These experiences have helped me realize the importance of open and honest communication among board members, and between the board and the superintendent. This transparency is key to holding our leaders accountable and building trust and respect among people who may have opposing points of view.

It is also imperative that board members be willing to compromise as a way to build consensus on a long-term vision for the district. We all must be open to incremental change as a way to keep LAUSD moving forward and helping our students succeed.

Answer from Elizabeth Badger Bartels:

The LAUSD Boards role is to be responsive to the priorities, beliefs and values of the community and children it represents. It should be able to empower the staff, teachers and parents so that together we can create a quality education for our children. Finally, the board's role is to implement smart and thoughtful public policy.

The Superintendent works for the board and not vice versa. The role of the superintendent is to follow and implement the policies and guidelines set by the board. Having said that, I believe their interaction should be one of professional, respectful and colloborative.

Answer from Scott Mark Schmerelson:

The Board's role is to ensure that our students receive the best education possible. The Board chooses the Superintendent. I intend to make sure, as a former teacher and principal, that the the person chosen as the Superintendent has the best interest and welfare of our students as first priority. The Board members work to ensure that the public is guaranteed that all decisions made are in the best fiscal and moral interest of the people. The selection of the Superintendent is just as vital because it sets the tone for student achievement. The Board must choose a Superintendent with whom they can communicate the importance of a quality education for all students. Politics should never interfere with our goal of a superior education for all our children.

? 3. What are your criteria for an effective teacher evaluation plan?

Answer from Scott Mark Schmerelson:

The best observer and evaluator for a teacher is a combination of a highly qualified and successful teacher along with the school administrator. Who knows better how students learn and achieve than a highly qualified and successful fellow teacher? As principal, I often would have teachers, who in my opinion, needed to observe a highly qualified and successful teacher in action. They would observe selected teachers and then consult with them. The teacher who was being observed, would then observe the class of the selected teacher. This, in my opinion, was the best plan to have teachers improve their effectiveness.

Answer from Elizabeth Badger Bartels:

I would ensure that the evaluation plan is fair, individulized and teacher is not made to feel as if it is punitive; but corrective. Ensure that the teacher has a wide knowledge of curriculums, and has a clear command of language and subject matter.

Answer from Tamar Galatzan:

Every student deserves to have a great teacher in the classroom, and the performance evaluation is an important tool for making this happen. It's also important that we use this tool in a constructive way so that we are helping our teachers develop and hone their professional skills.
The evaluation should include several factors, including self-assessment, classroom observation, parent and student input and student achievement scores. There needs to be a lot of feedback, so that teachers know what techniques are effective and what areas need more work. Even veteran educators should be evaluated every three to five years so that we know their skills are keeping pace with new techniques.
There has been a lot of debate over the use of student achievement scores in the evaluation process, and I believe those results should be considered in gauging a teacher's effectiveness. Research has shown that classroom teachers have the greatest impact on student achievement than any other aspect of schooling. However, student achievement scores should be one of many other factors in evaluating teachers. I believe classroom observation should carry the greatest weight in the process, with multiple opportunities for review. We've heard from our principals that classroom observation is a very time-consuming process, so we must get them some help and also create an evaluation process that isn't so burdensome. We must explore possibilities to allow other school-site and District personnel to be trained on the process to alleviate the burden placed on our principals. Finally, the evaluation needs to have at least three classifications in order to make the system transparent and meaningful. A system that provides only two ratings -- satisfactory and unsatisfactory -- makes it difficult to support a teacher in improving his/her practice. In addition, a three-tiered evaluation would allow the district to continue meeting the requirements for millions of dollars in federal grants that it needs to fund academic programs. After a teacher is given an overall performance rating, it is critical that the training, support, and feedback given to him/her specifically addresses the areas in which he/she need to grow and improve. Ultimately, the evaluation is merely a tool to help ensure that our teachers are effective and successful at educating our children.

Answer from Carl J. Petersen:

First and foremost, we must stop using standardized tests to evaluate the progress of teachers and schools. These tests were designed to help evaluate a student's progress so that teachers could target students' weak areas. Using these tests for other purposes results in undue stress being placed on students. It also causes schools to emphasize subjects that are tested over the arts and other subjects that are not tested. Critical thinking skills are also short changed as test-taking skills are emphasized over the ability to employ knowledge. For these reasons, I have chosen to opt my children out of these tests.

Any successful evaluation system needs to recognize the unique nature of each child. Unfortunately, the district's current data-focused system ignores this. For example, a Level 4 (Highly Effective) teacher needs to have a classroom that "functions as a community of learners with student assumption of responsibility for learning." Under this description, my daughters' special education teachers will never be considered highly effective, since my children are not capable of assuming this type of responsibility. Even in a typical class, this type of evaluation places responsibility on the teacher for the student's behavior. A better system would judge teachers on their ability to help each student achieve their full potential.

Eliminating blind adherence to data requires administrators who are well-trained, have actual classroom experience and have the ability to work with teachers on an on-going basis. This is the only way that they can understand the intricacies of each class and determine if the teacher is meeting the needs of the students.

The system also needs a way to protect teachers who speak out against policy or inform parents when their children are not getting the services that they need. Today they are simply categorized as "bad teachers" and removed from the classroom. When this happens, we lose good teachers and hurt our children.

Answer from Ankur Patel:

I want to include meaningful student input in teacher evaluations. Students spend tremendous time with their teacher and are in the best position to evaluate the effectiveness of their teacher. Intelligent and pointed questions need to be asked of the students, but it is a missed opportunity not to get some input from students in a systematic way on their teacher's effectiveness.

Assessments parents, peers, and supervisors (Principals) can also be an important part of the evaluation process. Having taken many standardized tests during my tenure as a student at LAUSD, in hindsight I can see that from class to class, subject to subject, grade to grade, there are significant differences that are difficult if not impossible to account for. How are Special Education Teachers going to be evaluated on the result of standardized tests? Even though I feel that standardized tests can be useful tools for measuring student capability and progress, tying a teacher's evaluation to a test can take focus away from developing critical thinking skills.

Again, I think that including some meaningful input from students on the quality of their teacher is a simple yet big idea that can change how we look at evaluating teachers.

Answer from Filiberto Gonzalez:

The model put forth by the former superintendent was unproven and unnecessarily antagonistic. The new superintendent will have a chance to introduce a model that is far more inclusive to stakeholders. I would urge the superintendent to use the Peer Assistance & Review (PAR) model, which is currently used by the Long Beach and San Jose school districts. Its common characteristics include: a) a review panel with equal part teachers and administrators, b) a struggling teacher is assigned a mentor-teacher for a year to help with lesson plans and other aspects of professional development, and c) all parties reconvene after one year to review the teacher's progress and determine their outcome.

Responses to questions asked of each candidate are reproduced as submitted to the League.  Candidates' answers are presented as submitted.

The order of the candidates is random and changes daily. Candidates who did not respond are not listed on this page.

This Contest || Home (Ballot Lookup) || About Smart Voter || Feedback
Created: March 31, 2015 18:06 PDT
Smart Voter <>
Copyright © League of Women Voters of California Education Fund.
The League of Women Voters neither supports nor opposes candidates for public office or political parties.