Central Los Angeles from Larchmont to East LA
Monica Garcia, a native of East Los Angeles, is currently serving her second full term on the school board after winning her seat in a special election in 2006 and retaining it in an uncontested 2009 election. Since then, Garcia has been elected by her colleagues to serve as president of the School Board six times. A strong supporter of Superintendent John Deasy, Garcia has been a strong advocate for school choice, and of legislation that streamlines the dismissal of teachers accused of child-abuse — positions that regularly put her at odds with the teachers union. UTLA, which has endorsed three of her challengers, has made no secret of wanting to oust her, and is spending outside money to do so. But Garcia is the strongest fundraiser in the race, and is also backed by the Coalition for School Reform, and SEIU, which are both spending outside money on her behalf. She received the District 2 endorsement from the Los Angeles Times.
For more on this candidate, see: Forum video
ENDORSEMENTS - SUPPORT
Endorsed by: Coalition for School Reform; SEIU-99 (service employees); COPE (county AFL-CIO); Los Angeles Times
1. Do you have children? No
2. Please indicate your three (3) priorities once in office and explain why:
A. Increase graduation and college-going rates. The primary function of any school district to graduate every child prepared for college, careers and civic participation.
B. Increase accountability at all levels. Throughout the system we must address performance and quality. LAUSD must be an organization of high expectations, aggressive recruitment of talent, and evaluations of every employee including the use of student data.
C. Safe schools – Children, parents, and school employees need to feel safe when on campus. We need to create healthy environments that support learning and have the mechanisms in place to prevent and quickly respond to incidents of violence and abuse.
3. Quality instruction, reducing class size, adequate funding, school choice and access to quality data have all been cited as policies that impact student achievement. Please rank your opinion of these conditions with 1 being the most impactful and 5 being the least.
Quality Instruction: Rank 2
Adequate Funding: Rank 1
School Choice: Rank 3
Reducing Class Size: Rank 4
Access to Quality Data: Rank 5
4. How would you as a school board member increase parent and community engagement in schools? What have you done thus far to support your vision?
During my time on the Board I have worked directly and in coalition with community based organizations to empower parents in advocating for their child and contributing to the culture in school and our district. I supported the establishment of a parent center on every school campus and the inclusion of family engagement as an indicator for measuring school effectiveness. I worked with parent organizations to improve the quality of our School Report Cards and include parent surveys. I supported hiring Maria Casillas to create trainings and empowerment models for our parents. I created Families Matter and La Familia Importa, KLCS shows dedicated to promoting communication and awareness of initiatives and critical issues such as attendance and reclassification. I have spent thousands of hours meeting with parents throughout the district, making myself available for conversations regarding our challenges and impacts on our students. I have also been explicit with Superintendent and Senior Management about the need to continually improve strategies to achieve Board Goal #4, Engaged Parents and Communities.
5. What, in your opinion, is the pathway toward adequately funding the district? Do you believe the funding structure needs to be overhauled?
Yes we need a system overhaul including how we distribute money. The funding structure for education in California is archaic and severely undermines our goal to provide every child in the State with a high quality education. We must 1) Require a complete, on time budget from the State of California prior to June 30. 2) Support a weighted funding formula that follows the child. 3) Reward and incentivize reform. 4) Reduce local funding initiatives to 55% instead of 66%.
We need a concerted effort to change existing laws and funding structures so that we may raise education funding to a level that allows us to provide every child with the school they deserve. I will work with voters and our State legislature to raise revenue for education and increase accountability to ensure dollars are spent properly and our schools are academically successful.
6. Should LAUSD have a goal of bringing more students back into public education from private and home schools? If so, how would you suggest going about this?
LAUSD will become the district of choice when we increase our academic performance across all schools. We must provide quality education to all students in the system today. In District two, eliminating the drop-out/push-out rate is the best way to increase enrollment. In some communities of the Westside and Valley, we have opportunities to be more aggressive about attracting families that have chosen private or home school. LAUSD must replicate successful schools, and develop high demand programs such as dual language, linked learning and span schools. Priority groups would be families who request permits and families on waiting lists for charters.
Public School Choice has demonstrated that if parents have the quality and accountability of smaller, teacher-led, locally controlled schools that partner with parents and communities those parents would choose public schools. We need to replicate these environments and strategies so we can recruit more private school students.
7. What steps need to be taken to continue to challenge high achieving students? Are we doing enough to support these students?
We always can do more to support students, high achieving or otherwise. We have invested in strategies of personalization and differentiation to allow each student to grow academically each year. To challenge our high achieving students, teachers must have flexibility to create and tailor lessons and curriculum. I support all students being assessed for gifted programs. I support relationships with external partners to enrich what LAUSD can offer. Additionally, we must increase the use of technology as it offers more opportunities for individualized learning.
8. What role will you have in addressing the resource and opportunity gaps for low-income students?
My role is to be a leader, an advocate and a convener to increase wrap around services and reduce obstacles for care. I will continue partnering to create opportunities for our students.
I have worked to establish and expand school clinics and involve more community partners to address the social-emotional needs of students and their families. During my time on the Board we allocated 34 million to open 15 clinics on schools to bring health services directly to our students. We have worked with the Youth Policy Institute to open over 25 computer labs. We have also used our building program to create community benefits such as Vista Hermosa Park, RFK Inspiration Park, Joint-use at district pools and fields, auditoriums and gymnasiums.
I have served as Chair of the Los Angles Education Coordinating Council, a collaborative that includes the LAECO, Department of Child Family Services, the Department of Mental Health, LAUSD, the City of Los Angeles, the Sheriff’s Department, Probation and the Court system, among others. In the last five years the ECC has focused on developing support for foster and probationary youth with much success. We have created information/database sharing; worked to change discipline laws and municipal code re citations for tardiness, shared best practices and created a forum for practitioners to interact with government.
Through the formation of the LA Compact, we have built relationships with the business, labor, higher education and elected and civic leadership to focus on collective efforts to support student success. Today we have partnerships with LMU, UCLA, USC, CSULA and Community Colleges to increase opportunities for students and staff.
9. What do you think of the teacher evaluation agreement reached between the District and LAUSD labor partners? Explain it and share your thoughts on it.
I am glad that we finally reached an agreement that fully complies with the Stull Act, and significantly advances the work and process of teacher evaluation.
We’ve reached a historic agreement with UTLA and AALA that will improve the way we undertake certificated evaluations and honors their core purpose: to improve the practices of teaching and to assure accountability in meeting standards of the teaching profession.
Two-thirds of UTLA members voted to approve the agreement on teacher evaluation. This agreement stands as testament that working together, LAUSD and UTLA can resolve difficult professional issues, while providing models for the state and the nation on any number of necessary transformative practices.
It is the responsibility of the District to commit to support the implementation and hold administration accountable for the execution or a quality process.
10. What is your position on school choice for parents and families?
School choice is necessary for the continued transformation of LAUSD. As parents make selections, we are informed about preference and assessments. Today we have more choices: traditional campuses, magnet schools, pilot schools, small schools, linked-learning schools, small learning communities, blended learning schools, schools with an external operator and charter schools.
I am proud of the development of each of these efforts but in particular the of the Pilot School Network. By creating reform options within the district, teachers and families have embraced local control and accountability.
Curriculum is no longer dictated by the district’s central office, but is in the hands of capable educators who are tailoring rigorous coursework according to the needs of the communities they serve. Empowerment contracts and flexible per pupil spending allow teachers and parents to design schools from the bottom up, ensuring the alignment of expectations, instructional strategies and school infrastructure. With increased flexibility comes increased accountability. Schools are being held to higher expectations.
11. What is your opinion on charter school growth within the district? Should we limit or promote charter school growth?
Charter schools are a permanent partner in the transformation of the LAUSD. My focus in on providing every student and family a high quality school experience. I believe we will experience more academic growth over time, eliminate our drop-out/push-out crisis and will be challenged to house all the students of LAUSD. The LAUSD and Charter community will work together to plan and manage the need and the available seats to avoid overcrowding in the future. Charters are one option of the LAUSD portfolio of school options. Until LAUSD transforms it’s high need program improvement schools, we cannot limit options for families.
12. How will you engage the community to inform your policy positions and understand the implications of board decisions on the educational experiences of the families and students you serve?
Over the last 6 years, my office has maintained our policy focus around increasing graduation, A-G completion and reclassification rates. We have included strategies of increasing support for the Pilot School Network, Teacher Evaluation and Per-Pupil funding. We have consistently communicated information and initiatives through meetings, newsletters and KLCS. We will continue to have community briefings featuring district leadership for direct communication as well as host stakeholder meetings ie principals, charters, labor, strategic partners. We will continue to visit schools, seek feedback from all stakeholders and use the district 2 office to access resources and responses for our communities.
13. How will you work with other members of the board, the administration and members of the community to ensure EL students are reclassifying and gaining access to A-G courses?
English Language Learners make up nearly one third of the student population in LAUSD, and used to be an afterthought when the district adopted new instructional strategies. This is why I led the district in the re-write of the Master Plan for EL students that aim to reclassify every EL student before they reach middle school. The plan calls for more parent involvement in the reclassification process, better professional development for teachers and principals, and encourages them to work with local community based organizations to support the reclassification process. I worked with the Superintendent and the Board to create a settlement with the Office of Civil Rights with respect to EL students. Last summer this district went through training and today EL are doing better on periodic assessments.
In 2011, I worked with Senator Alex Padilla to pass legislation that moved the CELDT test from the Fall to the Spring to better align English Language Development progress with the California Standards Test. This will help increase reclassification and ultimately make students eligible for A-G classes. In terms of access to A-G, the district is more transparent about access, completion and intervention. We also have increased communication to parents about A-G and the preparation needed.
1. What is the single most important issue facing LAUSD today? As a Board Member, what would you do to deal with it?
We need to reshape the culture of our schools to establish high expectations. We must believe and work so that every child graduates from high School and is able to go to college. This means we need to give our students the tools they need to get there-- counseling, tutoring, summer supports, college fairs and--most importantly--a rigorous college preparatory curriculum.
2. How would you prioritize your local constituency in overseeing LAUSD management, setting District policy, and day-to-day decision-making?
We need to make sure we are evaluating our progress with students, that resources are getting into the classroom, and that the schools are safe. We must measure our 3rd grading reading levels, attendance, graduation, and college preparedness. We set the policy and the goals, and we must make sure day to day decisions, have local input, but work towards those ends.
3. What experience in general management, fiscal management, and budgetary oversight would you bring to the job of Board Member?
As Board President during a period of time in which we have lost billions of dollars in reduced revenue I have worked hard with our teachers, administrators, parents and community to make sure we do everything we can to make the best decisions. It has been tough, but we have made it through and need to continue to work together to make sure we have the resources we need to give our children the best education possible.
4. How should LAUSD deal with its rapidly increasing costs for retiree and employee health care?
There is not question what the schools need, across the country, is a massive reinvestment. The numbers do not add up on any particular line time or issue. We have had massive cuts and we need to restore funding. I do not support taking away what we have promised our workers.