It was a packed house at Vaughn Next Century Learning Center Wednesday night for a forum with the three District 6 candidates — Maria Cano, Monica Ratliff and Antonio Sanchez – sponsored by Families First and moderated by Fidel Ramirez, a parent and after-school coordinator for the Youth Policy Institute.
The crowd of more than 250, mostly parents, sat quietly during the meeting, as if trying to figure out where the candidates differed. It wasn’t an easy task. There wasn’t any particular issue where the candidates disagreed in any obvious or sharp manner. All of them seemed consistently enthusiastic about charter schools and other forms of choice.
As in the past, Sanchez was the most enthusiastic supporter of the parent trigger. Ratliff seemed to be most concerned about a teacher evaluation focused on evaluating teachers rather than helping them get better at what they do. Perhaps not surprising given the setting, Cano was somewhat enthusiastic about charters and choice.
Questions pooled from note cards filled out by members of the audience addressed a number of hot-button issues, such as the parent trigger, charter moratorium, teacher evaluation.
When asked whether they would support teacher evaluations under LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, the candidates all expressed abstract support without specifically endorsing the Deasy guideline making student achievement 30 percent of a teacher’s evaluation.
“I support an evaluation system that helps identify their weaknesses and develops them and supports teachers’ strengths,” Ratliff said.
She also stressed the importance of teachers having examples to follow.
“The way to get better is to watch other teachers who are masters of what they do,” she said.
Maria Cano urged exercising caution when it comes to evaluating teachers.
“We obviously are in dire need of measuring our progress,” Cano said. “One of the things that should not be done with evaluations is not to quickly let go of teachers that have a successful rate in the classroom.”
Cano also told the audience that parents should be involved in the evaluation process.
“Until that happens, the evaluation process is not fair,” Cano said.
Sanchez spoke of wanting to work with Deasy and United Teachers Los Angeles, or UTLA, to ensure the process is equitable.
“The evaluation system has to be fair,” Sanchez said. “I do not want another evaluation system that’s out to get teachers.”
On the subject of whether they would have supported the moratorium on charter approval, the candidates all agreed it should be about providing options for students in LAUSD with Sanchez most fervently expressing “no to moratorium.”
“I am the first proponent of choice in education,” Cano said. “We need to make sure we grow the talent that is out there and grow the programs that are successful. Cutting off options and not protecting choice is not just.”
While Sanchez said “no to a moratorium,” he also talked of it being less about charter schools and “good schools.” He pointed to the fact 75 percent of charter schools have an API of more than 800 in District Six while 35 percent of “regular” schools do.
“I want to make sure that this number is increased, I want to make sure your children have options,” Sanchez said.
While Ratliff described charter schools as “a real opportunity to take a vision and make it into a reality,” she also spoke of making sure all schools succeed.
“We need to expand successful schools,” Ratliff said. “We need to take what works and apply it across the district.”
Last but not least, the candidates also addressed the parent-trigger law which gives parents a voice as to whether a school is performing as it should.
“I think we need to do a better job of addressing low-performing schools before we get to that point,” Ratliff said. “I support parent’s right to organize, but I’m concerned about how long it takes the district to address low-performing schools.”
Sanchez said the emphasis should be on doing “a better job of sharing best practices,” including having more principals in dialogue with one another as well as increased dialogue with magnet and other schools.
“When parents have to tell the district how to run the district, I think that’s sad,” Cano said.
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