Resolutions as the LAUSD board’s work-around: Too many with too little impact on classrooms, some say
Mike Szymanski | October 4, 2016
Some frank talk among the LA School Board members recently led to questions about how many resolutions the board creates and how effective they are. But they’re also one of the best ways to get things done, members said.
Every school board meeting at LA Unified has a flurry of resolutions: It’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Let’s recognize “No One Eats Alone Day.” How about “Be Kind to Animals Week” or “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” or the “Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of 1915.”
Those are some of the 102 resolutions presented by the LA Unified school board in the past 15 months. Sure, most of them get approved unanimously without discussion. And yes, many have nothing to do with anything that goes on in the classroom.
But a candid discussion last week among the seven school board members and the superintendent revealed that some of them believe resolutions are the only way to get anything done at the district.
The discussion at the Committee of the Whole led to board members contemplating whether there are too many resolutions. Superintendent Michelle King agreed that perhaps there are too many and that the process could be streamlined.
“I’m not sure anything we do in these resolutions has any impact on what actually goes on in the classroom,” said board member Monica Ratliff. “If they celebrate everything we tell them to celebrate, they’d be celebrating all the time. Sure, they had to do breakfast in the classroom because we decided on that, but they had no choice. School reform has to happen in the classroom, but it’s not related to what we do here, I wish it would be.”
Sometimes the resolutions reflect a board member’s passions or pet causes. Monica Garcia introduces “Celebrating Latino Heritage Month” every year and has resolutions against bullying and honoring LGBT Pride. The board’s only African-American member, George McKenna, every year commemorates Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black Heritage Month in separate resolutions.
Ref Rodriguez presented a resolution for Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month to introduce instructors working at the district who are living with the disease. Scott Schmerelson showcased teachers and students who are overcoming their issues when recognizing Dyslexia Awareness Month. But inevitably, those recognitions can add an extra half hour or hour of discussion to already long board meetings that can stretch to eight hours or more.
Since the new configuration of the school board was seated in July 2015, the number of resolutions introduced by each board member or the superintendent has topped 100. This does not include the board members who signed on to co-sponsor the resolutions, which many of them do.
Garcia and Ratliff have introduced the most resolutions, at 31 and 30 respectively, nearly 60 percent of all the resolutions presented during the past 15 months. The superintendent’s office (which included Ramon Cortines as well as King over that period) has introduced 14 resolutions, most of them cursory appointments to advisory boards run by the administration.
Board President Steve Zimmer has 10 resolutions in his name, most supporting or opposing legislation for which he has lobbied legislators in Sacramento or Washington on behalf of the district. Freshman board member Rodriguez and longtime member McKenna have five and six resolutions in their name, respectively, and newcomer Scott Schmerelson ties with veteran board member Richard Vladovic at introducing three over the past 15 months.
King pointed out that she would prefer the board members check in with her directly before drafting resolutions asking her office to do something. Zimmer said that the past three superintendents all begged the school board to curb the number of their resolutions.
“But it’s a Catch-22 because sometimes I think it’s the only way to be heard,” Ratliff said.
In between the obvious resolutions that call for “promoting healthy habits” or “Internet for all” or “supporting fair utility rates for schools,” there are some that address hotly debated topics in the district, such as working together with charter organizations, sharing facilities through Prop. 39 and changing the school calendar.
The need to change some of the procedures weighed heavily on some of the board members, as they mentioned the dozens of resolutions thrown their way. As Vladovic summed up, “Sometimes I leave a meeting more frustrated and drained than when we started.”