May 13, 2013

Educators 4 Excellence and EdVoice present exclusive interviews with both Los Angeles Unified School Board District Six candidates

Monica Ratliff and Antonio Sanchez Throw Support Behind Current Superintendent and Creating Quality School Options, Split on Approach to Teacher Retention and School Improvement Strategies

May 13, 2013 (Los Angeles)— School board candidates Monica Ratliff and Antonio Sanchez both expressed their support for Superintendent Deasy but split on how they would approach transforming low performing schools and retaining talented teachers and leaders at hard-to-staff schools, in an exclusive interview made available today by Educators 4 Excellence Los Angeles and EdVoice. With just one week remaining until Election Day, the run-off candidates participated in a podcast interview to lay out their visions for Los Angeles’ public schools.

“This is a critical moment for public education in Los Angeles and the winner of this run-off election will be a deciding vote when it comes to the future direction of our schools. Residents in the Valley have exciting choices—Monica, a teacher in LAUSD, and Antonio, a graduate of LAUSD, who bring very different perspectives and approaches on leadership,” said Ama Nyamekye, Executive Director of Educators 4 Excellence - Los Angeles. “We broadcasted this interview so that our members and the public could all access the candidates to better understand their choices for School Board.”

Both Ratliff and Sanchez were interviewed last week, with E4E and EdVoice ensuring both candidates weighed in on the city’s most pressing educational issues, including district leadership, evaluation, teacher recruitment and retention and public charter schools, among others. The candidates were pushed to go deeper into their specific policy positions so that the public can have a broader understanding of the approach each candidate would take on the school board.

ON SUPERINTENDENT JOHN DEASY

Antonio Sanchez was unequivocal in his support, stating, “I support the Superintendent. I believe in the work that's he's doing. I admire his leadership…Let me give a specific example why: I'm very excited to work with the Local Initiative Schools agreement that UTLA and Superintendent Deasy crafted that transfers the ability to turn around our schools to the local teachers, principals and parents."

Monica Ratliff also supported the Superintendent’s work, and would keep him on the job because, “he’s done a lot of good things for this district. One of the good things he’s done is he’s definitely changed the way we hand out tenure.” She did acknowledge there are disagreements between her and Deasy, but believes “we can work together to change this district.”

ON TEACHER RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION

Sanchez believes a key strategy for attracting and retaining teachers is empowering them to transform their schools and protecting them from seniority-based layoff policies that disproportionately affect disadvantaged schools. “We have to turn around our lowest performing schools, our hard to staff schools, so I would want to invite teachers through the local initiative process and craft a good strong aggressive plan to turn around our lowest performing schools,” Sanchez said. He added that to keep teachers, “We need to thank them. It's hard work! We need to thank them, recognize them and we need to protect them so we can keep that stability and let that teacher know that we appreciate their work.”

Ratliff believes that school leadership and professional development are the most essential strategies for attracting and keeping effective teachers. She notes that we must “make sure that our professional development meets the needs of our teachers.” In terms of how we do that, she would like to see the district and schools, “do more in terms of mentorship. I think that we also need to ultimately look at just bringing in highly effective teachers. Instead of always having some of the newest teachers go to some of these hardest to staff schools, we bring in some of our most effective teachers.”


ON SCHOOL CHOICE

Both Sanchez and Ratliff were strongly supportive of giving parents more choice through pilot and charter schools, with Ratliff stating “I absolutely, positively believe the district should push to establish more high performing schools, period…I think we already know what works at many schools and we need to apply that everywhere. What we’ve seen works is a fair amount of flexibility and autonomy.”

Sanchez agreed in his interview, adding, “One of my priorities is to make sure we have quality options. I don't care what you call it—pilot, charter, or magnet. As I speak to parents, they don't care either. They want to make sure they have a quality school.”

ON SCHOOL TRANSFORMATION

Sanchez calls for more school autonomy—beginning with a strong and inclusive turnaround plan generated by teachers, principals and parents—with clear accountability for results. “At the end of the day, when we have tried all options, I can’t let a child continue to attend a low performing schools,” explained Sanchez. “If we can’t do anything to turn around that failing school, we have to pursue federal restructuring efforts.”

Ratliff calls for more professional development for leaders and teachers at chronically low performing schools, less emphasis on testing and more support for early childhood education and parent education. “At a low performing school, we would want to take teachers to visit other masters performing their craft…I also think we need to take a look at some of the testing [periodic assessments] being mandated by the district.” Ratliff also notes that parent education and involvement as well as early childhood education are key. “If you give children the knowledge and tools they need before they start school officially, I think it makes a huge difference.”

The public can listen to the full podcast interviews with Monica Ratliff and Antonio Sanchez here.

To find your polling place for the Mayoral and School Board runoff election, please visit: http://www.lavote.net/LOCATOR/.

###