By Aaron Blevins, 2/21/2013
One write-in, one challenger and one incumbent face off
With two candidates opting not to run due to a lack of signatures, only three candidates are running for the LAUSD Board of Education District 4 seat. One, Jeneen Robinson, is running as a write-in candidate.
Robinson, 40, is a youth minister in Watts and a community education advocate. She said she is running because the board needs a representative who will advocate for children and families exclusively. Robinson said that children tend to get lost in the debates involving unions and charter schools.
“There’s a power play,” she said. “There’s a pendulum swinging now on the board between those two special interests. …I think that does not do any of the children that we serve any justice.”
Robinson said she wants to ensure safety in schools by creating a clear safety plan to protect students and teachers. She said she has emergency preparedness experience from her internship with the U.S. Department of State.
The youth minister said she would like to be in a position to bring better teachers to students. Under-served populations are getting the worst teachers, and teachers aren’t supplied a necessary support system, Robinson said.
“I would leverage my community liaison and knowledge in that area to support teachers,” she added.
Robinson said she wants to review supplemental services that have not been evaluated for effectiveness and direct impact on student learning, such as some tutoring services supplied by outside vendors.
“That’s millions of dollars of potential waste in our budget that needs review,” she said.
If elected, Robinson also hopes to maintain the Title I funding threshold, address the achievement gap for children of color, children with disabilities and poorer schools; and strengthen middle schools to improve graduation rates.
Anderson, 41, is a child advocate for Children Now, a statewide organization. She said she has worked with U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and learned that good public policy involves the “three-legged stool” of elected officials, staff members and advocacy organizations.
“I’ve spent the last year and a half steeped in learning the best practices for how to improve education,” Anderson said.
She said she would like to ensure that LAUSD schools provide students with effective teachers. Anderson said LAUSD is full of “A+” teachers, but not every district teacher is an “A+” teacher.
“We need to find something better for them to do so we can get an A+ teacher in front of every student,” she added.
Anderson said she supports the work that Superintendent John Deasy has done to improve the teacher evaluation system, and that she supports innovative models in schools. She said she is in favor of granting schools more local control.
Funding is a top priority as well, Anderson said. She said the district must work to use its funding wisely, touting her experience in Waxman’s office, where she worked on a committee that looked into how efficient the executive branch is running.
“I want to take those skills and bring them to this $7 billion bureaucracy,” Anderson said.
She also hopes to improve early education in the district. Anderson said she would strive to ensure that every child who enters kindergarten does so ready to learn.
An Illinois native, she is a board member on the Mar Vista Community Council. Anderson has run for office once before — in the 53rd Assembly District race in 2010.
Zimmer, 42, is seeking a second term in office, having begun his first term in 2009. Prior to working on the board, he was a teacher and counselor. Zimmer said he wants to build upon the work completed in his first term.
“The work’s not done,” he said.
Zimmer referenced the success in brining a middle school — Laurel Span School — to West Hollywood. He said he hopes to continue expanding the K-12 baccalaureate program, which builds “outstanding quality” neighborhood schools, offers “dynamic instructional design,” encourages parent engagement and utilizes resources in the community.
“That transformation … is still looking at its initial stages,” Zimmer said, adding that he is compelled to be the driving force behind that change.
He said that during his first term, he frequently sought a compromise on “hot-button” issues.
“I feel like that role as the swing vote, choosing to use that to build coalitions and collaborative change instead of holy wars, has been effective,” Zimmer said. “It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been effective.”
He said he would look to implement “with fidelity” the new teacher evaluation agreement, and would continue to be “relentless” in seeking funding. Zimmer said he also wants to continue work on the inclusion of LGBT students and LGBT history, and the implementation of the Dream Act. He said he would continue efforts to improve nutrition, assist at-risk students and promote student recovery day as well.
However, Zimmer was disappointed at the news that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had donated $1 million into the district’s board races, with some of that funding going to his competitors.
“It’s very hard for me to understand how a school board race in Los Angeles is of interest to the mayor of New York City. …Something is lost when money plays such a significant role in the lives of children,” he said, adding that he is a successful sitting school board member. “I’ve done the best I can in a terrible situation.”