Campaigns

Spring 2015 Arts & Culture Candidate Surveys: Los Angeles Unified School Board District 3

Spring 2015 Arts & Culture Candidate Surveys: Los Angeles Unified School Board District 3

Candidate order: Elizabeth Badger Bartels, Tamar Galatzan, Filiberto Gonzalez, Ankur Patel, Carl J. Petersen, Scott Mark Schmerelson

As part of its work to connect voters and candidates, Arts for LA presents these Arts & Culture Candidate Surveys to promote dialogue around issues related to arts education and its benefits.

Survey responses provided by each candidate are for voter information purposes only. Arts for LA does not endorse candidates seeking office. We are committed to fostering respectful, nonpartisan dialogue about issues relating to arts and culture. For more information, please read about our mission and values or our FAQ.

All eligible candidates were contacted to participate in the survey. If you would like to submit new or revise existing responses, please contact Cristina Pacheco at advocate@artsforla.org or 213-225-7580.

The Actors Fund, KCET Artbound, California Alliance for Arts Education, LA2050, LA STAGE Alliance, Latino Arts Network, Otis College of Art and Design, and the Social & Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) served as Regional Partners by promoting Arts & Culture Candidate Surveys throughout Los Angeles County.

Voting for Los Angeles Unified School Board District 3 will be held on Tuesday, March 3.

1 seat is available in this election. Elections are at large; voters may vote for any of the eligible candidates in this election.

For more information on where to vote, visit the Los Angeles County Clerk/Registrar-Recorder’s Office website.

Question 1: Tell us about a meaningful experience you had with art (visual, dance, drama, music) while growing up? (Approximately 75-100 words)

I was raised on a farm, where art was certainly not part of my experience. However, in high school, as one of my elected classes, I joined a Drama classes which gave me an escape from a world that was not my reality. I am not sure whether it led to more educational successes, but it did lead to a more confidence-building and finding and appreciating my own voice.

Growing up, I was the most untalented of kids. I couldn’t sing or read music. I’d take a couple of dance classes or a drawing lesson or two, then would be unenrolled when my lack of potential became apparent. This was very frustrating because, having gotten a taste of the arts, I knew what I was missing. Because of this experience, I can identify with LAUSD students who want an outlet for their creativity but don’t have access to the classes. My eldest son, who is like me in many ways, has discovered an affinity for animation that he’s pursuing at an LAUSD middle school. I can’t help but wonder if I could have had the same aptitude if I’d had the same opportunities.

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I did some theater in 3rd grade which I greatly enjoyed; it gave me a different perspective on my classmates and helped build strong relationships. While most of my middle and high school extracurricular energy was invested in Baseball, in hind sight, I wish I had spent more time with the arts. In grad school I embraced poetry as a creative outlet and utilized it regularly to discuss complex issues and build bridges between groups that were dealing with similar issues, but seldom reached out to one another.

I was the child in your school who had trouble fitting in, both socially and academically. When my mother signed me up for drum lessons in the third grade, she gave me a pathway out of my ostracization. Playing the drums gave me a voice; they were loud and allowed me to project beyond my shyness. They built my self-confidence; I may have failed on the athletic field, but playing music was something that I excelled at. Most appropriate to this conversation, they kept my interest in school. No matter what the struggle, band class was a welcome respite.

As a child I was always fascinated with music, especially foreign music. When I began to take foreign language classes in school, I was even more interested in improving my foreign language skills to better understand the musical lyrics. This combination took me to the wonderful world of operas and operettas. I would listen to the music and follow the lyrics with the librettos. I still have that love of music. As a school principal, I always had music playing in the morning as children and teachers arrived. What a difference it made in their attitude and sweetened the start of their day. Both children and adults would compliment me for brightening the start of their day.

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Question 2: What role do you think creativity can play in supporting key priorities of the district, such as reducing the drop out rate, closing the achievement gap, and preparing more students for college eligibility and/or meaningful careers? (Approximately 75-100 words)

Children who struggle with academics find that art build not only their academic success, but their overall confidence. Confidence certainly can lead to successes in other areas of their lives including education and overall life structure.

We encourage our children to use their imaginations when they’re babies and toddlers because we know that creative play supports their learning and development. That is why it is vital that creativity becomes an essential element of teaching and learning in every one of our schools. A student is more likely to be interested in a lesson enlivened by music, or engaged in an assignment that requires video skills. A classmate may struggle academically but find success when inspired by a theater or dance teacher. Helping a student find satisfaction or even passion for a subject is key to helping them succeed. By encouraging creativity, we are teaching our students to innovate, explore and achieve their potential.

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Creativity, especially performance and visual arts is essential to meeting the district’s key priorities. Having creative outlets for students has been proven to help with learning STEM skills. Nurturing creativity is crucial to reducing the drop-out rate because it gives students a reason to come to and stay on campus. It’s no secret that having a broad array of interests and skill sets helps in applying for and getting accepted to quality schools. While playing in band may not translate directly to music careers, the discipline one develops while learning to play an instrument or adapting to abrupt changes does.

Too often we forget what makes America great. While our iPhones may be manufactured in China, they are "Designed by Apple in California." To maintain our place in the world, we need to encourage development of our students’ creativity. Too often the LAUSD forgets that all students are not college bound and have dreams that involve the arts and vocational skills. Prioritizing academics to the exclusion of these other subjects leaves them feeling that the education system does not apply to them and makes them vulnerable to dropping out.

Most students need a hook to stay in school and succeed. For some it is sports. For others it is the music, art, dance and drama that hooks a student to stay in school and have a reason for coming to school each day. As principal at Lawrence MS I supported our award winning band and drama programs. At Cochran MS I modernized our piano laboratory and bought new instruments for our orchestra class. Cochran MS students were low income and really needed my support to maintain those two essential electives.

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Question 3: Los Angeles USD district has embarked on an initiative to restore meaningful sequential arts education into its core curriculum. What do you feel are the strengths and the weaknesses of the plan? (Approximately 75-100 words)

Research supports that enrichment in art education can boost a child's interest in school, educational enhancement and overall leadership skills. Art education can be instrumental in providing a well-rounded education, as well as a balanced life structure.

We’re fortunate to have Rory Pullens as the chief executive and top advocate for our arts education program. With only limited funding available, Rory is relying on outside partners to offer the arts to underserved students and train teachers to integrate arts into their daily lessons. Money will always be tight, but he is working to provide arts access to all students and an “equity index” to help ensure that no one is overlooked.

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I feel that the spirit of the initiative is in the right place, but the implementation strategy and budget is insufficient. Giving $150,000 to the Music Center, to train 20 teachers at 5 schools on integrating arts into the curriculum is just not enough to make the dramatic changes we need. If we’re going bring back arts in a meaningful way, we need far more arts teachers and classes and fewer administrators.

If a tree is chopped down to print a plan and nobody reads it, is it really a plan?The arts are a subject that is rarely mentioned in district discussions. I looked the plan up on the district’s web site and it was dated June 14, 2013. Ironically, this was about the time when the band program was disappearing from my child’s middle school. Maybe it is for the best. I distrust any arts plan that includes “systematic data collection.” The funds spent to create this plan should have been used to hire a few music teachers.

Arts education is as essential to our students' education as their prescribed academic subjects. This plan will greatly help the district in its financial position because the increased number of students attending will bolster the ADA earned. A meaningful plan will also return many students to district schools from private and charter schools. This too will help the district in its financial woes. The best part is that everyone wins with this plan.

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Question 4: How can your district make the Los Angeles USD arts education plan, and its progress on the plan, more visible to parents and leaders in your community? (Approximately 75-100 words)

District can develop partnerships with the parents and community to make Art Education more viable and successful. It can do this by collaborating with performing arts organizations, civic leaders and the music and TV industry. Radio/TV/Film industries are always looking to partner with schools to enhance not only the children's education, but their industry visibility in the community.

Since I was first elected to the school board in 2007, I’ve regularly held town hall meetings on a variety of issues, including the Common Core to LCFF. The new arts education plan fits neatly into this format, with the opportunity for our teachers and students to share and showcase their accomplishments for the audience.

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If elected I will make transparency and visibility of all LAUSD plans a top priority. I will reach out to parent groups, neighborhood councils and through new and classic media to bring as many interested parties into the discussion as possible. There are too many information silos in local government, especially LAUSD. As a full-time board member I will regularly send out reports and infographics to foster discussions and solicit input. I will make it a point to recruit students and challenge them to come up with creative and informative ways of discussing what is going on with their school district.

I entered this race because the LAUSD has lost touch with the students they serve and the parents and teachers who represent them. In my case, they forced me to fight for the special education services that my children’s teachers agreed they needed. However, this is indicative of the top-down approach the district uses to manage it’s schools. As a Board member I will set up advisory panels that will not only keep me updated on the issues facing the district’s stakeholders, but will also be useful in disseminating information back to the students, parents and teachers of the district.

I made sure that in every school in which I was an administrator, there was an active parent center. I am happy to say that my parent centers were used as models in the district. My parent leaders and I were invited to address local district meanings and present how to have an effective parent center operate. The word goes out to the community via the parent centers regarding the arts education program. The parents themselves are the best cheerleaders for the program. They can offer personal stories to other parents about the success achieved through arts education.

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Question 5: In light of the new funding structure for school districts in the state (i.e. the Local Control Funding Formula), how do you see arts education aligning with the eight new priority areas? (Approximately 75-100)

Arts education certain aligns with the goals of LCCF/LCAP as it can lead to increase success in closing the academic gap, not only for LCCF targets, but overall community. As stated earlier, studies support that art education can lead to lasting academic success and a well-rounded education alignment in life.

Whether offered as a stand-alone course or incorporated into another subject, music, drama, dance and the visual arts encourage and inspire students to succeed. The arts can be used to teach Common Core lessons in literacy, analysis and even math, and to promote collaboration and team-building skills that are at the heart of the program. Events like concerts and exhibits promote both student and parent engagement while enhancing the learning environment of the campus.

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As the school funding philosophy shifts from “equality to justice”, it’s important that we remember all our schools need robust arts programs; everyone deserves a chance to find their voice. While it’s crucial we ensure working-class students have access to instruments and art supplies with the time and space to experiment with them, we must not abandon the middle-class families either. We need robust investment in our arts programs across the district, we’re not trying to install software onto hard drives, we’re trying to instill a love of learning for whole lives, Art is a powerful tool for achieving that edict.

Access to arts education is essential for maintaining student engagement, especially for students who struggle through their academic courses but whose interests are sparked by artistic endeavors. “Research has found that learning music facilitates learning other subjects and enhances skills that children inevitably use in other areas,” improving student achievement. We need to recognize that standardized tests cannot be used to measure creativity and find other ways to measure other student outcomes. Course accesses should be expanded to include studies in art and vocational skills. Barriers to parent involvement and participation, like charging admission to student recitals, should be banned.

Arts education is essential for students to remain in school, succeed academically and become our new leaders. Arts education is related to all of the eight priority areas. It will provide to our students fully credentialed teachers, it will flow through the academic standards, have the community involved, improve achievement, engage the students in an area of interest, lower discipline problems, have classes that will lead to careers and of course improve student outcomes.

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