Spring 2013 Candidate Survey Archive: LA Unified School District

Spring 2013 Candidate Survey Archive: LA Unified School District

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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.

All eligible candidates were contacted to participate in the survey. If you would like to revise or submit responses, please contact Abe Flores at info@artsforla.org or 213-225-7526.

Elections for this city council are run by district, meaning voters in each district may elect one name from the district’s candidates. Voters may vote in only one district.

To determine your home district, please visit the Los Angeles County Register-Recorder/County Clerk website.

A runoff may be held on May 21, 2013 between the top two candidates who received the most votes in each district if neither receives a majority. If one candidate receives a majority of votes in this election, that candidate wins and no runoff will be held.

Candidates:
District 2 Candidates: Diaz, Garcia, Montanez, Skeels, Vazquez
District 4 Candidates: Anderson, Zimmer
District 6 Candidates: Cano, Ratliff, Sanchez

Question 1: What meaningful experiences with the arts (visual arts, dance, drama, and/or music) did you have growing up?

This candidate has not yet responded.

I have always been inspired by the ability of theater, film, music and art to tell a larger story of our world. I was impressed and influenced by Teatro Campesina and many of the poems and plays that came out of battles for justice.

As a young child I participated in Mexican folklorico dancing from the time I was 5 years old until I was 15. This allowed me the opportunity to learn about and express my culture in a creative manner. I also had the opportunity to learn two musical instruments. I played piano for over 7 years and I also played the violin for 5 years.

The critical thinking skills and ability to cognate interconnectedness between disparate disciplines fostered by the arts are far more important than rote memorization for standardized tests. For the record, critical thinking skills are essential regardless of what century we are in. This is why the children of the wealthy are exposed so heavily to the arts, whereas working class children aren't. Finding things that interest and captivate students is the key to reducing the dropout rate, encouraging students to find passions that lead them to college, etc. If we were educating the whole child in addition to providing wrap around services, then the achievement gap would ameliorate.

I started learning how to play the flute in the third grade at Micheltorena Elementary School when all elementary schools had full time music teachers on staff. Mrs. Rogan, the music teacher at Thomas Starr King Jr. High School allowed upper grade elementary school students to attend her summer school sessions, which I did. She was an awesome teacher. At the Junior High School, Mrs. Rogan also taught me how to play the bassoon. I was in the orchestra and band and had opportunities to perform in school and throughout the district well into high school. While in high school, I joined the Los Angeles City Youth Band and performed with the Youth Band in parades and concerts throughout the city.

I was very lucky to be surrounded by all types of art while growing up. My father was the director of the theater program at a small liberal arts college in Illinois, and rehearsals were my daycare. I myself participated in many plays, including playing Tiny Tim in a production of a Christmas Carol.

Access to arts education changed my life. I wasn't ever a good student and in high school I started struggling severely. One day my friends dragged me into meet Mike Mucci, the school theater department director. Mucci took a chance on me and cast me in his production of The Hasty Heart. The play ended up going to State finals in dramatic competition. And for the first time in my life I felt successful at something related to school. Theater gave me a reason to be sober and a reason to come to school. It taught me about team work and connected me to community. More importantly, being onstage gave me a release from a lot of the pain I was feeling inside. It gave me the chance to be myself and to redefine myself. The truth is that I wasn't all that good an actor. But it was important to me and I tried harder at that than I ever thought I could try at anything. I owe more to Mike Mucci than he could ever know. And I have made it my business on this board to make sure every LAUSD student has access to a Mike Mucci.

This candidate has not yet responded.

This candidate has not yet responded.

This candidate has not yet responded.

Question 2: What role do you think the arts can play in supporting key priorities of the district, such as closing the achievement gap, reducing the dropout rate, and preparing more students for college eligibility and the twenty-first century workforce? (Approximately 75-100 words)

This candidate has not yet responded.

Students learn and are inspired in different ways. It is important that students with artistic skills and expression have the opportunity to find this early on in their education. Success in one field, leads to confidence and success in other areas. Art can support student achievement in many ways. The most being in showing them they can succeed and become professionals in any field they dedicate themselves to.

The Arts are known to have a tremendous impact on the developmental growth of every child and have been proven to help level the "learning field" across socio-economic boundaries. Also, many of our drop-out students, drop-out because they feel “disengaged” and the arts offer students the opportunity to express themselves and interact with others in creative and innovative ways. Arts in the classroom can help us close the achievement gap AND reduce the dropout rate so that more of our students can graduate college and career ready.

The obsession with standards and punitive testing brought on by NCLB and its descendants RTTT and CCSS, have perverted and warped curriculum. Bringing balance back means resisting standardized tests and curriculum, and insisting that our students are provided rounded, culturally relevant curricula. While we still need to push for more arts and a rounded curriculum within the current regime of standards, ultimately we need to fight for curriculum decisions being made on a local level that addresses the needs of students. A nationally standardized arts curriculum further marginalizes children of color and those from different cultures. We need arts that are part of ethnic studies courses in order to respect cultural heritages.

In addition to nurturing students' individuality, creativity, and love of learning, arts education has been linked to improved student achievement and graduation rates. The arts reinforce the importance of problem solving, teamwork, and collaboration, traits required of the twenty-first century workforce.

Art can do so many things to support the district’s goals, including fostering critical and creative thinking and creating a more interesting and engaging school experience. Not all students learn in the same way, and I believe that art can be a wonderful way of teaching students who might not learn from traditional methods. Just as some students excel in math and writing some students are truly gifted in the visual or performing arts. By exposing all students to art early on we are giving them the tools they need to explore their gifts and stay engaged in school.

The Arts are the hook and the lever for closing the opportunity gap, eradicating the push out crisis, and graduating students who are truly college and work force ready. Like in my own experience students come to school for the arts. Arts provide the spark for so many students to value school and love learning. Arts are the lever that tips the scales in favor of differentiating instruction so that all different types of learners can acces the core curriculum.

This candidate has not yet responded.

This candidate has not yet responded.

This candidate has not yet responded.

Question 3: A standards-based arts curriculum is one of the five core subjects in No Child Left Behind and critical for developing job skills vital in the creative economy and the twenty-first century workforce. Yet, most often, only "what is tested is taught" in our schools. How do you envision bringing balance back for a comprehensive education and ensuring all students have access to a quality, standards-based arts education curriculum?

This candidate has not yet responded.

The truth is we have lost billions of dollars in funding. While there has been a strong push from the artistic community, we are at the bottom end of per pupil funding. As we continue to improve our schools we must also push for increased funding for the arts, and for recreational education and activity. This is not for a lack of will. But we must work hard to bring these funds back and make sure arts are on top or our priority list. I envision arts as part of the resources that come into our schools.

It is essential for the arts to be an integral part of the curriculum. By allocating time during the school day and providing appropriate and innovative curriculum, the importance and need for arts instruction will be emphasized and its importance a focus of the administration and staff. Due to the number of standardized tests required, a significant portion of classroom time is allocated to prepare for these. The number of required tests needs to be reduced. This will increase the amount of instructional time available for arts curriculum. Testing is needed to measure student progress, however, too much testing can stump creativity and innovation in the classroom.

Again, the de-emphasis in the arts in our schools is a direct result of national policies that have created an abject high-stakes environment where test preparation takes precedent over teaching and learning. I would work with all the stake-holders (who are natural allies) mentioned in the question above to create widespread awareness and outreach as to the critical importance of a rounded curriculum that sees the arts, including literature, as the primary, not secondary goal of education. Such a campaign would necessitate revising the existing LAUSD arts plan, which still sees test-prep as being paramount.

Excessive testing has resulted in a prescribed, narrow curriculum that places too much emphasis on the elements of Reading and Math that will be measured. Test administration is also costly. I believe standardized tests should be limited to those mandated by law and funds should instead be used to provide all students access to quality arts education.

As a parent and an education activist I do not support exclusively teaching to the test, in large part because art and other essential parts of the curriculum suffer. We need to at a minimum have one art and one music teacher in each school. My daughters are lucky; they have an art teacher and music teacher due to the fundraising efforts of their school’s booster club. Many schools do not have these parent resources. We need a systematic way to introduce standards based art into our schools. Insuring that there is an art teacher in each school is a step in the right direction.

One of the reasons I have always pushed back against the drive for high stakes standardized testing is that our students are not numbers or data points. The data and objectivity doctrine endangers all students because it strips away the beauty of teaching and learning. Inverstng in and prioritizing high quality arts education will help restore balance in our instructional approach. No one should be afraid that we will compromise standards and accountability. Anyone who has submitted a portfolio or been part of a performance knows there is no higher form of authentic assessment. We need to have the courage to fight for the things in schooling that are real education. The arts is at the top of my list.

This candidate has not yet responded.

This candidate has not yet responded.

This candidate has not yet responded.

Question 4: If elected, how will you engage classroom teachers, arts teachers, parents, and community arts organizations to implement your district's strategic arts plan? If you are not familiar with the plan, how can the district make the plan more visible?

This candidate has not yet responded.

We need more partnerships. I would love to connect with art and community groups to enrich the artistic experience and education of our young people. This is where local cities and non-profits can, and do, support our schools. But you are right, we need a strategy and a plan for it. I look forward to working with you on it.

It is vital for all stakeholders to understand the importance of the arts programs for the students in the LAUSD. Through a comprehensive campaign which targets exposure and professional development on various levels, the staff, parents, and community can learn the importance and value of the arts program for the students. I fully support the District’s Arts in the Core plan which is due by July 2013. This plan calls for, among other things, a restoration to arts education funding, a development plan to grow arts education and aggressive recruitment and support of arts educators. As a board member, I would encourage the schools in my District to develop their own individualized “arts education plan” that can be customized to their own school’s identity. I would advocate for partnerships and support from the arts community and college community. I would reach out to local museums and artists to serve as sponsors and advisors on the plan and to partner up with the schools in my District. I would also reach out to local college and university art departments for their support and collaboration.

Efforts to restore arts via policies and plans are laudable. However, so long as our public schools are threatened with catastrophic consequences like closure, reconstitution, or being handed over to a privately managed charter corporations, there is little hope that they will actually be able to execute such policies and plans. National education policy has created conditions where deviation from what is required on standardized tests is impossible, despite platitudes from the Secretary of Education on the importance of the arts. Board Members on the second largest school district, have a moral obligation to challenge the reasons why the arts, electives, vocational training, and anything outside the narrow confines of NCLB/RTTT/CCSS aren't considered important. In practice, really expanding our arts curricula in LAUSD would be a visible sign of resistance to the testing-industrial-complex controlling U.S. education policy.

I will review existing structures of engagement and ensure that all stakeholders are included, especailly those communities that stand the most to gain from fully funded arts programs.

Los Angeles has a vibrant arts community, which has the potential to be a huge asset to LAUSD. I would support creating partnerships between LAUSD and the many museum and arts philanthropic organizations in the city. For example The Los Angeles Fund for Public Education, has recently focused on the importance of arts education. I don’t believe the plan is visible enough; a way to engage teachers and parents is through having a school based information campaign to familiarize parents with the plan.

We have the best arts partnerships in our public schools of any school district in the world. In some schools we provide a world class arts education. But access to arts education can no longer be a privilege for the affluent and the lucky. It must be a right for every student. If re-elected I will continue to work relentlessly to ensure our plan is fully implemented.

This candidate has not yet responded.

This candidate has not yet responded.

This candidate has not yet responded.

Spring 2013 Candidate Survey Archive: Burbank Unified School District

Spring 2013 Candidate Survey Archive: Burbank Unified School District

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