LAUSD students to board members: We need a superintendent who will make brave decisions in supporting all — not just some — of us!

An open letter by LAUSD students, to the Los Angeles Unified School Board members:   

We are a group of students that recognize our voices and experiences should give us the opportunity to participate in decisions made about our education. We hope you take our perspective into consideration as you undertake your most important duty as school board members representing over half a million young people: choosing the next superintendent.

Historically, LA’s superintendents have a short tenure — in the time we have been in your schools, we have had five superintendents! We are the individuals most impacted by the district’s policies and choices in leadership. We hope this letter will compel the board to choose a superintendent that is bold, creative, resilient, and equity-driven. Moreover, we believe this new leader should care about students of color and provide the resources necessary to ensure that every single student in LAUSD will graduate ready for college and a career.

Most of us have grown up in low-income communities and have attended some of the lowest-performing schools in LAUSD. At Jordan High School, only 32 percent of our peers are on track to attend a four-year university, while at Los Angeles School for Enriched Studies, 83 percent of our peers are on track to attend a university. We must work harder to close achievement gaps. We need a leader that prioritizes opportunities for students such as universal ACT and SAT, qualified and caring counselors, and resources that will help advance college and career readiness for all LAUSD students.

Some of the Young Civic Leaders, at the 2017 Wilmington Book Festival. (Courtesy: United Way of Greater Los Angeles)

Just recently, one of the members of our group was experiencing many hardships. These challenges caused her to fall behind on her schoolwork, so she reached out to her school counselor and was able to connect with mental health support services. She said the experience made her feel “that she wasn’t alone” because of the support she received. She was able to meet her college application deadlines and has received acceptance offers from some of the top schools in the nation.

However, school experiences vary from peer-to-peer. One of our peers recollects that teachers and counselors held an assembly for the entire student body and told students, “If you don’t take part in your education, or don’t ask for help, you’ll end up working at some fast food restaurant or waiting for work outside Home Depot.” This sort of “motivation” is discouraging.

We want a superintendent who will create a positive culture where all our teachers, counselors, and peers feel like they have the support they need to participate fully and effectively in student success. That means staff feel like they have resources to support all of us. Too often, they are forced to weed out the ones they perceive to be the “best” or “most promising.” The highest-achieving of us get “creamed,” while the rest of us have to rely on outside programs, a sibling, or maybe a parent or mentor if they know how to get to college.

We would like to commend the district for all the work that they have achieved thus far. In 2005, only 18 percent of graduates completed their A-G courses. Because of students who came before us, that number has increased to 47 percent in 2016. We strongly believe that in partnership with the superintendent, our teachers, principals, parents, and community members, we can achieve 100 percent of college and career-ready LAUSD graduates.

One of our peers shares, “Education was always a ‘for me’ thing. But it’s not just about my education and if I succeed in life. It is about all these other kids sitting next to me in class. All those people in other schools that I don’t even know about.” In the next few months, we will be leading the charge to Close the Gap between those who simply get a diploma and those who are eligible for college. We want you and the new superintendent to join us in prioritizing the highest-need students in the District! For too long, English Learners, low-income, and Black and Latino students have been ignored when it comes to supportive adults and well-resourced schools. We hope that you choose a leader that can join with us, our parents, our teachers, and our principals to make brave decisions in supporting all, not just some of us!

In solidarity,

The Students of United Way’s Young Civic Leaders Program

Polette Garrido, Hamilton High School

Zeyna Faucette, Hamilton High School

Joe Angle, Hamilton High School

Sharon Sandoval, Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts

Alejandro Salas, Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts

Angelina Sam, Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts

Josue Gomez, Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts

Julia Sarieva, Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts

Axel Hernandez, Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts

Yecenia Perez, Orthopaedic Medical Magnet

Reynaldo Vargas, Orthopaedic Medical Magnet

Cyntia Escalante, Orthopaedic Medical Magnet

Isaac Pichardo, Manual Arts High School

Carlos Rodriguez, Manual Arts High School

Diana Renoj, Torres High School

Christopher Mejia, Torres High School

Marisa Parisi, Torres High School

Michael Joseph Buenagua, Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools

Sharrel Narsico, Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools

Mariel Mendoza, Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools

Joshu Valdivieso, Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools

Fabio Garcia, Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools

Lila O’Connell, Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies

Raven Lawson, Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies

Lydia Tucker, Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies

Eimmy Sanchez, Camino Nuevo High School Miramar

Marie Mendoza, Downtown Magnet High School

LA School Report,  April 16, 2018