A Personal Endorsement in LAUSD District 3 — Lifetime Educator Scott Schmerelson
The incumbent has a record of improving opportunities for children and is the better choice.
“I know this for you is personal.” – Marilyn Koziatek
For a person asking for votes, LAUSD School Board candidate Marilyn Koziatek does not seem very willing to share information about her views with potential constituents. She was the only person running in Board District 3 to not answer the questionnaire that I sent out so that I could write candidate profiles. She has ducked and weaved when asked questions about sex education and providing students with birth control options at candidate forums. While saying at an event last Saturday that she was opposed to the tone of the anti-Semitic flyers sent out by the California Charter School Association (CCSA), she made no mention that this group has endorsed her campaign. I managed to catch up with her as she left the venue and asked a simple question — would she disavow the CCSA endorsement?
Not surprisingly, Koziatek did not answer the question, complaining that “this is not the way to approach” her. Perhaps I should have made my inquiry while holding a big, fat campaign check. She complained that I have an agenda and that for me this is personal. Finally, something that we can agree on. This election is personal and for that reason, I am wholeheartedly endorsing Scott Schmerelson for LAUSD Board District 3.
Two of my daughters are on the severe end of the Autism spectrum and I became an activist as a result of my family’s fight to get them the services that they needed. Schmerelson and I met when we both ran against Tamar Galatzan, the person who last held this seat. As an education “reformer” Galatzan believed in forced mainstreaming where regardless of their needs, children are placed on general education campuses.
During his first term, Board Member Schmerelson has been a tireless advocate for students with special education needs. He has twice headed the Special Education Committee where he delves into the issues facing the district’s most vulnerable students. While Nick Melvoin sought to move a Career Transition Center (CTC) to make way for a vanity project and Monica Garcia complains about special education taking away funding from “our kids,” Schmerelson has made sure that parents once again have the option of enrolling their students in Special Education Centers during the IEP process. He notes that:
Compare these actions to Marilyn Koziatek’s record. Since Koziatek did not reply to questions that were sent to her, including ones about special education, we do not know her personal views on the subject. However, since she is running based on her work at Granada Hills Charter school, we can look at their record with special education. While Granada is supposed to be a neighborhood school, its percentage of students with disabilities is less than half of any of its neighboring schools. Students with the most severe disabilities are fenced off from the rest of the student population. The school has illegally assigned students with disabilities to their independent study program against the wishes of their parents. Its online application form violates its charter by asking for a copy of a student’s IEP. When the LA School Report ran an article on enrollment discrimination, Koziatek herself refused to comment, agreeing with her CCSA handlers to present this as a “non-story.”
Elizabeth Badger has a child with special education needs who graduated from high school last year. She “absolutely” believes that Special Education Centers should remain an option for parents to choose during the IEP process. However, she did not provide any details or specify what plans she has to ensure that this choice is protected.
Scott Schmerelson is clearly the candidate to protect children with Special Education needs. His victory would ensure that the district will do more to help those who are the most vulnerable.
Schmerelson’s predecessor was also directly responsible for moving school board meetings from 4:00 PM, a time consistent with when other local boards meet, to 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM. This change means that teachers, school staff and students cannot participate in these meetings. Most working parents are also excluded. Since the 2017 election when I ran against Monica Garcia, I have been pushing for the board to pass the “Board Meeting Accessibility to the Public” resolution to allow more stakeholders to participate.
While the resolution has not yet been sponsored by any of the board members, Schmerelson does recognize that “this is a crucial issue.” He has “long believed that by holding our meetings during work hours, we are prohibiting many of the public from being able to attend” and the two committees that he leads (Special Education and Parent Engagement) both meet at 4:00. He not only believes that the district should be holding “meetings at different times in the day but more importantly, different locations. Some of the schools in [his] district are almost 30 miles away from [the District’s headquarters on] Beaudry. That’s not right.” His staff has, therefore, been working on a system that would allow the public to fully participate from the City Hall annex in Van Nuys.
Without answers from Koziatek, we do not know what her specific views are on the subject, but we can look at her record at Granada where parent and community engagement are included in her list of responsibilities. When Granada first converted from a public school to a charter, parents had the opportunity to elect their representatives on the school’s governing board. The school has since eliminated that democratic policy. Instead, the governing board now selects the parents who will join its ranks. In order to qualify, this one parent must “support the Charter School’s goals, mission, and vision” and “may be removed, with or without cause, by a majority vote of the Members of the entire Governing Board”. Koziatek refused to reply to a question asked at a candidate forum about the lack of an elected parent representative on the board and instead insisted that questions about charter schools should be off-limits during the election.
Having had three children graduate from Granada, my wife and I have personal experience with the school’s lack of respect for parent input. They refused our request to have our daughter opt-out of standardized tests that are given beyond the state requirements. When I told them I would simply keep my child home on those days, they threatened to have her take the tests upon her return to school. The school also ignored a doctor’s note and had our daughter return to physical education too soon after she had had surgery. Administrators then refused to let her call my wife so that she could help resolve the situation. When we demanded to meet with the Executive Director, my wife was told that he decides whom he meets with, not her.
Elizabeth Badger says that she would “absolutely…support having evening meetings on a quarterly basis.” However, she provided no further input into how she would increase community engagement in the LAUSD.
Scott Schmerelson is clearly the candidate to protect and expand parent engagement within the LAUSD. His victory would ensure that the district will do more to listen to parents, students, and the community.
Before I was an activist for public education, I was on the frontline of the fight to retain reproductive rights, physically putting myself between women’s health clinics and an anti-abortion terrorist group who tried to shut them down. As the father of four daughters, my commitment to this cause has only increased.
Schmerelson knows that we are in “a time when reproductive rights and women’s access to comprehensive reproductive health services are under attack” and is committed to making sure “that all women, especially low-income Californians, are able to take advantage of the health and family planning services relied on by so many LAUSD families and community members.” As a result, he is endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project Los Angeles.
The current school board member also respects the rights of parents to have a say in how their children are educated about the subject. When concerns surfaced that parents were not being notified about their rights to opt their children out of the new sexual education curriculum, he took action. Noting that including the opt-out form in the stack of paperwork parents receive at the beginning of the school year meant that it was often overlooked, he has insisted that schools send the sheet home in a separate correspondence. This means that parents will now be more likely to make an informed decision.
When Koziatek was specifically asked about students having access to information about sexual health and access to ways to protect themselves, she could not provide an answer. This leaves it to the voters to make a decision without her input. It is known that her family has raised money for an organization that tricks women facing crisis pregnancies into thinking they will be offered a full range of options on how to proceed. However, once they arrive at their appointments, these women find themselves faced with anti-abortion propaganda, much of it based on lies.
Badger’s website says nothing about reproductive rights or much about any issues. In fact, in her second run for this office, her “platform” page says, in its entirety:
In the public forums, Badger has played to fears of parents who do not realize that they have the right to opt their children out of the new curriculum. She also seems to suggest that parents should not have the choice to allow their students access to sex education in school as she thinks it should be taught at home.
So yes, Marilyn, this fight is personal. No matter what you believe about Scott Schmerelson’s views on education, he is a good man who did not deserve your supporters’ anti-semitic attacks against him. It is the California Charter School Association who sacrifices ethics in an effort to advance their agenda. Your refusal to renounce their endorsement should cost you the vote of every ethical person in the West Valley.
Los Angeles County voting centers are now open. My family will be voting for Scott Schmerelson. We strongly urge you to do so too.
Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, and a member of the LAUSD’s CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.