Get ready to head to the polls.
On March 7, Los Angeles voters will choose whether to give Mayor Eric Garcetti another term and decide several city council races, including two open city council seats in the City of San Fernando and three seats on the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board, including District 6 which oversees most of the Northeast San Fernando Valley.
Current LAUSD board member Monica Ratliff is running for the Valley’s LA City Council’s District 7 seat, which is also on the ballot.
The LA council seat, which represents portions of northern Los Angeles, including Sunland, Lake View Terrace, Pacoima and Shadow Hills, has been without a representative since former Councilmember Felipe Fuentes left last year to become a lobbyist.
In the March primary, voters will chose from among 20 candidates competing for the District 7 council seat. If no candidate gets a majority of votes needed to win the seat outright — 50 percent plus one — the top two candidates will oppose each other in the general election on May 16.
Meanwhile, six candidates seek the LAUSD seat that Ratliff has opted to vacate.
District 6 covers the public schools in the areas of Arleta, Lake Balboa, Lakeview Terrace, Mission Hills, North Hollywood, North Hills, Pacoima, Panorama City, Reseda, San Fernando, Sun Valley, Sunland/Tujunga, Sylmar, and Van Nuys.
Here is a brief look at the candidates.
Kelly Fitzpatrick-Gonez has the backing of the California Charter School Association and is the only candidate with classroom experience.
She was a teacher at a school in Lake View Terrace before heading to Washington, D.C. to work as an education policy advisor for the Obama Administration. She’s back teaching seventh grade at Crown Preparatory, a charter school in south Los Angeles.
“I want to make a difference for the community I grew up in and be a voice for the forgotten students and families,” she said during one of the several debates the candidates have held throughout the District.
She vows to make sure every child graduates from LAUSD and is college ready, decreasing spending on bureaucracy in the district’s downtown office and supports moving LAUSD board meetings to different settings, to make it easier for people to participate in those sessions.
“I’m not a politician. I’m a teacher who will fight for kids and families,” she said.
The Animal Rights Educator
Jose Sandoval, an animal rights educator, hopes to translate those abilities to K-12 education at the LAUSD.
He says that if elected, he will ask for an audit of the district’s finances. Especially troublesome for him is the food students don’t eat being thrown away.
“It doesn’t belong in the trash. It belongs in a shelter or somebody’s house,” Sandoval said.
He also proposes a program where any student who graduates within District 6 receives access to California State University Northridge.
The Former Assemblymember
After losing the 39th Assembly District seat last November that she had won in 2014, Patty Lopez didn’t waste time getting back into politics and quickly signed up to run for the LAUSD board.
“Our communities deserve representation that is honest and not compromised by political machines and influences,” said Lopez, who is once again running a grass roots campaign.
She notes her 25 years of volunteer work for different LAUSD schools. Lopez, an immigrant, has been commended for giving a voice for the Spanish-speaking community.
Her priorities are improving programs for children with special needs, after school programs and returning adult education back to the quality and access levels of past years.
Also vying for the seat is Gwendolyn Posey, a mother and education advocate.
“Our kids deserve better and they should get that,” Posey said. “I’m not a politician. I’m a parent that wants the best for my child and for every child.”
Her priorities are to establish a safe learning environment for all children, and to make sure all kids who graduate from middle school are proficient in English.
Posey said she recognizes that not all students make it to college, and supports bringing back trade courses to high schools.
In addition, she proposes having college students volunteer to help teachers work with kids.
The Community Organizer
Imelda Padilla has the support of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) and other unions. She formerly worked for the community organization Pacoima Beautiful, now headed by her sister.
“I’m a person who does things, not just talks,” she said.
Padilla wants to make sure all students “are ready to graduate and go to college.”
But, she said, not everybody goes to college. That’s why she wants to bring trade programs back to high school.
She proposes going to community organizations to bring “dance and music” classes back to schools.
Despite the criticism against her from charter school advocates, Padilla says “I am not anti-charter.”
There are 28 charter schools in District 6.
“If you have a good plan, why wouldn’t I support expansion of charters,” she said in a recent debate.
She also proposes using “our retired educators to train our new teachers.”
The Financial Consultant
Candidate Araz Parseghian is a parent whose main priority is to “make sure our money is well spent” by the LAUSD.
With an MBA degree, and having worked in the field of finance for 17 years, Parseghian said he’s the best choice to end the “wastefulness” in the district, which has a $7 billion budget and $1.46 billion deficit.
“We need to make sure the money goes to the right place,” he said.
He advocates for parents to be more involved in the decision-making, and vows to hear and work with everyone for the best solution to problems.
“It’s very important to me that we make decisions as a community. A board member cannot do it alone,” Parseghian says.