Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho welcomed the Los Angeles Unified community back to school for the 2022-2023 school year with his first Opening of Schools address titled “Imagine the Possibilities.”

His speech was delivered Monday, August 8, in Downtown Los Angeles at the Microsoft Theater.

Carvalho who came to the district after leading the Miami-Dade County Public Schools and has only been in Los Angeles for the last six months is perhaps enamored with Hollywood because his speech made several references to film and television shows and celebrities during his lengthy 70-minute speech.

“Given that I’m the new guy, I’m still making sense of the culture and what people are interested in. So, I’m going to conduct a quick poll. Show of hands: do we have any Grace and Frankie fans? How about Ted Lasso? Where are my Marvel fans?” asked Carvalho.

“Did you watch Ms. Marvel? Who just craves blockbusters and was ready for 60-year-old Tom Cruise to dominate the skies again in a new Top Gun? If you have an intense love of Squid Games, I suggest you try some of our great social-emotional exercises and maybe speak with a loved one.”

Like most people who live in Los Angeles, LAUSD students have little to do with the entertainment industry directly, although they are large consumers of television and film. Perhaps the new superintendent can connect the dots to “imagine the possibilities” of how LAUSD students might benefit much more from having the entertainment capital of the world so close to home.

What all LAUSD students have been impacted by as Carvalho acknowledged, is COVID-19.

“What we once knew about the world is forever changed. This was true before the pandemic, but COVID-19 accelerated the changes in our world. Our health system is in crisis. Our politics are broken. Our world is being ravaged by climate change. Our national discourse seems eternally fractured. Our youth are suffering under the weight of isolation, anxiety, and depression.” he said.

Last April, Carvalho recommended the district postpone its COVID-19 student vaccination mandate until at least July 2023 to be in alignment with the state’s plan. However, L.A. County public health over recent days has urged precautions for children returning back to school citing more than 13,000 children have tested positive for the virus over the last 30 days. But, despite these numbers, as school begins next Monday, LAUSD has lifted the requirement for indoor masking, weekly Covid-19 testing and the Daily Pass required to enter school each day.

Meanwhile, many children remain unvaccinated or under-vaccinated and haven’t received booster shots.

Carvalho said he was “thrilled” to begin his first full year at LAUSD and said there were many things to celebrate as well as challenges facing the District.

“It’s no secret that Los Angeles Unified has navigated difficult years, some of which resulted from the pandemic and some which existed long before,” Superintendent Carvalho said.

He placed LAUSD’s recent graduation rates in the plus column.

“This is a preliminary figure so the exact number may change slightly, but our graduation rate for the 2021-2022 school year was over 85%—that means, more than 8 out of 10 students completed their requirements for graduation and are now headed to college or into their careers! That is an incredible achievement and continues an upward trend from the past several years.”

He didn’t acknowledge LAUSD’s drop in enrollment which has been in a steady decline for years. The number of students attending LAUSD campuses is down by about 40 percent. It reportedly hit one of its steepest drops last year amid the pandemic, losing as many as 30,000 students. LAUSD students continue to be predominantly Latino, although an increasing number have opted to choose charter schools that have opened in their neighborhoods. LAUSD is at risk of more campuses closing.

Carvalho outlined the District’s new Strategic Plan, which includes five pillars, and announced new products and offerings which are described as representing critical areas the District will focus on over the next four years: Academic Excellence, Joy and Wellness, Engagement and Collaboration, Operational Effectiveness and Investing in Staff.

“To address the whole child, we’re implementing new offerings like iAttend LAUSD Campaign, Elevating School Nutrition, Outdoor Learning Spaces Projects, Telehealth in Schools, All Kids Bike for Kindergarten & Middle Schoolers.”

He called the strategic plan “our guidepost,” and said LAUSD will be positioned as the “Premiere urban school district of choice.”

“We can no longer teach students in the old ways, or the old customs, or the old mindsets. That world is forever gone. We must overcome the gravitational pull of the status quo because it’s no longer sufficient if it ever was. We must train students to be changemakers for the world they’re stepping into, not the one they’re leaving behind,” Carvalho said.

Carvalho also spoke of the students who have oftentimes fallen between the cracks. “This focus is for every student in our LGBTQ community who never felt accepted and never felt comfortable in their own skin. It’s for every student who has felt defeated by mental health struggles and didn’t know how to escape or find help. It’s for every student who came to school hungry and couldn’t focus on schoolwork because they lacked nutritional sustenance,”

“It’s for every student who is neurodivergent or disabled who never felt like they mattered. It’s for every student who comes from a neighborhood or background or culture who has been told the world doesn’t care about them. My charge to you, as we come back from several years that taught us the importance of education and our role as a school system, is to remember the basic hope of education—that all students matter, and the future needs them now more than ever. The world needs them ready to contribute to it, to change it, to step into spaces that need them most.” he said.

“My charge to you is to look beyond the test scores, look beyond the grades and look into the hearts and souls of our students to help them find their place in this world. For we cannot teach the mind of the child whose heart we don’t first touch. Help them identify their strengths and explore their passions. Feed their imaginations, their curiosity, their questions, and their hearts as much as you equip their minds. Support them. Challenge them. Encourage them. Help them dream. Help them dream big dreams.”

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