I think I have a problem.
I can’t stop volunteering.
A few months ago I was elected head of my neighborhood association. 10 Saturdays out of the year I run the meetings, bring the refreshments and in general voice the concerns of our community to the city. So far I threw a block party, helped get some trees planted, advocated for some issues with our local councilman, and got a website up.
The jewel in my unpaid work history was my mayoral appointment to the Central Area Planning Committee. Roughly twice a month I am one vote on planning issues that come before us. I get to go to city hall and I have a laminated pass. Never has anyone felt so excited to be accepted as a civil servant. Maybe because of all the years of freelancing, I like going to an important building with a clip on badge and working.. albeit with no salary.
I’m also on a few committee’s for my daughter’s school. ( charter, underfunded). So I take some interest in the school board races. There are few that do. It’s pretty un sexy, but in LA we have a mammoth school district and unlike other cities the mayor and the council have no control over them. So, it’s a whole other empire. Charter’s, while somewhat apart from regular public schools, still must be granted their charter through the school district. So, the LA school board is “our” school board as well. Teacher’s unions tend to not like charters because the teacher’s are outside of the union. Charter’s are suspicious of teacher’s unions and afraid they will try to shut them down.
My take on all this is that parent’s are discerning consumers of education. So, charter’s magnets, traditional, private they will be existing with each other. But, we need to put our best foot forward. There are people in our area who would be interested in going to the local public school, but they don’t offer tours. “Why?’ is what we have heard more than once when calling the school…that sound you here is the interested parent filling out an application for a charter lottery. No surprise, it’s under enrolled. A mile away a traditional public school does do tours and shows itself well. That school is humming along.
So, heard some charter parents were rally around one candidate in a special election to be held August 12th. Good lord, the only thing lamer than having a special election in the dog days of summer would be starting school that day. OH, that is what LA unified is doing. I spoke to some of my political mentors about one candidate, George McKenna. He is a retired teacher and administrator. Years ago they made a “Stand and Deliver” type movie about his work turning around a tough school starring Denzel Washington. A friend set up a lunch for us to meet and I went, even though he looks nothing like Denzel. While not a movie star, I found a charming Southern man who was very thoughtful and earnest about helping children. Before I could order an ice tea he was talking about trying to get mental health services to students in LA schools who come from troubled places. It was one of the concerns that reminded me of how vast the LA school system is. By the way since I was a kid I have thought the district should be broken up, but fat chance of that happening. But, what can happen is for the grip to be loosened a bit on school so that a school can cater to their particular community. This was something Mckenna and I agreed on. Well, we agreed on quite a bit. From the good deviled egg appetizer to how a lousy principal can sink a school.
I told him, look the charter’s are scared of you. He didn’t know why. “I’ve gone on record as saying if a local school is working, charters wouldn’t exist”. He was surprised the Teacher’s union backed him because of this. He believes in traditional, charters, magnets, whatever works for children, not one ideology. I was touched by his sincerity and persuaded by his intellect and experience. He is being outspent. “Can Denzel give you some money?”
“I don’t know how to get to him.” he said.
So, before my after lunch espresso arrived I volunteered AGAIN.
“George, maybe I can throw you an event.” My dear husband was eager to hear about my lunch. Later we attended a political meeting that a neighbor of ours had invited us too. On the way out he met George. The candidate was walking by himself having just thanked the group we were attending for their support and was on to the next.
“You need to go to 5 events a day.” Mark said earnestly.
“I wish it was only 5.” George said in his honey dripping accent.
We walked away and Mark said, “Let’s do grilled cheese.” He was totally on board. We must have done at least 3 grilled cheese events for Garcetti. Now that the famous Thursday grilled cheese nights at Campanile are gone for good, it might be a bit of a draw for folks. Former council members Nate Holden and Jan Perry who are my friends are also hosting.
The story has been picked up by a local online publication. Come by if you care about educating the young, or just want to eat. Don’t make my volunteering in vain!