Bad LAUSD experience led Carl Petersen to school board race
Craig Clough | February 2, 2015
Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for the LA School Report newsletter.
This is the next in a series of profiles on candidates running in the March 3 primary for the LA Unified school board. Today’s focus is Carl Petersen, a candidate for the District 3 seat.
If Carl Petersen does not win the crowded LA Unified school board race for District 3, it certainly won’t be because he was not aggressive enough.
He has been relentlessly hammering incumbent Tamar Galatzan for months on Twitter, Facebook, in press releases and the comments section of LA School Report. Long before most of the other four challengers declared their candidacy, Petersen was calling out Galatzan for every fault he perceived, on issues great, small and some Galatzan had little to do with.
Petersen’s first comment on LA School Report, posted nine months ago, was a hyperbolic prologue for the attacks to follow: “The parents of 36,300 LAUSD students are convinced that charter schools can educate their children better than the district run schools. Tamar Galatzan and the rest of the School Board are failing their community. It is time for a change.”
Petersen has been especially critical of Galatzan for the support she receives from the pro-charter, reform-based community even though he sends two of his children to a charter school, Granada Hills Charter High School, his neighborhood school.
“Charters exist because parents perceive that the district schools are failing,” he said. “So every time that a parent chooses one of those schools, that means the board has failed. I see the job of the board as to promote public schools. When Tamar is being supported by charter schools, that is like putting someone who likes to drink Coke on the Pepsi board of directors.”
For now, a month before the March 3 elections, it does not appear District 3 voters are warming to him. He has received only $75 in campaign contributions, well behind all the other candidates in the race, leaving him currently with campaign debt of $324, according to the LA Ethics Commission.
Galatzan has raised more than $14,000.
Petersen said it was the bad taste left in his mouth when dealing with the district’s bureaucracy that led him to run. He said two of this children are on the autism spectrum, but an educational plan for them that was supported by their teachers and the school’s staff was vetoed by the district.
“We had to hire a lawyer and spend two days downtown dealing with the bureaucracy,” he said. “And at some point during that time I said, ‘This is a system that has to change,’ and half jokingly said to my wife, ‘I should run for school board or something.’ And she said, ‘Yeah you should,’ So that’s where I am now.”
Petersen, 46, has worked in the private sector his whole career, and for the last 10 years has been director of logistics for Arecont Vision, a company that makes security cameras. He said his experience in business combined with having dealt with LA Unified as a parent makes him an ideal candidate even with the three of the other four challengers having worked in education circles.
His three big campaign issues are cutting down on district bureaucracy, giving schools more power to make their own decisions and decreasing the focus on standardized tests. Regarding the teachers union, UTLA, Petersen said he is supportive of their goals in a new contract.
When it comes to Galatzan, his main criticism is that she is not engaged enough, blaming her for not having more oversight of MiSiS and the iPad programs, two expensive debacles that have blown up in the school board’s face and were partly responsible for the resignation of former Superintendent John Deasy
“MiSiS never should have happened,” Petersen said. “They had already been through this with the payroll system, they knew what would happen when you institute a program like that without controls. When the incumbent says, ‘I had no idea what was going on,’ that’s no excuse, it is her job to know whats going on.”
* Clarifies to say Granada Hills Charter High School is Petersen’s neighborhood school. Also, three, not four of the other challenges have worked in education.