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Coalition Fields Effort to Avoid Runoffs

Karen Jordan | March 4, 2013

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Volunteers take notes during a training session at the Coalition’s headquarters.

In a tall office building overlooking Olympic Boulevard, a group of more than a dozen volunteers sat in a circle in a conference room being trained on how to best reach voters on the phone and in the field.

One of the keys to the Coalition’s new field campaign is to send volunteers out into the field with smartphones that are pre-loaded with voter information and allow organizers to track volunteers’ progress — and voters’ responses —  in real time.

Here at the office of the Coalition for School Reform and in two other field offices, hundreds of volunteers have been trained and sent out to talk to voters about the race, according to Field Director Konstantin Hatcher.

Whether the effort will be enough to match UTLA’s well-established “get out the vote” campaign  remains unclear.

Field Director Konstantin Hatcher works in his office.

In the office, the volunteers participated in role-playing, learned about the candidates and discuss how to talk about “shared values with voters,” Hatcher said.
“We are training field organizers to have more effective conversations,” said Hatcher.

“Don’t be a robot,” Hatcher said to the volunteers. “Emphasize your own story. They’re here because they feel passionately about our schools and the need for change.”

Data director Aly Sheets tracks the volunteers’ progress out in the field on her office computer.

The smartphones have been loaded with a written script, the voters’ addresses and known voting preference.

While volunteers are in the field, deputies are back at the main office, tracking their progress via computer, able to see in real time every house that is visited, indicated by check marks, every neighborhood covered and what questions have been asked from the volunteer’s script.

Motivated volunteers weren’t hard to find.

Pam Schwartz, who lives in Westwood, said she was campaigning with her young grandson in mind. She relocated from a house in Westchester to an apartment in Westwood for the sake of her grandson’s education. He is a student at Fairburn Elementary School.

“I am just so disturbed by the L.A. School District,” Schwartz said. “It’s just appalling.”

Another parent, John Hopgood, who has two sons at Grover Cleveland Magnet High School in Reseda, put crutches and a bandaged foot aside to help out.

“It’s been important to me to try to facilitate some changes in LAUSD,” Hopgood said. “I’ve been involved in politics since the 60’s especially here because the school board issue is on a lot of people’s minds.”

Volunteers label door hangers in the field office.

Hopgood said he was most concerned about the tenure system, and the way younger teachers seem to be at a disadvantage since they often lose their jobs.

“I think he’s done a lot of good things, and he’s a very calm guy,” Hopgood said about LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy. “He’s really level-headed and has common sense, I think.”

“We feel very positive where we are,” Hatcher said about the field campaign. “It is a very competitive race, and we know it’s going to be tight down to the wire.”

As of last week, their efforts had reached nearly 200,000 voters, he said.

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