Meet the LAUSD school board candidates: Gentille Barkhordar is running ‘to give parents a seat at the negotiating table, so that important decisions are made … with families first in mind’
Destiny Torres, Veronica Sierra, and Rebecca Katz | April 7, 2022
This article is part of a collaboration between The 74 and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
This profile is part of “Meet the LAUSD school board candidates,” a series focusing on the candidates running for three open seats on the seven-member school board. LAUSD is the largest school district in the country with an elected school board. The primary is June 7. Read all the pieces in the series as they are published here. Profiles have been edited for length and clarity.
Background/profession: Electrical Engineer/Mother
Why are you running?
I am a parent of two LAUSD elementary students. I am concerned for our children’s well-being, the mental health crisis and learning loss.…Feeling helpless among many thousands of parents made me want to run for school board. Our children have suffered a great deal of social isolation and with little advocacy. Not a single member of the school board is a parent of a school aged child. I am running to give parents a seat at the negotiating table so that when important decisions are made about our children’s futures they are made with parent input.
How are you different from other candidates?
I have two students in my local school, Warner Avenue Elementary. I have a vested interest in advocating for children and families. I receive no funding from special interest groups. I also have no affiliation with the teacher union that is represented as a stakeholder. I will be representing the children of the district. I have no political motivations for higher office. I am simply a mom who wants to get personally involved in making decisions for the future of our children.
What’s the most important issue in your district?
The board and Superintendent Carvalho must regain control of our district. Our board has largely let UTLA manage decisions for our district. My goal is to work with the Superintendent and the board to regain control of decision making. The mental health crisis and learning loss… are symptoms of a more serious issue: Who is behind the decisions that are being made regarding our children and are the students’ best interest aligned with the decision makers? Studies have shown that children made little to no progress during virtual learning, especially in disadvantaged homes. Yet, our teachers unions lobbied and achieved one of the longest school closures in the world.
What should be Superintendent Carvalho’s top priority?
Superintendent Carvalho must determine the effectiveness of our spending to help address the learning loss that resulted from one of the longest school closures in the world…The impact is deep and still untold. We must get creative in how we address this. There are staffing shortages and we cannot depend on our own employees. We must look outside to accomplished tutoring and instruction organizations. The district was given $5 billion dollars to combat the learning loss and currently is not spending that quickly enough on instruction. The majority of that money is going toward COVID testing and masking.
What skills or past experiences have prepared you to serve as a board member?
In addition to being a parent who has experienced first hand the challenges of raising children during the pandemic, my background and education prepare me for this role. My family fled an oppressive and dangerous regime. I came here without speaking a word of English and with parents that had never graduated high school. I worked hard, had great teachers and role models and was able to get an excellent education. It gave me strong faith in the value and promise of quality education…. I speak English, Spanish, Farsi and French. I have a degree in Electrical Engineering from UCLA and an M.B.A. in Finance from USC. I began my professional career as an Electrical Engineer. Eventually I settled in California as an IBM consultant.
If you win, what do you hope to achieve for the LAUSD?
…I will work with the superintendent and board to address the mental health crisis among our students, with input from parents, teachers and school administrators. In academics, we need to attract and retain students which means keeping challenging courses and providing advanced level courses. The access to classes like these should not be reserved for students in expensive private schools. For students that are not passing, we need to use resources… in efficient ways to help raise them up. We need to involve parents and support children with learning differences with robust resources such as teachers assistants and appropriate services. I plan to strengthen teacher training with a strong evaluation process… I would work to incentivize employees based on performance. I will strive to make campuses safe…by maintaining our campus officers.
Destiny Torres is a graduate student at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism pursuing a master of science degree in journalism. She earned her bachelor’s degree at CSU Dominguez Hills. She is passionate about culture and social justice issues.
Veronica Sierra is a sophomore pursuing a journalism degree at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She was born and raised in Valencia, Venezuela; and moved to California in 2015 where she continued high school, graduating in 2020.
Rebecca Katz is a recent graduate of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and a Los Angeles native with a Masters in Journalism and a Bachelors in English and Political Science. She is passionate about mental health and education reform.