In Partnership with 74

Q&A: Why small business owner J. Benjamin Johnson considered running for LAUSD’s school board

Destiny Torres and Veronica Sierra | March 1, 2022

Your donation will help us produce journalism like this. Please give today.

This article is part of a collaboration between The 74 and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. 

J. Benjamin Johnson was disqualified from the race for not submitting any signatures, according to a spokesperson in the Los Angeles city clerk’s office. Our prior interview can be found below in full.

Name: J. Benjamin Johnson (Benjamin)

District: 2

Background/profession: Veteran/Small Business Owner

Why are you running?

I am running… because students… deserve an education that focuses on nurturing and developing intellectual curiosity unmarred by special interests and distracting social trends…I am running because I am ashamed… the LAUSD is so bad… parents…flee to the private school system or homeschooling because the situation in their local district is so abysmal. I want to find the underlying cause of why the priorities of administrators have changed. I want to understand the fatigue of teachers. I want to understand the frustration of parents and I want to give students a reason to be proud of being a part of LAUSD.

 How are you different from other candidates?

…I have no qualms about confronting the obstacles that plague the LAUSD. In furtherance of that goal, I am willing to stand up not only for students… but parents and teachers and even the administrators. I am different from other candidates because I know we are not perfect. External influence has caused tension in districts across the nation, and if elected, I know that we can find common ground if we are willing to accept hard truths at every level.

What’s the most important issue in your district?

In district 2, the most pressing issue is a simple one: How do we engage the community in the process… of raising educational standards while maintaining compassion and understanding of parents and… students in special education programs. Too long have we relied on plans that push the matter further down the timeline, leaving students behind in the ink of multi-year plans. Too long have we had to watch special interests dictate where priorities lie. Parents here are tired of empty words, self-congratulatory politicians posing as caring and little to no action.

What should be Superintendent Carvalho’s top priority?  

Superintendent Carvalho’s top priority should be setting aside his political posturing and focusing on local issues. Doing things for social media points and popularity does little to address the growing concern of parents. LAUSD needs leadership that understands students are not political pawns.

 What skills or past experiences have prepared you to serve as a board member? 

In my life, I have been a leader, a listener, a friend, and a supporter to those who have been ignored… My time in the military showed me that titles and accolades mean nothing if the passion and drive to see everyone succeed is not there. My time on the neighborhood council showed me elected officials are in a bubble and often view the community as a necessary obstacle on the way to the support of special interests. My time living in East Los Angeles has shown me there is potential in every community… I know that students deserve more than those that are content with the status quo.

If you win, what do you hope to achieve for the LAUSD?

If I win, I hope to (increase) student retention, (lift) the mask mandate and (focus) on rebuilding the trust lost between parents, students, teachers, and administrators. I plan to confront the hard truths and address them without throwing money at them.

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. 

Read Next