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Meet the LAUSD school board candidates: Kelly Gonez is running because: ‘My leadership has been tested’

Destiny Torres and Veronica Sierra | March 8, 2022

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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. Candidates have until March 9 to qualify for the ballot by submitting signatures. Read all the pieces in the series as they are published here. Profiles have been edited for length and clarity. 

Name: Kelly Gonez

District: 6

Background/profession: LAUSD School Board President, BD6

Why are you running?

I joined the LAUSD Board of Education because I know there is more that we as a community can and must do so that every child in LAUSD receives an excellent public education…. I believe that our schools have benefited tremendously from having a representative with classroom experience, and I have a strong record of delivering for our community and building a progressive policy agenda… I have spent the past five years working tirelessly as a fierce advocate for our students, staff, and families and collaborating to solve challenges… and strengthen our public schools.

How are you different from other candidates?

I’ve dedicated my life to fighting for educational equity… I am an experienced teacher leader, with more than 4 years of proven experience on the Board of Education, during some of the most challenging times our community has faced… My leadership has been tested and I have helped lead our district as we have been a model for the nation in our response to the pandemic and safe reopening of schools. As a board member, I have championed the highest-needs students we serve… My vision for public education is to center the role of schools as the hearts of our communities…As the only parent of young kids on the school board, I know the challenges our families have faced – especially difficult over the last two years – and have a deep rooted personal stake in ensuring our district meets the needs of all our kids.

What’s the most important issue in your district?

The most pressing immediate challenge is the COVID-19 pandemic and its ensuing impacts. The pandemic and the related economic crises have devastated low-income communities of color throughout Los Angeles…we must continue to ensure that our schools are safe for students, staff, and families…In the long term, I am focused on ensuring the resources we have received to recover from the pandemic are used effectively and equitably…we have directed a record $700 million directly to school sites to…communities serving the highest needs students and communities most impacted by COVID-19. This includes Board District 6 which experienced a disproportionate toll of loss, sickness, and trauma due to the pandemic. As we look to spend additional resources… investments in the physical and mental health of our students will be as critical to their success as our academic investments.

What should be Superintendent Carvalho’s top priority?

In this moment, Superintendent Carvalho must prioritize an equitable and transformative recovery from the pandemic, one that is responsive to immediate needs, but also tackles long standing inequities the district has allowed to fester… …I have led an effort to desegregate LAUSD schools… promoting greater diversity and equitable access to the district’s most in-demand offerings and hope the superintendent will partner with us… All of this work and its progress will need the support and prioritization of Superintendent Carvalho.

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

I deeply understand public education and the biggest challenges confronting our schools, as well as their incredible assets. I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley in an immigrant family. Through my personal and professional experience, I understand the needs and struggles of our working families and the dignity of all labor… Collaboration and building coalitions is a key skill set I have developed, and both are crucial in being a successful board member… It is my record of integrity and ability to collaborate…that led to my unanimous selection… as president of the board in December 2020. I am also a mother of two toddlers…, My perspective as a mom… adds to my ability to be an effective leader and passionate advocate…

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

If reelected, my top 3 priorities would be implementing universal preschool and high-quality early education, incorporating equity into all LA Unified policies, and increasing college and career readiness for all students. As board president I brought together a coalition… to commit the district to providing universal preschool… by the 2024-25 school year… I have led critical equity work during my time on the Board – from ensuring more equitable access to our most in-demand offerings…to dedicating more funding to our highest-needs schools and communities, to expanding community schools, the Black Student Achievement plan, and spearheading our Ethnic Studies graduation requirement. In a second term, I look forward to seeing these efforts to fruition…Finally, while we have made important strides in increasing high school graduation rates, I want to go farther and ensure every student… is prepared to succeed… I’m leading the Board to address the obstacles low-income students of color …face in graduating college-eligible and prepared. During my time as board president, the board created…key goals to improve student outcomes…, I will build on these achievements to ensure every child who graduates from LAUSD is able to achieve their dreams… and the district provides the necessary supports to meet this goal.

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