Meet the LAUSD school board candidates: Miho Murai is running as ‘a powerful voice for English Learners, students with disabilities, students in foster care and juvenile justice, unhoused students, and the Asian Pacific American community’
Destiny Torres, Veronica Sierra, and Rebecca Katz | May 24, 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. Read all the pieces in the series as they are published here. Profiles have been edited for length and clarity.
Background/Profession: Education rights/immigration attorney, educator, activist
Why are you running? I am running for school board because I know I can be a powerful voice for low-income, English language learners, students with disabilities, students in the foster care and juvenile justice system, students who are unhoused, and the Asian Pacific American community. Since 2009, I have had my own pro bono/low bono law firm and have been representing low-income students with disabilities… to ensure children are provided with a free and appropriate public education… I understand what many of our students go through…as I am a proud product of public education and initially struggled academically due to my lack of knowledge of the English language and my mom’s inability to advocate for my needs…
How are you different from other candidates? I am the first Asian Pacific American woman to ever run for school board in LD 2. I have four years of classroom experience as a former LAUSD bilingual elementary teacher. I am earning a graduate certificate as an educational therapist to serve low-income, English language learners with dyslexia and ADHD. I am…the Executive Director of Community Lawyers, Inc…I know the struggles our students and families have undergone as a result of COVID-19… I have been an activist since the 1990s on immigration and education issues and have lived in LD 2 as a renter for over 15 years.
What’s the most important issue in your district? The most important issue in Local District 2 right now is the negative impact that COVID-19… Students are still traumatized and many students have fallen academically behind…We need to reduce the class size to 20:1 from K to 5th grade and we need to increase the number of school psychologists and college counselors at every high school. Finally, we should increase the number of schools participating in the community school model.
What should be Superintendent Carvalho’s top priority? Superintendent Carvalho’s top three priorities should be proactively addressing the declining enrollment, ensuring all schools are fully staffed, and maximizing the funding the district has received in response to the pandemic. LAUSD needs to increase the number of dual immersion and magnet programs as many families are leaving… in search of these types of programs. We also need to provide more incentives for teachers and staff to stay in the district.
What skills or past experiences have prepared you to serve as a board member? Having been a bilingual elementary teacher in South L.A…. (has) prepared me to serve as a board member. I know firsthand the challenges that exist as a new teacher working in an underserved community. In addition, since 2008, I have been an educational rights/immigration attorney… I am currently the executive director of a non-profit in Compton. I regularly attend LAUSD school board meetings, and I am currently on the Executive Committee of the Community Advisory Committee, where I advise the school board on special education issues. Finally, I am very active in my community, serving as the At Large Board Representative for the Historic Cultural North Neighborhood Council and the Chair of the Schools and Libraries Committee. I am also the Membership Coordinator and Treasurer for the California Association for Parent-Child Advocacy, a state-wide volunteer organization.
If you win, what do you hope to achieve for the LAUSD?
My top five priorities include (1) Reduce class size to 20:1 from K to 5th grade; (2) Ensure 100% of students graduate with the tools to succeed in the workplace and in higher education; (3) Decrease the number of high school and middle school drop-outs and ensure effective interventions are in place before these children become disengaged from school; (4) Proactively address the school to prison pipeline by increasing the number of school psychologists and college counselors at every high school and ensuring that every school is implementing the School Climate Bill of Rights; and most importantly (5) Listen to our students and ensure that the curriculum is student-centered and culturally relevant.
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.