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Meet the LAUSD school board candidates: Rocio Rivas is running because she is ‘deeply passionate about public education’

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: Rocio Rivas

District: 2

Background/profession: Research and Policy Deputy, LAUSD School Board, BD5

Why are you running?

I am running… because I am a public education leader, professional, advocate and parent with a Ph.D. in education. I am deeply passionate about public education and have worked… to serve the… public good. I received the best educational experience as an LAUSD student and as a mom to a student thriving in LAUSD schools, I want the same for ALL students…As the only LAUSD active parent on the board I (want to) … to address all the needs of LAUSD students…(with) schools… fully staffed with full time counselors, psychiatric social workers, librarians, nurses, supervising aides, and paraprofessionals.

How are you different from other candidates?

I understand the complexities of Los Angeles’ public education landscape. I have a wealth of knowledge and experience with the privatization of education and charter schools…I have direct knowledge of the current needs and predicaments of local public schools by serving LAUSD’s Board District 5…I am actively working on problem-solving, policy analysis and development to improve district wide policy, advocating… connecting resources and establishing partnerships and coalitions.

What’s the most important issue in your district?

The current pandemic traumatized students to concerning levels that are becoming evident in classrooms in many schools throughout the BD2. Our public schools need qualified psychiatric social workers and mental health resources to address this trauma…I fully support the expansion of the community school model…(to address) the holistic needs of BD2… through authentic community involvement…green space, which includes gardens, trees and grass, is linked to children’s healthy physical and cognitive development… the necessity to address the lack of green space equity in BD2 our schools is essential…

What should be Superintendent Carvalho’s top priority?

Superintendent Carvalho is taking all the necessary actions to gather the data that will come from listening to all stakeholders… He is undergoing the important district wide institutional assessments and analysis that will guide his comprehensive action plan. I am looking forward to learning more about his detailed plans to address declining enrollment, teacher and essential school staff shortages, and classroom enrichment innovations. I am very glad he is instituting a parent acAdemy, strategic data and evaluation branch and the cultural enrichment passport.

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

I am currently the Research and Policy Deputy for Board Member Jackie Goldberg and serve as liaison to over 60 schools within BD5…. I understand LAUSD and public schools from various perspectives as a grassroots activist, educational researcher, parent educator, policy analyst and most importantly as a parent I have held various leadership positions: Chair of School Site Council; President of Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council… (HHPNC); Vice-President of a local PTA. My professional background includes: International Researcher for the Earth Institute, Columbia University; Project Researcher for Teachers College and Annenberg Foundation.

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

I plan on establishing a committee focusing on District related environmental and climate issues, initiatives and curriculum…I hope to address the challenges that both neighborhood public schools and charter schools encounter, particularly as the impact of COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates economic and social conditions throughout Los Angeles. Addressing the challenges that special education families and schools face is essential to focus on, such as completion of IEPs, follow-through for provision of services and sufficient funding… I would definitely work to address the reduction of class sizes and caseloads.

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