‘Zimmo’ urges more participation in LAUSD superintendent search
Mike Szymanski | October 30, 2015
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Dressed as the popular “Where’s Waldo” red-and-white-striped children’s book character, LA Unified School Board President Steve Zimmer took to the Vine Street Elementary School twice today to encourage parents and teachers to get involved in the superintendent’s search.
He used his appearances to say he is extending the deadline for people to complete the school board survey that seeks community input.
Even here, his home school, he found parents who didn’t know about the survey. After attending more than half-a-dozen community forums, he said he was disappointed in the low turnouts. However, he has done his own canvassing.
“The most important revelation of the day is that we need to reach out more to high school students,” Zimmer said. “High school students, especially seniors, really care. We need to do that even if it takes more time.”
Zimmer, who has kept a tight control of the superintendent search and stayed in close contact with the search firm, said additional input probably won’t delay the process of them compiling all the data.
One thing surprising him, he said, is that the high school students want a superintendent who was an educator. He estimated that he talked to 130 students in the past two weeks about it.
Does he feel frustrated that some parents, teachers and community groups feel as if their say doesn’t matter? “Not frustrated,” Zimmer said, “but it’s a reminder that we still have a trust issue that is a very, very real problem. This is an opportunity to motivate toward building trust.”
He pointed outside to the hundreds of parents and students lining up for the school’s costume parade in the courtyard and said, “Do they all need to be in the room physically when we make this choice? Do they want to be? But, intrinsically we have to bring them into the room.”
As search firm officials compile surveys completed so far, about 4,000, and comments from private and public communities meetings, they plan to develop a composite profile of what the district says it wants in the next superintendent.
“But I don’t want constituents to stop giving us input after this November 1 deadline,” said Zimmer, who extended the survey deadline by four days.
“I still want to bring stakeholders to the table, but not the way it was proposed last week,” Zimmer said, referring to Mónica Garcia’s plan for a special committee of community representatives to offer input of the candidates. “I don’t believe that we necessarily need the presence of selected anointed, appointed community representatives in the committee room.”
He said he does not have strong feelings about keeping the search so secretive, but he does have strong feelings about “keeping the board together and staying laser-focused on a positive outcome.”
He said he knows families have a lot to do other than dealing with the “amorphous idea of the process of choosing a superintendent.”
And, he admitted, “I’m not sure that a school’s Halloween parade is the right place to do it.” But, he is trying.