Students, Parents, Educators, Advocates Offer Advice for New LAUSD Superintendent Carvalho

Alberto M. Carvalho addresses a press conference at Elysian Heights Elementary Arts Magnet Jan. 14 in Los Angeles. (Getty Images)

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

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will welcome Alberto Carvalho as the next superintendent of schools on February 14. As he begins running the nation’s second-largest school system after leading the Miami-Dade public schools for more than 13 years, Los Angeles students, parents, education leaders and advocates outlined what they believe should be Carvalho’s top priorities for LAUSD — a school system which in the past decade has had four superintendents and two interim superintendents with a tenure of no more than three years:

Lucia Macias, senior, iHumanities Magnet at LAUSD’s Grover Cleveland Charter High School, and student representative on the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council.

“I’d like Superintendent Alberto Carvalho to prioritize COVID safety protocols… to make sure students and administrators are following these… Superintendent Carvalho needs to prioritize learning loss. I was lucky to have teachers who were on Zoom so during quarantine I could participate in discussions. But for classes where I didn’t have Zoom, I missed out on a lot and had to do self-learning, which was stressful. Mental health also needs to be a priority. Although the district says that it’s trying to support mental health, it doesn’t seem this way. There isn’t anything that is actively being done to support student mental health on campus. Closing equity gaps is important and was already a challenge before COVID… everything has transitioned online and there aren’t enough resources…providing resources for students who are applying to college is very important….I did not feel supported by my college counselor because of the overwhelming number of students trying to see her. My time with her was short and not helpful. The discussion about college was supposed to happen during junior year, but because of COVID a lot of my friends were just getting started senior year. Focusing on getting more college counselors and requiring students get the help they need, rather than making it optional is important.”

Pedro A. Noguera, Dean of the USC Rossier School of Education

Noguera said Carvalho must address the district’s steepest enrollment decline in 20 years, a drop of more than 27,000 students in one academic year:

“Several of our schools… are under-enrolled. You’ve got to figure out, how do we right-size the district? You want to consolidate resources into a smaller number of schools and create something better. You have to respond to this demographic shift with some innovation… He’s a successful superintendent, so he knows how to move systems, but he doesn’t know Los Angeles. He needs people around him who understand L.A. He also has to have people on the team who are not stuck with the status quo.”

Evelyn G. Aleman, LAUSD parent and student advocate, and founder of Our Voice: Communities for Quality Education

“… it’s of vital importance Superintendent Carvalho prioritize the inclusion of the parent and student voice… particularly the voices of Latino immigrant parents who too often feel ignored by the district, even though Latino children comprise 74% of the student population… We ask the superintendent to prioritize the creation of a plan with input from our families, that addresses how schools will respond to future COVID surges and offers improved… online learning…we ask he prioritize access to free readily available mental health resources… prioritize the reclassification of English Language Learners…provide immediate assistance for high school students who… must now transition to either higher education or vocational pathway. Schools cannot continue to offer resources for higher education in the same way they did before the pandemic… Even then, these weren’t enough. We ask for additional college counselors and individualized help… we need a superintendent who will build trust with the Latino community, understand the challenges we face, our values, as well as the dreams we have for our children – and help us make these a reality. This can only happen with true, transparent engagement, communication and collaboration with our families.”

Ana Ponce, Executive Director of Great Public Schools Now

“First, [he should] do a mental health assessment of students to determine where the highest needs are… There may be communities that are in much greater need of mental health support and counselors…, and those communities should be prioritized…(Ponce also recommended Carvalho build relationships with the Los Angeles community through)…an authentic listening tour, listening to the diverse communities that make up LAUSD… … You can set up opportunities for family and community leaders to share their thoughts… Their voices inform the priorities and strategies that he will be implementing.”

Ryan Smith, Chief External Officer, Partnership for Los Angeles Schools and Co-Chair of California’s Closing the Achievement Gap Initiative

Smith hopes Carvalho becomes an “equity champion,” particularly for English learners, Black students, and Latinx students, who, he said, tend to be overlooked: 

I would hope the superintendent will focus on the most in need schools… (and) our students who are historically marginalized within them… I would hope he is a leader firmly dedicated to ensuring all of our students find joy and love and hope in the district…[which] is at an inflection point. Not only are our students and families reeling from the ongoing pandemic, but also from… what’s happened regarding the deaths of unarmed folks at the hands of the police. They’re dealing with food insecurity and housing challenges, as well as a range of social-emotional issues. So we have to think more holistically about how we support the whole child.”

Angelica Solis-Montero, Executive Director of Los Angeles Coalition for Excellent Public Schools

With the relationship between charter and district schools contentious, Solis-Montero believes Carvalho is “uniquely positioned to be a harbinger of change.”

“We’d like the superintendent to prioritize collaboration with our school leaders so that together we may support student learning and uplift bright spots in the LAUSD and charter schools; share best practices; and improve the academic experience for children and their families. We’re enthusiastic about partnering with the superintendent to create student-centered policies that accelerate student learning and promote student health and wellness.”

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. 

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