By Jennifer Mckay
I love my neighborhood school. It has its imperfections, don’t get me wrong, but I adore Playa Del Rey elementary, the LAUSD school my second grade son attends. How many parents can say the same? Sadly, too few.
I moved to Los Angeles 2 ½ years ago and was overwhelmed with finding an appropriate school to meet my family’s educational needs. I did my research online and moved into an area with a high-performing elementary school. My son started Kindergarten in 2014, and I started volunteering, donating and really embracing our school community.
It was only when I got more involved that I discovered the challenges that even my amazing school faced. For starters, I was expecting to send my younger daughter to the same school as her big brother this 2016 school year, but I couldn’t because funding was cut, and the district got rid of the Pre-K program.
Then there is the rezoning issue that will force our school to add bungalows to accommodate the overcrowded neighborhood of Playa Vista – a result of poor planning by LAUSD. Over time, this means less room for kids permitting in from other neighborhoods, which reduces the diversity of our student population and has led to the loss of Title 1 funding.
Then there is the issue of hooks. Hooks, you wonder? Yes, hooks. Backpacks, lunchboxes, sweatshirts and jackets are currently strewn all over on the ground of our school property, simply because the district has failed to come out to install the hooks we have had for more than two years. And we recently learned that the hooks we purchased in 2015 do not meet the district’s standards. So that money was wasted, and we have to go through the facilities department to start the process all over again.
These are just a few examples of the bureaucracy, waste and poor planning that parents at so many LAUSD schools experience. A mom at a nearby LAUSD school told me they get around LAUSD’s stifling rules and repair delays because the principal turns a blind eye to parents sneaking into the school over the weekend to make repairs themselves. Parents should not have to sneak around in the dark of night like criminals to help our schools function properly.
Maybe I am naïve, but to me it’s pretty simple. A kids-first agenda means this: We have problems; let’s fix them. And if the district can’t get to it, let us parents do it ourselves.
I have hope that change is possible. I can see a future where parents are partners -- a future in which the school board, district administrators, teachers, parents and pupils are all working together as a team with one common goal: doing what’s best for the kids.
That vision is why I’m voting for Nick Melvoin for school board on May 16. I do not believe that one man with one seat on the board is going to change the world, and all our challenges will simply vanish. But I strongly believe that electing Nick is where we start. We need a leader that embraces parents as partners and promises to put children first. I pledge to vote for Nick Melvoin to LAUSD BD4 and do my part in making our schools the best they can be.
-- Speak UP parent organizer Jennifer Mckay is a mom of five children, the youngest in preschool and the oldest a college graduate. Her 7-year-old son attends LAUSD's Playa Del Rey elementary School.