Kelly Gonez Fights to Save Resolution to Decrease School Segregation

Board Member Kelly Gonez fights to keep her school segregation resolution alive, amid opposition from Scott Schmerelson, George McKenna and Jackie Goldberg.

Board Member Kelly Gonez fights to keep her school segregation resolution alive, amid opposition from Scott Schmerelson, George McKenna and Jackie Goldberg.

A resolution to decrease school segregation and ensure fair access to magnet schools was put on hold Tuesday because of opposition from Board Members Scott Schmerelson (BD3), George McKenna (BD1) and Jackie Goldberg (BD5).

The trio of board members pushed to delay a vote Tuesday on the resolution from Board Member Kelly Gonez (BD6) to collect data on LAUSD enrollment patterns to help make sure all students have equitable access to all schools.

Gonez, however, fought hard to keep the resolution alive.

“There’s a national conversation about increasing segregation in urban schools,” said Gonez, pointing out that “very, very few African American and Latino students” attend one of the top-performing grade 6-12 span schools in her district. “We have to understand, why does that pattern exist? Is there anything we can do to ensure that more students of color who have historically lacked access can go to a school like that?”

Likewise, magnet programs located within comprehensive schools "enroll far fewer English learners and students with disabilities," Gonez said. "I have concerns about why that’s happening and whether there are barriers to entry that we could be addressing.”

After their initial attempts to delay the vote failed, Schmerelson and McKenna voted no on the resolution, while Goldberg abstained. Despite being a co-sponsor of the resolution, Board President Richard Vladovic (BD7), also abstained.

Deprived of the four votes needed to pass, Gonez then vowed to bring her resolution back again next month. The resolution was supported by a coalition of parent and civil rights groups called the Partnership for Equitable Access To Public Schools, which includes Speak UP.

Parent Jeannette Godina, a mom of four in Southeast L.A., told the board that her oldest son was once admitted to a magnet school, but when he showed up for orientation and the school realized he had special needs, the magnet coordinator said the admission was a mistake and sent him back to his neighborhood school. “I’ve seen how many families can be left out of the enrollment process,” Godina told the board.

Nevertheless, Goldberg questioned the value of collecting data examining whether LAUSD magnets are enrolling their fair share of students with disabilities, foster youth and English Learners or whether magnet schools located within larger schools are leading to segregation.

Scott Schmerelson fought to delay but refused to specify his concerns.

Scott Schmerelson fought to delay but refused to specify his concerns.

“I’m concerned we would spend a lot of time on this kind of analysis. Staff time is not unlimited,” Goldberg said. “This study you’re talking about here is not small. It is extensive. It will take a tremendous amount of time and effort to get this done.”

Schmerelson wanted to avoid discussing the topic altogether, saying parents in his district had “lots of questions” about the resolution, but when Gonez pressed him to specify those questions, he could offer none. That prompted a rebuke from Gonez. 

“I feel like it’s incumbent upon all of us to be prepared for items that come for action,” Gonez said. “Maybe there are actual questions, but I’m not hearing from folks what their actual questions are. I don’t know what the motivation is.”

Instead, Schmerelson moved to postpone, which would have allowed him to avoid casting a hot-button vote showing his opposition to a school desegregation effort shortly before a Blue Wave election year. When Schmerelson was elected to office, he was the first registered Republican  to win a seat on the school board in many years.

Gonez resisted efforts from Schmerelson, McKenna and Goldberg to delay, pointing out that the resolution was first introduced in July and delayed once already to go through the board’s new committee process. Goldberg did not attend last week’s committee meeting during which the resolution was discussed, but Gonez offered amendments on the spot to address all of Goldberg’s concerns.

“If there’s opposition to the resolution, then I think we should just vote on it,” Gonez said. 

McKenna then joined Schmerelson in voting no. After taking the vote, Gonez agreed to postpone to the next meeting, and Goldberg promised to bring written amendments Nov. 5.

The opposition to the Gonez resolution was the second attack on data transparency in recent weeks. Goldberg also introduced a resolution to stop the planned launch of LAUSD’s new school rating system and deprive parents of access to student growth data, which will be heard in committee next week.

LAUSD had originally promised to release the School Performance Framework in time for the eChoices application window, which opened Tuesday, but LAUSD continues to withhold that data on school performance from parents.