The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is searching for a new superintendent, whose job is to run the school district and make recommendations to the Los Angeles Board of Education. Current superintendent Michelle King is retiring in June, and LAUSD needs a new leader to move the district forward.
HS Insider asked its LAUSD students to share what they’d like their next superintendent to know, whether it’s problems that need to be addressed or something that’s going well that they feel should be recognized. Students from Los Angeles River School, Reseda High School and Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez High School shared their thoughts
“There are many students who have the mentality of failing and do not do their work by grade level. This affects our school’s graduation rate and college attendance. We need all students to do their best. [A new superintendent should recognize our] principal that is up to date with the students’ performance and acknowledge their way of learning. Each individual student is important to her.”
—Jocelyn Marcial, 18-year-old senior with plans to become a surgical assistant, Los Angeles River School, Los Angeles
“Police have been very present throughout low-income schools. The new superintendent needs to push for the stop of criminalization of black and brown youth.
Our school prides itself on having LGBTQ+ folks represent the school, queer students already have it tough enough, but our school is such a welcoming place.”
—Carmen Gonzalez, 16-year-old junior with plans to pursue journalism, Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez High School, Los Angeles
“One issue I have experienced at my school is the lack of school pride from the students and some of the teachers. I would like the superintendent to come to my school and experience the feeling it has to actually know what I’m talking about, because there is school pride but just not being well handled by other students and some of the teachers. One thing I’m proud of at my school that I would like the new superintendent to recognize is the way the counselors support the senior classes throughout the process of applying to colleges, internships, jobs, and scholarships and make it less confusing to us all.”
—Kimberly Aguilar, 17-year-old senior with plans to pursue physics, astronomy, architecture, electrical engineering or cultural anthropology, Los Angeles River School, Los Angeles
“I feel like the superintendent should know about the lack of field trips at our school. I would like them to fund more field trips so the kids can have a day off of school but still be learning. [They should also know that] I am really proud that our school is taking time to help the students who are falling behind to get back on track. Teachers host an intervention for the students who are missing work, so they can catch up.”
—Valeria Albarran, 16-year-old junior with plans to pursue pediatrics or OB-GYN medicine, Los Angeles River School, Los Angeles
“I like how all of the students and staff can come together as one, [but] the new superintendent should help in financial problems. An issue that we have in LARS is low budgets. We struggle a lot to make fundraisers for events like Junior Dinner Dance and Prom.”
—Helen Camacho, 17-year-old junior with plans to pursue social work, Los Angeles River School, Los Angeles
“I would like the next superintendent to work with the local community colleges to offer more classes after school or on the weekend. [I would like the new superintendent to acknowledge] that we as students are hardworking and motivated. For example, in my journalism class, my classmates and I have published several articles for HS Insider. I hope he or she will read the newspaper and recognize the schools participating in this program. A new superintendent could come and visit LA River school, take a tour and see our farm, meet our teachers, and learn about what students are capable of.”
—Jasmin Pedraza, 18-year-old senior with plans to pursue child development or dental medicine, Los Angeles River School, Los Angeles
“The superintendent needs to know that teachers and students are here to teach and to learn, but some of the classes aren’t interesting and that causes the students to lack the ability to pay attention and learn. We need classes that are interesting and that are connected to our career goals. I would like him/her to recognize that we’re the future labor force of America, we’re the next generation that will help build up this country.
—Gavin Magallon, 16-year-old senior with plans to become a chef, Los Angeles River School, Los Angeles
“My school is environmentally focused, so having a superintendent that has an outlook that recognizes environmental issues is what I would like. [I would like my new superintendent] just to have environmental awareness and positive point of view.”
—Jonathan Villamor, 17-year-old senior, Los Angeles River School, Los Angeles
“An issue that has been experienced often is the ability for students to use bathrooms in their buildings. Thus, the new superintendent should help configure a way for staff to help make that possible, and for students to not take the privilege so lightly and abuse it. The new superintendent should revise the rules of outside activities being allowed, such as field trips to the beach, or theme parks. It is essential that students have the opportunity to interact with their fellow peers in a not so controlled environment.”
—Sonia Vasquez, 18-year-old senior with plans to pursue cosmetology, Los Angeles River School, Los Angeles
“The nasty school lunch food we get, it isn’t made fresh but pre-packaged and possibly frozen. We get sliced apples in a plastic bag, which isn’t environmentally friendly! What a waste! Plus, the apples taste like battery juice and dirt. I had one this morning and had to spit it out. I want my tax money back! [The new superintendent] can give us money so we can hire better teachers that actually teach. Tell our school to leave the restrooms open because we have to walk across campus to use it, because no one is ever in the school office.”
—Areli Cervantes, 17-year-old senior with plans to become a lawyer, Los Angeles River School, Los Angeles
“I have been coming to LARS for almost four years and I have yet to see all the schools at Sotomayor communicate as one. Everything between the staff and the students are very distant. I understand that each school does their own thing, but I feel like as a senior I would of had a better experience if all the schools had events planned together or in ways try to incorporate each schools diversity into one big mixing pot. I would like the superintendent to try and bring all the schools together as one so there would of a presence of school spirit. I feel that school officials tend to mash together the charter and public schools as one, each school should be observed individually for what it is and what it stands for.”
—Angela Hong, 17-year-old senior with plans to become an emergency medical technician, Los Angeles River School, Los Angeles
“The food that they serve at LAUSD schools is not as appetizing as it sounds. It would be nice to have food everyone can enjoy. A new superintendent can interact with our school for the better by having meetings or reassuring with the staff at our school to make changes that will benefit us and the people who keep the school going like the principal, teachers, police, lunch ladies, counselors and many more.”
—Natalia Bermudez, 17-year-old senior with plans to become a registered nurse, Los Angeles River School, Los Angeles
“Pathways are great, yes, however, schools should begin adopting more while encouraging a culture where all studies are appreciated. At Reseda, there are four pathways I’m aware of, however, not everyone want to join the biomedical, film, or engineering field. If we fail to tap the potential of all students, the the educational system has failed. All schools must also actively promote student voice by creating basic avenues for students to share their opinion. I know a lot of schools do not have a school newspaper and that type of avenue seems like a basic necessity.
Another issue the next superintendent should be aware of is attendance. I don’t believe tardy lockouts are all good. I have seen that they disproportionately hurt students of color and seem counterproductive. It seems foolish that a student who is late by one minute because she came from leading a club discussion would be locked out of her class and sent off for 15 minutes to be marked late. Not smart! In those 15 minutes, students miss out critical information and are singled out. You’d think schools would learn that negative reinforcement does not work.
A superintendent should quite frankly interact with students more than administrators or teachers. When the superintendent comes to a school, they should ensure that they make time to talk with students in an environment of trust.”
—Richard Coca, 17-year-old senior with plans to become a biomedical researcher, Reseda High School, Reseda
“In my school, our college readiness programs are losing funding. The last few years, our college counselors used to work weekdays. Whenever we needed them, whether it was college-related questions or our academics, they had always been present. Thanks to them, a lot of my fellow seniors and the graduating classes from years before were motivated to pursue a college education. This year, we barely saw them. I often saw students staring curiously at their office, wondering why our counselors weren’t there.
College readiness programs need to be more present in the community they serve. We need a superintendent who cares that students are well equipped to get and stay in college. We need a superintendent who recognizes that each student is deserving of a future above poverty, that each student deserve well-paying jobs that can support the families each students will create in their communities. We need a superintendent who will break the cycle of poverty for future generations of students.
One of the things that my school does is use restorative justice to connect with students. They recognize that though we may be young, there are many things going on at home that can affect our attitude towards education. They seek to understand us and provide us with the help we need.”
—Sharrel Jan Narsico, 18-year-old senior with plans to pursue creative writing, animation and computer science, New Open World Academy, Los Angeles