top of page

The Incumbent Stays Silent While Challengers Make Their Final Pitch

LAUSD Board President Kelly Gonez refuses to engage with voters in Board District 6. Her opponents are willing to answer questions.

“The public education system is being assaulted by politics, privatization, special interest groups, lack of funding, a teacher shortage, declining enrollment, and the COVID pandemic.” - Jesus Arana


With just over a week until mail-in ballots drop, the candidates for LAUSD’s Board District 6 were invited to a candidate forum by the Sun Valley Area Neighborhood Council. This was the first time that voters had the opportunity to ask all three candidates questions at one event.

Unfortunately for those trying to make a decision, incumbent Kelley Gonez was a no-show for the forum, claiming that she had a “prior commitment.” This follows Gonez’s apparent strategy for her reelection campaign of keeping her head down and doing everything possible to avoid scrutiny of her record. In place of face-to-face campaigning, she is relying on charter school industry support to engage in a marketing campaign where the message can be carefully controlled.

Apparently, the questions in my monthly series on issues facing the LAUSD do not fit within the planned messaging of the campaign. Despite being invited to share her opinions, Gonez has ignored opportunities to engage with her constituents on subjects like PROP-39 and overallocation fees, forced mainstreaming for children with severe special education needs, community engagement, and ethical issues.

Gonez also neglected to respond to this month’s lightning round, which consisted of 20 questions about a variety of issues. While these were designed to be “yes” or “no” questions, the candidates were invited to go into more detail if they felt the need to do so. They were also given the opportunity to provide a closing pitch to the voters. This was limited to one paragraph.

While Gonez showed a lack of respect for the voters by ignoring these questions, her two opponents, Marvin Rodriguez and Jesus Arana took the time to provide their responses. It should be noted that Rodriguez had the only perfect record in the series of all 11 candidates across the district.


The candidate’s closing pitches follow the answers to their questions. The candidate order was determined by when their response was received.

  • 1. Do you have children who are enrolled in LAUSD district schools?

Marvin Rodriguez: Yes

Jesus Arana: Yes, I have four current children in LAUSD; Elementary, Middle, and High School. My eldest daughter graduated from San Fernando and is now a Paraprofessional in Special Education.

  • 2. Do you commit to ensuring that your staff includes parents with children enrolled in district schools?

Marvin Rodriguez: Yes

Jesus Arana: Yes, this will help me be grounded and connected with the Community.

  • 3. Is lowering the student-to-staff ratio essential for increasing outcomes?

Marvin Rodriguez: Yes

Jesus Arana: Very essential! Whenever a child can get more individualized attention, it will help them achieve the next level of learning.

  • 4. Do you support having a nurse assigned full-time to every school?

Marvin Rodriguez: Yes

Jesus Arana: Yes, emergencies happen at school and it is our responsibility to keep our students safe.

  • 5. Do you support having either a librarian or a library aid assigned full-time to every school?

Marvin Rodriguez: Yes

Jesus Arana: Yes, librarians and library aides are essential to the learning environment.

  • 6. Did you support UTLA in 2019 when they went on strike to force the district to provide fundamental improvements for our students?

Marvin Rodriguez: Yes

Jesus Arana: Yes, my wife is a teacher with LAUSD. I was out in the rain and cold walking with teachers.

  • 7. Do you agree that every charter school should have similar demographics to the LAUSD public schools in the neighborhood where they are authorized to operate?

Marvin Rodriguez: Yes

Jesus Arana: Yes, schools should be a reflection of the communities in which they operate.

  • 8. Do you agree that the job of an LAUSD School Board Member is to represent children who are enrolled in schools run by the district?

Marvin Rodriguez: Yes

Jesus Arana: Yes, this is the primary function of each and every School Board Member.

  • 9. Do you agree that no LAUSD should be closed without first engaging in a meaningful dialogue with the school community so that alternatives can be found?

Marvin Rodriguez: Yes

Jesus Arana: Yes, a School Board Member is an elected official who has the responsibility to be the voice of the community they represent. The best way for a Board Member to represent the interest of the community is by engaging in dialogue with them.

  • 10. Do you support allowing LAUSD teachers to take sabbaticals as a way of combating teacher burnout?

Marvin Rodriguez: Yes

Jesus Arana: Yes

  • 11. Do you support enforcing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate that is scheduled to take effect in August?

Marvin Rodriguez: Yes

Jesus Arana: No

  • 12. Will you work to ensure that every parent understands that they have a right to opt-out of standardized testing?

Marvin Rodriguez: Yes

Jesus Arana: Yes

  • 13. Do you agree that using standardized tests before the third grade is counterproductive to providing meaningful education?

Marvin Rodriguez: Yes

Jesus Arana: Yes

  • 14. Do you agree that the LAUSD should not be subject to mayoral control and that the LAUSD School Board should remain an independent, elected body?

Marvin Rodriguez: Yes

Jesus Arana: Yes, absolutely agree. We need to try and keep politicians and politics out of the educational system. The educational rights of our children should not be subject to the bartering of politicians with special interest groups.

  • 15. Will you work to eliminate the confidentiality agreements that parents must sign when agreeing to negotiated settlements with the LAUSD over special education services?

Marvin Rodriguez: No

Jesus Arana: Yes, this is a prime example of the district attempting to protect staff over the rights of students and parents.

  • 16. Do you commit to supporting policies that prohibit the District from punishing employees who inform parents of all of the options available to their students during the IEP process?

Marvin Rodriguez: Yes

Jesus Arana: Of course! Student and parental rights should be protected at all times.

  • 17. Will you sponsor and support the proposed “Improving Special Education within the LAUSD” resolution?

Marvin Rodriguez: Yes

Jesus Arana: Yes

  • 18. Will you sponsor and support the proposed “Community Representation on Charter School Governing Boards” resolution?

Marvin Rodriguez: Yes

Jesus Arana: I agree with the intent of the resolution. I believe both a community member and an LAUSD representative should be voting members on Charter School Governing Boards.

I would sponsor and support a similar resolution that would include parents of students as being responsible for voting in the community board member. I would also require that the community board member be a parent.

Further, I would add that all LAUSD Board members vote on the LAUSD representative.

  • 19. Will you sponsor and support the proposed “Improving LAUSD Performance As A Regulatory Agency for Charters” resolution?”

Marvin Rodriguez: Yes

Jesus Arana: Yes

  • 20. Will you sponsor and support the proposed “Promoting Transparency By The LAUSD” resolution?

Marvin Rodriguez: Yes

Jesus Arana: Yes

Closing Message To The Voters

Marvin Rodriguez:

I am running for school board because I believe our school district must play a bigger role in ensuring that our schools provide meaningful learning experiences that inspire in our children the sense of worth and purpose necessary to navigate this world and contribute positively to our communities. My vision for public schools is one that creates the conditions that provide the best educational opportunities for our children in their own neighborhood schools. I believe in the power of community in our schools, and that no child should have to leave their neighborhood in search of quality education. My commitment through honest and courageous leadership is to build meaningful communities of wraparound resources, support, and hope in all district schools for each one of our children to reach their full potential.

Jesus Arana:


I have never witnessed a more trying time in recent education as we are seeing now. The public education system is being assaulted by politics, privatization, special interest groups, lack of funding, a teacher shortage, declining enrollment, and the COVID pandemic. Although we can never truly remove politics and outside influences from education, we need to make decisions from the position of what is best for students, parents, and the community. The interest of outside organizations with political agendas should not weigh more than student achievement, staff development/retention, and community concerns. If you are satisfied with the current state of the district, keep voting for those who are in office and helped put us in the predicament. If you want change, vote for Jess Arana. I am a parent, educator, former LAUSD student, retired LAUSD employee, military veteran, community advocate, and retired Police Sergeant. I have a plan and the conviction to better LAUSD. _____________________________ Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with special education needs and public education. He is an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and serves as the Education Chair. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him “a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles.” For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.



Original Article


533 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

BY RYANN BLACKSHERE VARGAS LOS ANGELES PUBLISHED 10:15 AM PT APR. 14, 2022 LOS ANGELES — Ten candidates are hoping to fill one of three open seats on the Los Angeles Unified School board — including t

bottom of page