Carl Petersen will #changetheLAUSD board in 2015

Who am I?

You can thank Operation Rescue for my political activism. It was 1988 and this group had begun their campaign of violent intimidation against a woman’s right to choose her destiny. I had just moved to Los Angeles from the suburbs of New York to attend Musician’s Institute in Hollywood when I saw a flyer requesting help to defend against Operation Rescue’s actions and volunteered. Before long I was spending my Saturday mornings helping to forcibly reopen health clinics and escorting patients into their appointments.

Elections do have consequences and Bill Clinton’s residency in the White House brought the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. This ended Operation Rescue’s activities and gave me back my Saturday mornings. For a Liberal, I settled into a very conservative life. I got married, raised two children (Becca and Jessie), and bought a house in Van Nuys. Eventually I continued the education I had begun at New York’s Pace University, getting a degree in Business Management from the University of Phoenix. I was living the American Dream.

This dream was enabled by hard work and a drive to improve myself. My first job in California was at J. B. Chemical Company, a small automotive care company in North Hollywood. I worked my way up from the factory floor to General Manager. After 15 years, I left the security of this job to advance my career at Unified Dispatch, LLC, a startup company in Altadena. Shortly afterwards I was invited by Arecont Vision to manage their Operations Department as they progressed from development to production of high-definition security cameras. At the time I was hired, there was only one other employee. Nine years later we have over 150 employees worldwide and manufacture our cameras in Glendale.

Life does not always go the way we plan and in 2006 I found myself in the new role of single father. This was followed by the pleasant surprise of falling in love again (Sammy Hagar speaks the truth), moving to the Northridge / Porter Ranch area and marrying Nicole in a clandestine ceremony at Disneyland. As an added bonus, I became a father to Nicole’s triplets, Sydney, Zoey and Morgan.

In addition to my work and family responsibilities, I have also played drums in several local bands. I love the adventure of a good thrill ride and can often be found with the family at an amusement park. I also write “The Different Drummer” blog which revolves around “Politics, Family, Music and other Musings.” My wife and I also foster for Ayechimomma dog rescue. Life is busy, chaotic and satisfying.

Unlike others who have held a seat on the LAUSD school board, I do not see it as a stepping stone to higher political office. I have experienced the dysfunction of the district and know that the system needs to change. After speaking to other parents, teachers and community members, I know that my feelings are not unique. My candidacy is about using my talents to find solutions.

Why am I running?

I have experienced the dysfunction of the LAUSD. As a parent of children on the Autism spectrum, I have fought the bureaucracy in order to have them receive the services that they need. This has shown me just how far the district will go to avoid doing what is right for the children even as the cost of the fight drains funds away from the classroom. When I have tried to expose these problems to the School Board, I have seen how much they disregard the opinions of the people that they serve.

My children have had some talented teachers who were committed to making sure that they achieved their greatest potential. Unfortunately, others presided over classrooms where the teaching methods did not show results. In response to his lack of success, one speech therapist actually recommended a reduction in the amount of hours that were provided. When my wife and I decided that it was time to try a more specialized program, the response was that this could not be approved at the school level and we would have to file a legal case against the district.

The district actively works to prevent parents from knowing about alternative programs available to their children. For example, I cannot share the results of our appeal because the settlement we reached included a confidentiality clause. While my child has been removed from her previous classroom the same ineffective program continues with students whose parents have not learned to navigate the system.

During the appeals process, I told my wife that this system has to change and half-jokingly suggested that I should run for a position on the School Board. Her completely serious reply was that I should. As we spoke to other parents, teachers and community members they agreed that the LAUSD is broken and someone needed to step in and force changes.

My Goals

I am running to return accountability to the LAUSD School Board. This can be accomplished by increasing responsiveness to the community. The decision- making process also needs to be moved from the faceless bureaucrats downtown to the school level. Finally, we need to emphasize teaching over testing.

The incumbent that I seek to replace, Tamar Galatzan, believes that “when you get down to it, who cares who’s on the school board?” Anyone who has attended a Board meeting knows that she backs up these words with actions. Instead of listening to stakeholders as they take their turn at the speaker’s podium, she stares blankly at the tablet on her desk or carries on side conversations with the Superintendent. I sometimes well up with emotion as theoretical policies become real as people share their heartfelt experiences. Ms. Galatzan looks bored.

As a Board member I would push to move meeting from weekday afternoons to either evenings or weekends when more people can participate. Agenda items that are legally required to be considered behind closed doors can be handled at meetings in the official board room. Everything else should be discussed at venues that can hold more than the 155 person capacity of the room downtown. These meetings should also be held in different locations throughout our sprawling district to encourage participation from all communities.

Some of the bureaucrats also need to be moved from the massive building on Beaudry Avenue. The district staff should be focused on oversight instead of decision-making. Therefore, some of these bureaucrats need to be given a face by transferring them to the actual school sites. Once there, they can assist in the decision-making process rather than dictating policy without having any idea what is happening locally.

One of the things I think that these bureaucrats would see at the school level is that we are spending too much time on test preparation and testing. As a businessman, I know that successful employees need critical thinking skills. Test taking skills will not increase productivity or generate profits. These tests may be the easiest way to judge teacher and school performance, but they are not the most efficient method. We need to determine what we want to measure and work with all stakeholders, including the teacher’s union, to develop methods that intrude the least on instruction time and that do not add to the stress levels of the students.

If the sitting school board cared about accountability, I would not be running for office. However, I cannot sit back while so many voices are ignored. The only way to make the LAUSD accountable is to put one of those voices on the Board.

My DFA Values

Education is the great equalizer. My father was given the opportunity of a free college education and used it to rise from some of the toughest neighborhoods in the South Bronx. He appreciated the ability to raise his family in the middle class environment of the suburbs and made a point of donating to his public college throughout his life. “They helped me become who I am,” he told me in a very proud voice.

I am also appreciative of my public school background. As a member of the “baby-bust” generation, my schools faced budgeting difficulties that came with a suddenly dwindling school-age population. Programs that were available to my older peers were cut but I still had access to enough AP and other college level classes to skip almost a full year of college. Music and art were considered part of a well rounded education as they encourage the creative thinking needed to be successful in business. Administrators were smart enough to recognize the upcoming computer revolution and found the funds to equip our schools with their first computer labs. This encouraged me to teach myself to program, study computer science in college and later take on the project of transferring an entire business from a manual based system to one that ran more efficiently with computers.

The students currently at my alma mater are not as fortunate. The East Ramapo school board in the suburbs of New York City has been taken over by people who believe that education should be a private function. They have diverted as much as they legally can to private schools and left the public ones with few resources. AP classes and marching band have been sacrificed and some students do not have access to enough classes to graduate on time.

I fear the same results for my adopted home district in Los Angeles. The number of charter schools has increased during the time that my local school board member has been in office and she sees this as a good thing. I believe that it represents her failure since parents who are happy with their board-controlled schools will not look elsewhere. Instead of promoting these schools, school boards should be focused on improving the public ones.

Schools should not have to become chartered to control their destiny. I believe in “community based education” where all schools are integrated into the community and communities control the school’s budget, programs and policies.

I am fully vested in my district as four of my five children are still in school. However, one does not need to have school-age children to be affected by the issues raised by my campaign. We all depend on a well-educated workforce to keep our economy competitive in the global economy. People without critical thinking skills also make poor voters.

Education is the great equalizer. We should not let corporate interests steal that from our communities. It is time to demand real change instead of reform pushed by corporate profiteers.

My Campaign is People Powered!

I am a citizen in search of solutions not a politician in search of an office. I realize that by running for office I become a politician, but that is my tool not my goal. The actions of the current school board are a threat to the public education system that I value deeply and I feel the duty to run. I am willing to put myself on the line to #ChangeTheLAUSD.

My campaign is about elevating the voice of the people. I have listened to parents, teachers and students and understand their concerns. I have personally experienced many of these issues myself. Sitting in on board meetings has shown me that there is not only a lot of anger in the community but a real willingness to work for change. I want to be the person who focuses that anger into action.

Social media is a powerful tool in today’s political environment and I have been working hard to identify online communities that share my concerns about the district. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Repairs-Not-IPads/228827333958584?ref=br_tf and https://www.facebook.com/groups/ujlausdtchrs/ are just two that I have connected with as I work at bringing together those who are already working as change agents. Having them recognize that the problems that they are trying to solve often share root causes is imperative to my campaign.

Too often the teacher’s union is ignored as a partner in improving the system. While I recognize that their primary responsibility is protecting their members, I also know that most of their membership has entered into this noble profession because they have a deep concern for the interests of children. Additionally, while we might not always see eye to eye on how to fix the problems facing our district, we do share the same motivation to make sure that solutions are found; strong, successful public schools are essential if unions are to compete against corporate backed charter schools. I also seek a strong connection with individual teachers. No other group knows more about what our student’s need to succeed. In the beginning days of my campaign I have met several who have given me great insight into what is happening at their level. I am actively working to expand this network.

Even though this is a non-partisan office, I know that party politics will still play a role in this race. I am a member of the North Valley Democratic Club. Therefore, it is not surprising that a majority of my positions will be considered progressive. However, my quest for solutions will not be limited by ideology.

Communities are comprised of people of all political stripes and no line of thinking has a monopoly on solutions. Discarding ideas because we do not like the ideology of the person who originated it will not make our school district any better. It certainly does not put our children first. I will, therefore, make sure to be open minded to all proposals.

Voice support

Supporters:

  • Shawn Leonard
  • Christie Draper
  • Debbie Petersen
  • Sydney Thiroux
  • Hector Aguilar
  • Scott Schleifer
  • Nicole Petersen
  • Chuck Silver
  • Cynthia Petersen, CA
  • James Vollaro, CA
...and 2 more.


About the Endorsement Process

The driving force behind all DFA endorsements is our members. We recognize that all politics is local and that what is considered progressive in Los Angeles may be very different from what's considered progressive in Louisville. For this reason, DFA does not have a litmus test of specific progressive positions for which a candidate must stand. Our endorsement is heavily weighted based on these questions:

• Will the candidate move the progressive movement forward in their community?
• Does the candidate have substantial support from our local members?
• Do the candidate's positions and policies fit into the broader progressive movement?
• Is the campaign people-powered and the candidate working to win?

If you have questions, or want to let us know about a candidate in your neighborhood, please call us at (802) 651-3200 or email us at [email protected] .

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