By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer, Los Angeles Daily News | http://bit.ly/17iez8E
Teacher Monica Ratliff is the newest member of the LAUSD Board of Education.
Dateline: 6/18/2013 - Posted: 06/17/2013 06:43:07 PM PDT - Updated: 06/17/2013 07:47:26 PM PDT :: Having spent more than a decade teaching in a Los Angeles Unified classroom and chatting with colleagues, Monica Ratliff's perception of the district administration was a hive of bureaucrats toiling away in the downtown monolith known simply as Beaudry.
But after an intense three-day orientation last week at the Beaudry Avenue headquarters, the newest member of the school board said she actually found common ground with the leaders responsible for running the nation's second-largest school district.
"They all lit up as they talked about their work and how proud they are to be with LAUSD and how they want to provide the best support they can for the students," said Ratliff, known for putting her fifth-grade pupils ahead of politics as she ran her underdog campaign for the East San Fernando Valley seat.
"One of my big interests is to reconnect the staff of Beaudry with staff at the school sites. I think that people are coming up with fantastic ideas that aren't being conveyed."
Ratliff said the back-to-back meetings with about 50 district executives included two constructive sessions with Superintendent John Deasy. Ratliff had previously expressed cautious support for Deasy, whose aggressive reforms have put him at odds with United Teachers Los Angeles, as well as three of the seven board members.
"He talked about his love of education and students, and his desire to give students an excellent education. We see eye to eye, and can build on that," said Ratliff, who served as the union representative at San Pedro Elementary School, where she taught for 12 years.
Ratliff said Deasy shared a student's outstanding essay during one of their meetings, then lauded the teacher for contributing to the achievement. She would like to see the administration give that kind of recognition to other teachers -- and employees -- who achieve noteworthy results.
"It's not effective to just say, 'Thank you for your service.' Thanking is always good, but there needs to be a sign that they've actually seen the work ... There are many stories of student success in LAUSD and we should recognize all employees specifically for what they do."
A former public-interest attorney, Ratliff became a teacher because she figured she could help youngsters steer clear of trouble, then ran for the school board because she wanted to help those beyond her classroom. She spent just $52,000 on her campaign for the District 6 post, compared with some $2.2 million poured into the campaign of Antonio Sanchez, who had the support of outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and some of the city's most powerful labor unions.
She received 24,567 votes to Sanchez's 22,896, and will be sworn in on July 2. She'll succeed Nury Martinez, who gave up her seat to run for City Council.
The board meets today, and Ratliff said she'll be watching online as the board approves a $6 billion budget, which includes $288 million more in revenue. After talking to constituents, she said, she has strong views on how she'd like the money to be spent.
She's passionate about restoring adult education, which was gutted during the five-year-long budget crisis, saying it's critical to the economic recovery efforts touted by Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti.
"We should seize the moment -- when the money, the will and the desire come together -- to start rebuilding the programs," Ratliff said.
She also wants to expand the district's vocational offerings for high school students, although she doesn't want to backtrack on the new mandate that all kids pass the college-prep curriculum in order to graduate."I want all students to read, write and think with the proficiency that would allow them to go to college, but with more options for vocational training so they can make a choice at the end," she said.
But there are rival priorities, such as arts classes, preschool and the over-arching goal of getting every child the education they deserve.
"The challenge," she said, "is getting things to come to fruition that we all agree we want."
Ratliff said she's going to spend much of the summer in her new office on the 24th floor of Beaudry, taking a "deep dive" into board issues, and will visit classrooms in her East Valley schools once classes resume in August.While she hopes to improve communication between various district factions, she also wants to retain the same independence that marked her campaign. That means studying and voting on the issues based on their merit and steering clear of the politics and deal-making.
"This is a moment of opportunity," Ratliff said. "I really feel that it's not business as usual."