Self-described as “enthusiastic and creative,” first-time school board candidate Laura Chardiet has been dubbed a “PTA veteran” around town. With two kids—one at Culver City Middle School and the other at Culver City High—and a position at LAUSD in which she manages a federally funded adult literacy grant, Chardiet is already a busy woman. Patch sat down with her at L’Epicerie Market to talk about her goals for the Culver City Unified School District, if elected come November.
Culver City Patch: How do you think that your roles on the PTA would help you serve on the board?
Laura Chardiet: I’m familiar with all of the schools, not just one of the schools. I’ve worked with parent groups for all of the schools and been involved in developing programs that enrich all of the schools. I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard of Sacramento Safari, which is a PTA-sponsored event that happens every spring. Delegates from the PTA, including three high school students, meet with legislators and advocate for education.
Since I have been involved with Sacramento Safari, it has grown; last year we had one of the highest numbers of delegates attending Sacramento Safari, even though we are a very small school district. I also personally spearheaded all of the protests we had for Save Our Schools.
Patch: If elected, what would you change about the board?
Chardiet: I don’t know what the board policy is regarding students being held back. For example, my daughter—when she was in kindergarten—I had asked if she could repeat kindergarten, because I could tell that she was struggling with kindergarten. She wasn’t picking up the skills that she needed. I approached the teacher to see if she could repeat kindergarten and we were encouraged not to go down that path.
So then in first grade, she was struggling even more, and I had asked again if she could repeat again. I was discouraged from having her repeat a grade, because they felt that it would be worse for her to be stigmatized than to be at the bottom of a class. I really don’t understand that thinking, that philosophy. So finally at the end of second grade, the teacher said, "When you get to the third grade, you’re going to learn this and that, my daughter stood up and said, “I am not going to the third grade. I am not ready.”
Because she was able to stand up in front of her peers and articulate that she wasn’t ready for the third grade, they felt that maybe she should repeat the second grade.
But they still didn’t want to repeat her. I think this is a lack of foresight amongst educators. I don’t think this is something specific to CCUSD; this is something that is pervasive to educational thought, and I think this is something we really need to look at because once she repeated she did much better. She was at the level or above the level she needed to be at academically.
I really question that thinking, because what’s going to happen with these kids is that they’re going to drop out. If they can repeat the grade, it would be better to repeat them. We’re here to educate the children, that’s our primary objective. If we have people who are falling through the cracks, what do we do to address these kids?
Patch: How would you still meet needs in the district despite budget constraints?
Chardiet: Culver City is going to have to decide as a city if they want to be 47th in the nation for pupil spending. California is 47th in the nation, some people say 48th, some say 49th. We’re at the bottom. Is this what Culver City sees itself as being? If not, we need to create a culture of giving amongst the parent groups first. The parents have the most at stake here; they have the most skin in the game. We need to look for money in places where we would typically not look for money, for example the Department of Defense, the Department of Labor. There are grants available that most people don’t tend to go after. We’re going to have to start looking for those types of funding.
It’s like looking for change in your couch. We have to look everywhere.
Patch: Why should Culver City vote for you?
Chardiet: I bring a unique skill set to the board. I am a very creative, innovative thinker; I don’t see the things that other people see. I am good at reaching objectives. I am a great collaborator and a great community builder.
Patch: Give me an example of your creativity.
Chardiet: For example, the protests—having students and teachers picketing in front of the schools was my idea. We first started with Measure EE. We had them out three days before the election, two days before the election, the day of the election. We wanted to make sure that people didn’t forget to vote.
Not all of Culver City is online. A huge segment of our population isn’t online, so they need to be brought in to the process. Coming from La Ballona Elementary School—which is a Title I school—I’m very sensitive to those issues, and very sensitive to language issues.
Patch: How would you bridge the divide between the different languages among the parent groups in Culver City?
Chardiet: We really need to engage the parent groups. It starts at the local level; we need to support them and help them. A big issue at the Title I schools, is that everything needs to be translated into English and Spanish. Sometimes that kind of slows the parent groups down because they have to have it translated.
I know at La Ballona it may have benefited us to have information translated into a couple of other languages as well. We have to constantly remind ourselves that there are other parents that we have to reach out to. I think another issue is that the parents that we need to reach out to may be very content with the education their children are receiving. They don’t think, “We could improve it.” I think someone needs to frame the argument to them so that they also buy-in to supporting the school.
Patch: What is your opinion on interdistrict permits?
Chardiet: I think we should keep families together. It’s not good for anybody to have a family who has to drop their kids off at three different schools because some are matriculating at CCUSD and some have been denied a permit and can’t matriculate at CCUSD. LAUSD school board member [Steve] Zimmer is very pro-family and very sensitive to family issues, so I think we should work with him, since his part of the district abuts Culver City.