Friday, June 26, 2009

Board Member Canter's Speech Following Board Tribute



Things I want to talk about at my last LAUSD board meeting on June 23, 2009.

I feel so blessed….. I have always loved my jobs…. And therefore I have never felt like I worked a day in my life…But today, to be here surrounded by my family…. My mom and dad, my daughter (my son and daughter in law could not be here)…. And my friends and colleagues….I don’t think I have ever felt prouder.

This has been an amazing 8 years for me personally and professionally. I have been inspired, I have been challenged, I have had to fight, I have had to compromise, I have had to be strong when I felt weak and I have been weak when I thought I was strong. I have won some, I have lost some. But underlying all of the eight years has been my lifelong commitment:

to children who only have one chance at an education and who are each unique onto themselves.

to education – which is now considered the civil rights for all children

to my morals and values that guided my decision making and allowed me to look in the mirror every night,

to my family,

to my old friends who have been so patient with me as I became engulfed in the LAUSD life of a board member;

to my new friends who I have been so lucky to meet along this path

to my belief in the power of relationships

to knowing that change is hard and long and often a bumpy road.

But mostly my commitment has been to myself and the promise I made when I got elected…. To make decisions that benefited the children. I always said that I would do the best I could to create change and I know there have been many changes that have been made since I have been here…. I also said that I would at least learn what were the barriers to success…. And I think I have a good understanding of those too

Besides my commitments that guided me…

I have learned so many lessons….life lessons. I have probably grown more in these eight years than I have ever….let me share a few of them:

1. The better relationships you can develop, the more that can get accomplished.

2. We all come from different backgrounds… what I called a melting pot and Monica calls a salad bowl… is really the same… an attempt to find a commonalities amongst our differences, to be able to unite on common ground for a higher purpose, to be able to reflect for the ones that follow that there is more strength in holding hands when you walk across a beam than there is when you walk alone….and I have learned that this lesson has to be renewed and reflected upon each and every day…. And a promise has to be made to each other that we will continue to strive for what is best for all of us…

3. I have learned that no matter what the reform is…. If we don’t have a good teacher in each and every classroom then we are failing our children… no matter what school, what size school, or what kind of school... all children have a teacher in front of them or with them each day… we must find a way to ensure that each one is the best

4. I have also learned that in order to have a successful school… you must have a good leader…. I had breakfast with Elizabeth Abramowitz the other morning…. And she taught me that managers manage all that is around them…. Leaders know what to manage… we have a lot to learn and to share about leadership with each other.

5. I have learned that being a superintendent is a very difficult job…I have been here with three of them… each different… but to each of them… I say thank you for saying yes…and for what you given of yourself to us. To Roy Romer… I loved being in the foxhole with you…you are my mentor and my friend. And to Ray… I may be leaving my job as a board member but I will never be farther than a phone call away… We are so lucky to have you… and I am so glad that our paths have crossed.

6. I have learned that there are so many factions here in Los Angeles that we need to work harder at being unified… the kids need us to be

7. I have also never met a parent that didn’t want their child to be successful… we must find better ways to engage our parents so that they are more knowledgeable about what makes a good school so that they too can help advocate for what we need to create change.

8. I have learned that you cannot replicate a charter school… I admire their tenacity but I am deeply aware that without the ed code or collective bargaining agreements or minimized agreements they have more freedom to work more efficiently and effectively… we must find better ways to foster reform and innovation from within the district or else all people who want to be reformers will go to charters and we will have created the demise of our public schools.

9. I have learned that the way money is allocated to us in the state of California does not work. We cannot be responsible to the county for three year budgets when we only know one year at a time what we are getting. And what we get… is not enough to even cover the mandates…it makes those of us with fiduciary responsibilities put in a position to make decisions that we know are sometimes not the best one.

10. I think the most important thing I have learned is that educating children is really complex… it is easy to beat up LAUSD… it is much harder to fix it… And we need to all work together to make that happen.


It would be impossible to recognize all the people that I have had the honor of working with… some of the smartest people I have ever met in my life…Some still here at LAUSD, some have moved on…some are my advisors…some I talk to everyday… some more infrequently...to all of you who know me and have worked with me…I know you know how much I think of you… How much I thank you for what you do everyday and how much I will miss not working side by side with you…and how much you all mean to me… changing jobs does not mean that we cannot continue to connect…


But… I will not fail to recognize those without whom I could not have done my work… And that thank you and acknowledgement of how much you mean to me and how appreciative I am of your dedication and inspiration and ability to get all the work done… to you… I will name you by name…..

My staffs…from 2001-2009…

If you are here please stand.

Andrew Glazier…..my first chief of staff

Jolene Shiffman Chavira

Amy Held

Marina Lang

Jordan Henry

Virginia Flores

Melissa Milios

Mark Taylor

Paola Santana

Melissa Infusino – my current chief of staff

Samira Estilai – my previous chief of staff

Beverly West – who unfailingly everyday for the entire eight years made sure that we were all taken care of

To all of you… It has been a privilege to share this work with you.


And lastly, to my colleagues… Present and past board members…I will tell you exactly what I told Steve Zimmer the other night when we had a chance to have dinner together.

We have all been given the honor of being an elected official – the only ones – that make policy just for the children of LAUSD… What an amazing responsibility it is….. What an amazing privilege… I know how hard this job is… I know how hard we get pulled in a million directions…but when you put your head on the pillow every night… I ask that you reflect on all that you did that day… And evaluate it in terms of how it helped the kids…

It is the only way that LAUSD will thrive and survive.

Thank you all for being here with me… for all that you said…. For all that you do…

Although this chapter of my life is coming to an end… my work is not complete…I don’t know exactly what I will be doing but you can be assured that my advocacy for having a good teacher in every classroom will continue… But I also have promised myself to add some balance to my life… to remember to enjoy each day… spend time with those I love… To paint beautiful pictures… to see sunsets at the beach… and every once in a while turn on KLCS…and catch up on the hard work that I am leaving behind to all of you.

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