March 29, 2017

Casanova Lecture: Public Education in Post-Election America

Photo of students and a teacher sitting at a table

April 19, 2017, Update

If anyone expected a subdued conversation about public education at this year’s Sally Loyd Casanova lecture, they were sorely disappointed.

Dispensing with the single-lecturer format, this year’s panel format enabled SES alumni to engage in a spirited discussion of the common and uncommon issues that their districts are facing as a result of political debate and controversy taking place since Donald Trump’s presidential victory in November.

“I expect some lively discussion tonight for my next column,” said moderator Chuck Kerchner, emeritus SES professor and a regular contributor to Ed Week and The Huffington Post.

Kerchner deftly guided the panel and audience through a discussion of three topics: Trump, school funding, and the equity/achievement gap.

Since the presidential election, “we have started to see the fear level rise among students, and we want to know whether this is real or imagined in your school districts,” Kerchner said.

John Garcia, whose district in southeastern L.A. county is predominantly Latino, with 70 percent on free or reduced lunches, said that he and his colleagues are seeing real turmoil among some parents who—fearful of their own deportation—are trying to give custody of their kids to other people.

“The fear is real,” Garcia said. “We want our students to be distraction free, but how do we do this … when they’re struggling with the fear their parents may get deported in the middle of the night?”

For now, Garcia said, his district is trying to be flexible with policies to support students during this stressful time. Other panelists expressed similar views about how public education must counter divisive, unsettling public conversations with a different message.

“We need to send a different message about equality than the one we’re hearing from our government and in the national conversation,” said Julie Vitale. “We need a message about equality and love for our students … that we’re going to ensure that they matter in this world.”

The panel also discussed funding and finance, and how every district has different needs—and how restructuring enables districts to apply funds best in the areas where they are most needed.

For more on this discussion, see Kerchner’s own Education Week report, co-authored with SES student Marquisha Spencer.

March 29, 2017

They serve at the front lines of Southern California’s public school districts. What are the key challenges they face? How do they respond to new federal policies? And how will the region’s diverse student populations fare under an evolving educational landscape?

A panel of distinguished School of Educational Studies alumni who work as public school leaders will address these issues April 5 at the 21st Sally Loyd Casanova Distinguished Alumni Lecture.

The event comes at a time when the Department of Education under Betsy DeVos is facing potential cuts totaling $9 billion—including the reduction or elimination of grants for teacher training, after-school programs, and aid to low-income and first-generation college students—under the terms of President Donald Trump’s budget proposal. The Trump administration’s spending plan also includes $1.4 billion in additional funds for school choice programs.

Charles Kerchner, SES emeritus professor of educational studies, will serve as the panel’s moderator.

Other panelists include:

  • Helene Cunningham (MA, 1994, Education; PhD, 2000, Education) is the director of curriculum, instruction, assessment, and TK–12 at the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District in Los Angeles County. She served as a principal for nearly 20 years, and was recognized as a National Distinguished Principal for California in 2013.
  • John A. Garcia Jr. (PhD, 2002, Education) is the superintendent for the Downey Unified School District. He has served as a public educator for nearly 25 years at the Inglewood, Norwalk-La Mirada, Newport-Mesa, Glendale, and Downey school districts, all in Los Angeles County.
  • Anthony J. Martinez (PhD, 2009, Education) is the interim superintendent of schools for the Montebello Unified School District in Los Angeles County. He previously served as an educator and administrator in Antelope Valley and as assistant superintendent of instructional services for the Montebello Unified School District.
  • Julie A. Vitale (PhD, 2005, Education) is the superintendent of the Romoland Unified School District in Riverside County.

The panel discussion will be held in Albrecht Auditorium from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm. An opening reception is schedule for 6:30 pm to 7:00 pm.

The event is open to the public, but seating is limited. Attendees are encouraged to RSVP to the event.

The Casanova Lecture is held annually to honor SES graduates who have made distinguished contributions during their careers as scholars or practitioners and to connect members of the CGU community with alumni who have made an impact in the educational field.

The lecture was named in 1994 for Sally Loyd Casanova (PhD, 1987, Education), an SES alumna whose “career was marked by high achievement, dedicated service, and a warmth of personality that attracted all who knew her.”

The lecture series is sponsored by CGU’s Bowen Institute for Policy Studies in Higher Education.