LAUSD School Board District 5: Who’s Running In The 2024 Primary And Why It Matters

The seven members of the L.A. Unified’s board oversee the nation’s second largest school district, with more than 538,000 students enrolled. The district is also the county’s second largest employer with more than 74,000 educators, administrators, and support staff on its payroll.

Four seats are up for election this year, including District 5.

Unlike in New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., where the mayor appoints education system leaders, Los Angeles schools are run by the school board, which voters elect directly. That means the board members have a lot of power.

What do LAUSD board members do?

  • Hire and fire the superintendent — their single most important responsibility.
  • Pass the $9 billion operating budget and decide how it will be distributed.
  • Work with parents and resolve disputes in their district over facilities, budgets, etc.
  • Vote on every charter school that hopes to open in L.A.

Before you keep reading…

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Among the major issues facing the board

More Voter Guides

How to evaluate judges

  • L.A. Superior Court: There are more than two dozen judges up for election or reelection.
  • Judge ratings: Understanding how the L.A. County Bar Association evaluates judicial candidates — and how it can help you cast your vote.

Head to LAist’s Voter Game Plan for guides to the rest of your ballot including:

  • L.A. County Board of Supervisors: Three of the five seats are on the ballot.
  • L.A. City Council: There are seven seats up for grabs.
  • L.A. District Attorney: Meet the 12 candidates running to be the county’s prosecutor.
  • LAUSD: Four seats are open for a seat at the table.
  • Prop. 1: Here’s a closer look at the proposal at the center of a debate over how to best help people struggling with mental health, drug and alcohol issues.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing challenges in the district, including declining enrollment, disparities in student learning, truancy, inadequate mental health support, and lackluster standardized test scores.

Go deeper: Read more about what board members do, and the challenges facing the school board

About District 5

The unusually shaped District 5 includes the eastside communities of Eagle Rock, Glassell Park, parts of Silver Lake, Hollywood, and Koreatown. The district skirts downtown and covers Vernon, Maywood, Huntington Park, and South Gate. Jackie Goldberg emerged from semi-retirement in 2019 to return to LAUSD’s board and Goldberg announced she would retire— for real this time— in 2024. All four candidates for the seat are current or former educators.

The candidates are listed in the order they appear on the ballot. We gave all the candidates a chance to speak directly to voters about what they would change if elected to the L.A. Unified School Board, and you’ll see those responses below.

Fidencio Joel Gallardo

Teacher

Gallardo was elected to the Bell City Council in 2015 and is now mayor of Bell. Gallardo is the educational innovation deputy to Goldberg; she has endorsed him to succeed her. He has been a teacher in Los Angeles since 1989, and has also been an adjunct professor at California State University, Los Angeles since 1999.

Some platform highlights:

  • Gallardo says a priority is to reduce class size and make sure schools are fully staffed, as a way to improve student learning. He says making schools safer, cleaner, and greener will help improve learning conditions, and wants to improve outcomes for communities of color by “increasing investment in community schools.”

More voter resources:

In his own words

Top 3 priorities for LAUSD

  • “Improving student learning and achievement by reducing class size and making certain that our schools are fully staffed.” 
  • “Improving learning conditions by making our schools safer, cleaner and greener.
  • “Improving outcomes for communities of color by increasing investment in community schools.”

Tell us something surprising about yourself:

When on vacation, I like to go on ghost walks and learn about local haunted history.

Karla Griego

Teacher/parent

Griego has been an educator in Los Angeles Unified School District for almost two decades and most recently taught special education. Griego has also held leadership positions in United Teacher Los Angeles, the union representing more than 37,000 LAUSD educators. She is the parent of an LAUSD high school student.

Some platform highlights:

  • Griego says mental health and social-emotional support are top priorities, using counselors, psychiatric social workers, restorative justice advisors, and school climate advocates. She also urges fiscal transparency and accountability, both for the superintendent and charter schools. And she wants to expand community schools and the Black Student Achievement Plan.

More voter resources:

In her own words

Top 3 priorities if elected to the LAUSD:

  • “Supporting the whole child by providing mental health and social-emotional support to all students through counselors, psychiatric social workers, restorative justice advisors, and school climate advocates. These resources also support creating safe schools for all of our school communities but especially for some of our most vulnerable students: students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ community, foster and unhoused youth. Supporting the whole child includes providing an enriching and culturally responsive curriculum. This includes diverse electives, career pathways, and more support to students in the special education program, as well as all students of diverse learning abilities and styles.”
  • “Fiscal transparency and accountability of the superintendent and charter schools. There needs to be full transparency and a comprehensible presentation of the district’s budget; the budget needs to be shared with enough time to engage stakeholders in discussions about needs and priorities. Likewise, charters need to be held accountable for reporting enrollment, use of space in co-located schools and monies owed to the district.”
  • “Expansion of innovative programs like community schools and the Black Student Achievement Plan (BSAP). Community schools provide wraparound services to students; are collaborative and transparent. BSAP invests in our Black youth by bringing holistic social-emotional and academic support through counselors, restorative justice, and school climate staff.”

Tell us something surprising about yourself:

I love the outdoors. I enjoy hiking and road trips. I credit LAUSD’s Outdoor Education program and my fourth/fifth grade teacher at Alexandria Avenue Elementary for igniting this interest.

Victorio R. Gutierrez

Parent/Retired teacher

Victorio Gutierrez taught for 30 years, and has also been a school dean and principal. Gutierrez wrote on his campaign website that he is not accepting campaign donations or endorsements to be “completely independent.” 

Some platform highlights:

  • Gutierrez says one of his priorities is clean water in schools, and that installing water filtration systems in all schools will address concerns related to nano plastics and lead. He would also “create an emergency team of all stakeholders to eliminate a culture of failure,” and “hold local superintendents accountable” for what he calls a lack of academic progress “for the last 60-plus years.”

More voter resources:

In his own words

Top 3 priorities if elected to the LAUSD:

  • “Install a water filtration system at all schools. ‘Nanoplastics’ in bottled water and possible lead in our water is unacceptable!”
  • “Create an emergency team of all stakeholders to eliminate a culture of failure.”
  • “Hold local superintendents accountable for the lack of academic progress for the last 60-plus years.”

Tell us something surprising about yourself:

In 1997 my wife and I had quintuplets. Our ‘co-madre’ carried triplets for us and my wife carried twins. We had tried for over 15 years to have kids and it took ‘teamwork’ to accomplish it. I never gave up trying to have a family. My students, parents, and friends know I don’t give up on fulfilling a dream or aspiration.

Graciela ‘Grace’ Ortiz

Teacher/City councilmember

Ortiz is a Huntington Park city council member and former mayor. Ortiz works as a counselor on an LAUSD team that tracks attendance and student engagement. Ortiz ran unsuccessfully in a special election for Board District 5 in 2019.

Some platform highlights:

  • Ortiz lists fully funded schools as a top priority — “I want to ensure that all schools have adequate staff levels to include teachers, counselors, nurses, campus aides, office techs, special education assistants, and library aides.” She also wants to reduce class sizes in all grade levels and add after-school programs.

More voter resources:

In her own words

Top 3 priorities if elected to the LAUSD:

  • “Having fully funded schools. I want to ensure that all schools have adequate staff levels to include teachers, counselors, nurses, campus aides, office techs, special education assistants, and library aides.” 
  • “Reducing class sizes in all grade levels and adding afterschool programs that provide quality enrichment and opportunities for children.”
  • “Safety in all schools, as it is essential for student success and a quality work environment. It is imperative that each school have a comprehensive safety plan with sufficient campus aide supervision on-campus.”

Tell us something surprising about yourself:

I love going to watch our Los Angeles Dodgers play as I’ve always believed that sports and extracurricular activities are important in our lives. I truly believe that it’s imperative that all our schools have enrichment programs and extracurricular activities such as arts, music, and sports programs

Follow the money

What questions do you have about the March 5 primary election?

Whether it’s about how to interpret the results or track your ballot, we’re here to help you understand the 2024 primary election on March 5.

More Voter Guides

City of Los Angeles

  • City Council: There are seven districts seats on this ballot: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14
  • Healthy Streets LA: Take a closer look at Measure HLA, aimed at making streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists — and holding the city accountable to do just that.

L.A. County

  • Board of Supervisors: There are three districts on this ballot: 2, 4 and 5
  • District Attorney: Compare the 12 candidates running for District Attorney
  • Los Angeles Unified School District: Here’s an overview of the challenges facing the district. Plus: Meet the candidates vying to represent your child’s education in districts 1, 3, 5 and 7
  • The judiciary: There are more than two dozen judges up for election or reelection. Plus: Tips to make sure you’re putting right person on the bench

Overwhelmed? We have some shortcuts for you.

Statewide races

  • Prop. 1: Evaluating a $6.38 billion bond proposition that aims to create more housing, treatment and support for people struggling with mental health, drug and alcohol issues. Plus: A guide to understanding California’s Proposition system.

Head to the Voter Game Plan homepage for the latest in election news.

First appeared on laist.com

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