The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education is in the process of selecting a new superintendent and will hold a series of forums to solicit public input.

The new superintendent will take over when the current head of the nation’s second largest school district, Ramon C. Cortines, 82, retires. He is expected to leave at the end of this year. Cortines came out of retirement early this year following the forced resignation of John Deasy. Ideally, the school board wants to select the new superintendent by December.

In addition to the forums, the district is accepting public input via opinion surveys submitted online. The online surveys must be submitted by Oct. 28 at http://achieve.lausd.net/nextsuperintendent.

Individuals can also submit the survey at any LAUSD school or mail them so that they are received no later than today to the executive search firm: Hazzard, Young, Attea & Associates at 5600 N. River Road, #180, Rosemont, IL.

The other way surveys can be submitted is at one of the forums. These will be held tonight at 7 p.m. at Diego Rivera Learning Center, 6100 S. Central Ave., Los Angeles; Monday, Oct. 26 at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. at Webster Middle School, 11330 W. Graham Place, Los Angeles; Tuesday Oct. 27 at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. at Crenshaw High School, 4120 11th Ave., Los Angeles; and Wednesday Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. at White Middle School in White Hall, 22102 S. Figueroa St., Carson.

Beyond the Bell, the district’s afterschool program, will provide school-age activities for children during the forums at no cost to parents.

During the forums, the conversations will address three questions:

  1. What are the strengths and successes of LAUSD that you want to see continued and enhanced during the transition to new leadership?

  2. What are the challenges, issues, and problems that the new superintendent will need to face and address in the coming three years?

  3. What are the characteristics and attributes that the new superintendent must possess in order to be successful as the next superintendent in LAUSD?

Beyond the questions that the district is asking local education experts believe there are other concerns a new superintendent must address particularly as they relate to African American students.

Sylvia G. Rousseau, professor of Clinical Education and Urban Scholar at the USC Rossier School of Education, said the new superintendent must strengthen the LAUSD infrastructure so that it is able to fulfill the principal of “education as Democracy.” She added that the concept of school choice is hollow, if district schools do not remain a viable option where equitable opportunities are guaranteed for every child. Rousseau went on to add that the district should never be dependent upon charter schools to fulfill its mission to ensure a relevant, rigorous, enriching education for every child within its borders.

Rousseau said the new superintendent needs to be aware that many of the policies, structures and practices in place in the LAUSD systemically deny and exclude the students who are now the majority in the district—students of color and the poor.

She noted that Black children need systemic change that allows access to their history, provides support for learning standardized English while recognizing their home language, and access to stable and qualified faculty.

Rousseau also sees a need for a new superintendent to address zero-tolerance policies that disproportionately impact Black males; as well as discipline policies that are insensitive to cultural differences. The new person should examine teacher assignment and reduction-in-force policies that destabilize staffs in schools with large Black and Latino enrollments.

The USC professor also said a new superintendent must address policies that produce an overrepresentation of Black males in specific categories of special education programs as well as the low representation of Black students in advanced placement classes and gifted programs. She noted that these are only a few of the challenges that must be addressed when it comes to African American students, because the disparities are systemic.