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Eileen Hatrick is holding up the banner.

Eileen Hatrick is holding up the banner.

Democracy is a pretty concept that requires a lot of hard work. Being true to honoring hard work that improves lives and strengthens democracy is part of what the recent teachers’ strike was about, and why we support teachers. It’s also why we are running to be delegates in our Democratic Party — and why we hope we earn your vote at the election Saturday.

For those of us who have devoted our lives to public education, advocating for honesty and competence in governance of our public school system is like breathing air. It’s not a maybe; it’s a must. In 2015, when we learned of the malfeasance and fraud by a school board member representing our neighborhoods in District 5, we looked into it, blew the whistle on the problem, and spoke up for accountability.

That did not come quickly. It often doesn’t in democracy. For more than three years, we talked with colleagues, family, friends, and neighbors, including fellow members of our Democratic club about our concerns. Our club spoke up, and some in the free press took note.

But the lack of responsiveness from the school board to obvious falsehoods and misrepresentation by a sitting board member was breathtaking. What kind of example did this set for students? What standard of integrity did it set for our schools and communities?

The power of people earned a victory in giving the residents of District 5 the chance to regain an honest and trustworthy representative on the school board of the second biggest district in the nation.

Then in 2017, when promoters of charter schools garnered a majority on the L.A. school board, they elevated the board member in question to be their president. Does the wrongful bestowing of such a title sound like something from Washington, D.C.? It was a staggering act of arrogance whose consequences, as on the national stage, soon became painful and clear.

We did not give up. That is what democracy requires. Our efforts to blow the whistle on the misdeeds by the board member gained vindication in September 2017 when he was indicted and arraigned on three felonies and more than 20 misdemeanor criminal counts.

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Even then, it took nearly another year for the board member to resign. It required more whistle-blowing and coalition-building by our Democratic club with labor, interfaith, and community allies. We did that hard work, not only because we care about honesty and competence in decision-making for our public schools, but also because our belief in democracy compels it.

Rocio Rivas giving the press interview.

Rocio Rivas giving the press interview.

Now in 2019 it is easy to look at the looming special election for Board District 5 and, for those who take the time, at the various candidates. But no one should lose sight of the reason there IS a special election. It’s because democracy worked. The power of people — persistent, informed, diverse, undiscouraged, led by grassroots Democrats like us — earned a victory in giving the residents of District 5 the chance to regain an honest and trustworthy representative on the school board of the second biggest district in the nation. Our hard work achieved results that our city and state — and country — need more of.

The Democratic Party, in our community, needs to have leaders who have shown the determination to protect public schools and have proven our commitment to the hard work of democracy. The truth is our Democratic Party also needs more grassroots leaders who know a thing or two about restoring accountability and integrity and building coalitions, including within the party, to accomplish that.

This is exactly why we have stepped up to serve as delegates in our Democratic Party. It’s why we ask voters to show up for us on Saturday. In doing so, we can cast a vote for public schools and for people who have walked the walk to make democracy work.

Eileen Hatrick and Rocio Rivas

Eileen Hatrick
, a former classroom teacher and union representative, is a retired public school principal, organizer of school and community gardens, and leader of an environmental advocacy coalition in Northeast L.A. She lives in Eagle Rock.

Rocio Rivas
, mother of a son in public schools, earned her PhD from Teachers College, Columbia University, and has worked in education research for the public schools in Los Angeles. She lives is Highland Park.

  • Election of Delegates, Democratic Party, 51st District
  • Saturday, January 26, 11 am to 1 pm
  • Must be in line by 1 pm to vote. at East LA Rising, 324 N McDonnell Ave, Los Angeles 90022
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