After 25 years in the classroom teaching American History, Los Alamitos Unified School District Board Trustee Marlys Davidson said this week that she believes during her year as President, despite an ongoing pandemic and controversy, the board managed to achieve some major accomplishments.
By now, it is no secret that the end of Davidson’s 2021 term as President ended turbulently after a hot mic incident, nevertheless Davidson said this week she remains committed to the purposes she said that compelled her to seek the office.
“I could make excuses,” said Davidson after the incident, “but none of that really matters, because it doesn’t take one little bit of accountability off me.”
“Trust is built through actions over time. I know I have broken trust with many of you. For that, I am deeply sorry,” Davidson said to Lauren Roupoli, the parent involved, the public and to her fellow board members
Roupoli later told Davidson at a LAUSD board meeting that she accepted her apology.
“I’m a very strong person,” said Davidson, “and when I look back at being president, obviously the hot mic issue is a big one. But in my life, if you apologize and you mean it, people can take it or leave it, and you try to make change and you sincerely work to be different, or better than that, then it’s done,” she said.
“I care too much about this district and about the kids,” said Davidson, “and there are incredibly big issues we have to address. So that’s in the past as far as I’m concerned. And I’m not struggling with it. I’m not,” she said.
Davidson, a former teacher, said the mental health of students, admittedly caused by a variety of factors during the pandemic, is a huge issue that she will continue to address.
According to Davidson, factors like bullying and social media “have driven a lot of kids to feel disengaged and are causing them to withdraw.”
“I was very proud of the fact that the district opened two WellSpaces wellness centers during my year as President,” said Davidson, crediting Supt. Dr. Andrew Pulver with being an “extraordinarily leader” in making positive things happen for LAUSD.
“I’ve never seen a person like Andrew [Pulver]. He has a servant’s heart and jumps right in on any issue,” said Davidson. The superintendent “does all the research, he makes the connections, he makes the calls, he finds where you can get the best of the best for our kids and discovers how we can help programs and can have everything that needs to be done.”
Collaborating with LAEF and the Orange County Board of Education, LAUSD opened the WellSpaces at Oak and McAuliffe Middle Schools in 2021, offering students a safe harbor during the school day. Davidson said she would continue her focus on the mental health of students.
Davidson said, though LAUSD is making progress, she thinks the mental health issues are only growing more pronounced. “I think it’s gotten a lot worse, because of the pandemic, because of the isolation, because of the stress and feelings of lack of connection,” she added.
The board has also beefed up other mental health resources throughout the system with its renewed emphasis on the issue, Davidson said. “This is what our district leadership and our schools have done. I believe we’re doing a phenomenal job of trying to address mental health issues,” she said.
In addition to mental health, Davidson said she is proud that the board voted to approve an ethnic studies elective course at Los Alamitos High School.
“Last year, we were able to have our first ethnic studies class for 11th and 12th graders at the high school. And there was a lot of controversy or confusion about what was going to be taught,” said Davidson.
“I’ve spent time in the class observing that what goes on,” she said, “and I wish I could be a student in that class and be there every day. I think that it brings kids together that maybe didn’t understand each other’s perspectives before.”
“But even more than that, what I saw was that that class teaches kids incredible communication skills in that they learn to listen to each other. They learn to acknowledge a different perspective. They learn how to collaborate on research, studying and debating issues. They are learning how to respect someone who thinks differently,” said Davidson.
“I think this is phenomenal for a teacher doing this for the first time,” she added. Further, Davidson said “I’m hearing the students say that for incoming 11th graders and 12th graders next year, that’s the class they want to take.”
In addition, Davidson said the board worked hard to “save the arts” during the pandemic, finding a myriad of creative ways to keep the performative arts classes going. Even so, she said there are still some music programs that need attention.
“You know, these students are there to share their joy in spite of masks and even having to wear those special masks in order to blow a trumpet,” said Davidson. “They don’t care as long as they can play. We’ve saved the arts because we have teachers and administrators that fight for them and a community that does whatever it needs to support their existence.”
Overall, LAUSD “saved programs other districts have lost,” said Davidson by providing renewed emphasis on academics, and by keeping students in schools more than perhaps any other district in Orange County during the various pandemic phases.
Davidson also credited the “incredible” parents of the district for their ongoing collaboration with the board. She said district parents continue to provide so much effort to get the district through the changing challenges of the pandemic.
Looking forward, she said “learning loss” will present its own challenges, but she said the LAUSD teachers throughout the system are “brilliant,” board members are committed to lead and despite the pandemic, the new STEM building will open this fall.
“Our sense of community has been challenged in the last couple of years,” said Davidson. But she said the district enjoys “such a deep sense of community that always rallies around the purpose of putting the focus on our children and giving, giving, giving to provide the best means to educate them.”
“The district, including the board, it’s families, students and staff, which it’s made of, all work together to do some tremendous things that, in the best of times, would have been a wonderful year,” said Davidson.
“And through all the disruption and controversies, Zoom meetings and whatever, we were able to get some really important work done at a time when it was desperately needed. That’s what I really believe,” said Davidson.