Kate Anderson is a woman on a mission. The lawyer turned community activist and homemaker is one of four people running against Steve Zimmer for a seat on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board. While she said the LAUSD has its share of challenges, Anderson said she is up to the task.
Anderson first joined the Mar Vista Community Council in 2008 and since then has continued to look for ways to get involved in the community she refers to as a “really phenomenal, very close-knit community.”
“I think the Mar Vista Community Council, like a lot of neighborhood councils throughout Los Angeles, provides a real infrastructure for the community to come together,” Anderson said. “I really believe that neighborhood associations in the community are the building blocks for a civil society, for a democratic society, and I think we have some of the best of that here in Mar Vista.”
Anderson said she is not new to public service. While an undergraduate at UCLA, Anderson worked as an intern for Congressman Henry Waxman.
“So I’ve learned the skills of figuring out what different coalitions need and bringing them together when it seemed like they’re diametrically opposed which is a skill that I think you need,” Anderson said.
In addition to preparing to be a public servant, working for Waxman also helped sway her decision to attend law school, according to Anderson. A graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, Anderson used her skills when she first returned to work at her old law firm, Munger, Tolles, and Olson, after being on maternity leave.
“I was able to get that law firm to open the first childcare center sponsored by a law firm west of the Mississippi and that took a lot of the same skills I learned in Congressman Waxman’s office, figuring out how to build fences, bring people together and get something done,” Anderson said. “I think that’s a skill we really need on the school board right now.”
Another thing that is currently lacking on the school board, in Anderson’s opinion, is more parents whose children would be directly impacted by the decisions the LAUSD board makes. While Anderson refers to Zimmer as a “good person” with a “good heart,” she said she offers something Zimmer does not.
“My priorities are different from his, and my perspective is different from his,” Anderson said of Zimmer. “My daughters go to Mar Vista Elementary which is an LAUSD public school, and they’re getting a tremendous education there, and as a parent I’ve seen what’s right with the education system. I’ve seen the potential for LAUSD, and I’ve also seen what’s wrong with the system and what we need to change.”
Anderson pointed out that of the seven LAUSD board members, only one has children in the LAUSD. She said her daughters are fueling her decision to serve now.
“I think we need a parent’s perspective and a parent’s urgency because these daughters of mine, they’re in third grade now,” Anderson said. “Yesterday, they were in kindergarten, and they’re graduating tomorrow. We don’t have time to wait.”
She is also against Zimmer's resolution on LAUSD teacher evaluations.
"We have a pilot project in LAUSD that Superintendent Deasy has been running to implement a teacher evaluation system. Steve’s resolution would have blocked it, and his response to me was we should just wait," Anderson said. "The assessments are coming in. Let’s just wait a couple of years, and I gave him the answer I gave you, we don’t have a couple of years to wait."
Anderson said she would also be more supportive of charter schools than Zimmer has been yet make sure they are "held accountable."
"There needs to be transparency," she said. "We need to make sure they’re playing by the rules, and where they’re not, we need to enforce those rules, but there are a lot of really tremendous charter schools providing a great education for kids in the district."
Anderson, who unsuccessfully ran for the California State Assembly two years ago against Betsy Butler, said now is the time for her to step up for the sake of her daughters as well as other children in Mar Vista and around Los Angeles.
“I genuinely believe that I can make a difference, and that if I am successful, I will be able to help improve not only my daughters’ education but the education for the hundreds and thousands of kids in LAUSD,” Anderson said.