“I’m not coming from a typical background of say a lawyer, or a politician or a business man,” says Alvarez. “I work with communities. I help them to strategically plan. I help them to assess their needs. So over the years I have been working with my neighborhood association in Carrollton and I have been meeting with my neighbors and talking about quality of life issues. And a lot of the time those conversations led us to our schools.”
While he is not entirely satisfied with the unification process underway, Alvarez says his focus as a school board member will be to ensure the best outcomes for students.
“Are (students) getting jobs as at higher rates? Are pipelines to prison being broken and pipelines to jobs being created?” he says. “Even though there are strings attached (to the unification process), I plan on advocating for (students) and my neighbors with policies that are going to prioritize their needs, and not so much on policies that prioritizes the needs of other small interest groups.
Alvarez says he supports teacher unions.
“I think it’s misguided to attack any group of workers who are organizing because they are organizing for a reason.”
“I taught in the Orleans Parish Public Schools. I feel like I have a good understanding of what goes on in the trenches,” he says. “ And I have run a successful business for the past 15 years. I feel like I bring those two tools to the table.”
Koppel agrees that the unification of schools is a top priority for the board, but adds that the school board does not have much control over the process as it stands.
“A lot of the reunification has been predetermined mostly by the state legislature,” he says. “As schools return, most of them return as their own local education agencies (LEAs). We will be their authorizer, but it’s not quite the same level of control.”
But he says the board’s hands aren’t completely tied.
“We can hold them to what’s in that contract,” he says. “If they are doing something illegal, we can step in, If they are not meeting their educational targets, we can do something about that. I am hoping as we move forward, there will be more people in the room talking about ways to solve challenges.”