Meet the Candidate: Kenchy Ragsdale (California)

12 mins read

Candidate Name: Kenchy Ragsdale

What office are you running for?
Los Angeles Unified School District, Board District 3

With which party are you running for office?
Democratic Party

Election Date
November 3, 2020

Why are you running for office?
I have been an advocate for Kids and Parents for the past 4 years as a volunteer. Doing this work, I found a renewed sense of purpose. I was an accidental advocate – our child has a sensory processing disorder and my wife and I realized early on that with the system as it is, we would have to advocate voraciously for his needs. We knew our child would need a very specific educational environment that just doesn’t exist in LAUSD. So when the school we found was threatened, I had to advocate for my child and for all kids in a broader sense. Through that process I saw the very real challenges in the current system but also, the vision began to come together in my head about how we could change the system to meet the needs of kids like mine. So stepping up and serving our community in an official capacity really has become the next inevitable step I have to take – I bring the expertise I’ve acquired along with my first-hand experiences as a parent who’s seen how the system fails kids like mine.

What is the biggest issue facing your community and how do you propose helping?
The problems with LAUSD are many and complicated but we need to start making change by looking at education in an entirely different way. Currently, 20% of kids in Los Angeles do not attend LAUSD schools… When I see that number, as a former TV Producer I think: these families aren’t buying what the district is selling — so we need to offer them the education they want!

LAUSD’s educational model is for the most part about compliance – Sit here, do this, memorize this, take this test – make sure you keep up and stay in line! You hear this from parents in my district whose kids attend even the best neighborhood schools. Metaphorically, the system right now is teaching our kids how to run the Kentucky Derby but then real life requires them to fly a plane. Which kid is gonna get that plane off the ground? I think it’s a pretty safe bet they aren’t from a school in an underserved, economically disadvantaged part of the city.

The approach we need to take to educate kids has to be about helping them learn to learn and giving them a safe space to acquire the social/emotional intelligence and resilience they need. That way, when the going gets tough they will have the skills and confidence to pick themselves up and try again. We need to make education about engagement – inspiring kids to discover the answers for themselves and learn the actual skills they might need in life.

I met a woman the other day who ran for the LAUSD board in 1976, and the problems with LAUSD then were: inequity in schools, failing to provide appropriate services for kids with special needs, using an out of date educational model, and a lack of transparency. 43 years later these are EXACTLY the same problems we still face! It is the definition of insanity to keep doing the same thing expecting different outcomes. As a TV producer I imagine if audiences would still be watching if networks and producers of TV had just stopped making new shows in 1951 after I Love Lucy. I can hear them saying: “It works, so why change anything?” We’re facing some big problems in our school system but the reason enrollment has dropped is that they haven’t built on success or failure with new ideas. Our schools are a perpetual repeat of I Love Lucy and the ratings have flatlined. It’s time for something new.

How do we fix the partisan divide in our country and start working together again?
I think first we need to understand what the majority of our own party wants and not pretend to be more moderate than we are out of fear of losing hypothetical allies. We also need to stop dividing our party by judging other Democrats as less pure if they don’t agree with us 100%. We as a party should be able to unite over candidates and policy that fits with the majority of Democrats. We should be able to unite over bold ideas without squabbling over who’s a better Democrat. Once we as a party can move forward together we might be able to attempt moving forward with republicans. Working with the other side is going to take patience and humanity and I think first we need to listen and try to understand what their real fears are. We also need to listen without accusing people of being stupid or evil — that doesn’t win us any friends. I’ve had conversations with conservative members of my family where we actually discover we agree on more than we realized, especially when we let down our guard a little and start listening. Despite the insanity of Trump and Fox News right now, many of the Republicans I know are actually much more moderate than we might think. Right now we’re in a standoff shouting at the other side to put down their weapons but we have all got to stand down a bit and let down the defenses. If we can get to that moment, I think we’ll be able to move forward together.

Who is your hero?
Gandhi? Elizabeth Warren? Norm Abrams? Jimmy Stewart? Actually, I think in the past year it’s the Parkland students that started Never Again MSD. I feel like their fearless ability to cut through the noise is inspirational. I guess maybe if you have survived something like that you might not find pundits intimidating anymore. But it’s truly impressive to see how they can so completely let go of fear even after facing the worst. I think that’s what it’s gonna take to make real change.

What are your hobbies?
Well recently it seems like most of my hobbies have gone by the wayside with the advocacy work I’ve been doing in the past few years but I am also a photographer and I love building things out of legos with my son.

What is the most recent book you read?
I read a few books this summer, I think the last was: “The Disappearing Spoon” by Sam Kean. That said I can’t actually remember if it was that or “Yes We (Still) Can” by Dan Pfeiffer or Alyssa Mastromonico’s book “So Here’s The Thing” (her and Dans book are almost companion pieces so I had to read both). Summer reading seems so long ago now!

Do you have any kids/pets/talking houseplants?
Yes, and I know every parent says this, but I have an amazing kid. He’s 9 now but when he was 7 he put the 7541 piece Millennium Falcon Lego set together in 6 days. Tell me that’s not amazing… I do have some plants at home but sadly, they’re mute. No pets – my son and I are allergic to pretty much everything. 🙁

How can our readers get involved in your campaign?
Readers can get involved by spreading the word any way they can! if you or your friends and family live in LAUSD Board District 3 – use social media, word of mouth, carrier pigeon, a light in your window! And please visit my site and consider contributing to my campaign!

We need every penny we can get. My opponent is going to be well funded even though he shockingly voted last week against a resolution to decrease school segregation and ensure fair access to magnet schools. He also pretends to listen to parents and kids but then does things like authorize cutting down a bunch of shade trees on a campus here at one school in my district, after promising he wouldn’t. The parents there are calling him Chainsaw Schmerelson right now. At last week’s board meeting he bragged about splitting up kids in classes and firing teachers because a school’s enrollment was one student short when he was an administrator. I don’t think we want someone representing our district that thinks it’s ok to take pride in being cruel.

What question do you wish we’d asked, and what is your answer?
Would you like to be on our podcast?
Why yes, yes I would!

Candidate Social Media:
Website | Facebook

Post created from answers submitted by candidate to our Meet the Candidate survey.

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DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks, but are sustained solely on donations from grassroots supporters. Because our revenue isn’t click-driven, we don’t take in any direct revenue from the creative contributions of grassroots activists who post on the site. This sets us apart from other media sites. And we’re proud of that.

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