An Interview with Pasadena Unified Board Member Larry Torres

INSIDE OUR SCHOOLS

A man with a blue blazer and tie wearng glasses and smiling at camera

Lawrence (Larry) Torres (Photo – PUSD)

Lawrence (Larry) Torres, Pasadena Unified School District Board member representing District 6, announced he will not be seeking reelection back in June 16, 2020.

By Laura Hackett

ColoradoBoulevard.net reached out to Mr. Torres with questions regarding his decision and future plans.

Was there an underlying reason that you decided not to run for re-election as the PUSD District 6 Board Member?

Another position became available in LAUSD where I work. I did not think that I could take on the responsibility that this position requires and do the job as I should while being the kind of Board Member that I want to be, that both positions deserve.

Was there communication between you and the other contender for the District 6 seat–Tina Wu Fredericks?

I spoke to her a couple times in May. I had already been going back and forth on whether I wanted to seek re-election for my seat. After thoroughly weighing my decision, I came to the decision not to seek re-election. However, speaking to Tina Wu Fredericks was not a factor in my decision. The fact the Tina Wu Fredericks was running for my seat did not come into play with whether I wanted to run again.

Is the seat being handed to a successor? Was your announcement timed for when it was too late for others to enter the race?

I don’t believe the filing date has passed. There is still enough time for others to jump in the race. I did not plan the timing of my announcement (not to run again) for District 6 in order to exclude anyone from running.

What are your thoughts about the contender for District 6, Tina Wu Fredericks?

She is definitely asking the right questions. She has done all the work that a candidate needs to do. Let’s just leave it at that.

Has being a PUSD Board Member been a “season in your life” for when your daughter was in PUSD? Was she a motivator for running for the PUSD Board?

That is an interesting question. As you know, my background has always been in Education. I have been in Education since the mid 80’s. At the time I was pursuing a PhD in Educational Administration from UCLA in the 90’s. However, at the time I did not see myself in an Admin position, but I felt that I had the background and experience to be a Board member. Originally, when Mikala Rhan’s seat came up, people knew me because I had little kids and they encouraged me to run so that did come into play. Having little kids. I did not think it was the right time. Ultimately when my daughter was older and a junior. at PHS I was happy to run.

What are some of the highlights of being a PUSD Board Member?

I had an opportunity to really learn how schools work and communicate at a community level. I was able to see things beyond just the teacher side of things. This was a very different view of things on a grand scale. I did not just see how individual schools operate, but I was also able to see the business side of things worked and how communities interact with the schools.

I was able to lead important conversations and perhaps showed a different perspective on issues. I was always looking at different ways to evaluate things. I was always looking to strengthen these types of programs for students in a variety of different ways.

In addition, I tried to find places for students that don’t fit in a traditional learning setting and finding alternatives for them. I’ve been in these types of positions for 20 years.

What is your advice for being a PUSD Board Member?

It is critical to understand that you can’t do anything by yourself and you have to work with others cohesively. You must be able to talk to each other respectfully and thoughtfully. You have to figure out ways to make decisions as a group. You need to believe in the other Board Members, that the other Board Members have honorable intentions, otherwise the Board will fall apart. There were many times when we didn’t always agree, but we were always able to come together for the good of the students. Other Boards are not always able to do that.

It is important
that Board Members
remain on the
PUSD Board
with institutional
memory

In addition, you need to do your homework. You need to have had conversations with community members, staff and teachers. Do the work to make informed decisions.

I will say this, it was fortunate that we did not have people using being a Board Member as a steppingstone for other offices. A Board Member needs to be committed to the work and the mission. This is the way the system works.

It is important to have new Board Members, this is when new ideas come in. However, it is important that Board Members remain on the PUSD Board with institutional memory. This is our thinking at this time. We need a mix of new and current Board Members to inform our work.

This PUSD Board had tried many things; there were nights where we would try this and try that. We all did the best we could with the knowledge experience we had at the time. It was an extraordinary journey that I am grateful for. I always tried to do my best with the information, experience and time I had to give. As Board president, I had to steer through an ongoing amount of issues and find some resolution to the longstanding issues. I lead difficult, courageous conversations. We did our best to find answers and solutions to a lot of problems.

What are your future plans?

I will be finishing my Admin credential and PhD. I will be taking on a Vice Principal position at a school in LAUSD.

> This interview has been edited for space and clarity.

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