Voter's Guide, 2020 Fall Elections, New Orleans
NameErica Martinez

Campaign Information

Campaign Web Site

Bio Information

Party AffiliationDemocrat
Present Employer / positionProgram Director & Founder at College Beyond
Length of residence in Jurisdiction
List of educational institutions and degreesTexas Christian University
TBRI Practitioner, Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development

Mississippi State University
M.S.,Clinical Psychology

Mississippi State University
Prior elected and appointed positionsnone
Civic involvement and affiliationsBroadmoor Improvement District Block Captain
Emerge Louisiana Alum 2019
Fellow, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, Nancy M. Marsiglia Institute of Justice
NOLA Public Schools Parent Advisory Committee
City Of New Orleans School Re-opening Task force member

Questions specific to the position

1. Describe your view about school board oversight of charter schools. What changes do you believe are needed to improve performance? A school board member must first and foremost prioritize learning and push for an equitable and quality education for every student.
To do that, there needs to be a thorough evaluation to identify in underperforming schools where the breakdown is, but also where the school’s strengths lie. When a school struggles, we need to proactively and creatively intervene with accountability measures and solutions to support improvement.
The superintendent should be coming alongside the charter boards in creating improvement plans based on evidence based strategies and interventions. However, when a school struggles consistently or fails to implement best practices there may need to be additional interventions.
It’s important to note, several charter contracts are going to be coming up for renewal next year and there will not be school scores to base these decisions because of COVID-19. The incoming board will need to thoughtfully renew the contracts but make sure that in the new or next contracts that we include expectations that target equity and excellence as well as social-emotional learning and support. Students need stability as we continue to wrestle with COVID-19. Pulling a school’s charter during this time could lead to further damage. With that in mind, schools that are falling short and not fully meeting the educational needs of their students, need to only get a short term renewal to provide opportunity for oversight and/or demonstration of growth or success.
Strong schools need to be supported and encouraged to flourish. We should be holding quality as top priority in every neighborhood.
2. What is your vision and three top priorities for NOLA-PS for the next five years? What obstacles do you foresee and what steps will you implement to overcome them? My priorities for the district are:
- To support effective trauma informed models in every school. These tools boost trust & can increase kids’ ability to learn & problem solve as well as improve teacher retention.
- To ensure every neighborhood has a quality school. Our school board should hold Charter networks accountable, creating good choices for every parent, no matter where they live. Now, It’s crucial that every student has equitable access to learning as we adjust to learning in the time of COVID-19

- To leverage our community resources. Our community is rich in non-profits, resources and opportunities to work together. When we build strong partnerships, we can support workforce development, college readiness and student enrichment for every student. The school district should be embracing the non-profit space to support teacher retention and enrichment of our students. By establishing partnerships with these organizations, we can both learn how to better support our students and teachers to ensure that the sharing of resources reflects the needs of each school in the district.

We need to make decisions rooted in putting students first. The school board and charter board members should be in regular communication & seek collaboration to provide a positive learning experience across the district. The next board must continue to provide financial stability of the district including maintenance of facilities. This will prove to be more difficult as we move through the financial burden of COVID-19 but we must remain steadfast in financial responsible decision making.
3. In the Accountability Framework, there is no indication of any input from faculty members. What are your thoughts about giving teachers more input to decide how their performance is judged? Feedback from all stakeholders is important to have a full picture of performance, improvement, and need. There is great value to 360 performance reviews to develop great teachers into leaders, support retention of quality teachers, and support/mentor new teachers. We’ve seen how important our teachers are. They need to be valued and appreciated as the professionals they are and have been trained to be. Teachers’ voices should be in this conversation.

In addition, the superintendent should create systems to include teacher feedback in the renewal recommendations of schools, pushing the metrics beyond only school letter grades.
4. What approaches will you implement to ensure that the needs of special education students are fully met? I have spent my career in mental health and educational non-profits working with children and families with significant mental health struggles, teens aging out of foster care, and young adults as they transition to life in college. I have attended many IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meetings from multiple angles. I’ve written them for students, I’ve advocated alongside parents, and I’ve been a parent in those meetings. I understand how vital it is to collaborate as a team to include all voices as well as it is to ensure that schools are legally following the individualized plans to support those students with additional services and accommodations.

We should be setting up systems to support schools to proactively address mental health needs of their students. Schools should be incentivized to target social emotional learning and make mental health as high of a priority as English and Math. However, special education does not only include mental health and social emotional support. Other supports and interventions like Occupational and Speech Therapy are some examples of individualized supports some students need to be successful.

I will continue to support the additional funding structure set up to help schools fund the special services for students. Schools will be held accountable to serving their students and following IEP and 504 plans as they are legally required to do so.
5. Last year some students were unable to graduate because of improper management of graduation requirements by school administrators. Do you think these issues could happen again and, if so, what steps would you like to see implemented to prevent this? As the founding college success coach and program director of a college access nonprofit, I have seen the challenges of local graduates in their college readiness. Additionally, many of the students I’ve coached are first generation high school graduates and this is an important accomplishment to all of our students. In addition to graduation, they need to also be prepared for their next steps towards the workforce and unfortunately many students were failed by their school last year.

I want to see more collaboration between our schools rather than schools working in silos. The highest performing schools are competing for student enrollment. When a family with resources does not get a select school, they opt out of the system to go private or move out of the city. This puts an enormous drain on our public schools and our communities in many ways. When schools begin to struggle they need to be able to reach out for support from the district before going down a path to crisis. Imagine a city where all the school leaders come together proactively for a yearly summit to share best practices, peer-review systems, and have partnerships to better support all the students.