LocationAlhambra , CA United States
After retiring from leading the Alhambra Unified School District as superintendent in 2017, Dr. Laura Tellez-Gagliano has filed her intention to run for the 1st District seat of the Alhambra City Council. This seat is currently occupied by Mayor Stephen Sham, who has to step down due to term limits. After gaining experience running an organization with a $200,000,000 budget for five years, Tellez-Gagliano is ready to give back to her adopted hometown of Alhambra. She shares how her experience in education will inform her approach to the job and the issues she’ll take up.
Why did you decide to run for Alhambra City Council?
I just retired. I’ve worked in education for almost 40 years. But I’m not done giving back to the community, but I’m very fortunate because I do live in Alhambra where I was superintendent. So this is just another way for me to get involved and give back to the community.
What issues do you want to address if you win?
Public safety. I live in a great neighborhood in Alhambra. All the neighbors are looking out for each other. It’s a very multicultural, diverse couple blocks and everybody knows each other and takes care of each other. We feel very safe and we take care of each other and I think that’s very important. And I’d like to make sure that exudes out into the community. Maybe having more neighborhood watches where people really get to know each other. We have a great police force and fire department, and I know that they do those kinds of things already, but we’ve gotta take care of each other. I think that’s very important.
What kind policies would you promote at City Council that facilitate that togetherness?
I’m gonna be one of five, and I realize that. I’m not the main decision maker so I need to work with everyone else. I’ve been reading the past agendas. I’ve gone to a couple of City Council meetings, and I plan to try to attend as many before the election, to see what people in the community are interested in or feel that there needs to be a change in. I’ll promote what needs to be done and with my fellow co-council people, I would work with them to do what’s best for the community.
How has your experience as superintendent of the Alhambra Unified School District informed your decision to run?
The one thing as superintendent that I saw unfortunately in our school district was the kids that were homeless. And so I know that means that there are more homeless in the City of Alhambra. It goes along with that. So I would like to look into and see what can be done to — what other programs are out there. This is not just an Alhambra issue. It’s gonna take a lot of us to try and help anyone who needs help.
Like I said before, I was in education for almost 40 years. I was a classroom teacher in L.A. Unified and then in Garvey School District I was a teacher and an administrator, principal, assistant superintendent. I came over to Alhambra in 2003 as an assistant superintendent of human resources and then in 2012, I was named superintendent. I got my bachelor degree and teaching credential at Loyola Marymount, my administrative credential at Cal State LA, and then in 2007, I got my doctorate in organizational leadership. That in itself is about leading large organizations.
And like I said, being a superintendent is a little different than city council, since I’m one of five. But I am a problem solver, I like being around people, and just because I’m retired doesn’t mean I’m done. I’m volunteering in other groups, and this is another way for me to serve the community.
Can you give an example of a problem you solved while you were at the District?
Whether it’s the School District or any organization or if I get on City Council, when it comes to problem solving, it’s important to get as much feedback — even if it’s not — you’re not looking eye to eye with somebody. It’s very important. I had a strong team working with me. I would appreciate their input. It’s important to get everybody’s idea, so that when you do make a decision, it’s not just based on one person’s viewpoint. Then it’s a more solid decision, because you get everybody’s input and everybody’s rationalization on it.
Any of the school principals, all the people at the District office, they’re all great problem solvers, because there are things that come up every day that they need to deal with, and that’s probably with the City too. There’s issues that come up and it’s very important to be a good listener when you’re dealing with problems, and I think I have those attributes.
Have you spoken with Stephen Sham or anyone else at the City about your campaign?
Because of being superintendent, since I put in my intention, I have not spoken to anyone on City Council.
In terms of fundraising, do you have any idea of how you’re going about that?
We’re still in the beginning of this. I’m not a politician, but I’m definitely planning on putting in some of my own money. I need to talk a little more to some of the people who have done this before to see if there’s any fundraising. But I think the more I can do, probably the better that it comes out of my pocket.
I know you want the Alhambra Unified School District and the City Council to be closer. Can you elaborate on what that would like to you?
The City and the School District have really great collaboration, mostly because they have a wonderful relationship with the police department and the fire department. My main focuses were student achievement and then unfortunately in this day and age, there’s lots of things not good that happen at our schools [in terms of unauthorized people getting onto campus], so it’s important to continue that conversation. It’s very difficult to get on to our school [sites]. We’ve done a lot with security, because we want to keep our kids safe.
You’ve probably heard about the School District’s program, Gateway to Success. Not to use that program exactly, but there’s a lot of tenets in that that could be used in the bigger picture to help out in the City.
Like people who are more vulnerable?
Exactly. Like some of the support that people need, some of the counseling. Maybe some of the counselors could help the City with, or with programs. They have a wonderful relationship as of right now.
For information how to run for City Council, read our explainer here.
Updated Feb. 8, 2018 at 1:28 pm.