Mann UCLA Community School

An Interview with the Principal

We will be highlighting direct interviews with members of the Mann-UCLA family in addition to highlighting the community schooling practices that are being built at Mann. Today, we caught up with Mr. Johnson to hear his perspective on why Mann-UCLA Community School is uniquely positioned to respond to the COVID-19 crisis effectively.

In these times of crisis, we are prioritizing what is most important. That is the safety of the community. And that is followed by finding a way for students to continue their education. Of course, we need to continue implementing the Mann vision, to help students become confident individuals that are prepared for the world at large and participate in our democracy, but we also have to ensure that they are not lagging behind in the formal academic content. The need to continue supporting students in these domains is what is driving us. We are doing so while maintaining safety for all stakeholders. Devices, internet access, assignments online, coming up with solutions. Ultimately what we are doing is, we are making sure everyone is safe at home, now we are ensuring people continue their education.

My ultimate charge is leadership. There was an emergency that was thrust upon and we identified our response. We are creating feedback mechanisms to continue improving our work. We started by meeting as a leadership group to set up the initial systems. We shared and delegated the systems and processes with stakeholders. We are going to seek their input, collect and analyze the data, and continue to roll out improvements. We are striving for 100% participation in virtual learning.

We are uniquely qualified to respond to this moment because our staff know how to deal with volatility. Situations that are always changing. In addition to our expertise in expertise in education, we have developed the capacity to identify and solve problems at the drop of the dime. To do so, our faculty and staff help each other by drawing from their unique areas of expertise, including their knowledge of technology. We draw from each other’s strengths. Everyone who is here was made a part of Mann for a reason that goes beyond their formal credentials. Those attributes are never more important. Resilience, problem-solving, commitment to education are traits we all share, and it has been amazing to see everyone of our staff respond to this crisis so seamlessly.

The community as a whole has been contributing the response by fully supporting the systems we have in place. For example, we didn’t have a good deal of time to put device distribution systems together. Yet, we had 85% participation by our families to come and pick up computers. We had staff coming in to volunteer to plan and contribute to the realignment. We had neighboring schools who let us borrow devices. The community as a whole has been willing to do what it takes.

Looking forward, being put in this situation will make us stronger and expand our skill sets. We will come stronger because the families will deepen their trust in us. They will see that we have been able to perform at a high level during this time of crisis. We will continue to use a lot of the new skills we have developed. The systems and skills we are developing will make our faculty stronger. Our kids will have deeper faith in us because they will see our commitment to them, and when they see our commitment, they will return more invested.

This is also a good time for policy makers to learn lessons for the future. We did not have enough devices when this all started, and we cannot be caught in such a situation again. We have to keep devices up to date, and make sure that all students have access to the technology at school and at home. We want to make sure we have all the relevant information, training for teachers, and the right strategies.

We continue to strive for more partners in our response. We are always looking for more community partners in different industries to give kids diverse experiences. For example, we will have a senior class who might have holes in their schedules. I would like our community to rally together to develop internships and career experiences. We hope more community members will join us in building this infrastructure.