Alex Caputo-Pearl, UTLA President
Alex is a teacher at Frida Kahlo High School and has been an elected member of the UTLA Board of Directors for the last six years, representing the West Area. He has been teaching for 22 years; eight in elementary grades, one as an elementary substitute and 13 in high school. He has been an elected chapter chair for 11 years. Alex has 25 years of experience in labor and community organizing in local, state and national campaigns.
Alex lives in the neighborhood of Crenshaw High School, where he taught for 12 years. In that neighborhood, he and his wife, a labor and delivery nurse are raising their two children, who are LAUSD students.
Alex has a history of challenging LAUSD head-on and winning. In 2005, as Crenshaw High School’s union chapter chair he worked with surrounding chapters, parents, community, and youth organizations to oust an entrenched administration. Together they won a pro-active campaign for tens of millions of dollars in new investment in area schools for class size reduction, additional Health and Human Services and technology for students. This organizing was so threatening to LAUSD that Superintendent Roy Romer retaliated against Alex, administratively transferring him to a school on the Westside. Parents, students, community and the union organized aggressively and Alex was re-instated to Crenshaw three months later. UTLA used this grassroots victory as momentum to demand, and win, a change in the contract around administrative transfers.
Alex is a co-founder of the Extended Learning Cultural Model, a nationally-recognized school improvement model that brings educators, unions, parents, community, universities, youth organizations and national institutes together behind a model that connects in-the-classroom learning to outside-the-classroom internships, community advocacy and small business development.
Superintendent John Deasy’s reconstitution attack on Crenshaw High in 2013 was a direct response to Crenshaw’s years of successfully bucking the LAUSD and privatizers’ system, and a direct attack on the Extended Learning Cultural Model, which was built independent of the local district and challenged Deasy’s corporate approach. The Crenshaw community continues to organize around equity and access for students and around a legal action against Deasy for targeting union leaders.
Alex has experience building organizations from the ground up. He is co-founder of Coalition for Educational Justice, a city-wide organization that has been involved in local, state and national campaigns. He has been key in building the Crenshaw Cougar Coalition and the Bus Riders Union, which has also led local, state and national campaigns around civil rights and public services.
Alex has been a leader in Progressive Educators for Action—which has helped build a national network of educator organizers. Alex has also played a role in building the national “Resisting Teach for America” network.
Alex earned a BA in Political Science at Brown University and an MA in Urban and Regional Planning from UCLA. He has guest lectured on labor and community organizing at Antioch University.
Cecily Myart-Cruz, UTLA/NEA Vice President
Cecily Myart-Cruz has taught for 17 years, at both elementary and middle school levels, most recently at Angeles Mesa Elementary. She has been recognized for her work in the classroom, including as a UTLA/NEA WHO award winner, and she is trained in the AFT’s Education Research & Dissemination (ER&D) framework.
As a UTLA West Area director for 15 years and an Area chair for nine years, she has worked with schools to oust 15 “bully” principals and collaborated with a network of school-site leaders across the West Area to initiate the boycott of periodic assessments to protest excessive testing, with a 96 percent no-return rate. During the RIF crisis, she led Red Hot Monday actions every week, at which UTLA members pink-slipped LAUSD bureaucrats. During Public School Choice, she worked with leaders from school sites to build several protests, community walks, and community forums that prevented school giveaways. As UTLA Leadership Conference co-chair for nine years, she institutionalized lessons from this organizing into the union.
In CTA, she has served as:
In NEA, she has served as:
Myart-Cruz is also a member of the AFT and has served on CFT’s Educational Issues Committee..
Betty Forrester, UTLA/AFT Vice President
Betty Forrester taught for 33 years in South and Central Area schools, from pre-K through ninth grades. Before being elected to UTLA office, she spent 25 years at South Gate Middle School, focusing on literacy intervention. She is a parent of a daughter taught by UTLA members in LAUSD public schools.
Her UTLA activism includes serving as:
On the state and national level, she has served as:
Forrester was among the 37 UTLA activists arrested for civil disobedience at LAUSD on May 7, 2009, in protest of the layoffs and class-size increases.
As a UTLA officer she represented the union on the all-LAUSD-union Health Benefits Committee to maintain current benefits through 2015. She chaired the UTLA negotiations committees that brought members two job restoration agreements, an agreement to stop outside operators from taking over schools under “public school choice,” and an agreement to keep individual members’ AGT scores out of the evaluation process. She oversees the joint affiliates’ charter organizing project and established the UTLA Center for Effective School Improvement (CESI) through a three-year AFT Innovation Grant.
UTLA Elementary VP
Juan Ramirez, UTLA Elementary Vice President
Juan Ramirez has 17 years’ teaching experience in kindergarten and grades second through fourth. He also taught adult education at the Wilson Lincoln Adult School for nine years.
His UTLA activism includes serving as:
As Elementary Vice President, he has worked with teachers, parents, and community members to counter Parent Revolution as well as standing up for teachers harassed by administrators and the District. He is the current vice president for the CFT’s Early Childhood/K-12 committee, which advocates for educators and students at the state level. As part of his commitment to working with the community, he has hosted a Spanish radio show and written for a Spanish-language newspaper.
UTLA Secondary VP
Colleen Schwab,UTLA Secondary Vice President
Colleen Schwab has been a classroom teacher for 30 years, UTLA chapter chair for more than 20 years, and UTLA Valley West Area chair for three years
Prior to becoming a social studies and Spanish teacher, she worked on the airlift of Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Laotian refugees following the Vietnam War.
As a teacher at Woodland Hills Academy, she was integral to the development of the ESBMM school reform model in LAUSD. ESBMM is a teacher-initiated, full union contract model negotiated by UTLA with the District.
For her work in the classroom and the community, she has received awards from the NAACP, the PTA, UTLA (the WHO Award), and the CFT (Award for Teacher Leadership), along with being nominated for California Teacher of the Year by the Los Angeles County Office of Education. Most recently, she was nominated by the California League of Middle Schools for Teacher of the Year.
Schwab was born and raised in the Los Angeles area and attended LAUSD schools from elementary through high school, graduating from Van Nuys High. She earned her BA in political science, with an emphasis on Latin America, from UCLA. She earned her teaching credential in social studies, Spanish, and English at Cal State University Northridge.
Arlene Inouye, UTLA TreasurerArlene Inouye was born and raised in Los Angeles and attended Clover Avenue Elementary, Webster Junior High, and University High School. Her grandparents immigrated from Japan to Boyle Heights, and her family was incarcerated during World War II. Three generations of her family have attended LAUSD schools.
She has a BA and MA in communicative disorders from Long Beach State University. She has been a Spanish bilingual speech and language specialist for 18 years in the East and North areas and has also been an adult education teacher, master teacher and mentor, multicultural and human relations trainer, school reform trainer, and financial manager of a nonprofit organization.
Her experience as a union and community activist includes:
As UTLA Treasurer she approves legal and vendor services for UTLA members and has negotiated staff health benefits and served on the District negotiations team for the LAUSD budget. She has also served on the national steering committee of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the National Coalition of Education Activists (NCEA), and the National Network Opposing the Militarism of Youth (NNOMY).
Daniel Barnhart, UTLA Secretary
After studying biology at UC Santa Cruz, Barnhart began substitute teaching in South Phoenix, Arizona. After two years, he moved to Los Angeles and has been teaching and learning with the students and teachers of L.A. ever since.
Along with National Board certification in science, he has earned a CLAD and an additional math credential to go with 13 years in the classroom and six years working to develop and evaluate teacher-led professional development.
Since joining the UTLA House of Representatives under UTLA President Day Higuchi, Barnhart has been involved in the North Area and has been on the steering committee for the past 16 years. He has represented his union at the state and national level, including as NEA Representative Assembly delegate, AFT Convention delegate, CTA State Council delegate, and CFT Early Childhood/K-12 Committee vice president. He has served as UTLA chapter chair for many years, UTLA PACE vice chair, and, for the past six years, as North Area chair.
As a school-site leader he has served as a lead teacher, peer mentoring sponsor, varsity boys’ basketball and volleyball coach, mentor teacher, School Site Council member, Local School Leadership Council chair, Hip Hop Club sponsor, class sponsor, BTSA support provider, and technology coordinator.
Barnhart is also a trainer for the AFT’s Education Research & Dissemination (ER&D) program and has created and delivered numerous workshops and salary point classes for UTLA members and staff, with such varied topics as Beginning Chapter Chair Skills, Data Analysis for Teachers, and Developing Teacher Leadership.