Every week, Carlos Perrett PZ '18 flies to Houston, Texas, to campaign for his home city's Independent School District board.
Perrett, who is double majoring in political science and Spanish, is vying for a spot as the District III representative. Although he finds coursework manageable, there is no time to rest, he said. The time he spends in Houston is focused on campaigning, so he does homework on flights.
“I’ve been involved in politics for quite a while now. I think if anything, it has helped me understand the perspective of the candidate and how much your life is pulled around,” Perrett said. “In many ways I think that I’m so used to this sleep deprivation because I experience it so much here at the Claremont Colleges.”
Perrett said his decision to run for school board is based on the need for a fresh perspective.
“There is a need for new and innovative leadership for someone who isn’t tied to any political groups, isn’t tied to any company, someone simply has an interest in the students, the educators, and the parents,” he said. “I’ve been a leader for my community, I’ve been outspoken for District III, I am a recent graduate, I continuously work with students, I know the system well, and I‘ve had conversations about initiatives that we’ve spent millions of dollars on that haven’t worked.”
As the youngest candidate, Perrett said he is often asked about his age working against him in the campaign.
“I’m tired of this narrative that [those with] the most experience are the great leaders. Experience doesn’t translate into leadership,” Perrett said. “I met with students, parents, educators and came to the conclusion that we have a cyclical problem ongoing in the district for the last 15 to 20 years, and we concluded there was this need for young and innovative leadership.”
As a graduate of Chavez High School within the Houston Independent School District, Perrett is familiar with local students’ experiences.
“The school had been labeled a dropout factory, so as a prospective student I was so scared that I was going to drop out,” Perrett said, recalling his freshman year of high school.
Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan met with administrators and teachers to discuss the creation of Chavez Prep, an academy within the school that provided high-achieving students a space for better educational resources.
“For the first time students were passing the AP exam, performing well on the ACT and SAT,” Perrett said. “So we saw that it was successful, but it was things going unnoticed by the school board.”
Since 2010, Perrett has been involved with conversations about student education and played a role in the EMERGE fellowship, which has become a successful college access group, sending students to more than 100 top-tier colleges.
“When you provide students the opportunity, they will take advantage of it. But as long as you don’t give them that opportunity, they will continue to fail,” Perrett said.
Perrett is also interested in parent involvement.
“Educators value a parent’s voice,” he said, emphasizing the role of parental involvement in re-shaping policy-making within the schools.
“A lot of parents are choosing to send their kids off to charter schools when our tradition of public schools have the capacity to do what charter schools are doing,” he said.
According to Perrett, schools within the district have closed down, largely affecting communities of color.
“When you ignore an issue, it’s not going to get better on its own. It’s simply going to get worse,” Perrett said.
The election takes place on Nov. 7. Even if he doesn't win, Perrett is “excited to work with the future board member.”
“What I’ve seen on the campaign trail is an even bigger passion of politics, and even bigger passion for political social change,” he said.