Education is the civil rights issue of our generation, but those whose rights are most often infringed are the least likely to have a seat at the table in the decisions that shape urban education.  With over 600,000 students, The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest in our country - and we know that it can’t succeed without the support of the community.  At One Public Education, we write about the education landscape in our Los Angeles communities, giving voice to parents, students, educators, administrators and others.  

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Gary Hardie was born and raised in Lynwood, California. He attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, majoring in English, with a minor in marketing and is pursuing his MBA in Organizational Leadership and Sustainable Business Practices at Pepperdine University.

Hardie currently works as a Regional Manager for a non-profit educational service provider in Los Angeles providing extended learning opportunities in after school, intervention, outdoor education and summer programming. He also serves as a governing Board Member for the Lynwood Unified School District Board of Education, the same district he attended school growing up.

Erica Copeland works as the Coordinator of Programs and Community Relations within the Education and Enrichment Program (EEP) at West Angeles Church. Beyond her daily interactions with local families, Erica builds partnerships with colleges, local schools, and nonprofits to improve college access and affordability for Los Angeles’ youth.

Before joining West Angeles, Erica worked at education-based nonprofits and in government agencies including the White House Office of Public Engagement, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the US Agency for International Development. 


Darlene Brooks Thomas has an incredible mix of talent and experience in the worlds of entertainment, sports and media.

No stranger to the power brokers of the world, she has ventured into politics while working on events in Washington D.C. with the Democratic Party, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Republican National Committee. On a global level, she lends her support to organizations that heal communities and empower women.

Thomas serves as a mentor to young mothers and incarcerated youth. She makes time to volunteer on behalf of survivors of domestic violence, encouraging and supporting causes for women and children who are starting their lives over. Thomas is certified as a crisis counselor to prevent child abuse. She studied Sociology at California State University in Long Beach and Theatre at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York.