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WHO I AM

Proud UTLA union teacher

Local mayor & corruption fighter 

Fidencio Joel Gallardo is a 27-year classroom teacher in Los Angeles public schools and a 23-year adjunct professor of education at Cal State L.A. (CSULA). He is mayor of the City of Bell, southeast of L.A., which is in Board District 5 of the L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD). Since 2019, he has served as the Education Innovation Deputy to L.A. School Board member Jackie Goldberg in Board District 5.

In Bell, Fidencio was elected as Council Member in 2015. Following his re-election in March 2020, he was selected in 2023 to serve as Mayor.

 

Beginning in 2010, while working full-time as a teacher, he stepped up alongside concerned neighbors to recall from office the local officials who enabled a long-running municipal corruption racket. Reporters at the L.A. Times documented the scope and severe local impacts of this scandal, earning the newspaper a 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Since 2015, Fidencio has worked effectively to restore services to residents and rebuild public trust.

Fidencio is a product of L.A. public schools. In 1989, he earned a B.A. from USC with a major in English and emphasis in teaching and a minor in Spanish. In 1994, he earned a Masters in Education Administration from CSULA.

Fidencio’s recognitions for teaching include a 1993 award from Member of Congress Lucille Roybal Allard (now retired) for the Newcomer Center he established at South Gate Middle School to serve recently arrived and newly enrolled immigrant students. He also received a Platinum Apple award from United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) in 2009.

The son of a World War II veteran who recently passed away due to COVID at age 96, Fidencio was born and raised in the cities south and east of Los Angeles. His mother, who worked serving food in a school cafeteria, still lives in the family home in Huntington Park, proudly purchased by his Mexican immigrant parents 50 years ago. Fidencio grew up hearing multiple languages and speaking Spanish at home and English at school. Some of his classmates hailed from Korea, Cuba, many European counties, and Central America. The LAUSD schools he attended are Middleton and State Street Elementary, South Gate Junior High, and Bell High School.

Fidencio decided in the first grade that he wanted to be a teacher. Fifteen years later, when he began putting his training to use in the classroom, it was at his alma mater, South Gate Middle School.

He has been a teacher at all levels of English and Language Arts. He has taught English Language Learners as well as Honors and Gifted, Special Education, and At Promise students. He also taught in Adult Education and on LAUSD’s Homework Hotline on live television. He has taught outdoors; during “zero period”; and amidst safety hazards and classroom shortages that forced him to switch classrooms each period. And he has worked as a literacy coach and academic counselor and trained high-school faculty on the Common Core standards.

Fidencio taught 18 years in middle school and 9 years in high school. He served as an assistant principal for 3 years, during which he missed the magic of the classroom. In all, Fidencio’s work to create safe, inclusive learning environments for students, even through extenuating conditions, has spanned 30 years. This includes the 1992 L.A. riots and civil unrest following acquittal of the Rodney King police-beating suspects; the 9-11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington; the Nov. 2016 student walkouts by students and teachers from Eastside schools following the election of Donald Trump; and the February 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a 19-year-old expelled former student, the subject of multiple warnings to local police, was able to legally purchase weapons of warfare and used them to murder 14 students and 3 school staff. Guiding students through anguish and seizing teachable moments to improve safety and build empathy are skills Fidencio brings to public service.

In 2019, to take on the big challenges facing students and educators, Fidencio went to work for L.A. School Board Member Jackie Goldberg. Fidencio considers Goldberg, a former LAUSD teacher and public servant of 40 years, to be one his personal heroes. The previous Board Member representing District 5 on the School Board had resigned in disgrace in 2018 after pleading guilty to fraud. On Jackie’s team, Fidencio took on the duty of reconnecting schools with the School Board office and bringing a teacher’s perspective, often missing from policy debate, to Board decisions. This includes discussing the practical impacts on students and educators from the loss of public dollars siphoned away by private operators of charter schools, including cuts to student health and wellness services, arts and music classes, and special education.

Fidencio came out to his family as a gay man in 1988. Making his classroom and school environment free from anti-LGBTQ stigma and a safe, welcoming place for all students and parents is a hallmark of his career. Fighting to ensure students, including those facing financial hardship, homelessness, the risk of rejection by their families, or other challenges have the support and resources to survive and thrive is a defining mission of his life. Fidencio and his husband Carlos Cabrera live in Bell.

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