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Meet the LAUSD school board candidates: Nick Melvoin is running to keep ‘kids and teachers safely in the classroom’

Destiny Torres and Veronica Sierra | March 8, 2022

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This article is part of a collaboration between The 74 and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. 

This profile is part of “Meet the LAUSD school board candidates,” a series focusing on the candidates running for three open seats on the seven-member school board. LAUSD is the largest school district in the country with an elected school board. The primary is June 7. Candidates have until March 9 to qualify for the ballot by submitting signatures. Read all the pieces in the series as they are published here. Profiles have been edited for length and clarity. 

Name: Nick Melvoin

District: 4

Background/profession: Educator/LAUSD School Boardmember 

Why are you running?

I’m running to continue the work I started with parents, students, and educators when I took my oath 5 years ago…. with the added challenge of a… pandemic that forced kids and teachers from the classroom…I’m proud to have helped recruit Superintendent Alberto Carvalho…The confluence of a new, dynamic superintendent and the COVID-19 pandemic entering an “endemic” phase presents the district with an incredible opportunity to double down on our pledge of providing an excellent school district to every student and family regardless of their zip code.

How are you different from other candidates?

I was born and raised in Board District 4 and prior to running I served as a teacher, nonprofit leader, advocate, and community council member. After running as an underdog and winning in 2017, I serve as vice president of LAUSD and have led during one of the most challenging times in the history of LA Unified. In my first term I worked to safely bring kids and teachers back on campus despite the COVID-19 pandemic, invested $700 million to support under-served students, and decentralized the District into 44 “Communities of Schools” to better meet local needs…As the only Democrat in the race and with my record in office, I have earned support from various labor organizations including SEIU Local 99, elected officials including Mayor Eric Garcetti and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Democratic clubs including the Stonewall Democratic Club.

What’s the most important issue in your district? 

…Recovering after the pandemic and keeping kids and teachers safely in the classroom…(emphasizing) academic progress and socio-emotional wellbeing with an equity lens to close opportunity gaps for disproportionately affected student populations. Students experienced historic and unprecedented learning-loss as a result of time outside the classroom… we should work to align school COVID safety protocols with the county and state and… explore off-ramps from these policies to return students to normalcy.

What should be Superintendent Carvalho’s top priority?

LA Unified is incredibly lucky to have Superintendent Carvalho leading our district…(He)rolled out an impressive 100 day plan focused on expanding access to early childhood education, addressing learning loss, and working to align District COVID-19 health and safety protocols with LA County. As we enter the next phase of the… pandemic there is a tremendous amount of work ahead to rebuild our district in a more equitable manner, I am confident that with Superintendent Carvalho at the helm, our district will be the premiere urban district in the country.

What skills or past experiences have prepared you to serve as a board member?

I grew up in Board District 4 and attended Kenter Canyon Elementary, a BD 4 school. I hold a BA from Harvard University, a Masters in Urban Education from LMU, and a law degree from NYU. After graduating from college, I began my career as an English teacher at Markham Middle School, an LAUSD campus in Watts where I coached soccer and baseball and helped my students launch a school newspaper. Later, I worked in the Obama White House with the Domestic Policy Council on marriage equality and voting rights and the US Attorney’s office where I took part in various civil rights investigations against prison guard abuses on Rikers Island. I also served as an adjunct professor at LMU where I taught a course on Education Law. I worked for various educational nonprofits to help improve the professional support California teachers receive, as well as amplify teachers’ voices in policy-making. These experiences along with my first term in office, not only prepare me to serve another term, but ensure that we will be able to enact kids first policies.

If you win, what do you hope to achieve for the LAUSD?

I hope to make LA Unified the premiere urban district in the country. Working with Superintendent Carvalho, my colleagues on the school board, District staff and administration, and non-profit organizations this ambitious goal can become a reality. We must work to continue to decentralize the District using the Community of Schools model, which will split the District into 44 small districts to better meet local needs… Lastly, we must continue to change how we fund schools and ensure equitable funding.

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