Nick Melvoin is running to represent LA School Board District 4, which includes much of West LA, Hollywood, and the Southwest San Fernando Valley. Melvoin is in the runoff with Steve Zimmer, the current Los Angeles Unified School Board President. Nick is an attorney and a former classroom teacher, so his professional background blends education with policy.
We were able to speak with Nick about his race and his plans for District 4 if he’s victorious on May 16.
La Comadre: You had the benefit of attending both public and private schools when you were growing up. Tell us a little bit about how that experience has shaped your views and perspectives.
Nick Melvoin: “I am the product of two stories in my family. I am the product of an immigrant family, who succeeded in this country despite starting from nothing because of the public schools. When I entered the world, there was never a question about whether I was going to college, but the question was where. When I was younger, I started attending school in a LAUSD public school, but my parents were not satisfied with the quality of the education. Fortunately, my parents were able to choose to enroll me in private school, where I had an incredible education. So I was the beneficiary of public schools, yet I had the benefit of choice because I grew up fortunate. Many families do not have the option that my family did, so when I look at non-profit charter schools, I see options for parents who cannot afford to buy a home in a nicer area or who cannot afford private school tuition. I see non-profit charters as giving parents options for their kids, and to me, this is more fair than the system was before these options existed. My story is why I’m supportive of public school choice and why I’m also committed to making sure that all public schools provide quality education.”
La Comadre: What are some of the things that you see in charter schools that you would like to be available for traditional schools in the district?
Nick Melvoin: “Instead of vilifying parents for making choices for their children, we need to focus on the things that make these schools great and try to bring those elements to all public schools. I have seen how things work in charter schools where I have served on the board and in the district school where I taught. The things that make a great education include great teachers, personalized instruction, and giving kids access to art and music.”
La Comadre: You have a background in policy having worked as the director of policy, communications and associate counsel for Great Public Schools Los Angeles and having worked as a consultant, in addition to being a lawyer. Tell us how those experiences have shaped your perspective on public education.
Nick Melvoin: “I got into education as a teacher because I thought that it was going to be the best way for me to help close the academic achievement gap. Two things happened when I was teaching in Watts that changed that trajectory. One was that I kept getting laid off because of a system of seniority based layoffs that really decimate our inner city schools. Two, I saw a lot of things at the school level that held teachers and kids back, so I thought that we need some policy changes. I went to law school on civil rights fellowship, and I spent time in law school at the ACLU and in the Obama White House. That experience helped inform my view on the civil rights element and how to make policy and start to change things on the ground. After law school, I came back to LA and started working with nonprofits and teaching again at the graduate school level. Then I was recruited by some parents to run for the school board, and this is where my teaching experience and policy experience come together to make a difference for kids and families.”
La Comadre: If you are elected to the board, what would be your top three priorities?
Nick Melvoin: “The biggest priorities are to return control to schools and communities so there can be more innovation. I want to let schools be creative in meeting the needs of their students without so much top-down bureaucracy. Number two would be to overhaul the way we recruit, retain, and train our teachers. LA should be a place where everyone wants to teach, where we have the best teachers in the country, and where we are constantly improving. Every child should have an effective teacher, and teachers should feel supported. My third priority would be to address the financial underpinnings in the district. We need to be more transparent with our budget, so we can afford for every child to have access to things like art, music, and a great teacher. I want to bring more financial stability to the district. An example of that would be to make the finances more accessible to the parents and the public on the website.”
To learn more about Nick Melvoin, check out his website.
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