Nick Melvoin to Speak UP: Let's Put Kids and Parents First

Dear Speak UP,

Nearly a year has passed since a group of parents—many now key Speak UP members—encouraged me to run for a seat on the LAUSD Board. We were collectively frustrated because we felt parents, and their children, weren’t being listened to by our current leadership. Into that void came Speak UP, which so nicely dovetailed with our campaign and has put us all within reach of having a board member who puts kids and parents first.

LAUSD needs board members who don’t vilify parents as “screaming” when they’re just advocating for their kids. LAUSD needs board members who welcome parents to be part of a process, whose doors are always open to them, who are committed to facilitating a conversation between parents, children, teachers, and administrators. If elected, I pledge to be that board member.

When I first stood before a class of 45 students as a public school teacher nearly a decade ago, I was already firm in my conviction that all students can learn at the highest levels and that all parents should have high quality public school options. My ability to affect change from within the system, however, was thwarted time and again by seniority-based layoffs that ensure that, in times of fiscal crisis, our least senior teachers will be laid off first. When the recession hit, I was handed a pink slip, as were so many of the teachers at my school. 

The layoffs convinced me that the fight for education equality couldn’t be waged in the classroom alone — we had to take it to the courtroom. I went to law school to train as a civil rights attorney. If I couldn’t fight for our students in the classroom, I was determined to fight for them in the legal arena. I was privileged to spend time working at the ACLU, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the White House, but all with an eye of returning to LA to continue the fight. In 2013, I testified in the historic case of Vergara v. California. It was an honor to speak about my incredible students and dedicated colleagues who were being shackled by a system that was failing them. Our stories convinced the court that something had to change.

Flash forward to last year and it was the stories of Speak UP parents that convinced me LAUSD needs change. Ours was a district marred by stagnant student achievement, financial insolvency and waste, leadership fiascos, and parent groups pitted against each other as pawns in a political fight. But with only a small percentage of parents voting in school board elections, most people worried that couldn’t change. 

But we’re about to prove the naysayers wrong, thanks mostly to the contributions of Speak UP and its members. The true joy of this campaign has been meeting parents and kids who believe in the promise of public education, who see innovation not as destructive but transformative, who are motivated not by fear and vitriol but by an excitement of what’s possible when we work together on behalf of kids. 

I’ve been incredibly honored to earn the endorsement and support of Speak UP. As a former LAUSD teacher (and union member) who has served on the board of charter schools in West LA and Boyle Heights, I join Speak UP members in looking forward to the day when district and charter schools are working together on behalf of all students. As a candidate endorsed by Mayors Riordan and Villaraigosa, I join Speak UP members in building a bipartisan, and really nonpartisan, coalition working not for special interests, but for kids. And as a candidate endorsed by the LA Times, the Daily News, and the Argonaut, I join Speak UP members in putting forward real solutions to complex challenges.

With your help, I hope to ensure local control of schools so communities can make decisions that work for them; bring much-needed accountability to the School Board with increased transparency and better communication; but bureaucratic red tape to help teachers and principals innovate and collaborate; give parents options to choose the right school for their child; recruit and support our teachers to ensure every child has an effective educator.

But it truly takes a village. I hope you’ll join me in encouraging everybody to VOTE tomorrow! If we learned anything in November, it’s that elections have consequences. Let’s not let the district flail for another 5.5 years because we didn’t get out the vote. 

Tomorrow, kids have a fighting chance to get a new Board member who advocates for them. That’s because of your efforts. No matter what happens Tuesday, I promise to be your faithful partner in ensuring a kids-first district.

Thank you for your incredible support and for helping us cross the finish line.


Nick Melvoin