LA Teachers: Why We Support Nick Melvoin

By Shauna Maldonado, Zevin Yu and Spencer Burrows

The current LAUSD school board race has seen an unprecedented amount of money, negative campaign mailers, and divisive rhetoric levied the past few months. As local LAUSD public school teachers, both district and charter, we want to cut through the noise and explain three simple reasons we support Nick Melvoin for LAUSD School Board District 4.

Transparency: Many recent decisions made by the LAUSD board have left schools, parents and teachers completely in the dark. We think all would agree Prop 39 is a difficult law to work with, at best. However, it is the law of the land and should be dealt with appropriately. Unfortunately, the current board’s complete lack of transparency when it comes to Prop 39 decisions has wreaked havoc on school sites, particularly in Westchester and Playa Del Rey. It is unacceptable to inform a district school site just before the beginning of the school year that a charter school will be co-located on their campus, and it’s similarly unfair for the charter to be kept in a holding pattern that long. As teachers, that unpredictability makes our jobs incredibly difficult. As a result of that last-minute Prop 39 decision, enrollment is sure to decline, as parents decide if they wish to remain on that campus, and thus school funding and ultimately teachers’ jobs are at risk. Absent appropriate funding, teachers often do not even have funds to purchase simple classroom supplies and other necessities.

Collaboration: It has been an interesting year to be a teacher, discussing the current political climate with our students. The need for acceptance and tolerance has never been greater. We expect the board to model that attitude of tolerance, acceptance and collaboration for our students. However, their 4-3 vote last month to endorse SB 808, the “charter kill bill,” was the quite the opposite. We applaud Superintendent Michelle King for her efforts to dialogue with both district and charter schools, but last month’s vote indicates the board is not willing to have that dialogue, and certainly does not engender the spirit of collaboration the board needs. Nick Melvoin has shown an ability to collaborate with a wide range of groups, as evidenced in his bipartisan endorsements from former Los Angeles Mayors Villaraigosa and Riordan, Senator Barbara Boxer, former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and both the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Daily News.

Regain Trust: In December 2015, I, Shauna Maldonaldo, accepted a position at Palms Middle School for the 2016-2017 school year. After spending the summer preparing my units, lesson plans, syllabi, website, and setting up my classroom environment, I was ready to start my year at Palms Middle School. However, after the second week of school, another teacher and I were displaced. Palms Middle School had too many teachers and not enough students, and it was simply a numbers game. I had the least amount of seniority. Fortunately I secured a position at another LAUSD middle school. However, this frequent occurrence prevents young teachers from remaining in the profession.

In many ways, teachers tend to feel that they are set up to fail.  It is common knowledge that consistency and predictability are key factors in academic success, yet public school teachers are expected to perform within a system that provides the opposite. As previously mentioned, our board supporting the “charter kill bill” SB 808 is ignoring our educational landscape that very prominently includes charter schools. Love them or not, charter schools are here, and many parents seem to trust them more than our district schools.

I want a board member that will combat this animosity and the “us-versus-them” attitude the board has adopted. I want a board member that will work to regain the trust of parents and stakeholders in public education. Unpredictability is the albatross of our profession. Yet, it seems to be the only constant. I believe Nick Melvoin will demonstrate the consistency and predictability public schools crave through transparency, collaboration and innovation that will regain public trust in LAUSD.

Please support your local public school teachers and vote Nick Melvoin on May 16. Board District 4 deserves better than what it’s experienced the past eight years.

-- Shauna Maldonado teaches at Le Conte Middle School; Zevin Yu teaches at Larchmont Charter School; Spencer Burrows teaches at The City School.


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