Speak UP Urges LAUSD Board to Support Open, Democratic Process to Fill BD5 Seat

 Board President Monica Garcia and Vice President Nick Melvoin Are Calling For a March 5 Election to Fill Board District 5 Seat 

Board President Monica Garcia and Vice President Nick Melvoin Are Calling For a March 5 Election to Fill Board District 5 Seat 

The LAUSD Board has a chance to vote for democracy, transparency and diversity Tuesday as it considers two resolutions to fill the Board District 5 seat that’s been vacant since Ref Rodriguez resigned last month.

Speak UP strongly supports the resolution introduced by Board President Monica Garcia (BD2) and Vice President Nick Melvoin (BD4) calling for a special election on March 5 to fill the seat. First and foremost, parents believe it’s critical to hold a democratic election and allow voters to choose their representative, and a March election will maximize voter turnout.

There’s already an election scheduled in one of the southeast cities within BD5 that day, and a March election gives parents time to get to know the many candidates expressing an interest in running for the seat. Voters are accustomed to voting in city elections in March, and an election any sooner could depress voter turnout.

Valley Republican Scott Schmerelson (BD3) has introduced a second resolution to appoint Jackie Goldberg to the seat. Goldberg is a career politician, endorsed by the teachers union, who served on the school Board and in the state assembly years ago.

She opposes school choice and has spoken out harshly at the Board against the hiring of Superintendent Austin Beutner, whom she called “unqualified.” She also stood before the Board that she is now asking to appoint her and accused both Melvoin (BD4) and Board Member Kelly Gonez (BD6) of selling their souls “to the devil.”

Speak UP urges a no vote on Schmerelson’s resolution as it’s currently written. While Speak UP’s BD5 parents support the concept of choosing a short-term appointee to fill the seat for the 6 ½ months until the special election is held, parents want a more open and transparent process that allows them to bring multiple candidates forward and weigh their individual merits.

Melvoin is expected to propose an amendment to Schmerelson’s resolution that would create an “urgent, open, and transparent process to ensure that the constituents of Board District 5 are adequately represented by an interim, appointed, voting member of the Board.”

Melvoin’s amendment would allow anyone in the community to nominate candidates to fill the seat during an interim period before an election is held. Nominations will be accepted until Aug. 28, and applicants must submit resumes, proof of residence in the district and statements on why they should be appointed, why they would best serve constituents in BD5 and how they see themselves working with other members of the Board. The Board would then consider appointing candidates from the list on Sept. 11.

Melvoin’s amendment is excellent news for parents in the southeast cities, who have expressed a strong interest in considering some Latino candidates who are in touch with the needs of the majority Latino population in Board District 5.

BD5 includes the northeast neighborhoods of Silver Lake, Eagle Rock, Los Feliz, Mount Washington and Echo Park, as well as predominantly Latino communities of Huntington Park, Maywood, South Gate, Vernon and Bell in the southeast.

Political Consultant Mike Trujillo was appointed by Board Member Richard Vladovic (BD7) to sit on LAUSD’s redistricting commission, which drew the current boundaries of Board District 5. The seat has historically been a “majority Latino seat,” Trujillo said, and when they redrew the boundaries, the Voting Rights Act required them to draw BD5 as a majority Latino district to maximize the chances of Latino representation.

“The seat was specifically drawn to help elect a minority, in this case [from] the Latino community,” Trujillo said. “You can obviously elect anyone you want. We live in a democracy, but this is a civil rights-inspired, Voting Rights Act-required seat we drew in LAUSD.”

Appointing a non-Latino candidate like Goldberg to the seat, even temporarily, “is definitely not in the spirit of the law,” Trujillo said. “It would seem contrary to what LAUSD’s own commission did” when it drew the district. 

While a special election is likely to get the support of four members, Board members Melvoin, Garcia, Vladovic and Gonez are expected to vote no on appointing Goldberg to the seat. Vladovic has indicated that he opposes the appointment of any candidate.

It’s unclear whether Melvoin has the votes for his amendment creating an open and transparent process for an appointment, but Schmerelson, Board Member George McKenna (BD1), Melvoin and Garcia have all expressed interest in interim appointments either now or in the past.

It also remains to be seen whether the Board can eventually find a consensus candidate to serve as an interim appointee. Any appointee would need support from both reform-minded and labor-backed Board members.