In the Los Angeles Unified School District, Nick Melvoin, the incumbent school board member for District 4, faces a challenge from two newcomers: parent Gentille Barkhordarian and teacher Tracey Schroeder.
District 4 covers West L.A. and parts of the West San Fernando Valley.
Over the past five years, LAUSD enrollment has dropped because of declining birth rates, families moving to more affordable areas and competition from charter or private schools.
At one time more than 730,000 students were enrolled in the district. Now in a March budget forecast, LAUSD officials predicted that enrollment will decline by 36,000 students — enough to drop enrollment in the nation’s second-largest school district below 400,000 students by the start of Fall 2023.
Enrollment is down in public schools across California and even charter school enrollment has been flat the past five years.
How do LAUSD students rank? A report (“Educational Recovery Now”) noted that a LAUSD Independent Analysis Unit reported that in any given week between March and May 2020, two out of five middle and high school students were absent every day from the district’s online learning program, Schoology.
According to LAUSD’s interim assessment 66 % of high school students are not on grade level in reading and 67 % are not on grade-level in math.
The report states that “Black and Latino elementary school students fell the furthest behind, with only 43% of Black students and 44% of Latino students on track in early reading skills, according to literacy assessments from the fall.” (To read the report: click here.)
In a Daily News May 16 story (“Election 2022: In LAUSD’s District 4, Melvoin Faces a Parent and a Teacher” click here), candidates were asked about vaccine mandates, staffing shortages, declining student enrollment and school police .
A Tarzana resident, Schroeder has lived in District 4 for about 20 years. To help bring families back to LAUSD, she advocates opening school facilities for sports, recreation, community and cultural events. Schroeder would also advocate for more autonomy at school sites and to provide as much funding as possible for local school site councils.
Schroeder says she wants the board to review the ABCs: accountability, back to basics and common sense.
The 48-year-old teacher says that the current LAUSD board holds meetings that are closed-door or inconvenient for parents to attend, and that needs to be changed. She has been with LAUSD for 24 years and said that voices are not being heard.
She taught at Hesby Oaks Leadership Charter school until last fall, when she was reassigned to teaching online because of the vaccination mandate for staff.
Schroeder says residents should not be subjected to “new taxes,” that LAUSD needs live within its means and because LAUSD is losing enrollment, “no new construction bonds.” She notes that independent charter schools that are using LAUSD should pay market rates for use (visit: www.traceyschoolboard.com).
Melvoin, 36, grew up in Brentwood, but now lives in Hancock Park. He was elected to LAUSD in 2017 and is currently the school board vice president.
He said that in his first term parent and community engagement was increased and that he implemented an “open Data Portal” which increases transparency about the District’s budget, academics and enrollment.
He received a law degree from New York University and a master’s degree in urban education from Loyola Marymount University, but taught in Markham Middle School in South L.A.
Regarding declining enrollment, Melvoin told the Daily News that LAUSD needs to do a better job of marketing and expand popular offerings such as dual-language immersion.
If reelected, he would continue to streamline and simplify Unified enrollment systems, make great investments in curriculums and supports that ensure that Black students thrive. He would also recruit and retain more teachers of colors, continue to make the District’s budget more transparent and fully implement the Community of Schools model (visit: www.nickmelvoin.com).
Barkhordarian has lived in District 4 for more than three decades, including the last 20 years in Century City.
She is the parent of two elementary-aged children, who attend Warner Avenue School.
An engineer and IT consultant, Barkhordarian has a master’s degree in finance from the University of South California.
On her website she writes that she receives no funding from special interest groups and is “simply a mom who wants to get personally involved in making decisions for the future of our children.”
A former IBM Consultant, she speaks English, Spanish, Farsi and French. Barkhordarian notes on her website “School closures and mandates have caused a great deal of suffering and social isolation for our children, turning into an emotional health crisis.
“Studies have shown that children made little or no progress during virtual learning, especially in disadvantaged homes. Yet, our teachers’ unions lobbied and achieved one of the longest school closures in the world.”
She told the News, “Before we can focus on growing enrollment, we must identify the reasons that families are fleeing the district.” (visit: www.gentille4lausd.com.)
Regarding school police in the district, the News reported that “Melvoin, who voted to cut the department’s budget and to move officers off campus, said student behavioral issues should be handled by counselors while officers should focus on threats off-campus.
“Melvoin says district data suggests that suicidal thoughts and mental health issues have increased since the pandemic, but more violent incidents haven’t grown much since officers were relocated. . . .The other candidates believe officers should be allowed back on campuses.”