After decades in schools, Schmerelson eyes LAUSD board seat
Vanessa Romo | February 3, 2015
This is the next in a series of profiles on candidates running in the March 3 primary for the LA Unified school board. Today’s focus is Scott Schmerelson, a candidate for the District 3 seat.
Scott Schmerelson is bad at being retired.
After more than 35 years as an educator — he’s been a teacher, counselor, assistant principal and principal — his retirement lasted exactly six months and one day. Then he got a call from LA Unified, seeking his help, and without thinking about it too long, he was back in the classroom.
Now, Schmerelson, 63, says the district needs him in another way: to represent Board District 3, which covers the San Fernando Valley from Granada Hills to Woodland Hills. The election is March 3; he’s one of five candidates challenging the incumbent, Tamar Galatzan, and stands as the only public school teacher in the field.
“I really think I’m the only one running who really understands how a school works,” he told LA School Report. “
And that includes Galatzan, he said: “That’s not a criticism of my opponents, the other candidates are really good, but they’ve never worked at an LAUSD school. I know LAUSD schools inside and out. And nobody is going to pull the wool over my over my eyes.”
Schmerelson has been around the massive LAUSD block, serving in some of the district’s most troubled schools. He was Assistant Principal at Griffith Middle School in east LA, became a Principal at Johnnie Cochran Middle School in central LA, and was Principal of Lawrence Middle School in Chatsworth. He worked in lots of other places before and during those assignments, but most recently he was a substitute Spanish teacher and interim Assistant Principal at Cleveland Charter High School in Reseda.
Beating Galatzan will be tough, he acknowledges, but he says many voters want her out because she supported the district’s bungled iPads-for-all plan and did nothing to prevent the roll-out of the disastrous student data system, MISIS.
“When people voted for the bonds, they weren’t voting for iPads,” he said of the funding stream for the iPads program. “I would never deceive the taxpayers of their money.”
In general, he said, “I would be more fiscally conservative than she.” Schmerelson also claims he’d be “more independent” than Galatzan, whom he criticized for having been too loyal to former Superintendent John Deasy, saying, “In my opinion she worked very closely with Dr. Deasy and what he said that went.”
Schmerelson has been endorsed by the California School Employees Association and he’s hoping for support from his own union, AALA, which represents school administrators. He met with the teachers union, UTLA, last month, but says he’s uncertain if it will back his campaign with an endorsement or financial backing despite his many years as a teacher.
“For some reason they don’t like administrators,” he confessed. But he’s hoping his platform will appeal to all educators.
“My number one platform is reduced class size,” he said. After three decades in and out of LA Unified classrooms, he says crowded classes are the greatest obstacle to improved learning.
On his most recent assignment as a substitute Spanish teacher at Cleveland Charter High School, Schmerelson said he had up to 45 students per class. “This is a class where you want kids to ask a lot of questions, where you want them to talk to their neighbors, and that’s just impossible when you have so many students,” he said.
His biggest challenge, he conceded, will be raising money. Although, only challenger Ankur Patel, has a larger campaign chest, with about $22,000, Schmerelson is worried about his reluctance to ask for donations.
So far, he has only the $15,000 he loaned to himself, according to the City Ethics Commission’s most recent accounting. And he expects Galatzan’s campaign will be considerably boosted by funding and independent expenditure spending from pro-charter school groups as election day gets closer.
“I know I have to get over being shy about asking people for money,” he said. “I’m working on it. Really working on it.”