How to reach your LAUSD school board member — without sleeping overnight on the sidewalk
Esmeralda Fabián Romero | September 10, 2018
LA Unified’s seven school board members — or six for now — make vital decisions impacting more than 570,000 students. Parents, community members, and the general public want their concerns to be heard, but what’s the best way to connect with the board members?
Besides email and phone, there are board meetings most Tuesdays with designated times for people to address the board members. But the process has long been fraught with frustration, as it was at last month’s meeting when some parents and education advocates lined up overnight to make sure they could get one of the limited numbers of speaking slots.
That’s “outrageous and shouldn’t be happening,” a spokesperson for one of the board members said. Other board members said the process should be “fair and transparent” to everyone. One community advocate suggested that speakers on both sides of each agenda item have equal time to make the process “democratic and fair.”
“I agree that the public comment process should be fair and transparent so it works well for parents and that everyone has to play by the same rules,” board Vice President Nick Melvoin said via email. “If you come to the board meeting and don’t get to speak during the public comment period, there are still plenty of people available there to connect you with someone who can help resolve your issue.”
The school board meets most Tuesdays to discuss, approve, or reject matters on behalf of the constituents who voted for them to represent their interests at the school board table. The public has the right to speak but must follow the meeting rules (listed below), such as signing up before the meeting starts, providing personal information, and indicating the topic on the agenda they wish to address. Speakers are taken on a first-come, first-served basis, but there are only a certain number of public comment slots, and some people, like elected officials, are granted priority, or a “courtesy,” to get one of those slots. That happened last month when a former board member, Jackie Goldberg, was being considered for a temporary board seat, and she and a supporter were given time to speak even though the speaker slots had been allotted to the parents who had waited for hours.
“The courtesy has been offered in the past to former elected officials including former board members, but this is always up to the current board members at the meeting,” board Secretariat Jefferson Crain said in an email. “Board members can always express an objection to any deviation from the expected process. Most often, all exceptions made by the presiding officer are formed as a question to the other board members.”
Crain acknowledged that the Goldberg supporter should not have been granted speaking time. “They mistakenly signed up the woman who was accompanying Ms. Goldberg; she should have been signed up at the same time as the general public,” Crain said last month through a district spokeswoman.
Arlene Irlando, chief of staff for board member Scott Schemerelson, said, “Any board member can ask that an elected official or former elected official be allowed to speak without having to wait in line. It’s too bad that if people who may have shown up very early in the morning did not know that the number of speakers would be expanded, but that wasn’t anything that happened until that very morning.
“Honestly, nobody should line up at four in the morning to speak to the board of education about their concerns that affect their children, that’s outrageous! We definitely need a different method. There’s a lot of finger-pointing going on, and I don’t know we could have done any differently,” she said referring to the Aug. 21 board meeting.
The next regular board meeting is this Tuesday, and board members have made it clear to LA families that their input matters and that there also are other ways to reach them.
HOW TO REACH YOUR BOARD MEMBER:
Board District 1: George McKenna
If you live in South Central or most areas of South Los Angeles, or within the boundaries of this map, your board representative is Dr. George McKenna and you can reach him at:
By email: email@example.com
By phone: 213-241-6382
Facebook page: @drgeorgemckenna
Board District 2: Board President Mónica García
If you live in most areas of East Los Angeles, parts of downtown LA and Westlake, or within the boundaries of this map, your board representative is Mónica García and you can reach her at:
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
By phone: 213-241-6180
Facebook page: @iamwithmonicagarcia
“Email is the best way to reach Ms. García. She personally responds or someone in the team will handle or try to resolve any problem our constituents or parents face, or we can direct them to the appropriate department or offices (in the district),” said a spokesperson from García’s office.
Board District 3: Scott Schmerelson
If you live in the northwest San Fernando Valley, such as Porter Ranch, Canoga Park, and Northridge, or the central Valley, such as Sherman Oaks and parts of Van Nuys and North Hollywood, or within the boundaries of this map, your board representative is Scott Schmerelson and you can reach him at:
By email: Scott.Schmerelson@lausd.net
By phone: Beaudry office is 213-241-8333. District office is 818-654-3785.
Facebook page: @ScottAtLAUSD
“Board District 3’s office is doing everything possible to make sure people can be heard. Mr. Schmerelson thinks this is important!” Irlando said.
Board District 4: Board Vice President Nick Melvoin
If you live in West Los Angeles or some areas of the south San Fernando Valley including Woodland Hills and Encino, or within the boundaries of this map, your board representative is Nick Melvoin and you can reach him at:
By phone: 213-241-6387
“To get in touch with my office, you can call, email, visit our website, send a Facebook or Twitter message — we are available and here to help! We respond to every constituent concern that we receive — whether it’s a problem we can help solve, or just need to get a constituent to the right person at LAUSD to provide the assistance they need,” Melvoin said by email.
“This is especially important when issues arise for our families and they need a quick response, like when the STAR after-school program was in jeopardy last spring, or parents heard that their kids’ bus routes were going to be canceled with little warning the week before school started. My team and I were able to take immediate action to ensure that these valuable services would continue uninterrupted for our students and families.”
Board District 5: Vacant
If you live in southeast and northeast Los Angeles or within the boundaries of this map, your board representative seat is currently vacant until one is elected next year. The primary special election will be held March 5.
The district’s office staff can be reached at:
By email: BD5info@lausd.net
By phone: 213-241-5555
Board District 6: Kelly Gonez
If you live in the northeast San Fernando Valley, such as Panorama City or Arleta, or in parts of Van Nuys or North Hollywood, or within the boundaries of this map, your board representative is Kelly Gonez and you can reach her at:
By email: email@example.com
By phone: 213-241-6388
Facebook page: @KellyforLASchools
“I am always happy to hear directly from families and constituents in Board District 6. Calling my office or emailing is the best way to get in touch, although I recommend including a member of my staff on email for the fastest response. If there is an issue at a particular school, we’ll work closely with the Local Districts to try to resolve the concern. We also frequently hear about Board or District policies, and that feedback helps us ensure we’re serving our families and our schools well,” Gonez said in an email.
Gonez also wants families in her district to know there are people on her staff working in specific neighborhoods:
Cara Onofre is director of community engagement and advocacy for Arleta, Lake Balboa, Mission Hills, North Hills, North Hollywood, Panorama City, Reseda, and Van Nuys.
Esmeralda Marcial is deputy director of community engagement for Lake View Terrace, Pacoima, San Fernando, Shadow Hills, Sunland-Tujunga, Sun Valley, and Sylmar.
Board District 7: Richard Vladovic
If you live in the Harbor area, including Wilmington or Gardena, or within the boundaries of this map, your board representative is Dr. Richard Vladovic and you can reach him at:
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
By phone: 213-241-6385
Facebook page: @drrichardvladovic
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU WANT TO ATTEND A BOARD MEETING:
These are your rights and the rules you need to follow at board meetings:
- Any person as an individual, or as a representative of a group, shall be granted permission to address the Board of Education by oral presentation at a regular meeting.
- A request to address the Board shall be made prior to the item being before the Board for action on a first come first served basis.
- The number of speakers on any one topic or agenda item shall be limited to seven (7) unless otherwise directed by the Board. And there is a three-minute time limit per comment.
- The Board President, with the concurrence of the Board, may call a special meeting for the sole purpose of hearing speakers. At any hearing, there shall be a limit of 40 speakers (unless otherwise directed by the Board in the public notice).
- In order to accommodate the schedules of teachers, staff, students, families and community members, for Board Meetings beginning at 1:00 p.m., public comment shall begin at 4:00 p.m.
All board meetings take place at the school board room located at 333 S. Beaudry Ave., Los Angeles, CA, 90017. The upcoming regular board meetings this month will take place at 1 p.m. on the Tuesdays of Sept. 11 and Sept. 25. The board meetings’ calendar for the entire school year can be found here.
Since last school year, a “Kids First” help desk table has been available on board meeting days outside the entrance of the boardroom. It is set up before the meeting and is staffed until the end of the meeting. Staff members from the Office of Parent and Community Services are available to provide personalized help with questions, to hear complaints and requests, and to connect families with the right district personnel.