Los Angeles '10
Before Nick Melvoin was elected School Board Member in the second largest school district in the country, he was a Teach For America corps member advocating for communities in Los Angeles. As a middle school teacher in the Watts neighborhood, he worked with the ACLU to combat seniority-based layoffs at several L.A. schools that infringed on students’ constitutional rights to an equal education.
After the corps, Nick earned a J.D. from New York University Law School, where he served as chair of the Education Law Society. Following stops at the White House as an intern on the Domestic Policy Council and Great Public Schools Los Angeles as a director of policy, he ran for L.A. School Board and won a seat in May 2017. In September 2017, he was appointed Vice President.
Nick earned his B.A. in government with a secondary field in English from Harvard.
Nick majored in government, where he taught the subject to students in the Boston area through the CIVICS program. In the summer, he volunteered at a camp he now directs for homeless kids in L.A.
Teach For America: Los Angeles Corps
While teaching middle school ESL at Markham Middle School, Nick worked on the ACLU lawsuit that argued it was unconstitutional to layoff teachers based on seniority.
New York University Law School
Nick served as chair of the Education Law Society and editor-in-chief of the Review of Law and Social Change.
The White House
As an intern on the Domestic Policy Council, he served on a team charged with developing and implementing President Obama’s agenda on civil rights, criminal justice, and regulatory policy.
LAUSD School Board
In his new role, Nick will work with his fellow Board Members and LAUSD to manage an $8 billion budget and work to improve student achievement, enrollment, school facilities, and teacher shortages.
Q & A
What led you to apply to Teach For America?
I was looking to find some way to serve something bigger than myself. In college, I had done some teaching in Boston schools through the Harvard CIVICS program, and during the summer, volunteered at a camp for homeless kids that I run today. While I was looking at law school, business school, and the military, TFA recruited me, and it was the perfect nexus of my passion.
What were some of the major lessons you learned during the corps? When you think about yourself before and after the corps, what changed?
I learned how difficult teaching was with the amount of responsibilities you need to juggle. I better understood the structural issues of poverty and racism, as well as the power and limitations of public education to effect change. These inequities have a lot of victims; while they’re primarily students, they’re also teachers and support systems. It’s much more complicated than I first thought.
Tell us about your current role.
After doing advocacy and community organizing in L.A., some parents approached me about running for LAUSD School Board. I saw the marriage of service, teaching, and education, so I embraced the opportunity and I was elected in 2017.
What are the major challenges and opportunities you’re responsible for?
LAUSD is the second largest district in America. With an $8 billion budget, it has its fair share of challenges. Regarding student achievement, only 30% are proficient, less than half graduating are eligible for state college, and there are huge deficits with declining enrollment and a teacher shortage. Still, we have an opportunity to reimagine and recreate what a school district can be.
How have you used the skills and beliefs you developed in the corps?
Big school districts have often failed in implementation because they don’t understand what it’s like at the school level, and I bring that knowledge every day. TFA made me think about everything from the lens of how decisions will affect my students. The urgency to do this work is also a direct product of my time in the corps.