Los Angeles School Board Race, 2017: Meet the 13 Candidates Running in Tuesday’s Election

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This piece was produced in partnership with LA School Report; see LASR’s complete coverage of the 2017 school board race
Three LA Unified school board seats are on the March 7 ballot in what could end up being the most expensive school board race the nation has ever seen.
Read LA School Report’s full series of coverage at LAUSD Race 2017. You’ll get profiles of all 13 candidates, highlights from more than half a dozen candidate forums, and analysis of the $5.6 million spent so far in the campaigns. (Plus hard-hitting commentaries from L.A. experts.)
Here’s everything you need to know about the 13 candidates looking to lead America’s second-largest school district: 
Board District 4
  • Allison Holdorff Polhill: Former high school board member, debate coach, parent, and student advocate Allison Holdorff Polhill: “If we don’t address the deficit, the results will be catastrophic and will lead to teacher layoffs, increased class sizes, and cuts in instructional time. For each of the last six years, I have balanced a budget of $30 million.”

    Top issues: unify the board to be student-focused, support all education models, and fix the budget.

    Read LA School Report’s profile of Allison Holdorff Polhill.

  • Greg Martayan: Public relations and local affairs firm owner Greg Martayan: “We are going to cut the red tape.”

    Top issues: accountability, transparency, efficiency in spending, re-evaluating security protocols for all LAUSD campuses, civilian oversight committees at every level, cutting waste, supporting teachers, implementing safe schools initiatives, prosecuting waste and fraud and abuse, bringing back the arts and athletics, sustainability, and green buildings.

    Read LA School Report’s profile of Greg Martayan.

  • Nick Melvoin: Attorney, educator, nonprofit education consultant, LAUSD substitute teacher, and volunteer Nick Melvoin: “The district is not providing the education that students deserve, and support for improving LAUSD continues to grow.”

    Top issues: Put kids first by cutting the bloated bureaucracy and keeping the best teachers in the classroom.

    Read LA School Report’s profile of Nick Melvoin.

  • Steve Zimmer: Incumbent Steve Zimmer: “I know that the idea that this district is a failure is counter-factual. You don’t raise graduation rates from 56 to over 75 percent to say we’re failing worse than eight years ago; it’s not true. We got suspensions down from over 75,000 days lost to instruction to under 6,000 this year. That’s not failure. That’s extraordinary!”

    Top issues: bringing people together to bring change in their schools and public education, access and equity for every student to reach their dreams through public education, bilingual education, helping Dreamers, and 100 percent graduation.

    Read LA School Report’s profile of Steve Zimmer.

Board District 2
  • Lisa Alva: Magnet school teacher Lisa Alva: “It’s so, so, so important to protect the people that depend on public education and to protect public education in Los Angeles.”

    Top issues: stabilize funding for classroom instruction, robust adult education, and safe schools.

    Read LA School Report’s profile of Lisa Alva.


  • Mónica García: Incumbent Mónica García: “I’m proud to represent families that believe education interrupts [the cycle of] poverty.”

    Top issues: 100 percent graduation, reduce the number of English-language learners, college, and career readiness for all LAUSD graduates.

    Read LA School Report’s profile of Mónica García.


  • Carl Petersen: Parent and special education advocate Carl Petersen: “Top of my list right now is that none of the board members that are sitting have a child enrolled in the school district, and I think that is an important voice that is missing.”

    Top issues: hold charter schools accountable, represent the board as a parent, and make special education more equitable.

    Read LA School Report’s profile of Carl Petersen.

Board District 6
  • Kelly Gonez: Seventh-grade science teacher and former Obama Administration education policy adviser Kelly Gonez: “I think I have a unique perspective as someone who taught at both the district and charter schools.”

    Top issues: ensuring that all students, especially the most vulnerable, can graduate college and are career-ready, increasing access to support services through partnerships, supporting teachers so they can provide high-quality instruction, empowering school leaders, and making sure the board’s decisions are made with community and family input.

    Read LA School Report’s profile of Kelly Gonez.

  • Patty López: Community activist and former state assemblywoman Patty López: “The community felt that they wanted someone who knows and belongs to this community, so I’m doing it for them.”

    Top issues: increase parent engagement, quality education for all students, programs for students with special needs, and create new programs for pre-K and adult education.

    Read LA School Report’s profile of Patty López.

  • Imelda Padilla: Community organizer Imelda Padilla: “I am a true product of this community. I have walked every street in the district, I know every school, and I have teachers, principals, and students urging me to run.”

    Top issues: fair funding for schools, improved academy performance, and increased parental and community involvement.

    Read LA School Report’s profile of Imelda Padilla.

  • Araz Parseghian: Loan officer Araz Parseghian: He has served on the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council and the Professional Child Development Associates Board. He currently serves on the boards of the LA Valley College Foundation and the Glendale Police Foundation.

    Top issues: fresh ideas, smarter budgeting, and enhanced safety.

    Read a fact sheet on Araz Parseghian.

  • Gwendolyn Posey: Event planner, community activist, and advocate Gwendolyn R. Posey: “Parents, students, and teachers desperately need an advocate, someone who is protecting their interests, their success, and their needs. One who is not beholden to invested interest that will take the focus off providing quality education to every child on every campus.”

    Top issues: school safety (increasing the LAUSD police), support staff for teachers and students, and creative outlets for students (teaching trades and life skills).

    Read LA School Report’s profile of Gwendolyn Posey.

  • Jose Sandoval: Animal rights educator Jose Sandoval: He is founder of the Latino Alliance for Animal Care Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide humane education to low-income and underrepresented communities and incorporate concepts of kindness and respect for animals into the lives of individuals and the communities they live in.

    Read a fact sheet on Jose Sandoval.

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