LAUSD School Board District 3: Who’s Running In The 2024 Primary And Why It Matters

The seven members of the Los Angeles Unified School board oversee the nation’s second largest school district, with more than 538,000 students enrolled. The district is also the county’s second largest employer with more than 74,000 educators, administrators, and support staff on its payroll.

Four seats are up for election this year, including District 3.

Unlike in New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., where the mayor appoints education system leaders, Los Angeles schools are run by the school board, which voters elect directly. That means the board members have a lot of power.

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  • Judge ratings: Understanding how the L.A. County Bar Association evaluates judicial candidates — and how it can help you cast your vote.

Head to LAist’s Voter Game Plan for guides to the rest of your ballot including:

  • L.A. County Board of Supervisors: Three of the five seats are on the ballot.
  • L.A. City Council: There are seven seats up for grabs.
  • L.A. District Attorney: Meet the 12 candidates running to be the county’s prosecutor.
  • LAUSD: Four seats are open for a seat at the table.
  • Prop. 1: Here’s a closer look at the proposal at the center of a debate over how to best help people struggling with mental health, drug and alcohol issues.

What do LAUSD board members do?

  • Hire and fire the superintendent — their single most important responsibility.
  • Pass the $9 billion operating budget and decide how it will be distributed.
  • Work with parents and resolve disputes in their district over facilities, budgets, etc.
  • Vote on every charter school that hopes to open in L.A.

Among the major issues facing the board

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing challenges in the district, including declining enrollment, disparities in student learning, truancy, inadequate mental health support, and lackluster standardized test scores.

Go deeper: Read more about what board members do, and the challenges facing the school board

About District 3

District 3 is located in the West San Fernando Valley and also encompasses Studio City. Voters elected Scott Schmerelson to represent the district in 2014 and again in 2020. The former teacher and principal faces four challengers.

Below, the candidates are listed in the order they appear on the ballot. We gave all the candidates a chance to speak directly to voters about what they would change if elected to the L.A. Unified School Board; you’ll see those responses below.

Dan Chang

Public school teacher

Chang is a math teacher at James Madison Middle School in North Hollywood. Chang previously founded organizations that raised money for LAUSD programs and school board candidates. Chang’s first education-related job was at a charter school management organization and he currently leads the board of directors for Valley Charter Schools, which includes an elementary and a middle school in the San Fernando Valley.

Some platform highlights:

  • Chang says his first priority is “to raise academic performance,” through “high-fidelity implementations” of the science of reading and “mathematics curricula with built-in numeracy support.” He also wants to reduce central office bureaucracy and strengthen restorative justice practices.

More voter resources:

In his own words

Top 3 priorities if elected to the LAUSD:

  • “My first priority is to raise academic performance within LAUSD. We can achieve this by ensuring high-fidelity implementations of English language arts curricula based on the science of reading and mathematics curricula with built-in numeracy support at all schools. Second, a renewed emphasis on teacher recruitment, recognition, and development programs can raise the quality of instruction for students. Finally, increased autonomy for school sites to manage professional development will create stronger school site culture.”
  • “My second priority is to reduce the central office bureaucracy to return more funding and autonomy to school sites. Increased funding and decreased mandates from the central office will create more opportunities for school site staff to implement instructional programs with greater fidelity.”
  • “Finally, I will prioritize student safety and well-being by strengthening restorative justice practices. LAUSD has made tremendous strides in creating inclusive campuses that are respectful of all students, however, specific behavior interventions and programs for the highest-need students are still needed.”

Tell us something surprising about yourself:

I’m fascinated by the biomechanics of repetitive, high accuracy sports skills. Many are interested in the mechanics of a golf swing, but I am more interested in the mechanics of a jump shot and a football throw. In class, my students will often see me walking around with a football in my hands, oftentimes doing a throwing motion without actually releasing the ball. If I don’t have the football in my hands, they’ll see me replicating the motion of a basketball jump shot. While I have not mastered any of these skills, I think about them. I love to practice them when I can.

Elizabeth Badger

Disability educator/Businesswoman

Badger is the founder and CEO of Minority Outreach Committee, a nonpartisan organization that aims to promote economic, social, and educational investment in historically marginalized communities. Badger also ran unsuccessfully for school board in 2020 and 2015 and is the parent of children with autism and ADHD.

Some platform highlights:

  • One of Badger’s top priorities is safety and security, working with school police and LAPD “to create an overarching and individual emergency strategy on all campuses.” She also wants to invest in special education and early childhood education.

More voter resources:

In her own words

Top 3 priorities if elected to the LAUSD:

  • “Safety and security. When students, teachers, and staff do not feel safe on their campuses, everything else is secondary. I will work to uplift security on all our campuses by working with school police and LAPD to create an overarching and individual emergency strategy on all campuses.”
  • “Invest in special education. Help to ensure our children are receiving the services based on their individual needs.”
  • “Investment in early childhood education with wrap-around services, including introducing early math (quantitative) and foreign language skills, as part of their curriculums.”

Tell us something surprising about yourself:

I love to read. I am a great fan of the writer John Grisham.

Andreas Farmakalidis

Educator/Business owner

Farmakalidis is a professional musician and owner of California MusicBox, a music school and studio in Northridge. He’s an immigrant from Cyprus and he’s composed pieces for several motion pictures.

Some platform highlights:

  • Farmakalidis says music and arts are pivotal, and by enhancing those offerings, “we not only broaden students’ horizons but also foster well-rounded individuals.” He proposes more resources for special education. He also says he’d prioritize fiscal prudence — “it ensures the longevity and effectiveness of our efforts.”

More voter resources:

In his own words

Top 3 priorities if elected to the LAUSD:

  • “Music and arts are pivotal elements in holistic development. These programs cultivate creativity, critical thinking, and emotional expression, enriching students’ lives beyond academic achievement. By enhancing these offerings, we not only broaden students’ horizons but also foster well-rounded individuals equipped for a diverse and evolving world.”
  • “Inclusivity lies at the heart of my vision. Special education demands tailored approaches to cater to diverse learning needs. By bolstering resources in this realm, we ensure that every child, irrespective of their abilities or challenges, receives the tailored support necessary for their growth and development. This commitment extends beyond mere access, aiming to create an environment where each child thrives and reaches their full potential.”
  • “Maintaining fiscal prudence is critical to sustaining these initiatives. It ensures the longevity and effectiveness of our efforts and caters to individual talents while addressing varying needs.”

Tell us something surprising about yourself: 

My musical journey has taken me across the globe, from being a ranked officer in the army band to gracing renowned festivals like Fête de la Musique, SXSW, NXNE, and the illustrious North Sea Jazz festival. Collaborating with esteemed artists, including Grammy-winning guitarist Marty Friedman, has been a highlight of my career.

Raquel Villalta

Mother/Educator

Villalta is a National Board Certified Teacher, a top professional certification given to K-12 educators. Villalta says she opposed the COVID-19 vaccine mandate on religious grounds, and was placed on unpaid leave by LAUSD.

Some platform highlights:

  • Villalta, who says she opposed the district’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on religious grounds, says one of her top priorities is to “honor parental rights, and restore the rights of parents to determine the best way to educate and raise their children.” She also wants to increase student achievement and “steward tax dollars with integrity.”

More voter resources:

In her own words

Top 3 priorities if elected to the LAUSD:

  • “Honor parental rights, and restore the rights of parents to determine the best way to educate and raise their children.”
  • “Increase student achievement and refocus on promoting academic rigor and teaching core subjects, without political agendas.”
  • “Steward tax dollars with integrity through financial and data transparency, with detailed reports.”

Tell us something surprising about yourself:

I enjoy family time and reading.

Scott Schmerelson

Teacher/Counselor/Boardmember

Schmerelson is a member of the Los Angeles Unified School Board and its current vice president. He has represented Board District 3 since 2014 and is a former Spanish teacher and principal. Schmerelson won reelection in 2020 despite the California Charter Schools Association spending more than $6.3 million to unseat him.

Some platform highlights:

  • Schmerelson has represented Board District 3 since 2014. He says student safety is paramount — “if children do not feel safe they will not meet their full potential.” He says another priority is facility funds for Valley schools, that “our children deserve to attend clean, safe, and modern school campuses.

More voter resources:

In his own words

Top 3 priorities if elected to the LAUSD:

  • “Student safety is paramount. If children do not feel safe they will not meet their full potential.”
  • “The Valley needs to get its fair share of facility funds. Our children deserve to attend clean, safe, and modern school campuses with current technology, air conditioning, and air filtration.”
  • “I am a champion for teachers, school site staff, and district support staff. Our staff needs to know they are respected, receive a fair salary, and are appreciated.”

Tell us something surprising about yourself:

I started my career in education as a classroom teacher in Spanish and I finished my career doing the same thing, 40 years apart. My first teaching assignment in Philadelphia was teaching Spanish at a local high school. After I retired from LAUSD as a principal, I was helping out as an interim assistant principal at Cleveland High School. Our Spanish teacher was out on leave, and the substitute, who was an amazing teacher, was not well versed in Spanish, so I stepped in and taught that class to help the students.

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Whether it’s about how to interpret the results or track your ballot, we’re here to help you understand the 2024 primary election on March 5.

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City of Los Angeles

  • City Council: There are seven districts seats on this ballot: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14
  • Healthy Streets LA: Take a closer look at Measure HLA, aimed at making streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists — and holding the city accountable to do just that.

L.A. County

  • Board of Supervisors: There are three districts on this ballot: 2, 4 and 5
  • District Attorney: Compare the 12 candidates running for District Attorney
  • Los Angeles Unified School District: Here’s an overview of the challenges facing the district. Plus: Meet the candidates vying to represent your child’s education in districts 1, 3, 5 and 7
  • The judiciary: There are more than two dozen judges up for election or reelection. Plus: Tips to make sure you’re putting right person on the bench

Overwhelmed? We have some shortcuts for you.

Statewide races

  • Prop. 1: Evaluating a $6.38 billion bond proposition that aims to create more housing, treatment and support for people struggling with mental health, drug and alcohol issues. Plus: A guide to understanding California’s Proposition system.

Head to the Voter Game Plan homepage for the latest in election news.

First appeared on laist.com

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