Nick Melvoin

School District: LAUSD – District 4

Position Seeking: Board Member

Question 1: Please share a meaningful experience you had with art (visual, dance, drama, music, media arts) while growing up and its impact on you.

I grew up in a very artistic family; my mother is a photojournalist and my father is a writer for television shows so I was fortunate enough to have an early exposure to the arts. Throughout middle school and high school I was in numerous productions, but I rarely had major parts. I was never particularly talented, but I always enjoyed myself and benefited from being involved. My senior year in high school I decided to give up sports to explore my passion for the theater and was the Stage Manager for a production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

This was one of the most rewarding experiences of my formative years. I thrived in the fast paced environment of the theatre and loved the build up to the show. When we successfully executed all of the stage cues it was extremely satisfying and I was proud of the role that I had played in making the production successful. It is so important that we give students opportunities like the one I had to further their educational and artistic development.

Question 2: How can arts education support student outcomes such as English language development, reducing the achievement gap, and preparing youth for college and/or meaningful careers?

In any school district–but especially one the size of LAUSD–students possess a broad array of talents. It is my belief that we need to give students every opportunity to explore their passions and develop their creativity. Investing in the arts provides more than just an opportunity for creative expression; through the arts, students learn leadership skills, expand their vocabularies, explore other cultures and languages, cultivate their creativity, and build confidence. Our students need these opportunities today so they can be active citizens of our democracy tomorrow.

We want the students of the LAUSD to be able to do more than simply regurgitate facts. A well rounded education in the arts is vital to the development of a critical and engaged mind, and helps prepare students for college and beyond. It is my belief that through strengthening partnerships with local artists, galleries, and venues we will be able to provide more opportunities for students in the arts and develop communities in the process. The research suggests that strong arts programs make students more likely to stay in schools and we should do everything we can to keep our students in the classrooms.

We have to find ways to integrate arts into other classes to help reduce the achievement gap. Dozens of studies show that if students are engaged in artistic endeavors it improves their graduation rates. During my time as an English teacher at Markham I saw firsthand how integrating the curricula with poetry and song lyrics segments helps student engagement.

Question 3: What do you think the role of the School Board should be in ensuring that students have continued access to a broad range of study subjects, including the arts (broadly defined)?

I think the School Board needs to begin by ensuring that every school has fully staffed arts and music departments. Los Angeles is the creative capital of the world and the fact that some schools do not even have an art or music program is unacceptable. We need to provide our students with every opportunity–scientific, technological, artistic, and musical–to hone the diversity of talents of Los Angeles schoolchildren.

Introductory art and music classes are not enough. I believe that schools should be equipped to forge advanced arts programs for interested students. Where that becomes impractical on the level of an individual school, the LAUSD Board should come together with school administrators to provide district-wide opportunities for advanced and interested students. That way, we can unite our resources efficiently in order to provide the best and most convenient options for all our students and their families.

Question 4: Do you see a role for arts education in the development of district Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs)? If so, how would you hope to use arts education to advance the eight priority areas identified in the LCAP template?

Performing and visual arts already feature prominently in the LCAP template, which provides a foundation on which we must build. First, access is a critical component of the arts, of LCAPs, and my platform. While providing full K-12 arts programs at every school may not be achievable, I am confident we can unite the resources of the district to make performing and visual arts opportunities available to every level of student in the LAUSD. Second, the performing and visual arts programs provide important opportunities for parent and community engagement. Through performing and visual arts, parents and students can make decisions together about future endeavors, and arts performances and exhibitions are great ways to draw parents and community members into schools. Finally, the arts play a significant role in increasing student retention rates by providing additional mentorship opportunities for students and teachers. These are just three examples of the role arts play in the eight-point LCAP template. The bottom line is that LCAPs are templates for helping communities take control of their schools, and ensuring accountability. I believe that the arts are key to successful schools, and LCAPs provide a foundation on which communities can build successful arts programs.