New Inglewood Trustee, Melendez, Inducted as “Champion for all Children”

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The Inglewood Unified School Board recognized two high-profile guests at its monthly meeting, new State Administrator, Dr. Thelma Melendez and her boss, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson.

Both guests addressed the School Board members, district staff, parents and community residents about their hopes for the district’s future.

During his introduction, he auded Melendez for her talent, passion for students, and “big heart” calling her a “champion for all children.”

Torlakson also expressed an expectation that his newest appointee will pull considerable weight among her professional network to lift the district out of its current state of distress.

Namely, Torlakson praised Melendez’s connection with the California State University, where she sits on its Board of Trustees, and hinted at the promise of her connection translating into new pathways to college for Inglewood students.

Melendez’s speech aimed to rally support, mainly, among the school board members who will become her closest advisors. She downplayed her role as a one-woman decision maker for the entire school district and described herself modestly as a team player who cannot accomplish goals for the district alone.  

Appearing both gracious and humble, Melendez’s presence and her message were received by the school board and audience with applause.

But not everyone was happy about Melendez’s new appointment. When public comments were allowed, various community members voiced their concern over the short stays of former school appointees and the fact that each time a new trustee position opens, local talent including teachers, staff, and assistant principals, who have been long invested in the Inglewood’s welfare, are passed over for outsiders who receive lucrative salaries that the district can ill-afford.

But if nothing else, the school board meeting served as a good induction process for Melendez in that it gave her a realistic glimpse of the political leanings of district stakeholders and the major challenges she will face as school chief.

Melendez will serve as head of Inglewood schools under a two-year contract until 2019. Over the next two years, advocates and opponents will watch closely to see if she will fare better than her predecessors in her effort to lift Inglewood out of the grips of state receivership and help it realize its motto of “IUSD Rising”.

Learn more about Melendez’s school priorities by reading her acceptance speech as State Administrator at Inglewood’s August 15th school board meeting:

Thank you very much. Thank you, Superintendent, for the selection. And I also want to thank the board for the opportunity to come and serve with you and serve the community.

My life’s work has been around urban schools, improving urban schools.

We must work together, because I think we are all in agreement that we all want to see local control to return to Inglewood.  And that is the goal, that we will get there as soon as we can. That we will not slow down. Dr. Vincent did quite a bit of work and that we’re building on that.

But I think it’s important because if we do not work together, we will not be able to get out of receivership. So I want to be a part of the team that does that. I want to be a part of the historical moment when the district returns back.

You were bold enough to say that you needed the assistance and help several years ago.

And we are here to work with you. To be able to bring back to Inglewood your ability to run the schools.

So, thank you, Superintendent, my life’s work, my passion is working with students as I said. And so I am excited and look forward to working with the community, with parents, with our labor partners, in ensuring that the goal of 2020, if not sooner, we are out of receivership.

So thank you.