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A former administrator and current LAUSD Board Member in District 3, Scott Schmerelson makes a point to visit the schools he represents each day.
Schmerelson's lifelong passion has been educating students
October 31, 2022
Name: Name: Scott Schmerelson Award: Ferd. Kiesel Memorial Distinguished Service Award Title: LAUSD Board Member, District 3
LAUSD students have a cold winter morning in Pennsylvania to thank for motivating Scott Schmerelson to move to the Golden State.
It was the late 1970s and Schmerelson was enjoying being a middle school Spanish teacher in Philadelphia. But during one snowstorm, he recalls listening to the radio to find out if schools were going to be closed for the day. Hearing no closure report, he dutifully arrived on campus to discover that school was, in fact, canceled.
He applied for a reciprocal teaching credential in California that day.
A devotee to the profession from his time in high school, when he was a member of the Future Teachers of America Club, all the way to today as a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, Schmerelson is a lifelong educator and winner of this year’s Ferd. Kiesel Memorial Distinguished Service Award.
“I tell everybody I’m the original schoolboy,” Schmerelson said. “I love working with kids and teachers and parents. I love anything to do with school.”
Once Schmerelson arrived in California, he found a job teaching Spanish at Virgil Middle School, where he taught for 12 years before becoming the school’s counselor and then assistant principal.
He loved the school and thought he would retire from there. However, his principal had other plans and told Schmerelson his skills were needed at another school.
He went from Griffith Middle School to Lawrence Middle School to Mt. Vernon Middle School at the behest of principals and superintendents who knew he could shape up each site. Schmerelson had clearly developed a reputation as a “turnaround” administrator.
He took over as principal of Mt. Vernon Middle School right as the school was in danger of receivership. Schmerelson worked hard to build teamwork among teachers, staff, students and parents, and he listened to their ideas about transforming the school. The result was improved standardized test scores that meant the district would not be removed from LAUSD.
“I was so proud, not of me ­— I was so proud of all the people who worked so hard to do that,” he said. “Every single person at that school matters. It doesn’t matter if you’re an administrator or a teacher, or a counselor or cafeteria manager — everybody has to be treated with respect, and everybody has good ideas.”
A strong supporter of ACSA and its professional development programs, Schmerelson also served as ACSA Region 16 president from 2011-2013 and ACSA Region 16 executive director from 2013-2015.
He retired from Mt. Vernon (which by that time had been renamed Cochran Middle School). He stayed retired briefly before winning a seat on the LAUSD Board of Education in 2015.
He was re-elected in 2020 and could run again in 2024 — “God willing, if my health is still good and I still have my brains,” he said.
Schmerelson brings a site administrator’s perspective to the seven-member board, representing District 3. He visits one school in his district every day. After stops in the front office and cafeteria to tell these employees how important they are, he talks to principals and sees if he can solve any problems for them. He also visits teachers’ classrooms to observe instruction and interact with the students.
Some of his proudest accomplishments on the board include creation of a Student Advisory Council, a school safety resolution requiring parents to keep firearms locked away in their homes, and a resolution that the district would only consume energy produced from clean renewable sources by 2030.
He’s also proud of his work to address dyslexia by training teachers on the Orton-Gillingham approach. He recounts observing one of the lessons and seeing kids’ faces light up. It strengthened his resolve to make this training mandatory for all teachers.
“I am always fighting — always fighting for our kids, for our parents, for our teachers and administrators and for the classified staff at school,” he said. “That’s me, and I just won’t stop.”
Scott Schmerelson is a lifelong educator and winner of this year’s Ferd. Kiesel Memorial Distinguished Service Award.