Kelly Gonez

LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Newly elected Kelly Gonez is the youngest-ever female president of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board of Education.

Gonez, 32, who was elected unanimously by her fellow board members at their meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 15, is also the first of the millennial generation and one of only four women of color and one of three Latinas to lead the board that sets policy for the nation’s second-largest school district, which serves a student population that is currently 80% Latino or Black, according to LAUSD officials.

“I want to thank my colleagues for this honor, and I look forward to working with each of them and Superintendent Austin Beutner and his team on behalf of the students of Los Angeles,’’ Gonez said after the vote.

“The pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges for our families and for our district,” she said. “It’s more important than ever that our board is united behind an urgent focus to meet the academic, social and emotional needs of all students.”

Gonez is the only parent on the school board with young children, and she grew up in an immigrant family in the district she now represents, encompassing much of the East San Fernando Valley, according to the LAUSD.

Gonez has represented Board District 6 since 2017. During that time, she has championed the needs of the most historically underserved students, authoring policies leading to increase services for youths experiencing homelessness and removing barriers to college for high-need students.

She also helped to increase investment in early childhood education in Los Angeles Unified and pioneered the expansion of ethnic studies for all students in the district, including making it a high school graduation requirement, LAUSD officials said.

Prior to  Gonez’ election, she was a middle school science teacher and an education policy adviser in the US Department of Education, appointed by then-President Barack Obama.

Gonez said her vision for her time as board president includes focusing on student learning by addressing opportunity gaps that have been exacerbated by COVID-19 and a focus on equity and anti-racism, as well as fostering good governance.

“Congratulations to Board President Gonez,” Superintendent Austin Beutner said. “Schools are facing unprecedented challenges during these trying times, and I look forward to working with her and all of the board members to provide the best possible education to students.’’

Board member Nick Melvoin was elected to chair the Committee of the Whole.

“Today is an exciting day to close the book on 2020 and look to the future in LA Unified, as we welcome our newest colleague, board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin, and elect board member Gonez to serve as our next president,” Melvoin said. “I look forward to serving as chair of the Committee of the Whole and supporting our school communities through this crisis to get our kids safely back in the classroom as soon as possible.”

Ortiz Franklin was sworn in by Caleb Ebo, a student at President Avenue Elementary School, which the educator and lawyer attended when she was in the sixth grade. She succeeds former board President Richard Vladovic, who retired after serving 13 years representing the South Bay area on the board.