State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson has announced the appointment of a new trustee for the Inglewood Unified School District—Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, current head of the Los Angeles Unified School District's Office of Educational Services.
Melendez de Santa Ana replaces former trustee Dr. Vincent Matthews, who left Inglewood for a school superintendent position in San Francisco. She will become IUSDs fifth trustee in 5 years.
In addition to her experience with LAUSD, Melendez de Santa Ana is also a trustee of the California State University, and the first Mexican American to head that school district in recent memory.
Inglewood Unified schools have been under state receivership since 2012, when a combination of mismanagement and declining enrollment forced authorities to request a $55 million loan to avoid bankruptcy. When the state took over, the Inglewood School Board and superintendent lost their decision-making power. The state will control Inglewood schools until the loan is repaid.
Melendez de Santa Ana is well aware of the challenges she faces in turning the IUSD around. According to the California Department of Education, the district has seen a 12% drop in student enrollment every year for the past 5 years—three times the L.A. county average. Last year, the district lost nearly 600 students, which represents about $6 million in lost state funding. The LACOE said last month, Inglewood schools face a $5 million deficit in the coming year.
Inglewood Teachers Assn. President Kelly Iwamoto said: “The next state administrator has to be somebody that is resilient, because you have to be here for the long haul.”
Inglewood School Board Member D’Artagnan Scorza, told KPCC, “One of the assets that she brings is that she has a strong local network. She’s here in Los Angeles, she’s familiar with the communities.” He predicts the school district can exit state takeover in three years.
The district has used $29 million out of the $55 million borrowed so far. It is paying $1.8 million yearly to repay the loan. The state estimates those payments to go through 2033.