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Voters Whittle Field to Decide District Board of Trustees

Nichelle M. Henderson defeats the competition including the incumbent, Scott Svonkin.

BY CASHIA KIRKSEY


More than 30 candidates competed for a spot on the seven-member Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) Board of Trustees.

After serving three consecutive terms as the LACCD’s Board of Trustees president and representing Seat 5 since 2011, Scott Svonkin fell short of votes that would return him to the board.

He piled up endorsements from a diverse field that included U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, and L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn among others, according to Votersedge.org.

LACCD Board of Trustees President Andra Hoffman maintains her position at Seat 1. David Vela and Mike Fong remain in their former seats. Vela holds Seat 3 and Fong, Seat 7.

Nichelle M. Henderson joins the board of trustees, replacing Svonkin at Seat 5, which makes her the only Black member on the board.

LACCD’s Board is made up of seven seats, each seat is assigned to an elected trustee member. Elections are held every two years. Four trustees are elected during one election, and three are elected the following election.

Board members serve terms of four years. Presidents and vice presidents are elected to the board annually.

Hoffman maintained her position as Seat 1 board member. She took the lead with 864,022 votes (53.95 percent).

Hoffman is a native of Los Angeles, CA. She briefly attended Los Angeles Valley College. As a former LACCD student, Hoffman is no stranger to the needs of students in the Los Angeles area.

Hoffman attended Antioch University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies. She also attended California State University, Northridge, where she earned a master’s degree in public administration.

Hoffman was first elected as a member of LACCD’s Board of Trustees in 2015. She was elected President of the Board in 2019.

Karen Hernandez also ran for Seat 1 and came in second place with 276,746 votes (16.71 percent). Hernandez was born in Los Angeles. She attended Los Angeles Pierce College (2014), UC Berkley (2013), and earned a master’s degree in education at UCLA in 2017.

David Vela was re-elected to Seat 3 with 611,745 votes (37.36 percent).

Vela was born and raised in Los Angeles. He attended UCLA where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biological anthropology. Vela also attended Pepperdine University where he earned a master’s degree in public policy.

Vela has served as a senior legislative assistant in the state Legislature and senior advisor at the Employment Development Department. Vela also worked at Montebello Unified School District Board of Education.

When asked to list three key messages, main points, or goals for his Ballotpedia campaign profile, Vela expressed his concerns for students converting from physical classrooms to virtual classrooms.

“This year, we faced significant uncertainty due to COVID-19, and as Trustee, I have worked with my colleagues to seamlessly shift learning from the physical classroom to a virtual learning space,” Vela said.

Another goal for his time in office is getting schools the technical tools they need. Making sure students are equipped with laptops and critical resources to support their education is important Vela said.
Gerry Anderson also ran for the LACCD Board of Trustees’ Seat 3. Coming in second place with 292,113 votes (17.84%), Anderson was not successful in his bid for the position.

Anderson is a veteran who attended Arizona State University in 1996, where he completed his MBA. Increasing student enrollment, infusing diversity, and developing extensive child-care programs are priorities Anderson listed on his campaign profile on votersedge.org.

“Increasing the student enrollment and program offerings, while increasing the completion rates and shortening the average time to complete degree programs [is one of my top priorities],” Anderson said.
Though Anderson didn’t win Seat 3, his priority to increase student enrollment is important as districtwide enrollment numbers are lower this semester.

Los Angeles Times Reporter Nina Agrawal wrote an article titled, “Election of Board Majority will Shape the Nation’s Largest Community College District,” published on Oct. 16.

“Districtwide enrollment this fall is down 87% of where it was last year,” Agrawal wrote.

Nichelle M. Henderson won Seat 5, making her the LACCD’s only Black member on the board of trustees. Henderson won the election with 658,608 votes (40.43%).

Henderson was born in Los Angeles’s Athens area. Henderson graduated from Cal State University, Los Angeles, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in 2002. She also attended Chapman University (2006), where she received her master’s degree. Henderson is currently an instructor and clinical field supervisor at Cal State Los Angeles. She is the first vice president of the Los Angeles African American Women Political Action Committee.

Cynthia Gonzalez was the second runner-up for Seat 5. Gonzalez earned 272,190 votes (16.71%).
Former Seat 5 Board member Scott Svonkin came in third place with 241,434 votes (14.82%). Unlike Hoffman, Vela, and Fong, voters did not send Svonkin back to serve on the board.

The AFT 1521 union did not endorse Svonkin in this election. Svonkin served three consecutive terms as president of the board and two four-year terms as Seat 5 trustee.

Mike Fong secured 685,170 (41.93%) votes and won re-election to Seat 7.

Fong received a Bachelor of Science from UCLA and a master’s degree from California State University, Northridge. Fong was elected to the board in 2015, served as vice president on the board in 2017, and served as board president for one term, 2018-2019.

Fong shared his reasons for seeking re-election with votersedge.org.

“I am running … to continue finding common-sense solutions to the problems we face,” Fong said. “And to ensure that our colleges remain a bastion for progressive values and good public policy, embracing the hopes and aspirations of our students, families, and community.”

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