Political Notebook: Trans dad seeks Oakland school board seat

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday August 10, 2022
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Oakland school board candidate Nick Resnick stands with his sons Jude, left, and Dylan. Photo: Courtesy Nick Resnick<br>
Oakland school board candidate Nick Resnick stands with his sons Jude, left, and Dylan. Photo: Courtesy Nick Resnick

Oakland resident Nick Resnick, a married father of two sons, is vying for a seat on the school board that oversees the Oakland Unified School District. Should he be elected, Resnick would become the first-ever known LGBTQ person to serve on it.

He would also become the first known transgender person to be elected to a local school board in the Bay Area, as well as in California. According to a list of out LGBTQ elected officials maintained by the LGBTQ Victory Institute, the only trans elected education official listed from the Golden State is Cabrillo Community College Board of Trustees member Adam Spickler.

As the Bay Area Reporter noted in 2018 when Spickler was appointed to the college board in lieu of an election, since no one else ran for his Area II seat, he became the first transgender man to hold public office in California. Spickler is now seeking reelection this year to another four-year term.

Resnick, 37, in 2016, ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the East Bay's Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees. Since then he and his wife, Kelly, a real estate agent, welcomed the birth of their son Dylan, who is now 4 and in his last year of preschool. Their eldest son, Jude, is now 7 and attends their local public elementary school.

Speaking to the B.A.R. last month, Resnick noted, "I would be the first LGBTQ school board member ever, which is crazy in Oakland Unified."

He said that he doesn't know of any current transgender school board member whom he could reach out to for advice, nor is he aware of any other trans candidates running for school board seats this fall.

"I am surprised by that," said Resnick, who moved to the Bay Area from the East Coast at the age of 22 due to it being "a hub" for LGBTQ individuals and expected someone else who is trans would already have been elected to a school board seat.

(In San Francisco, several trans people have sought election to the city's school board but came up short in their campaigns.)

During his first race for public office, Resnick was not as comfortable talking publicly about his gender identity or sexual orientation — he identifies as queer. Today, amid attacks on families like his, and the rolling back of rights for transgender youth and other gender-nonconforming individuals, Resnick is much more willing to serve as a public role model.

"We need representation in front of our parents and children that looks like them and shows them whatever they want is possible," said Resnick. "I want them to feel like they have a voice and a space in places of power focused on their safety and their development. We need to be ensuring that the people around them know how to best support them."

The Resnicks live in the Oakland hills, which is part of the school board's District 4 seat. The incumbent, Gary Yee, told the website Oaklandside in July that he didn't plan to seek reelection but would make a formal announcement in August.

Yee, currently school board president, is listed among the various elected and community leaders who have endorsed Resnick in the race. Among his backers is Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Oakland school board member Clifford Thompson.

"Momentum is continuing to build for our priorities: academic achievement, fiscal responsibility, and civility not hostility on the school board," noted Resnick in an August 8 email to supporters.

Resnick, who graduated from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland with an additional focus in sociology, received a master's degree in education from Alliant International University in San Francisco. He formerly worked as a middle school teacher for the Oakland school district before departing for other educational career opportunities.

He had served as the math in common manager at the nonprofit California Education Partners. Since January 2021 Resnick has been the CEO at Inquiry by Design, which works on curriculums for students.

Resnick said one of the main reasons he decided to seek the school board seat is to ensure parents have a voice on it. He noted that of the current seven school board members, only one has a child who is now in high school.

"Parents who are living the decisions and experiences in our schools should have a voice on our school board," argued Resnick.

He noted that he could potentially serve as that parental voice for years to come as his sons receive their education.

"I am a trans man and queer-identified parent of two children in our system. I am also a previous teacher and a community member for 15 years," said Resnick. "I have seen firsthand the injustice within our education system, both at the state and federal level, as well as here in Oakland."

Yet, Resnick said he believes it is possible for Oakland to have "great schools for every child and every family" no matter where they reside. He pledged to remain focused on that goal as a school board member.

"In our city, unfortunately, the neighborhood you live in often dictates your future and your choices," he said. "We need critical people getting in there and remaining focused on students, and student growth academically and socially and mentally. I believe I can help us get there."

Acknowledging that many families opt to send their children to private, parochial, or charter schools instead of Oakland public schools, Resnick told the B.A.R. he wants to help improve the district's educational standing in the community with parents so they are confident about keeping their children enrolled in it through high school.

"My number one goal across our campaign is to ensure we are investing in schools that have quality programs, quality curriculum, and community support and everything necessary to ensure we are educating all of our children in an equitable way across the city," said Resnick.

Another top priority for Resnick is trying to ease the hostility that has been present "for decades," he said, between teachers, administrators, and the school board, which he acknowledged he felt during his time working in the district.

"Until we can fix that, we won't be able to move big things forward in the name of all students and equity," said Resnick. "We need to find ways to collaborate on changes in our system that better support all of our students and families. We can't do that until we can be in productive discourse and conversation."

One controversy engulfing Oakland's district is school closures. It is attempting to consolidate staff and reduce operating expenses by mothballing a number of its schools to the consternation of teachers and families with students at those campuses.

It has led to heated school board meetings and the occupation of schools by protesters who contend the current plan disproportionately impacts students of color. While Resnick told the B.A.R. that "yes," some schools do need to be shuttered, he believes the school board and administration should reexamine their plan for doing so.

"I think we need to step back and look at our entire system and work over a period of time leveraging the things we said would be helpful, such as an equity rubric we wanted to use," said Resnick. "We need to be thinking about where students are choosing to go to school versus where they live and have a better understanding of why parents are making those decisions. We need to work with the community to figure out a better way to educate all children, because right now, we are not."

Due to Yee deciding to step down, the filing deadline to seek his seat will be extended from Friday to next Wednesday. Also seeking the seat is Pecolia Manigo, a mother of three children with two attending Oakland schools, while her oldest is now in college. Manigo is the executive director of Bay Area PLAN, a parent advocacy group, and chairs the school district's Black Students and Families Thriving Task Force.

Having launched his campaign last September, Resnick is now focused on canvassing the neighborhoods he would represent on the school board, such as Redwood Heights and the Laurel district. He has talked to more than 500 parents about their concerns about the district and what they want to see in the public schools for them to keep their children enrolled in it.

"The whole goal of this is for families to remain in our system and stay here and go to the schools we have," said Resnick of his campaign.

To learn more about Resnick's candidacy, visit his campaign website.

Political Notes, the notebook's online companion, will return Monday, August 15.

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Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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