Meet Crenshaw High's Kamarie Brown, LAUSD's Newest Student Board Member
As the races for two LAUSD school board seats heat up, a new face has joined the virtual dais: student board member Kamarie Brown.
Sixty-five students vied for the position. They had to fill out an application and write three essays, and if they made it to the final round, they had to give a speech and then stand for election, with LAUSD seniors as the voters.
Brown — a senior at Crenshaw High — was officially named the student board member and sworn in this month. According to the district, the 17-year-old is the first African American woman to serve in this role.
"With a tremendous wave of change across the nation, the present moment has pushed us all to answer the important questions of our time," she said in her campaign speech. "How we choose to answer them will define our generation. Will Black students matter? ... Will we fully commit to creating schools that function as the keys to unlock a student's limitless potential?"
Brown said she'll focus on two issues during her one-year term: the Student Bill of Rights and equity. She said equity is important to her because of an experience she had when she was about to start high school. She almost attended a school in North Hollywood, 15 miles away.
"The question always lingered," she said. "Why do I have to travel far out to go to a good school?"
That question sparked her interest in efforts to improve things at Crenshaw High, her neighborhood school. She noticed that the textbooks were out of date, and that there wasn't always a nurse on site.
So Brown got involved with the social justice organization Community Coalition, and worked on a campaign that seeks to get remedies for a school, based on its score on the district's Student Equity Needs Index — or SENI. Brown said she's been involved with the group since ninth grade.
"Basically they said to me, 'You want this stuff at your school, and this is the way to get it,'" Brown said. "You have to go and talk to these people about what SENI is, why is it important to you ... and knowing the kids that go to my school, where do I think these kids will want the money to go?"
Brown said she'll use those same organizing skills to represent the students of the nation's second largest school district. She will also have support from the Student Advisory Council, which includes middle and high-schoolers from around the district.
She'll serve her one-year term while dealing with distance learning and taking multiple AP classes. (She says calculus is her favorite because she likes problem-solving.)
"I just want students to know that I am no different and I'm still a student just like they are — studying for classes, being involved in extracurricular activities, playing Xbox," she said. "I also want them to know that they have a strong and competent representative."
As the student member of the board, she'll be able to participate in discussions, suggest resolutions, and even cast votes — although, according to board rules, her vote will not be counted when determining if a motion passes.
Even in this advisory role, student board members have left their mark on the district. Former student board member Tyler Okeke pushed for the right for 16-year-old students to vote in school board elections, and the Student Bill of Rights that Brown said she'll advocate for was introduced by her predecessor, Frances Suavillo.
"The thing that I noticed about [Brown] the first time I met her, she commands a room when she speaks," Suavillo told us. "I read every single one of the applicants' essays and résumés, and I will say Kamarie is amazing. I'm so incredibly proud of her already."
READ MORE OF OUR COVERAGE OF THE L.A. UNIFIED BOARD OF EDUCATION:
- In Their Own Words: Students Share Lessons Learned From Organizing And Protesting
- LAUSD School Board: The ABC's Of November's Runoff Races
- LAUSD Election Could Shatter Spending Records — Again
- How LAUSD's Superintendent Has Used Special Pandemic Emergency Powers To Make Fast-Track Deals
- LAUSD Voted To Reduce School Police Funding By $25 Million Three Months Ago. Now What?
- LAUSD Cuts School Police — A Major Victory For Activists — But Mostly Maintains Status Quo In Its Budget For Now