LBUSD: Member Erik Miller Excited to Begin Work
By Dianne Anderson
Even on a slow day, hundreds of parents are now watching the Long Beach Unified School Board meetings, which is exponentially more than what was happening pre-pandemic.
For all the havoc that COVID-19 has wrought on the community, there is still some room for optimism.
“Before the pandemic, at the board meeting you might have 15 or 20 people because of [parents’] work or location. Now, I’ve seen as many as 1,300 people in attendance and as little as 150. It’s always a much larger turnout,” said Erik Miller, who was sworn in virtually last month to his new District 2 seat on the board.
He is excited about his first official board meeting this week, and getting more familiar with the view from a distance.
“I have yet to attend a board meeting inside the building. I got to see my office, barely. It is a different space for sure,” he said.
Miller succeeds Felton Williams, who retired after serving four terms on the board.
During Miller’s campaign, one of his concerns was how to mitigate education barriers and mental health issues for kids impacted by the nearly year-long quarantine. Then, the only real answer seemed reopening schools, which much harder to wrap his head around in light of the current situation.
Since the harrowing holiday fallout of COVID-19 cases overwhelming hospitals, ambulances and morgues, Miller is more worried about getting kids back to school when it’s safe.
He’s further away from supporting opening schools now with the rise in cases.
“Obviously our hospitals being in a triage state,” he said. “I do think the vaccine provides hope, but I still am in no way, shape or form agreeing to open schools until we have a firm plan along with the state of our nation being more secure infrastructurally.”
Miller, age 36, is executive director of U.S.Vets Long Beach, a facility of over 27 acres at the Villages at Cabrillo. He has a long history of working with the underserved community. His aunt owned a preschool for 40 years in the Central Area, and he has talked about how his mother moved him to North Long Beach to get away from escalating gang violence when he was young.
He holds a degree in architecture, and has served on the City’s GRIP (Gang Reduction Intervention and Prevention) Taskforce as chairman, where he implemented a federal grant to help reduce violence citywide.
In working with homeless veterans and their families, and on the heels of the lifted eviction moratorium and unemployment, he is concerned about the local housing impact on kids in the months ahead.
One problem he sees is that many people do not trust the facilities anymore because of the pandemic. There is also an uptick in the state and the city of homelessness.
In light of national instability and the insurrection last week at the U.S. Capitol building, he wonders about another potential problem looming.
It’s no stretch of the imagination to think that bigger issues could come down the pipeline with all of the visceral images of hate dominating the internet and social media.
“With the undertones of racism and social injustice, it’s unfortunate. It might be a bit premature, but who knows what these coming days might have on our nation, and the impact to the next generation?”
Under the state guidelines, classrooms in California can be reopened at the discretion of the individual 1,037 school districts, but reportedly, up to one of three students at some schools in Los Angeles are testing COVID positive.
As of last week, he said there was no confirmation on whether schools would be shut down for the remainder of the school year, but he feels that everyone is hoping for better days in the fall of 2021.
One glimmer of hope is with the recent $99 million for LBUSD that is set to be allotted as part of the $54 billion COVID relief for K-12 schools nationwide, approved by Congress late last month.
But everything hinges on the vaccination process, he said. To his knowledge, tier one is only focused on essential workers dealing with communities that are congregate living, those in long term supportive care, or people in the medical field.
To open the schools, he feels that the vaccine must reach the teachers and the students.
“I don’t know what tier they’re going to be on, but we hope that our teachers that are having hundreds of interactions on a normal basis would be high on the totem pole of getting some form of normalcy,” he said.
He encourages parents to check out the school district’s website, which offers a huge amount of resources for parents and students.
To access information or services, see https://www.lbschools.net/District/coronavirus.cfm
To watch LBUSD board meetings live, see https://www.youtube.com/c/LBUSDLongBeachUnifiedSchoolDistrict