Oakland school board member Nick Resnick with his sons Jude (left) and Dylan. (Photo/Courtesy Resnick for Oakland School Board)
Oakland school board member Nick Resnick with his sons Jude (left) and Dylan. (Photo/Courtesy Resnick for Oakland School Board)

This Oakland Jewish dad is the first transgender person to serve on a California school board

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A local Jewish dad has become the first transgender person to be elected to a school board in California.

Nick Resnick, 37, of Oakland won his race to represent District 4 on the Oakland Unified School District Board of Education last month by almost 2,000 votes, beating out two other candidates in a contentious race. Resnick will succeed Gary Yee, outgoing board president, who this summer announced he was leaving the board after 14 years, including a stint as superintendent.

“I feel really glad to have won,” Resnick told J. “I think our constituents are really torn on some perspectives across our city. I look forward to trying to get all the information I can, to bring to people so they can be informed.”

When he takes his position in January, Resnick will become the first out LGBTQ person to serve on the Oakland school board, according to Albert Fujii of the Victory Institute. The institute maintains a network of openly LGBTQ elected officials at every level of government.

Resnick is also only the second trans person to hold elected office in California. Adam Spickler of Santa Cruz was the first, elected to the Cabrillo College Governing Board in 2018, where he ran unopposed. Spickler was re-elected with more than 80% of the vote this November.

As a board member, Resnick hopes to close the gap in educational quality across Oakland schools. A student’s ability to read by the end of elementary school is a predictor of future success, he said; currently only about 20% of Oakland students reach that marker by the end of third grade, he added.

“We haven’t found a way to equitably educate our students across the district,” Resnick said. “I’d like to really bring a crystal-clear focus back to student success, both academics and mental health, and make sure that all of the policy and budgetary decisions we make are connected to improvements in student outcomes.”

He understands the broader landscape of the challenges and compromises we make in public education to have a school system that meets the needs of everyone.

On the topic of school closures, which has consumed Oakland politics for the past year, Resnick said he believes that consolidating resources and funds into fewer schools could improve student support and education. OUSD has already closed two schools and plans to close five more by the end of the 2023-2024 school year, angering parents. As previous closures have come on short notice, Resnick wants to give families a longer timeline before their local schools are shut down.

Resnick’s bid for the board was endorsed by Yee, who said he supported Resnick because he is a former educator and an active parent in District 4, which covers much of the Oakland Hills.

“He’s really committed to the public good,” Yee said. “He understands the broader landscape of the challenges and compromises we make in public education to have a school system that meets the needs of everyone.”

Resnick’s teaching career began when he was a student athlete at the University of Maryland. He was part of a program that took students into D.C. schools to help children struggling with reading.

“It was just incredibly eye-opening that from neighborhood to neighborhood … the discrepancy in the resources for kids, the types of books they had, the type of playgrounds, what their classrooms and buildings looked like,” Resnick said.

After moving to Oakland in 2008, he spent five years teaching math in Oakland’s public schools before transitioning to work in education nonprofits. During his time as an educator, he taught at Community Day School, a program for students expelled from other OUSD schools; it was shuttered as part of the district’s school closures this summer.

Resnick now serves as the CEO of Inquiry by Design, an S.F.-based educational nonprofit focused on student literacy. He lives in the Oakland Hills with his wife and two children.

Both Yee and Resnick noted how Resnick’s identity as Jewish and trans puts him in a unique position as a member of the school board. Resnick and his family do not attend synagogue but celebrate the holidays at home, and Resnick said he often talks to his children about their Jewish heritage.

He added that he hopes he can be a voice for LGBTQ students and an example of what is possible for them. He also hopes to use his station to support students from other marginalized groups, he said.

“I do think those pieces of my identity and experiences do help me be a strong ally for all identities that have been systematically oppressed over time,” Resnick said.

Lillian Ilsley-Greene
Lillian Ilsley-Greene

Lillian Ilsley-Greene was a staff writer at J. from 2022-2023.