Allison Holdorff Polhill is a public school governing board leader, an educator and a parent. She is also a lawyer, a graduate of UCLA and Loyola Law School, and a former National Debate Champion. She is proudly the product of a Southern California public education.
As an educator, Allison has taught Debate and Speech as well as Ethics and Human Communication at the high school and college levels. As a lawyer, Allison successfully represented three Native American tribes, preventing the nuclear industry from dumping radioactive waste on their sacred grounds.
Allison has spent 18 years work in in the governance of public schools, first at Palisades Elementary, then at Paul Revere Middle School, and for the last six years as a member of the Board of Trustees for Palisades Charter High School. PCHS is one of the largest schools in Los Angeles with 3,000 students from 100 zip codes representing the culturally rich and diverse demographics of our city (34% free and reduced lunch, 24% Latino and 14% African-American). While on the board at PCHS, Allison worked to create a balanced budget of approximately $30 million each year. One of her last actions on the board was to approve a new agreement with the UTLA bargaining unit. This progressive agreement is an example of what can happen when teachers, bargaining units, administrators, and boards look at the entire budget and determine what is best for students. With Allison’s legal and governance background, she consistently led and allocated resources based on students’ needs first.
There were two drivers that encouraged Allison’s engagement in public education. “The first was Mr. Roper,” she says. “Mr. Roper recruited me to be on the debate team. He had a profound impact on my life. After graduating high school, I honestly believed that anything was possible. I went to UCLA and became a National Champion Debater. Every student deserves a Mr. Roper!”
Becoming a parent was the second impetus. “I quickly realized that high quality schools require effort on the part of their communities. So I jumped right in, volunteering in classrooms, teaching debate, re-writing charters, fundraising and, of course, serving as an elected school board member.” Allison has been a Chair of various booster organizations, a sports team parent, an auction fundraising chair, a teacher appreciation event coordinator. She most recently co-founded the PCHS debate team, where she continues to serve as coach.
Allison comes from a family of educators. Two of her sisters are elementary school teachers, her mother is a retired college counselor and her stepmother, a retired high school teacher.
Her three kids, all LAUSD graduates, are now 18, 20 and 22. Her eldest is a musician pursuing a career as a recording engineer. Her daughter, studying environmental science at UC Irvine, is currently in Indonesia with a shark conservation project. Her youngest is pursuing a degree in Photography. Allison says, “Happily, they’re home often. What with the campaign and their friends dropping by, it’s a lot like Grand Central around here lately. It’s nice.”
When the traffic dies down she shares the house with her husband, Lucius, and their three dogs. Lucius is supportive of Allison’s candidacy. Bjourn, Felix, and Courage, on the other hand, seem rather confused by all the hubbub. “I don’t think they’re entirely happy, truth be told,” says Allison. “At this point, we’re not sure how they’re going to vote.”