LA County Fed endorses all incumbents for LAUSD board

afl-cio-logo LAUSD* UPDATED

If endorsements mean anything, the incumbents running to hold their LA Unified board seats have gotten a boost from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, the umbrella organization for more than 300 locals, representing about 600,000 workers.

The group is supporting George McKenna in District 1, Tamar Galatzan in 3, Bennett Kayser in 5 and Board President Richard Vladovic in 7. All but McKenna’s race are contested.

The incumbents “have the experience we need to tackle the issues facing our schools today. Our support means they’ll have the backing of working families,” Rusty Hicks, the union’s Executive Secretary-Treasurer, said in a statement to LA School Report.

While it’s never man-bites-dog news when an incumbent gets the endorsement, the selections would appear to be something of a surprise in the case of Galatzan, who is not so cozy with the teachers union, UTLA, as some of her colleagues.

But, au contraire: As SEIU Local 99, the service workers union, said last month when endorsing the same incumbents: Galatzan “has demonstrated a commitment to the children, families and workers of LAUSD, as demonstrated by her support for Breakfast in the Classroom, the LCFF Equity Index and the adoption of the historic $15 minimum wage for LAUSD employees”

As for UTLA, its political action committee has endorsed only Kayser and, in a symbolic gesture, McKenna, said the committee chairman, Marco Flores. The committee is meeting on Feb. for for a final opportunity to make any other recommendations from the committee.

A full union endorsement is determined by a vote of the House of Representatives on committee recommendations. 

* Add’s UTLA political action committee recommendations.

LAUSD board election ‘debate’ becomes Ref Rodriguez show

Ref Rodriguez @mandelljasonIt was supposed to be the first debate of the LA Unified school board races, but it wasn’t: Only one candidate showed up.

With board member Bennett Kayser and challenger Andrew Thomas pulling out, the floor for the District 5 forum belonged to candidate Ref Rodriguez, who had all the time he liked last night to make his case to a packed room at the Goodwill Community Enrichment Center in northeast LA.

The lack of a debate didn’t keep people away as about 200 reportedly showed up to hear Rodriguez.

The forum was the first in a series of campaign events sponsored by the United Way–Los Angeles. After committing to the debate, Kayser announced earlier this week that “scheduling conflicts” would prevent him from participating in it and in a second United Way event, Feb. 10 at the Oldtimers Foundation Family Center in Huntington Park. In response, Thomas also cancelled, saying he would not appear at any forum that did not include all three candidates.

Elmer Roldan, an organizer of the forum, told LA School Report, “The event really went well considering all the improvisation. We had a packed house with 200 residents in attendance.”

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2 LAUSD roles now 1, UTLA president takes case to talk radio

school report buzz

The Associated Administrators of Los Angeles and LA Unified reached an agreement last week to consolidate two positions into one. The role of “assistant principal” and “instructional specialist” as of July 1 will be merged into the role of “assistant principal elementary” or “assistant principal secondary.”

The change was explained by AALA in its weekly newsletter: “APs and ISs have similar duties and responsibilities at school sites and often are used interchangeably. However, APs earn seniority while instructional specialists are temporary advisers and do not earn seniority. ISs may be released from their positions at any time with no recourse. Some superintendents have encouraged principals to use the budget process to replace APs with ISs which has destabilized schools, caused job insecurity and decreased the number of APs throughout the District. Consolidation will afford greater protections to all while stabilizing school staffs.”

Caputo-Pearl on KABC 790

Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of the LA Unified teachers union, UTLA, appeared yesterday morning on the KABC 790 radio show McIntire In the Morning to give his response to a sharp letter from LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines that criticized the union’s contract demands as unreasonable and a path to severe layoffs in the district.

There weren’t any huge surprises in Caputo-Pearl’s comments, but his appearance on the show along with the Cortines letter certainly illustrates how both sides are ramping up their PR campaigns as contract negotiations appear to be stalling.

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Morning Read: Under-vaccinated kids not tracked by LAUSD

Schools don’t track whether under-vaccinated kids get all of their shots
In some L.A. Unified schools, 60, 70, and even 80 percent of incoming kindergartners were enrolled conditionally in the 2013-14 school year. KPCC

Teachers ask high court to hear union dues case
Attorneys for teachers who are challenging the right of the California Teachers Association to force them to pay union dues petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to hear their case this year. Ed Source

2nd teen arrested in stabbing death of 14-year-old at East L.A. middle school
A second teenager has been taken into custody in the fatal stabbing of a 14-year-old boy at a middle school in East Los Angeles, authorities said Wednesday. KTLA

Poll shows residents split on whether to extend tax increases
Californians are evenly divided on whether the state should extend the temporary tax increases approved by voters under Proposition 30. Ed Source

Most major California school districts pledge to reduce suspensions
Among the state’s 50 largest school districts, a study found that 92% had set goals to decrease suspensions. Los Angeles Times

Survey shows Title IX compliance still needs work
Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational agencies that receive federal funding. SI&A Cabinet Report

Alliance charters names Katzir to become new chief executive

Dan Katzir

Dan Katzir

Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, a charter group in LA Unified, said today Dan Katzir will join the organization in March as CEO and President.

He replaces Alliance’s founding CEO, Judy Burton, a former LA Unified associate superintendent of innovation and instruction, who returned to the district last month to serve as chair of what is now known as the Instructional Technology Initiative, nee the Common Core Technology Project.

“We are thrilled to have Dan Katzir join Alliance’s leadership team,”  Tony Ressler, co-chair of the Alliance board, said in a news release. “He brings a wealth of experience and strategic vision to the position, and he shares the board’s long-standing commitment to improving public education, especially for low-income and minority students.”

Katzir most recently served as strategic advisor to school districts, charter management organizations and various state departments of education. Prior to that, he was the founding Managing Director for the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

“I am excited and eager to join Alliance College-Ready Public Schools,” Katzir said in the release. “I’m honored to follow in the footsteps of Judy Burton, a true educational icon. I intend to build on the Alliance’s first decade of incredible results to reach even greater levels of impact for students in Los Angeles in the coming years.”

Since its founding in 2004, Alliance has grown to serve more than 11,000 students across 26 high schools and middle schools, making it the largest public school charter network in Los Angeles.

Second candidate follows Kayser out of forum for LAUSD board seat

Andrew Thomas

Andrew Thomas

Hours after criticizing LA Unified School Board Member Bennett Kayser for dropping out of today’s District 5 campaign forum, one of his challengers, Andrew Thomas, announced that he, too, is pulling out. That leaves the stage to the only other candidate in the race, Ref Rodriguez, who is promising to attend.

The forum is the first in a series of campaign events sponsored by the United Way–Los Angeles and was scheduled to include all three candidates in the race. But Kayser said yesterday “scheduling conflicts” would preclude him from appearing tonight’s and in a second United Way event, Feb. 10 at the Oldtimers Foundation Family Center in Huntington Park.

Apparently, Thomas was so disappointed to learn of Kayser’s cancellation 24 hours before the scheduled event that it drove him to withdraw eight hours and 18 minutes before showtime. He called the late notice “unavoidable.”

“The primary issue in the District 5 Board of Education election is whether Mr. Kayser has effectively represented the students, families, teachers and schools in the district,” Thomas wrote In an email to Elmer Roldan, an organizer behind the community forum. “Since it is impossible to debate the quality of Mr. Kayser’s representation without his presence, we will not participate in any forum that does not include all three candidates.”

Roldan appealed to Thomas to reconsider. That is not happening.

“It’s just unacceptable,” Roldan told LA School Report. “Thomas could have used this forum to show why he believes Kayser is not a good candidate while proving to the community he’s the best person to lead the district.”

The event, much like Celine Dion’s heart, will go on. About 200 local residents have committed to attending.

Rodriguez will have the audience to himself.

“It’s disappointing that the public won’t be able to hear from my opponents but I’ll be there to talk with the community and outline my plan to transform our school system,” he told LA School Report.

The forum of one starts at 6 pm at the Goodwill Community Enrichment Center in Northeast LA.

UTLA helping raise money for family of boy killed at middle school

Steven Cruz

Steven Cruz

UTLA, the teachers union, is helping raise money for the family of a 14-year-old boy who was killed outside Griffith Middle School in east LA last week. The family is seeking donations to help pay for his funeral expenses and remains short of the $15,000 needed as of today.

Steven Cruz, a student at nearby Garfield High School, was on Griffith school grounds meeting a friend after school when he was attacked by another student and stabbed, according to media reports.

The attack occurred around 3:10 p.m. Friday and Cruz was rushed to a hospital and pronounced dead at 3:48 p.m., the Los Angeles Times reported. A suspect, who turned out to be a 13-year-old boy, was arrested the next day and charged yesterday with murder. His name has not been released because he is a juvenile.

The suspect is a possible gang member, but friends of Cruz said he had no gang ties and police have yet to release what the motive for the attack may have been, according to ABC7. Before the stabbing the suspect reportedly asked Cruz where he was from, which is a common tactic used by LA-area gang members to determine someone’s gang affiliation or to claim certain turf as their own.

UTLA has posted a link on its website and Facebook page to help raise awareness for the fundraising campaign, with a note reading: “Our thoughts and prayers go to the Cruz family after this unthinkable tragedy that occurred at Griffith MS on Friday, Jan. 23, 2015.”

The GoFundMe campaign for Cruz includes a message from his family that says the teen was “in the wrong place, at the wrong time.” It also reads, “He pursued everything with enthusiasm and that’s what is so memorable of him. His enthusiasm, his energy, and his laugh would always make your day. If you were having a bad day, he was able to make you laugh.”

Morning Read: Why did Kayser cancel 2 candidate debates?


Why did LAUSD board member Bennett Kayser pull out of two debates?
The affable, soft-spoken Kayser is the number one ally of the teacher’s union, UTLA, and was the number one critic of Superintendent Deasy. LA Weekly

Rural communities struggle to provide after-school programs
School officials in rural districts say there is a shortage of programs in their communities. Ed Source

Sis boom ‘rah': Law would label cheering as school sport
State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez thinks it’s time cheerleaders get the same respect and support as other high school athletes. SI&A Cabinet Report

Study finds pro-charter school arguments are more convincing
Groups against the expansion of charter schools may need to find new talking points. Huffington Post

Harvard buys up water rights in drought-hit CA wine country
Harvard University has quietly become one of the biggest grape growers in California’s drought-stricken Paso Robles wine region. Reuters

Few endorsements? Little money? No problem, says Lydia Gutierrez

Former candidate last June for California Superintendent of Instruction

Lydia Gutierrez

This is the next in a series of profiles on candidates running in the March 3 primary for the LA Unified school board. Today’s focus is Lydia Gutierrez, a candidate for the District 7 seat. 

Although she has no major endorsements and little campaign money, Lydia Gutierrez is expecting to make a big splash in LA Unified’s District 7 school board race as she looks to unseat sitting board President Richard Vladovic.

Could it work, when voters cast ballots on March 3? One need not look any further than her 2014 campaign for state superintendent of public instruction for proof.

Despite going up against two candidates with millions of funds in their coffers, Gutierrez received close to 1 million votes and 24.5 percent of the total, finishing a close third behind Marshall Tuck (28.9 percent) and the incumbent, Tom Torlakson (46.5). Torlakson eventually beat Tuck in a runoff.

“I think I did pretty well for having spent $30,000 dollars, and my opponents spent $10 million,” Gutierrez said. “I really had an excellent platform, having experience in business and education and knowing the changes that we’ve gone through for many years.”

Gutierrez, a Republican, has been a teacher with the Long Beach Unified School District for decades and also spent six and a half years working in the aerospace industry. She credits a big part of her success in the state superintendent’s race to her opposition to the new Common Core State Standards initiative, which Tuck and Torlakson supported. She plans to contintue to advocate for doing away with Common Core, should she win a seat on the LAUSD board.

“I have a saying: Common Core is a theory licensed as a product, marketed as a standard,” Gutierrez said. “It’s a theory that has never been tested. Nowhere can anyone prove any documentation. They have not tested it. That’s why it’s called a theory.”

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Kayser cancels participation in two District 5 candidate debates


LAUSD school board member Bennett Kayser

The debating season kicks off tomorrow night with the first of several scheduled candidate forums for those running in the three contested LA United board districts.

But it’s starting with a buzzkill.

After committing to appear, board member Bennett Kayser has withdrawn from the first of the District 5 debates, scheduled at the Goodwill Community Enrichment Center in northeast LA. His campaign told organizers that a “scheduling conflict” would preclude him from appearing in that debate and another, on Feb. 10 at the Oldtimers Foundation Family Center in Huntington Park.

Both events are sponsored by United Way-LA, which is also staging forums for candidates in the District 3 and District 7 races.

“We believe the constituents in District 5 deserve to hear from all candidates,” Elmer Roldan, a United Way official, told LA School Report. “These forums are designed to give all candidates the opportunity to answer questions from the community and to demonstrate they’re the better candidate running. He and his campaign have a responsibility to prove to communities that he can lead this district.”

Roldan confirmed that Kayser’s two challengers — Ref Rodriguez and Andrew Thomas —  would still appear in the two United Way debates, and so would all six contenders in the District 3 event and all three in a District 7 event. Tamar Galatzan is running for reelection in 3 and board President Richard Vladovic is defending his seat in 7.

Sarah Bradshaw, Kayser’s chief of staff, confirmed that Kayser intends to participate in three other debates for the District 5 candidates, all of them in February.



Report: California earns ‘C’ grade in teacher pension plan health

CalSTRSA new report gives California a “C” grade in the overall health of the state’s teacher pension plan, coming in just slightly ahead of the C- average nationwide.

The report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), which has been tracking the health of teacher pension plans in each state and the District of Columbia since 2008, also offers possible solutions to the growing problem of debt associated with teacher pensions — a load estimated by NCTQ to have climbed more than $100 billion in two years.

The analysis comes as the state and LA Unified are seeing a rise in fees associated with the teachers retirement pension system known as CalSTRS, which has been estimated will cost the district an extra $1.1 billion from 2014-2021.

The report primarily graded states on the extent to which their plans are portable, flexible and fair. One huge problem it pointed out is the lack of susatianabilty with many plans, as in 2014 the accrued teacher pension debt in the United States was $499 billion. Only nine plans in the nation were at least 90 percent funded. California, with over $73 billion of debt, ranked about in the middle with debt.

The report stated, “Looking through another lens, consider teacher pension debt spread out across the K-12 student population. Each American student’s share of the teacher pension deficit is more than $10,000 and growing.”

Alaska earned the only A score, South Dakota earned the only B+, seven states earned a B- and four earned a C+. Twenty-two states earned scores in the D range and one state, Mississippi, earned an F.

Click here to read the full report.


Morning Read: State prepares for rise in new teacher jobs

California officials preparing for rise in new teacher jobs
With the economy now improving, school districts have ramped up hiring and California is poised for a turnabout in teacher credentialing. KPCC

Schools encouraging parents to immunize students
The largest outbreak of measles in California in years is prompting school officials to redouble their efforts to convince parents to vaccinate their children. Ed Source

Bill would return induction costs to districts
School districts would be required to cover the costs of a key training program for new teachers under legislation expected to be considered this month. SI&A Cabinet Report

Classical schools put Plato over iPad
The institutions are designed to reflect the scholarship from the past three millennia of Western civilization, rather than the latest classroom trends. CNN

An international look at the single-parent family
Recent studies have documented a sizable achievement gap between children who live with a single parent and their peers growing up with two parents. Education Next

LAUSD delays delivery (again) of more than 19,000 laptops

Google ChromebookLA Unified has hit yet another snag in its attempt to get laptops into the hands of students as part of the district’s beleaguered computers-for-all plan.

More than 19,000 laptops —  part of the newly renamed Instructional Technology Initiative Phase 1L pilot — were scheduled to be delivered to 21 participating high schools by September. But Superintendent Ramon Cortines today explained that due to a “delay in the contracting process, our technical teams got a late start in developing the systems and infrastructure needed to support an effort of this magnitude.”

The new timeline calls for the start of c vfdelivery of Chromebooks during the second week of February while the Window 8.1 laptops will go out starting Feb 19.

Before the devices can be distributed the district is having them audited for security purposes.

“In order to ensure that devices are safe to be taken home by students, as many schools in the pilot have chosen the district is completing a security audit by Feb 13,” Cortines wrote to teachers and principals.

An outside firm is conducting the audits, Shannon Haber, a spokeswoman for the district told LA School Report.

The inclusion of laptops for older students was an effort spearheaded by board member Monica Ratliff, chair of what was once known as the Common Core Technology Project Committee, to diversify the one-to-one program, which initially only considered supplying iPads.

Cortines breaks silence on teacher talks, lashes out at union

Ramon Cortines union* UPDATED

LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines today for the first time publicly inserted himself into the district’s contract negotiations with the teachers union, calling its latest demands “entirely unrealistic” and asserting that they raise “serious ethical and equity issues” for the district.

Pointing out that all the district’s other unions have agreed to new contracts within the current economic landscape, he chided UTLA for its bargaining stance over 16 negotiating sessions, saying, “It is regrettable that the current UTLA leadership has gone in an entirely different direction.”

Alex Caputo-Pearl, the UTLA president, told LA School Report that he found Cortines’s two-page letter to “Employees and Labor Partners” “unfortunate” and “unacceptable” at a time he and other UTLA officials have been meeting with Cortines and district officials apart from the negotiations in a “problem-solving mode.”

“Unfortunately, the Superintendent is using scare tactics in response to our efforts to organize in our ‘school blitz’ campaign,” Caputo-Pearl said, adding that Cortines’s message comes as the state is putting more money into public K-through-12 education and the district is still finding money for huge legal settlements and the continuing array of technology problems.

“To say he can’t do this,” Caputo-Pearl said of meeting union demands, “is just unacceptable.”

Until now, Cortines had kept himself out of the spotlight except to encourage more dialogue between the two sides. But in his letter, he did not mince words, calling on UTLA leaders to “re-examine and reconsider their present demands and their single-minded pursuit and organization of a disruptive strike against our students and the community to achieve those demands.”

The strident tone of the message suggests that Cortines had a wider audience in mind.

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For Badger, the campaign to win an LAUSD board seat is personal

Elizabeth Badger

Elizabeth Badger

This is the next in a series of profiles on candidates running in the March 3 primary for the LA Unified school board. Today’s focus is Elizabeth Badger, a candidate for the District 3 seat.


For Elizabeth Badger the race for LA Unified’s School Board District 3 seat is personal.

“I’m angry and fed up and I want to do something about it,” she told LA School Report, explaining what pushed her into the crowded race to represent most of the San Fernando Valley.

Badger’s two youngest children — a son in 8th grade and a daughter in 5th — were both diagnosed with autism and ADHD, and they require special education. But getting them the right classes with the right kind of support was a Sisyphean process, she says.

It began with her oldest. “I wanted to keep my son in a traditional public school so I had to learn the system completely on my own to advocate for him because he was being treated so badly where he was,” she said. After years of struggle, he’s now “blossomed” with a 3.75 grade point average that delights Badger to no end.

But it was a long slog, and it wasn’t cheap, she said. She ended up suing the district twice.

“I just don’t think parents should have to fight that hard,” she said.

Badger is now taking the fight into District 3, the most widely-contested of the four seats with elections this year. Tamar Galatzan is the incumbent, and Badger is one of five challengers.

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Summits planned to help schools make smart technology choices


 Via The Hechinger Report | By Nichole Dobo

As more schools move to incorporate technology into classrooms, local leaders often face tough questions about how to make it effective.

Over the next six months, national experts will hop-scotch to a dozen cities to collaborate with school leaders in workshops on those questions. If all goes as planned, the superintendents who attend will walk away with solid technology plans that fit their communities’ needs.

“What we are trying to do is help those districts who are really on the leading edge,” said Richard Culatta, director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.

These workshops are the next step in a national effort to encourage more schools to infuse technology into the classroom. This initiative, Future Ready Schools, is organized through a partnership between the U.S. Department of Education and the Alliance for Excellent Education, Washington, D.C., policy and advocacy organization.

To read the full story here.

Analysis: New contract for LA teachers seems a long way off

UTLA rally at James Monroe High School Nov. 20, 2014

UTLA rally at James Monroe High School Nov. 20, 2014

How long have they been at it now, four, five six months?

Whatever it is, negotiators for LA Unified and the teachers union, UTLA, appear as close to agreement on a new labor contract as they were when bargaining began.

Maybe they are inching forward on some issues. But the fact remains, teachers are still without a pay raise, as they have been since World War II, it seems, and the pace of talks gives no indication a deal is within reach.

And that makes perfect sense.

Even with one of the union’s prime objectives completed —  the departure of former Superintendent John Deasy — an agreement seems well off in the distance, and here are three reasons why:

First, the union might find a better deal on the other side of this year’s school board elections, in which four members are running to hold their seats — George McKenna, Tamar Galatzan, Bennett Kayser and President Richard Vladovic.

The current board leans pro-UTLA on many issues, with two strong union supporters in Kayser and Monica Ratliff and three members whose votes are less predictable but generally teacher friendly in Vladovic, Steve Zimmer and McKenna.

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Morning Read: LAUSD could lose $100 million due to attendance

LAUSD attendance drop could mean loss of $100 million
For every 3 percent drop in average daily attendance, the district can expect to lose roughly $100 million in state funding. Los Angeles Daily News

Soaring tax collections could trigger budget caps in 2015-16
Higher-than-expected state revenues could in 2015-16 trigger a series of new legal benchmarks that would restrict the size of budget reserves districts could maintain. SI&A Cabinet Report

Measles outbreak: Santa Monica High coach diagnosed with disease
Santa Monica High School students and parents were alerted Friday night that a freshman baseball coach had been diagnosed with measles. Los Angeles Times

Parents try their hand at Common Core math
Common Core supporters say that getting buy-in from parents is essential if the standards are going to have the impact they were intended to have. Ed Source

Debunking one myth about U.S. teachers
It has long been known that the academic abilities of new teachers declined from the 1960s through the 1990s. The Hechinger Report

Vigil honors 14-year-old killed outside middle school
Mourners held a somber vigil for a 14-year-old boy a day after he was killed outside an East Los Angeles middle school Friday. NBC Los Angeles

District: So far, so good with students taking iPads home

ipadsA $1.3 billion project fraught with controversy and a long list of disappointing results produced its first positive news in some time yesterday, as LA Unified reported a high level of success and satisfaction at a handful of schools where students were allowed to take home their district-issued iPads and other digital tablets.

Members of the district’s Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee watched a video that featured students and staff at Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences in Granada Hills, one of three schools allowing tablets to go home, gushing about how their educational experience had improved.

“The minute that you let students take the iPad home, all of the sudden more work gets turned in,” Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences teacher Judith Quinones said in the video.

Students in the video told stories of coordinating their homework better, hauling fewer books around and communicating easier with their teachers when outside of class. Teachers spoke of increased engagement with students and a higher level of homework assignments being completed.

The video was part of a report on the results of the phase 1 rollout of the take-home project that was presented to the committee by Gerardo Loera, executive director of Curriculum, Instruction & School Support at LA Unified. (See the video embedded below.)

The video was purely anecdotal, and the district has yet to produce hard data or reports on whether using the devices at home is increasing student achievement. But it did provide evidence of positive results.

“The full instructional value of these devices, in particular at the secondary level, can only be fully realized when they go home,” Loera said.

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McKenna asking his supporters to help retire campaign debt


George McKenna (center), at a campaign event flanked by Bernard Parks and Jan Perry

More than 17,000 District 1 voters put George McKenna on the LA Unified school board last year. Now he needs each of them to send him $2.06.

While candidates for this year’s school board elections are busy raising money, McKenna, is looking for help in paying off nearly $35,000 in campaign debts from last year.

In an email to supporters today, he wrote, “It is no secret that I was outspent by nearly 3 to 1. It took a tremendous effort to get the word out about my candidacy and motivate supporters to vote for me. Now I need your help again to get the word out about my campaign debt and motivate supporters to help me retire the debt.”

Indeed, McKenna collected nearly $348,000 in campaign contributions last year but he spent roughly $382,000 over the course of the race putting him about $34,000 in the red, which he needs to pay off soon.

“I must raise $25,000 by February 15, and another $10,000 by February 28, and I need your help,” he says in the email blast.

The city’s primary campaign debt reduction deadline is March 3.

At least the pressure is off this year. In an election to retain his seat, he’s running unopposed.