In Partnership with The 74

Emotional board sendoff for Kayser, but not a word for Galatzan

Vanessa Romo | June 23, 2015



Bennett KayserTwo members of the LA Unified school board, losers in last month’s elections, joined their colleagues for the final time today, as Bennett Kayser got a 90-minute heartfelt and emotional sendoff and Tamar Galatzan walked away without so much as a goodbye or thank you from any of the remaining five members, including the out-going president, Richard Vladovic.

Kayser, a one-term from District 5 who lost in his reelection bid last month, was lauded for his unwavering loyalty to labor groups and his role as a constant champion of early and adult education programs. The long parade of speakers — 13 in all — offered praise, hugs, handshakes, a stream of I-love-yous, lots of tears — and a brass school bell as a gift from the district.

Board members Mónica Ratliff and Steve Zimmer wept as they said farewell. Ratliff presented Kayser with a jumbo sized certificate for his service to the district then choked up, saying, “I am so sorry to see you go.”

Zimmer wrapped his arms around Kayser.

“Thank you for being our conscience when we wavered,” Zimmer said, gently rubbing Kayser’s back.  “We’ve been through a hell of a time here. Not one day on the school board has been easy but you served with dignity.”

Others wishing Kayser bon voyage into his post-school board life, included former school board president and California State Assembly member, Jackie Goldberg, and the past and present presidents of UTLA, the teachers union, Warren Fletcher and Alex Caputo-Pearl.

“What you saw was what you got and what he said was what he meant,” Goldberg said, lamenting what she called a loss of an “honest man” on the school board.

Judith Perez, president of the administrators union, AALA, who is retiring at the end of the month, called Kayser a “mensch” and thanked him for being “most responsive to the needs of bargaining units.”

Perez was also the first of many speakers to touch on the nasty campaign tactics employed against Kayser throughout his reelection bid against charter school backed, Ref Rodriguez, who joins Scott Schmerelson as the board’s two newest members when they’re sworn in July 1.

“I received the hideous onslaught of marketing materials that were sent out against you,” she said.

Kayser was accused of being racist against minorities in a flyer paid for by the political arm of the California Charter Schools Association.

At the request of Caputo-Pearl, the current UTLA president, all of the teachers in the audience rose to thank Kayser.

“Bennet Kayser, UTLA loves you!” he exclaimed.

The man himself also had a turn on the floor, listing the achievements he is “most proud of” during his four year stint. Among them: adding Ethnic Studies to the high school curriculum, the return of board member lead committees, hiring classified teachers to teach health classes, saving early childhood and adult education programs, and the continuation of two outdoor field trip programs.

Before returning to his seat, Kayser got a standing ovation.

By contrast, Galatzan, who completed eight years on the board, left the meeting just before its adjournment without any member acknowledging that she was even there.

She was conspicuously absent from the horseshoe for the entirety of the Kayser pageantry and sat through the remaining hours of the meeting unaccustomedly quiet. She had declined any public sendoff, according to her office, and was gone by the time Vladovic gave Kayser the honor of calling the meeting to an end,

Read Next