Analysis: Aquino’s Resignation Turns a Spotlight onto Deasy

Superintendent Deasy

Superintendent Deasy

Jaime Aquino‘s surprise announcement Friday that he’ll resign from Superintendent John Deasy‘s staff at the end of the year has sent shockwaves throughout LA Unified. Tomorrow, the district school board will take up the matter in closed session.

It’s unclear what they’ll discus – but his impending departure has exposed the district and its fractured board to a number of sudden and burning questions, not least of which may be:

Is Deasy Next?

On election night in March, just as it was becoming clear that Steve Zimmer was going to hold off a tough challenge by Kate Anderson, I got an email from a semi-prominent school reformer, offering three bold pronoucements: there would be a new board president (there is), there would be a new makeup of the board (there is) and Deasy would be on his way out. My correspondent told me: “Enough board interference makes his job really unfun and he leaves for greener pastures.”

They were unusual predictions, coming as they did months before Monica Ratliff pulled off a shock upset against Antonio Sanchez. Deasy’s staff is certainly frustrated by the new makeup of the board, as evidenced by Aquino’s departure. When asked last Friday if he was thinking about resigning, Deasy declined to comment – an ominous response coming from the man who told LAUSD administrators little more than a month ago, “I and this administration are not going anywhere.”

And that’s just the first question awaiting resolution:

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Campaign 2013: Turnout Tells a Tale in District 6

ShorterD6MapThere’s a great interactive map on KPCC’s website showing citywide voter turnout for every single precinct.

Meant to shine a light on the Mayor’s race, the map is also pretty useful in trying to figure out what happened in the District 6 School Board race.

In essence, the map seems to indicate that precinct-level turnout may have played a larger role than previously understood.

We walked precincts with Antonio Sanchez on the Saturday before the election, starting in the City of San Fernando (where there was no Mayor’s race, and therefore had roughly 4 percent turnout), but later crossed over to the City of Los Angeles. About 15 percent of voters in that precinct cast ballots (not including outstanding ballots yet to be counted).

Monica Ratliff went walking in the Sunland-Tujunga area, close to where she lives. Voter turnout in that precinct was 28 percent. Voters in the area have a long history of being politically engaged — at least compared to the rest of the city.

“We’re very politically active,” said Mark Seigel, President of the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council. “We have many people that come out for issues for our community.”

The discrepancy in voter turnout was born out of a confluence of events including a Mayor’s race that did not include a candidate that excited the Latino base like outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as well as overall low turnout rates that seemed to have affected Latino voters more than it effected white voters.

Although the majority of District 6 voters are Latino, they generally vote in smaller numbers than white voters. In 2009, Nury Martinez defeated her opponent, Louis Pugliese by just 500 or so votes.

Previous posts: Cheers — and ConfusionHow Ratliff Won (& Reformers Lost)Ratliff Scores School Board Upset

Campaign 2013: Cheers — and Confusion

At about noon on Wednesday, District 6 School Board candidate Antonio Sanchez conceded the race to his opponent, Monica Ratliff, and wished her good luck  — an hour or two after the Coalition for School Reform had already done so.

“From what I’ve seen, from the reports, I believe Monica’s the winner,” he told LA School Report. “I wish Monica and everybody on the School Board success.”

In a written statement, the teachers union congratulated Ratliff on her victory: “We are overjoyed that a working classroom teacher will be on the School Board.  Ms. Ratliff has seen firsthand the kind of harm that is done when a District is mismanaged.”

UTLA also trumpeted its support for its endorsed Mayoral candidate, Eric Garcetti, who handily defeated Wendy Greuel to become the next Mayor of Los Angeles.

Since LA School Report wrote about the campaign aftermath yesterday morning (see: How Ratliff Won & Reformers Lost), reactions and post-election analysis have continued to pour in, including exultation from Ratliff supporters and head-scratching from Sanchez allies.

Thus far, at least, there’s no real consensus about why Sanchez lost or — just as interesting — exactly how Ratliff won. But there are lots of theories.

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Campaign 2013: How Ratliff Won (& Reformers Lost)*

The results are (mostly) in, and the LAUSD School Board District 6 election looks like the shock result of the evening, with Monica Ratliff having apparently defeated Antonio Sanchez, 52 percent to 48 percent — a complete reversal from the primary results in which Sanchez bested Ratliff by 10 points.

Sanchez has now conceded the race.* Ratliff couldn’t be reached for comment. The Daily News’ Barbara Jones reported earlier this morning that Ratliff was at San Pedro Elementary teaching, as she has been throughout the campaign.

Turnout in the race was roughly 16 percent, although according to the City Clerk, there are still more than 82,000 votes left to be counted citywide. It is unknown how many of those uncounted ballots are from District 6.

Observers, to say the least, are shocked. Recriminations within the so-called “school reform” community have already begun, with one pro-reform insider calling the result “an utter disaster.”

The small clique of UTLA activists that helped Ratliff win, on the other hand, are ecstatic.

“Am I surprised? Yes,” said Brent Smiley, vice chair for UTLA’s political action committee. “I’m truly floored. I think, ultimately, [voters] saw [Sanchez] as a politician. And they viewed [Ratliff] as what she was – a classroom teacher.”

Those involved in the race are crediting Ratliff’s poise as a candidate, her ballot designation as a classroom teacher, and a small but devoted group of volunteers; they blame Sanchez’s loss on his lack of familiarity with education issues, the ineffectiveness of the campaigns on his behalf, and low voter turnout.

At least one observer credited UTLA’s endorsement of both Ratliff and Sanchez, which conventional wisdom credited as a major advantage for Sanchez, as having had the completely unintended effect of protecting Ratliff.

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Before They Were School Board Candidates

School Board candidates Antonio Sanchez (left) and Monica Ratliff (right)

If you haven’t already read Hillel Aron’s profiles of the District 6 candidates Monica Ratliff and Antonio Sanchez on the campaign trail this past weekend, be sure and do so here and here.

Did you know, however, that one of the two candidates was in a 2012 Nazi revenge film (straight to DVD) and the other was an antiwar protester whose image was featured by the LA Times?

Click below for the images and some of the details.

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Election Day: Voter Turnout Will Determine Outcome

In today’s School Board District 6 election, Antonio Sanchez remains the strong favorite over his opponent, Monica Ratliff, thanks in part to the overwhelming advantage in campaign contributions to both Sanchez’s campaign and two independent campaigns on his behalf.

Sanchez’s Latino surname and fluency in Spanish is also a built-in advantage (though Ratliff’s mother is from Mexico).

“You’re looking at a very Latino district,” said Mike Shimpock, Sanchez’s campaign consultant. “And this is a district where ethnic identity voting still makes a difference on election day.”

Internal polls are said to show a decisive advantage for Sanchez, but voter turnout could play a huge role.

“If the turnout is above 15 percent, Sanchez wins running away,” said Brent Smiley, a teacher and vice chair of UTLA’s political action committee. “If it’s below 15 percent, then things get interesting.”

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Campaign: Walking San Fernando with Antonio Sanchez

District 6 candidate Antonion Sanchez walking on Saturday.

Antonio Sanchez always introduces himself to voters the same way, telling them within ten seconds that he grew up in Pacoima, went to San Fernando High School, and graduated form Cal State Northridge before going on to UCLA.

And so when he canvases precincts in San Fernando on Saturday, he knows most of the streets. He even knows some of the voters — both from growing up in the area and from working on a number of political campaigns, from as far back as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s election in 2005 and Cindy Montanez’s failed State Senate run in 2006.

Although he’s a first-time candidate, the 31-year-old Sanchez also enjoys a panoply of political connections to labor groups, State legislators and East Valley community groups. As a result, nearly $2 million has been spent on Sanchez’s behalf by outside groups, making him the clear favorite in the race.

Spending a couple of hours this past Saturday walking a precinct with Sanchez and his friend, Pete Brown, it’s clear that the connections are an advantage about which Sanchez is unapologetic — but also something he has to answer for.

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Campaign: Door-to-Door in Sunland with Monica Ratliff

Candidate Ratliff walking in Sunland on Saturday.

Going door-to-door in the Sunland section of the East Valley one evening this past weekend, District 6 School Board candidate Monica Ratliff‘s pitch to voters goes something like this:

“Hi, my name is Monica Ratliff. I’m a teacher, and I’m running for the Board of Education. Do you have any questions or concerns about the school district?”

Most voters are startled by this; it’s unusual for a politician to ask voters for advice three days before the May 21 election.

But then, Ratliff is no politician.

That’s been both a strength and a weakness in the campaign. When speaking, Ratliff comes off as an authentic person with real opinions often based on 12 years of teaching in a classroom.

But her lack of political savvy has also caused her some grief — most notably in her shifting positions on the leadership of LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy.

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Still No School Board Endorsement From Garcetti

At last week’s KCRW debate, host Warren Olney asked the two Mayoral candidates who they’d endorsed in the School Board District 6 runoff taking place on Tuesday.

Wendy Greuel answered without hesitation: Antonio Sanchez.

Eric Garcetti said he had only met with one of the candidates, but was “due to talk to the other one shortly, so stay tuned…”

Nine days later — with only two business days left until the election — Garcetti still has not made an endorsement or met with the other candidate.

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East Valley Power Politics Shaped District 6 Runoff

A diagram of the East Valley clan relationships that shape City Council and LAUSD politics

As you may have read in last week’s LA Weekly about School Board member Nury Martinez’s bid for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council, there are surprisingly few women left on the Council thanks in large part to a rivalry between two male-dominated East San Fernando Valley political clans.

The rivalry between these two Latino clans doesn’t just affect the City Council, however.  It also greatly influenced Tuesday’s District 6 runoff between Antonio Sanchez and Monica Ratliff.

A look at the East Valley political factions may provide some insight about how we ended up with the Sanchez-Ratliff runoff rather than any of the other configurations that initially appeared likely — and why teachers union UTLA refrained from picking a single candidate to support in the District 6 race.  They simply didn’t want to get involved in a turf war between the Padillas and the Alarcons.

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Reform Coalition Focuses Massive War Chest on Mailers

Close-up of Coalition mailer for District 6 candidate Antonio Sanchez

As of May 4, the independent expenditure (IE) committee known as the Coalition for School Reform had a staggering $850,000 left in the bank, according to papers filed with the City Ethics Commission.

That dwarfs the $55,000 left in the coffers of the Antonio Sanchez campaign, whom the Coalition is supporting, as well as the $21,000 held by the Monica Ratliff campaign.

Both are seeking to win the District 6 (East Valley) School Board runoff election that’s being held May 21.

Rather than airing new ads on television or radio, or going for broke with a door-to-door field operation, Coalition spokesman Addisu Demissie said the group would spend heavily on direct mail.

“The good thing about mail is, we can talk to different people in specific ways,” Demissie told LA School Report.  “It’s more efficient that way. You know how expensive TV can be in Los Angeles.”

The Coalition’s recent mailers have all been positive — in contrast to some of the pieces sent out in the primary, some of which were negative.

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Board Candidates Differ on Teacher Retention, School Turnaround

According to a press release distributed by the teacher advocacy group Educators 4 Excellence, District 6 School Board candidates Monica Ratliff and Antonio Sanchez agreed on several things  during recent interviews (such as Superintendent Deasy’s leadership of the district and charter schools) but disagreed on others (including teacher retention and school improvement strategies).

Hear the candidates talk about the use of test scores to evaluate teachers, principals, and schools:

Click below for the press release.

Previous posts: Sanchez Supports Classroom Breakfast & Teacher Dismissal Initiatives; School Board Candidate Praises Deasy’s Efforts to Limit Tenure

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Sanchez Supports Classroom Breakfast & Teacher Dismissal Initiatives

With less than two weeks to go until election day, the District 6 School Board runoff is remarkably sedate. Very little mail has been sent out for either campaigns, and Independent Expenditure (or IE) committee spending is down compared to the primary.

Monica Ratliff still teaches every day at San Pedro Elementary, so her public exposure is limited to weekends and evening events. Antonio Sanchez, meanwhile, is concentrating on talking to voters and fundraising.

“Sometimes when you get to the runoff it’s very workmanlike,” said Sanchez’s political consultant, Mike Shimpock. “This one is very much about voter consolidation. The IE [committee] is going to be doing a lot of mail.”

Sanchez has, meanwhile, indicated his position on two contentious issues — and either he or Ratliff will likely be announced as Mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti’s pick later this week.

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Commentary: Clear Choice for School Board Race

This is a guest commentary from LAUSD District 6 teachers Pearl Arredondo and Hector (@educatorla) Perez-Roman, following up on a recent TeachPlus meeting with candidate Monica Ratliff:

With so much at stake for the LAUSD Board District 6 runoff election, it was surprising that only one candidate, Monica Ratliff, attended the only scheduled public candidates’ forum sponsored by Teach Plus Los Angeles.

Where was Antonio Sanchez? In the midst of heavy school reform and transformation across our district, state, and the nation, this forum had the potential to provide those in attendance a clear picture on the candidates’ positions on issues that will ultimately have profound changes on our students, teachers, and the community of the northeast San Fernando Valley.

Instead, those in attendance had an opportunity to have a genuine discussion with Monica Ratliff, a current LAUSD elementary teacher, as she fielded questions from teachers, community members, parents, and LAUSD’s “Beaudry” officials.

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Teacher Advocacy Group to Interview Board Candidates

It’s not a live public forum or debate where we can see the candidates answer questions or exchange views in real time, but it’s better than nothing:

Educators 4 Excellence, an organization that advocates for teachers to take a more active role in shaping education policies, plans to host a podcast interview with District 6 (East San Fernando Valley) runoff candidates Monica Ratliff and Antonio Sanchez.

E4E will interview Sanchez and Ratliff, who have both agreed to participate, on May 8. The podcast will available on E4E’s website to stream or download on May 13.

Previous posts: School Board Candidate Praises Deasy’s Efforts to Limit Tenure;  Sanchez Unavailable for Candidate ForumDaily News Addresses Ratliff Union Role.

School Board Candidate Praises Deasy’s Efforts to Limit Tenure

School Board candidate Monica Ratliff (right)

School Board candidate Monica Ratliff met with 15 or so teachers and LAUSD employees Thursday night at an event sponsored by Teach Plus.

During the hour-long discussion, the candidate for District 6 (East San Fernando Valley) did as much listening as she did talking, asking teachers about their concerns on issues such as local autonomy and teacher training.

“She was interested in what teachers had to say,” said John Lee, Executive Director for Teach Plus Los Angeles after the event. “It shows what kind of a Board Member she would be.”

She also answered questions from teachers on a number of issues, including Superintendent John Deasy, local autonomy for schools and teacher training. She refused, however, to answer any questions from LA School Report.

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Reminder: Monday Voting Registration Deadline

The runoff election that will decide Los Angeles’ new mayor, the LAUSD Board member for District 6 (East San Fernando Valley), and several other city offices is now less than a month away.

Monday, May 6 is the last day you can register to vote for the May 21 runoff. If you still haven’t registered, go here to register to vote online.

Click below for other deadlines for applying to vote by mail and to drop off a vote by mail application. Continue reading

Update: Sanchez Unavailable for Candidate Forum

Image via TeachPlus

This afternoon’s Teach Plus candidates’ event may turn out to be the only live forum for District 6 contenders Monica Ratliff and Antonio Sanchez between now and the May 21 election day.

However, we’re told that Sanchez can’t make it, despite efforts to contact him and to reschedule the event to suit his schedule.

The event is being held at Sol Del Valle Community Center at Bethel Reformed Christian Church, and begins at 4:30.  Registration is required, but according to its website “The Teach Plus Network is open to all current district and charter school classroom teachers.”  LA School Report will be there.

Previous posts:  Forum Scheduled for District 6 CandidatesLittle-Known Candidates Debut at District 6 ForumDistrict 6 Candidates Struggle to Differentiate ThemselvesLittle-Known Candidates Debut at District 6 Forum

Why the Coalition’s Going All Out to Elect Sanchez

Coalition flyer on behalf of D6 School Board candidate Antonio Sanchez

The Coalition for School Reform has already spent nearly $200,000 since the March 5th primary to support Antonio Sanchez‘s bid to replace Nury Martinez as District 6 Board Member.

With around $1 million left in the bank thanks to recent donations by former Mayor Richard Riordan ($50,000), New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ($350,000), and philanthropist / art collector Eli Broad ($250,000), you can look for the Coalition to be spending a whole lot more as we enter the final three weeks of the campaign.

And yet, with the teachers union having endorsed both candidates, and therefore somewhat of a non-factor in the election, and both remaining candidates having committed to supporting LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, it’s worth asking: why’s the Coalition still raising (and spending) so much money, and what are they doing with it?

“We take nothing for granted,” said Coalition spokesman Addisu Demissie, who added that much of the money would go to beefing up the Coalition’s field organization. “We learned in the primary that turnout is important, so we’re investing heavily so that we turn out voters in May.”

Indeed, despite its massive financial advantage, the Coalition has several reasons  to take every possible step to ensure that Sanchez is elected.

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Rumors Swirl Around Sanchez Staff Possibilities

The teachers union is none too pleased about a recent LA Times story by Howard Blume about rumors that District 6 School Board candidate Antonio Sanchez had worked out a secret deal with UTLA Vice President Gregg Solkovits.

“It is sad that the Times has chosen to print rumors and innuendo, instead of doing the necessary research to either substantiate or disprove those rumors,” wrote UTLA President Warren Fletcher on the union’s website. “At no time has UTLA entered into any secret agreement with any candidate running for the L.A. School Board regarding staffing or any other subject.”

The three names dropped in the Times story  — all with strong ties to UTLA  — all denied making any deal, as did Sanchez, according to the Times.

But there’s another Sanchez chief of staff possibility that’s been floating around who has strong ties to the Mayor, LAUSD, and other school reform advocates.

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