‘The data is miserable’: LAUSD board members rake academic officer over the coals for ‘crisis’ in test scores


“We have a crisis with our youngsters,” board member Richard Vladovic told the district’s chief academic officer.

LA Unified’s chief academic officer came before board members Tuesday with an upbeat-titled report called “Breaking Our Own Records,” but instead of resting on the improvement in overall test scores, the four school board members in attendance grilled her for nearly two hours throwing out terms like “frustrating,” “depressing” and “disappointing” and saying the district is in “crisis” when educating certain segments of the student population.

“I had to say this because it depressed me as an educator and after eight years I was told it was going to get better, and I’ve been assured it will get better,” said board member Richard Vladovic, chairman of the Curriculum, Instruction and Educational Equity Committee that met Tuesday. “I’m most concerned about those children not getting what they deserve, and that is quality education.”


Math scores highlighting groups that need attention.

Board member George McKenna said, “I’m as frustrated as I can possibly be. The data is miserable. Test scores are still almost embarrassingly low. It is continually depressing and disappointing.”

The committee was discussing the list of lowest performing schools and other test score numbers that the district was touting as “breaking our records!”

Chief Academic Officer Frances Gipson pointed out that the district’s record 75 percent graduation rate is up from 72 percent last year, and she showed other upward trends in the Smarter Balanced Assessments. She also noted that 265 schools are now participating in the Early Language and Literacy Plan, up from 85 in the 2015-16 school year.

“Some of the scores are record-breaking, but we have not hit the finish line yet,” Gipson said. “Our goal for graduation is 100 percent.”

Gipson tried to paint a positive spin repeating district catchphrases including “A District on the Move” and “All Hands on Deck” used by Superintendent Michelle King. But the four of seven board members on the committee were having none of it. Other members of the committee included representatives of three unions and USC and UCLA.

She pointed again to the increase in students meeting or exceeding English Language Arts standards, to 39 percent, up from 33 percent last year. Math scores rose to 29 percent from 25 percent in 2014-2015.

But then came the board members’ harsh reaction to zero improvement for English learners’ math scores: only 5 percent met standards, and only 4 percent met English standards, up one point. There was no improvement for students with disabilities: 6 percent met math standards two years in a row, and 8 percent met English standards.

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More concussions reported among LAUSD athletes, but also better monitoring

Numbers of concussions at LAUSD schools for the past two years.

Number of concussions at LAUSD schools for the past two years.

Rising concussion numbers have spurred LA Unified to examine how to better monitor head injuries and ensure the safety of student athletes.

“I love football,” said board member Richard Vladovic, who noted that this week the NFL for the first time recognized a link between football and brain disorders. “But I’m very concerned about long-term effects on our children. We need to look at this for our children and warn families of the risks.”

The Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee asked for a report on sports safety with the possibility of bringing additional safety recommendations to the full board. Their call comes in the wake of last year’s Will Smith biopic “Concussion” about the doctor who brought the issue to light.

The LA Unified statistics presented Tuesday to the committee show that 222 concussions or possible concussion injuries have occurred so far this year, compared to 199 for the entire 2014-2015 school year. But it doesn’t mean that more concussions have occurred, only that the district has better ways of identifying and reporting them.

LA Unified has 30,000 students involved in 14 sports from golf to water polo. Cheering will become an official sport districtwide in the 2017-2018 school year.

“We feel these are only a portion of actual concussions,” said the district’s director of student medical services, Dr. Kimberly Uyeda. “I think we are doing better in collecting the data.”


Trenton Cornelius and Dr. Kimberly Uyeda

Trenton Cornelius, the district’s Interscholastic Athletics Coordinator, noted that the statistics may be alarming and said more concussions occur in soccer than football. He said, “It appears like we are doing worse, but we are getting better with treatment and diagnosis about concussions. Our athletic personnel are trained, and it is due to the training that we see the concussion numbers have increased. I fully expect this trend will decline as more safety protocols are in place. We see an increase because now there is education and training to diagnose and report, so this is the only way that we have documentation to see that these kids are treated.

In the past, students who were hit on the field and knocked down but say they are OK would be put back into the game immediately, but that doesn’t happen anymore, insisted Earl Perkins, the assistant superintendent for school operations. He said that six high schools have medically trained personnel at games through a pilot program, and they hope to expand that in the future.

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LAUSD takes lead on asking for butane tanks to be moved


The Rancho LPG tanks in San Pedro.

The LA Unified school board yesterday became the first elected body to ask government officials to move one of the largest above-ground butane gas facilities in the country. Located in San Pedro, the highly-flammable gas is housed in two storage tanks not far from three LAUSD school sites.

School board member Richard Vladovic, who represents the area and has been pushing to move the gas tanks for the last five years, said they posed was a greater risk of disaster than the Porter Ranch methane leak. That leak resulted in the temporary relocation of two schools.

“It’s a very dangerous situation,” said Vladovic, pointing to the Rancho Liquefied Petroleum Gas facility, which is close to Taper Avenue Elementary School, Johnston Community Day School and the Vic and Bonnie Christensen Science Center.

The resolution, which won unanimous support by the seven-member board, warns of “a vapor fire, pool fire and boiling liquid evaporative vapor explosion” and calls for a relocation “to an area where it does not pose any harm to students and their families.” The board asked the superintendent to let city, federal and state officials know of their support.

“You guys leading charge is very much appreciated because, God forbid, there should be an accident,” said activist attorney Noah Weiss. “You can look in the mirror and go to sleep knowing you did whatever can be done.”

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Rising health benefits have major impact on LAUSD finances


As LA Unified deals with looming deficits that could reach $600 million, a recent independent Financial Report attributes a large share of it to the ever-increasing costs of health benefits for present and retired employees.

The district spends 14 percent of its budget on active and retired employee health benefits — which is more than it spends on instructional books and supplies. It is also more than the entire budget of existing classified employee salaries, which are jobs in the district that don’t require teaching credentials.

In a report for the Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee recently, the district’s Benefits Administration director, Janice Sawyer, said that the district offers a relatively generous health benefits package.

“We want to retain talent in the district; that’s why we have those health benefits,” said Sawyer. But, she notes that the population of retirees is growing, compared with the active employee base, and the district is not putting any money aside to pay for those promised benefits.

To fund retiree obligations, the district would have to sock away $868 million a year, Sawyer said.

Meanwhile, the district is making it tougher to be eligible for lifetime medical benefits. Anyone hired before 1984 needs to work only five years before retiring to get fully-paid individual and family medical benefits. Today, district employees have to work 25 consecutive years before retiring, and the age at retirement added to the number of service years must reach at least 85.

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LA Unified losing $100s of millions in mandates unpaid by state, U.S.

Vladovic LA Unified

School board member Richard Vladovic

A major contributor to LA Unified’s pending fiscal crisis is unfunded federal and state mandates that have deprived the district of hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years.

The exact number is difficult to calculate because the total not only reflects the amount the district seeks in reimbursement but what percentage the governments return to the district. In some cases, it’s little more than 20 cents on the dollar.

“It’s all very, very complicated,” said school board member Richard Vladovic, who brought the issue to light last week during a budget committee meeting. “The state controls everything; they impose the mandate and we have the responsibility to fulfill them. And the federal government does the same thing.”

The reluctance of the state and federal governments to send dollars into the district and the ever-falling reimbursements rates is nothing new for LA Unified.

But the need for those missing dollars has become more urgent with budget deficits projected within a few years as the number of enrolled students declines and district expenses rise.

A recent report from an independent panel brought in by Superintendent Ramon Cortines warned the school board that under current trends, the district faces a deficit of $333 million in 2017-2018, $450 million in 2018-2019 and $600 million by 2019-2020. And those numbers would erode the district’s credit worthiness, driving the deficits up even higher.

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LAUSD board drawn to charter-like autonomy for entire district

RatliffFrustratedAn LAUSD budget committee discussing the unlikely possibility of establishing an all-charter school district today found merit nonetheless in seeking waivers from state rules that grant charters a greater degree of autonomy than traditional schools have.

Mónica Ratliff, chair of the Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee, said that it didn’t seem fair that the charter schools did not have to deal with the same rules and regulations that govern others schools.

She also made it clear that the board members were not looking to turn the entire district into a charter district. Four of the seven elected members of the school board are on the committee, and she said, “I am not hearing that most of the school board wants to go all charter.”

But, the reason that the idea was brought up was that there are autonomies available to charter schools that the district schools cannot access, and there may be ways to get those autonomies through state waivers to the traditional public schools. Ratliff said, “There are a lot of acrobatics to go through.” Then, she added that maybe charter schools can help them figure it all out.

School board member Richard Vladovic said, “The reason why I brought the idea up was not talking about changing our contract; I was trying to figure out a way that we not be under so many rules.” He said he wanted to figure out how to expand benefits that the district’s charter schools also get to help greater numbers of students.

Yet, Vladovic did imagine that if the entire district became charter in “our wildest dream” he could see that LAUSD could meet the requirements outlined by the state. He said, “I’m trying to figure out why wouldn’t anyone want to do this if it frees us up,” he said, asserting that three-fourths of the state Education Code doesn’t help children.

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LAUSD increasing help for children of veterans and active-duty military


LA Mayor Eric Garcetti at Leland Street Elementary. (Credit: Twitter @LAMayorsOffice)

Los Angles Mayor Eric Garcetti today announced a new program that will help identify students in LA Unified whose parents are veterans or active-duty service members so that they can receive extra resources available to them.

Joining Garcetti at Leland Elementary School in San Pedro, where he announced the new program, were LA Unified school board member Richard Vladovic and LA City Councilman Joe Buscaino.

“For too long our city has been unable to strategically target resources in a way that directly and efficiently supports our military community,” Garcetti said in a statement. “This small change will radically increase our capacity to support veterans and their families as they adjust to life during and after military service.”

The program, announced the day after Veterans Day, represents a collaboration among the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs, LA Unified, the University of Southern California’s Building Capacity Project and the Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative, according a press release from the mayor’s office.

As part of the program, the school district will identify students from military families by adding questions to the district’s mandatory student emergency information forms, which will then “help district and school officials direct critical services and apply for new federal funding for campuses with high enrollment among military and veteran-connected families,” according to the release.

Children of veterans experience high levels of stress and are at an increased risk for substance abuse, weapon carrying, victimization by peers and thoughts of suicide, according to the mayor’s office, and the new forms will help get these students more recreational opportunities, tutoring resources and advocacy assistance.

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Search firm urges LAUSD board reach unity on next superintendent

superintendent search

In presenting a detailed accounting of community input for LA Unified’s superintendent search, the president of the search firm urged the seven board members to reach consensus on what they are looking for in their ideal candidate.

“You do not want to make this decision on four votes,” said Hank Gmitro of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates. “You want to all agree.”

After the presentation, Gmitro told LA School Report it’s not unheard of for a school board—even one with such diversity as LAUSD’s—to agree on a single candidate. “It happens most of the time that the whole board agrees on one person,” Gmitro said.

After Gmitro and members of his team reviewed overall results of two weeks of 9,400 surveys and 120 community meetings, board President Steve Zimmer asked how the firm could possibly come up with candidates that have a proven track record on two strong, but nebulous characteristics that arose time and again from many participating in the feedback process: “equity” and “building trust.”

Gmitro said it’s a matter of “our vetting and your interviews and the kinds of actions they took and the results they achieved.”

By their questions to Gmitro and his team, the board members seem to be laying groundwork for finding a superintendent comfortable with fulfilling the priorities of the board, rather than bringing “an agenda” or “ego” to the position, a not-so-veiled reference to past superintendents.

“They want a humble person,” said Darline Robles, a member of the search team who summed up the characteristics that emerged from community forums. “Not someone who comes in whose ego is the forefront.”

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LAUSD board solves dilemma: Pay debts before saving for a rainy day

MeganReilly.27.39 PMIn what seemed to be a routine agenda item last night, the LA Unified school board found itself debating a fundamental issue: When you have a few extra bucks do you save for a rainy day or do you pay off your debts right away?

The question arose when the board was trying to figure out what to do with the surplus of $45 million from last year. That’s merely pocket change when it comes to a $7.8 billion annual budget, but it brought up some philosophical differences among the board members.

Board member Mónica Ratliff, who prides herself on championing fiscal responsibility, asked where the money was going to go and when it was going there. She urged that the money be added to an irrevocable trust for LAUSD retiree health benefits.

But, board member Richard Vladovic, who recalled a time school budgets were far more unpredictable, said he would prefer to have the money remain more flexible for a possible catastrophe. He argued to keep the money in reserve for emergencies. Board president Steve Zimmer agreed, citing four fiscal challenges the district is now facing: state funding unpredictability, federal under-funding, debt liabilities and a declining enrollment.

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A day of pomp, circumstance and politics awaiting new LAUSD board

New LAUSD school board member Monica Ratliff is sworn into office by her mother Yolanda Asenjo Padilla Ratliff at Monday's school board meeting.   Photo by David Crane/Staff Photographer

LAUSD school board member Monica Ratliff is sworn into office by her mother in 2013

Get ready for some pomp, circumstance — and politics.

The first half of tomorrow’s LA Unified school board meeting, starting at 10 am, will be a swearing in ceremony for four newly elected board members by people or, in some cases, groups of people, of their choice.

Scott Schmerelson, Ref Rodriguez, George McKenna and Richard Vladovic — will be taking an oath, each committing the next five years to the district.

Voters recently approved a measure to align school board elections with other statewide races in order to boost voter turn out. That means the four board members will sit on the board until 2020.


The ceremony and brief reception afterward are taking place at the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center Gymnasium, just a few blocks from LA Unified headquarters.

Following the festivities, the full board will convene at 1 pm for the first meeting of the new fiscal year to elect a new president, a process that in recent years has not provoked much public debate but this year may prove to be different. A lot different.

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Does Vladovic get a third term leading LAUSD board? Ask Vladovic

Richard VladovicOK, so let’s play this out.

One of the Mónicas — Ratliff or García, or maybe both — offers a resolution next week waiving the rule that sets term limits at two, enabling Richard Vladovic to serve a third one-year term as the LA Unified board president.

The effort needs four votes to pass. How do the members vote? Here’s a guess:

Mónica García:  Already indicating she’s in favor of a one-year suspension of current rules, she votes yes.

Mónica Ratliff: Ditto.

Newly-elected Ref Rodriguez: He votes for it. Why? The last person he wants as board president is Steve Zimmer, the current vice president. Zimmer trashed Rodriguez for standing by as Rodriguez surrogates trashed Bennett Kayser in the election campaign.

Newly-elected Scott Schmerelson: He favors term limits so he’s a no vote.

George McKenna: On Tuesday, he voted against Ratliff’s resolution to waive the rule, so he’s a no. Unless he flips.

Zimmer: No.

That makes it 3-3, with Vladovic’s vote decisive.

Vladovic voted for term limits in 2013. On Tuesday, he abstained (along with Kayser), leaving Ratliff’s effort one vote short of passing. Does he abstain again, thereby assuring that the gavel passes into new hands? 

It comes down to how badly he wants to serve another year as president. It also comes down to how active a role he wants in the search process for who succeeds Ray Cortines as the next superintendent.

Vladovic has become much more assertive in recent months as board president. He’s appeared more energized and engaged.

If he votes no or abstains, he would appear consistent to his position, respectful of the board rules as they are, and the board will have a new president.

A yes vote would require an explanation.

The members vote in alphabetical order. If this speculation holds, it would be 3-2 in favor of the one-year waiver when it’s Vladovic’s turn, which means Zimmer will know the outcome before it’s his.

Vladovic has widest margin of victory among three board elections

Richard VladovicRichard Vladovic, who is completing his second and final term as LA Unified board president, won by the widest margin of the three board elections last week, according to a final accounting by the Los Angeles City Clerk, released today.

His margin of victory over his District 7 challenger, Lydia Gutierrez, was 12.57 percent.

In District 3, challenger Scott Schmerelson beat two-term incumbent Tamar Galatzan by 9.53 percent of the vote, and in District 5, challenger Ref Rodriguez ousted one-term incumbent Bennett Kayser by 6.69 percent.

Overall, only 8.57 of the 841,643 registered voters cast a ballot, the clerk said.




Analysis: For the LAUSD board, changes in faces but not balance

Bennett Kayser LAUSD* UPDATED

Voters wanted change, but the changes came from opposite directions.

For the first time since 2009, two seats on the LA Unified school board turned over at the same time in elections yesterday that proved once again how little Angelinos care about the people setting policy for the 643,000 kids attending city public schools.

Two incumbents lost — Tamar Galatzan in District 3 and Bennett Kayser in District 5. But each winner hews more closely to the views of the incumbent who lost in the other race, making the day’s results a political wash.

Scott Schmerelson, the primary runner-up who won with 55 percent of the vote to beat Galatzan, is a career LAUSD school administrator who had heavy backing of the teachers union, UTLA

Ref Rodriguez, the primary winner who won with 54 percent of the vote to beat Kayser, is a charter school co-founder who had heavy backing from the state’s charter schools association and other reform interests.

The charters did everything they could to defeat Schmerelson. The teachers union did everything it could to defeat Rodriguez.

Where that leaves the board in terms of ideology is probably not much different than where it was on Monday, with Schmerelson replacing Kayser as the pro-union member and Rodriguez replacing Galatzan as the pro-reform member.

At the very least, the results brought the board its only Republican, in Schmerelson, and its only openly gay member, in Rodriguez.

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Vladovic breezes to a third term with largest margin of board races

LAUSD school board President Richard Vladovic

LAUSD school board President Richard Vladovic

LA Unified Board President Richard Vladovic successfully held his District 7 seat last night, winning a third term by the largest margin of the day’s three elections in a race with the lowest turn out.

He won with 56 percent of the vote to Lydia Gutierrez’s 44 percent.

Mike Trujillo, a campaign consultant to Vladovic, told LA School Report, that Vladovic’s appeal lies in his ability to strike the right balance on a range of issues.

“Dr. Vladovic’s educational career has always been about putting students, parents and teachers first, Trujillo saids. “His political career is much like that of Goldilocks where the porridge is never too hot, never too cold, always just right.”

Apparently, the mix also appealed to political action committees on the reform and union sides.  Vladovic was the only candidate in all three of the races to receive endorsements from pro-charter advocates, including the California Charters Schools Association PAC and labor groups UTLA and SEIU.

Gutierrez had no major endorsements and little campaign money throughout the election.

Despite that she made an impressive splash in the March primary race finishing only five percentage points behind Vladovic. And as recently as April, an internal poll of District 7 voters by the California Charter Schools Association Advocates and Great Public Schools: Los Angeles, showed Gutierrez, leading by 37 percent to 34 percent, with 29 percent undecided, in a statistical tie. The margin of error was 4.9 percent.

Last night’s defeat marks her fifth failed bid for public office since 2008. In her most recent before now, she came in third in a run for state superintendent last year against Tom Torlakson and Marshall Tuck.

Vladovic was first elected to the board in 2007 and became president in 2013. Over most of that time the board slashed billions from the district budget.

But with more than $700 million in extra revenue coming in next year, he says he wants now to focus on leading the district into more prosperous and efficient times through priorities that include proper distribution of money to schools that need it most, a MiSiS system that works, a teacher evaluation system that’s fair and a better use of best practices districtwide.

Gutierrez demands retraction of flyers calling her ‘extremist’

Lydia Gutierrez

Lydia Gutierrez

Things are getting nasty in what had been a relatively quiet and peaceful race for the LA Unified school board seat in District 7.

Candidate Lydia Gutierrez, who is challenging incumbent and board President Richard Vladovic, responded sharply to several campaign flyers circulated by the political action committee for SEIU Local 99, a union of school workers that is supporting Vladovic.

The flyers attack Gutierrez for some of her political views that are associated with Tea Party Republicans. (See the flyers here and here.

She said in a statement the flyers include “outrageous statements that have nothing to do with the educational welfare of our children.”

Gutierrez, a school teacher at Long Beach Unified who has never held political office before, made a name for herself in the fall when she finished third in race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction and received nearly a million votes. Many of her voters were Tea Party backers.

The flyers accuse her of holding “extremist” views, describing her as someone who favors banning teaching the theory of evolution, opposes gay marriage and opposes abortion for any reason.

In a response, Gutierrez did not address issues individually but suggested that all of her views do not align with the flyers although the views do align with conservative positions. Gutierrez has expressed support of teaching creationism in the past. She also said in her statement, “Every child has the right to pray on school campuses and every parent has the right to bring up their children with their own family values according to their beliefs—this should be respected, not denigrated or ridiculed.”

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More tepid support for Vladovic; Student art at downtown library

school report buzzMake it not one, but two extraordinarily unenthusiastic endorsements from a major Los Angeles newspaper for LA Unified board President Richard Vladovic.

Following the Los Angeles Times tepid endorsement of Vladovic over his challenger, Lydia Gutierrez, the Los Angeles Daily News today also picked Vladovic over Gutierrez with an equally unenthusiastic thumbs up.

Vladovic has a “bad reputation” with colleagues and “makes too little effort to engage the press and public,” the Daily News’ editorial board wrote, before saying that it “recommend(s) a vote for Vladovic, without enthusiasm.”

This comes after the Times said that Gutierrez is a “weak candidate who lacks the necessary grasp of the district’s major issues. So Vladovic it is.”

Vladovic, who according to some polling data was trailing Gutierrez recently, must be asking himself, ‘With friends like these who needs enemies?’ And some readers might be wondering, ‘With such unenthusiastic support, why offer an endorsement at all?’

Milken Institute Global Conference takes on education

The Milken Institute Global Conference — a gathering of 3,500 leaders from around the world in the areas of politics, science, technology and business — took place this week in Los Angeles, and the event featured several panels discussing topics that are frequent issues at LA Unified.

Earlier this week we posted about a discussion of the future of digital technology in the classroom, but there are a few other videos worth taking a look at. One examines  the issue of school reform, and the other about how to increase graduation rates for low-income students. Check out a link to the graduation discussion below.

Student artwork at Central Library 

Artwork by LA Unified students will be displayed in the  Los Angeles Central Library’s atrium, beginning tomorrow and remaining through May 22. 

According the district, the artwork will feature “prints of original paintings, sculptures, drawings, graphic designs, and media arts. It’s part of the continuing ‘Let’s Celebrate!’ series sponsored by L.A. Unified’s Arts Education Branch.”

An opening reception also will be held from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m tomorrow, featuring some of the student artists.

Gutierrez turns a pro-Vladovic campaign letter against him

Lydia Gutierrez Vladovic

Lydia Gutierrez

Lydia Gutierrez, a teacher from Long Beach Unified who is mounting a vigorous campaign in LA Unified’s District 7 to unseat board President Richard Vladovic in the May 19 elections, is turning a campaign message for Vladovic against him.

A letter supporting Vladovic’s election circulated to voters this month and paid for by the teachers union political action committee, argues, “We need to provide the parents, educators and community a stronger voice so that we don’t have a rerun of the iPad fiasco.”

Gutierrez responded with a press release yesterday, pinning the “iPad disaster” squarely on Vladovic. She reminds voters that the FBI and now the Securities and Exchange Commission are looking into various aspects of the program, which rolled out with support of the entire board. Vladovic has served on the board since 2007 and as president since 2013. 

“It was Vladovic’s responsibility to obey the law and use your tax dollars wisely,” she says in the release. “As president, he set the agenda and voted twice for what turned out to be a billion-dollar failure.”

The iPad program was originally designed as a $1 billion effort to get a digital device in the hands of every LA Unified student and teacher as a tool for instruction. It went bust as glitches and problems plagued it from the beginning. Superintendent Ramon Cortines finally ended it early this year as unsustainable.

It has endured, however, as a campaign issue in at least two of the three board races, as Vladovic and Tamar Galatzan in District 3 have been criticized for their support of it.

Gutierrez’s press release was off-base on a few other things, however. Her contention that the FBI “discovered that buying iPads with bond money may have been a violation of federal law” is wrong on two counts: The FBI has not announced it has discovered anything, and the agency’s interest was not the use of bond money but the procurement process as it related to the district’s relations with Apple and Pearson.

Despite Vladovic’s winning the support of the teachers union and the state charter schools association, Gutierrez has waged an aggressive campaign against him. One internal poll last month conducted by the charters and another group found that she was leading Vladovic though the difference was within the margin of error.

Private internal poll showing Gutierrez slightly ahead of Vladovic

Lydia Gutierrez

Lydia Gutierrez

LA Unified board President Richard Vladovic appears to be in the political fight of his life.

A recent internal poll of District 7 voters by the California Charter Schools Association Advocates and Great Public Schools: Los Angeles, which the groups shared with LA School Report, showed his challenger, Lydia Gutierrez, leading by 37 percent to 34 percent, with 29 percent undecided, in a statistical tie. The margin of error was 4.9 percent.

“A shocker,” said Dan Chang, executive director of Great Public Schools, which has endorsed Vladovic along with the charter group and the teachers union, UTLA.

Vladovic, who is running for a third term in the May 19 runoff election, has been board president since 2013. Four years ago, he breezed to reelection with 63 percent of the primary vote, and this time, he is the rare candidate — maybe the only candidate — to run for the school board with the backing of both the teachers union and the charter schools. (The teachers did not endorse him in the primary.)

“Dr. Vladovic has always run an aggressive campaign and this election will be no different,” said his campaign consultant, Mike Trujillo. “Putting students, parents and teachers first has been the hallmark of this former teacher, principal and now school board member.”

Yet Vladovic now finds himself in a tight race that proves party affiliation has little bearing on a school board election: Gutierrez, a Republican, is seeking her first victory in her fifth run for public office since 2008 — and she’s running strong in a district where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 4-to-1. In the primary, she finished only 5 percentage points behind Vladovic, who is a Democrat.

Gutierrez declined to answer a series of questions from LA School Report, seeking her reaction to the poll and comment on various positions that reflect her social positions, including her support for teaching creationism as an alternative theory to evolution.

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Vladovic lashes out at Gutierrez over position on vaccinations

Richard Vladovic

Richard Vladovic

A skirmish has broken out between LA Unified board President Richard Vladovic and Lydia Gutierrez, his opponent in the May 19 runoff election for District 7, over the issue of vaccinations for students.

In response to Gutierrez’s opposition to a state senate bill that would bar parents from opting out of vaccinations for their children, Vladovic yesterday accused her of “knowingly and willingly” endangering the lives of LA Unified students.

“Ms. Gutierrez, there is plenty of room for differences of opinion on the School Board, but there is no room for policies that put our children at risk,” he told her in a letter, a copy of which was given to LA School Report. “Your position is not only extreme, it is dangerous. I urge you to revise your position — for the sake of the over six hundred thousand LAUSD students that would be affected should an outbreak occur.”

Gutierrez responded on her Facebook page, accusing Vladovic of “misrepresenting” her position.

“Vaccinations are important to the lives of children and their parents. My belief is ‘only’ that children are checked for allergic reactions prior to receiving any vaccinations. I personally had an allergic reaction to a chemical I ingested which I had to learn to walk again with permanent nerve damage. Vladovic should spend more time finding money to give teachers a raise since they haven’t received one in 8 years, instead of wasting time misquoting my viewpoint.”

Her comment has drawn more than 160 “Likes.”

An email message sent to Gutierrez for further comment went unanswered.

The conflict arose after a state Senate committee on Wednesday voted 6-2 in support of a bill that effectively makes vaccinations mandatory, removing an exemption that allows parents to send children to school without the shots, based on their personal beliefs.

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Teachers union joins state charter group in endorsing Vladovic

Richard Vladovic

LA Unified school board President Richard Vladovic

The LA teachers union, UTLA, has decided to endorse LA Unified school board President Richard Vladovic in his reelection bid for the District 7 board seat.

While it’s his third run for the seat, it’s the first time the teachers are throwing support his way, making him that rare candidate who has won the endorsements of both UTLA and the California Charter Schools Association.

“I am honored to have the support of teachers in Los Angeles,” Vladovic said on his campaign website. “I will continue to fight to ensure that school employees and students feel empowered so together we can continue to provide a strong education for a better Los Angeles.”

UTLA did not respond to messages seeking comment, leaving open the question of whether the union will spend on Vladovic’s behalf.

The District 7 race is one of three on the May 19 runoff ballot involving the school board. Two other incumbents are defending their seats — Tamar Galatzan in District 3 and Bennett Kayser in District 5. Galatzan won her primary and will face Scott Schmerelson in the runoff, and Kayser advanced by finishing second to Ref Rodriguez.

Vladovic, who has served as president since 2013, moved into the runoff by narrowly defeating Lydia Gutierrez, 42.6 percent to 37.6. He won the endorsement of the charter group but not UTLA.

Given the margin of victory, the union’s support might come in handy in the runoff.

Gutierrez, a former teacher in the Long Beach Unified School District, is a Republican who won nearly 1 million votes statewide last year in challenging Tom Torlakson for State Superintendent for Education. With backing from the charter group in the primary, Vladovic beat her by only 657 votes among 13,086 cast.

Success in his first runs for board came with less uncertainty. In 2007, he won in the general election with 54.2 percent of the vote. Four years later he won reelection with an outright victory in the primary, with 63.1 percent of the vote.

UTLA and the charter group waged a million dollar spending war in this year’s primary, largely focused on District 5, with UTLA supporting Kayser and the charters helping Rodriguez.

The charters also spent to aide Galatzan. After sitting out the primary, UTLA is backing Schmerelson in the runoff.