LA Unified board votes against a caretaker (twice) for vacant seat

President Vladovic: His vote doomed caretaker

President Vladovic: His vote doomed caretaker

The LA Unified school board on Tuesday quashed any chance for temporary representation for the 110 schools and nearly quarter million students in board District 1, twice defeating measures that would have appointed a non-voting caretaker.

It was just the latest example of the inability of a school board, paralyzed by the absence of a potential tie-breaking vote, to push past personal differences for sake of unity.

The decision means that the seat, which has been vacant since Marguerite LaMotte died more than two months ago, will remain empty through a special election scheduled for June 3 or through mid-August if a runoff is needed.

The path to failure began when board president Richard Vladovic delayed action on a proposal from Steve Zimmer with an an idea of his own, which he called an amendment — directing Superintendent John Deasy to select and appoint an “executor” for the seat. Before the vote, Monica Ratliff asked Deasy if he knew whom he would appoint.

“I don’t,” he said.

The amendment failed on a 3-3 vote.

That brought the members back to Zimmer’s proposal, a carefully worked measure that would have allowed residents of District 1 to participate in the appointment process by nominating candidates for the position.

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Typical LA Unified school board meeting: pique and confusion

Tamar Galatzan: She was not happy

Tamar Galatzan: She was not happy

Today’s LA Unified school board meeting may have been brief, but it was just as acrimonious and confusing as some of the longer ones.

While problems contributing to the appearance of dysfunction usually focus on content or process. This one focused on both.

The big issue was over Bennett Kayser’s resolution to expand Title I funding to schools with only 40 percent low-income student population, rather than the current threshold, 50 percent.

As it appeared on the meeting agenda, it was virtually the same as a measure that came before the board two months ago from Tamar Galatzan and Monica Ratliff that was defeated in a 3-3 deadlock, with Kayser abstaining.

“Maybe this is the lawyer in me,” said Galatzan, who was clearly piqued. “But this seems substantially similar to me.”

Other members seemed confused about how the item ended up on the agenda, to start with. The board’s Rule 73 blocks members from initiating a motion that is “substantially similar” to one that has been voted on within the previous six months. That’s meant to promote stability and also prevent the board from repeatedly dealing with the same issues.

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Glimpses of LA Unified meeting: iPads and kumbaya*

LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy

LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy

Debate at times was intense as ever yesterday.

Tamar Galatzan and Steve Zimmer still didn’t seem to agree on much, the board ignored a recommendation from the Bond Oversight Committee and nobody thought Monica Garcia had a great idea in giving the entire board responsibility for taking District 1 interests into consideration with their votes.

But a change in attitude toward John Deasy was clearly evident. For these few hours, anyway, he appeared as everybody’s friend and confidante. And this is a superintendent, after all, who had grown so frustrated with board dysfunction a few months ago that he threatened to step down.

During a sometimes heated discussion over how many iPads to buy for the next round of distribution, Board President Richard Vladovic came close to cutting off any further discord by saying, “Let’s let the superintendent make the call and move on. I’m going to vote against anything that doesn’t allow him to do what’s best.”

How far have these two come? It was just about a year ago that Deasy was saying he’d resign if Vladovic became board president, and Vladovic let it be known he was not Deasy’s biggest fan.

This was as close to kumbaya as it gets.

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A silent night for two LA Unified board members

Monica Garcia, at a more talkative time

Monica Garcia, at a more talkative time

For all the passion and discord over how to fill a vacant seat, two of the six LA Unified board members were silent during the board’s hour-long debate last night. Neither the current president, Richard Vladovic, nor his predecessor, Monica Garcia, weighed in, apart from their votes.

Before a 4-2 decision to hold a June 3 special election — with Vladovic and Garcia in the majority — Vladovic spoke only in keeping the trains moving — welcoming speakers, chastising hecklers, asking the audience to keep things civil. He had almost nothing to say about the issues at hand.

Mike Trujillo, his spokesman, said he was committed to facilitating a healthy discussion.

“Dr. Vladovic’s core belief is that democracy was the right thing to pursue and he really didn’t feel as though taking up more time when it was clear every argument from A to Z was laid out,” Trujillo said. “When you take into account those who advocated for an election, all of those arguments that were used encapsulated what Dr. Vladovic was feeling when he made his vote.”

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LA Unified board delays action on LaMotte vacancy to January

LA Unified Board Meeting

The LA Unified school board today postponed until next month any consideration of how to fill the board seat left vacant by the death of Marguerite LaMotte, bowing to a wave of pleas from speakers asking the board to wait until after her funeral.

A 3-3 vote on a motion to allow discussion to begin effectively killed the effort. A six-member board requires four votes for any measure to pass.

President Richard Vladovic, Tamar Galatzan and Monica Garcia voted in favor of consideration; Steve Zimmer, Bennett Kayser and Monica Ratliff voted to wait. The board then voted unanimously to schedule a special meeting Jan. 7, when a debate will begin over whether to fill the seat through a special election or a board appointment.

The funeral for LaMotte, who died Dec. 5, is scheduled for Saturday.

The board’s first vote was preceded by a parade of speakers, a majority of whom urged the members to defer action out of respect for LaMotte’s family and legacy.

Typical of the passion was that from Patricia Sanders, vice president of the New Frontier Democratic Club, who argued that it was “time to memorialize and funeralize” LaMotte, who, she said, “would be pissed off to the highest point of pissivisity,” were the board to act so quickly after the death of another member.

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BREAKING NEWS: Board postpones vote on LaMotte seat

20131217-SteveZimmer3The LA Unified school board voted today to delay a decision on how to fill the board seat held by the late Marguerite LaMotte until Jan.7 to allow her family to hold a funeral service and interment.

A 3-3 vote to consider the options effectively killed the motion to take up the matter four votes were required for passage. President Richard Vladovic, Tamar Galatzan and Monica Garcia voted to waive a rule that would have opened the door to immediate consideration, while Bennett Kayser, Monica Ratliff and Steve Zimmer voted against the waiver.

The board then voted unanimously to take up the issue at a special meeting on Jan. 7.


A full plate for the LA Unified board — LaMotte seat, fixes, iPads

generic board meetingThe LA Unified school board is back together tomorrow, with a long agenda highlighted by several high-stakes and, very likely, contentious issues.

Foremost is the discussion and probable vote on how to fill the vacant District 1 seat. Marguerite LaMotte’s death on Dec. 4 has left the board with the options of filling the seat by board appointment or working with the city to hold a special election.

There are rational arguments for and against either choice, but with six people deciding, the prevailing side needs four votes. A 3-3 deadlock would require the board to keep voting until someone is persuaded to break.

Efforts by LA School Report last week to learn where members stand found that they appeared to be split, with President Richard Vladovic, Tamar Galatzan and Monica Garcia favoring a special election and Bennett Kayser and Monica Ratliff favoring an appointment. Steve Zimmer was said to favor an appointment, but he told the LA Times he’s undecided.

A chorus of voices that includes state and federal elected officials have expressed support for an election. Rep. Maxine Waters, whose Congressional district overlaps the LaMotte district, campaigned for an election at the First AME Church of Los Angeles last night. LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is urging people to show up at district headquarters tomorrow to rally for an election.

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In Replacing LaMotte on LAUSD Board, Zimmer is Key

TwowaysignThe LA Unified school board will likely decide next week how to fill the seat vacated by the sudden death of Marguerite LaMotte, according to the board meeting agenda posted today. For now, the vote that could determine which way appears to be Steve Zimmer‘s.

With a choice of appointing a replacement or calling a special election to fill the seat, the board, which rarely reaches unanimity on anything, seems to be leaning toward an election, by three votes to two.

For the moment, at least three members appear to favor a special election.

Board President Richard Vladovic leans toward an election, according to someone who has discussed the issue with him. Monica Garcia told LA School Report today, “The best way to honor Ms. LaMotte is to assure the community that there’s a fair process. There should be an election.” And Tamar Galatzan said, in a statement, “I think it is vitally important for every community to have the right to be represented by the elected official of their choosing.”

Meanwhile, Bennett Kayser’s office confirmed that he favors the board making an appointment to fill the position, and today he wrote a commentary in the Daily News arguing for that.  A source friendly with Monica Ratliff said she also favors picking a replacement.

That leaves Zimmer, whose vote for an appointment would result in a 3-3 deadlock. He declined to comment. Continue reading

On LA Unified Board, What’s Old is New Again — More Committees

CommittesIt’s that time of year again, and naturally, thoughts turn to LA Unified school board committees.

Well, probably not, but it is worth noting that what’s old is new again, as the deliberative process has returned, echoes of a bygone, pre-Monica Garcia as president time.

Back then, in the middle of the last decade, as many as 10 committees met often, some of them monthly and some of them even more. Who could forget the Committee on the Modified Chanda Smith Consent Decree Committee, which convened during the committee high-mark years of 2005 and 2006, when Board President Marlene Canter had 10 and 9 committees at hand.

When Garcia became president in 2006, the committee system waned, only for a rebirth under Richard Vladovic, who succeeded Garcia as president this year. After Garcia cancelled committees, Vladovic created them. Now there are 7, the most since 2007.

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Kayser Abstention Dooms Effort to Spread Out Title 1 Money*

Title 1LA Unified School board member Tamar Galatzan had hoped to sway her colleagues to change the way the district distributes Title 1 funds for low-income students. But her motion, co-sponsored by Monica Ratliff, failed to get majority support at yesterday’s board meeting.

The vote was split, 3-3, with Galatzan, Ratliff and Steve Zimmer, all of whom represent districts with mixed income levels, supporting the measure. Monica Garcia, Richard Vladovic, and Marguerite LaMotte, whose schools are located in high poverty communities, voting against.

Bennett Kayser assured defeat when he abstained.

“This is a really tough one,” he said, explaining that his district would suffer no matter which side he took.

Kayser represents schools from Eagle Rock, where the median household income is above $67,000, to Bell where it’s about $37,000.

After federal dollars were reduced by 9 percent in 2011, the district raised the threshold for eligibility for Title 1 funds to schools where 50 percent of students were from low-income families, with schools with 65 to 100 percent low income students getting additional money.

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LA Unified Board Votes to Reshape iPad Program

iPads -- for now.

iPads — for now.

The LA Unified school board re-calibrated its push for technology in the classroom last night, voting to continue into a second phase of its iPad plan but also to launch a pilot test of laptops among high school students. Further technology plans will depend on the outcome of a study.

The decision — approved by a 6-1 vote with Tamar Galatzan as the dissenter — culminated a long and impassioned debate about how fast to get computer devices in the hands of students who really need it. The 2 1/2 hour discussion, which ended an 8-hour board meeting, reflected sharp divisions between members who think it’s better to move swiftly, with iPads, and members who argue that different students require different devices. Members also expressed discomfort with the district’s deal with Apple and called for a reexamination of terms for future purchases.

The final resolution, adopted at 9 p.m., represented a merger of a plan offered by board member Monica Ratliff, which called for a more thorough evaluation of the iPad program and a delayed rollout of devices, and the scaled down Phase 2 rollout that Superintendent John Deasy submitted to the board several weeks ago.

Over the next several months, the district will distribute about 40,000 tablets across 35 elementary and middle school campuses. Another 30,000 will go to the district’s teachers, principals and administrators. And the administration’s procurement team will purchase keyboards for all elementary and middle school students so they can take the Smarter Balanced assessments in the spring.

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Breaking: Motion to Censure Vladovic for Sexual Harassment Allegations Dies

A Vladovic supporter at today's school board meeting

A Vladovic supporter at today’s school board meeting

An effort to censure LA Unified Board President Richard Vladovic for allegations that he violated the district’s ethical code failed today as a resolution from board member Tamar Galatzan did not get a “second” to put it before the board for a vote.

The resolution sought to censure Vladovic for complaints of sexual harrasment and other forms of discrimination by people working for him. Galatzan’s resolution cited an LA Daily News interview that said “formal complaints had been filed against Vladovic by employees alleging they had been bullied, intimidated and or sexually harassed.”

Just as the resolution came before the board with Galatzan as the lone sponsor, her frequent ally on votes, Monica Garcia, left the room, and no other member responded to board vice president Steve Zimmer‘s request for a second.

Vladovic, who recused himself from discussion, was applauded by about 20 supporters, wearing t-shirts that said, “We (heart) Dr. V.”

“You’re loved,” one supporter, Esther Hatch, said to Vladovic after the motion failed.

Near tears, Vladovic said, “I feel proud that they supported me. These are true friends.”

By its failure to get voting consideration, a censure motion for similar reasons cannot come before the board for another six months.

Previous Posts: censure of Richard Vladovic could further fracture LA Unified boardGalaztan’s resolution says Richard Vladovic ‘dishonors’ himself, districtVladovic Apologizes, Escapes Further Board Action — For Now.

LA Unified Board to Address 2 Controversies — Vladovic, iPads*

ipad teacherTwo issues that have the drawn LA Unified school board into unanticipated controversy move into the spotlight tomorrow when the board convenes its regular meeting for November.

One is the public profile of Board President Richard Vladovic, as he awaits a consideration of a censure motion from Tamar Galatzan – the first motion of its kind in LA Unified board history. Vladovic has been accused of verbal and sexual harassment by former co-workers. He has publicly apologized for being abrasive toward colleagues but has denied all other charges.

The motion requires support from at least one other board member to move to a full vote, otherwise the resolution falls, and a similar measure cannot be brought forward for six months. So far, Galatzan has no co-sponsor.

The other big issue is the future of the billion dollar iPad program, with conflicting resolutions from the board’s two Monicas – Ratliff and Garcia – that could go a long way toward determining whether district’s Common Core technology project extends Phase 1 of the iPads with iPads or other digital devices.

A third approach has been offered for consideration by deputy superintendent Jaime Aquino.

Ratliff’s resolution aims to prolong the first phase of the tablet rollout through the end of the school year, while evaluators assess the usefulness of the devices and their impact on learning. It also urges the district to launch a new pilot program, distributing laptop computers to ninth graders while conducting studies on the use of other devices and software curriculum in the district.

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LA Unified Board Sees a Digital Future, Maybe without iPads

Board member Monica Ratliff

Board member Monica Ratliff

Over eight hours today, in another tedious LA Unified board meeting, members one-by-one pledged to forge ahead with the district’s ambitious technology program to bridge the digital divide for some of the nation’s poorest students.

But for the first time, some board members signaled that the way forward may not include Apple iPads.

The meeting featured a parade of staff reports supporting the Common Core Technology Project, as district officials painstakingly worked their way through a 95-page presentation for the board. They recapped the nearly-complete first phase of the troubled iPad program and projected what may or may not follow.

While board members refrained from badgering officials as they have done in previous meetings, and the six members in attendance committed to continue with new technologies – Tamar Galatzan was absent – questions arose as to how and when future phases of the technology program would play out.

Monica Ratliff, the newest board member and chair of the Common Core Technology Project Committee, was the most outspoken about switching gears. She had not yet been elected when the previous board voted to approve a billion-dollar program to give all the district’s 650,000 students a digital device.

Ratliff offered a resolution that would delay the board’s vote on the second phase of the iPad roll-out by six months to evaluate the instructional effectiveness of iPads as well as laptops and other digital devices used in district schools.

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Villaraigosa Helped Broker Deal to Keep Deasy Superintendent

Dr. John Deasy, and Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in 2011 |Richard Vogel/AP

John Deasy, Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in 2011

LA School Report has learned the deal to extend the contract of LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy might not have been possible without the involvement of former LA mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa.

According to three people with knowledge of events, none of whom would speak for attribution, Villaraigosa made a flurry of calls to both Deasy and Board President Richard Vladovic to help broker a deal. The calls continued through yesterday, just before the board went into a closed-door session that ended with the announcement that Deasy’s contract would extend to mid-2016.

Meanwhile, Villaraigosa’s successor, Eric Garcetti told reporters today that he had spoken to all the parties and discussed the matter with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who said on Monday he believed Deasy and the board should continue to work together.

Garcetti said he had also spoken to “almost all the board members” in an effort to help Deasy remain in his job. He said he told Deasy he supported him and would “do everything I can” to help resolve the situation.

“I was hopeful he’d stay,” Garcetti said.

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Deasy Staying; Board Extends Contract through June 2016*

Supt. John Deasy

Supt. John Deasy

John Deasy‘s tenure as superintendent of LA Unified School District is continuing as the school board today gave him a ”satisfactory” performance evaluation and extended his contract to June, 30, 2016.

The announcement, after nearly five hours of a closed door meeting at the district’s downtown headquarters, ended five frenetic days of uncertainty that began with a leaked report suggesting that Deasy was resigning.

To the contrary, when he and the seven board members emerged from their meeting, both the board’s president, Richard Vladovic, and Deasy spoke of “frank and honest discussions,” as Vladovic described them, and they vowed to collaborate on the challenges ahead.

“We’re going to work together to continue to lift our youth out of poverty,” Deasy said in his brief statement. “I’ve very proud of the work we’ve done for students and what we’re going to continue to do for students.”

David Holmquist, the district’s chief legal counsel, who announced the contract extension, offered no other details. Officials said specific terms of the arrangement would be made public once a final document is signed. If any vote were taken in the private session, the results were not released, although by terms of Deasy’s original contract, a “satisfactory” evaluation triggers an automatic extension.

Neither Holmquist, Vladovic, Deasy nor other board members took questions, and Vladovic gaveled the meeting adjourned, despite loud protests of people in the audience who wanted to address the board.

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Deasy Decision Expected Today: Leaving or Staying?

imagesBig Day today for LA Unified. Here’s the schedule although times are generally estimates:

11 am: A rally begins outside district headquarters. It’s sponsored by a group of community and educational groups that want to see Superintendent John Deasy remain in his job.

12:30 pm: The board meeting opens with a public comment period. This is a time when anybody can approach the microphone for any reason to comment about issues before the board, or in case of that guy who always reads a Biblical text, anything at all. Probable subjects for comment include the censure motion facing Board President Richard Vladovic and Deasy’s future as superintendent.

After Comments: The board introduces — or “notices” – Tamar Galatzan’s motion to censure Vladovic for conduct unbecoming a school district official.

After That: The board retreats to a closed door meeting in which Deasy is the prime subject. One of two outcomes is most likely: He stays or he goes.

After That: The board returns to open session to announce any decisions made in private. Deasy has promised to speak publically about events of the last several days.

The district is not providing a live video stream as it normally does for open board meetings.


Lost in Resignation, Vladovic Faces a Censure Motion

Board President Richard Vladovic

Board President Richard Vladovic

Expectations of John Deasy‘s resignation as superintendent of LA Unified have shoved aside almost every other matter before the school board at its meeting tomorrow, including a detailed review of the iPad program, which has now been postponed.

The board is taking up Deasy’s situation in a closed-door session, leaving only one item on the open agenda, and on a normal day, it would be the stuff of front-page headlines: introduction of a resolution from Tamar Galatzan to censure Board President Richard Vladovic “for conduct that has brought dishonor to himself, the School Board, and the Los Angeles Unified School District.” He has been accused of verbal abuse and sexual harassment, both violations of district code.

By board rules, a resolution can only be discussed, not voted upon, after its “notice.” A vote would come at a later meeting.

Vladovic has denied the accusations and has said nothing about them publicly. He has apologized for raising his voice at times but nothing more. It remains unclear if any accusers will initiate legal action.

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Vladovic Censure Would be ‘Extremely Divisive Episode’*

CensuredAn expert in school board governance says that a censure vote is rare and has the potential to fracture a board even beyond its existing rifts.

Christopher Maricle, a policy program officer and governance consultant for the California School Board Association, says the effort to publicly condemn a school district president could be an extremely divisive episode for the board — one that Maricle said would be difficult to overcome.

Richard Vladovic, the LA Unified board president, has been accused of verbal and sexual harassment by former co-workers, leading to an official investigation into the charges, his public apology for raising his voice at times – he has denied all other charges — and, last week, a resolution from board member Tamar Galatzan to censure him. A vote could come as soon as the Nov. 12 board meeting.

Censure is the board’s only self-disciplinary tool. Elected officials, including school board members, cannot be removed by a panel vote; nor does a censure carry punitive weight, aside from removal from responsibilities, like a presidency. Even so, Galatzan’s resolution was the first of its kind in the district’s history, board secretary Jefferson Crain told the Los Angeles Daily News.

“It’s basically a public wrist slap,” Maricle told LA School Report. “That’s why it tends to erode existing tensions on a board even further.”

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CLASS Calls Meeting with Vladovic ‘Productive’

Ryan Smith of United Way

Ryan Smith of United Way

A coalition of community groups known by the acronym, CLASS, finally had a meeting today with LA Unified Board President Richard Vladovic.

The groups’ mission was to press the case for individual schools, rather than district administrators, deciding how to spend money coming into LA Unified from Gov. Jerry Brown‘s new Local Control Funding Formula, with a particular focus on supporting underserved students — English learners, children from foster homes and students from low-income families.

“The meeting was productive and we look forward to ongoing meetings,” Ryan Smith of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles said in an email. “We are also pleased that the Board President has agreed to a January meeting with the 50 organizations in the CLASS partner network regarding LCFF.”

Smith said representatives from the eight founding groups of CLASS – Communities for Los Angeles School Success – spent about an hour with Vladovic at his downtown office. The representatives were from Community Coalition, InnerCity Struggle, Educators4Excellence, Teach Plus Los Angeles, the Urban League, Families in Schools and the Alliance for a Better Community.

The meeting came as a public debate is underway within the district over a spending plan for the 2014-2015 academic year. The budget is about $7 billion, which includes about $230 million in LCFF revenue, generated by Prop 30 taxes. District officials and school board members have held meetings in recent weeks with students, union officials and members of school communities.

Vladovic agreed two weeks to schedule a meeting with CLASS representatives. Smith contended that earlier, the board president had ignored the coalition’s request to meet.

A message seeking comment from Vladovic was not immediately returned.

Previous Posts: Vladovic Willing to Meet with Groups on Spending Plan*Local Groups to LA Unified Board: Let Schools Decide Spending.