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.

Teachers union makes no commit for endorsement in Vladovic race

District 7 debate

The candidates at the LA Unified District 7 forum

A meeting yesterday of UTLA’s political action committee, PACE, concluded with no decision to endorse LA Unified School Board President Richard Vladovic or his opponent, Lydia Gutierrez.

Vladovic was forced into May runoff against Gutierrez, a veteran educator who is anti-Common Core, pro-Vergara and Republican. It was an unusually close race for Vladovic after serving two terms on the board and more than a year as its president. The union did not endorse Vladovic in either of his previous runs for the board.

In previous races for other elected positions, Gutierrez has had strong support from conservative Christians and Republicans. On one conservative website she was commended for opposing public funding of abortion and supporting teaching intelligent design as an alternative to the theory of evolution. Her vehement opposition to Common Core has also won her support among Tea Party conservatives.

According to an official familiar with events at the PACE meeting, the subject of Vladovic’s endorsement “never came up.”

But “it’s possible it will come up at the House of Representatives meeting” on March 25, the official said. Many LA Unified teachers have campaigned independently on Vladovic’s behalf.

PACE is recommending that the union endorse Scott Schmerelson, a long-time LA Unified principal and administrator who is also a Republican. Although school board elections are non-partisan, the union’s support for a Republican comes as Republican governors around the country are supporting policies that weaken unions and their collective bargaining rights.

The teachers union endorsed incumbent Bennett Kayser in the primary race for District 5 against charter school founder, Ref Rodriguez, and spent about $450,000 in getting him through the primary.

3 LA Unified board incumbents heading into May runoffs

heading to a runoff

* UPDATED

LA Unified’s election season moved into runoffs last night with no candidate in the three contested races winning a majority of votes for a board seat and the 5 1/2 year term that voters approved yesterday.

A low turnout of 8.2 percent sent three incumbents — Tamar Galatzan in District 3, Bennett Kayser in 5 and board President Richard Vladovic in 7 — into the May 19 general elections and gave two of them, Galatzan and Vladovic, Republican opponents.

George McKenna, running unopposed, won the District 1 seat.

Galatzan and Vladovic finished first in their races as expected. But it was a victory by Ref Rodriguez, a charter school executive, over Kayser that raised eyebrows the highest last night and made it a big night for the California Charter Schools Association.

In his first run for public office, Rodriguez won 38.6 percent of the vote to Kayser’s 35.8, assuring another 11 weeks of the proxy war between the charter association and the teachers union, UTLA, for greater control of the seven-member board.

“We are going to change LAUSD for the better,” Rodriguez said in a statement this morning. “Our children deserve high quality schools, and we are on our way to achieving that. I am very proud of the campaign we are running, and I’m looking forward to fighting and winning the general election.

The charter group worked mightily to deny Kayser a second term, spending almost $600,000 (through last month) for campaign material, including harsh attacks that suggested Kayser was a racist.

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District 7: LAUSD school board race snapshot

LAUSD District 7 map

School board District 7, runs up a narrow swath from San Pedro at its southern tip to South LA as its northern boundary (see map here).
On the way, it encompasses parts of Wilmington, Harbor City, Carson, Harbor Gateway, Lomita, Gardena, Florence, and Watts, and is home to some of LA Unified’s historically troubled high schools including Fremont High, and Jordon High, which have undergone recent massive restructurings, and Locke High School, which underwent a major turnaround 2008. The district also includes some of the highest performing schools in LAUSD, including highly-ranked Harbor Teachers Prep Academy and many of the city’s highly-effective charter schools. In all there are 99 elementary schools, 36 middle schools and 54 high schools in LAUSD’s District 7. (See list here). Three candidates are vying for this seat.

CANDIDATE SNAPSHOTS

Richard VladovicRichard Vladovic (Incumbent)

A veteran educator, Richard Vladovic is a former social studies teacher, principal and Superintendent of West Covina Unified School District with two terms under his belt on the LAUSD school board. He was first elected to the school board in 2007 with the help of then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. While he maintains strong ties with reform-minded players he won the support of board members allied with the teachers union to ascend to the position of school board president replacing reform advocate Monica Garcia 18 months ago.

Organization endorsements: SEIU-99, CA Charter School Advocates, AALA, LA Times
Cash Raised: $96,764 [reporting as of 2/14]
SuperPAC $: $82,977 [reporting as of 2/14]
Age: 70
Education: B.A. Los Angeles Harbor College; M.S., Pepperdine University; PhD, USC Rossier School of Ed, 1980 (source, smartvoter)
Ballot Designation: School Boardmember/Educator
League of Women Voters Questionnaire: What is the single most important issue facing LAUSD today? The most important issue facing LAUSD today is increasing academic achievement. Full answers here
Website: http://www.vladovic4schoolboard.com/

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Vladovic on 4 more years: ‘Now it’s time to dream’

LAUSD school board President Richard Vladovic

LAUSD school board President Richard Vladovic

This is the next in a series of profiles on candidates running in the March 3 primary for the LA Unified school board. Today’s focus is board President Richard Vladovic, who is seeking reelection for the District 7 seat.


In many ways, LA Unified school board President Richard Vladovic sees himself as captain of a ship that made it through the storm of the century.

“Now it’s time to dream,” he told LA School Report when asked why voters in District 7 should give him four more years when they vote on March 3.

Vladovic was first elected to the board in 2007 and became president in 2013. Over his seven years, the board cut almost $2.5 billion from the district budget — angering parents, teachers and just about everybody else affiliated with LA Unified.

While anger may linger, the future looks better. With more money coming in from the state for the first time in years, Vladovic 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.

All that requires experience, he said, making his case for voters to choose him over challengers Euna Anderson and Lydia Gutierrez.

“I think now is the time they need somebody with the experience and who is willing to compromise and isn’t pushing an ideological agenda and is willing to do what is best for kids,” he said. “And we don’t have to take a step back to figure out how to do something. I think I understand this better than my two colleagues.”

“I have the knowledge and I’ve got to tell you, I’m not doing it with any political agenda,” he added.

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Candidates play it safe, respectful at first — only? — District 7 debate

District 7 debate

Moderator Fernando Guerra and LAUSD board District 7 candidates (from L) Euna Anderson, Lydia Gutierrez and Richard Vladovic. (Credit: Tamea A.)

The candidates in the first — and what looks like only — LA Unified board District 7 debate played it safe and respectful at the Granada Theater in Wilmington on Friday night.

While differences did emerge between incumbent board President Richard Vladovic and his challengers, Lydia Gutierrez and Euna Anderson, the candidates refrained from criticizing the others’ policies and views, sticking mostly to their own positions to influence voters in the March 3 elections.

When the issue of money came up, as it often did, Vladovic reminded the crowd of almost 600 that the district gets its money from the state and that one of his top priorities is to convince the legislature to increase the education budget.

“We are 49th in all of the states in educational funding per pupil, when you account for economies and so forth,” he said. “We are not spending the same amount of money that New York or Rhode Island spends, they spend twice as much as us. So we need to focus on insuring that the state puts us as a bigger priority.”

Gutierrez was the most aggressive of the three, even choosing to stand every time she spoke. But she levied her criticisms and barbs more at the district rather than tying them to Vladovic’s leadership of the board. In response to Vladovic’s comments on state money, she scored perhaps the biggest hit of the night by reminding the crowd of the $139 million payout to victims of the Miramonte child abuse scandal and the problematic MiSiS computer system, which has cost the district tens of millions of dollars to fix.

“To continue to misuse funds, but then say we need more money, we have to establish where that money is going first,” she said.

Gutierrez also made the most mistakes and seemed to lack an overall knowledge of details.

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Taking on Vladovic, Anderson focusing on ‘positive’ path to board

Euna Anderson

Euna Anderson

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


The LA Unified school board races this year have already seen a fair amount of negative campaigning, and even though she, too, has been a target, Euna Anderson says she intends to keep it positive, running for the District 7 seat.

After working 20 years at LAUSD as a teacher and principal in early education, she is taking on incumbent board President Richard Vladovic. And although he has been a lightning rod for controversy at times, Anderson prefers to focus on her attributes rather than the incumbent’s possible flaws.

“I think that I bring transparency. I think I bring a sense of inclusion, and I think I have a fresh approach to things,” Anderson told LA School Report. “So I don’t want to criticize [Vladovic] at this point. I just think that I am different than he is. I don’t have anything to hide. I don’t have any bones to pick with anybody.”

Anderson received a bachelor’s degree from Southern California College in organizational management and a master’s degree from Pepperdine’s organizational leadership program in 2002. She began her teaching career at LAUSD as a sub in 1994, becoming a full-time teacher the next year, and in 1996 she became an assistant principal.

Before working in education, Anderson said she was a fashion consultant and owned a salon in Marina del Rey. She is also a longtime resident of Carson in District 7 and has lived there for 46 years.

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Teachers union fails again to recommend endorsing Vladovic

Richard Vladovic

Richard Vladovic

The slow pace of progress toward a new contract in the teachers union negotiations with LA Unified is, so far, costing Board President Richard Vladovic any possibility of union support for his reelection.

The UTLA political action committee met last night, and a motion to recommend an endorsement to the union’s House of Representatives failed to win enough support to send it forward, according to a person close to the process.

“Members were upset about the lack of movement in the negotiations and his lack opinion on the issue,” the person said.

The union did not endorse Vladovic in his previous runs for the board, in 2007 and 2011.

So far this year, the union has endorsed only two of the four incumbents running — George McKenna, who is unopposed in District 1, and Bennett Kayser, who is facing two challengers in District 5.

The union has not endorsed anyone in District 3, where Tamar Galatzan is facing five challengers, including Scott Schmerelson, a retired teacher. As a strong supporter of charter schools, Galatzan would be the most unlikely board member to win a UTLA endorsement.

The lack of UTLA support for Vladovic, bidding for a third term, could provide a boost to one of his two challengers — Euna Anderson, a principal and former teacher. The other, Lydia Gutierrez, a teacher and former candidate for state Superintendent of Instruction, is a Republican and Tea Party favorite whose politics would not line up with the union’s.

The union is expected to take up the possibility of an endorsements for District 3 and 7 again next week.

In forum tonight, Kayser facing board rivals for first time

Bennett KayserBennett Kayser, who represents District 5 on the LA Unified school board, is front and center tonight, facing his two rivals for the first time in a much anticipated candidate forum at Eagle Rock High School.

After suddenly pulling out of two forums last week, Kayser is appearing in the wake of a recent attack mailer that questioned his support for Latino students.

The two-term board member, who is closely allied with the teachers union, said he cancelled due to scheduling issues, but an editorial in the  LA Times questioned whether politics could have been a factor: the forums were hosted by the United Way-Los Angeles and ten other community and education groups that often don’t see eye to eye with Kayser.

One of his opponents, educational consultant Andrew Thomas also canceled, leaving Ref Rodriguez, a 43-year-old community organizer and charter school founder to discuss issues on stage, alone. The controversial mailer, sponsored by the California Charter Schools Association, supported Rodriguez.

Here is a list of the upcoming school board forums. An asterisk denotes the incumbent.

BOARD DISTRICT 3:
Canoga Park, Chatsworth, Northridge, Winnetka, Reseda, Lake Balboa, Sherman Oaks, West Hills, Van Nuys, Studio City, North Hollywood

Candidates:  Tamar Galatzan, Elizabeth Badger, Filiberto Gonzalez , Ankur Patel, Car Petersen, Scott Schmerelson

       Thursday, February 12, hosted by United Way in North Hollywood; 6 p.m. Details  here.

       Tuesday, February 17, hosted by League of Women Voters and neighborhood        councils in Canoga Park; 6 p.m. Details here.


BOARD DISTRICT 5:
Atwater Village, Glassell Park, Eagle Rock, Mt. Washington, Cypress Park, Highland Park, Montecito Heights, El Sereno, Lincoln Heights, East Los Angeles, South Gate, Cudahay, Maywood, Huntington Park

Candidates: Bennett Kayser, Ref Rodriguez , Andrew Thomas

Thursday, February 5, hosted by ARC and neighborhood councils in Eagle Rock; 7 p.m. Details here
Tuesday, February 10, hosted by United Way in Huntington Park; 6 p.m. Details here. (Kayser has cancelled)
Wednesday, February 11, hosted by LA-32 Neighborhood Council in El Sereno; 6 p.m. Details here.

Wednesday, February 18, hosted by the Mount Washington PTA and other Mount Washington-focused organizations in Mount Washington; 6:30 p.m. Details here.


BOARD DISTRICT 7:
San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City, Carson, Harbor Gateway, Lomita, Garden, Willowbrook, Watts

Candidates: Richard Vladovic, Euna Anderson and Lydia Gutierrez.

Friday, February 6, hosted by United Way in Wilmington; 6 p.m.
Details here.

Teachers union — for now — has no plans to endorse Vladovic

Richard Vladovic

Richard Vladovic

The chairman of the the political action committee for the LA teachers union, UTLA, said today that, for now, the union has no plan to endorse Board President Richard Vladovic for reelection to the LA Unified District 7 board seat.

Marco Flores said the committee’s next meeting, tomorrow, does not include a recommendation to endorse Vladovic, although that could change.

“There is an expectation that eventually UTLA will endorse Vladovic,” he said, choosing his words carefully and declining to comment further.

A lack of an endorsement from the teachers, while likely not fatal to his reelection chances, would symbolize a major change in the union’s relations with Vladovic, who joined the board in 2007 and became its president six years later. He is facing two challengers in his bid for a third term although neither of them, Euna Anderson or Lydia Gutierrez, is likely to win the teachers stamp of approval.

Vladovic has been a relatively steady ally of UTLA in board votes, and the pronouncement that en endorsement might not be there yet could be viewed as leverage at a time the district immersed in negotiations with the union for a new teachers contract.

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

Former candidate last June for California Superintendent of Instruction

Lydia Gutierrez

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vladovic files campaign finance complaint against challenger

Richard Vladovic

LA Unified school board President Richard Vladovic

LA Unified school board President Richard Vladovic’s campaign today filed an ethics complaint against one of his challengers in the school board race for District 7.

Vladovic’s complaint to the City Ethics Commission charges Euna Anderson with failing to report campaign contributions in a timely fashion, in compliance with the California Political Reform Act.

A section of the act requires that committees report within 24 hours the receipt any contribution of $1,000 or more that comes within 90 days of the election, which in this case, is scheduled for March 3.

Vladovic’s complaint cites four contributions of $1,090 made to Anderson’s campaign since Dec. 4. The section of the City Ethics website that lists “24-Hour Reports for Contributions” does not include anything from Anderson’s campaign since Dec. 4. However, Anderson did report the donations in this accounting of total funds for the fourth quarter of 2014.

“The evidence speaks for itself,” Mike Trujillo, Vladovic’s campaign consultant told LA School Report. “And this should be a warning that we’re going to scrub every single penny that goes in her coffers now. To make this many errors, either she doesn’t know  what she’s doing or she doesn’t care, but either one is very troubling if you’re trying to run for the largest school district in California.”

Anderson is one of two people challenging Vladovic for the District 7 board seat. The other is Lydia Gutierrez.

The Anderson campaign did not respond to a request for a comment about the allegations, and LA School Report was unable to reach a spokesperson with the City Ethics Committee.

Jay Wierenga, communications director for the state Fair Political Practices Commission, which is responsible for enforcing the Political Reform Act, explained that the state may or may not investigate a complaint filed with the city of Los Angeles.

“We work closely with any cities or counties that have ethics commissions, but
it depends what the local ethics commissions want to do,” he told LA School Report. “In some cases, we generally would like to let locals handle local stuff as much as possible, but we can and will investigate a lot of the times in conjunction with the local officials.”

Wierenga said he had not seen the specific Vladovic campaign complaint, but said penalties for violating the act range from a warning letter to a fine of $5,000.

“I don’t think we would categorize any violation of the Political Reform Act as any more egregious or less egregious,” he added. “The law is the law.”


Vanessa Romo contributed to this report

Charter group endorsing 3 (of 4) incumbents for LAUSD board

Richard Vladovic

LAUSD Board President Richard Vladovic

The political arm of the California Charter Schools Association, CCSA Advocates, is endorsing three of the four incumbents seeking reelection to the LA Unified school board in March.

The exception is Bennett Kayser, a staunch charter opponent who has represented board District 5 since 2011. Kayser is so closely aligned with the teachers union, UTLA, that his political consultants, Burnside & Associates, list his political affiliation as UTLA.

Instead, the charter group’s endorsement for Kayser’s seat is Ref Rodriguez, one of the incumbent’s two challengers. The other is Andrew Thomas. Both challengers are educators.

In the other races, CCSA Advocates is supporting George McKenna, the District 1 member who is running unopposed; Tamar Galatzan, who is facing five challengers in District 3; and Richard Vladovic, the board president, who has two opponents for his District 7 seat.

“At this critical moment in public education when we are seeing the implementation of some of the greatest reforms in how we educate our students and fund our public schools, now is not the time for our elected leaders to blindly obstruct policies that work,” Gary Borden, Executive Director for CCSA Advocates, said in a press release.

“The challenger and three incumbents we’ve chosen to endorse represent the common
sense leadership that families in Los Angeles are counting on to provide equitable access to a quality public education, which includes the 130,000 students who attend 285 independent and affiliated charter schools in the district.”

Rodriguez has long been associated with charter schools. A co-founder of Partnerships To Uplift Communities, a charter school management organization, he currently serves as president and CEO of Partners for Developing Futures, a social investment fund dedicated to investing in leaders of color to start and grow high performing charter schools.

Thomas is a professor of education at the online Walden University and operator of a research company that consults with school districts, including LA Unified.

SEIU 99 endorses all incumbents in 2015 LAUSD board races

SEIU99SEIU Local 99, one of LA Unified’s largest and most powerful labor partners, announced today it is backing all of the incumbents running for a district school board seat in 2015.

After a town hall meeting for their members, the union representing nearly 40,000 cafeteria workers, bus drivers and special education assistance, among others, made the decision to support George McKenna in District 1, Tamar Galatzan in 3 and Bennett Kayser in 5.

Earlier this month SEIU announced plans to “work tirelessly” on behalf of school board President Richard Vladovic in his bid for a third term to represent District 7.

The union did not say how much financial support it would provide for the candidates it is endorsing.

“They demonstrate an understanding of the connection between economic and educational justice,” Scott Washburn, SEIU Local 99’s Interim Executive Director, said of the incumbents, adding, “As parents of students in their schools, Local 99 members serve as both workers and consumers. Earning a living wage creates added stability in the home and increases opportunities for academic growth and success.”

Backing Galatzan and Kayser is a turnabout for the union. It’s the first time it is backing either candidate, and in Kayser’s case, it’s a complete reversal. SEIU spent a lot of money trying to defeat him the last time he ran.

In statement today, the union explained its support for Galatzan, saying she “has demonstrated a commitment to the children, families and workers of LAUSD, as demonstrated by her support for Breakfast in the Classroom, the LCFF Equity Index and the adoption of the historic $15 minimum wage for LAUSD employees”

“I’m honored and gratified by the support of of the hard-working employees of SEIU,” Galatzan told LA School Report. “I look forward to working with them on behalf of our students.

As for Kayser, the union said he has been “a champion for early education, securing funding that will result in expanded educational opportunities for tens of thousands of children and has been a strong voice for living wages.”

McKenna is running unopposed, so it’s unclear what SEIU’s endorsement will mean for his campaign, but the union is throwing its support behind him anyway.

“In the past few months, George McKenna has already shown himself to be a willing partner in our efforts to increase opportunities for kids and families,” the union wrote.

Election day is March 3.

The first endorsement is in: SEIU 99 backing Vladovic for third term

Richard Vladovic

LA Unified school board President Richard Vladovic

* UPDATED

Now that the list of eligible candidates for the LA Unified School Board’s four open seats in 2015 is finalizing, the district’s powerful unions are starting to choose which ones they’ll back and throw their considerable resources behind.

The first endorsement came today: The union representing school cafeteria workers, custodians, special education assistants, and other school service workers union — Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 99 — is mobilizing its membership to support school board President Richard Vladovic in the race for District 7.

For now, he has one challenger in Lydia Guttierez, an educator, and another in Euna Anderson, a principal.

In a statement released today, the union said, “Throughout his career, Dr. Vladovic has consistently demonstrated a profound commitment to improving the lives of children and families …This summer, Dr. Vladovic presided over the school board as they adopted a $15 minimum wage – effectively lifting over 20,000 families out of poverty and setting a standard for workers across the country.”

SEIU 99 also pledged to “work tirelessly” to ensure Vladovic serves a third term.

Union members will meet in the coming weeks to decide on endorsements for candidates in other school board seats.


*Adds Euna Anderson as a qualified challenger.

 

School board races coming into view as filing deadline approaches

LAUSD School Board Candidate George McKenna with Bernard Parks and Jan Perry

George McKenna, flanked by Bernard Parks and Jan Perry

With tomorrow’s noon deadline approaching to file for next year’s LA Unified school board elections, the races are coming into view.

Seats in four of the board’s seven districts — 1, 3, 5 and 7 — are up for grabs, making the elections hugely influential on future district policies.

All four of the incumbents are running again and facing challengers, with the primary scheduled for March 3 and the general election on May 19. Here is a district-by-district breakdown of the school board races:

District 1

District 1 includes South Los Angeles, Palms and Baldwin Hills.

For the moment, this is the only race with a head-to-head contest. The incumbent, George McKenna, is the newest board member, having won a special election in August to fill the seat vacated by the death of Marguerite LaMotte last year.

McKenna’s victory was key in determining the current balance of power on the board, as his election shifted it to a 4-3 majority owing their seats, in large part, to financial support by United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). McKenna ran against a reform-backed candidate, Alex Johnson, and his victory was the latest in a string of pro-union wins against pro-charter, reformists in LA Unified school board elections.

McKenna holds a doctorate of education degree from Xavier University. He is a former LAUSD teacher and principal at George Washington Preparatory High School, where the academic turnaround he oversaw at the school was the subject of a 1986 TV movie starring Denzel Washington.

McKenna’s challenger is Daymond R., Johnson, president of the Amino Classified Employees Association, which represents the employees at Green Dot Public Schools.

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LAUSD reports record graduation jump, up by double digits

GRADUATIONAfter the downpour of bad news coming out of the district here’s a ray of sunshine: Graduation rates for all race and ethnic groups in LA Unified were up by double-digit margins last year.

Across the board graduation rates for the class of 2013-14 rose by 12 percent over the previous year, the highest increase in a single year on record for the district. But when broken down by race, the numbers are even more impressive: Black students increased 17 percentage points to 71 percent. The remaining groups made gains of 12 percent, boosting Latinos to 76 percent; Asians to 87 percent; and white students to 84 percent.

“I am very proud of our LAUSD team, who helped us get closer to our 100 percent graduation rate goal,” board President Richard Vladovic said in a statement. “The gains were made as a result of a lot of hard work from our staff and students,” he added.

Newly appointed superintendent, Ramon Cortines, also gushed about the numbers.

“We’re proud of our students, proud of our schools and proud of the rising graduation rates,” he said. “Even as we celebrate this achievement, students deserve our best effort. Combined with their endless potential, we will work with them to achieve even more.”

Other groups of students also made significant gains. Reclassified English Learners increased by 6 percentage points to 85 percent; economically disadvantaged students expanded by 11 percentage points to 78 percent; and students with disabilities grew 16 percentage points to 57 percent. The only students to experience a decline were English Learners, down two percent to 27.