Johnson holding money lead over McKenna; Vladovic has donors

Money race Alex Johnson George McKenna LAUSDNotes along the campaign trail:

In the money race for the open District 1 board seat, Alex Johnson continues to hold an overall lead over George McKenna, according to the City’s Ethics Commission

Through last week, Johnson had raised $47,646 to $6,450 for McKenna, an 8-to-1 ratio that hasn’t budged in weeks. In PAC money spent on the campaign’s behalf, Johnson supporters have written checks for $370,058, to $65,119 for McKenna.

The runoff election is now 16 days away, on Aug. 12, the same day school opens.

It’s entirely clear by now where all the support is coming from. Johnson has won the favor of reform groups, including the PAC affiliated with the California Charter Schools Association, which has spent $77,378, and a new PAC called Great Public Schools, which has spent $38,002 and includes lots of reformed-minded donors who support Superintendent John Deasy.

While that kind of support would appear to make Johnson sympathetic to board measures favorable to charter groups, he might be equally sympathetic to positions favored by his boss, Mark Ridley-Thomas. The largest amount spent on Johnson’s behalf, $245,754, comes from a voter registration and education group that Thomas founded 12 years ago, called the African American Voter Registration, Education & Participation Project (AAVREP).

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JUST IN: Richard Vladovic re-elected LAUSD board president

Richard Vladovic elected as LAUSD board president for 2014-2015 year

*UPDATED

The LA Unified School Board today re-elected Richard Vladovic to serve as president for the 2014-15 school year.

Rather than postpone the vote until after the August runoff to fill the vacant District 1 seat, the six member board voted and by a 5-1 margin supported Vladovic’s continued leadership.

Tamar Galatzan was the lone dissenting vote. Barbara Jones, her chief of staff, said the dissent was not directed toward Vladovic as much as the board’s proceeding with the vote instead of waiting until after the new board member is sworn in.

After the vote Vladovic took his seat without comment, and the discussion turned to consideration of meeting dates for the coming school year. An intense debate ensued, followed by the members voting to start the monthly meetings at 4 pm to allow more parents and teachers to attend. The new time would also suit member Monica Ratliff, who told her colleagues she would like to resume her job as a teacher.

This is Vladovic’s second and final term. Last year the board imposed term limits, precluding a board president from seeking a third consecutive term. Vladovic could return to the presidency but only after another member has served after next year.

The change was proposed by the late board member Marguerite LaMotte who argued, “Traditionally, the Board President’s position rotated annually among Board Members, with the vice-president training then ascending to the Board President’s position… Prior to 2007 the average term for the Board President was 1.9 years.”

The new rule also ended six consecutive years as president for Monica Garcia with whom LaMotte was often philosophically at odds.

As one of his first appointments, Vladovic named Steve Zimmer to continue his roles as board vice president and as chairman of the Committee of the Whole.


*Includes explanation of Galatzan’s vote.

 

After year of iPads only, laptops are making LAUSD debut

ipads LAUSD Board Meeting 7-1-14Not too long ago the iPad train barreling toward LA Unified seemed unstoppable.

At the beginning of the school year, it was a given that all district students would have an Apple device in their Millennial and Generation Z hands by the end of 2016. But after a series of very public blunders and intense scrutiny by the Common Core Technology Project Committee, the district is changing tracks.

Tomorrow the LA Unified Board of Education will usher in a new phase of the one-to-one technology plan – officially called Phase 1L  – by approving the purchase of 19,300 laptop devices for high school students and staff, a pilot program at a cost not to exceed $40 million.

The new computers, which include the two-in-one Surface (it can act as a tablet and laptop) and Chromebooks, will be pilot tested at 27 high schools beginning in the fall. Outcomes of the trial period will determine which device and curriculum the district chooses to purchase for all high school students.

That means the $500 million deal with Apple and Pearson is off. But the district has already spent upwards of $130 million on iPads for students across 85 campuses, plus another 45,000 tablets that were used for standardized testing.

“The benefit of the new approach is clear,” board member Monica Ratliff, whose efforts as chair of the board’s technology committee led to the more diversified approach, told the LA Times. “Why would we treat all our students — whether they are a first-grader or a high school freshman — as if they all had the same technology needs? They don’t…. To have a one-device-fits-all approach does not make sense.”

Another task before the board tomorrow is electing its president. While that’s business as usual — the board president is always elected at the Annual Meeting at the beginning of July per California ed code — it precludes the possibility that a newly-elected board member for District 1, will cast a vote.

In any case, with no apparent challenger, Richard Vladovic is expected to win easily for a second one-year term no matter when a vote is taken.

For Annual board meeting agenda – Election for School Board President (11:45 a.m.), click here.

For regular board meeting agenda including closed session items (noon), click here.

For regular board meeting agenda (4:00 p.m.), click here, and materials, here.

 Previous Posts: iPads going home? ‘That’s concerning to me,’ says Ratliff, LA Unified board OKs more iPads, caretaker for vacancy, LA Teachers, Students Protest Reliance and Spending on iPads

Vote for LAUSD board president set for July 1, as planned

LAUSD school board president meeting scheduled to voteThe LA Unified school board decided yesterday to hold its annual election for president in the traditional fashion, with an Annual Meeting on July 1, when the six members will choose their leader for the coming school year.

While that’s business as usual, it precludes the possibility that a newly-elected board member for District 1, will cast a vote.

As the top vote-getters in a primary, George McKenna and Alex Johnson are facing each other in an Aug. 12 runoff. The winner is likely to be sworn in a few days later, once the election is certified. The seat has been vacant since Marguerite LaMotte died in December.

Several members had expressed a desire to wait for the new member to join the board.

The state education code requires the district to hold an annual meeting within 15 days of July 1 and select a president at that meeting. It is possible for the board to hold another election at any time, which would make the July 1 selection an interim selection.

In any case, with no apparent challenger, Richard Vladovic is expected to win easily for a second one-year term no matter when a vote is taken.

LAUSD board may wait for new member before electing president

Incumbent Board President Dr.-Richard Vladovic LAUSD board

Incumbent Board President Dr. Richard Vladovic

In its final meeting of the 2013-14 fiscal year, the LA Unified school board may decide to break tradition by delaying the annual vote for board president.

Normally, board members elect a new leader for the coming year during a summer meeting prior to the start of the next academic year.

But the members may push back this year’s vote until after the Aug. 12 runoff to elect the new District 1 board member. As the top two vote-getters in a primary early this month, George McKenna and Alex Johnson are now competing in for the seat.

The vote for president would occur as soon as the winner is sworn in as a board member, giving District 1 full representation for the first time since last December, when Marguerite LaMotte died after a decade on the board.

Monica Garcia was behind the motion to delay the election to give the new member a vote in who will lead the board for the next year. Richard Vladovic, who is completing his first term, is expected to run — probably unopposed — for a second and final term. Presidents can serve only two consecutive years at a time before relinquishing the seat.

Chris Torres, Vladovic’s chief of staff, said Vladovic has no comment on the possibility that the board might delay the vote for president.

While many at last week’s meeting applauded the nod toward inclusiveness, the move would appear inconsistent with a board decision early this year to hold an election to fill the vacant seat, rather that appoint someone right away with voting rights.

Since LaMotte’s death, District 1 has had only a liaison to the board, not a voting representative, as the remaining six members shaped and approved major financial, instructional and administrative issues, including the final Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP)  and the final $7 billion budget for 2014-15, which goes before the members for a vote tomorrow.

District 1 residents had no say in any of the actions, apart from input provided by Sylvia Rousseau, the USC professor of education who served as the district liaison for several months as the election played out.

As for the final votes on the budget and the LCAP, it’s not entirely clear whether they will go smoothly. Certain members have certain priorities that they want fully funded, and they might perceive Superintendent John Deasy‘s proposals as falling short. Deasy needs four votes for approval. Whether he gets them may depend on how firm the members hold to their priorities.

For Curriculum and Assessment meeting agenda, click here, and materials, here.

For Special Board Meeting agenda, click here, and materials, here.

Previous Posts: LAUSD candidates McKenna, Johnson set for election runoffMarguerite LaMotte, Long-Serving Member of LA Unified School Board, Dies, at 80Rousseau’s LAUSD legacy, a push for standard English learning

JUST IN: Plan to use ‘Need Index’ to go before LAUSD board

Highest Need Map*UPDATED
In a surprise move, LA Unified school board will consider a resolution that supports the use of an alternative formula, known as the “Student Need Index,” in deciding how to distribute school funds throughout the district.

LA School Report has learned that Monica Garcia and Board President Richard Vladovic have agreed to co-sponsor a resolution to put before the board at its next meeting, on May 13. Their agreement came a day after his office met with student activists who had collected more than 4,300 petition signatures. (Read story here).

Many of the highest-needs schools centered primarily in south and east Los Angeles are in Vladovic’s own district, which stretches from downtown to Long Beach. A large number are also in Garcia’s district.

Chris Torres, Vladovic’s chief of staff, said Garcia agreed to sponsor the resolution, and Vladovic then signed on as a co-sponsor.

Developed by the Advancement Project along with two community groups, the Community Coalition and InnerCityStruggles, the index establishes a new method of rating schools by need, based on a variety of factors including neighborhood conditions that can affect the lives of students, like gun injuries, access to childcare and asthma rates.

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LA Unified students ask Vladovic to use ‘index’ for needs

Fremont High students, on their way to see LAUSD Board President Richard Vladovic

Fremont High students, on their way to see LAUSD Board President Richard Vladovic

After weeks of trying, a group of students from Fremont High School finally got a meeting yesterday in the office of LA Unified Board President Richard Vladovic to promote their Special Need Index for use in the board budget negotiations.

Vladovic wasn’t there, they were told, but they presented a petition with 4,300 signatures to Chris Torres, his chief of staff, calling on the board to consider additional metrics of need when deciding how to distribute money in the 2014-2015 fiscal budget.

“We got the message through load and clear,” said Sandra Hamada, Director of Youth programs for Community Coalition, a group that helped develop the Index and is supporting the students in pressing for its use. “It’s the first big step in understanding how important this is to the students of south LA.”

A major consideration in the board’s budget debate this year is deciding how to spend money to help English learners, children from low-income families and students in foster care. The new state formula requires districts provide added support to those groups as a condition of receiving added funding this year.

Like all California school districts, LA Unified has a formula to determine where the money should go, but the Student Need Index uses added measures to assure a more comprehensive spending plan.

The students, whose school is in Vladovic’s board district, had been trying for weeks to arrange a meeting with him, with many of their phone calls going unanswered.

“Up until this week we have had a difficult time getting to his office, but we were pleasantly surprised by our interaction yesterday,” said Alberto Retana, executive vice president of the coalition. “We are excited that a door has been opened; it’s opportunity to engage one of our school board members with core constituencies in his district.”

 

 

 

Students to school board: Neediest schools deserve more

Briana Lamb getting students to sign her petition

Briana Lamb, encouraging students to sign the petition

A new movement is brewing at Fremont High School, a school with a troubled past that has been at the epicenter of community and educational change many times over the years in south LA.

For the past week, students there have been using an old-fashioned organizing tool — a petition drive – to bring a message directly to the LA Unified school board. It aims at improving the quality of education for the neediest of LA Unified students and their schools.

“We need a lot more help from the district than what we’re getting,” said Briana Lamb, a senior at Fremont. Long considered a drop-out factory, Fremont was reconstituted in 2010 with some promising improvements. But still it faces vast challenges, serving more than 2,400 of the highest needs students in south LA.

Lamb is urging members of the school board to give what she and other students are calling their “fair share” of the new school funds through the new Local Control Funding Formula. The petition asks the board to use a new metric called the Student Needs Index, developed by local community groups, to address historical inequities.

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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.