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.

 

Commentary: On a momentous day, where was Vladovic?

Richard Vladovic

Richard Vladovic

What a momentous day it was. One superintendent out. Another steps in.

The LA Unified community and social media were alive with chatter — people sorry to see John Deasy go, people celebrating his departure, people happy to see Ray Cortines return for a third deployment, people wondering what the school board was smoking in bringing him back.

So many comments, opinions and responses.

But one person was conspicuously absent.

Board President Richard Vladovic had nothing to say.

Apart from whatever contribution he made to the district’s “joint statement” from the board and Deasy, he issued no press release. He made himself available for no interviews. He made no public appearances to talk about the day’s events.

He appeared to be missing in inaction.

At times of crisis and change — in a family, an organization, even a public agency — constituents want a comforting word that everything will be okay, that problems will be solved, that divisions will be closed, even if it’s more hope than certainty.

In the case of the LA Unified family, teachers deprived of raises for years might like to know there could be better times ahead, parents might like to hear that their kids’ schedules will be straightened out, students might appreciate encouragement to stay the course despite the messes created by the grownups.

If there were ever a moment for a leader to step forward at a critical time from within a bureaucracy wracked by divisiveness, technological dysfunction and public discontent, this was it. And the logical person to utter those soothing words would have been the school board president, the elected face of the school district, second-biggest in the country.

But in this case, the school board president had nothing more to say beyond the joint statement, or so his office advised.

Other board members were quiet, too, but they don’t set the board agenda. The board president does. Continue reading

After runnerup finish in state race, Gutierrez taking on Vladovic

Lydia Gutierrez, former candidate last June for California Superintendent of Instruction

Lydia Gutierrez, former candidate for California Superintendent of Instruction

The LA Unified school board president, Richard Vladovic, is no longer running uncontested for his seat next year.

Lydia Gutierrez, who nearly advanced to the general election in the California Superintendent of Public Instruction race this year, has filed to oppose Vladovic in 2015, when elections are being held for four school board seats — Districts 1, 3 5 and Vladovic’s 7.

Also, Ankur Patel, a former candidate for LA City Controller, has become a third challenger to Tamar Galatzan in District 3, joining a field with Carl Petersen, Director of Logistics for a Glendale manufacturing company, and Elizabeth Badger, owner of an auto repair company in Canoga Park.

On her Facebook page, Gutierrez describes herself as “a long-time California educator and elected official on the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council.” In the June primary, she just missed moving onto the November general election, winning nearly 1 million votes — 24.5 percent of the total — to finish third behind Marshall Tuck (28.9 percent) and the incumbent, Tom Torlakson (46.5). Tuck and Torlakson are facing each other in the November general election.

Her decision to oppose Vladovic came through an analysis of where her votes came from.

Jose Gonzalez, one of her campaign managers, told LA School Report that she came within 1,000 votes from District 7 residents of the total Vladovic received in 2011.

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Romero pressing for LAUSD hearing on ‘trigger’ waiver

Gloria Romero, former CA State Senator

Gloria Romero, former CA State Senator

Gloria Romero, the former state senator who authored the California Parent Trigger law is asking LA Unified board president Richard Vladovic to schedule a public discussion on the district’s legal opinion that the law does not apply this year.

District lawyers say the Federal waiver granted LA Unified and seven other California school districts, allowing them to to create their own metrics for academic performance in the temporary absence of statewide standards, sets the law aside.

“Of course, I dispute the legal interpretation and I am in the process of seeking a state opinion on the matter,” she wrote to Vladovic. “Nothing that I have seen lends support to the legal opinion of LAUSD.”

She adds that none of the other districts granted a waiver has made such an interpretation.

Vladovic’s chief of staff, Chris Torres, said in an email that Vladovic intends to help arrange to put her request on the agenda of a future meeting.

The district’s legal interpretation is important, so far as parent groups who want to enact changes this year through the state law, which permits parents to initiate action at their children’s school if they can secure signatures from a majority of school parents.

The district is contending that without state-approved metrics for measuring academic performance while Common Core testing is phasing in, the law cannot apply because action through Parent Trigger requires two years of data to show a school is failing.

In her letter, Romero questions several aspects of the district’s decision, including whether the board was aware of such an exemption and why the legal decision was made without public discussion or announcement.

She also asks Vladovic that if the district was certain in its legal analysis, why did the district negotiate with parents at West Athens Elementary School for changes in exchange for their assurance not to use the Parent Trigger law, when in the absence of the law, the parents would have had no such leverage.

Finally, she asks, “Perhaps even more importantly — how could a District simply erase away a law and make a pact to keep this information away from the public?

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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