Zimmer, Kayser back McKenna; Villaraigosa in for Johnson

Steve Zimmer George McKenna

Steve Zimmer, with George McKenna to his right.

Endorsements in the District 1 school board race continued to pile up today as two LA Unified board members jumped on the George McKenna bandwagon, and former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa weighed in for Alex Johnson.

Steve Zimmer and Bennett Kayser appeared at a news conference outside City Hall this morning to offer their strong support for McKenna, the former administrator who won the June primary.

Villaraigosa announced his endorsement through a campaign release from Johnson, the education aide to LA Country Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas who finished second.

The candidates are now facing each other in an Aug. 12 runoff election.

Calling McKenna “one of the most esteemed public educators in recent LA history,” Zimmer said he was disturbed at campaign mailers from Johnson that called into question McKenna’s effectiveness as an administrator.

“I couldn’t stand idly by and let it happen,” he told LA School Report at the gathering. “So I’m getting involved.”

Kayser said he, too, was motivated by the fliers, saying, “I was going to stay out of the campaign. Then I saw the fliers sent out. attacking him. I felt I can’t stand back.”

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LAUSD using new ‘equity index’ to restore arts to areas of need

Arts Education LAUSDThe plan to expand arts access for students across LA Unified and restore nearly $16 million in arts funding will include data gathered in a new Arts Equity Index, a tool to identify schools in greatest need of arts instruction.

School board member Steve Zimmer, who proposed the idea at the board meeting Tuesday, called it the most comprehensive arts inventory the district has ever taken.

To determine where arts programs are in greatest need, the Index will consider existing arts instruction at a school, proximity to arts centers or places that offer community based arts activities, and levels of poverty (among other factors which have not yet been defined). The results are intended to generate support in the form of district money, foundation grants, private donations and partnerships with local arts facilities.

“Until now access to arts education has been really about entitlement and luck,” Zimmer told LA School Report. “There are some rockstar arts programs that are concentrated in areas of high poverty, but you have other schools in areas of mid-range need that only get one hour of arts instruction a week.”

For example, schools in downtown LA, which are regarded as high needs campuses in most respects, have access to Inner City Arts, a non-profit arts education provider for many LA Unified schools. These schools, according to Zimmer, would fall to a lower position on the arts index.

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Vergara ruling gets mixed reaction from school board

LAUSD School board members Vergara ruling reactionsPredictably, the historic superior court decision yesterday in the Vergara case elicited mixed reactions from members of the LA Unified school board.

The ruling, which found California laws dictating teacher tenure, seniority rights and dismissal practices unconstitutional, is seen as huge blow to teacher unions and a boost to education reformers. Here is what a handful of board members had to say:


Monica Garcia, LAUSD Board Member, District 2

“California is a state in transformation! Today, California must act to support our students’ civil rights as directed by Judge Rolf Treu in Vergara v. California. By striking down all five laws, California must focus corrective action that will ensure students are served adequately, and teachers are treated fairly. I applaud the nine student plaintiffs, and the Students Matter team for creating this opportunity to radically change our educational system.”

“On behalf of those I represent, I call on all parties to come together, propose new laws and lead the nation in creating conditions that best serve our youth.”


Tamar Galatzan, LAUSD Board Member, District 3

“The Vergara ruling is the first step toward being able to guarantee that we have great teachers in every LAUSD classroom and classrooms around the state. It is now up to the Legislature to pass laws that provide equal opportunity and provide equal access to a high-quality education.”


Steve Zimmer, LAUSD Board Member, District 4

“Basically yesterday you had a completely antithetical moment. You had the verdict read at the courthouse that identifies teacher tenure and other protection statutes as the reasons why kids have suffered disproportionately in public education. And then, not half a day later, you actually had the incoming president of the teachers union standing with a civil rights leader saying, No no no there are many factors that impact children and their access to education, and these factors are so strong that we believe that you have to take them into consideration when we are distributing funding.”

“As I’ve always said, there are parts of the statute that I would change. The problem with Vergara has always been that in saying one part of the problem is the problem, is a reckless theory. And now I worry that it could be a very reckless implementation.”


Bennett Kayser, LAUSD Board Member, District 5

“On behalf of my former colleagues, public school teachers, I am deeply saddened that our profession has been so attacked in the in the courts. It is shameful when billionaires use children to mask their efforts to eliminate employees’ hard-won rights. I do believe however that, we shall prevail on the Vergara appeal.”


Richard Vladovic, the board president, and Monica Ratliff, did not respond to requests for reaction to the Vergara case.


Previous posts: Vergara decision: Big win for students, big loss for teachers union; Analysis: The long wait for the impact — if any — of Vergara; Vergara trial ends, with CA teacher laws hanging in the balance

 

Zimmer: LAUSD ‘culture war’ over co-locations on the west side

Steve Zimmer LAUSD on CWC relocation

Steve Zimmer LAUSD Board Meeting

* UPDATED

As lawyers figure out where Citizens of the World Mar Vista decides will call home in the 2014-2015 school year, LA Unified board member Steve Zimmer says the charter is likely to encounter the same friction it endured as a co-located school this year at Stoner Elementary if it remains on LA’s west side. (See story here).

“It’s not that it has much to do with CWC specifically,” Zimmer told LA School Report. “It’s that, on the west side you have a culture war playing out on the issue of school choice.”

Much of it has to do with the shortage of land and property values that shut out more people as housing prices increase.

“Land out here is treated like water in the desert,” he said. “It is extremely valuable.”

Zimmer, whose district covers much of LA’s coastal neighborhoods, has been a steady critic of co-locations, a phenomenon that grew out of Prop 39, a voter initiative approved in 2000 that established the practice of making under-used space in a public school available to a charter. Last fall, he introduced a board resolution, asking state lawmakers to draft more clearly-defined guidelines for applying the law so that the host school is not penalized for sharing its space.

In west side areas like Del Rey, Westchester and Venice, where other co-location disputes have broken out, the demographics of homeowners has changed much faster than the local school populations, generally shifting from a mix of African-American and white to larger numbers of white homeowners.

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Another week, another LA Unified school board meeting

LAUSD School Board Meeting 5-20-14It’s hard to believe after last week’s marathon 10-hour session, but LA Unified school board members will be meet again tomorrow with a full agenda.

Most of the issues before the board are much less contentious than those addressed a week ago. They include:

  • Board member Bennett Kayser’s effort to form a task force charged with replacing the district’s potentially asthma-triggering cleaning supplies will come up for a vote.  It is the only resolution for action on the agenda.
  • A plan for a different task force will be introduced by Monica Garcia. This time one that, if passed, would develop a district-wide plan within three months for Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Education to be implemented in the Fall of 2015.
  • And Steve Zimmer has drafted a motion for phasing in the data resulting from the administration of the Smarter Balanced tests now that LA Unified “will sunset the use of API scores as a measurement and evaluation tool for schools communities and all other assessment purposes.”

In a closed session meeting the six members will address the usual: existing litigation, personnel dismissals, and student discipline cases. They will also meet with representatives of various labor groups who are entering into negotiations with the district on new collective bargaining contracts. Among them are the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA), Los Angeles School Police Association (LASPOA), Service Employees International Union Local 99 (SEIU), and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA).

After the meeting, the same board members will reconvene in the afternoon. for a special joint meeting of Committee of the Whole and the Adult Education Committee of the Los Angeles Community College District.

Much of the discussion will focus on Assembly Bill 86, an effort to coordinate public schools and community colleges to serve the needs of adult education students.

For board agenda, click here.

For board materials, click here.

Protests, threats, violence driving wedge through a co-location

CWC community dinner LAUSD* UPDATED

Citizens of the World Charter School (CWC), a K-2 LA Unified school of 160 students in Mar Vista, is inviting neighbors over for dinner tonight. It’s a gesture intended to show that CWC is a better neighbor than some in the area apparently think.

The offer to break bread comes at an unpleasant time for the school, which shares a building with Stoner Elementary, a K-5 school of about 360 students. At this point, though, it’s unclear if the offer will make much difference.

Tensions have been rising through the year, CWC’s first, over issues big and small relating to the co-location experience. The uneasiness, purportedly over traffic congestion generated by CWC’s separate entrance on a residential street, has escalated into a proxy fight over the wisdom of Prop 39, a state measure that allowed for co-located schools when the public school has room to spare, and the intrinsic value and fairness of charter schools.

Groups on both sides of the issue have been arguing and protesting since last Fall, and the animosities continue building.

In recent months, CWC parents claim they have encountered threatening signs, ugly gestures, fear mongering and worse from local residents who have made it clear they don’t want CWC in the area. The parents also say literature circulated in the neighborhood spreads untruths about the school, including the erroneous contention that as a charter it drains funds away from local district schools.

“The bottom line is that we want a safe, peaceful environmental for our school,” said Amy Held, executive director of CWC, which operates schools in Los Angeles and New York. “Since we co-locate with other schools, we have no reason to believe that’s not possible here. That’s what we’re driving toward.”

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Zimmer: Congratulations for Caputo-Pearl, Thanks for Fletcher

Board Vice President Steve Zimmer

Board Vice President Steve Zimmer

The LA Unified School Distirct issued a statement from board vice president, Steve Zimmer, on the election of Alex Caputo-Pearl as president of UTLA, the teachers union:

“I want to congratulate Alex Caputo-Pearl, and his team of candidates upon their election to the leadership of the nation’s second-largest teacher union, local United Teachers Los Angeles.

“Throughout his career, Mr. Caputo-Pearl has been committed to uplifting the rights of children, their families, their teachers and their school communities. I look forward to working with Alex, and his entire team, to celebrate and elevate the teaching profession in this District and beyond. Working together, I know we can positively change the public education trajectories for students throughout our District.

“I also want to recognize and thank outgoing President Warren Fletcher. Mr. Fletcher led the union through the worst budget crisis ever to face L.A. Unified. I appreciate his role in helping to preserve public education in Los Angeles.

“There has never been a more important time for the District, our teachers, our families and our school communities to work collaboratively to ensure the promise of public education is fulfilled for all students. In Mr. Caputo-Pearl and his team, I know we have partners in our effort to make equality in our education outcomes becomes social justice reality in our time.”

LAUSD board approves a student voice, but not how to get it

Steve Zimmer LAUSD Board Meeting 4-8-2014

Steve Zimmer LAUSD Board Meeting 4-8-2014

A grand plan by Steve Zimmer and Bennett Kayser to put a student voice on the LA Unified School Board hit a road block today when the board accepted the idea in principle but delayed adopting a plan for how to do it.

In a 50-minute debate, board member Tamar Galatzan was the first to lead the charge against their Student Engagement and Empowerment resolution, which would have required Superintendent John Deasy to develop a plan that included a seven member student advisory board and a district-wide student Congress.

But the effort went down in a 4-2 vote over objections to doing anything more than acknowledging the certainty of creating a student advisory position for the board something during the 2014-2015 academic year.

“I don’t know why we need to create this giant bureaucracy of student advice when the education code is much simpler,” said Galatzan, who voted with Monica Garcia, Monica Ratliff and Board President RIchard Vladovic to defeat the resolution.

Garcia quickly proposed an alternative approach: Accept the petition presented to the board — 1,500 student signatures calling for the addition of a student representative, as required by the California education code — and authorize Deasy to recommend within 120 days the best way to accomplish the effort.

That was passed, 5-1, with Zimmer as the holdout.

After the board meeting, Zimmer told LA School Report, he was disappointed in his colleagues who chose to meet only the minimum standards required by the state.

“I hope that the students who participated in the process don’t feel deflated by democracy,” he said. And he encouraged them to view it as a partial victory.

“The good news,” he said, “is that there will be a student here and that’s going to make this a better board of education.”

Rallies at LAUSD for budget priorities and a student voice

Community Coalition rally, protesting LAUSD budget priorities

Community Coalition rally, protesting LAUSD budget priorities

With the LA Unified board meeting tomorrow, two rallies are taking place outside district headquarters that seek support for two different educational issues.

Parents, education advocates and civil rights groups, who represent Communities for Los Angeles Student Success, or CLASS, are organizing a “silent protest” on behalf of low-income students, schools and communities by placing 375 empty desks on Beaudry Avenue. The desks represent the 375 LAUSD students who drop out each week, according to organizers.

“We have a historic opportunity to do right for the highest need students 
who have not received their fair share,” Maria Brenes, executive director of Inner City Struggle, a member of CLASS, told LA School Report. “This rally is calling on LAUSD
 officials to be bold by comprehensively directing funds to the highest need
students, schools and communities.”

As LAUSD is preparing to refine its next budget, CLASS is demanding that $1 billion in extra state funding over the next seven years go to help the students it was meant to serve – low-income students, English learners and foster youth.

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Charter Groups want four unused LAUSD sites for new schools*

Maybe 4 fewer eyesores?

Maybe 4 fewer eyesores?

Two charter organizations want to take over four LA Unified public schools that have become an eyesore in the West San Fernando Valley, after closing more than three decades ago.

El Camino Real High School, which became a charter in 2011, has proposed taking over three of the school sites – Highlander, Platt Ranch and Oso Elementary.

Preliminary plans include converting the Highlander campus into a K-8 grade school, while Platt Ranch would become the new site of El Camino’s continuation high school. Oso, which is essentially crumbling, would be razed to allow the development of an outdoor science center with a self-contained eco system, green houses and gardens. The center would only be open to El Camino students.

Estimated costs for renovations at the three sites are approximately $18 million.

For another $12 million, the fourth site, Collins Elementary, would be operated by the CHIME Institute, a charter school based on an inclusive model of learning, which puts special needs and gifted students in the same classroom.

The new campus would allow CHIME to expand its K-8 grade school into high school. It projects an enrollment of 480 9-12th grade students.

The schools were initially shut down due to declining enrollment but at a meeting with  homeowners and community members last night, Mark Hovatter, Chief of Facilities for the district, assured community members that history would not repeat itself.

He said despite the exodus from traditional public schools, demand for charter schools is high.

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Abandoned LA Unified schools coming back to life — but how?

dilapidated schoolsAfter more than 30 years, the West Valley may be closer to having four more schools.

What kind of schools remains to be seen.

Community members are invited tomorrow night to a meeting at Woodlake Elementary School to learn more about the the future of the elementary schools — Oso, Collins, Highlander and Platt Ranch Elementary — that were abandoned in the 1980s due to a massive loss of student attendance.

Those who attend the meeting will be among the first to hear recommendations from LA Unified’s Facilities Division, which has reviewed multiple bids to renovate the properties at a cost of up to $80 million. The division has narrowed the bids to one per campus and has so far declined to reveal details about any of the bids that were passed on.

Tom Rubin, consultant to the district’s School Construction Bond Citizens’ Oversight Committee, said the bidding process is done in utter secrecy, but the board has given charter schools affiliated with the district top priority.

“It’s a safe bet, that’s who the district is going to go with,” he told LA School Report.

But it won’t be cheap.

“These schools need work,” Rubin said. “The charters were very clearly told, go out, we’ll give you the tour, we’ll help you figure out what’s needed. We’ll tell you everything we know but these will need work.”

School board members Tamar Galatzan and Steve Zimmer will attend the meeting. Each has two of the shuttered schools in their district.

The full school board will take up the decision to proceed with the proposals at the board’s next meeting, on Tuesday.

 

Commentary: Standing with Beatriz against Vergara

Steve Zimmer

Steve Zimmer

Just over a year ago, I won re-election to the Los Angeles Unified School District board. It was an unlikely victory in what may have been the most expensive school board race in U. S. history. The wealthiest of self-styled reformers – Eli Broad, Reed Hastings, Michael Bloomberg and Michelle Rhee’s followers – put in over $4-million to try and take over the L.A. Board of Education.

The stakes were high. Los Angeles Unified is by far the largest school district in the nation to be governed by an elected board. Our district has over 900,000 students, over 60,000 employees and an operating budget of over $7 billion. The reformers were clear about their goals. They sought to eviscerate the power of our teacher union by eliminating job protections, seniority rights, and tenure. They sought to link teacher evaluation directly to standardized test scores. And more.

Against this gale force, we were able to build an improbable coalition of families, teachers and classified employees, and community activists. We matched the billionaires’ money with authentic boots on the ground. We talked to people, and people listened. In the many struggles in today’s economy, battles often pit people’s interests against the interests of corporate America. This time the people won.

Or so we thought.

As it turns out, the election isn’t really over. It just shifted venues.

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Commentary: Listen adults, it’s time for a student on the board

Cindy FigueroaDo you know how many students attended the LAUSD school board meetings last month? In my circle of friends, you’d be lucky if a single person could name a school board member or tell you what the school board does.

As an active LAUSD student who cares about my community, I wonder how the second-largest district in the nation can make decisions about the futures of thousands of students without hearing our perspective on issues that matter. Most importantly, aren’t we the ones most affected by decisions on issues like the Common Core curriculum, school spending, iPads and new schools?

How can a school district that prides itself on leadership and preparing future citizens not have a seat for a student to exercise that leadership on the District level?

California Education Code states that governing boards have student representation. Also, students have the right to petition the board for that student representative to have an advisory vote if they collect more than 500 signatures.

LAUSD would not be alone in choosing a student representative. Over 200 districts in California have a student sitting on their schools board, including Oakland and San Francisco. There are hundreds more throughout the United States that have given students a seat at the table. Even our own State Board of Education has a high school student who participates on its board.

It’s time for LAUSD to come around.

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Dip in enrollment could cost LAUSD hundreds of millions

images-1The Los Angeles Unified School District is losing an average of 2.6 percent of students attending traditional public schools – that’s about 56,000 kids — and it’s costing the district hundreds of millions dollars each year.

By the current formula, which calculates how much money goes to districts based on student attendance, about $292.4 million will no longer flow to LA Unified’s public schools in the 2014-15 school year.

At a special school board meeting today, during which the board members discussed the district budget for this year and next under California’s new Local Control Funding Formula, Megan Reilly, Chief Financial Officer for LA Unified, said district projections indicate the enrollment problem is only going to get worse.

In the 2015-16 school year the district expects to lose another 2.9 percent of non-charter students, bringing that group’s enrollment down by 72,000 students over two years. It would make it the 12th straight year of enrollment decline.

Reilly attributes the steady loss of students to the increasing popularity of charter schools. “About 44 percent of the movement has been to charters,” she told school board members.

But the majority of the decline is due to demographic changes as Southern California birthrates decline, and people are moving out of the area.

As a result, Reilly warned board members to “pay special attention to the district’s fixed costs which don’t change when enrollment declines.”

“They can start taking up more of your budget,” she said.

That’s especially true when it comes to paying out pensions and health benefits for retirees which continue to grow.

Board member Steve Zimmer tried to provide a ray of sunshine on the gloomy news.

“You’re basing these figures on charter enrollment that we’ve already approved,” he said, perhaps suggesting that the school board may want consider restricting charter application approvals, something the board has been accused of not doing.

Although he acknowledged “we have work to do in terms of children being born,” Zimmer suggested the board could devise strategies to boost enrollment and retain more area students.

Denied renewals, 2 Aspire charters appeal to LA County

imgres-1After the LA Unified board denied renewals last month for two high-performing charter public schools in southeast Los Angeles — Aspire Antonio Maria Lugo Academy and Aspire Ollin University Preparatory Academy — the schools vowed to fight on.

They filed an appeal with the LA County Board of Education and now have a public hearing scheduled March 18, with the board’s vote expected on April 15.

“We have gone through appeals processes before, and we are confident that the county will approve these charters, given the great success that these schools are having in serving students and families in Huntington Park,” James Willcox, Chief Executive Officer of Aspire, told LA School Report.

“We remain committed to keeping these schools open and serving our students. We expect approval of both charters, just now under a different authorizer.”

The two Aspire schools serve predominantly low-income, Latino students — and serve them well: The latest API score for AMLA is 835; for Ollin, 803.

Yet despite their strong academic performances, the LA Unified board voted against the renewals, 4-2, because of the schools’ refusal to provide special education to their students by going directly through an LA Unified-administered services plan.

Each California school district is required to provide special services to schools through what’s known as a SELPA – Special Education Local Planning Area — with state money for services flowing through the district to the local service providers and specialist.

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Quietly, LA Unified gets a voice in place for District 1

Sylvia Rousseau

Sylvia Rousseau

After school board member Marguerite LaMotte died, her district — which stretches from Palms to Central Los Angeles — went without a voice for 89 days. That ended Tuesday, when the Los Angeles Unified School Board hired Sylvia Rousseau as a temporary “liaison” for the community.

The appointment approved by unanimous consent after little fanfare and no public debate.

Rousseau, who will continue teaching full time at the USC Rossier School of Education, will serve until a permanent replacement has been elected later this year. The district has agreed to pay her $49.90 per hour.”

Today, her second day on the job, Rousseau told LA School Report, “I’m really trying to get a profile on what District 1 is like.”

“I want to learn from the community, parents, and principals so that the board has a more clear idea of what its needs are as they deliberate on major decisions that affect District 1” she said.

Rousseau said she will report her findings to the board at each monthly meeting.

Information will also be going in the other direction. Working with local superintendents and school principals, Rousseau is responsible for keeping District 1 parents informed about long-term issues, including the new Local Control Funding Formula and Common Core implementation.

Parents have accused the board and Superintendent John Deasy of acting secretively, making the appointment in a closed session meeting and failing to speak publicly about Rousseau’s role.

But district officials said that may be more an issue of expediency. Rather than hold an open debate to refine specific job responsibilities, board members met individually with her and agreed that she was ideally suited for the job.

“This is a person of such high esteem and caliber that we chose to trust her with the substance of the work, based on what she said to us individually,” said board member Steve Zimmer, who has been the leading advocate for finding some means of connection between the board and District 1 until the special election, which is scheduled for June 3.

Zimmer said Rousseau’s major focus will be conveying to the board “data and trends” from within District 1 so the information can be considered in two of the biggest issues before the board in the coming months — the district’s annual budget and setting priorities for how to spend new state money from the Local Control Funding Formula.

Previous Posts: The LA Unified board appoints a ‘liaison’ for vacant board seatDoes experience count? LAUSD candidates vie for attentionThe LA Unified board twice voted against a caretaker for vacant seat.

Zimmer introducing plan to give students a role with school board

stevezimmer12_17Fresh off his (unsuccessful) effort to get a District 1 voice onto the LA Unified school board right away, trustee Steve Zimmer is returning to the monthly board meeting tomorrow with a plan that would lead to another voice with influence on the board:

Students.

Zimmer is introducing a measure — the Student Engagement and Empowerment Resolution of 2014 — that would create a student advisory member of the school board, a “student congress” made up of two representatives from each district high school, and from that, a student from each of the board’s seven districts to serve as liaisons between the congress and the school board.

The program, starting as a pilot in 2014-2015, would also create a district-wide curriculum for high schools using the televised board meetings as a “teaching tool” to increase student involvement with board actions and draw district students closer to issues that bear directly on them.

As his motion says, the student congress and student board member would be “embraced by the Board to bring a new level of legitimacy, accountability, and transparency to policy decisions enacted” by the board, starting with the spring semester of 2015.

“I’ve always believed in student empowerment,” Zimmer said in an interview with LA School Report. “The lack of an authentic student voice is something I have always felt obligated to address.”

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LA Unified board appoints a ‘liaison’ for vacant district seat

Sylvia Rousseau, USC Credit: Steve Cohen

Sylvia Rousseau, USC
Credit: Steve Cohen

In a closed session meeting — meaning, it was closed to the public — the LA Unified School Board named Sylvia Rousseau, a professor at USC,  as the “liason” to board District 1, starting in March.

The board seat has remained unrepresented at school board meetings since Marguerite LaMotte died in December.

The appointment is not totally official yet, nor is the position fully defined. The board will take the next two weeks to outline Rousseau’s duties and responsibilities and will vote to ratify her appointment at the next school board meeting, on March 4.

“It was not the most elegant process,” school board member Steve Zimmer told LA School Report.

Zimmer has been the most outspoken advocate for an interim representative for the district until the outcome of a special election in June.

“I don’t think it was anyone’s first choice for how this would be done, but it is quite a compromise,” he said. “In the end, everybody compromised.”

The decision comes just one week after the school board voted down two measures to appoint a temporary representative: One came from Zimmer, to have a non-voting “virtual board member,” who would report to the school board sit and on the horseshoe. The other was an effort from board president Richard Vladovic, directing Superintendent John Deasy to select and appoint an “executor” for the seat.

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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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Zimmer’s plan for District 1 vacancy facing a big vote

images-2The LA Unified school board has an unusually long agenda for its monthly meeting on Tuesday, 39 items plus a handful of reports and updates.

Each has consequences but few of them carry the import and emotional impact of Steve Zimmer‘s proposal to fill the vacant seat for District 1 on a temporary basis until a new member is elected later this year.

After weeks of discussion and his “committee of one” meeting last week, he has written a template for what the interim can do — and by extension, can’t do — and a timeline for identifying and approving a selection.

With guidance from the district legal team, Zimmer has devised a job description that effectively allows the temporary member to perform almost all the duties of a regular member, apart from casting a binding vote and attending some closed meetings. While it falls short of what many District 1 residents wanted, it tip-toed as close as possible to the line of legally permissible, as drawn by the LA City Charter.

“I did the best I could to sculpt the most empowered interim representative design under the parameters of the law, understanding that I myself have no standing to challenge the law,” Zimmer told LA School Report. “I know that all of my colleagues care deeply about the students, families and schools in Board District One. We may have differing perspectives on how to meet the challenge of representation for the next six months, but I trust that we will work our way to a just solution.”

If the board approves Zimmer’s proposal or an amended version, a schedule of events kicks in, leading to the nomination of up to three candidates from each of the current six board members by Feb. 24. The goal is to narrow the list at the March 4 meeting to one candidate who could win four votes for approval.

Failing that, the board can consider other nominees or change the selection process.