Schmerelson ‘feeling pretty good’ after making District 3 runoff

Scott Schmerelson

Scott Schmerelson


Scott Schmerelson says he is “feeling pretty good” these days, and the longtime LA Unified educator, counselor and principal certainly has lots of reasons for it.

Schmerelson emerged from a logjam of five challengers to finish second in the March 3 school board primary election, good enough to make the May 19 runoff against District 3 incumbent Tamar Galatzan. She finished first with 40.2 percent of the vote (as of officials results announced today) but short of the majority needed to avoid the runoff.

Schmerelson moved on with with 20.4 percent, well ahead of Ankur Patel (12.8), Elizabeth Badger (10.8), Carl Petersen (10) and Filiberto Gonzalez (5.8).

But those also rans could become important factors in the runoff. With their support amounting to more than 40 percent of the overall vote, two of them are supporting Schmerelson in the runoff, and the two others say they are considering it.

“I invited them to lunch to talk and to kind of meet and thank each other in doing such a good job,” Schmerelson told LA School Report, noting that Gonzalez was not there but that they spoke on the phone later. “We all agreed that we were working for the same cause and were united. In other words, they were going to throw their votes and voters towards me, and they would encourage their people to be on my side.”

Official public support or endorsements have yet to materialize from all the challengers, but it does appear that none of them plans to endorse Galatzan or work against him.

Patel  said he plans to endorse Schmerelson, and Petersen has expressed his support in a press release and on social media. Badger said she is considering an endorsement, calling Schmerelson a “great candidate,” and Gonzalez said he is going to be talking to Schmerelson soon about a potential endorsement. Gonzalez also said on Twitter that he will not endorse Galatzan.

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3 LA Unified board incumbents heading into May runoffs

heading to a runoff


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Candidate files complaints with LAUSD, city ethics against Galatzan

Tamar Galatzan, School Board member

LA Unified school board member Tamar Galatzan

With less than 24 hours to go before the polls open, LA Unified school board candidate Carl Petersen said today that he filed several ethics complaints against Tamar Galatzan, the District 3 incumbent he is challenging in tomorrow’s elections.

Petersen levied the same complaints that were filed last week with the City Ethics Commission by candidate Filiberto Gonzalez, only Petersen filed them with LA Unified’s Office of the Inspector General, claiming that Galatzan improperly used her board office as part of her campaign in connection with a town hall meeting she held on Feb. 17. Petersen said in a press release he filed the “allegations” with the district because “the greater concern is the waste of badly needed education funds.”

Petersen also said he filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission that Galatzan’s campaign failed to disclose campaign expenses in a timely manner.

Galatzan’s campaign did not respond to a request to comment.

Gonzalez files complaint with City Ethics against Galatzan campaign

Tamar Galtatzan

Tamar Galtatzan

One of Tamar Galatzan’s challengers in the LA Unified District 3 board race said today he has filed a complaint against her with the City Ethics Commission, charging that she improperly used her board office as part of her campaign.

Filiberto Gonzalez, a former Los Angeles City planning commissioner, cited two specific instances: the use of what he believes is campaign material at a Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council meeting on Feb. 13, and the use of the district’s robocall system to notify thousands of parents about a community meeting on the budget on Feb. 17 — a date too close to the election, he argues, although he could not cite any specific law that would have prohibited it.

Gonzalez first made the robocall charge at a District 3 forum on Feb. 17 when Galatzan skipped the event to hold the community meeting.  

“As candidates, we are all required to participate in campaign ethics training,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “She cannot say it was an oversight. Even worse, as a prosecutor with the City of Los Angeles, she should know better and hold herself to a higher standard.”

A Commission spokeswoman said she could neither confirm nor deny “the existence of any complaints or investigations due to strict confidentiality rules mandated by the City Charter.”

Galatzan’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The District 3 race is the most crowded of the three contested school board elections on March 3. In seeking a third term, Galatzan is facing five challengers, most of whom have been sharply critical of her years on the board.

Gonzalez, who voted for Galatzan eight years ago, has been especially critical of her role in supporting the district’s iPad program, insisting in an interview, “She was a great supporter of the iPads even when it did not have support in our neighborhoods. It was wrong headed from the very beginning and yet she was the number one champion on that.”

District 3: LAUSD school board race snapshot

LAUSD District 3 Map


School board District 3 covers most of the western San Fernando valley from the Ventura county line to the 405 on its eastern boarder, with a cutout to include some of the tonier neighborhoods in the east valley. The district includes Chatsworth, parts of Woodland Hills, Northridge, Granda Hills, parts of Van Nuys and Sherman Oaks.

In all, there are 120 elementary schools, 42 middle schools and 41 high schools in LAUSD’s District 3. (See list here). Six candidates are vying for this seat.


Tamar Galatzan at Tuesday's LAUSD school board meeting

Tamar Galatzan (Incumbent)

Tamar Galatzan was first elected to the board in 2007 and has also worked as a prosecutor for the city of Los Angeles since 2002. She is a parent of two LAUSD students. While she has a reputation as a pro-charter, pro-reform movement board member and strong supporter of former Superintendent John Deasy, she also has a fiery independent streak, which was noted in her endorsement by the Los Angeles Times.

Organization Endorsements: California Charter School Association, the local chapter of the AFL-CIO, LA Times, SEIU Local 99.
Cash Raised: $35,714 (through 2/14)
SuperPAC $: $206,836.54 (through 2/14)
Age: 45
Education: J.D., University of California, Hastings College of the Law (1994);     B.A. in political science, UCLA, magna cum laude (1991)
Ballot Designation: School board member/Prosecutor
League of Women Voters Questionnaire: What is the single most important issue facing LAUSD today? The budget is unquestionably the most critical issue. Full answers here
United Way Questionnaire: Full answers here.

Elizabeth Badger ThumbElizabeth Badger

Elizabeth Badger is a parent of two LAUSD students, and this is her third run at public office in two years. She owns an automotive business in the San Fernando Valley and is CEO/Founder of Minority Outreach Committee, Inc. a nonpartisan non-profit. She is also a member of the Winnetka Neighborhood Council, the Los Angeles African American Women Political Outreach and was a delegate at the 2008 and the 2012 Democratic National Conventions.

Organization Endorsements:  None
Cash Raised: $14,804 (through 2/14)
SuperPAC $: None
Age: not stated
Education:  BA and MA in Political Science from CSUN; Graduate of USC’s Public Policy Institute
Ballot Designation: Children’s Advocate/Businesswoman
League of Women Voters Questionnaire: What is the single most important issue facing LAUSD today? Failing Education System. Full answers here.
United Way Questionnaire: Full answers here. 

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Challenging Kayser, Rodriguez led all candidates in recent fundraising

Ref Rodriguez

Ref Rodriguez

Ref Rodriguez, the charter school administrator who is challenging incumbent Bennett Kayser for LA Unified’s District 5 board seat, raised the most money of any board candidate since the last reporting period, $51,772, according to the latest figures posted by the City Ethics Commission.

Carl Petersen, one of five candidates challenging incumbent Tamar Galatzan in District 3, raised the least, $25.

While not dispositive of anything, the latest figures provide a sense of whose message is resonating with individual donors. The latest numbers reflect money raised from Jan. 17 through Feb. 14.

Clearly the District 5 race, which has been fueled by campaign material many view as objectionable, has energized donors the most. A second challenger to Kayser, Andrew Thomas, raised the second-highest amount of any non-incumbent in the district’s three contested elections, $26,056.

Kayser raised only $10,178. But money spent on his behalf by outside groups, most of it from the LA teachers union, UTLA, increased by another $42,603. An additional $29,464, almost all of it from the California Charter Schools Association, was spent for Rodriguez.

The charter group spent another $25,230 for Kayser attack material.

Among District 7 candidates, board President Richard Vladovic far out-paced his two rivals in raising money for the period. He got $28,897 in donations, compared with $9,125 for Lydia Gutierrez and $6,782 for Euna Anderson. The charter group and SEIU 99, the service workers union, also spent $82,977 to help Vladovic.

In District 3, Galatzan had a clear advantage in fund raising over her opponents, raising $21,409. Next were Scott Schmerelson, $12,780; Filberto Gonzalez, $6,616; Elizabeth Badger, $2,315; Ankur Patel, $1,627; and Petersen.

With the March 3 elections approaching, Galatzan is best positioned for campaign spending with $21,109 in cash remaining, more than twice any of her challengers. Rodriguez has $42,672, about eight times what Kayser has. In District 7, Anderson, who loaned her campaign $45,000, has $25,049 cash remaining, a bit more than twice Vladovic’s $11,218.

Foshay student wins national award; LAUSD kids drinking lead?

school report buzzNBC Los Angeles last night came out with a story that should disturb any LA Unified student, parent or staff member: it found that thousands of school children could be drinking from fountains tainted with dangerous levels of lead.

The report is a followup to a story first examined by NBC seven years ago, when it found lead levels in district drinking water 400 times above the amount declared safe by the EPA.

LAUSD proposed to fix the problem of aging lead pipes with a “Flushing Policy,” requiring school staff to run drinking fountains for 30 seconds every morning to remove lead built up overnight. But undercover video and internal documents obtained by NBC show that some schools are not flushing the fountains properly. Click here to see the story or click on the video below.

LAUSD student wins national tech award

Ana Hernandez, a senior in the Technology Academy at Foshay Learning Center, is one of 35 national winners for The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) “Aspirations in Computing” award.

The award, which comes with a $500 prize, a laptop computer and engraved trophies for winners and their schools, “honors young women who are active and interested in computing and technology, and encourages them to pursue their passions,” according to the NCWIT website. The 2015 winners will be honored at the Bank of America Technology Stars of the Future Showcase and Awards Ceremony on March 7 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Last year, Hernandez was a national runner up and Southern California winner.

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Challengers take center stage at Galatzan-less forum

District 3 forum, Galatzan

The challengers at last night’s LAUSD District 3 school board forum.


With incumbent Tamar Galatzan opting out of the second and final LA Unified District 3 board forum last night, her five challengers took full advantage, criticizing her as they made their cases for why they should be elected on March 3 instead of her.

Galatzan, who said she had a scheduling conflict, mingled in the aisles at the Elks Lodge in Canoga Park before leaving as the forum began.

With 90 seconds allowed for each answer, this second forum gave the candidates longer to respond, as opposed to last week’s debate, when they were limited to no more than a minute. The turnout, again, was fewer than 100.

Here are the main points each candidate made.

Scott Schmerelson 

The former LAUSD principal and teacher often touted his experience with the district. When asked how that would help oversee the district’s $7 billion budget, he pointed out that as a principal, he had overseen a budget of $10 million, and since it was part of the LAUSD budget, it was the most direct and relevant experience any candidate could point to.

Schmerelson also expressed no love for former superintendent John Deasy, but as the only candidate who had ever worked with him, he felt his criticism carried extra weight.

“What went wrong? Everything went wrong. A superintendent must be someone who will listen. A superintendent must be someone who has a heart. The man didn’t have a heart,” Schmerelson said.

Like every candidate, he favored raises for teachers, but he offered neither a specific number nor how to pay for them. On teacher evaluations, he said he put “zero credibility” in using test scores to evaluate teachers. He conceded that charter schools are here to stay, but that “there is nothing better than a traditional public school.”

Carl Petersen

Petersen bashed Galatzan early and often, sometimes ignoring a question’s substance to turn it into a critique of the incumbent. On the question of experience to handle a budget of billions, he said few people have it and pivoted to attacking Galatzan on her approval of the problematic MiSiS computer system.

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Galatzan a fearless vote on the LA Unified board despite her critics

Tamar Galatzan LAUSD school board member

Tamar Galatzan LAUSD School Board Member

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

Incumbent Tamar Galatzan is at the center of the most crowded race for an LA Unified school board seat, with five challengers vying for the District 3 spot covering the West Valley.  But the 45 year-old, full-time LA city prosecutor and mother of two young boys isn’t fazed by the competition, even when they attack her for her part-time status on the board.

“I will put my record representing the district’s schools up against anybody’s,” she told LA School Report.

While a certain degree of confidence is expected from any candidate running for an elected position, it’s clear this is not merely a display of bravado by Galatzan, who can be fearless and downright confrontational when it comes to expressing her views on what’s best for the district’s student population. Her trademark move during some of the board’s most heated discussions is to shut off her microphone after her remarks, forcefully shove it away, then push her rolling chair away from the dais. It is very dramatic.

Since she was first elected to the board in 2007, Galatzan has cast several controversial votes going against the popular tide of her colleagues. And in many of these cases, she has explained, it is not that she necessarily opposes the resolution before the board, but rather the board’s attempt to weigh in on issues over which she argues it has no dominion.

Such was the case with her “first big vote,” she told LA School Report. The board was considering extending health benefits to part-time cafeteria workers. Only Galatzan and former board member Marlene Canter voted against it.

Her reason: “There are issues that are supposed to be bargained, and the board shouldn’t intervene and make a political decision to favor one side or the other in the middle of negotiations.”

And in the most recent school board meeting earlier this month, she was the only dissenting vote to allow district lawyers to do pro-bono work on student deportation cases, insisting that lawyers should do free, volunteer work “in their off time, not during work time.”

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Packed stage, empty house at District 3 ‘game show’ debate

Candidates at the District 3 debate last night at North Hollywood High. (Credit: United Way)

Candidates at the District 3 debate last night at North Hollywood High. (Credit: United Way)

With six candidates crowding the stage, the LA Unified District 3 school board debate last night more often resembled a game show, as candidates were forced to limit answers to either a minute or 30 seconds.

Incumbent Tamar Galatzan, who is seeking a third term in the March 3 elections, seemed to be thinking the same thing when she was asked about the complicated and controversial issue of the “teacher jail” system.

“In 30 seconds?” she said, laughing a little to herself as the crowd joined her.

As five challengers jockeyed for position in efforts to define themselves in the most crowded of the four board elections, Galatzan’s track record was a frequent topic of conversation and critique. Challengers Elizabeth Badger Bartels, Filiberto Gonzalez and Carl Peterson all lobbed a number of criticisms at her, while Ankur Patel and Scott Schmerelson mostly stuck to their own ideas or experience.

The turnout at North Hollywood High was low and appeared to be fewer than 100. If anyone won over parts of the small crowd it was impossible to tell as the audience was directed not to applaud or make any noise.

What follows below is a breakdown of the debate, from each candidate’s perspective.

Tamar Galatzan

The most frequent criticism was her enthusiastic support of the controversial $1.3 billion iPad program and former Superintendent John Deasy.

Galatzan responded to the iPad criticism by acknowledging its problems while defending its impact and continuation. She did not respond to Gonzalez’s claim that she was a member of an ad hoc committee that oversaw the Common Core Technology Program’s rollout and never attended a single meeting.

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Scheduling conflict cutting into Galatzan’s time at candidate forum

Tamar Galtatzan

LAUSD school board member Tamar Galatzan


A scheduling conflict is depriving another candidate forum of an incumbent LA Unified board member.

A Feb. 17 event sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles may include only a short appearance by Tamar Galatzan, who is seeking a third term as the Valley-based District 3 representative. Her office said she had previously scheduled a community meeting focused on the district budget and may only be able to attend the forum long enough to give an opening statement.

“We never got an official invitation that said this is the date of the forum,” said Barbara Jones, Galatzan’s chief of staff. “We had already scheduled a town meeting on the budget.”

David Uranga of the Northridge West Neighborhood Council, a co-sponsor, said he had notified Galatzan in December that a forum would be held on Feb. 17. He said he later learned that Galatzan did not receive the same participating agreement that the other candidates got.

“It was a miscommunication with the League of Women voters,” he said.

Galatzan, who was first elected to the board in 2007, is facing five challengers in the March 3 elections. Only two candidate events have been scheduled for her District, one on Feb. 12 at North Hollywood High School and the Feb. 17 forum.

Jones said that Galatzan schedules an annual community meeting to discuss budget issues, and the one this year, at Holmes Middle School, had been put on her calendar on Jan. 22. She said two district officials who were invited to join the meeting, Edgar Zazueta and Cheryl Simpson, confirmed their availability on Jan. 27.

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Principals’ union endorses Schmerelson, and 3 incumbents

Scott Schmerelson

Scott Schmerelson


The LA Unified principals’ union, Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, AALA, decided last night to endorse three of the four incumbents in the March 3 school board elections.

The exception is Scott Schmerelson, a former teacher and administrator who is one of five people challenging Tamar Galatzan in District 3.

Judith Perez, the AALA president, said Schmerelson won unanimous approval of the Representative Assembly, which voted on recommendations of a vetting panel from AALA’s political action committee.

The Assembly also approved endorsements for George McKenna in District 1, Bennett Kayser in District 5 and Richard Vladovic in District 7 — none of them a surprise. McKenna is running unopposed, and the two others had won AALA’s endorsement in previous board runs.

Among LA Unified’s other major labor partners, SEIU Local 99 endorsed all four incumbents, and UTLA, the teachers union, has endorsed only McKenna and Kayser.

Schmerelson, who spent 35 years in various educational capacities, was chosen for his overall understanding of how schools work and what students need, Perez said. “He also knows that administrators have been overwhelmed and overworked and not given adequate tools to get their jobs done,” she told LA School Report.

Four years ago, AALA also chose a challenger to Galatzan in Louis Pugliese.

Schmerelson said he excepted the endorsement on the strength of his close relationship with AALA, including his years as a member of its executive board. He was also a Secondary Director.

“I interacted with fellow administrators who had questions about memos, directives and communications from supervisors,” he told LA School Report in an email. “My goal was to be sure that all AALA members were treated fairly and that LAUSD supervisors followed the contract. I also would like to add that I was an advocate for other personnel at my schools including SEIU Local 99 members and [California School Employees Association] members. My connection with them was to be sure that they too were being treated fairly and that their supervisors were following the contract.”

Beyond the endorsements, AALA approved donating the maximum $1,100 to each of the candidates in contested races.

Perez said her organization interviewed all the candidates but one, Filiberto Gonzalez, another of Galatzan’s challengers, who did not respond to an interview request, she said. Each candidate was asked the same questions.

She said Vladovic won “a substantial majority” for the endorsement, following what she describe as “a spirited discussion.”

She said that “time and again he has supported out members. He won’t agree with us on every issue, and we don’t expect him to, but he talks to us, he shares our concerns and he engages with us.”


* Adds comments from Schmerelson.



In forum tonight, Kayser facing board rivals for first time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Candidates: Bennett Kayser, Ref Rodriguez , Andrew Thomas

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

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

San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City, Carson, Harbor Gateway, Lomita, Garden, Willowbrook, Watts

Candidates: Richard Vladovic, Euna Anderson and Lydia Gutierrez.

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

Ankur Patel, a product of LAUSD, is youngest of board challengers

Ankur Patel

Ankur Patel

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

At 29-years old, Ankur Patel is the youngest candidate running for the LA Unified School Board, and he’s using that as a campaign selling point.

“I’m young. I have the energy to lead and I’m a quick learner,” he told LA School Report, adding that among all six people running for the District 3 board seat covering San Fernando Valley he is the most recent graduate of the LA Unified public school system.

Patel grew up in the Valley, attending public schools from elementary through high school, then moved on to UCLA for undergrad. He returned to Cal State Northridge for a masters degree focusing on public transportation.

“I have been through it and I know first hand what it’s like,” he said, seizing on a key difference he sees between himself and the incumbent, Tamar Galatzan, and four other challengers in the March 3 elections.

Some other differences: Patel considers himself an independent who won’t stand for the rampant expansion of charter schools, the opposite of what he says Galatzan has encouraged.

“We have a great opportunity with our charter schools,” he explains. “They are a testing ground for new ideas but now let’s see how they’re doing on a year-to-year basis.”

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Bad LAUSD experience led Carl Petersen to school board race

Carl Petersen

Carl Petersen


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


If Carl Petersen does not win the crowded LA Unified school board race for District 3, it certainly won’t be because he was not aggressive enough.

He has been relentlessly hammering incumbent Tamar Galatzan for months on Twitter, Facebook, in press releases and the comments section of LA School Report. Long before most of the other four challengers declared their candidacy, Petersen was calling out Galatzan for every fault he perceived, on issues great, small and some Galatzan had little to do with.

Petersen’s first comment on LA School Report, posted nine months ago, was a hyperbolic prologue for the attacks to follow: “The parents of 36,300 LAUSD students are convinced that charter schools can educate their children better than the district run schools. Tamar Galatzan and the rest of the School Board are failing their community. It is time for a change.”

Petersen has been especially critical of Galatzan for the support she receives from the pro-charter, reform-based community even though he sends two of his children to a charter school, Granada Hills Charter High School, his neighborhood school.

“Charters exist because parents perceive that the district schools are failing,” he said. “So every time that a parent chooses one of those schools, that means the board has failed. I see the job of the board as to promote public schools. When Tamar is being supported by charter schools, that is like putting someone who likes to drink Coke on the Pepsi board of directors.”

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LA Unified board to consider request to delay computer tests

iPad program report

In its first meeting of 2015, the LA Unified school board tomorrow will debate a range of issues, from students’ eating alone to farm workers’ pay. But it’s the issue of state testing that will have the most immediate and significant impact on more than 300,000 district students.

Adding a powerful voice to the growing opposition against using the Smarter Balanced computer test this spring as means of measuring academic growth, board Members Monica Ratliff and Tamar Galatzan have co-sponsored a resolution that asks the state to delay use of the test results for any official purposes.

“It would be patently unfair to use the Spring 2015 SBAC assessment results for high stakes accountability purposes with respect to the students, teachers and schools of the District and any other school districts in a similar situation,” they say in their resolution, which will be voted on during the afternoon session.

Rarely do Galatzan and Ratliff work together on an issue. If passed, their measure would put the state’s largest school district in opposition to the tests.

The primary objection is not that students are ill-prepared in the subject matter — the new Common Core standards — but rather, they have not had the sufficient time to become familiar with the testing devices on which the computerized exam will be administered.

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Garcetti wades into LAUSD politics, endorsing Galatzan

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

Mayor Eric Garcetti, who rarely insinuates himself into Los Angeles public school politics, is endorsing Tamar Galatzan for a third term representing LA Unified’s District 3 board seat.

“Tamar is an innovative problem-solver and a strong and thoughtful advocate for Valley schools and kids,” Garcetti said in a news release from the Galatzan campaign. “She has shown strong leadership on critical issues concerning our students. And she isn’t afraid to make the tough choices about spending taxpayer dollars and fighting for the resources for her schools.”

Garcetti’s endorsement is repayment, of sorts. Galatzan endorsed him for mayor in 2013 when he was running in a close campaign against Wendy Greuel. Greuel, the former city controller, has also endorsed Galatzan, the campaign said.

Of the four board incumbents facing reelection on March 3, Galatzan has drawn the largest number of challengers — five. George McKenna (District 1) is running unopposed. Bennett Kayser (5) and President Richard Vladovic (7) are each facing two challengers.

In any race without a majority winner, the top two candidates will compete in a runoff on May 19.

Galatzan was first elected in 2007,prompted by her concern over the district’s truancy and drop-out problems rates. Re-elected in 2011, she became a strong ally of former superintendent John Deasy, whose management style and battles with other board members led to his resignation in October.

Galatzan, who also serves as a city prosecutor and is the only board member with children in LA Unified schools, often supported Deasy on issues opposed by the district’s teachers union, UTLA.

“The mayor and I each have school-age children, so we both understand what it will take to prepare our kids for college and the workforce,” Galatzan said. “I am honored to have his endorsement, and I pledge to continue the hard work to help our district and our students succeed.”

Garcetti’s endorsement represents his first foray into board politics. A message to his office seeking to learn if he intends to endorse other candidates did not draw an immediate response.

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

Richard Vladovic

LAUSD Board President Richard Vladovic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEIU 99 endorses all incumbents in 2015 LAUSD board races

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Election day is March 3.

Don’t go away: Big LAUSD headlines are on the way for 2015

LAUSD stories 2015* UPDATED

As LA School Report prepares to shut down for the year — and gear up for a long holiday Tamale Fest and Eggnog-a-thon — we’d like to take a moment to look ahead at the big stories awaiting us in 2015.

So grab your snow globe, give it a good shake and look into the future with us. Here is a handful of headlines you can expect in the new year:


Teachers are growing (more) angry

The teachers union, UTLA, is approaching teach-or-cut-school time.

Despite months of fruitless negotiations, in which the district has held to a 2 percent salary raise offer while the union has bounced from seeking 17.6 percent over two years to 10 percent over one year to 9 percent over one year, the sides remain on AM and FM bandwidths.

All fingers are now pointing to Alex Caputo-Pearl, the hard-charging new union president who has been threatening a strike since long before he won office last summer. Is the time finally approaching? Will teachers walk out in 2015?

Caputo-Pearl has shown himself to be the George Washington/Fidel Castro (you decide) revolutionary of UTLA, providing cogent arguments for why it’s time teachers get a break — and a hefty raise. But does he have any Menachem Begin in him? In other words, can the revolutionary cut a deal?

Maybe the bigger question is: how will teachers react to whatever deal he can cut?


Tamar Galatzan 2-11-14Possible shakeup on the school board

With four board seats up for grabs this spring, it’s conceivable that one or two board members will disappear from view, bringing in new faces and philosophies on education.

Most vulnerable may be full-time prosecutor, board member, school reformist and mom, Tamar Galatzan. She’s in the most crowded race, facing off against five hopefuls for the valley’s District 3 seat.

The list of candidates includes: Ankur Patel, a former candidate for LA City Controller, who has become a familiar face at school board meetings, often addressing the board during public speaking periods; Elizabeth Badger, owner of an auto repair company in Canoga Park; Social media consultant Filiberto Gonzalez; LAUSD school principal Scott Schmerelson; and Carl Petersen, who works for a Glendale manufacturing company.

The leading contender will be the challenger UTLA gets behind with money and ground support.

School board president and newly-goateed Richard Vladovic is running for a third term against two challengers in District 7: Euna Anderson and Lydia Gutierrez. But it’s Gutierrez, a Republican born and raised in San Pedro, who is likely to be Vladovic’s biggest competition. She ran for State Superintendent in 2014 and, nearly passed Marshall Tuck for second place. She got close to a million votes and according to one of her campaign managers, came within 1,000 District 7 votes of the total Vladovic received in 2011.

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