The teachers union is none too pleased about a recent LA Times story by Howard Blume about rumors that District 6 School Board candidate Antonio Sanchez had worked out a secret deal with UTLA Vice President Gregg Solkovits.
“It is sad that the Times has chosen to print rumors and innuendo, instead of doing the necessary research to either substantiate or disprove those rumors,” wrote UTLA President Warren Fletcher on the union’s website. “At no time has UTLA entered into any secret agreement with any candidate running for the L.A. School Board regarding staffing or any other subject.”
The three names dropped in the Times story — all with strong ties to UTLA — all denied making any deal, as did Sanchez, according to the Times.
But there’s another Sanchez chief of staff possibility that’s been floating around who has strong ties to the Mayor, LAUSD, and other school reform advocates.
The position of Board Member chief of staff is a fairly new one. Until 1975, Board Members were elected “at large,” meaning they didn’t even have separate districts, and shared from a pool of secretaries. In 1975, they were given their own districts and own secretaries. It wasn’t until the 1990s that Board Members started to get their own budgets and their own staffers.
The position can vary from Board Member to Board Member in both influence and pay. In some cases, according to former School Board Member David Tokofsky, a chief of staff can be “very influential in setting agendas.”
Tokofsky’s chief of staff was Sarah Bradshaw, who now does the same job for Bennett Kayser, and is said to have much influence with him.
Chiefs of staff aren’t just influential over their bosses or liaisons to various interest groups,either. They also sometimes go on to run for Board Members themselves.
Board President Monica Garcia was once chief of staff to then-School Board President Jose Huizar. Her former chief of staff, Luis Sanchez, also ran for School Board but lost to Board Member Kayser.
The rumor reported in the Times, which this reporter had been hearing as well, was that, should he win, Sanchez had agreed to pick a top UTLA official as his chief of staff, as a sort of reassurance to union members that Sanchez wouldn’t ignore teachers’ interests, in exchange for the union’s continued endorsement.