Another challenger to Kayser enters LAUSD school board race
Michael Janofsky | September 22, 2014
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Andrew Thomas came to the conclusion the LA Unified school board had grown too distant from issues at the school level. He tried one approach at improving things, serving as a member of the Parents Advisory Committee, which was suppose to help shape spending.
Not satisfied that it had much impact, Thomas is now running for the District 5 board seat occupied by Bennett Kayser, one of four seats up for election next year. Kathryn Torres, a former SEIU Local 99 official, is also opposing Kayser.
“The district is not doing the job, supporting schools and parents,” said Thomas, 48, a professor of education at the online Walden University and operator of a research company that consults with school districts, including LA Unified. “There’s definitely a feeling that the district is not going in the right direction, that the board and the district are out of touch with what needs to happen.”
He said his impetus for running stemmed from efforts to seek Kayser’s help for various school site problems and getting no response. He said that cemented his view that the district has become too “focused on autocratic control,” with a “one-size-fits-all” approach to problem solving that leaves parents take action on their own.
As an example, he cited budget cuts in recent years that deprived schools of custodial staff and site managers, “leaving parents to do things like painting and cleaning up the grounds.”
He said he largely agrees with complaints raised by the teachers union, UTLA, over Superintendent John Deasy’s leadership style, the mishandling of the iPads and MiSiS programs and the need to retain greater job protections for teachers.
He called the iPad program “a bad idea,” suggesting that the bond money used for it would have been better spent for capital improvements at schools around the district.
But despite his sympathetic views toward UTLA, he said his initial efforts to seek financial support from the union were unsuccessful, recognizing that UTLA has been a consistently strong support of Kayser.
“I’m going to have to look elsewhere,” he said.