In Partnership with 74

As school year ends, so does Vladovic presidency; Zimmer next?

LA School Report | May 26, 2015

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ZImmer Board Meeting March 3, 2014


The close of the school year next month also brings an end to Richard Vladovic’s second term as LA Unified board president. Rules bar him from serving a third consecutive year.

While critical issues await the new president — transformation to new technology, managing the growth of charters, dealing with new budgets, among them — nothing may be more critical than leading the search for a successor to Superintendent Ramon Cortines, who has re-upped for what is almost certain to be his final year.

Cortines was plucked out of retirement last year to replace John Deasy and end a tumultuous period within the district. In large measure, he has succeeded. But turning 83 in July, he’s not the face of LA Unified’s future.

The board that will start the next academic year is essentially a young group in terms of service, with two new members after election victories last week — Scott Schmerelson and Ref Rodriguez — and two others with two years of service or less, Mónica Ratliff and George McKenna.

Mónica García served six years as president, the longest of any board board member in 80 years, but she is barred from returning to office because board rules now limit members to four years in total as president.

That leaves Steve Zimmer, a member since 2009, as the likely favorite to replace Vladovic.

As board vice president the last two years, Zimmer has emerged as a force in public and behind the scenes in almost every major issue facing the district. He maintains close ties with state and local lawmakers as well as with the district’s labor partners, particularly the teachers union, UTLA. He’s a strong voice for teachers but not openly hostile to charters.

Seeking the presidency of the board is not like a traditional election campaign. It’s more a matter of quiet friendly persuasion, securing at least three other votes to make it happen. In all likelihood, that would happen out of public view, no matter who emerges as the front-runner.

Zimmer told LA School Report, “I have never sought out specific positions,” but he acknowledged that if he were “honored and asked by my colleagues, I will serve this board and this district to the full capacity of my skill set.”

Zimmer  — or anyone else — would become the district’s 43rd president since 1935, the year record-keeping began. All but 16 served a single year at a time, with 14 serving two consecutive years and only two serving more than two — Rita Walters in the mid-1980s and García from 2007-2008 through 2012-2013, before the rules were changed.

* Corrects name, Rita Walters.

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