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Don’t do it: Zimmer warns fellow board members not to campaign against him

Mike Szymanski | April 7, 2017

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SchoolboardHorseshoe - 1 (2)

George McKenna, Mónica García, Scott Schmerelson and Steve Zimmer.

One of the toughest jobs for LA Unified school board President Steve Zimmer is keeping the seven disparate voices of the board on track and headed toward their stated goal of 100 percent graduation.

But to maintain that unity, he hopes fellow board members won’t weigh in against him in his campaign to win reelection in May.

“We have to work together,” Zimmer said in a recent interview. “I’m not going to endorse against a colleague even if we disagree on things.”

Zimmer faces Nick Melvoin in the May 16 general election. The other seat in the election is in District 6, which has no incumbent and is being vacated by Mónica Ratliff. Zimmer and five other board members did endorse Ratliff in her bid for city council, but she failed to make the runoff and will be leaving the school board in June.

Meanwhile, Mónica García, a previous board president who has often butted heads with Zimmer, won her seat outright in the primary last month. García said she is considering whether to endorse in the two district races.

“I hope she doesn’t,” Zimmer said, suspecting that the pro-reform García would support his opponent. “I hope she doesn’t endorse. We have to work together, and I would not do that to a colleague.”

Zimmer said for the first time that he received a great deal of pressure to come out in support of one of García’s opponents, Lisa Alva.

“I resisted a lot of efforts to have me get directly involved in the campaign against (García),” Zimmer said. “Lisa Alva was a teacher in the district, and other teachers had a very hard time understanding why I wouldn’t support another teacher in the district. And those were very hard conversations.”

Pro-reform board member Ref Rodriguez was the only board member who supported García in the primary, and he is the only one who endorsed like-minded Kelly Gonez in the District 6 race. Zimmer and two other board members endorsed Imelda Padilla, who is backed by labor unions and will face Gonez in the May runoff.

García said she isn’t ready to announce any endorsements yet in either race. “I appreciate all the folks running for school board, and whoever gets on, I want to be able to work with them.”


McKenna and García

Two years ago, García supported incumbent Tamar Galatzan, who lost to Scott Schmerelson. She also endorsed George McKenna’s opponent in 2014. Now García sits between Schmerelson and McKenna on the school board horseshoe in the Beaudry auditorium.

In 2015, Zimmer endorsed Bennett Kayser in District 5, but Kayser was unseated by Rodriguez. Zimmer railed against Rodriguez’s “reformer” agenda and campaign tactics, saying “Damn them!” in a campaign speech for Kayser. Zimmer then was voted in as board president and buried the hatchet with Rodriguez, who had said, “I do believe the board president will have to do some healing and bringing together.”

So far, McKenna, Ratliff, Schmerelson and Richard Vladovic have expressed their support for Zimmer.

“I respect my colleagues, I need to work with my colleagues, and I’m not going to endorse against my colleagues,” Zimmer said.

He added, “Even if that were to happen, even if a colleague were to make a different decision than that, I’m very comfortable with my decision not to do that.”

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