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School board races coming into view as filing deadline approaches

Craig Clough | November 7, 2014

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LAUSD School Board Candidate George McKenna with Bernard Parks and Jan Perry

George McKenna, flanked by Bernard Parks and Jan Perry

With tomorrow’s noon deadline approaching to file for next year’s LA Unified school board elections, the races are coming into view.

Seats in four of the board’s seven districts — 1, 3, 5 and 7 — are up for grabs, making the elections hugely influential on future district policies.

All four of the incumbents are running again and facing challengers, with the primary scheduled for March 3 and the general election on May 19. Here is a district-by-district breakdown of the school board races:

District 1

District 1 includes South Los Angeles, Palms and Baldwin Hills.

For the moment, this is the only race with a head-to-head contest. The incumbent, George McKenna, is the newest board member, having won a special election in August to fill the seat vacated by the death of Marguerite LaMotte last year.

McKenna’s victory was key in determining the current balance of power on the board, as his election shifted it to a 4-3 majority owing their seats, in large part, to financial support by United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). McKenna ran against a reform-backed candidate, Alex Johnson, and his victory was the latest in a string of pro-union wins against pro-charter, reformists in LA Unified school board elections.

McKenna holds a doctorate of education degree from Xavier University. He is a former LAUSD teacher and principal at George Washington Preparatory High School, where the academic turnaround he oversaw at the school was the subject of a 1986 TV movie starring Denzel Washington.

McKenna’s challenger is Daymond R., Johnson, president of the Amino Classified Employees Association, which represents the employees at Green Dot Public Schools.

District 3

District 3 includes Studio City, Sherman Oaks and the most of the West San Fernando Valley.

The District 3 race is the most crowded, with five challengers to incumbent Tamar Galatzan, who first won her seat in 2007. She is also a prosecutor with the city of Los Angeles and is viewed as a reform-backed candidate.

Her challengers are: Elizabeth Badger Bartels, a children’s advocate and businesswoman; Filiberto Gonzalez, a school parent and professor; Ankur Patel, a teacher, scientist and entrepreneur; Scott Mark Schmerelson, an administrator and retired teacher; and Carl J. Peterson, a businessman and activist parent.

District 5

District 5 includes the Northeast neighborhoods of Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Echo Park, Los Feliz and Atwater Village, as well as the cities of Bell and South Gate.

The incumbent Bennett Kayser will face at least two challengers. Kayser, a former teacher and community activist, was elected to the board in 2011 and is seen as one of the strongest pro-union members.

The challengers are Ref Rodriguez, a co-founder of PUC Schools, which operates a number of LA Unified charter schools; and Andrew Thomas, a professor of education at the online Walden University and operator of a research company that consults with school districts, including LA Unified. 

District 7

District 7 includes the South Bay communities of San Pedro, Lomita and Carson.

The race here will feature at least two challengers to current board President Richard Vladovic, who was first elected to the board in 2007. Originally a reform-backed candidate, Vladovic is seen by many to have more to a more neutral position since last year.

Vladovic has one of the fullest education resumes on the board. With a doctorate in education from USC, he is a former teacher, principal and school administrator, as well as a former superintendent of the West Covina School District.

His challengers are Euna Anderson, principal of the Vine Early Education Center and the Alexandria Early Education Center; and Lydia A. Guitierrez, an educator and member of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council.

If additional candidates emerge by tomorrow’s deadline, LA School Report will provide updates on Monday.

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