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JUST IN: Mónica García becomes new board president

Mike Szymanski | September 26, 2017

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Mónica García just after she was named board president.

In a vote that fell along the reform and labor lines, Mónica García on Tuesday became the new president of the LA Unified school board.

She named Nick Melvoin to the vice president’s position. Melvoin joined the board in July after defeating the former board president in May’s general election.

She also confirmed that she will be stepping down as of Saturday from her part-time job at the Los Angeles County Probation Department.

“I am honored. Thank you, fellow board members. Let’s continue on our goal toward 100 percent graduation and putting kids first,” she said after taking the center seat on the horseshoe at the Beaudry headquarters auditorium.

Read García’s full statement and comments from some other board members, Superintendent Michelle King, union leaders, present and past Los Angeles mayors, and other community members.

García, 49, replaces Ref Rodriguez, who served less than three months in the president’s role. He stepped down last week after being charged with criminal election fraud but remains on the board.

There were three speakers in the public comment section before the vote, and each asked that Rodriguez recuse himself from Tuesday’s vote. But he voted with the reform majority to secure García’s election.

Monica Garcia tweeted out this photo with vice president Nick Melvoin.

With no debate and no speeches, García beat Richard Vladovic 4-3. Both have served as past presidents. García is already the longest-serving board president in the district, having served six years in the leadership role since her election to the board in 2006.

Tuesday’s balloting replicated the pro-reform vote in July when García, Melvoin, and newly elected Kelly Gonez voted for Rodriguez while board members George McKenna and Scott Schmerelson voted for Vladovic.

In an odd mistake, Schmerelson first said he was nominating “Dr. Rodriguez,” which elicited gasps of surprise from the audience, but he quickly changed it to “Dr. Vladovic” and said, “the other doctor, I was distracted.”

After the vote, Vladovic said in a private interview that he had a speech planned to advocate for himself, but no one asked for any speeches before the vote was taken and he didn’t think he should request speeches.

“I think that we should serve children first, and I had some notes, but I will give my thoughts at a future Committee of the Whole meeting,” Vladovic said. “I think we have an obligation to rehabilitate failing schools. We have given charters full run, now we need to make policy for our own schools. We need a retreat to define our roles as school board members.”

Garcia moves to the middle spot shortly after being voted in as president.

UTLA Vice President Cecily Myart-Cruz was one of three speakers in public comment. She called for Rodriguez to leave the board.

“This was clearly a political agenda, and it will be business as usual,” said Myart-Cruz, who noted that when García was president in the past, she didn’t allow labor reports at school board meetings. They were a regular feature of former board President Steve Zimmer’s tenure, but Rodriguez removed them as part of his “Kids First” agenda.

“This charter reform majority is really just putting themselves first,” Myart-Cruz said.

Carl Petersen, who ran unsuccessfully against García in last spring’s election, spoke about how the allegations against Rodriguez were known and the board should have vetted him better before making him president.

“Do not make the same mistake, Mónica García is his political ally,” Petersen said. “This is not children first.”

Another speaker was a special education teacher from Buchanan Street Elementary School in Highland Park in Rodriguez’s district. Karla Griego also called for him to resign and said, “If you truly respect the community, then do the right thing.” She said Rodriguez visited their school in the past year and promised to help them get a play structure but that his office still hasn’t helped them.

The school board presidency lasts one year, then the board votes for the position again. Unless there is a vacancy, this school board will serve together until 2020.


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