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LAUSD board votes down special panel for superintendent search

Mike Szymanski | October 27, 2015

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Mónica García: her proposal was defeated.

Mónica García: her proposal was defeated.

As LA Unified school board president Steve Zimmer pleads for more involvement with the public for the superintendent search, the board voted down yet another effort to give the community greater influence in the selection process.

It was the latest example of how the district is urging the public to play a role in the selection process, but only to a point.

After a closed-door meeting today that included an update on the search, the school board returned to an open session and member Mónica García proposed forming a “confidential stakeholder committee consisting of seven people picked by each board member to represent each district.” Some community groups have been pushing for such input.

Right away, fellow board member Mónica Ratliff objected to the idea because she didn’t want “a secret committee, but wanted to make this open to everyone and introduce the finalists to the entire public. It should either be everyone or no one.”

Ratliff’s motion last week to have the finalists introduced to the community in a public forum failed in a 4-3 vote.

Garcia’s motion today failed 5-2, with only Ref Rodriguez agreeing with her.

Garcia said, “I wanted to make sure that public is clear that there are differences on the board, and we are welcoming the best superintendent possible and I believe that confidential stakeholders could provide input from non-elected people.”

At that, she walked out and decided not to participate in the Committee of the Whole meeting that followed. The committee is comprised of all board members in a setting that allows them to discuss issues but not vote for passage of any policy.

During the committee meeting, Zimmer said the district has held more than 50 community meetings so far to solicit opinions about the next superintendent and that nearly 4,000 online surveys have been completed, with additional paper surveys available to the public through Friday.

In a district of 650,000 students and more than 1,200 schools, the response would appear as less than robust, with the current superintendent, Ramon Cortines, ready to step down in December.

Board member Ref Rodriguez said, “I want to express frustration with the level of participation and I don’t want to feel it’s OK because it’s like the other school districts, because we are LA Unified.”

Hank Gmitro, the search leader from the firm Hazard, Young and Attea, told LA School Report that the participation percentage is about the same as in other districts. He also said he did not weigh in on Garcia’s proposal to have a community stakeholder committee.

“We have done it both ways, and they have worked both ways,” Gmitro said. “I told them in the closed sessions the benefits and pitfalls of doing it that way, but it’s ultimately up to the board.”

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