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L.A. Unified to consider March election to fill Ref Rodriguez's school board vacancy

L.A. Unified to consider March election to fill Ref Rodriguez's school board vacancy
Ref Rodriguez pleads guilty to political money laundering at a court hearing July 23, the same day he resigned from the Los Angeles school board. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

At its next regular meeting, the Los Angeles Board of Education will consider holding an election in March to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Ref Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, 47, who represented the school system’s District 5, stepped down July 23 after pleading guilty to one felony and three misdemeanors related to political money laundering.

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School board President Monica Garcia and Vice President Nick Melvoin proposed the March election in a statement released Friday.

“As elected board members, our collective work is to ensure that the students, families, employees and all stakeholders of the school communities of Board District 5 are fully represented and receive uninterrupted services and support from L.A. Unified,” Garcia and Melvoin wrote.

They did not say in the statement whether they favored appointing a temporary replacement with voting powers. But they did push for such an appointment previously, in a statement released on the day Rodriguez resigned.

The board’s next regular meeting is Aug. 21, when board member Scott Schmerelson also plans to introduce a resolution to name former school board member Jackie Goldberg as an interim replacement.

A resolution at the next Los Angeles school board meeting will propose that former board member Jackie Goldberg serve as an interim replacement for Ref Rodriguez.
A resolution at the next Los Angeles school board meeting will propose that former board member Jackie Goldberg serve as an interim replacement for Ref Rodriguez. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Goldberg, 73, also previously served on the L.A. City Council and in the state Legislature.

For now, an interim appointment seems unlikely to win backing from a majority of the remaining six board members. Rodriguez had belonged to a bloc of four members elected with substantial funding from backers of charter schools. That bloc is down to three and may not agree on a choice with two board members elected with major funding from the teachers union. A possible swing vote, Richard Vladovic, said Friday he opposes any appointment and wants an election as soon as possible.

It generally takes at least 120 days to schedule and carry out an election, so the earliest possible election date, at the moment, would be in late December, said Los Angeles City Clerk Holly L. Wolcott.

People who have expressed interest in running for the seat include Rocio Rivas, a parent and neighborhood council leader who took part in protests calling for Rodriguez to resign; Huntington Park City Councilwoman Graciela Ortiz, a counselor in L.A. Unified; and Heather Repenning, board vice president for the L.A. Department of Public Works.

Rodriguez’s district zigzags from Los Feliz and Eagle Rock to the cities of southeast Los Angeles County.

The allegations against him first were reported to investigators in March 2015, about two months before he won election to the board. They became public when prosecutors filed charges last September. If the case had been resolved by the beginning of July, the board could have scheduled a special election for the November ballot.

In other district business Friday, Supt. Austin Beutner named an outside team to help move more resources and authority to schools. Taking part will be former county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; Peter Taylor, former chief financial officer for the University of California; and Miguel Santana, former Los Angeles city chief administrative officer.

6:10 p.m.: This article was updated with names of potential candidates, additional details about board politics and news of a new district team named by the superintendent.

This article was originally published at 12:30 p.m.

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