Four L.A. school board members likely to face reelection challenges

L.A. school board President Richard Vladovic is one of four board members expected to face challengers this spring in their bids for reelection.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A majority of the Los Angeles Board of Education is up for reelection this spring, and all four are likely to face challengers based on the election filing period that closed Saturday.

The four incumbents — Richard Vladovic, Tamar Galatzan, Bennett Kayser and George McKenna — are seeking to remain on the board that oversees the nation’s second-largest school system.

Aside from the familiar challenges, including budgets, union negotiations and student performance, the incoming board also is expected to choose a permanent successor to Supt. John Deasy, who resigned under pressure in October. Ramon Cortines returned from retirement to replace him, but at 82 is not expected to stay indefinitely.


A search process for the next superintendent could begin soon, with the final choice almost certain to fall to the board majority that prevails at the ballot box in either the March primary or the May general election.

The next board also will have to decide how to proceed with a troubled $1.3-billion effort to provide a computer to every student, teacher and campus administrator. The project began by distributing iPads at an initial set of schools last fall, but the iPad contract was recently suspended.

Candidates had until noon Saturday to declare their intent to run for a seat on the seven-member board. To get on the March ballot, they’ll still have to collect signatures from at least 500 registered voters in their district by Dec. 3.

District 1 is represented by McKenna and stretches across south and southwest L.A. McKenna was elected in August to replace the late Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, but had to run again immediately. His potential challenger is Daymond R. Johnson, who heads the union for non-teaching employee at a group of local charter schools. McKenna’s opponent in August chose not to run again.

District 3, represented by two-term incumbent Galatzan, is in the west San Fernando Valley. Six potential challengers signed up to face her: Elizabeth Badger Bartels, who describes herself as a children’s advocate/businesswoman; Carl J. Peterson (businessman/activist parent), Filiberto Gonzalez (school parent/professor), Ankur Patel (teacher/scientist/entrepreneur), Scott Mark Schmerelson (administrator/retired teacher) and Mario Burrell (teacher).

In District 5, four challengers have signed up to run against one-term incumbent Kayser. They are Andrew Thomas, who describes himself as an educator/parent; Ref Rodriguez, the co-founder of the PUC charter school group; James C. O’Gabhann III (public school teacher), and Benjamin Luis Jimenez (city of L.A. senior storekeep).

District 5 cuts a tortuous path from northeast of downtown to the small cities of southeast L.A. County.

School board President Vladovic, the two-term incumbent, will be defending his seat in District 7, which stretches from South L.A. to San Pedro. His potential challengers are Euna Anderson (principal/adjunct professor) and Lydia A. Gutierrez, an elementary teacher who twice ran unsuccessfully for state superintendent of public instruction.

Candidates also filed for the L.A. Community College District board. Unlike the board of L.A. Unified, the college district seats are not assigned to specific geographic areas within the district.

For Seat 1, incumbent Mona Field could face Francesa Vega, Maria “Sokie” Quintero, Mervin Evans, Angra Hoffman and Mark Isler.

Signed up to run for the open Seat 3 are: Kevin M. Collins, Sydney Kamlager, Yolanda Toure, Glenn Bailey, Sam Kbushyan and Jozef “Joe” Thomas Essavi.

Those hoping to win Seat 5 are: incumbent and Board President Scott Svonkin, James “Jimmy” Johnston, Justin Kim, Sukhsimran “Sammy” Sandhu and Steve Schulte.

Seat 7 also is open. Those signed up are: John Jose Noyola, Rodney D. Robinson, Mike Fong, Akifa Khan, Joyce Burrell Garcia and John C. Burke.

Twitter: @howardblume