Vladovic replaces six-term incumbent as L.A. Unified board president
In a conscious shift of power and priorities, the Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday selected Richard Vladovic as its new president, ending a string of six one-year terms by Monica Garcia.
The choice has symbolic importance, signaling that the board majority intends to exert more control over L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy. The ascendancy of Vladovic also marks the decline in influence of just-departed L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Garcia was Villaraigosa’s most loyal ally on the seven-member body.
Vladovic said that he has “a belief system that all children can learn.” And the role of the system is to “set up the safety nets to ensure that happens.”
The board president has no greater legal authority than other members but runs the meetings and frequently represents the L.A. Unified School District.
Even before the meeting, it was clear that Garcia lacked the votes to retain the gavel. And in March, the board had adopted a policy that barred serving as president for more than two consecutive years -- although that policy also could be changed on short notice.
Before the meeting, most insiders said that Garcia’s most likely successor would be either Vladovic or Steve Zimmer, in that order. Zimmer apparently lacked the votes and never was nominated. Instead, Garcia nominated Tamar Galatzan.
Both Vladovic and Galatzan spoke. The first tally was on Vladovic’s nomination, because he was nominated first. He won on a 5-2 vote. The swing vote arguably belonged to newly elected Monica Ratliff.
Ratliff came to office because she defeated a better-funded, Villaraigosa-backed opponent. She succeeds Nury Martinez in representing the east San Fernando Valley. Martinez did not seek reelection, choosing instead to run for the L.A. City Council.
For the first time in several years, the incoming board won’t have to face substantial budget cuts. But there are tough decisions ahead about how to spend surplus funds that aren’t sufficient to redress all the recent cuts. The school system also faces mounting legal fees from the Miramonte litigation and other child-abuse cases. Academically, the district is getting ready for new state curriculum standards and planning to put an iPad into the hands of every student. Teachers and principals face new, detailed job evaluations based in part on student standardized test scores.
Vladovic is known to have a rocky relationship with Supt. Deasy. They have managed to work cordially in public and are respectful in public comments about each other. But there are reports of repeated episodes of antagonism between the two.
Vladovic concedes that he has a temper and that he has shown it to members of Deasy’s staff.
“I’m very emotional if I feel you’re not working in the best interests of kids,” Vladovic said in an earlier interview.
During the meeting he said: “I hold no animus to anyone. I’ve got an open mind that we can move forward in the interests of children in a respectful way.”
He made his comment just before the vote, speaking both to colleagues and members of the public.
The issue of whether Vladovic verbally abused employees is the subject of an internal inquiry. So was the question of whether he had any involvement in possible missteps in a sexual abuse investigation.
Vladovic’s defenders have speculated that the investigations were fishing expeditions by Deasy allies meant to derail his bid for board president.
The Daily News published an article last week about these investigations, citing one unnamed district source. The Times independently confirmed that the investigations occurred, but to date there are no conclusions that Vladovic did anything illegal or unethical.
“There is a real irony to the timing of this and it’s highly suspicious,” Vladovic said prior to the meeting. “I’m not going to dwell on it.”
The source of the leaked investigation is unclear, but some board members and district staff said they believe Deasy provided the information or that he authorized someone to do so.
Deasy has insisted that he doesn’t speak publicly about personnel matters.
Regardless, the issue has come to symbolize the fractured trust between Deasy and some board members and among the board members themselves.
Garcia and Galatzan remain staunchly loyal to Deasy. The other board members are less committed but so far are not moving to replace him.
Deasy has the support of a coalition of community organizations and new Mayor Eric Garcetti. Employee unions have been less enthusiastic.
Supporters as well as critics said Garcia wielded an outsize influence on district policy and the use of district resources. Garcia used her control of the gavel to shorten marathon meetings and to cut down on committee meetings, freeing staff members for other tasks. Critics accused her of reducing transparency and opportunities for public input.
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