A seismic shift on the L.A. Unified school board


The L.A. Unified school board is different only by one member now than it was a few months ago, but oh, what a difference a switch from Nury Martinez to Monica Ratliff makes. It’s not that Ratliff, who so far appears to be the same independent thinker who ran a successful underdog campaign against an opponent with scads of money behind him as well as political connection, made any radical waves. It’s more that the shift from Martinez, a reliable reform vote, to the more questioning Ratliff, changed the dynamic of the other people on the dais.

The board members who question reform, probably sensing the stronger shot their agenda has, were notably more vocal and assertive. And at times that got ugly, such as when Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte went off on an inappropriate tirade against charter schools opening in areas that already had plenty of seats for students. When Monica Garcia, newly deposed as the board president, tried to point out that the law did not allow the board to reject a school based on where it was planning to locate within the district, LaMotte shouted over her, ranting that she was tired of hearing about the law. Garcia handled the matter with remarkable grace.

Garcia also was the only board member not assigned to head one of the board’s committees; the feeling was one of a formerly favored pupil who was now on the outs. That’s too bad. Garcia hasn’t been the most thoughtful or nuanced of the board members, but she is known to have put enormous time and effort into her role. Her fervent support of anything and everything that former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wanted became a point of contention, though; handling matters with subtlety and concern for others who might think differently wasn’t her style. And now that Villaraigosa isn’t around and the steadfast reformers don’t have anything like a majority, it will be interesting to see how well this once-powerful board member will be able to advance her agenda.


Oh, well. The politics of L.A. Unified are seldom pretty. But there was one change to the meeting this week that should be making everyone happy: New board President Richard Vladovic has called on top administrators from throughout the district to attend the meetings so that they can get to work immediately on concerns raised by parents. There are always a number of students or parents who speak before the board on particular issues at their particular schools. In the past, they have generally been heard politely but then left to wander back home with nothing satisfied except their desire to complain. Now someone from the district meets with them immediately after they speak to start the work on resolving the real-life problems that plague real-life people.


Move to Detroit, land of opportunity

A slow-motion Colorado River disaster

How Obama has abused the Patriot Act