It was good news, bad news for parents in Board District 5 on Tuesday.
The good news: A special election will be held March 5 to fill the vacant seat formerly held by Ref Rodriguez, and an attempt by the teachers union to rush through a single appointee, Jackie Goldberg, failed on a 4-2 vote.
That was thanks, in large part, to the powerful testimony of a group of Speak UP parents from the Southeast part of the district, who spoke passionately about their desire to be heard.
“Do you care about my civil rights? Do you care about democracy and my right to vote?” asked Raquel Toscano, a Speak UP parent from Bell with two kids at Maywood Center for Enrichment Studies, an LAUSD magnet school in BD5. “It is completely undemocratic to rush through this appointment without giving the community – especially Latino families from the Southeast -- a chance to consider other potential candidates. That shows no respect for us and our rights.”
The bad news: An effort by Board Vice President Nick Melvoin (BD4) to allow the community to nominate multiple candidates to fill the seat until an election is held, also deadlocked in a 3-3 vote, meaning that BD5 parents may go unrepresented for an entire school year.
Even though the city charter was recently changed at LAUSD’s request to allow an interim voting appointee to fill a seat until a special election is held, Richard Vladovic (BD7) was the lone Board member who opposed the concept of an interim appointee altogether.
He argued that families did not need representation during most of the 2018-19 school year because LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner, the local superintendents and BD5 staffers could take care of their needs.
“I will not support appointing anyone,” Vladovic said. “That superintendent of that district is responsible for every child. In the next few months, nobody’s going to get hurt. Nothing’s going to go wrong. I’m not worried.”
Board Members George McKenna (BD1) and Scott Schmerelson (BD3) both voted to appoint Goldberg. McKenna made threats that while Goldberg had promised not to run for the seat if appointed, she might actually decide to run if the board did not appoint her. Then Board members who don’t want her could get stuck with her longer, he argued.
Goldberg said after the meeting that she has not decided whether to enter the race, which is expected to be a crowded field.
Melvoin and Board Members Kelly Gonez (BD6) and President Monica Garcia (BD2) all supported a more open and transparent process allowing anyone to volunteer or nominate an interim appointee that the Board would then consider on Sept. 11.
While both measures on interim appointees failed, it’s still possible that a consensus appointee could emerge and win support both from the reformers and at least one of the two labor-backed Board members, McKenna or Schmerelson.
Speak UP urges the five Board members who supported the concept of an interim appointee to put aside any differences and work together with all the stakeholders in BD5 to find a less polarizing person to serve all stakeholders and constituents.
McKenna, who himself was willing to be appointed when the BD1 seat last became vacant, spoke powerfully about the need for representation during a crucial year in which the district is expected to be restructured. He was the sole Board member who voted against a March special election because he wanted an election right after the winter break in January.
While families argued that a January election would get lost in the holiday season, would not allow them time to get to know the many candidates and would likely depress parent voter turnout, McKenna pushed for the earlier election time. “I’m not OK with letting the seat go so long without being represented,” McKenna said.
Neither are we. Given the desire of both parents and five of six Board members to make sure families are represented during the 2018-19 school year, there is still an opportunity for the Board to transcend the divisive politics of the past and to put the needs of the kids first. We hope that happens.
We urge the Board to do the right thing and to revisit Melvoin’s more open and transparent process allowing the community to help find an interim appointee for the sake of the kids. With a fair and open process, we believe the right interim representative can be found.