Thanks to having no opponent on the ballot, George McKenna was the only member of the Los Angeles Unified School District board to retain his seat, while incumbents Tamar Galatzan, Bennett Kayser and Richard Vladovic all advanced to a May runoff in hopes of winning re-election.
Kayser, 68, had the most tightly contested race, with his general distaste for charter schools making him a target of a well-funded political action committee that backed his chief opponent, Ref Rodriguez, the founder of a chain of charter schools known as Partnership to Uplift Communities.
Kayser, a former teacher and technology coordinator for the district’s Independent Studies program, had the backing of the powerful United Teachers Los Angeles, but even the teachers’ union was outpaced in spending by the California Charter Schools Association, which spent nearly $700,000 in support of Rodriguez, 43.
Rodriguez and Kayser stayed generally neck-and-neck throughout the night as election returns were tallied, but neither came close to the 50 percent of the vote they needed to surpass to claim the seat outright.
The District 5 seat represents an area that includes Eagle Rock, Boyle Heights, Bell, Cudahy, Los Feliz and Huntington Park.
Richard Vladovic, the board’s president, was expected to cruise to a reelection win in District 7, but he also fell short of the vote total needed to avoid a May 19 runoff. He will face off against teacher Lydia Gutierrez.
Meanwhile, Tamar Galatzan — a deputy Los Angeles city attorney — also had the support of the California Charter Association in her bid for re- election in the San Fernando Valley’s District 3. While she outpaced her five challengers, she will have to compete in the runoff election against retired LAUSD teacher and principal Scott Mark Schmerelson.
The school board will have to tackle some tough issues in the coming months. The district is still searching for a permanent superintendent, since Ramon Cortines was appointed merely on an interim basis to replace John Deasy. The district is also locked in difficult contract negotiations with the teachers’ union, United Teachers Los Angeles, with the possibility of a strike looming as educators push for higher salaries and smaller class sizes.
—City News Service