- Paraphrasing George Santayana
Just months after assuming a majority of the LAUSD School Board, the charter supporters already find themselves embroiled in controversy. Their first selection for President, Ref Rodriguez, is facing felony charges and was forced to resign from the position. As they prepared to select a replacement, I addressed the Board and asked for them to follow through with their promise to put “Kids First”:
When I endorsed Steve Zimmer during the election I wrote that picking the “reform” slate threatened “to disrupt the relative calm that returned after [Deasy’s] departure and would once again threaten the distribution of our children's education.” It certainly did not take long to get to that point.
Mr. Rodriguez had an obligation to inform the rest of the Board about the pending investigation, but his failure to do so does not excuse the Board members who voted for him. They had an obligation to research the person that they were electing as the face of the District.
The charges against Rodriguez are not new. In 2015, KPCC asked about the donations in question. Rodriguez responded that “the employee contributions weren't coerced and will not be reimbursed”. Doubling down on this apparent lie he said that “I know for many of them this is a tremendous sacrifice...It’s just been sort of an outpouring of folks belief in me and what we are trying to do for the city.”
This information was available to the public. The board members who voted for him to be President should have asked him about these charges before voting.
On May 5, 2015, there was an article in the LA Progressive that stated “a janitor, a tutor, a parent organizer, two maintenance workers, a kitchen manager, and an office manager would not raise eyebrows for donating $25, $50, or even $100 to a candidate, as these seven PUC workers did within days of each other in mid-December 2014...but for those same workers then to shell out amounts of $1,075, $1,000, $975, and $800 almost immediately thereafter, and so uniformly, during the holiday season, at a time when the costs of gifts or family travel often hit middle-class families in the wallet, is certainly an unusual pattern.”
These are not new charges. They were out in the open and yet the “pro-reform” majority voted in Mr. Rodriguez. Will you make the same mistake again?
During that same election back in 2015 the L. A. Times wrote “An audit of a charter school with ties to a Board of Education candidate found fault with the school’s financial operations and the way it maintained employee records and other documents...the Times reported Tuesday that the audit's public release had been withheld at the request of a school board member. District sources said the delay came at the behest of school board member Monica Garcia, a political ally of Rodriguez.”
This Board is on record as saying that kids should go first. This was not children first, this was putting an agenda first and I hope that as you take the vote today, you do not do that again.
Without discussion, the LAUSD Board voted 4 - 3 to install Monica Garcia as the Board President. The vote was along party lines with no attempt at consensus. I guess we'll have to wait for another day to put "Kids First".
Carl Petersen is a parent and special education advocate, elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. He was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com.