LAUSD Board Picks A New President. Who Is Richard Vladovic?

FILE - L.A. Unified School Board member Richard Vladovic speaks during a meeting on Aug. 22, 2017. (Kyle Stokes/KPCC)

Los Angeles Unified School Board members voted Tuesday to appoint Richard Vladovic — who's been the board's swing vote on several key decisions in the last year — to serve as the board's president for the next year.

Six of the board's seven members supported Vladovic's nomination, including Mónica García, the immediate past board president who's had her disagreements with Vladovic in the past. Only Nick Melvoin voted "no."

Vladovic seized the moment Tuesday to win passage of a plan to shake up the board's committee structure. Among the changes he proposed: create a new committee that would consolidate the district's often-perfunctory decisions on requests to open or renew charter schools into fewer meetings. This, in turn, would free up time to discuss other matters.

"We were going to have two meetings a month on charters," said Vladovic. "We should have two meetings a month on instruction."

Vladovic, who's been on the LAUSD board since 2007, has served as board president before — from 2013 to 2015. He's a former principal and administrator in the district. Before he was elected to represent San Pedro and parts of South L.A. on the board, he also served as superintendent of the West Covina Unified School District.

MOSTLY A TITLE

Being "president of the LAUSD board" sounds fancier than it is. The president chairs board meetings and occasionally acts as a public ambassador for the board, but otherwise has few formal advantages over the other six members.

Still, the board's choice of president is often one indicator of which way the LAUSD political winds are blowing — and the selection of Vladovic reflects the divisions among his fellow board members

He's also a prime example of how LAUSD board politics don't always neatly divide between "pro-charter school" and "pro-teachers union" forces.

Vladovic is a rare LAUSD politician in that both United Teachers Los Angeles and the California Charter Schools Association have endorsed in the past. In 2011, self-styled "education reformers" like former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad financially backed his re-election bid.

In more recent years, Vladovic has often sided with UTLA-allied board members Scott Schmerelson and George McKenna. He carried legislation UTLA proposed as part of its strike-ending deal calling for a statewide moratorium on new charter schools. In October 2017, these three board members accused then-board president García of suppressing their voices in favor of her fellow CCSA-endorsed board members.

Vladovic broke with Schmerelson and McKenna in May 2018, though, voting with the charter-endorsed majority to hire Superintendent Austin Beutner, whom many in the UTLA rank-and-file continue to distrust.


LAUSD BOARD PRESIDENTS, 2003-present

  • José Huizar, 2003 - 2006
  • Marlene Canter, 2006 - 2007
  • Mónica García, 2007 - 2013
  • Richard Vladovic, 2013 - 2015
  • Steve Zimmer, 2015 - 2017
  • Ref Rodriguez, July 2017 - Sept. 2017*
  • Mónica García, Sept. 2017 - July 2019
  • Richard Vladovic, 2019 - ?

School board members typically select the board's president at the annual organizational meeting in July. All dates signify a term ending or beginning in July, except where noted.


'WE HAVE TO ARGUE IN PUBLIC'

But for the most part, past differences were cast aside Tuesday.

Though Melvoin nominated García for board president, García quickly announced she would be voting for Vladovic. He thanked García for her recent service as board president; she took over the job after ex-board member Ref Rodriguez stepped aside in Sept. 2017 and had previously held the role from 2007 to 2013.

"If you know a family that doesn't argue sometimes, I've never met them," Vladovic said as he reclaimed the president's center seat on the board dais. "Tell me how they do it. And because of the law, we have to argue in public."

"We all respect each other," he added.

COMMITTEE STRUCTURE

On Tuesday, Vladovic also appointed Jackie Goldberg — a UTLA favorite who recently triumphed in a special election — to serve as the board's vice president, meaning she'll chair the board in Vladovic's absence.

Board members also unanimously approved Vladovic's proposal to bring back several previously-abandoned board committees as well as create several new working groups. For example, Goldberg would lead Committee of the Whole sessions that would essentially revive the board's budget, finance and audit committees.

Vladovic asked each board member to lead a new committee. He asked García to lead a committee on school safety; McKenna, on curriculum and instruction; Melvoin, on IT and data; and board member Kelly Gonez, on government relations.

Vladovic said the board could create the time for these new committees by devoting fewer meetings to charter school business. Since board members rarely overturn the recommendation of district staff on charter applications and renewals, Vladovic proposed holding only one charter meeting in September and consolidating future charter business into fewer meetings.

Some details of these new charter meetings are still being sorted out. Beutner said he'd work with staff from the district's Charter Schools Division staff to figure out how that would work.