Los Angeles: New School Board President, a Charter School Operator, Calls for Unity

Two newsworthy items from Los Angeles:

First, the new school board elected charter chain operator Ref Rodriguez as its president. Rodriguez leads the PUC (Partnership Uplifting Communities) charter chain of 16 schools. Rodriguez called for unity after the just-concluded dirty election, the most expensive in U.S. history.

Politico reports:

“LA SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT SEEKS UNITY AFTER UGLY ELECTION: New Los Angeles school board president Ref Rodriguez says he will kick off his tenure by reaching out to fellow board members in one-on-one meetings. The goal: helping the nation’s second-largest school district heal from one of the ugliest and most expensive school board races in the district’s history, he said. Rodriguez, who was elevated to president last week in a 4-3 vote, told Morning Education he wants to meet with his colleagues away from the public and media spotlights to build new relationships and work on old ones. That includes meeting individually with two new board members who were elected earlier this year, Kelly Gonez and Nick Melvoin, who share his support for charter schools. And it means finding common ground with each of the three board members who voted not to install him as president last week. Rodriguez also said he wants the board to get together soon and collectively commit to some “guiding principles.”

– The race is like a “cloud hanging over us” – The school board race pitted charter school backers against teachers unions, generating $17 million in campaign spending. Supporters of charter schools ultimately came out on top, shifting the board’s politics with the election of Gonez and Melvoin, two former Obama administration staffers, in May. Rodriguez, who joined the board in 2015, is now part of the majority that supports charters. But despite the victory, the race is like a “cloud hanging over us,” Rodriguez said. “What I’m hoping to do is unify this board and get past all of that rhetoric.”

– The divisiveness over charter schools has been damaging, Rodriguez said. “The media doesn’t help us any,” he said, adding that the “meat of the story” isn’t about school choice. Rodriguez ticked off a number of other pressing priorities – like addressing a multi-billion deficit made worse by underfunded pensions and declining enrollment, with students leaving the district for charter schools, for example. To improve the district’s finances, local education officials are also working to launch a unified enrollment system that would allow families to apply online to any school in the district. After some contentious debate last month, the board voted unanimously to approve $16.7 million for the new enrollment system, while excluding independent charter schools from it for at least two years. Rodriguez said he’s not sure if the board will revisit the issue with charter school supporters in the majority. “I’m not sure where we’ll end up,” he said.

– Rodriguez also stressed the need to highlight the successes of traditional public schools, while increasing collaboration between public schools and charter schools. “Charter schools are not a panacea,” he said. “They don’t have the ‘secret sauce’ when it comes to quality and we have to stop pretending that they do.”

Second item from Los Angeles: the salary of school board members was more than doubled, to $125,000 if they have no other job.

from sarah http://ift.tt/2ue1ON7

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