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L.A. school board targets Garcia with term-limits vote

March 19, 2013 |  5:20 pm

Monica Garcia
A narrow majority of Los Angeles Board of Education members voted Tuesday to set a limit of two consecutive years for the school board presidency. Unless the new rule is rescinded later, the decision would end the six-year run of current President Monica Garcia in July.

The board president has no greater authority than others on the seven-member panel, but runs the meetings and frequently represents the nation’s second-largest school system. Both supporters and critics have said Garcia wields an outsized influence on district policy and the use of district resources.

The school board elects its president every July to serve a one-year term.

A similar run at Garcia narrowly failed last year, but political factors outside the board room have evolved. Last year, the swing vote against term limits and to reelect Garcia came from Steve Zimmer.

Since then, however, close allies of Garcia targeted Zimmer for defeat in his recent reelection bid. Zimmer won regardless, when the teachers union and other employee groups rallied behind him. The teachers union, for its part, has been critical of Garcia. It mounted a low-budget but sharply critical campaign against her; she won reelection earlier this month.

The term-limits vote Tuesday symbolized the waning influence of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as his own eight-year tenure in office ends. Although the mayor has no formal authority over the board, candidates he helped elect make up a board majority. Garcia is the mayor’s closest ally on the board, and yet a member of mayor’s bloc, Richard Vladovic, defected to favor the term-limits proposal.

The motion, which was approved on a 4-3 vote, was put forward by Bennett Kayser and Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. Supporters noted that since 1985, the board president has come from the downtown area and environs a significantly disproportionate number of times.

“It’s geographical diversity,” said LaMotte, explaining her vote. She added: “It’s time for us to look at different leadership and a different style of management.”

Voting against the proposal were Garcia, Tamar Galatzan and Nury Martinez.

“You’ve devoted not only your time but your entire career to the kids of this district,” Martinez said to Garcia. “I think this is about something else.”

Galatzan questioned the merits of term limits, adding that it was “insulting” that a majority of four might not be able to elect the president of its choice.

“People who don’t like a decision should not be allowed to upend the system,” she said.

But Kayser said voters support term limits in general, noting that they had already imposed limits on how many times a person could be elected to the Board of Education.

Garcia took the rebuff without complaint, but also said she was voting no because “every July there’s a vote and no one board member commands anything.”

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-- Howard Blume

Photo: L.A. Board of Education President Monica Garcia, seen in February 2012. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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