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20 file to run for L.A. Board of Education; direction of reforms at stake

November 15, 2010 |  3:56 pm

Twenty candidates have filed to run for the four Los Angeles Board of Education seats on the primary election ballot in March 2011, including three incumbents.

Control of the school board hangs in the balance as the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, seeks a stronger foothold on a seven-member body whose majority has allied largely with L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The allegiances could affect the growth of independently run, mostly non-union charter schools, the choice of the next superintendent, and the direction of school reforms -- including key decisions on how best to evaluate teachers.

The open seat is in Board District 5, where one-term incumbent Yolie Flores has decided not to run. Her region spans Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Eagle Rock and the southeastern portions of the L.A. Unified School District, including the cities of Huntington Park, Bell and South Gate.

The hopefuls include teacher Bennett Kayser, who opposed Flores four years ago; longtime PTA leader Scott Folsom; Luis Sanchez, chief of staff for board President Monica Garcia; retired Roosevelt High teacher and union representative John Fernandez; parent activist Roberto Fonseca; and Pilar Buelna, whose designation is parent and education advocate.

In District 1, two-term incumbent Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte is opposed by civil rights advocate Eric Lee, head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles. Lee has been among a group of black leaders pressing L.A. Unified for a greater focus on low-achieving African American males. That group will be presenting its data and agenda at a board meeting Tuesday. Also in this race is educator Lynette Bigelow. District 1 covers substantial portions of south and southwest Los Angeles.

In District 3,  incumbent Tamar Galatzan will face off a second time against Louis Pugliese, a college instructor and former charter school board member. Also in the race are Murphy Moore, William Charles McMahon, Heather Hodge Kolodny, Kevin M. Collins and Steven A. Webb. The district stretches across the west San Fernando Valley.

The candidates in District 7 include incumbent Richard Vladovic and two previous candidates, Roy Love and Jesus Escandon. District 7 reaches from South Los Angeles south to the Harbor area.

The next step for candidates is to file nominating petitions with signatures of registered voters from their districts. It's a pro forma process, but some candidates have stumbled over it. Two years ago, consultants assisting charter school executive and attorney Ben Austin filed signatures from the wrong neighborhood, ending his candidacy. Austin later joined the state Board of Education as an appointee of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.


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-- Howard Blume