Eighteen People Vie for School Board in California’s Largest District

March 5th is just 12 days away, and all eyes are on the Los Angeles Unified School District. Two members are retiring and another two are up for re-election. Between the four seats in play, a whopping 18 candidates appear on the March 5 primary ballot.

District 1:

George J. McKenna III announced his retirement from the school board last year, leaving the Southeast L.A. district up for grabs. Seven candidates are running to replace him:

·         Former teacher and policy advisor to George McKenna, Sherlett Newbill

·         Former teacher and current adjunct professor Dewayne Davis

·         LAUSD District 7 Chief of Staff Didi Watts

·         Community activist Kahllid Al-Alim

·         Christian Flagg, Director of Training for Mayor Karen Bass’ nonprofit organization, Community Coalition

·         Parent and tutor Rita Tambor

·         Educator and coach John Brasfield

McKenna has endorsed Newbill. Newbill has vowed to champion ongoing support for the district’s Black Student Achievement Plan. She also believes it was a mistake to remove police officers from LAUSD campuses without a proper plan in place to ensure safety.

United Teachers of Los Angeles was initially supporting Al-Alim, who has vowed to fight charter school co-location and any plans to bring back campus police. The union pulled its endorsement on Feb. 22 after Al-Alim's history of antisemitic actvity on social media came to light.

Watts is endorsed by two current board members – District 7’s Tanya Ortiz Franklin and District 4’s Nick Melvoin.

District 3:

LAUSD school board vice president and District 3 representative Scott Schmerelson is facing four challengers in his bid for a third term:

·         Former LAUSD teacher Raquel Villalta

·         Music school owner and veteran Andreas Farmakalidis

·         Math teacher Dan Chang

·         Disability educator and businesswoman Elizabeth Badger

UTLA has endorsed Schmerelson for re-election. Dan Chang is supported by Tanya Ortiz Franklin and former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The Los Angeles Republican Party has endorsed Villalta.

This district is located in the San Fernando Valley, from Porter Ranch to Encino and from West Hills to North Hollywood.

District 5:

Jackie Goldberg is retiring after decades in public service. Her latest stint in District 5, which encompasses East and Southeast L.A., began in 2019. Last year, she was named President of the school board.

Four candidates are running for Goldberg’s seat:

·         Cal State Los Angeles Professor Fidencio Gallardo

·         Huntington Park Councilmember and LAUSD Pupil Service Administrator Graciela Ortiz

·         Special education teacher Karla Griego

·         Former principal Victorio Gutierrez

Goldberg has endorsed Gallardo for her seat.

The teachers union is usually on the same page as Goldberg, but this time UTLA has endorsed Karla Griego.

Ortiz is the candidate preferred by charter school advocates. So far, her campaign has been fraught with controversy. Ortiz’s former campaign employee Billy Valdivia was convicted of molesting a minor in 2021, and the victim is now suing Ortiz for negligence and a cover-up related to the incident. City Watch LA has also raised the alarm about some questionable contributions to Ortiz’s campaign. Ortiz is now on administrative leave pending an investigation.

District 7:

Tanya Ortiz Franklin is up for re-election in District 7, which stretches from South L.A. to San Pedro. She faces just one challenger in Lydia Gutierrez, a longtime educator and aerospace industry professional. You can read more about the matchup here



Thursday, March 28, 2024 - 09:07

School construction bonds faced some headwinds during the March 5 primary, with a passage rate of around 60% compared with the 73% seen in typical past primaries.