Lydia Gutierrez

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Lydia Gutierrez
Lydia Gutierrez.jpg
Candidate for
Board member, Los Angeles Unified Board of Education, District 7
Elections and appointments
Last electionMarch 3, 2015
Next generalMay 19, 2015
Campaign $$87,152
Term limits3 terms maximum
Education
Bachelor'sPepperdine University
Master'sDominguez Hills
Personal
ProfessionEducator
Websites
Campaign website
Lydia A. Gutierrez is a candidate for the District 7 seat on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education in California. She ran against one incumbent and one challenger in the primary election on March 3, 2015. No candidate received 50 percent of the votes cast in the primary election, so the top two vote-getters, Gutierrez and incumbent Richard A. Vladovic, will advance to the general election on May 19, 2015.[1][2][3][4]

The district is facing a number of issues during this election season, including searching for a new superintendent, a federal grand jury investigation into a technology program that was partially started in 2014 and divisive contract negotiations with United Teachers Los Angeles. Gutierrez also participated in a debate with the other District 7 candidates.

See also: Issues in Los Angeles Unified School District election

In 2014, Gutierrez was a candidate in the primary election for California Superintendent of Public Instruction. She was defeated by Marshall Tuck and Tom Torlakson. Torlakson went on to the general election.[5]

Biography

Gutierrez grew up in a family of 10 children. Her father was born in Missouri to a family of migrant farm workers, and her mother was born in San Pedro, California. Gutierrez has experience working in a number of different fields. She started her career as a teacher, but she also worked as an administrator in the aerospace industry for F/A 18 Radar and as a cost estimating supervisor in the parts division of Bradley Tank. She currently works as a teacher for the University of California at Los Angeles’s Math Project Center X, as a writing project fellow at California State at Long Beach and as a lecturer for the Los Angeles County Teachers Mathematics Association. She served on the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council as an elected board member for seven years and has experience serving on education, budget and cultural committees. Gutierrez earned her bachelor's degree in liberal arts from Pepperdine University and her master's degree in multicultural bilingual education from Dominguez Hills.[6]

Elections

2015

See also: Los Angeles Unified School District elections (2015)

Opposition

Four of the seven seats on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education were up for primary election on March 3, 2015. Only one candidate, unopposed District 1 incumbent George J. McKenna III, received more than 50 percent of the votes cast in the primary. Because of this, he won his seat outright, and the top two vote-getters in Districts 3, 5 and 7 will advance to the general election on May 19, 2015.

Incumbents Tamar Galatzan, Bennett Kayser and Richard A. Vladovic from Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7, respectively, received enough votes to advance to the general election. They each faced at least two challengers in the primary. In District 3, Galatzan faced five challengers, Elizabeth Badger Bartels, Filiberto Gonzalez, Ankur Patel, Carl J. Petersen and Scott Mark Schmerelson. She and Schmerelson will face each other again in the general election. Kayser and challenger Ref Rodriguez defeated challenger Andrew Thomas to continue on to the District 5 general election. In the District 7 primary, Vladovic ran against challengers Euna Anderson and Lydia Gutierrez. Gutierrez received enough votes to advance to the general election with Vladovic.

Results

General election

This election will take place on May 19, 2015.

Primary election
Los Angeles Unified School District, District 7 Primary Election,
4-year term, 2015
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngRichard A. Vladovic Incumbent 42.6% 5,577
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngLydia Gutierrez 37.6% 4,920
     Nonpartisan Euna Anderson 19.8% 2,589
Total Votes 13,086
Source: Los Angeles City Clerk's Office, "Primary Nominating Election: Official Election Results," accessed March 23, 2015

Funding

Gutierrez reported $25,455.00 in contributions and $20,320.68 in expenditures to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, which left her campaign with $5,124.16 as of April 4, 2015.[7]

Endorsements

Gutierrez has been endorsed by the Los Angeles County Republican Party and the evangelical Christian group Election Forum.[8][9]

2014

See also: California down ballot state executive elections, 2014

Gutierrez ran for election to the office of California Superintendent of Public Instruction. She lost in the primary election on June 3, 2014. The general election took place November 4, 2014.[10]

California Superintendent of Public Instruction, Blanket Primary, 2014
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngTom Torlakson Incumbent 46.5% 1,767,257
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngMarshall Tuck 28.9% 1,098,441
     Nonpartisan Lydia Gutierrez 24.5% 931,719
Total Votes 3,797,417
Election Results via California Secretary of State.

2010

Gutierrez ran for California Superintendent of Public Instruction in the 2010 election. She lost in the primary election.[11]

2008

Gutierrez ran for California State Senate in District 25 as a Republican in 2008. She won the Republican primary, but later lost in the general election.[11][12]

Campaign donors

Comprehensive donor information for Gutierrez is available dating back to 2008. Based on available campaign finance records, Gutierrez raised a total of $87,152 during that time period. This information was last updated on January 27, 2015.[13]

Lydia Gutierrez's Campaign Contribution History
Year Office Result Contributions
2014 California Superintendent of Public Instruction Defeated $37,820
2010 California Superintendent of Public Instruction Defeated $30,590
2008 California State Senate Defeated $18,742
Grand Total Raised $87,152

2008, 2010, 2014

Ballotpedia collects information on campaign donors for each year in which a candidate or incumbent is running for election. The following table offers a breakdown of Lydia Gutierrez's donors each year.[14] Click [show] for more information.


Campaign themes

2015

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Gutiérrez highlights the following issues on her campaign website:

Lydia's Plan 4 LAUSD

My name is Lydia Gutierrez, candidate for LAUSD School Board District 7 and I would like to bring effective change at the organizational level. At present, LAUSD is poorly run in three areas: finances, administration and most importantly lack of academic goals for our children. I have the experience in understanding the demands in the educational field with 25 plus years teaching experience, and having worked in the aerospace industry as an administrator and supervisor in cost estimating. When any person takes on a leadership position they should first learn how it is run financially, what services are being administered correctly and if the child’s academic needs are being met by how the money is being spent.

At present, there are 11 high schools in District 7. In the California ranking system for 2013, one being the lowest and 10 highest, 10 schools ranked below 3. One school ranked 10 and it was the only school where 50% of the population was labeled gifted. 91% failure rate is unacceptable.

In my judgment, a strategic plan is required in 3 specific areas to dramatically change how LAUSD does business and to bring back academic success for our children’s future:

  • Academic Achievement (including vocational trade skills)
  • Fiscal Responsibility
  • Administrative and Support Staff Accountability

First, Academic Achievement:

  • Give back control of our classrooms to the teachers who know what needs to be taught instead of mandating what, when and how they will teach. Before No Child Left Behind (NCLB), teachers like myself, knew what needed to be taught by the end of the day. In the process of learning, we would integrate music, art, and drama as a part of the teaching day. With NCLB, that was all thrown to the wayside. Mandated testing took over our teaching time and we became test prep facilitators. Academic achievement must take priority.

Second, Fiscal Responsibility:

  • There is currently no transparent financial accountability of money received and spent. We need a publicly accessible online financial audit trail of money received and spent, which goes into details like, audits, payroll, purchasing, revenue, and budgets. You the taxpayer should know how every tax dollar is being spent and why.

Lastly, Administrative Accountability:

  • Too often, consultants are hired who do not have background knowledge of the inner workings of the district and are paid extremely high wages when an in-house employee could have performed the task. It is time to stop cronyism and favoritism when hiring. Every employee in the district should be reviewed to make sure they are in the position that best suits their skills and they are being given an opportunity for upward advancement. Administration and Support Staff are the backbone of support that every teacher needs in the classroom.


During these challenging times, we need experienced and trusted leadership more than ever.

Respectfully, I ask for you to vote for Lydia Gutierrez on March 3rd.[15]

—Lydia A. Gutierrez's campaign website, (2015)[16]

What's at stake?

2015

What's at stake in the Los Angeles Unified School District?
Los Angeles Unified School District seal.gif
Issues in the election
District 3 candidate files ethics complaint against incumbent
PACs exchange jabs at District 5 candidates
District 3 debate
District 5 debate
District 7 debate
Measure to change date of district election on ballot
Issues in the district
UTLA involved in state lawsuit
Superintendent accused of sexual misconduct
Teachers union rejects district's labor contract offer
LAUSD first district in country to represent immigrant children
District named in student exercise lawsuit
District fights teacher evaluation system repeal
District fires lawyer one year after winning sex abuse case
Superintendent resigns
Technology programs investigated
Ballotpedia survey responses
Top priorities
Ranking the issues
Positions on the issues

In gearing up for the primary election on March 3, 2015, the Los Angeles Unified School District held a number of candidate forums, one for the District 3 candidates, one for the District 7 candidates and three for the District 5 candidates. In the midst of these debates, a battle between Political action committees (PACs) emerged in District 5. Two PACs, one associated with the California Charter Schools Association and one associated with United Teachers Los Angeles, published negative campaign fliers and television ads targeting opposing candidates. In District 3, two challengers filed ethics complaints against the incumbent. In addition to voting for members on the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education in the primary election, voters passed a ballot measure that sought to change the district's election to even-numbered years.

Outside of the election, the district has been mired in lawsuits, a federal grand jury investigation and unsuccessful contract negotiations with the teachers union. The lawsuits include sexual allegations against interim Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines, a student exercise lawsuit alleging district students were not getting enough exercise, a repeal of its teacher evaluation system and a sex abuse appeal involving a student. United Teachers Los Angeles has also been named in a lawsuit, which alleges teachers' free speech rights are violated when unions use member dues to pay for political activities. The district is also searching for a new superintendent following the resignation of the previous one and starting a program to provide legal aid to help undocumented minors.

Issues in the election

District 3 candidates file ethics complaints against incumbent

District 3 challengers Filiberto Gonzalez and Carl J. Petersen both filed ethics complaints against District 3 incumbent Tamar Galatzan in the week before the primary election. Gonzalez filed a complaint with the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission charging that Galatzan improperly used her role as a school board member in her campaign. Petersen filed the same charges but with Los Angeles Unified’s Office of the Inspector General. Petersen filed another complaint with the City Ethics Commission, charging that Galatzan did not disclose her campaign finances in a timely manner.[17][18]

In his complaint, Gonzalez sited two specific instances of Galatzan using her office's influence. He said she used campaign material at a neighborhood council meeting and that she used the district’s robocall system to notify parents of a community meeting held too close to the election.[17]

Petersen said he filed his first complaints with the school district because “the greater concern is the waste of badly needed education funds.”[18]

The City Ethics Commission could not comment on the filed complaint, nor confirm or deny that any complaint or related investigation existed, "due to strict confidentiality rules mandated by the City Charter,” according to a spokeswoman. No action on the complaints was made before the primary election. Neither Gonzalez nor Petersen garnered enough votes to move on to the general election. They were defeated by Galatzan and challenger Scott Mark Schmerelson.[17][19]

PACs exchange jabs at District 5 candidates

Charter school supporters and teachers have weighed in on the District 5 race in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Political action committees (PACs) associated with the California Charter Schools Association and United Teachers Los Angeles published campaign fliers containing adverse remarks against two candidates who ran for the District 5 seat. Those fliers were then followed up by a 30-second television ad attacking incumbent Bennett Kayser.[20][21][22]

In January 2015, the Parent Teacher Alliance in Support of Rodriguez, Galatzan, Vladovic, and McKenna for School Board 2015 PAC, an extension of the California Charter Schools Association, published a campaign flier attacking District 5 incumbent Bennett Kayser. The flier had a photo of Latino children with the words, "Bennett Kayser tried to stop Latino children from attending schools in white neighborhoods," written above. The flier was created with a portion of an allotted $40,000 to be spent in support of Ref Rodriguez, Kayser's challenger in District 5, as well as District 1 incumbent George J. McKenna III, District 3 incumbent Tamar Galatzan and District 7 incumbent Richard A. Vladovic.[20][23]

District 1 incumbent George J. McKenna III

McKenna was the first candidate to renounce the charter PAC campaign flier, saying he rejected the statements and fully supported Kayser's re-election. McKenna further requested that the group's endorsement of him as a candidate be withdrawn and that they not use his name again in any other campaign material.[20]

Rodriguez and Galatzan also renounced the charter PAC's flier. Rodriguez called it "reprehensible," and said it did not at all reflect how he felt about his opponent.[20]

“Whatever the policy differences I have with Mr. Kayser, and there are many, my campaign has been and will continue to be focused on being a positive force in this election–to highlight differences but also to highlight common ground–and I will continue to move forward in that spirt. This is what our students, teachers, parents, and community deserve,” said Rodriguez.[20]

Galatzan said negative literature such as that portrayed in the charter PAC's flier had no place in the campaign.[20]

In February 2015, a PAC associated with United Teachers Los Angeles published its own campaign flier alleging that Rodriguez did not disclose personal financial information as he was required to do by law. The flier's tagline read "Refugio Rodriguez: The more you search, the worse he looks for School Board.”[21]

In response to the teachers PAC flier, the charter PAC issued a statement repeating assertions that Kayser has not acted in the best interests of Latino students. The statement also criticized the use of Rodriguez's full first name, as he has used the name "Ref" for many years.[21]

“And while he is undoubtedly proud of his full given name, we are concerned that Kayser and his allies are using it as a campaign tactic in the same way President Barack Obama’s conservative opposition insisted on using his full name, ‘Barack Hussein Obama,’ as an attack in 2008,” the charter PAC's statement said.[21]

Neither Kayser nor Rodriguez commented on the teachers PAC flier, though the charter PAC called on Kayser to denounce it.[21]

Following the teachers PAC flier, the charter PAC released a television ad depicting a hand dropping a mug that then shatters. Among the pieces of shattered mug, the following words appear: "L.A. Unified is broken. Bennett Kayser is at the bottom of it."[22]

Some have seen the ad not as a remark on Kayser's policies as a school board member, but as a mockery of his Parkinson's disease. Education historian Diane Ravitch called the ad "a shameful hit-piece."[22]

Kayser's campaign released the following statement: “While not overtly pointing to the Board member’s Parkinson’s disease, the advertisement sure comes close with the imagery. CCSAA has shown itself again to be beyond the bounds of decent, civil discussions about policy and vision for LAUSD.”[22]

According to the California Charter Schools Association, the ad had nothing to do with Kayser's disease and was instead a play on a movie The Usual Suspects. The movie shows a detective dropping a mug and that gives him the final clue to discover the identity of the perpetrator, whose name sounds like Kayser.[22]

During his four years on the board of education, Kayser has been a strong ally to the teachers union and has voted against any charter school movements when action items have come to the board. In 2012, he sponsored and rallied support for a resolution to create a more user-friendly model for students seeking transcripts in order to apply for the Obama Administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.[20][21][23]

Rodriguez is the founder of Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC), a network of 15 charter schools that serve approximately 5,000 students. He stepped down in 2009 to begin the investment fund Partners for Developing Futures, which is committed "to investing in leaders of color to start and grow high performing charter schools."[24]

District 3 debate
District 3 incumbent Tamar Galatzan

All six candidates running for the District 3 seat on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education attended the first debate held for their respective district in this election.[25][26]

District 3 challenger Filiberto Gonzalez

The candidates threw a number of criticisms at incumbent Tamar Galatzan. One frequent criticism was her support of former superintendent John Deasy and the iPad program that ended up the subject of a federal grand jury investigation. Galatzan acknowledge the problems with the iPad program but defended its impact and continuation.[25]

Challenger Filiberto Gonzalez said the money spent on Internet upgrades through the iPad program was worth the cost, but he did not support buying the iPads themselves. Challengers Elizabeth Badger Bartels and Ankur Patel said money for computer labs would have been better spent.[25]

District 3 challenger Elizabeth Badger Bartels

Challenger Carl J. Petersen said he was strongly against the iPad program, and he also criticized the launch of the district's computer system MiSiS before it was ready. Challenger Scott Mark Schmerelson was critical of the bidding process to get the iPad program but supported it overall.[25]

District 3 challenger Ankur Patel

When asked whether she was "more reform-oriented or union-oriented," Galatzan pointed to her endorsement by the Los Angeles Times, which called her the most independent board member. Bartels also described herself as independent, and Patel said he was “in the middle.” Schmerelson also avoided deciding between the two camps and said the next superintendent had to also be independently minded in this issue. Petersen disregarded both sides, saying he would be a representative for parents. Without directly saying he was in favor, Gonzalez seemed to present himself as a union-oriented candidate.[25]

The candidates all said they were in favor of a pay raise for teachers, but none stipulated how much it should be. The subject of teacher evaluations, however, brought differing ideas. Gonzalez and Schmerelson suggested the district return to its former method of peer assisted review. Schmerelson also said mentoring programs should be created to help underperforming teachers. Patel said students themselves, rather than their test scores, should have a role in teacher evaluations.[25][26]

District 3 challenger Carl J. Petersen
District 3 challenger Scott Mark Schmerelson

When asked their views on expanding the number of charter schools in the district, Schmerelson said district schools could learn a lot from charter schools. He also said district schools could surpass charters if they were given more authority.[25]

Galatzan, the recipient of more than $50,000 from the California Charter Schools Association, said her support of charter schools has come from teachers who want to help their schools by alleviating fiscal problems or gaining more autonomy over decisions. Galatzan said she has backed those teachers.[26]

Gonzalez said all district schools need more local control, not just charters. He said the implementation of charter schools has created a two-tier system, one with students lucky enough to have parents secure them a place in a charter school and one with students left behind and stuck in the district. He suggested the whole district be divided into smaller, more manageable districts.[26]

Petersen agreed that schools in the district need more local control, but he did not think breaking up the district was the best way to do that. He said the district should set clear expectations and then give educators the ability to decide how best to achieve them.[26]

Schmerelson was also in favor of more local control for schools. He suggested giving school site councils more decision-making power.[26]

District 5 debate
District 5 incumbent Bennet Kayser

Incumbent Bennett Kayser and challengers Ref Rodriguez and Andrew Thomas discussed teachers, charter schools, standardized testing and the problems with implementing the student data system MiSiS at a candidate debate on February 5, 2015. An audience of about 200 people came to watch the event, which was moderated by KPCC education reporter Annie Gilbertson.[27][28][29]

This was the second candidate debate scheduled for the District 5 candidates, but only Rodriguez showed up to the first, held on January 28, 2015. One day prior to the first debate, Kayser's campaign announced his withdrawal from two out of the three scheduled debates, the first and the third, due to scheduling conflicts. Both of those debates were hosted by United Way-LA. In response to Kayser withdrawing from the January 28 debate, Thomas also withdrew. He said he would not participate in any forum that did not include all three candidates.[30][31]

Kayser received some criticism for his failure to attend the first debate. Both Rodriguez and Thomas expressed disappointment in his withdrawal, and several community groups said he had deprived the community from the opportunity to get to know all the candidates. In response, Kayser released a written statement saying he had participated in a number of other election forums, such as interviews and surveys.[27][31]

"Debating debates is pointless," Kayser said in his statement, calling the disappointment in his withdrawal from the first debate a "contrived issue" and that there were larger concerns facing District 5 in the Los Angeles Unified School District.[27]

District 5 challenger Ref Rodriguez

The lack of opponents did not keep Rodriguez from attending the January 28 debate. He spoke with the audience of 200 about his plans for the district.[32]

At the February 5 debate, the three candidates agreed that teachers are vital for the district's ability to provide high quality education and that they need the right environment to do so, but the candidates highlighted different ways to support teachers and their environments. Rodriguez said teachers in the district should receive better pay. Thomas said reducing the teacher-student ratio should be the biggest priority, and Keyser said teachers need to be given more flexibility in their lessons.[27]

Both Kayser and Thomas had similar views on charter schools and standardized testing. Neither of them agreed with the growing expansion of charter schools in the district, and both thought the effectiveness of charter schools needed to be studied. Thomas said that the 18 percent of students who now attend a charter school take away money from other schools in the district. He also said 20 percent of charter schools are performing below standard.[27][29]

Though Rodriguez defended charter schools and said that many of them are performing highly, he said that the 20 percent who are not providing high quality education should be shut down.[27][29]

District 5 challenger Andrew Thomas

On the topic of standardized testing, all three candidates agreed such measures could be inaccurate in showing how much students have learned and could also be detrimental to student understanding. Rodriguez, however, was the only one to suggest fully eliminating statewide testing, which is currently required by federal law. Thomas said that testing can be beneficial in determining the areas where a student needs help.[29]

On the subject of MiSiS, the student data system that caused issues with student schedules and transcripts when it was first implemented and has cost the district millions of dollars to fix, Kayser said he warned former superintendent John Deasy not to go forward with the system. Rodriguez did not agree with putting all the blame on Deasy.[28]

"We've got to hold our school board accountable for that. They are the ones in charge of our budget. They are trustees and stewards of our kids' learning and $100 million is unacceptable to me," Rodriguez said.[28]

Thomas also criticized the implementation of the system. He said the district should not have developed its own software and that going forward the district should look to outside companies to help fix the system. Kayser said there are no existing systems that can serve a district as large as LAUSD.[28]

District 7 debate
District 7 incumbent Richard A. Vladovic

The three candidates running for the District 7 seat on the Los Angeles Unified School District discussed district funding, charter schools and teacher salaries at a candidate debate on February 6, 2015. Nearly 600 people attended the event.

District 7 challenger Lydia Gutierrez

On the subject of district funding, incumbent Richard A. Vladovic said one of his top priorities was to convince the California State Legislature to increase the amount of education funding.

"We are not spending the same amount of money that New York or Rhode Island spends, they spend twice as much as us. So we need to focus on insuring that the state puts us as a bigger priority," Vladovic said.

District 7 challenger Euna Anderson

Vladovic's challenger Lydia Gutierrez said the district should stop misusing funds and keep track of where its money is going before it demands more money from the state. She mentioned the district's $139 million payout to victims of a child abuse scandal and problems with the new MiSiS computer system, which cost the district millions of dollars to fix.

All three candidates agreed on increasing teachers salaries, though challenger Euna Anderson did not say how large of a raise she supported. Vladovic said he supports a raise higher than four percent, but he was unable to say more than that as he was part of the current collective bargaining process.

When asked about charter schools, Gutierrez said she was against them, as she believed a school had to first fail in order to transition into a charter. That was not the case for all charter schools, however, and Vladovic explained that the school board was required by law to approve all charter schools that demonstrate they are fully funded and have a solid education system. He said he could neither agree nor disagree with charter schools due to state law.

Anderson saw charter schools as a reaction to a lack of trust in the district. She said this lack of trust comes from a lack of transparency and oversight, as well as from recent issues with the canceled iPad program and the MiSiS incident.[33]

Measure to change date of district election on ballot
See also: City of Los Angeles LA Unified School District Election Date Alignment Charter Amendment, Measure 2 (March 2015)

In addition to electing new members to the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, voters were asked whether or not those elections should be moved to match the state election schedule every even-numbered year. Voters passed the measure with over 76 percent in favor. The measure will extend the term length of those members elected to the board in the 2015 elections.[19][34]

A second measure, asking if Los Angeles City Council races should also be moved to follow the even-numbered election year schedule, was also passed. Proponents of the measures said it would save the city money to coincide city elections with state and federal elections. They also said it would help increase voter turnout. Critics of the measure said combining the elections would take attention away from local elections.[35]

Because the measures passed, both the school board and city council will see the length of their term limits temporarily grow by approximately 17 months. Those elected to positions in 2015 will not be up for re-election until 2020, and those elected in 2017 will not be up for re-election until 2022. For city council members, this extended term will grow their pensions by $5,650 if they stay in office, as that figure is calculated by how long they hold office.[35]

Issues in the district

UTLA involved in state lawsuit

StudentsFirst, an advocacy group that has worked on passing laws that curtail the power of unions nationwide, filed a lawsuit against several teachers unions, including the California Teachers Association and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). The lawsuit also named three superintendents, including Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines and those from the West Contra Costa Unified School District and the Arcadia Unified School District.[36]

In the lawsuit, two LAUSD teachers and two others from school districts in California said that their First Amendment rights had been violated because they had not been allowed to join their teachers unions without allowing those unions to use some of their paid dues on political activities. The teachers assert that they should be able to join their unions without supporting the unions' political activities, which they may oppose.[36]

California law does not require teachers to join unions, but they are required to pay "agency fees" to cover costs associated with contract negotiations. Full membership dues cost 30 percent to 40 percent more than agency fees, and the additional funds can be used by the union to pay for political activities. In order to opt out of paying for political activities, teachers must forego being full union members. The lawsuit alleges that requiring teachers to opt out of full membership can have "significant adverse consequences," as being a full member can lead to insurance and disability benefits as well as legal representation.[36]

"The 1st Amendment does not tolerate this unequal treatment based on a teacher's political views," said an attorney handling the case.Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; invalid names, e.g. too many

Jeff Freitas, secretary treasurer for the California Federation of Teachers called the lawsuit "yet another in the endless string of anti-union, anti-teacher lawsuits that pretend to protect worker rights by undermining the most important organization that defends worker rights."[36]

Superintendent accused of sexual misconduct

A lawsuit filed in February 2015 charges Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines with sexual misconduct. This lawsuit is the third of its kind filed by Scot Graham, who was initially hired as the district's Director of Real Estate in 2000. In his previous lawsuits he accused Cortines of making sexual advances toward him, but in this latest lawsuit, Graham further revealed actions and comments Cortines made against other district leaders, including chief lawyer for the district David Holmquist and board member Monica Garcia.[37]

Neither of the previous lawsuits advanced to court proceedings. Cortines denied any wrongdoing both times, though he did admit that he and Graham did share “consensual spontaneous adult behavior.”[37]

In his third lawsuit, Graham added the district as a defendant with Cortines. He said the district failed to investigate his previous claims before hiring Cortines as superintendent for a third time in October 2014. He said that has created a work atmosphere of "ongoing fear of Cortines."[37]

"This is simply a frivolous refiling of the same allegations. The details included in this complaint are intended to do nothing more than generate sensational headlines, and needlessly subject current and former leaders at the district to baseless personal attacks. The District will vigorously defend against these claims as it has done with the last two lawsuits alleging the same causes of action," Holmquist said in a statement.[37]

Rob Hennig, Graham's lawyer, disagreed. "“The issue is very simple, as Mr. Graham’s claims of sexual harassment have never been adjudicated, and the district has yet to conduct an independent, objective investigation of Mr. Graham’s claims," said Hennig.[37]

Hennig said the third lawsuit centers on Graham's distress since Cortines rejoined the district. According to Graham's spokesman Herndon Graddick, Graham has been diagnosed with stress related seizure disorder.[37]

Teachers union continues to reject district's contract offer

On February 12, 2015, teachers in nearly every school in the district staged a short protest, and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) rejected the district's most recent labor contract offer. These events were only part of a long process of complicated negotiations, but they showed how great an impasse existed between the two parties. The union demanded an 8.5 percent salary increase and smaller class sizes. The district offered a 5 percent salary increase retroactive to July 1, 2014, a 9 percent increase in minimum salary for teachers in the first year and $13 million used to lower class sizes. The difference between the two parties came to approximately $800 million, according to the district.[38][39]

United Teachers Los Angeles logo.png

“These people have been the heroes of education for the past eight years,” said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl at a press conference just before the union formally rejected the offer. According to Caputo-Pearl, 3,000 classes in the district contain more than 45 students.[38]

"The things we are demanding—lower class sizes, fully staffed schools and fair compensation—are not radical. They are necessary. School employees have been breaking their backs to make up for a lack of staffing and resources at schools, but it’s too much to sustain. Now’s the time to turn this around,” added Caputo-Pearl.[38]

UTLA originally demanded a 10 percent raise in salary, lowered it to 9 percent and then to 8.5 percent. It is the only union who has not approved a new contract with the district. The other unions tied to the district accepted a 2 percent salary increase.[39]

Superintendent Ramon Cortines said he was disappointed in UTLA's rejection, calling the district's offer "responsible."[39]

“We are dealing with a budget that has had a deficit for three years and we are trying to balance it. Again, we must learn to live within our means as we preserve vital and necessary educational services for our students,” said Cortines.[39]

Asking for a mediator

The district and the union next met for negotiations on February 18, 2015, but they left at an impasse. With a significant gap between the two sides on compensation after 18 bargaining sessions, the two groups decided to ask the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to appoint a mediator for the next round of negotiations. The PERB must first affirm the negotiations are deadlocked before appointing a mediator. If a mediator does not help the two parties come to an agreement, a fact-finding panel will recommend terms of settlement. If that also fails to work, the teachers in the district may strike.[40][41]

"Making Our Stand"

In the meantime, UTLA held a downtown rally called "Making Our Stand at Grand" on February 26, 2015, in order to show their resolve.[42] Thousands of teachers gathered in front of Los Angeles City Hall to rally for a new contract. Before the rally began, Cortines issued a statement telling the teachers the district's latest offer was still on the table.[43]

Teacher layoffs

Before meetings with the PERB mediator began, the Los Angeles Board of Education voted 5-2 to approve more than 600 teacher layoffs as part of a “Fiscal Stabilization Plan.” Board President Richard A. Vladovic and board member Bennett Kayser voted against the plan. The layoffs are part of the cuts and new spending decisions the board is making in order to balance the 2015-2016 budget, which faces a $113 million deficit, according to the district's Chief Financial Officer Megan Reilly.[44]

“I would hate to think these are being put forward as a way to push back against the righteous anger, passion and frustration that were coming out at the rally downtown at Grand Park,” Caputo-Pearl told the board in response to the layoff plan.[45]

The 609 teachers who received layoff notices might not have to be let go, but the district had to send them warning notices due to state law. The final number of layoffs will be determined as the budget is finalized.[46]

Boycotting mandatory meetings

In their next effort to push for higher pay, teachers began boycotting mandatory faculty meetings, despite warnings from the district that they would not be paid for the time they missed. The meetings were scheduled after school hours, so no students were affected.[47]

First mediated meeting

The first of three mandatory meetings with a mediator from the PERB was held on March 26, 2015. After the meeting, the two sides remained over $774 million apart. They were also still in disagreement over teacher evaluations that use student test scores. The district wants to keep the evaluation system in place in order to receive $171 million from a federal government program that requires districts to distinguish their best and worst teachers. The state of California declined to join the program, but LAUSD applied directly to the U.S. Department of Education to receive the funds. The program requires the district have a teacher evaluation system that includes at least three levels of performance in place by June 1, 2015. UTLA worries having such a system in place will result in teacher merit pay based on student test scores.[48]

On March 30, 2015, the district filed for an extension from the U.S. Department of Education for their teacher evaluation system.[49]

Second mediated meeting

The second mediated meeting held on April 6, 2015, led to the two groups agreeing to meet multiple times before the third and last mediated session. Outside of the negotiations, the district voiced concern over increased healthcare costs due to a new recommended plan submitted by the Health Benefits Committee. The board approved the plan, which means the 2015-2016 budget will have to accommodate an additional $185.9 million for healthcare. Board member Monica Ratliff, the lone dissenter in the 6-1 vote to approve the plan, said programs or positions might have to be cut in order to support such a raise in costs.[50][51]

LAUSD first district in country to represent immigrant children

Beginning in April 2015, lawyers for the Los Angeles Unified School District will provide legal aid at deportation hearings for a small number of unaccompanied minors. Under a new legal program called AYUDA, the pro-bono cases will be pre-screened by outside immigration law experts and be taken on a volunteer basis.[52]

Ten district lawyers will be handling these cases. They will work between one and three hours per week and make up those hours by working late or on weekends. Several thousand unaccompanied children are currently unrepresented in their cases with the Los Angeles Immigration Court.[52]

The program was approved 6-1 in a board meeting on February 10, 2015. Board member Tamar Galatzan was the only one to oppose the motion. As a public sector attorney, she said lawyers should do volunteer work outside of their work hours.[52]

“Anything we can do that doesn’t bankrupt us that helps kids, I’m for it,” said board member Richard A. Vladovic.[52]

Prior to voting to approve the program, board member George J. McKenna III voiced some concerns. He said the program was a "worthy enterprise" but was concerned that the district was setting an unsupportable precedent and stepping over its responsibilities.[52]

District named in student exercise lawsuit
Cal200 logo.png

The Los Angeles Unified School District, along with 36 other school districts, was named in a 2013 lawsuit alleging the district's students were not getting enough exercise. The state mandates schools give students in kindergarten through sixth grade 200 minutes of exercise every 10 days of class, in addition to lunch and recess. The lawsuit was filed by Marc Babin and the nonprofit organization Cal200, which he heads.[53]

Babin, a parent and resident of Alameda, settled with the 37 school districts named in the lawsuit. The settlement requires California elementary schools to prove they are providing children with at least the state-mandated minimum number of minutes of physical education. To do this, school districts will publicly document physical education minutes. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Mary Wiss approved the settlement in March 2015.[53][54]

Prior to the settlement's final approval, Los Angeles Unified and the San Francisco and San Diego school districts publicly supported Assembly Bill 1391, a bill introduced in February 2015 seeking to set up a complaint process for physical education allegations. The complaint process would go through the school districts involved in the allegations and the California Department of Education, rather than through the court system.[55]

District fights teacher evaluation system repeal

The Los Angeles Unified School District was ordered to partially repeal its teacher evaluation system by California’s Public Employment Review Board less than two years after it was implemented, but lawyers for the district argued that the system should remain in place due to a “constitutional crisis." The element of the evaluation system at issue tied teacher pay to student performance, which United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) called unfair since student performance can be widely influenced by factors outside of the classroom.[56][57]

Implemented in March 2013 and championed by former superintendent John Deasy, LAUSD's teacher evaluation system included observations that UTLA had not consented to. The union filed a complaint with the Public Employment Review Board in 2013, claiming the district had unilaterally imposed the evaluation system without allowing teachers the chance to negotiate it. On December 24, 2014, the review board found that the observation portion of the evaluation system violated state law. The review board ruled that the district restore the "status quo" and pay back the teachers who had lost payment due to the evaluation system with an addition of 7 percent interest each year.[56]

The district had until February 22, 2015, to appeal the decision, which the district decided to do on February 17, 2015. Lawyers for the district filed an appeal with the California Public Employment Relations Board asserting that the teacher evaluation system is needed to ensure students are not deprived of their constitutional right to an education. They said the district should be able to retain its right to create the performance evaluation system for its employees.[56][57]

President of UTLA Alex Caputo-Pearl called on the district to work with teachers to establish a new evaluation system instead of spending resources on the appeal case.[57]

District fires lawyer one year after winning sex abuse case

In November 2013, attorney W. Keith Wyatt won a civil lawsuit case for the Los Angeles Unified School District by arguing that the district had no knowledge of a relationship between a 14-year-old middle school student and her 28-year-old math teacher. He also argued that the student was old enough to consent to sex with her teacher and bore some responsibility for what happened. One year later, the student is appealing the decision, and the district has dropped Wyatt after he made remarks alleging it was more dangerous to cross the street than to have sex with a teacher.[58][59]

With Wyatt's remarks, more details about the case came to light. The district had been on trial for whether or not it was at fault for allowing the relationship between student and teacher to continue for months. For their defensive strategy, the district's lawyers had presented the student's sexual history to the court as evidence, and Wyatt had claimed in his closing arguments that she had pursued the case for financial reasons alone. Because it was a civil trial, rather than a criminal trial, such claims were allowed, and the district was cleared from any responsibility.[58][59]

In July 2011, Elkis Hermida, the teacher involved with the student, had been sentenced to three years in state prison for lewd acts against a child. In that trial, the age of consent was firmly established at 18, meaning the student did not have the ability to consent. In civil cases, however, that line is less firm due to two appellate court rulings that maintained it was possible to argue a minor can consent to have sex with an adult.[59]

Neither the superintendent nor the school board of Los Angeles Unified School District commented on the district's decision to drop Wyatt. Dave Holmquist, the district's general counsel, called Wyatt's comments "inappropriate" and said they undermined "the spirit of the environment we strive to offer our students every day." Though Wyatt did issue a formal apology for his remarks, he did not comment on the district's action to remove him.[58][59]

Superintendent resigns

Dr. John Deasy resigned from his position as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District on October 15, 2014, after serving the district for three and a half years. The resignation was tendered in a joint statement from Deasy and the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education. Former superintendent Ramon C. Cortines returned to lead the district on an interim basis until a replacement for Deasy is found. Deasy stayed with the district on "special assignment" until December 31, 2014.[60]

Under Deasy's leadership, student test scores and graduation rates improved while suspension rates and dropout rates declined. Despite these improvements to the district, Deasy had an uneasy relationship with United Teachers Los Angeles, the district's teachers union. The union's president Alex Caputo-Pearl said Deasy pushed for too many programs, such as a $1 billion iPad program, the restructuring of struggling schools and the introduction of a student tracking software that ended up being defective, without consideration for educators.[61]

In his letter of resignation, Deasy highlighted the district's improvements under his leadership, including graduation rates, tests scores, attendance rates, suspensions, safety and the number of students taking advanced placement classes. Though he said he was very proud the district stayed focused on its goal to "lift youth out of poverty," he also said serving as superintendent had been "exhausting work" and that he was happy to hand it over to the next leader.[62] Deasy's full letter of resignation can be found here.

After finishing his "special assignment" with the district in December 2014, Deasy took a job as a "superintendent-in-residence" for the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems, a leadership academy for school administrators.[63]

Technology programs investigated

Former Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent John Deasy came under fire in the summer of 2014 over a program to give out 700,000 iPads to students and teachers in the district. The $1.3 billion program was suspended before all the iPads could be distributed, and circumstances surrounding the contract negotiations led to a federal grand jury investigation.[64][65][66]

iPad program

Critics had argued that the iPad program was too expensive and rushed before it was implemented, but more serious complaints started when it was revealed that Deasy had met and communicated with Apple and Pearson before open bidding for the program began in 2013. Questions arose over whether or not the program had been rigged and if Deasy had helped the two companies win the bidding process, which could have stifled competition and cost both the district and taxpayers millions of dollars. Though Deasy halted the program to address the concerns and restart the bidding process, many in the district, including United Teachers Los Angeles, called for an investigation into the matter.[64][67]

MiSiS problems

Before the iPad program could be resolved, another technological program caused more problems for the district. The automated scheduling and attendance recording system MiSiS caused delayed registration at the start of the 2014-2015 school year.[67] The problems resulted in a judge ordering state officials to review the program. The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education approved a $1.1 million plan to follow through on that order and hired a third-party observer to review the system.[68][69]

Deasy resigns

Though an investigation into the district's iPad program was started, Deasy resigned in October 2014, before things were resolved. In his joint letter of resignation with the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education, the board said they did not believe Deasy had engaged in any ethical violations or unlawful acts. In the weeks leading up to his resignation, the board's lawyers negotiated a separation agreement with Deasy's lawyers.[69]

Federal grand jury investigation

FBISeal.png

The investigation into the iPad program led to a federal grand jury subpoena asking for documents related to the bidding process for the program as well as any documents related to the winning bidders, including former contracts and other projects. The FBI's office of public corruption seized the documents on December 1, 2014. On December 2, 2014, interim superintendent Ramon C. Cortines followed through on Deasy's original suspension of the iPad program, officially canceling it. He said he had to "make sure things are done properly so they are not questioned.” He plans to start a new bidding process in 2015.[66][70]

Fixing MiSiS

In December 2014, the United States Department of Education issued a report that gave the district recommendations on how to fix its technology program problems and move forward with future projects. The report suggests that future technology programs be tested before being implemented district-wide. It also suggests consolidating technology support and helplines and implementing a classroom technology strategy for the whole district. The report came in response to a request from Cortines. He asked for a review and for help fixing the MiSiS system. With fixing costs, the district could end up spending as much as four times more than the $25 million it originally budgeted for the system.[71]

The MiSiS system has cost the district in others ways as well. Because of its faulty start, the district miscounted attendance figures at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year. Those attendance figures must be reported to the state to determine a district's funding levels. An estimated $47 million was lost due to incorrect figures, according to district officials.[72]

The state can waive the attendance records due to disasters such as earthquakes or blizzards, and United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl thinks MiSiS was just as bad for the district as a natural disaster. Caputo-Pearl requested LAUSD Superintendent Cortines accompany him to a meeting with State Superintendent Tom Torlakson to ask for a waiver, something the district had yet to do as of March 2015.[72]

Demanding refund from Apple and Pearson

Nearly two years after entering into a contract with Apple and Pearson to provide iPads with English and math curriculum apps to all LAUSD students, the district began to pursue a refund. According to an internal report, only two of the 69 schools with access to the iPads and curriculum provided by Pearson still use them. The rest gave up, citing technology glitches, a lack of adaptability for non-English speaking students and no availability to online assessments to help guide instruction.[73]

The board of education authorized the district's lawyers to explore the possibility of litigation against Apple and Pearson in April 2015. LAUSD general counsel David Holmquist sent a letter to Apple expressing the district's dissatisfaction with the Pearson curriculum and telling them the district would not compensate the company for any more products that contain the curriculum. The letter also detailed the district's desire to meet with both companies in order to arrange “the dissociation from Pearson and recoup the costs of Pearson licenses that we paid for but have been unable to use.”[73]

“I believe that it is time for Pearson to either deliver on its promises immediately or provide us with a refund so that we can purchase curriculum that actually works for our students,” said board member Monica Ratliff.[73]

About the district

See also: Los Angeles Unified School District, California
Los Angeles Unified School District is located in Los Angeles County, Calif.

Los Angeles Unified School District is located in Los Angeles County in southern California. The county seat of Los Angeles County is Los Angeles.[74] Los Angeles County was home to 10,017,068 residents in 2013, according to the United States Census Bureau.[75] During the 2011-2012 school year, the Los Angeles Unified School District was the largest school district by enrollment in California and served 659,639 students.[76]

Demographics

Higher education achievement

Los Angeles County underperformed in comparison to the rest of California in terms of higher education achievement in 2012. The United States Census Bureau found that 29.5 percent of Los Angeles County residents aged 25 years and older had attained a bachelor's degree compared to 30.5 percent for California as a whole.[75]

Median household income

The median household income for Los Angeles County was $56,241 compared to $61,400 for the entire state.[75]

Poverty rate

The percentage of people living below the poverty level in Los Angeles County was 17.1 percent while it was 15.3 percent for the state of California.[75]

Racial and political demographics

Racial Demographics, 2013[75]
Race Los Angeles County (%) California (%)
White 71.5 73.5
Black or African American 9.2 6.6
American Indian and Alaska Native 1.5 1.7
Asian 14.6 14.1
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander 0.4 0.5
Two or more race 2.9 3.7
Hispanic or Latino 48.3 38.4

Presidential Voting Pattern,
Los Angeles County[77]
Year Democratic Vote Republican Vote
2012 2,216,903 885,333
2008 2,295,853 956,425
2004 1,907,736 1,076,225
2000 1,710,505 871,930

Note: The United States Census Bureau considers "Hispanic or Latino" to be a place of origin rather than a race. Citizens may report both their race and their place of origin, and as a result, the percentages in each column of the racial demographics table may exceed 100 percent.[78][79]

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the terms "Lydia Gutierrez Los Angeles Unified School District."

Some of the stories below may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of Google's news search engine.

Lydia Gutierrez - Google News Feed

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See also

External links

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Suggest a link

References

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  2. Los Angeles City Clerk's Office, "2015 Primary Nominating Election Candidates," accessed January 13, 2015
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  79. Each column will add up to 100 percent after removing the "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin percentages, although rounding by the Census Bureau may make the total one- or two-tenths off from being exactly 100 percent. This Ballotpedia page provides a more detailed explanation of how the Census Bureau handles race and ethnicity in its surveys.