Reinventing California Public Education. One Vote at a Time.

CCSA Advocates Endorses Four Candidates in LAUSD Elections

January 09, 2015

Steven Levin

Los Angeles-- California Charter Schools Association Advocates is pleased to announce its endorsement of Dr. Ref Rodriguez’s campaign to unseat incumbent board member Bennett Kayser (Board District 5) in the March 2015 Primary Nominating election for the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education. Dr. Rodriguez will add another sensible voice to the thoughtful coalition of three of four incumbent board members seeking re-election, including Tamar Galatzan (Board District 3), Dr. Richard Vladovic (Board District 7), and Dr. George McKenna (Board District 1) for whom we are equally proud to endorse. 

“At this critical moment in public education when we are seeing the implementation of some of the greatest reforms in how we educate our students and fund our public schools, now is not the time for our elected leaders to blindly obstruct policies that work,” said Gary Borden, Executive Director for CCSA Advocates. “The challenger and three incumbents we’ve chosen to endorse represent the common sense leadership that families in Los Angeles are counting on to provide equitable access to a quality public education, which includes the 130,000 students who attend 285 independent and affiliated charter schools in the district.” 

Continued Borden, “Through their years of service, Ms. Galatzan and Dr. Vladovic have proven themselves to be steady, ardent advocates for L.A.’s youth. And Dr. McKenna, while new to the board, has shown early promise and a clear dedication to the community through his many years as an educator.” 

CCSA Advocates is especially inspired by Dr. Rodriguez’s candidacy. The son of Mexican immigrants, Dr. Rodriguez co-founded a local network of award-winning charter public schools in Los Angeles, Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC Schools), where college is an expectation for all students. Dr. Rodriguez represents a significant improvement over the incumbent in Board District 5, Mr. Kayser, who has consistently opposed high-quality charter schools and fought to deny educational options to tens of thousands of hard-working families. 

“The incumbent in Board District 5 has voted to close nearly every charter public school in his district, many of which are incredibly high-performing,” said Borden. “His values are not aligned with the hopes and aspirations of the families in his district.” 

Gabrielle Martinez, a parent of students at Aspire Antonio Maria Lugo Academy, a K-6 school in Huntington Park, watched Mr. Kayser deny her school’s charter renewal in February 2014, despite an API score of 835. While the decision was ultimately and rightly reversed on appeal by the Los Angeles County Office of Education, Martinez said she was inspired to seek a new candidate who would better serve her children. Said Martinez: “We need a school board member who will open great schools, not close them. Kayser has tried to shut down my children’s school and other great schools in my neighborhood, while Dr. Rodriguez has a proven track record of running great schools. Ref knows what it takes to educate children in our community.” 

Presiding over the second largest school district in the country, the seven members of the school board oversee a budget of $7.1 billion—as much as the entire budget for the State of Colorado. 

The City of Los Angeles Primary Nominating Election will take place on Tuesday, March 3, 2015, with a run-off election taking place in May if necessary. Vote-by-mail starts February 2 and the deadline to register to vote is February 16. 

About Dr. George McKenna (Board District 1) 

During Dr. George McKenna’s tenure as prinicpal of Washington Prepratory High School in South Los Angeles, students, parents, and community members witnessed the transformation of an inner-city high school that had been torn by violence, low achievement, and lack of community confidence into a school with an attendance waiting list and nearly 80% of the graduates enrolled in college. 

Because of his success, Dr. McKenna’s accomplishments have been featured in a wide variety of media and his programs have been widely modeled throughout the nation. In addition, his story of advocacy, commitment, and dedication to education has been documented in the award-winning CBS television movie entitled, “The George McKenna Story” starring Denzel Washington. 

Dr. McKenna began his career in education when he accepted a position in LAUSD as a mathematics teacher. He also served as Superintendent of the Inglewood Unified School District, Deputy Superintendent of the Compton Unified School District, and Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools in the Pasadena Unified School District. 

A strong advocate of building stable communities from within, Dr. McKenna believes that an educational system that emphasizes justice, equal opportunity, and non-violence, is the primary vehicle for positive change in a pluralistic and technological society. 

District 1 covers south Los Angeles. 

About Tamar Galatzan (Board District 3) 

Tamar Galatzan is a criminal prosecutor, mother, and LAUSD School Board Member representing District 3, which covers most of the San Fernando Valley. As a result of her independent voting record, her leadership in school reform efforts, and her pragmatic approach to fiscal problems, Tamar was overwhelmingly re-elected to a second term on the Board of Education in 2011. She received more votes than any other candidate in the entire city. She continues to be the only school board member with children attending public schools in Los Angeles. 

A Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney with the Neighborhood Prosecutor Program since 2002, Tamar has been a tireless advocate for civil rights, social justice and safe neighborhoods. She decided to run for the school board when her oldest son was about to enter kindergarten. She is committed to providing every public school student in Los Angeles with an excellent education, regardless of ethnicity or economic status, and ensuring they graduate from high school career/college-ready. Another priority: Getting technology into schools so our students are prepared for the work place of the 21st century. 

As endless budget cuts have devastated public schools in Los Angeles, Tamar has been a passionate advocate for fiscal responsibility. From questioning the extensive district use of overpriced computer consultants to unnecessary calculator purchases, she has worked tirelessly to eliminate waste, weed out fiscal improprieties, and come up with creative solutions to save the district money and get more money back into classrooms. 

Despite more than $1.5 billion in state cuts to LAUSD since 2008, and another $400 million this year, Tamar is proud of increased graduation rates and higher test scores across her district. Thanks to dedicated teachers and supportive parents, students in District 3 continue to shine academically. 

Tamar represents 134 schools and 132,000 students in District 3, which stretches from Studio City to West Hills. She attended Birmingham High School in the San Fernando Valley, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA, and earned her law degree from Hastings College of the Law in 1994. An avid runner, Tamar has completed three marathons and several triathlons, as well as the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay, in which she competes annually as a member of the L.A. City Attorney’s team. Tamar has two sons, both of whom are receiving an excellent education at their local public schools. 

About Dr. Ref Rodriguez ( District 5) 

Dr. Ref Rodriguez is co-founder and treasurer of Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC Schools) and PUC National. Ref's original inspiration for starting a charter school was to offer high-quality learning experiences for youth in the predominantly Latino working class community where he grew up. His outrage for being considered "fortunate" for having graduated from college because of his socio-economic background is what drives him to create schools where college graduation is an expectation for all. PUC Schools is a charter school management organization serving communities in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, Northeast Los Angeles, and Northeast Rochester, NY. PUC Schools currently operates 16 schools and is a highly-regarded charter for serving English language learners, first generation college-going youth, and youth from traditionally underserved communities. 

Before joining the charter schools movement, Ref worked as a teacher and administrator in Catholic parochial schools. He is the first of five children of Mexican immigrants to graduate from college. 

Ref is a social entrepreneur who continuously looks for ways to support talented leaders of color in education. In 2009, he stepped away from PUC Schools to help launch Partners for Developing Futures, a social investment fund dedicated to investing in leaders of color to start and grow high performing charter schools. This work led to the development of a school leader preparation and mentoring program, "Leadership for Excellence, Accountability & Diversity" (LEAD). LEAD is focused on preparing and mentoring highly effective and diverse school leaders in charter, district-operated, and catholic parochial schools serving traditionally underserved youth. As of 2014, PUC Schools serves as the backbone organization for the LEAD project. 

Ref is adjunct professor in the School of Education at his alma mater, Loyola Marymount University, where he helped develop a Master's and Administrative Credential Program for aspiring leaders in Charter Schools. He is a fellow in the inaugural class of the Pahara-Aspen Institute's Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education. He is also a fellow of the German Marshall Fund's Marshall Memorial Fellowship, Class of 2012. In 2013, Governor Gerry Brown appointed Dr. Rodriguez to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. 

District 5 covers the eastern portion of the school district and includes the neighborhoods of Silver Lake, Los Feliz and Highland Park as well as the cities of Vernon, Huntington Park and South Gate. 

About Dr. Richard Vladovic ( (Board District 5) 

Dr. Richard Vladovic is a lifelong educator who has dedicated his career to student progress. His many roles have taken him from teaching social studies at Stephen White Junior High School in Carson, CA, to serving as principal at four schools that faced special challenges including Angel’s Gate Continuation High School and Locke High School in South Central Los Angeles. Dr. Vladovic continued his quest for excellence as an administrator in the LAUSD Narbonne/San Pedro Cluster by working closely with school and district personnel to improve student achievement. In July 2000, Dr. Vladovic was selected to head newly-formed Local District K, made up of 72 schools serving nearly 70,000 children. In 2003, Dr. Vladovic was named superintendent for the West Covina Unified School District. 

Since his election to the Board of Education in July 2007, Dr. Vladovic has been a strong advocate for a number of important LAUSD issues including eliminating year-round calendars, ensuring health benefits for all employees, personalizing education, championing for the arts, fighting for more environmentally safe schools, supporting drop-out prevention and mentorship programs, and maintaining world class instruction through difficult budget times. 

A hallmark of Dr. Vladovic’s career has been his willingness to implement innovative, effective programs and strategies that enhance both the quality and quantity of learning within the schools he supervises. Throughout his career, Dr. Vladovic has been primarily concerned with student progress. To this end, he worked to establish effective partnerships with elected officials, business and community-based organizations in order to improve educational programs at school sites. Dr. Vladovic honestly cares about children and strongly believes that all the adults in an educational community, from teachers and parents, to faculty and staff, to the Superintendent and School Board, bear the responsibility of ensuring that our students are really learning: that they are growing, thinking, and stretching the boundaries of their abilities every single day as we help them along the path to their full potential. 

Dr. Vladovic represents District 7, which spans from Jefferson High School South to San Pedro, as well as the independent cities of Lomita, Gardena, and Carson. He and his wife, Kathy, a Special Education Assistant in San Pedro, are parents of two children who are educators in the South Bay. 

About CCSA Advocates (

CCSA Advocates is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the involvement of the charter school community in the political process, creating a pipeline of charter school supporters and activists, electing public officials who support California charter public schools, and growing the political influence of the California charter public school movement.