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LAUSD board rejects committee to interview superintendent finalists

File: A student on his way to school walks past a Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) school, in Los Angeles, California on Feb. 13, 2009.
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
FILE: The Los Angeles Unified school board turned down a proposal from nonprofit groups that wanted a committee to interview superintendent candidates.

Earlier this month, dozens of Los Angeles civic groups proposed creating a committee to help in Los Angeles Unified’s superintendent search. School board members voted down the idea Tuesday.

The local groups, including the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Urban League, wanted a committee to interview three superintendent finalists, then recommend one to the school board.

But the board voted 5 to 2 against the proposal, submitted by board member Monica Garcia. Board members Steve Zimmer, George McKenna, Monica Ratliff, Scott Schmerelson, and Richard Vladovic voted no. Garcia and Ref Rodriguez voted yes.

As she cast her vote, Ratliff said the entire public should meet and question the finalists, not just a select group.

"I’m opposed to this because I think that it’s either all — it’s open to everybody — or nothing. I don’t think we should have some secret committee that gets to meet the finalists and the public doesn’t," Ratliff said.

The board also earlier rejected a proposal by Ratliff to introduce the finalists at public forums, reflecting members' concerns that the pool could shrink if candidates could not confidentially apply for the job.

Elmer Roldan, head of education programs at the United Way, said he was disappointed with the board vote.

"I feel like this really does push the community out. It’s a non-welcoming vote. It really reflects that, up until now, this has been largely a behind closed door process," he said.

LAUSD is wrapping up its public forums on the search Wednesday and private meetings with school and civic leaders. Final forums are scheduled Wednesday at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. at the Van Nuys High School Auditorium and 7 p.m. at White Middle School in White Hall in Carson.

The board also extended a deadline until Sunday for the public to take a survey on the kind of superintendent it wants. The survey is available on the district's website.

Board members plan to interview the final candidates in December and pick a successor to retiring Superintendent Ramon Cortines by Jan. 1.