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LAUSD board, hoping to move past Rodriguez drama, selects García as president

Los Angeles Unified School Board member Mónica García listens to fellow board member George McKenna speak during a meeting on Tues., Aug. 22, 2017.
Kyle Stokes/KPCC
Los Angeles Unified School Board member Mónica García listens to fellow board member George McKenna speak during a meeting on Tues., Aug. 22, 2017.

Los Angeles Unified School Board members selected Mónica García to be their new president Tuesday, appointing the board’s longest serving member to the leadership role Ref Rodriguez vacated last week.

While not resigning from the board altogether, Rodriguez relinquished the presidency after prosecutors announced earlier this month he’ll face felony charges over an alleged political money-laundering scheme.

The move elevates a veteran school reformer long reputed for her desire to shake up the status quo in the L.A. Unified School District.

When García first joined the board in 2006, that aim aligned her with then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and his bid for greater control over the school system. Nowadays, García’s reformist leanings put her in league with the charter school interests that successfully backed a new majority on the board in this spring’s elections.

Of those four board members, García was the most logical successor to the charter-endorsed Rodriguez. The other members of that loose-knit “charter majority,” Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez, aren’t even 90 days into their first-ever terms in any elected office.

That said, García did name Melvoin as the board's vice president, meaning he will chair board meetings in her absence.

The position of president comes with few formal advantages but ample symbolic powers; in addition to setting meeting agendas and chairing board sessions, the president’s role is to be a face of the nation’s second-largest school district.

It will be García’s second stint as board president. She held the post from 2007 to 2013. That year, board members voted to limit board presidents to two consecutive one-year terms — a change orchestrated then to end García’s tenure.

Three public commenters pointedly criticized Rodriguez. Two commenters affiliated with United Teachers Los Angeles — including a vice president for the union, Cecily Myaert-Cruz — asked Rodriguez to recuse himself from the vote and to resign from the board.

Rodriguez cast a vote for García and passed when given the chance to nominate a colleague for a presidency vote. He made eye contact with all three public commenters who spoke against him.

Before the board voted on García's nomination, Scott Schmerelson nominated Richard Vladovic to the presidency. It was a repeat performance of the annual meeting in July, when Vladovic was also nominated — his bid failed after Melvoin, Gonez, García and Rodriguez voted against it.

This post has been updated.