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Mayor prevails in Santee balloting

January 09, 2008|Howard Blume | Times Staff Writer

Given a second round of balloting, teachers at the Santee Education Complex voted Tuesday to join the school reform effort of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, although questions persist about the election process.

On the first try, a substantial majority of teachers voted yes, but the Dec. 11 tally still fell short of the required majority of all 181 eligible voters at the high school south of downtown.

The Los Angeles Unified School District scheduled the second balloting for teachers who had been on vacation from the year-round school during the first vote.

The extra voting drew criticism because it wasn't called for in election rules. Critics have accused the mayor, along with his district and union allies, of trying to figure out any way to win. The district justified the second vote on the grounds that vacationing staff hadn't been able to attend an informational presentation while at school.

Computer teacher Trebor Jacquez said he voted for Villaraigosa's plan because he liked the mayor's pledge to give authority to school sites and, most of all, because he disliked the alternative: "At this point, anything can be better than . . . what the school district has given us."

Specific vote totals were not available Tuesday, but district officials said the mayor narrowly cleared the threshold.

"I think it will open up more opportunities for our kids," said culinary arts instructor Brent Boultinghouse.

Villaraigosa had sought significant control of the district, but the courts rebuffed his efforts. Instead, he settled on a reform plan through which a handful of schools could receive more authority and financial support under his stewardship.

On the initial vote, Villaraigosa lost at Jordan High but prevailed at Roosevelt High and four middle schools. But because the roster of teachers eligible to vote has fluctuated, the union representing administrators has raised concerns about tight results at two of the middle schools. Its bigger complaint is about the exclusion of its members.

"We consider this process incredibly flawed, and the results of these 'elections' undeniably invalid," said Michael O'Sullivan, president of Associated Administrators of Los Angeles in a Jan. 3 letter in which he advised his membership that they had the right to resist participating.

The union representing school clerks and technicians also is displeased.

These employees "were disenfranchised and treated like second-class citizens," said Matt Gentile, a labor relations representative for the California School Employees Assn.

L.A. Unified Supt. David L. Brewer defended the elections. "We had some initial problems that we quickly resolved," he said.

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howard.blume@latimes.com

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