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Profiles of candidates for Los Angeles Board of Education

A brief look at candidates for three L.A. school board seats.

March 03, 2013|By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

BOARD DISTRICT 2

Monica Garcia, 44, incumbent, elected in 2006

Details: Previously a school board staffer and school counselor

The record: Board's closest ally to L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Will not oppose his wishes; he also takes guidance from her. A power broker: Helped engineer the firing of former Supt. David Brewer, the hiring of his successor, Ramon C. Cortines, and the hiring of the current superintendent, John Deasy. Sometimes uses her authority to bypass district procedures, as when she engineered the handover of a high school campus to Villaraigosa's nonprofit group.

On Supt. John Deasy: "I am proud that we hired John Deasy.… He knows that we are on the kids' side."

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Abelardo Diaz, 51, high school Spanish teacher

Details: Taught at Washington Prep High, where he helped to organize a bilingual academic decathlon. Certified as a teacher through the National Board process. Later became founding teacher at the Cortines High School of Visual and Performing Arts, where he is union representative.

Of note: Has a particular issue with Garcia over her insistence that the arts high school be named after former L.A. schools Supt. Ramon Cortines, bypassing pledges and policies to include the school community in the naming process.

On Deasy: "I feel he doesn't listen to the people he needs to listen to, including the teachers. He judges without going deeper and makes decisions based on that."

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Isabel Vazquez, 52, first-grade teacher at Queen Anne Place Elementary

Details: An elementary teacher for 10 years who became an aide to board member Jeff Horton and then rose to senior administrator in the adult school division, helping oversee $80 million in programs. Returned to teaching after being laid off.

Of note: Vazquez has particularly articulated her support for adult school and early childhood programs that are outside the K-12 framework but crucial, she says, to supporting it.

On Deasy: "Dr. Deasy and I are same age. He's been to different districts and hasn't stayed as a permanent employee. As a student, parent and employee in this district, I see how all of these elements are connected, especially with low-income students and English learners."

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Robert D. Skeels, 47, writer and researcher for technology firm

Details: A Long Island, N.Y., native who became a sonar technician in the Navy. Later worked as a commercial art director and, for 17 years, has been a technical writer and researcher for a company that manufactures computer parts and camera memory.

Of note: Among the candidates, he is the most aggressive critic of standardized testing, charter schools and the direction of education reform in both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. He is a longtime critic, through his writings, of current trends and influential foundations that have shaped many school-improvement efforts.

On Deasy: "He'd be a difficult person to work with because he's overbearing. We really want a superintendent that is from here and is sensitive to the local needs."

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Annamarie Montanez, 40, adult school teacher

Details: Started as a teaching assistant and then was a teacher at Glen Alta Elementary, which she'd attended. Later became a coordinator at the school for services to students from low-income families and for students learning English. Has worked as teacher in adult division for 13 years.

Of note: Says she organized a delegation of adult school students to go to Garcia's office to urge against budget cuts, but said that Garcia would not meet with them. The site where Montanez taught was ultimately shut down. Since then, Montanez has worked part time at two different sites.

On Deasy: "It would be unfair to say that I would not take the opportunity to work with him." If it didn't work or their values were different, "that would have to be addressed."

DISTRICT 4

Steve Zimmer, 42, incumbent, elected in 2009

The record: Zimmer first ran with backing both from teachers union and mayor's coalition. Tried to bring both sides together but often ran up against ideological hard-liners in union and a board majority resistant to compromise because it had the votes. A disenchanted union returned to his corner when faced with the alternative of challenger Kate Anderson.

On Deasy: "With a leader as powerful, urgent and brilliant as John Deasy, a moderating influence becomes more important. He could become a little bit dangerous in terms of any one person wielding that much power."

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Kate Anderson, 41, L.A.-based staffer for Children Now advocacy group

Details: Out of college, she became a staff researcher for Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills). Later worked as attorney at prominent downtown L.A. firm, where she organized a child-care center for employees. A member of the local neighborhood council. Parent of twin third-graders.

Of note: Formerly ran unsuccessfully for state Legislature. Unreservedly supportive of Deasy.

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