In the end, only Valerie Fields voted against the extension, while Tokofsky abstained. For ousted board member Barbara Boudreaux, the decision was clearly a parting shot at Riordan et al. "The takeover of public education is here right now," said Boudreaux, adding that she was "forced out by millionaires who use children to make a case for their greed, power and control." Boudreaux also took aim at mayoral ally Mike Roos, who heads LEARN, a private but school-district supported school-reform effort. She called Roos "the biggest Trojan horse ever put on this district. LEARN has delivered nothing but a lot of money into the pockets of people." Roos could not be reached for comment.
Although the Citizens Committee includes minorities and women, it’s anchored for the most part by wealthy Anglo men, current and former business executives. Many have a long history of charitable involvement with L.A. Unified; others are recent recruits. The committee made no collective election endorsements, but most of its individual members aligned with the mayor.
And the committee wasted no time following up on the election. The delegation to Tokofsky included former school-board member Mark Slavkin, retired Getty Trust president Harold Williams, retired Lockheed CEO Roy Anderson and former state Assembly leader Roos, the head of LEARN. At Tokofsky’s invitation, the meeting also included attorney Howard Miller, a family friend who served on the school board in 1979.
Some at the meeting recall that Roos, in particular, pushed Tokofsky to commit himself to back away from hands-on management. "Wouldn’t the board be happy to work fewer hours for the same money?" he reportedly told Tokofsky. One person at another gathering called it a good cop, bad cop routine, with Roos playing the heavy — although all for the cause, as it were.
"There was no anti-Zacarias agenda at the meeting," noted attorney Miller, who added that the committee had vigorously pushed for its vision of reform. "They did use phrases like ‘You adopt the plan and hold people responsible for meeting the plan.’" Board members Korenstein, Fields and Castro gave similar accounts. In Tokofsky’s case, he was asked what he would do if he were school-board president — Tokofsky is, after all, the only incumbent on the mayor’s slate, a logical choice to become president.
Tokofsky’s first impulse was to be clever. "I said I would stop the bombing in Yugoslavia," he recalled. Then he got serious and rattled off ideas for improving student achievement. It’s hard to gauge the impression he made, but Mayor Riordan, for one, appears to be leaning in another direction. In fact, two board members report that Riordan is lobbying for the newly elected Hayes.
Hayes would be the first board newcomer to become president since Roberta Weintraub in 1979, when Weintraub’s anti-busing slate swept the board. District records going back to the 1930s record no other instance.
Riordan predicted the entire furor over Zacarias’ extension would be forgotten in a week: "It’s something not even worth me discussing. It’s not important whether the contract is extended. Getting in a fight over this takes everybody’s eye off the ball. What’s important is having strong standards and empowering the superintendent, and then holding him accountable."