Hugs, tears, and applause at LAUSD headquarters this week when students, teachers, parents, counselors and administrators honored outgoing LAUSD School Board President Steve Zimmer, a champion of the arts, adult education, dual language immersion and strong neighborhood schools who served two terms until billionaires waged a successful campaign last May to win a pro-charter school majority on the largest school board in the western United States. A dozen testimonials were heard at the fond farewell, including one from a graduate of Washington Prep High School who said Zimmer had inspired him.
Others congratulated Zimmer on his many accomplishments: saving adult education from devastating budget cuts; implementing an arts equity index to assess which schools need more resources for the arts to blossom; supporting a successful bilingual immersion program at Grand View Elementary School; raising the graduation rate to top 80 percent, as well as authoring resolutions to fund community schools with wrap around health care services and to declare LAUSD a sanctuary school district where immigrant children are protected. Graduate Alivna Chaney thanked Zimmer personally.
Zimmer became emotional when he recalled his middle-of-the-night phone call congratulating Michelle King (now Dr. King) on becoming LAUSD’s Superintendent. Before saying good-bye, Zimmer praised King—who rose from within the ranks—for her commitment to collaboration—and the subtext was not lost on this teacher who knows that a new pro-charter school board—despite the current board’s extension of King’s contract for another two years—may want a California Charter School Association (CCSA) puppet in her place.
While supporters were snapping photos, school board member and charter school cheerleader Monica Garcia said with a slight smile, “Change is coming,” under her breath to someone standing next to her, then later tried to steal the show by interrupting Zimmer’s tribute with an unexpected and inappropriate rambling resolution honoring an ill founder of Parent Revolution, an organization working to privatize our public schools with a proliferation of charters that siphon public money.
Appalled, some of us yelled, “Food’s ready!” and walked out on Garcia, heading into a nearby room for refreshments and more accolades for Zimmer’s selfless service over the past eight years. Betty Forrester, Vice President of United Teachers of Los Angeles, was on hand with other union representatives to thank him for being a friend to teachers.
Thank you, Steve Zimmer!