Northeast Edition The Press

Rodriguez won’t take leave from LAUSD board

LOS ANGELES — Three members of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education called on their colleague Ref Rodriguez to take a leave of absence from the panel while he faces felony charges for allegedly lying on a financial disclosure form and laundering money into his own campaign.

But Rodriguez said he has no plans to step aside, even temporarily.

Board president Monica Garcia, Vice President Nick Melvoin and board member Kelly Gonez issued a joint statement Oct. 24 urging Rodriguez to temporarily step aside. The trio are allies of Rodriguez, forming a four-person group of so-called “reform” members of the board considered supportive of charter school expansion in the nation’s second-largest school district.

“We serve the people of greater Los Angeles because we believe there is a better path for the children of our great district,” the board members said in their statement. “Unfortunately, the serious allegations against Dr. Ref Rodriguez distract from that critical mission.

“Nobody should be tried in the press or the court of public opinion without having a fair hearing. But in order to keep making progress towards our goal of 100 percent graduation, we have asked Dr. Rodriguez to take a leave of absence from the board. As with any employee of the district who is accused of misconduct, this allows for a quicker resolution while enabling the district to continue its work.”

Rodriguez acknowledged the request for him to take a leave, but he responded, “I am not doing so.”

“In May 2015, I was elected by the constituents of District 5 to serve a five-year term on the board,” he said. “I have dedicated my life to provide better educational opportunities to all students in our communities. I have worked with parents, community members and students to tear down barriers to success, and together, we have proven that grassroots policy-making is alive and well.

“I am a dedicated public servant and I have faith in the truth. I believe in the integrity of our justice system where I will respond to the allegations. In the interim, I wish to thank those who continue to believe that together, we can transform schools and communities.”

Rodriguez had been serving as president of the LAUSD board when he was charged in September. He stepped aside as board president, but remained on the seven-member panel.

Rodriguez pleaded not guilty Oct. 24 to charges of reimbursing nearly $25,000 to donors he listed on a campaign finance form. Prosecutors say he gave his cousin the money, then instructed her to recruit people to donate to his school board campaign and reimburse them with his cash.

Rodriguez was elected in 2015 to the District 5 seat on the LAUSD board, representing areas including Atwater Village, Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Los Feliz, Mount Washington and Silver Lake. He is a co-founder of Partnerships to Uplift Communities, a series of charter schools in northeast Los Angeles and the northeastern San Fernando Valley.