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Pratt Won't Seek Reelection

By Teresa Rochester

April 15 -- After four years marked by a sea change, School Board member and former president Tom Pratt will not seek reelection this November.

Pratt, who led the board during its national search for a new superintendent, said he is stepping down at the end of his first term because his fine art insurance business is booming.

"I'm retiring from the board because I feel it's in the best interest of the board, the community and the superintendent," Pratt said. "My business has grown exponentially since I started" on the board.

Pratt was elected to the board in 1998, after entering the race at the last minute. Shortly after that, he launched the fine arts division of Thomason & Pratt Insurance Associates, which has seen business skyrocket with contracts with 70 United States Embassies.

During his tenure on the board he served as both vice president and president. As president he led the district through a budget crisis and the highly publicized search for a new superintendent to replace Dr. Neil Schmidt.

Leading the decision to hire John Deasy, Pratt said, was one of accomplishments he is most proud of, along with building up the board's relationship with the community, which had been badly strained over the years.

"Now I think we've gained a lot more respect from the community," Pratt said. "The public really now believes in the work we do. There's not the agenda anymore. I think we really changed the tenor of the board.

"I believe we got the best superintendent in the county, and also filling all the other vacancies in the central office at the time was another accomplishment," Pratt said.

Pratt disclosed his decision to board colleagues and school administrators last week.

Supt. Deasy said he is pleased with Pratt's business success but disappointed he would not be seeking re-election. Deasy lauded Pratt for helping him and his family to settle into the Santa Monica and Malibu communities after moving here from Rhode Island.

"I'm just very happy for Tom's business," Deasy said. "I'm really disappointed for the schools. Tom was a great school board member. He led and supported initiatives for all students. I can't say enough good things about Tom."

School board president Julia Brownley, who served as vice president during Pratt's year as president, said he brought collegiality to the board.

"I think Tom's a great asset to the board, and I will miss him," Brownley said. "I think Tom's really brought to the board calmness, a lot of respect and civility to the board's style.

"He had a particularly busy year and I think being board presidents it's always busy," she said. "He did that with lots of grace and without being uptight or wigged out."

Current vice president Maria Leon Vazquez agreed that Pratt worked to iron out ruffled feathers on a board that before the November 2000 election was marred with contention.

"It's been a pleasure working with him," Leon Vazquez said. "Even before the three new board members came on board he was one of those board members who tried to smooth out rough edges. He mended fences. He was excellent in that sense."
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