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School Board Elects Pratt President, Brownley VP

By Jorge Casuso

With two swift, uncontested votes by acclamation, Tom Pratt was elected president and Julia Brownley vice president of the School Board Thursday night.

Pratt, the former vice president, and Brownley, who already has served a term as president, will steer the board during a major transition that saw three new members -- Jose Escarce, Mike Jordan and Maria Leon-Vazquez -- join the seven-member body that sets policy for Santa Monica and Malibu's public schools.

Pratt's nomination, made by board member Pam Brady, was widely expected and immediately embraced by the entire board.

Student representative Joe Green then nominated Brady for the post of vice president. Brady declined, saying her job frequently took her to Sacramento. "I can't make that commitment," she said.

Brady then quickly nominated Brownley, whose appointment was approved by acclamation.

In a separate action the board elected Brenda Gottfried as its voting representative to elect members to the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization. Gottfried will serve through November of next year.

The board also elected Pam Brady as its Annual Representative to the Los Angeles County School Trustees Association for 2001.

Brady then moved that the board replace her with Vazquez, who agreed to take on the position, which votes on all association matters; serves as a liaison between the executive board, the association and the local board, and serves on the legislative committee.

Earlier in the evening, the newly seated board recognized outgoing members Todd Hess, who was president during the last year of his four-year tenure; Dorothy Chapman, who also served one term, and Margaret Quinones, who served two terms and was president for one year.

Hess was lauded for his commitment to his family as well as the district. Chapman was recognized for shaking things up, and Quinones was hailed for her passion for the education of all children.

"Each of the board members has contributed to my thinking, challenged my thinking and confronted my thinking," said Supt. Neil Schmidt. "It's often painful.... It has been for the best."

Schmidt, who will retire in June after eight years on the job, then praised each of the three members leaving the board.

He praised Chapman for her willingness "to confront the system and rattle it to its very foundations" until all voices could be heard.

He recognized Hess for his ability to "bring a very different perspective to this board, and it's one that, like Dorothy's, is going to leave a legacy."

And he said Quinones, whom he worked with for eight years, "not only has confronted me and the school system" but has "sometimes challenged the very core of who I am as a person and has forced me to reexamine over the years how I walk my talk.

"I'm a better educator for that," Schmidt added.

Pratt had special parting words for Quinones, who did not attend the meeting.

"Everyone who meets Margaret knows how passionate she is," Pratt said. "Ever since we met my life has been la vida loca."

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