The Los Angeles Unified School District board of trustees voted Tuesday to select an established charter operator to run the new middle school in Echo Park.
The board selected Camino Nuevo Charter Academy on a 4-3 vote against the recommendation of schools superintendent Ramon Cortines.
One of those three votes came from school board president Monica Garcia, whose chief of staff Luis Sanchez faces Echo Park resident Bennett Kayser in a runoff for the LAUSD District 5 seat in May.
Superintendent Cortines had given a thumbs up to a team of Echo Park parents, teachers and educators last week, "with reservations."
Cortines also said at the board meeting Tuesday that the District 4/Community Partners plan clearly addressed "the needs of the community."
Cortines also called Camino Nuevo "an outstanding partner," saying he was "blown away" with what he had observed there.
David Tokofsky, former LAUSD District 5 trustee who has also worked with Green Dot Public Schools, was critical of the board's vote.
"I'm someone who has worked with charters, but I've also been an elected trustee of the institution," he said.
"As a trustee, you should be finding ways to strengthen the success of the district, rather than spinnng things off," he said.
Board members did, however,vote to allow the community plan to be implemented at another site, if one could be found.
Superintendent Cortines said he thought "co-locating" such a school at an existing site would be difficult.
That idea did not sit well with Cheryl Ortega, director of bilingual education at United Teachers of Los Angeles, who worked closely with the community team.
"The group that put this plan together is the group that will decide what to do next," she said.
"It's like treating schools like Starbuck's," said Tokofsky. "A neighborhood initiative can't be transferred to another neighborhood."
Hua Truong, director of operations at Camino Nuevo said, "Obviously there will be disappointment on the other side."
"What we really want to do now is to reach out, to collaborate and to talk to the community to make this a school that meets the needs of the community," he added.
Jose Sigala, chair of the Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council, said his group looks forward to working with Camino Nuevo on a "parent/community oriented school."