Acclaimed and retired educator George McKenna appears to be the best candidate. Dr. McKenna has been an educator, an administrator and a superintendent at the highest levels of education.
He is well respected within the education community, not only here in Los Angeles, but throughout the nation.
LAUSD Board to Choose Appointment or Election Jan 7.
The decision to fill the Los Angeles Unified School Board (LAUSD) District 1 seat vacated by the death of the lone Black advocate Marguerite LaMotte played out in a hotly contentious debate in the LAUSD’s board room on Tuesday Dec. 17 and will likely be just as divisive when the board takes up the matter in a hastily arranged Jan. 7, 2014 agenda.
As roughly 20 speakers addressed the four remaining LAUSD board members amid an empty chair decorated with a scarf and Mardi gras beads as a vivid reminder of the fiery LaMotte, her voice was heard loudly by allies demanding that an appointment be made in her absence.
Her close friend, veteran Congresswoman Maxine Waters held a rally with supporters for appointment before the school board held its weekly board meeting where the decision to make any appointment or hold a costly special election was debated.
“In every way, Marguerite LaMotte was a model educator, advocate and dear friend. Our community is still coping with the loss of this important leader, who fought especially hard for students in underserved communities,” Waters said.
However, Waters added: “That is why today, we are respectfully requesting that the LAUSD delay any action to determine how Ms. LaMotte will be replaced. Moving forward at this sensitive time is premature and would be hurtful to her family, friends and community, all of whom are still grieving.”
After pleas from both sides of the debate, including one from Los Angeles County Supervisor Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas the board was just as divided as the Black community.
The board chose to put off until Jan. 7 its decision on whether to appoint LaMotte’s successor or hold a special election in her district. The vote on a resolution to make the decision on Tuesday ended in a 3-3 stalemate, with Richard Vladovic, Monica Garcia and Tamar Galatzan voting to go ahead and Bennett Kayser, Monica Ratliff and Steve Zimmer voting to delay.
The crowd erupted in cheers when it was announced that no decision would be made regarding the seat until the final respects are paid to LaMotte who lay in repose at Angelus Funeral Home on Crenshaw Blvd.
Ridley-Thomas spoke passionately on why he believes an election is the proper course to take, but respected the Board decision to delay.
“We have an overflow room that are advocates in the democratic way. Putting children first is a slogan that is often articulated, conveniently, strategically articulated,” explained Ridley Thomas. “It’s hard for me to figure out how you put children first and not put their communities first, and given the history for the struggle for the franchised the context of this nation it seems to me we have to respect the right of that franchise.”
“The decision by the Los Angeles Unified School District Board to defer a decision on how to fill the late Marguerite LaMotte’s seat until a special meeting in January is a wise one. The two options before it are the following: conduct business behind closed doors and appoint an insider, or to let the people decide who will replace such an important leader by casting their ballots. Today the board clearly saw that there is indeed no consensus candidate around which the community has coalesced. On the contrary testimony from the core constituency of District 1, African-American parents, advocates and community leaders, overwhelmingly favored filling the seat of their most committed and passionate advocate, with someone of their choosing. We will continue to stand firm in that position on January 7 and until our voice is heard.”
Waters argued that anything short of a delay would have been disrespectful to LaMotte.
“It is a violation of African-American custom and practice to replace, substitute or eliminate any position before the conclusion of services and interment. We have come here today out of respect for these traditions – and for Ms. LaMotte’s family – to ask the board to delay any motion until its next meeting. “Marguerite LaMotte truly left her mark on all who knew her. Her presence in this building – and across Los Angeles – will be missed. I believe that after giving generations of our children so much, the very least we can do is properly celebrate her extraordinary accomplishments by delaying this vote.”
LaMotte sat on the board for a decade and whomever replacers her will have some big shoes to fill and some difficult challenges ahead.
Her district includes more than 100 schools such as Washington Prep, Crenshaw and Dorsey high schools.
LaMotte’s was the caretaker of the most underserved schools in the most improvised neighborhoods.
Thus it is critical that the Board have a voice from the District 1 seat.
Acclaimed and retired educator George McKenna appears to be the best candidate. Dr. McKenna has been an educator, an administrator and a superintendent at the highest levels of education. He is well respected within the education community, not only here in Los Angeles, but throughout this nation.
Congresswoman Karen Bass’ district governs many of the schools in District 1 and she was also adamant about filling the vacancy.
“Filling the sudden vacancy left with Marguerite LaMotte’s passing is an unexpected and difficult process for the students and will have major implications for the community. Marguerite was a leader and a voice for Los Angeles. We honor her legacy as LAUSD is about to undergo important funding decisions that will have a long-term impact on the district,” Bass said in a statement.
“Over the next three months, LAUSD will be taking up both complex and important policy decisions that will determine how it will participate in a new state funding formula for our schools. These decisions will impact students—especially students from South Los Angeles—for years to come. Although I supported an election, it appears an election cannot be held in time for these important funding deadlines, and there is no way that District One cannot have a representative in these critical decisions,” she concluded.
In January, the Board will decide how to spend six (6) billion dollars worth of construction bond dollars.
Bass supports McKenna’s appointment.
“Dr. George J. McKenna is a strong candidate to fill this seat during the interim, where he can bring his 50 years of education experience—most of those at LAUSD—to the Board. Dr. McKenna will be an advocate for funding equity, and his passion, wisdom and knowledge will be an invaluable asset to our students and our community. This path will allow voters to be able to participate in an informed and deliberate election in a year, where ultimately both voters’ voices will be heard and their children will have an advocate at the LAUSD Board.”
To appoint or to elect is a question that hundreds of concerned members from the community want to know?
The Board will have the final say on the matter after the New Year.