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LAUSD delays decision on District 1

Will discuss options Jan. 7

Cynthia E. Griffin | 12/19/2013, midnight

After hearing the wishes and requests of a parade of speakers, including elected officials such as Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and former state assemblyman Mike Davis, the Los Angeles Unified School (LAUSD) Board voted Tuesday to delay making a decision about how to fill seat left vacant with the death of Marguerite LaMotte.

The 80-year-old life-long educator and member of the school board since 2003, died Dec. 5 in San Diego of natural causes.

The board members will take up the issue again Jan. 7, after LaMotte has been laid to rest. Her interment is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 21 at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, following a memorial Service that same day beginning at 9 a.m. at St. Brigid Catholic Church, 5214 S. Western Ave.

Waters and a 14-person list of speakers asked the board members to delay the decision out of respect for the deceased board member and her family.

Waters offered the following statement: “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.

“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...

“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.”

Since LaMotte’s death, a flurry of activity has erupted over how to best fill the District 1 seat. The options include appointing someone or holding a special election. Many of the community leaders who spoke at the board meeting urged that a special election be held to replace LaMotte. They cited the need to allow the community to make the choice.

However, a number of others such as the Crenshaw Subway Coalition Board want the board to appoint George McKenna Ed.D. to fill the unexpired term.

Many activists, citing a fear that people would be able to “buy” the seat, were concerned about an election.

Underlying all of the conversation, is one big elephant in the room—LaMotte was the only African American on the board of education. People on both sides of the issue are afraid that whatever happens, the Black community could be left without a voice on the board.

According to school district officials, if the board opts for an election, the most likely date would be June 3, 2014, in order to coordinate with an existing election.