The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) voted last week to appoint an interim replacement for Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, the veteran District 1 educator who died in December at the age of 80.
After initially rejecting the proposal, the body came to agreement when board member Bennett Kayser changed his vote to break a 3-3 tie and encourage the appointment of a non-voting member. The interim member is expected to be appointed in March, following an ad-hoc committee meeting about the person’s duties. This group will make a report to the board on February 11.
A special election has been scheduled for June 3 to fill LaMotte’s seat, with an August 12 runoff (if necessary).
Among the persons who have confirmed an intent to run for the post are former LAUSD board member Genethia Hudley-Hayes, and retired senior LAUSD administrator George McKenna. Both educators said this month they would accept the interim post, adding that they are concerned that students in the primarily Black and Latino District 1 would suffer academically if the seat were to remain empty for a prolonged period. LaMotte’s successor could play a key role on a board already sharply divided on key issues, including the direction of the school system and future of superintendent John Deasy.
Hudley-Hayes, 68, served one term on the board when she was defeated in 2003 by LaMotte. She is a former head of the Los Angeles Southern Christian Leadership Conference and she recently completed her eighth year as a fire commissioner. McKenna, 73, is a former administrator with the Inglewood Unified School District and was largely credited 20 years ago with the academic turnaround at Washington Preparatory High School in Los Angeles.
Political activist Jimmie Woods Gray has expressed interest in the seat, as well as Alex Johnson, an aide to Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.
This month, voices from the local to national stages (including U.S. Reps. Maxine Waters and Karen Bass, both Los Angeles democrats) and a coalition of Black community groups have pressed for McKenna to fill the interim seat and have endorsed his candidacy. Those who have favored an election include Ridley-Thomas and City Council President Herb Wesson. “An election would best represent the democratic process,” Ridley-Thomas said.
LaMotte had a close relationship with the teacher’s union which has been at odds with Deasy regarding his performance evaluation of classroom personnel. Mayor Eric Garcetti has so far stayed out of the fray, but did issue a statement early this month: “I think I would very respectfully say to the Board of Education that this is your decision, but keep in mind what’s best for the children in South Los Angeles who will go unrepresented if we don’t do this swiftly.”