Thursday, December 05, 2013


Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, veteran L.A. school trustee, dies

By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times |

Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte

Veteran L.A. Unified school board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte has died. She was 80. (Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Time / July 1, 2011)

December 5, 2013, 12:48 p.m.  ::  Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, the most veteran member of the Los Angeles Board of Education, has died, the L.A. Unified School District confirmed Thursday.

The 80-year-old retired administrator was the longtime principal at Washington Preparatory High School, where she was noted for helping to build the campus' renowned music program.

After she retired, she won three four-year terms to the school board, starting in 2003. She became a champion of teachers and a consistent ally of the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, which provided the primary funding for her campaigns.

Among her noted policy stands was a persistent criticism of charter schools, although her opposition was not uniform, especially after one of her grandsons decided to attend one.

Her tenure also was marked by her distrust of former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and his education agenda. They had once supported each other politically, but he broke with her and she never forgave him.

The troubled relationship engendered a sometimes chilly atmosphere between LaMotte and district superintendents, a tension that Villaraigosa helped to instill. Villaraigosa had no direct influence over the nation's second-largest school system, but he raised funds to elect an allied majority. The former mayor and his allies were never able to unseat LaMotte, who had a loyal following and longtime community ties.

In October, LaMotte was the only board member to vote against giving current schools chief John Deasy a positive evaluation. But she did not carry that opinion into recent board meetings, where her interaction with Deasy was notably more genial than during much of Deasy's tenure.

No cause of death was immediately available, but LaMotte died while representing the district at a conference of the California School Boards Assn. in San Diego, according to a district source, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak.

LAUSD board member Marguerite LaMotte dies at age 80

By Barbara Jones, Los Angeles Daily News  |

Los Angeles Unified school board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, a lifelong educator who represented South Los Angeles since 2001, has died at age 80.


Posted: 12/05/13, 12:07 PM PST | Updated: 5:35 pm  ::  Los Angeles Unified school board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, a lifelong educator who represented South Los Angeles since 2003, died while at a education conference in San Diego, officials said today.

She was 80. District officials said it appears she died in her sleep, but more details were not immediately available.

LaMotte was elected to the seven-member school board in 2003, and re-elected four years later. She was an outspoken advocate for the students and parents in District 1, frequently referring to the kids she represented as “my babies.”

She died while attending the annual convention of the California School Boards Association with board President Richard Vladovic and Superintendent John Deasy.

Board member Monica Ratliff said LaMotte had been a strong supporter of her candidacy for the East San Fernando Valley seat, attending fund-raisers during her campaign and acting as a mentor after Ratliff was sworn in.

“I met with her several times, and she really took me under her wing,” Ratliff said Thursday. “What impressed me was that she was so supportive and so committed to her students.”

Ratliff also expressed admiration for LaMotte’s success in working her way up through the ranks as an educator.

Mayor Eric Garcetti also offered his condolences.

“I’m saddened to learn of the passing of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, an educator, administrator, and true trailblazer who dedicated her life to Los Angeles schools,” Garcetti said in a written statement. “She was a good friend, and my wife Amy and I offer our deepest condolences to her family, colleagues, and all of those who were touched by her tireless work on behalf of L.A.’s students.”

Longtime LA school board member Margueritte Lamotte dies unexpectedly

Mary Plummer | Pass / Fail | 89.3 KPCC

Damian Dovarganes/AP  |  Board of Education president Marlene Canter, left, reacts Thursday, Dec. 21, 2006, to a judge's ruling striking down a law that granted Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa partial control of the nation's second-largest school district. Board member Marguerite P. Lamotte, right, gets a hug.

UPDATED: The San Diego County Medical Examiner's office said paramedics pronounced LaMotte dead at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Marriott Hotel of natural causes. No autopsy has been ordered. District officials said LaMotte was attending the California School Boards Association conference.

December 5th, 2013, 3:26pm  ::  Los Angeles Unified Board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, perhaps the strongest ally for teachers on the school board, has died, the school district and her staff confirmed Thursday.

Reaction from Los Angeles' political community was swift. Mayor Eric Garcetti called LaMotte a "trailblazer who dedicated her life to Los Angeles schools."

"She was a good friend, and my wife Amy and I offer our deepest condolences to her family, colleagues and all of those who were touched by her tireless work on behalf of L.A.’s students," he said in a statement.

"There will just be a loss for the entire community," Los Angeles City Councilmember Curran Price, who had known LaMotte for a decade, said in an interview.

“She was able to connect with people and she spoke her mind. I think it was that kind of straightforwardness, frankness and candor that certainly won her a lot of respect,” he said. “She probably had her share of detractors because of that, but on the whole I think she was well received.”

LaMotte, a former junior high and high school principal, was first elected to the school board in 2003. She easily won re-election in 2007 and then again in 2011.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas recounted a legendary LaMotte story from the late 1990s - when a large fight among dozens of kids broke out near the school where she worked.

"Marguerite threw herself into the middle, without any regard for her safety, and personally broke it up," he said in a statement. "She was fearless and faithful in her work."

LaMotte was a staunch supporter of teachers - taking a strong stand against layoffs - that won her fans in United Teachers Los Angeles. The teacher's union and SEIU were her strongest backers.

Among the split board, she was a vocal critic of Supt. John Deasy's policies. She cast the lone vote among the seven-member board not to renew his contract in October.

But Deasy had nothing but kind words from her in a joint press release with board members distributed by the district late Thursday afternoon.

“Ms. Marguerite LaMotte dedicated her life to the students of LA Unified. She advocated passionately and without apology for all students,” Deasy said. “She was a fighter for civil rights and for quality education.”

“She was my dear friend, colleague and inspiration," Board president Richard Vladovic said in the written statement. "She was always a terrific educator, always committed to ‘her babies,’ which is what she called her students. Her rich experiences as a teacher and principal informed her decisions. She never stopped fighting for them on the school board.”

LaMotte was a longtime advocate for arts education and was known for her passionate comments at school board meetings, which often invoked audience response.

She grew up in the south, earning a B.A. from Southern University in Louisiana and M.Ed. from Louisiana State University in the 1960s.

She represented District 1, which stretches from the Palms neighborhood in West Los Angeles to Leimert Park and parts of South L.A.

According to the Los Angeles City Charter, the Board of Education may choose someone to fill the vacancy or hold a special election.

With contributions by Alice Walton


The feisty legacy of L.A. school board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte

By Karin Klein | LA Times Editorial Satff |

lamotte death

Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte (Los Angeles Times / December 5, 2013)


December 5, 2013, 1:43 p.m. ::  Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte was for the last several years on the losing side of the Los Angeles Unified school board. Her strong alliance with United Teachers Los Angeles and her dislike of most charter schools and of various reform efforts were at odds with where the board was headed under the heavy influence of then-Mayor Antonia Villaraigosa.

It took just one turnover of a board seat — from reform-oriented Nury Martinez, now a councilwoman, to more independent-thinking Monica Ratliff, a lawyer-turned-L.A. Unified elementary teacher — to change all that. Suddenly, when it came to questioning Supt. John Deasy and challenging his proposals for everything from buying iPads to spending the new money coming to the district from the state, LaMotte had plenty of allies on the board.

LaMotte, whose death was reported by The Times on Thursday afternoon, will be missed as a fierce champion of directing more resources to the largely black and Latino students within the district she represented. She understood the community well, though she differed sharply with the reform movement about the best ways to help that community. In recent weeks, she at times seemed confused about exactly what was being proposed or discussed, but to her credit, she wasn’t afraid to ask the questions it took to find out. In most cases, she could be counted on to have a strong opinion — and to voice it.

But those who cheered her occasional outbursts on the dais against charter schools and standardized tests might have many more reasons to miss the woman who often referred to students as her “babies.” What one change of board member wrought this year could happen again, if a reform candidate ultimately replaces the feisty board member from District 1. It’s a good bet that wealthy pro-reform figures — including Eli Broad and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who donated heavily to back reform candidates in the most recent election — will be trying hard to gain this seat, not that their efforts were very successful in the last round.

Less clear, though, is whether a change in a single seat would have the same effect this time around. Board President Richard Vladovic, who was at first a Villariagosa pick and a fairly reliable reform vote, has switched to a more independent role. And Steve Zimmer, whose stances vary depending on the issue at hand, has seemed more comfortable lately joining forces with those who have challenged Deasy.

The loss of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte might lead to closer votes on the board. But for a long time, her unwavering and outspoken commitment to teacher protections, to funding public schools more generously and to challenging charter schools more vehemently will echo in people’s minds if not their ears. No matter which way the education winds were blowing, her opinions were deeply rooted and unabashed. It’s easy to imagine board members thinking of her and what she would be saying about any of the issues under discussion.

There will be little need to guess.

LAUSD Board Member, Fierce Teachers Union Ally Dies

LAist - ‎1 hour ago‎

LaMotte died in her sleep while she was in San Diego attending an education conference, district officials told The Los Angeles Daily News. Few other details about her death were available. LaMotte was a lifelong educator who been working for the district in ...

Marguerite LaMotte, Long-Serving Member of LA Unified School Board, Dies, at 80

LA School Report - ‎2 hours ago‎

A former teacher and principal, LaMotte was first elected to the board in 2003, before term limits were put in effect, and remained well-known as a passionate advocate for students in her south central district, many of them from among LA's poorest families.

Education Advocate, LAUSD Board Member LaMotte Passes Away

CBS Local - ‎1 hour ago‎

LOS ANGELES ( — Los Angeles Unified School District board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte has died, a district spokesperson said Thursday. KNX 1070′s Claudia Peschiutta reports LaMotte had been an educator and advocate for ...

Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, Longtime LAUSD Board Member, Dies at 80

KTLA - ‎5 hours ago‎

Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who served on the Los Angeles Board of Education longer than any other current member, has died, an L.A. Unified spokesperson said Wednesday. She was 80. poindexter. Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte had served on the ...

Marguerite LaMotte Dies; L.A. Unified May Call Special Election

LA Weekly (blog) - ‎2 hours ago‎

In a statement, UTLA President Warren Fletcher said that LaMotte "personified all that is the best in this District and in public schools. She was kind and compassionate, and she saw everything through the lens of what is best for our children... She was simply ...

Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member Dies

NBC Southern California - ‎4 hours ago‎

A member of the Los Angeles Unified School District who served District 1 for 10 years has died, district officials confirmed Thursday. Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte was voted to the board in 2003 and was re-elected in 2007. Details of her death were not ...

LA school board member Marguerite LaMotte dies

Los Angeles Wave Newspapers - ‎5 hours ago‎

Los Angeles Unified School District board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte has died, a spokeswoman for the district reported Thursday. LaMotte has represented South Los Angeles on the school board since 2003. Prior to being elected to the school ...

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