Wednesday, December 18, 2013


L.A. Unified board delays decision on replacing LaMotte

Board members are unable to reach a consensus on postponing the discussion until after her funeral or taking action immediately. The board also delayed action on the iPad program's next phase.

By Howard Blume, LA Times |

L.A. Unified defers decision on replacing LaMotte

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) shakes hands after she and several community leaders held a sidewalk news conference in front of L.A. Unified headquarters to discuss replacing Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. (Mark Boster, Los Angeles Times / December 17, 2013)

December 17, 2013, 8:42 p.m.  ::  The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday delayed a decision on how to fill the seat of former member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who died earlier this month.

Three members wanted to postpone the discussion until after LaMotte's funeral, while three others supported taking up the issue immediately. But four votes were required for action, so the board never debated the central question: whether to appoint a replacement or call a special election.

"Not taking an action is an action," said Monica Garcia, who wanted the board to discuss its options. "We are delaying the opportunity for representation."

The board scheduled a special meeting Jan. 7 to settle the issue. Because of the county's election schedule and election law timelines, however, any voting might not take place for months.

The school board Tuesday also postponed a decision on the next phase of a $1-billion effort to provide iPads to every student.

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy did not vigorously challenge that move but said problems could arise because more iPads are needed to administer new state standardized tests.

"Some things will be imperfect" because of the delay, he said.

LaMotte, who was closely allied with the teachers union and frequently critical of Deasy, represented District 1, stretching across a diverse swath of South and southwest Los Angeles. Black voters are not a majority, but they are the largest voting bloc. The holder of that seat has traditionally been regarded as the guardian of black students, many of whom have struggled in the nation's second-largest school system.

Before Tuesday's meeting and in public testimony, competing advocates pressed either for the delay or for immediate approval of a special election.

A group led by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) insisted that waiting until after the funeral would be in keeping with African American custom and would respect the community's grieving process.

LaMotte was the only African American on the seven-member board. Her seat has been held by black officials since L.A. Unified was divided into election districts in 1979.

Holding a special election would leave LaMotte's seat unfilled for about three months to a year. But appointing a replacement, some critics said, would result in other board members selecting an ally rather than letting voters make the choice. The office will go before voters in a regular election in 2015.

Waters declined to specify Tuesday how the seat should be filled, but an alliance of which she is a part has called for an appointment. Members of that coalition have argued that a fast election process would aid Deasy's supporters, who could raise money for a campaign by drawing on his wealthy backers.

But Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who was a LaMotte supporter, was among those calling for an election.

"People fought, bled and died to assure that we have the right to vote," Ridley-Thomas said. "This is about self-determination."

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LA Unified board delays action on LaMotte vacancy to January

by Michael Janofsky, LA School Report |

Posted on December 17, 2013   ::  The LA Unified school board today postponed until next month any consideration of how to fill the board seat left vacant by the death of Marguerite LaMotte, bowing to a wave of pleas from speakers asking the board to wait until after her funeral.

A 3-3 vote on a motion to allow discussion to begin effectively killed the effort. A six-member board requires four votes for any measure to pass.

President Richard Vladovic, Tamar Galatzan and Monica Garcia voted in favor of consideration; Steve Zimmer, Bennett Kayser and Monica Ratliff voted to wait. The board then voted unanimously to schedule a special meeting Jan. 7, when a debate will begin over whether to fill the seat through a special election or a board appointment.

The funeral for LaMotte, who died Dec. 5, is scheduled for Saturday.

The board’s first vote was preceded by a parade of speakers, a majority of whom urged the members to defer action out of respect for LaMotte’s family and legacy.

Typical of the passion was that from Patricia Sanders, vice president of the New Frontier Democratic Club, who argued that it was “time to memorialize and funeralize” LaMotte, who, she said, “would be pissed off to the highest point of pissivisity,” were the board to act so quickly after the death of another member.

The notion of deferring action was scarcely raised publicly until US Representative Maxine Waters, who had strongly campaigned to fill the seat by appointment, issued a press release hours before the meeting, calling for a delay.

It was also around the same time that speculation arose that the board was lining up, 4-2, in favor of approving a special election, rather than an appointment.

Waters was the first speaker at the meeting to address the board and told the members that it was “premature” to act out of respect to LaMotte and her family. That, she said, would violate “African-American custom and practice.”

Ratliff, who grew emotional during an iPad discussion earlier, was wiping her eyes as Waters concluded.

Altogether, about a dozen speakers echoed Waters’ sentiments, some of them signatories to a Waters-supported effort over the weekend to advanced George McKenna, a former LA Unified administrator, as an ideal candidate for appointment. A website promoting McKenna that included Waters’ and other community leaders as supporters made no argument to defer board action.

McKenna attended the board meeting but left before the voting.

Nearly as many speakers, including LA Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, argued strongly for a special election, saying black Americans had struggled too long for voting rights, and they should not be denied them in this case.

Xavier Thompson, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Los Angeles and Southern California, acknowledged the pain and division over replacing LaMotte and the scheduling issues, but said, “At the end of the day we live in a democratic society. If we err, let’s err on the side of the people. Let the people speak.”

Prior to the vote, Ridley-Thomas told LA School Report, “There’s a lot to be done, which includes respecting the family and the memory of Ms. LaMotte. I do not want a delay to be a tactic to adversely affect the democratic process. So all of this has to be dealt with in terms of the timeline that’s dictated by law. And I want to be confident that delay is not tactical with respect to a strategy to upend the people’s right to vote. Those who are advocating for a delay are really advocating for an appointment. So it causes me to wonder what’s up.”

Oddly, the competing points of view were not necessarily mutually exclusive. Proponents of delaying succession did not argue one way or another for an election or appointment, and those favoring a special election expressed no opposition to waiting in their remarks to the board.

The practical effect of the board’s decision to wait is that the seat remains vacant at least another three weeks. Despite the holidays, it gives proponents added time to build support for their preferred method of replacement and lobby board members.

Should the board vote to appoint someone, that could then occur at any time. But in the case of a special election, the city has told the school district that it needs at least 110 days to prepare for an election that does not fall on an election day not already scheduled.

In either case, the successor would only serve out a term that ends in mid-2015.

The vote followed another emotional debate, over whether the district would begin or delay — yet again – phase 2 of iPad distribution, which had been approved last month to go forward

An agenda item that amended the plan was postponed to the board’s Jan. 14 meeting. But later, a resolution from Galatzan and Garcia to start the plan as passed last month was defeated in a 3-3 vote.

Both Galatzan and Garcia argued fiercely that a further delay was unfair to district students in 38 schools waiting for iPads and those in seven high schools waiting for laptops, as well as students in all other district schools waiting for their digital devices in subsequent phases of distribution.

Ratliff, who chairs the board’s technology committee, said she wanted to honor LaMotte before acting and also wanted the Bond Oversight Committee, which is meeting tomorrow, to weigh in on any changes.

After Galatzan suggested some members might be just trying to kill the program, Ratliff said, “I don’t think that’s accurate,” and began crying. “I didn’t realize how much impact on me this loss is having.”

Los Angeles school board delays decision on vacant seat until January

By Brenda Gazzar, Los Angeles Daily News |

Posted: 12/17/13, 7:35 PM PST |  ::  Following impassioned pleas from community members, the Los Angeles Unified board delayed consideration Tuesday of whether to appoint or hold a special election to fill the vacant seat of the late Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte until Jan. 7.

LaMotte, who had represented South Los Angeles on the board since 2003, died Dec. 5 at age 80 while attending a statewide education conference in San Diego. Several people, including elected officials, said it would dishonor LaMotte's memory to consider the issue so soon after her death.

"We are deep-rooted in a concept and culture (in which) it is very disrespectful of this body or any body talking about filling a vacancy or taking action about an individual while they have not even been laid to rest," Leon Jenkins, president of the Los Angeles NAACP, told the board. "You can't do it. You shouldn't do it. We've got to be a little bigger than that."

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, state Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and former assemblyman Mike Davis were among those who also called on the school board to delay the decision until after LaMotte was laid to rest.

The board, in a 3-3 vote, failed to approve Tuesday's motion that would have allowed for discussion and consideration of the vacancy that day. Board President Richard Vladovic and members Tamar Galatzan and Monica Garcia all voted in favor of discussing the item Tuesday, while Bennett Kayser, Monica Ratliff and Steve Zimmer voted against it.

"By not taking an action, we are acting," said Garcia, who along with Galatzan has previously called for an election. "We are delaying the opportunity for representation."

Several community members asked that the board, when the issue is finally considered, hold a special election rather than appoint someone to LaMotte's seat. Her term was set to expire in June 2015.

"Don't take away the one thing we've fought all our lives for; that is the right to vote," said Angeles Echols-Brown, founder and executive director of the nonprofit Educating Young Minds. "They are our kids. We need to be an integral part of the process. Please don't take that way from us."

Vladovic asked for a moment of silence during Tuesday's board meeting in honor of LaMotte. A public memorial will be held Jan. 18, he said.

LA School board puts off discussion on how to fill seat vacated by LaMotte death

Annie Gilbertson | Pass / Fail | 89.3 KPCC

December 17th, 2013, 4:06pm  ::  Los Angeles Unified school board will not discuss until January how to fill the seat vacated by the death of Marguerite LaMotte.

Attendees cheered the decision to delay, as many stated it was disrespectful to fill the position before LaMotte's burial. Her funeral is scheduled for Saturday.

“I want to be respectful of a conversation about culture and tradition, but our decision to wait is an action," said board member Monica Garcia, who stressed that a decision should not be delayed.  “We need very clear that not taking an action is an action.”

Due to board rules, a majority had to agree to waive requirements to have the discussion Tuesday. Impassioned speakers - including black political leaders - asked the board repeatedly over nearly an hour of public comment to put off the discussion out of respect for LaMotte, saying she would have done the same for them. The motion failed with a 3-3 vote.

“Our community is still coping with the loss of this important leader who fought so hard for children in underserved communities,” said Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles). Lamotte’s district is historically black, though demographics are have now shifted majority Latino.

The board selected Jan. 7 for the discussion on replacing LaMotte.

Of the public comments relating to the larger question before the board - whether to appoint someone to fill the remaining 18 months of LaMotte's term or to hold a special election - the consensus was to hold an election. The last special election for a school board seat cost $1.9 million.

A black board member has represented District 1 since 1979, and the subtext of the speakers insinuated it must continue as a position of black leadership.

“I am a voter of the first district,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the last to speak. "I’m not prepared to trade my vote and have others substitute my vote."

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