Wednesday, June 04, 2014

ELECTORATE SEES ITS SHADOW: LAUSD Board dysfunction to continue until August

McKenna & Johnson to faceoff in runoff on Aug 12, meanwhile 3-to-3 tie on Bd of Ed will decide Budget, LCFF …or more likely: Not!

2cents small Neither McKenna nor Johnson – nor the children, parents, educators or taxpayers won. Maybe Dr. Deasy won?  And my evil twin feels deprived of hearing Omarosa telling Dr. D: “You’re fired!”

George McKenna and Alex Johnson Lead in LAUSD Special Election

By Hillel Aron, LA Weekly |



McKenna Courtesy McKenna campaign.  |
UPDATE: With 100 percent of precincts reporting, George McKenna and Alex Johnson are the top two winners who will face each other in August. See below.

Wed, Jun 4, 2014 at 3:27 AM  ::  Super-principal George McKenna and school reform advocate Alex Johnson have jumped out in front of a big pack in the L.A. Unified Board of Education special election to replace District 1 representative Marguerite LaMotte. McKenna has 38.79 percent, Johnson 25.19 percent, and relative unknown Sherlett H. Newbill has 9.44 percent.

But these figures count only the early, vote-by-mail ballots, so take them with a grain of salt. Having said that, former LAUSD Board of Education member Genethia Hudley-Hayes and reality TV star Omarosa Manigault are far back, with about 7 percent each.

Assuming no candidate finishes with more than 50 percent in tonight's June 3 primary, the top two face each other in August - that's right, August, when no other race is happening, and everyone in L.A. will be on vacation. Turnout will likely be only a few thousand souls deciding who joins the powerful if obscure LAUSD board.


Alex Johnson | Courtesy Johnson campaign.

McKenna became famous for turning around George Washington Preparatory. His work as principal of the South L.A. school inspired a made-for-TV film, The George McKenna Story, starring none other than Denzel Washington.

The 33-year-old Alex Johnson used to work for L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The race is notable for the fact that the big money has largely stayed out of it.

The teachers union, UTLA, split its endorsement across three candidates: Dorsey High School teacher Sherlett Hendy-Newbill, Gardena City Council member and teacher Rachel Johnson and retired teacher/counselor Hattie McFrazier.

Unlike in previous years, the union hasn't spent one dime on the race. And neither has the equally powerful SEIU local 99, which represents non-teacher employees of the school district.

The "school reform" community, which has attracted well-to-do businessmen and charter school operators, has largely stayed out of the race, saying it was equally happy with former school board member Genethia Hudley-Hayes or Alex Johnson.

In the last week of the campaign, however, the California Charter School Association's Political Action Committee threw in with Johnson, spending a good $80,000 or so on him. That seems to be reflected in the early returns.

McKenna is considered to be a wild-card politically. He has been notably cagey about his feelings toward Superintendent John Deasy, whose sometimes-drastic reform measures have been lauded by reformers but are loathed by the teachers union.

  • Updated at 11:43 p.m.:
    The numbers are George McKenna with  5,147 votes or 39.29 percent, Alex Johnson with 3,241 or 24.74 percent, Sherlett H. Newbill 1,227 or 9.37 percent and Rachel Johnson 1,020 or 7.79 percent. Trailing them are Hudley-Hayes at 6.97 percent, Omarosa Manigault at 6.79 percent and Hattie B. McFrazier at 5.05 percent.
  • Updated at 3:27 a.m.:
    The talented ex-principal will meet the young reformer-hopeful now that McKenna has won with 15,442 votes, or 44.28, and Johnson has gained the second spot on the runoff ballot with 8,605 votes, or 24.67 percent. Nobody else in the crowded field for this underpaid but influential policymaking job came close.

Jill Stewart and Ani Ucar also contributed to this article.

George McKenna and Alex Johnson leading in L.A. Unified race

By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times |

George McKenna

George McKenna, above, and Alex Johnson appeared to be headed to a runoff in Tuesday's primary election.

Jun 4, 2014 | 12:22 AM  ::  Vying for an open seat on the Los Angeles Board of Education, George McKenna and Alex Johnson appeared to be headed to a runoff in Tuesday's primary election. The two were the best funded in a crowded field.

Seven candidates were seeking to fill the final year in the term of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who died in December. The 1st District has 74,000-plus students in 92 traditional schools and 37 charter campuses across south and southwest Los Angeles.

I haven't made a lot of enemies in my career. I've made a lot of friendships, and my investment in all the children and families and parents is paying off.- George McKenna

The outcome of the special election could affect the direction of the nation's second-largest school system. The policies of Supt. John Deasy were a frequent target of LaMotte, who, for example, criticized him for replacing instructors at persistently low-performing campuses.

Deasy's staying power was an undercurrent in this contest, although candidates generally avoided criticizing him.

McKenna, 73, a retired senior district administrator, was solidly ahead early in the evening for a place on the seven-member board.

"I haven't made a lot of enemies in my career," McKenna said Tuesday night. "I've made a lot of friendships, and my investment in all the children and families and parents is paying off."

McKenna also raised enough campaign money, $154,440, to make him competitive.

"He's of the community," said Roxie McClenton, 64, who voted at a West Washington Boulevard church. "He's been a principal in various schools and he's more in tune to what the parents and students need."

Johnson, 33, the senior education adviser to Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, had to overcome limited name recognition but successfully built on the connections of Ridley-Thomas, whose territory overlaps substantially with the board district. Through the May 28 contribution reporting deadline, Johnson had spent $353,468, more than the others combined.

In addition, Johnson benefited from two independent campaigns. A committee set up by the California Charter Schools Assn. Advocates reported spending nearly $62,000. The charter group also gave $50,000 to the California Black Political Action Committee, which spent $17,000 for Johnson.

A blitz of pro-Johnson mailers was persuasive for Gilberto Sealey who voted at a Mid-City fire station.

"I liked his theme that the safety of children comes first," Sealey said.

For his father, Vincent Sealey, 91, the driving factor was Ridley-Thomas.

"I don't know Johnson, but I know Ridley-Thomas," he said.

Genethia Hudley-Hayes, who raised $106,040, touted the endorsements of two former mayors: Republican Richard Riordan and Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa. Neither is universally popular in South Los Angeles. Hudley-Hayes was well behind the two leaders in early returns.

Two influential — and usually opposing — political players did not wage independent campaigns in this round: the Los Angeles teachers union and a group of civic leaders associated with a political action committee, the Coalition for School Reform.

The cash-strapped and divided United Teachers Los Angeles endorsed three candidates with ties to the union: Sherlett Hendy Newbill, Rachel Johnson and Hattie McFrazier.

Also on the ballot was Omarosa Manigault, a substitute teacher and assistant pastor, known for a run on a reality TV show.

LAUSD Board of Education race: George McKenna, Alex Johnson heading for runoff

By City News Service from LA Daily News |

06/03/14, 10:44 PM PDT |  Retired Los Angeles Unified administrator George McKenna and county supervisor aide Alex Johnson appeared to be heading for an August runoff in their race to fill the district board seat left vacant by the death of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte.

LaMotte died Dec. 5 while attending an education conference in San Diego. She was 80. Her District 1 seat represents south and southwest Los Angeles on the board that oversees the nation’s second-largest school district.

McKenna was considered a leading candidate for the post heading into the seven-candidate election. He was touted highly by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, when the LAUSD board was considering appointing a replacement for LaMotte. His work to curb gang violence at Washington Preparatory High School was the subject of a made-for-TV movie starring Denzel Washington.

Johnson’s work as an aide to County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas also gave him a strong boost heading into the election. Ridley-Thomas’ backing of Johnson helped fuel much debate during board consideration of an appointed replacement for LaMotte, with the supervisor and Waters butting heads over their support for competing candidates. Johnson previously worked with the Department of Education in New York City.

Early returns showed McKenna leading the field with 38.8 percent of the vote, while Johnson had 25.2 percent. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getter will advance to an Aug. 12 runoff.

Reality television personality Omarosa Manigault, who rose to fame as a contestant on the first season of Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice,” was also among the hopefuls. An ordained minister, she has worked as a substitute special education teacher in the LAUSD.

Also battling for the post were retired LAUSD teacher, counselor and administrator Hattie McFrazier, former LAUSD board president Genethia Hudley-Hayes, veteran teacher and Gardena City Councilwoman Rachel Johnson and teacher/basketball coach Sherlett Hendy Newbill.

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