by Danny J. Bakewell, Jr. – Executive Editor of the Los Angles Sentinel | this article also appears in the LA Watts Times of July 24 | http://bit.ly/WIl3KD
Published on Thursday, 24 July 2014 19:24 :: Long time educator and child advocate George McKenna didn’t know his over 40 years of service on the front lines and in the trenches of education in some of California’s poorest and most underserved schools and school districts was a piece of cake compared to the political road that he would need to travel to the Los Angeles Unified School Board – District #1 seat. But not even McKenna or any of the community residents he has spent his life fighting for have could have imagined that the reputation and credibility of one of the nation’s leading educators would have come under attack in such a brutal and shameful way as it has in recent political mailings from his opponent Alex Johnson.
The accusations levied by the Alex Johnson for School Board Campaign and his supporters through an independent expenditure campaign have released a scathing array of accusations against the longtime educator, from blaming him for the child molestation charges which have plagued all of LAUSD for several years, to the state take-over of Inglewood and Compton Unified School Districts (the truth is McKenna left Inglewood Unified in 1994 and the state took over Inglewood in 2013. The State took over Compton Unified in 1993 and the state administrator brought McKenna in to repair the troubled district).
“George McKenna’s track record speaks for itself; he is a man of unquestionable character and integrity who has always put children first,” Congresswoman Karen Bass.
“He has spent a lifetime fighting long and hard to make sure our kids have a level playing field. He has committed his life to insuring equal opportunities for Black and Brown kids and all underprivileged and underserved children in the field of education. His reputation is beyond reproach” stated Congresswoman Karen Bass.”
Rev. Jewett L. Walker, Jr. manager for the Elect McKenna Campaign and who served for years as the campaign director for former LAUSD Representative Marguerite Poindexter- LaMotte who passed away in December 2013 stated, “there's a word to describe this type of dirty campaigning: SHAMEFUL!” The Alex Johnson Campaign is engaging in the worst kind of politics a lie-and-smear campaign or “poli-tricks” – which we can only assume his chief endorsers and sponsors condone.”
Candidate Alex Johnson>
“There's a word to describe this type of dirty campaigning: SHAMEFUL!”
“Our community has never witnessed an outrageous smear campaign against a candidate such as the Alex Johnson Campaign is waging against Dr. George McKenna. The community must reject these kinds of lies and distortions against Dr. George McKenna who is a nationally known, successful and respected educator. Furthermore Alex Johnson is neither knowledgeable or experienced or credible as an educator. THIS IS IT. He needs to quit it,” stated Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
George McKenna almost won the June Primary Election outright with over 44% of the vote compared to Alex Johnson’s 24%. He has been engaged in a heated battle to the August 12 special election finish line since the June 3 primary ended. While Johnson has outraised McKenna 2 to 1 in money, mostly coming from large corporate donors and charter school advocate groups, the community and the residents of the district clearly appear to be supporting McKenna. McKenna has received the endorsement of almost all of his opponents from the District 1 primary election including Genethia Hudley-Hayes, LAUSD Board of Education(ret.), School Teacher Rachel Johnson - Gardena Councilmember & Hattie McFrazier-LAUSD Educator/Pupil Services and Attendance Counselor (ret.). McKenna has also been endorsed by former school board member and city council woman Rita Walters, UTLA, The Democratic Party just to name a few.
The latest slate of mailers sent out last week by the Johnson Campaign and other organizations supporting Johnson don’t appear to be promoting Johnson or his qualifications. Instead they are attacking McKenna’s credibility and giving no credence to the years of leadership and service that he has provided to the children of our community. Bishop T. Larry Kirkland, Presiding Bishop of the 5th Episcopal District of the AME Church stated that “Dr. McKenna is a man of unquestionable, integrity, character and experience who has always put our children’s best interest first to question or try and taint his integrity is disgraceful.”
“As a veteran campaign manager I can tell you that when a candidate loses a primary by 20 points, like Alex Johnson did, there is no clear path to victory in the runoff,” said Walker.
“Over the last several days Mr. Johnson and his supporters have revealed his plan: smear the good name of George McKenna.”
His powerful boss/political sponsor, has cut deals with billionaires and special interests to raise a boatload of money to flood the district with mailers and doorknockers that seek to trash the reputation that McKenna spent decades building by honorably serving our community. The good news is the Johnson campaign has no defense for McKenna’s greatest weapon: THE TRUTH.”
McKenna’s reputation as an educator is unquestionable. Upon arriving in Southern California from his native New Orleans, he was assigned to Washington High School in Los Angeles in 1979 when the school was besieged with violence, drugs and gangs. When he was done nearly 80 percent of the students went on to college.
This track record of success inspired the award-winning CBS movie, The George McKenna Story, starring Denzel Washington. He is passionate about education and the many children who are trapped in despair. This is a man who has received more than 400 citations and awards from civic, legislative and professional organizations.
In 1989, McKenna received the Congressional Black Caucus’ Chairman’s Award and in 1997 was elected into the National Alliance of Black School Educators’ Hall of Fame. Last week even local advisories joined forces to unify in support of a man so desperately needed that August 12 could not come soon enough.
Some individuals are risking their reputations to tarnish that of McKenna’s. George McKenna when asked about the slanderous accusations stated, “I will not be deterred, I will continue to push forward offering an inspiring message of hope for our kids future. This is the message that is resonating with school age children their parents, teachers and community advocates who are willing to stand up for honesty and integrity. My campaign and the work I have done around here throughout my life stands on its own. I have always stood tallest for kids, for education and for this community and I am not going to let false accusations sway me now.”
Gwendolyn Landry a parent and community education advocate stated that “The trickery and lies being asserted by the Alex Johnson Campaign are terrible. We cannot trust a person who distorts the truth to lead the education of our kids.”
It appears the political wrangling and power politics are just heating up as the campaign enters the last few weeks. Award winning journalist Betty Pleasant had her weekly Soulvine column pulled at the last minute at another local weekly publication because of her support of McKenna and because of her outrage to the tactics being used by the Johnson Campaign to smear McKenna’s good name. However, in today’s world of social media the censured column has now gone viral and was emailed, blasted, tweeted, posted on Facebook and other local mediums by community members outraged by this type of blatant disregard for the truth. Betty has been in the business of community news for a long time and she was totally caught off guard and surprised that her editors refused to run her column. Reverend Joe B. Hardwick president, Western States Baptist Convention and Pastor of Praises of Zion Church in Watts said “people think they can buy this election, but the truth is, our children, our community, and our future are not for sale. George has built his reputation and dedicated his life to working for these kids and we are prepared to fight to insure that his legacy of service continues all the way to the school board.”