Los Angeles, CA – A broad and growing coalition of education, civil rights and community groups has come together to demand the LAUSD Board of Education appoint esteemed educator and administrator George McKenna III to fill the vacancy created by the unexpected death of District 1 Board Member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. The coalition argues that appointing McKenna to complete LaMotte’s term, which ends on June 30, 2015, is better for the students of LaMotte’s district, than a costly special election that would leave the over 150 schools and approximately 100,000 students in District 1 without a voice on the board for 6 to 8 months. In that span of time, critical votes that will impact students’ education and district policy will be cast by the Board of Education including, the 2014-2015 school year budget, Title I funding, adaptation of the Local Control Funding Formula, implementation of the Common Core Curriculum, a $6 billion facilities upgrade bond and the billion-dollar iPad project.
“The students of District 1 cannot afford to be without representation during these critical debates over the next 6 to 8 months,” said Yolande Beckles, of the California Title I Parent Union.
McKenna is among the country’s most accomplished and honored school principals and school district administrators. In just 4 years as principal of George Washington Preparatory High School located in District 1, he successfully changed an inner-city high school that had been torn by violence, low achievement and lack of community confidence into a school with an attendance waiting list, and nearly 80% of the graduates enrolled in college. It is a feat that is the subject of the 1986 award-winning CBS television movie starring Denzel Washington, “The George McKenna Story.” As an administrator McKenna has served as Superintendent of the Inglewood Unified School District, Deputy Superintendent in Compton, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools in Pasadena, and most recently as an LAUSD Local District Superintendent.
“The community has united behind appointing McKenna, because it is what is best for the children,” said Doris Dillard, past president of the Council of Black Administrators. “I have yet to hear anyone claim that appointing McKenna to finish Marguerite’s term is not the best thing the Board could do for the children. That is what this discussion should be about, and that is all this discussion should be about – what is best for the children?”
“In this case, a special election process would actually be a disservice to blacks, Latinos and other voters in District 1, because it would not give voters time to properly vet candidates or allow legitimate grassroots campaigns to develop,” said Leon Jenkins, President of the Los Angeles NAACP. “Instead it would give the big money interests who Ms. LaMotte fought tooth-and-nail against, like billionaires Eli Broad and Michael Bloomberg, the ability to use their significant financial advantage to rob the community of its powerful voice and flip the seat from pro-student to pro-corporate. It is not fair to disempower District 1 voters and empower corporate interests, and it makes absolutely no sense from the standpoint of the students when McKenna is able to finish Ms. LaMotte’s term.”
Jenkins is one of 30 civil rights and education organization/leaders that have endorsed appointing McKenna to the Board of Education. The list includes the Black Parent Union, Coalition for Black Student Equity, Black Community Clergy and Labor Alliance, Congress of Racial Equality-California, along with Danny Bakewell of the LA Sentinel and Percy Pinkney of the Black American Political Association of California.
In just two days, the coalition has garnered the support of current and former elected officials including, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, LA Councilmember Bernard Parks, former Assembly Member Mike Davis, former LA City Councilmembers Jan Perry and Robert Farrell, former LAUSD Board Member Rita Walters, former Inglewood School District Board Member Larry Aubry, and Compton Community College District president Dr. Deborah LeBlanc.
“The list of District 1 community leaders and elected officials who support a McKenna appointment grows every hour,” said retired Los Angeles City Councilmember Robert Farrell who is helping build support. “Once the harmful impact to the children of the district from having the seat remain vacant until August or June at best is explained, and positioned against the much better alternative of appointing the supremely qualified and respected educator and administrator George McKenna, people want to know what they can do to help.”