The leadership of the Coalition of California Black School Board Members (CCBSBM) is urging the LAUSD Board to appoint George McKenna to the District 1 seat, and they sent a strongly worded letter including: “The eyes of national, state and other educational entities are on you!”
In the letter, CCBSBM president and Stockton USD School Board Member Gloria Allen pointed to the transformational time that the next 6 months represent for school boards throughout California:
“This is a critical year for all California School Board Members to establish 2014-2015 school year budgets that incorporate the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCCFF) and adapting the Common Core State Standards. We are making landmark decisions as a result of the largest K-12 public education funding transformation in state of California, historically in 40 years. The new LCFF is intended to provide more funding, greater local control and more support for students that are low-income, English Language Learners and foster care youths. Like you, our decisions as school boards over the next months will define educational policy for an entire generation of learners.
“Accordingly, the urgency of significant policy, educational, budget and administrative decisions that must be made in the next 6 months is crucial. Therefore, to leave the District 1 seat vacant without a voice may be undemocratic, and marginalize over 600,000 citizens, nearly 100,000 school children and over 100 schools. The eyes of national, state and other educational entities are on you! Given, the long-lasting impact of the decisions that must be made by your Board of Education in the upcoming months, we find it important to collectively urge you to choose the appointment process. Our appointment recommendation is Dr. George McKenna III, whom our organization greatly respects and has had a longstanding relationship with as a highly qualified educator.”
The full text of the letter is below.
The loss of our beloved friend and leader of unwavering advocate for our children Marguerite LaMotte was truly a sad day in our community. The loss of Ms. LaMotte was not only a loss to the African American community, but a loss to every hard-working student and parent in LAUSD who needed an advocate to ensure that the promise of a quality education is afforded to every child no matter their race, religion or socioeconomic circumstances. Marguerite LaMotte was that advocate! She dedicated her entire life to fighting to ensure that every child received the best education because she was a proponent of education being the key to pursuing a quality life for everyone who fought for a better way for themselves, their family and their community.
As the debate heightens for a replacement for Marguerite LaMotte, there is but one answer within our community and throughout District #1; the answer is simple. George McKenna!!!
Statistics tell a dire story about LAUSD’s black student population. We must harness every available tool to write a better educational narrative for our children, one that fully taps the African American experience, informing the curriculum and culture with the best we have to offer. It is important that when families and children turn to this school board for guidance and aid, they see leadership and advocates who look like them. Since December 5th, our community is in need of a new champion. Please help us fill that void.
It is imperative that this seat not be left vacant. Proposition 30 was a hard-fought battle on behalf of students, teachers, and families touched by unified school districts across the state, including the LAUSD. How that funding is allocated and spent is crucial to our neighborhood schools and will be on this body’s agenda over the next few months. The votes that are taken should reflect representation and advocacy on behalf of black students in the LAUSD system.
We do not have the luxury of waiting for an election. The issues coming before this body are too consequential for too many to allow a vacancy in the District 1 seat. Ensuring that LCFF is being properly implemented in a way that works for the students of LAUSD, tackling the issue of willful defiance in a way that is respectful of the educational process and sensitive to the racial realities of students of color, and continuing to discuss Title 1 funding and allocation in a way that is strategic yet equitable are just a few of the critical issues that await this board’s careful consideration and deserve the presence of all seven boardmembers in these seats.
Read the entire letter below.
“I still firmly believe that voters should and must have the ultimate voice in their representatives. However, having an empty seat at the school board at this time could leave too many children’s needs unmet.
“Fortunately, there is a middle ground. The district should appoint a strong community leader with years of education experience who will serve as a caretaker. They should look for someone who is independent and understands the intricacies of LA Unified and has intimate knowledge of the needs of students and the concerns of parents.
“Dr. George J. McKenna is a strong candidate to fill this seat during the interim, where he can bring his 50 years of education experience—most of those at LAUSD—to the Board. Dr. McKenna will be an advocate for funding equity, and his passion, wisdom and knowledge will be an invaluable asset to our students and our community.
“This path will allow voters to be able to participate in an informed and deliberate election in a year, where ultimately both voters’ voices will be heard and their children will have an advocate at the LAUSD Board.”
Congresswoman Bass’ initially supported a special election, but now supports appointing George McKenna. The Congresswoman’s evolution of position is not unique. Many of the leaders of Appoint McKenna first supported a special election, before we were explained the severe consequences to the our children’s education from having the seat remain vacant for 6 to 8 months. When we were presented with appointing Dr. McKenna as a caretaker, that was clearly the best option for the kids.
It is understandable that the initial reaction of people to any vacancy is for an special election, especially for African-Americans and women who had to fight and many die for the right to vote. However, in this particular instance a special election is more harmful than an appointment of a capable caretaker that the community trusts – George McKenna. Big decisions are going to be made by the LAUSD over the next few months and we must have representation. In a republic voting is not an end, but rather a means to having a seat at the table.
Congresswoman Bass is to be commended for having the political courage to evolve her position when provided with new information. It is what is right for the kids. Her full statement is below.
Four retired school board members wrote a piece in today’s CityWatch LA that specifies the harmful impact of having no representation for the next 6 to 8 months on the Board of Education to hold a special election. While adults would be busy playing politics, our children would be left to suffer greatly.
How to Replace the LAUSD’s LaMotte: The Answer is Clear, Do What’s Best for the Children
By Dr. Barbara Boudreaux, Rita Walters, Larry Aubry and Saundra Davis
17 Dec 2013
LAUSD POLITICS-The sudden passing of our friend and colleague District 1 LAUSD Board Member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte has understandably rocked many. Marguerite was an adored educator and public servant whose spirit and love of “her babies” was so warmly felt. All who had the pleasure of knowing her personally and working with her professionally to improve the quality of education for our children miss her immensely.
Now, the LAUSD Board of Education has the responsibility of determining how to fill her vacancy. They have two options: appoint a caretaker to complete the remainder of Ms. LaMotte’s term, or call for a “special election” process that would result in an elected representative for the seat likely in June or August of 2014.
Both options have been used in the past. The most recent vacancy was caused when José Huizar became a City Councilmember; it was filled by special election. The appointment process has been used over a dozen times in the past, including when Diane Watson was elected to the State Senate in 1979 before her term on the Board of Education ended. Rev. Lewis Bohler, Jr. was appointed to complete Watson’s unexpired term.
It is both rational and proper to frame the choice of a special election or an appointment by posing the question that Ms. LaMotte spent her 10 years on the Board of Education asking, “What is the impact on the children?” In this regard, the choice by the Board of Education should be clear, as the harm to District 1 students and schools from a special election process is real and significant.
If a special election is called District 1 will be unrepresented for at least 6 to 8 months while the Board of Education divvies up billions of dollars and makes major policy decisions that will impact the quality of education for District 1 students.
In January, the Board will decide how to spend six (6) billion dollars worth of construction bond dollars. Who will stand up for Crenshaw High School, for Washington Prep, for the families that use the over 100 schools in District 1 if Ms. LaMotte’s seat remains empty? With no one on the Board to represent our neediest neighborhoods and schools, District 1 can only lose out.
In March, LAUSD’s implementation of Governor Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula and its new focus on Title 1, English Language Learners, and foster care students will be decided. The Local Control Accountability Plan will also be instituted. During these critical Board debates the voice from District 1 will be silent.
In the spring, the Board will work on implementation of the new Common Core Standards that will change how our students learn for many years to come. Will Standard English Learners have an advocate, a cohort Ms. LaMotte regularly championed, when District 1 has no vote?
July 1 will start the new fiscal year for the school district; the budget for 2014-15 will be debated and finalized by then. District 1 cannot possibly gain if its Board seat is vacant.
Ms. LaMotte voted against Superintendent John Deasy’s iPad project that will cost LAUSD over a billion dollars. Deasy will continue to bring it to the Board over the next few months, this time with the vote from District 1 going unregistered.
There is a benefit to having an elected representative, but not for reasons that relate to the quality of education for our children. Especially not when the cost to District 1 is an empty seat at the Board table until June or August 2014, and the special election process would conclude with a newly elected member just 7 to 9 months before the regularly scheduled election in March 2015. In fact, the special election will literally take money from the classroom. The LAUSD would have to pay for the special election cost – up to two (2) million dollars.
We know that it is not easy to turnover the important decision of choosing an appointee. That is why the District 1 community of education, civil rights and civic groups has rallied behind supporting the appointment of one person, Dr. George McKenna III.
Dr. 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. He is active in the community and is a leader of multiple education organizations. He is the community’s choice.
If the Board is not satisfied by the broad community support that Dr. McKenna has engendered, perhaps a selection committee made of Board District 1 residents could be instituted to guide them in selecting a qualified, respected caretaker.
Either way, we implore the Board of Education to not allow politics to trump doing what is right for the children that Ms. LaMotte has left us to look over. It is clear that an appointment to complete her unexpired term is what is best for Marguerite’s “babies.”
(Dr. Barbara Boudreaux and Rita Walters served on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, Larry Aubry served on the Inglewood Unified School District Board of Education, and Saundra Davis served on the Culver City Board of Education.)