Yesterday, after hours of testimony from over 100 speakers, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) voted to hold a special election to replace longtime board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who passed away last month. After the six school board members initially dead locked 3 to 3 on a motion by Steve Zimmer to appoint a successor for the un-expired term of LaMotte, Zimmer in the end sided to vote “yes” for a special election process. However Zimmer also requested legal counsel to report back to the board in a week with a researched legal opinion as to the school board’s ability to “appoint” a successor for the vacant seat until next year’s regular election.
At issue was how best to fill the position. Most of the speakers were in favor of appointing popular and longtime educator/administrator Dr. George McKenna III, while many were in support of a special election. The appointment supporters argued that a special election process would require the seat to remain vacant for 6-8 months, cost up to $ 2 million dollars, and would deprive district 1 students/families of representation during a critical time while the board made decisions about billions of dollars to be spent across the district, and other key decisions that would affect the district for many years to come.
The special election supporters position was that their process would allow a greater number of citizens to vote for whom they wanted to fill the vacancy, and that it was their civil right, which many fought and died for. Some of them also said that Dr. McKenna was highly qualified to fill the seat – but he should earn it through the election process. So as with the many speakers, the school board was divided on the process as how to best fill the vacancy.
Today a report released by a 13 member citizen panel calls L.A. a city in decline, and one that lacks leadership and direction. The report also says that LAUSD is “failing our children and betraying the hopes of their hardworking parents.”
Los Angeles once heralded as a model large urban city, and one that was a trend setter for much of the country, is in trouble. Renewed leadership is not just needed in our city and school district agencies – but renewed leadership is needed amongst our citizens. If you plan to continue living here get involved.