School board postpones decision on Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte’s vacant seat

School board members |

The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday decided to wait until January to discuss how to fill the seat of board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who died nearly two weeks ago, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Board president Richard Vladovic and members Tamar Galatzan and Monica Garcia voted in favor of discussion whereas Steve Zimmer, Bennett Kayser and Monica Ratcliff voted to wait.

LaMotte represented District 1 that covers a large part of South Los Angeles. (See map here.) Whoever takes over LaMotte’s seat would be the responsible for shaping education in South L.A.


Map of District 1. Click to enlarge. |

Her death spurred a debate on whether the seat should be filled by appointment by the board or by special elections.

School board members were divided on the issue — three favored special elections, one favored appointment, another leaned towards appointment and the last was undecided.

A group of community activists led by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) are lobbying for the appointment of former Los Angeles Unified School District Administrator George McKenna. The group met on Sunday to discuss their options.

READ ALSO: Community members and activists rally for McKenna to take up LaMotte’s position.

According to LA School Report, Waters released a press statement a few hours before the board meeting on Tuesday asking for a delay in the vote citing “violation of African-American custom… before the conclusion of services and interment” if the school board acted now.

This move, LA School Report speculates, was taken by Waters after her group realized that they might not stand a chance to gain majority vote for appointment. The three board members who favored a delay — Zimmer, Kayser and Ratcliff — are the three members who were either leaning towards appointment or still undecided.

Appointment means that the voters lose their chance weigh in but District 1 will at least have representation while critical issues like the budget and the billion dollar iPad project are discussed. However, those who oppose this option say the board might not choose someone who represents District 1’s interests, but rather an ally who will support the board’s decisions.

Having a special election means LaMotte’s seat will remain empty for anywhere between six to eight months, depending on when the election is held. Waters’ faction of community activists fear that special election will be unfairly advantageous to the affluent because grassroots movements won’t have a chance to develop in such a short time span.

Some of the board members, like Zimmer, say they don’t find either of these options ideal and that the City Charter has put them in a “catch 22” situation.

The board’s decision, whatever it may be, will affect the lives of hundreds of school-going children across South L.A.

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