Two candidates with different styles and viewpoints are vying to join the Los Angeles Unified school board, replacing longtime board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who died in December. Both of the candidates also hold different beliefs than did LaMotte, who was a fiery opponent of most school reform.
This is an opportunity for voters in District 1, which includes South Los Angeles and sections of West Los Angeles, to make themselves heard. That's especially true, sad to say, because voter turnout on this one-race election day, Aug. 12, is expected to be below 10%. The only good thing that can be said about such low participation is that those who do turn out to vote will be making their ballots count.
When they do, a strong choice for the job is retired L.A. schools administrator George McKenna, who won national attention and praise for reforms he instituted during the 1980s as principal of one of
's high schools, George Washington Preparatory High in Westmont. Thirty years later, McKenna continues to come across as someone whose first consideration is helping kids learn, especially socioeconomically disadvantaged students who for too long have been shorted on classroom space and qualified teachers.
McKenna hasn't always been a successful administrator — his tenure as superintendent of the Inglewood schools was marked by fiscal and other problems that were addressed too slowly — but we think his well-thought-out positions will serve him well as a school board member.
McKenna's opponent, Alex Johnson, also talks about putting students first. But Johnson, an avid reform candidate and education aide to L.A. County Supervisor
It's encouraging to see that both candidates support the continued leadership of Supt.
Ideology holds little interest for McKenna. As a board member, he is likely to consider each issue on its individual merits rather than follow pre-set allegiances. We trust him to ask serious questions and vote for common-sense solutions.
On Aug. 12 — which is also the first day of school — voters should remember that this year, there's another important part of the day. They should show up at their polling places to help shape the district's future.