L.A. Unified board delays decision on replacing LaMotte


The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday delayed a decision on how to fill the seat of former member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who died earlier this month.

Three members wanted to postpone the discussion until after LaMotte’s funeral, while three others supported taking up the issue immediately. But four votes were required for action, so the board never debated the central question: whether to appoint a replacement or call a special election.

“Not taking an action is an action,” said Monica Garcia, who wanted the board to discuss its options. “We are delaying the opportunity for representation.”


The board scheduled a special meeting Jan. 7 to settle the issue. Because of the county’s election schedule and election law timelines, however, any voting might not take place for months.

The school board Tuesday also postponed a decision on the next phase of a $1-billion effort to provide iPads to every student.

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy did not vigorously challenge that move but said problems could arise because more iPads are needed to administer new state standardized tests.

“Some things will be imperfect” because of the delay, he said.

LaMotte, who was closely allied with the teachers union and frequently critical of Deasy, represented District 1, stretching across a diverse swath of South and southwest Los Angeles. Black voters are not a majority, but they are the largest voting bloc. The holder of that seat has traditionally been regarded as the guardian of black students, many of whom have struggled in the nation’s second-largest school system.

Before Tuesday’s meeting and in public testimony, competing advocates pressed either for the delay or for immediate approval of a special election.


A group led by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) insisted that waiting until after the funeral would be in keeping with African American custom and would respect the community’s grieving process.

LaMotte was the only African American on the seven-member board. Her seat has been held by black officials since L.A. Unified was divided into election districts in 1979.

Holding a special election would leave LaMotte’s seat unfilled for about three months to a year. But appointing a replacement, some critics said, would result in other board members selecting an ally rather than letting voters make the choice. The office will go before voters in a regular election in 2015.

Waters declined to specify Tuesday how the seat should be filled, but an alliance of which she is a part has called for an appointment. Members of that coalition have argued that a fast election process would aid Deasy’s supporters, who could raise money for a campaign by drawing on his wealthy backers.

But Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who was a LaMotte supporter, was among those calling for an election.

“People fought, bled and died to assure that we have the right to vote,” Ridley-Thomas said. “This is about self-determination.”