Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, veteran L.A. school trustee, dies

Veteran L.A. Unified school board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte has died. She was 80.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, the most veteran member of the Los Angeles Board of Education, has died, the L.A. Unified School District confirmed Thursday.

The 80-year-old retired administrator was the longtime principal at Washington Preparatory High School, where she was noted for helping to build the campus’ renowned music program.

After she retired, she won three four-year terms to the school board, starting in 2003. She became a champion of teachers and a consistent ally of the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, which provided the primary funding for her campaigns.


Among her noted policy stands was a persistent criticism of charter schools, although her opposition was not uniform, especially after one of her grandsons decided to attend one.

Her tenure also was marked by her distrust of former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and his education agenda. They had once supported each other politically, but he broke with her and she never forgave him.

The troubled relationship engendered a sometimes chilly atmosphere between LaMotte and district superintendents, a tension that Villaraigosa helped to instill. Villaraigosa had no direct influence over the nation’s second-largest school system, but he raised funds to elect an allied majority. The former mayor and his allies were never able to unseat LaMotte, who had a loyal following and longtime community ties.

In October, LaMotte was the only board member to vote against giving current schools chief John Deasy a positive evaluation. But she did not carry that opinion into recent board meetings, where her interaction with Deasy was notably more genial than during much of Deasy’s tenure.

No cause of death was immediately available, but LaMotte died while representing the district at a conference of the California School Boards Assn. in San Diego, according to a district source, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak.



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