Statement on Vacancy in LAUSD School Board

December 18, 2013

Submitted to LAUSD School Board at December 17, 2013 Meeting:

Dear Boardmembers,

Please let me begin by paying my respects to the memory of Marguerite LaMotte, whose sudden demise leaves a chasm in the ranks of our leadership, depriving us of a critical voice of advocacy on behalf of our children.

I am here today wearing multiple hats, all of which are equally important; I am a product of public schooling who attended schools in this district as well as the parent of a middle-schooler who chose to send  my child to elementary school in the district.

I also speak to you as Senator for the 26th District, most of which is in LAUSD’s 1st District, and as Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC), 

The item before us today is of critical importance to me. The passing of Dr. Marguerite LaMotte was both unfortunate and untimely. It has also brought us here today to talk about the future of District 1.

Because public education is the gateway to both the personal development and professional success of our state’s African American children, the California Legislative Black Caucus has established concrete education goals to foster a culture of excellence through education as one of the twin public policy pillars of our CLBC Agenda 2020. While the CLBC represents the needs of African-Americans from across the state, I am here today because Black Caucus members represent 144 of the Provision 2 schools in the LAUSD, of critical importance to the Local Control Formula Funding (LCFF) discussions and decisions this body must urgently address, which speaks to the need for a new voice on this board trusted by the community for which it will speak.

We keenly appreciate the power and the promise of a quality education, the critical foundation for learning, understanding and growth for African American children and youth in California. Only quality schooling is the key to advanced learning, lifelong skills, specialized trades, professional capabilities and upward mobility for California’s African American adults.

Some of our education initiatives are:

•To protect and improve access to high quality pre-school for every African American child;

•To increase the African American high school graduation rate by 50% by 2020; and

•To increase the number of African American students admitted to community college, California State University (CSU) and the University of California (UC) by 25% by 2020.

As a caucus, we are firmly committed to realizing these initiatives just as we are firmly committed to a Los Angeles School Board that is representative of the diversity of the children it serves. I bring to you this message from our Caucus: In memory of Marguerite LaMotte, we ask that you help us seat a school boardmember whom parents, children and community alike can turn to for support, confident that our needs will be understood and our voices will be heeded. 

Statistics tell a dire story about LAUSD’s black student population. We must harness every available tool to write a better educational narrative for our children, one that fully taps the African American experience, informing the curriculum and culture with the best we have to offer.  It is important that when families and children turn to this school board for guidance and aid, they see leadership and advocates who look like them. Since December 5th, our community is in need of a new champion. Please help us fill that void.    

It is imperative that this seat not be left vacant. Proposition 30 was a hard-fought battle on behalf of students, teachers, and families touched by unified school districts across the state, including the LAUSD. How that funding is allocated and spent is crucial to our neighborhood schools and will be on this body’s agenda over the next few months. The votes that are taken should reflect representation and advocacy on behalf of black students in the LAUSD system.

We do not have the luxury of waiting for an election. The issues coming before this body are too consequential for too many to allow a vacancy in the District 1 seat.  Ensuring that LCFF is being properly implemented in a way that works for the students of LAUSD, tackling the issue of willful defiance in a way that is respectful of the educational process and sensitive to the racial realities of students of color, and continuing to discuss Title 1 funding and allocation in a way that is strategic yet equitable are just a few of the critical issues that await this  board’s careful consideration and deserve the presence of all seven boardmembers in these seats.

The Black Caucus has not endorsed a candidate for this interim seat. As the Senator of the 26th District, I support an immediate appointment to fill District 1’s vacancy.

I also believe it is important that the seat be filled by someone with more than a cursory understanding of the LAUSD and who can hit the ground running. We need to be certain that the next boardmember understands the District’s complexity and constituencies, has a track record of achievement, can work collectively, is grounded in our community and will represent the students and schools in District 1 energetically, sensitively and creatively. I believe that the career and reputation of Dr. George McKenna recommend him to the community and to this Board as a life-long educator able to take up this urgent task, discharging it competently and caringly for the duration of the late Ms. LaMotte’s unexpired term.

Thank you for your time today.


Holly J. Mitchell
Senator, 26th District