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LA School board puts off discussion on how to fill seat vacated by LaMotte death

Marguerite LaMotte
Marguerite LaMotte

Los Angeles Unified school board will not discuss until January how to fill the seat vacated by the death of Marguerite LaMotte.

Attendees cheered the decision to delay, as many stated it was disrespectful to fill the position before LaMotte's burial. Her funeral is scheduled for Saturday.

“I want to be respectful of a conversation about culture and tradition, but our decision to wait is an action," said board member Monica Garcia, who stressed that a decision should not be delayed.  “We need very clear that not taking an action is an action.”

Due to board rules, a majority had to agree to waive requirements to have the discussion Tuesday. Impassioned speakers - including black political leaders - asked the board repeatedly over nearly an hour of public comment to put off the discussion out of respect for LaMotte, saying she would have done the same for them. The motion failed with a 3-3 vote.

“Our community is still coping with the loss of this important leader who fought so hard for children in underserved communities,” said Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles). Lamotte’s district is historically black, though demographics are have now shifted majority Latino.

The board selected Jan. 7 for the discussion on replacing LaMotte.

Of the public comments relating to the larger question before the board - whether to appoint someone to fill the remaining 18 months of LaMotte's term or to hold a special election - the consensus was to hold an election. The last special election for a school board seat cost $1.9 million.

A black board member has represented District 1 since 1979, and the subtext of the speakers insinuated it must continue as a position of black leadership.

“I am a voter of the first district,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the last to speak. "I’m not prepared to trade my vote and have others substitute my vote."