Sometimes, reasonable minds really can disagree on a course of action.  And sometimes that disagreement is not hypocritical or foot-dragging; sometimes just taking a deep breath and counting to ten is not only the most cautious and respectful thing to do, but the most pragmatic as well.

Following the death of octogenarian LAUSD board member LaMotte, there has been a flurry of assertive indecision regarding the next, proper course of action.  She was in life herself iconic of a style of cut-and-dried, unambiguous straight-talking, action.  If it jeopardizes my babies, I’m agin’ it.  Ms LaMotte seemed less willing to hedge or preempt a political vote with games of strategy than some.  Whether she actually saw things as more black-or-white than they appeared to others, or rather whether she simply chose an aesthetic of expedience, is unclear.  But her forcefulness was commanding, and in the wake of her death it feels incumbent upon we who survive to see the process of her succession match her style of honesty.

That said, most of the rest of her colleagues were never quite so definitive in the clicking of that speaker-button on and off.  It is hardly surprising that the board failed to agree upon a majority action for deciding how to anoint her successor when even her funeral has yet to be unfurled.  For there is deep, reasonable ambiguity in how to proceed.  And choosing between two courses that are each significantly different yet simultaneously reasonable, merits a period of respectful waiting to permit an understanding of how the consequences of these different actions might mature.

On the one hand there is little question that democracy is served best when its constituents vote:  that is the point.  In this case the past three elections have been infused with vast sums of exogenous monies from educational ideologues clear across this country, some not even educators or politicians.  This degree of politicization is fierce to combat.  When money is power and there is a lot of money, that translates to a transfer of power amidst severely undemocratic prospects.  The concern is very real that well-funded outsiders will unfairly influence our “less-resourced” electorate.

On the other hand, relegating appointment of LaMotte’s successor to her remaining colleagues would by definition leave the choice of representation in her district to those not from her district.  Though indirect as an appointment might be, it is nevertheless an appealing solution for its very LaMotte-like expediency.  It’s hard to imagine she would condone a protracted, expensive, election, the duration of which would leave her district unrepresented and distracted from the business of managing education, with all the while her babies growing ever more impecunious.

Reasonable minds can reasonably disagree as to how to proceed.  And reasonable minds might therefore wish just to take a deep breath and think on the matter a titch.  For delay is not inherently a stalling, passive-aggressive do-something-without-doing-anything tactic; delay can be a positive action by permitting time for consensus to grow.

In the wake of this political vacancy several big-name politicos have swooped down on Los Angeles asserting prerogative to “be involved“, and more are circling the perimeter watching for openings.  But any decisive move or advocacy under the shade of an as-yet-pending funeral would appear unseemly at best, suspiciously precipitous at worst.

In particular the controversial presence of one community activist known locally for racially charged transportation advocacy threatens distraction from an effort to grow support for appointing the esteemed Dr George McKenna to follow Ms LaMotte’s tenure.  It is possible that Dr McKenna may embody a compromise between politically polarized education philosophies, one favoring an old-school, strong teacher-centered pedagogical model while incorporating a “reform-minded” philosophy that utilizes modern quasi-objective measures.

Dr. McKenna, while sharing some career landmarks with Ms LaMotte, is clearly no clone of her.  It will be painful to recapitulate the philosophical schism present in the education landscape of today between many veteran teachers and modern administrators.  Re-enacting this fight in the succession of Ms LaMotte could be draining emotionally and financially and in no way is likely to best further the interests of children.  Finding a true compromise candidate may be the safest, wisest course in everyone’s best interest collectively.  A respectful delay will enable us not only to honor our dead but as well afford us the time necessary to hear what compromise might sound like.  In the cataclysm of crisis it is difficult to separate noise from signal.  Some of the latter-day champions of the oft-retired Dr McKenna were his greatest champions two decades hence, when there were many as well who were not so enamored of his reforms.  And yet perhaps Dr McKenna’s polarizing reforms of the time were an advance wave of the future.  We must afford ourselves time to hear from his former associates, supportive and not.  Delaying the process of deciding succession will permit ourselves to hear not just the pain of grief but what it is such wisdom might sound like.