The immediate crisis following LAUSD board member Marguerite LaMotte’s untimely death involves deciding whether to name her replacement through an election or via school board appointment.  Current board member Bennett Kayser has articulated the issues and consequences of this decision very clearly.

As a direct consequence of her very strong character, Ms. LaMotte’s death leaves a void of conscience that many are concerned be filled appropriately.  In direct parallel with the previous three regular board elections (first for Bennet Kayser, next for Steve Zimmer and most recently for Mónica Ratliff) that were underwritten by monied philanthropists many of whom (i) do not live in this city, (ii) do not have children in the public school system and (iii) do not support a democratic ideal of public education for and by the public – in parallel with an election underwritten by billionaires’ interests it is feared that such an election would also therefore be undergirded by stealth agendas.

The argument being hoisted to justify an election is to tint the dilemma in civil rights colors.  It is observed that representation is the focus of injustice and claimed that without a special election the people of LAUSD1 cannot be faithfully represented.

But omitted from this argument is the long campaign season during which LAUSD1 will remain completely unrepresented on the board altogether.  For during this season will be decided matters of enormous financial consequence with very long-term ramifications among the children of LAUSD1 for years and years to come.  At stake is this year’s multi-billion dollar budget.  At stake is the issue of 1:1 electronics acquisitions with associated questions of the schools’ infrastructural support for the program and the underlying motive driven by the ideology of commercial educational testing.

Driving this ideology is the enormous educational sea-change of Common Core being implemented nationally as an expression of political philosophy with direct civil rights implications.  In the midst of all this upheaval comes another infrastructural change at the state level with a new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) for distributing monies differently.

These are all policy matters of the largest possible import and consequence, being addressed by the board in the next six months, during precisely the proposed election season that would leave LAUSD1 not-represented on that school board.  As another wag recently put it:  if you’re not sitting at the table, you’re on the menu.  Relying on a special election to address the civil rights of democratic representation in LAUSD1 will leave that district undemocratically un-represented altogether, during a time when it is extra-especially vulnerable.

Non-representation is a matter of greater civil wrong than delayed representation.  Absorbing the cost and time-delay of a special election will be akin to fiddling while Rome Burns at Beaudry, a special representative will arrive there only to find the boat long-sailed and gone.

To attend the civil rights of the children of LAUSD1 requires relinquishing the elected prerogative of its voters in favor of the board’s appointment of an interim caretaker of the stakeholders’ rights.  Under today’s imperative it will be necessary to trust to the knowledge of our current school board members to appoint political representation to safeguard the interests of LAUSD1 carefully.  The individual who can do this in best reference to Ms LaMotte’s wishes, will be an education advocate familiar with the huge, complicated issues on the table, and capable of working effectively with its current board members to the benefit of LAUSD1 stakeholders

The particular selection of this individual is the prerogative of the remaining school board members.  While “the community” of LAUSD1 wishes to forward a consensus candidate, it is difficult to know who defines “the community”.  The demographics of LAUSD1 have shifted, but finding current demographics of LAUSD districts is difficult from their website.  While once LAUSD1 may have been majority African-American, Latinos are now present in large, possibly majority numbers.  Certain political leaders have come together in support of retired schools administrator Dr. George McKenna.  Another group of advocates supports retired school teacher and politico Jimmie Woods-Gray.  I would welcome a short roster of more such well-qualified candidates, and a very short time-line for vetting the list publicly.

Because it is difficult to identify a consensus candidate for a community that is amorphous (who is most important, LAUSD1 voters?  stakeholders?  schoolchildren?  taxpayers?  the politically connected? parents?  teachers?  administrators?  etc…), and under such pressured, crisis conditions, generating a list of qualified candidates for the board to vet seems eminently sensible.

It seems to me therefore the critical decision is FIRST to recognize unambiguously the importance of choosing an appointment rather than election.  The specifics of who and how the appointment is to be vetted are secondary.

I urge one and all to contact all schoolboard members to call for an appointment rather than election of Ms LaMotte’s successor.  Who they will pick is a nervous-making contingency, secondary to the crucial decision of making a time-, money- and democracy-saving APPOINTMENT.