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In Replacing LaMotte on LAUSD Board, Zimmer is Key

Vanessa Romo | December 11, 2013

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TwowaysignThe LA Unified school board will likely decide next week how to fill the seat vacated by the sudden death of Marguerite LaMotte, according to the board meeting agenda posted today. For now, the vote that could determine which way appears to be Steve Zimmer‘s.

With a choice of appointing a replacement or calling a special election to fill the seat, the board, which rarely reaches unanimity on anything, seems to be leaning toward an election, by three votes to two.

For the moment, at least three members appear to favor a special election.

Board President Richard Vladovic leans toward an election, according to someone who has discussed the issue with him. Monica Garcia told LA School Report today, “The best way to honor Ms. LaMotte is to assure the community that there’s a fair process. There should be an election.” And Tamar Galatzan said, in a statement, “I think it is vitally important for every community to have the right to be represented by the elected official of their choosing.”

Meanwhile, Bennett Kayser’s office confirmed that he favors the board making an appointment to fill the position, and today he wrote a commentary in the Daily News arguing for that.  A source friendly with Monica Ratliff said she also favors picking a replacement.

That leaves Zimmer, whose vote for an appointment would result in a 3-3 deadlock. He declined to comment.

The board is expected to consider the options at the board meeting scheduled for December 17, and in all likelihood will vote. They might even vote on the replacement, should they choose to make an appointment.

What’s less certain is whether there will be four votes for one approach over the other. With only six sitting members, any resolution needs a majority, and a 3-3 vote spells defeat.

Each approach poses challenges. An election could cost the district in excess of $1 million and leave District 1 residents without representation on the board for months. An election would have to be coordinated and approved by the LA City Council and could not be scheduled for at least 110 days after the Council approves a motion to hold the election.

An appointment opens the door to what could become a contentious and possibly acrimonious process in deciding who the replacement should be. Not only are there no set rules for recruiting and vetting a potential replacement board member, the final selection runs the risk of angering community groups who might oppose any specific candidate.

And now that US lawmakers from Los Angeles districts overlapping school board District 1, including Representatives Maxine Waters and Karen Bass, have expressed opinions about filling the seat, board members have additional sentiments to consider.

Sources outside the board said today that conversations on several fronts have been underway, including efforts to identify a consensus candidate who might satisfy elected officials and community leaders, regardless of which approach for selection the board chooses.

Previous Posts: Charter Schools Association Pushing Election for LaMotte Seat, Black Leaders Speak Out on How to Fill LaMotte’s Board Seat, Filling LaMotte Seat by Election or Appointment? Board is Decider

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