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Two teachers joining the race for LA Unified board seat

Vanessa Romo | January 13, 2014

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Now that the special election for the open District 1 seat on the LA Unified school board is set for June 3, a host of candidates say they will throw a hat in the ring, including two teachers, Sherlett Hendy Newbill and Rachel Johnson.

Here is a rundown of the line up so far:


Sherlett Hendy Newbill

Sherlett Hendy Newbill

Newbill, a teacher for 15 years and girl’s basketball coach at Dorsey High School has also served as the teachers union (UTLA) co-chapter chair at Dorsey for seven years.

She told LA School Report, “I grew up in Board District 1, came back to teach in Board District 1, and worked closely with board member LaMotte on projects to improve schools in this community.  This community needs strong representation because our schools have been under-served and under-resourced for too long.”


Rachel Johnson

Rachel Johnson

Johnson, a 30-year veteran teacher, is currently a kindergarten teacher at Purche Avenue Elementary School and a Gardena City Councilwoman. At the school board meeting last week, she asked for a swift appointment to the seat, explaining,” I’ve always deferred to the side of election because that is our bread and butter but this situation is very complex.”

She said she had to “break rank with many of my political colleagues” in deciding to run.


Alex Johnson

Alex Johnson

Alex Johnson, Assistant Senior Deputy for Education and Public Safety to Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, is close to declaring.

His name was floated by Ridley-Thomas’ office the day after LaMotte’s death, and his political advisor, Frederic MacFarlane, told LA School Report today, “He has not made a final decision but it’s close, it’s very close.”

MacFarlane says Johnson “still has some key people he feels it’s important to touch base with before he reaches a decision.”

Prior to his work for Ridley-Thomas, Johnson worked closely with school instructional leaders in the New York City Department of Education. He also worked for the late noted attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr.


George McKenna

George McKenna

If Johnson runs, he’ll compete against George McKenna, the first choice for the seat among the pro-appointment camp at the school board meeting last week. (They even had their own t-shirts made.)

McKenna, a retired LA Unified administrator and former superintendent, has built up a broad support base in the weeks since the seat became vacant. And since his announcement last week, he told LA School Report, “it has grown exponentially. Every day there are new organizations encouraging me to run.”

U.S. Representatives Maxine Waters and Karen Bass have been key in rallying support around McKenna.


Genethia Hudley Hayes

Genethia Hudley-Hayes

Hayes is looking to make a comeback to the school board. She served from 1999 to 2003, then, as president, lost her seat to LaMotte.

She told LA School Report she’s eager to address all of the changing needs of area schools, not just those of the black community.

“This is not about this being a seat for black people; if you look at a map of the district, there’s a lot of diversity in District 1,” she said. “There are Latinos, Asians, there are Anglos – if you look at the map it goes all the way up to Hancock Park, so I think you need to be talking to all of those communities.”

Hudley Hayes hopes to gain the support of UTLA and says she’ll be reaching out to them “today or tomorrow.”


Jimmie Woods Gray

Jimmie Woods-Gray

Woods-Gray is in the running, according to the LA Times. Recently appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti as a Fire Commissioner, she is a former LA Unified teacher, union activist and chair of the union’s political action committee (PACE), who ran for a State Assembly seat in 2012.  LA School Report has been unable to reach Gray for comment.

Photo Credit: Jimmie Woods Gray by Marta Evry

Previous Posts: LAUSD cannot appoint an interim board memberThe LA Unified board sets June 3 election to fill vacant LaMotte seatEditorial boards agree on special election for LAUSD seat.

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