By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Four years ago, Genethia Hayes replaced Barbara Boudreaux, whose specialty was helping to promote and protect black administrators. Boudreaux’s tack made sense back when racism blocked the rise of qualified black professionals. But Hayes offered a more timely, inclusive agenda, one more focused on students than adults and one that recognized the needs of Latinos as well as blacks. In this South L.A. board district, the key voters are elderly blacks, but most students are Latino.
Hayes, 57, is tough, smart and fearless — even when it comes to endorsing the replacement of ineffective black administrators. Which isn’t to say she lacks for critics. Some African-American leaders view her as insufficiently watchful of their interests; others simply find her arrogant and dismissive. Her opponent, Marguerite LaMotte, arises from both arenas of discontent. LaMotte, 69, was herself removed as principal of Washington Prep High in 2001. She ultimately retired rather than accept reassignment at a middle school. She contends that she was unjustly removed after a decade at Washington, where she’s best remembered for building the school’s music program. Academically, Washington has occupied the same basement as most other district high schools, for a laundry list of reasons.
LaMotte’s thin platform stresses a return to hiring from within — an odd priority given the current state of things, and also a stark contrast with Hayes, who has supported paying higher salaries to lure the best talent from a nationwide pool of educators and private-business executives.
LaMotte’s backers include former board member Boudreaux, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and the teachers union. Hayes has the backing of former Mayor Riordan’s Coalition for Kids, but as a longtime community leader, Hayes is by no means a candidate of his creation.
Hayes, despite her prickliness, is better qualified and a stronger leader.3rd District — Caprice Young
Redistricting left Caprice Young with a west San Fernando Valley–based seat dominated by moderate Anglo voters. It was presumed to be a lock for her. Instead, the campaign’s a dogfight — partly because Young’s new constituents are not familiar with her good work at campuses in her old district. Young’s also the board member most closely associated with former Mayor Riordan, a sticking point for the 6,000 active teachers and numerous retired teachers who live here. All of them make natural foot soldiers for the teachers union, which is determined to counter Riordan’s picks and especially to unseat Young. Her opponent, Jon Lauritzen, 64, is one of these retired teachers.
Lauritzen has three times run unsuccessfully for the state Assembly and has long been active in his community. He’s not especially up-to-date, even when it comes to computers and math instruction, two of his classroom specialties. His core plan — to return decision making to the school site — has intrinsic appeal but would inevitably undo some current districtwide reforms, which need and deserve more time to work. To his credit, he’s not afraid to disagree with his teachers-union sponsors, but he lacks Young’s grasp of issues now confronting the school system.
It’s no coincidence that Young presides over meetings as school-board president. She used political cunning and leadership skills to maneuver into this role, and she also employs these abilities to develop and evaluate district policy. All at once, she can push Riordan’s occasional agenda item (for better or for worse), support Superintendent Roy Romer and advance the best ideas from the profuse, scattershot intellect of David Tokofsky, her board colleague who has fallen out with Riordan. (Young’s also capable of poor judgment — as when she accepted a part-time position with a nonprofit funded by voucher advocate Ted Forstmann.)
Young, 37, made political hay this month by unexpectedly announcing her desire to break up the behemoth school system. This plan looks every inch like a ploy to appeal to secession-leaning Valley voters. Timing aside, Young’s views are probably genuine; she has, in the past, expressed doubt about whether a big L.A. Unified is actually better.
With reservations, we support Young, because her leadership is simply too critical to this current board in terms of both improving schools and building new ones.Tokofsky: Necessary watchdog(Photo by Ted Soqui) 5th District — David Tokofsky
Two-term incumbent David Tokofsky, 42, must feel only slightly less pressured to accept regime change than Saddam Hussein. First, he was redistricted to a crazy quilt of precincts that snake from Los Feliz and Eagle Rock in the north down to South Gate. (South Gate is among several cities outside L.A. proper that are served by L.A. Unified.) The Latino voter registration is about 59 percent, and these voters don’t particularly know Tokofsky. (In his old district, he was generally well-regarded by both teachers and parents.) Next, Richard Riordan and Eli Broad unsuccessfully courted Occidental College president Ted Mitchell to run against Tokofsky. Then, the teachers-union leadership made noises about withholding its endorsement — until rank-and-file teachers went overwhelmingly his way. Now Tokofsky faces three Latino candidates who, together, are certain to push him into a runoff. And in that runoff, he’ll likely have to confront the full-funding muscle of Riordan and Broad.