Marguerite LaMotte, the three-term board member at L.A. Unified School District, died this morning.
According to KPCC, LaMotte, 80, died of natural causes while in San Diego for an education conference. She was pronounced dead by paramedics in her hotel.
First elected in 2003, LaMotte was closely allied with United Teachers Los Angeles, and was often skeptical of charter schools and critical of Superintendent John Deasy.
In a statement, UTLA President Warren Fletcher said that LaMotte “personified all that is the best in this District and in public schools. She was kind and compassionate, and she saw everything through the lens of what is best for our children. … She was simply the best.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti also paid tribute, calling LaMotte “a true trailblazer who dedicated her life to Los Angeles schools.”
LaMotte's death leaves a vacancy on the seven-member board, which is splintered along ideological lines. School board elections tend to pit UTLA supporters against well-funded education reformers with backing from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and advocacy groups such as EdVoice and Students First.
The vacancy could be filled by appointment if the board can agree on a replacement. But if history is any guide, it's more likely that the board will call for a special election. Bloomberg recently spent $1.35 million on three L.A. Unified races, and may soon find himself getting out his checkbook again.