As candidates line up for the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) District 1 special election on June 3, the district’s board of education appointed a replacement for the late Marguerite LaMotte last week during a closed session.
In the interim, USC clinical education professor and Rossier School of Education urban scholar Sylvia Rousseau will serve as LaMotte’s successor, though she will not be able to cast a binding vote.
When the board began to discuss how to best represent District 1 in the wake of LaMotte’s passing in December, board Vice President Steve Zimmer, 4th District, proposed both a special election and an interim appointment. However, his motion was rejected.
“I still feel very disappointed that … I could not convince my colleagues to seat someone in an attempt to enfranchise their vote,” he said. “I believe that District 1 should have representation in this time. I remain disappointed that I was not successful in [creating] a pathway that my colleagues could support.”
However, Zimmer said he believes the appointment can and will be helpful in providing “input, guidance and coalescing sentiments” from District 1 to give a “scholarly analysis” of the situations facing District 1.
“I believe the person is ideal,” he said of Rousseau. “The role that we were able to get … is far from ideal, but I think that Dr. Russo’s talents and experiences will be very beneficial to the board.”
The board was criticized for making the decision behind closed doors, and Zimmer said the decision to do so was not made for “any reason that I can understand, but that was certainly allowable by law.” He said the appointment was essentially a hiring.
“Again, it was not my first choice for how it would be done, but at this point, that we were able to get it done was more important than how we did it,” Zimmer said, adding that he has no doubt Rousseau is the best choice to help the board at this time. “I have no doubts or concerns about her and about the help she can provide. I hoped for a more expansive role, but this is what the board agreed to at this time.”
According to her USC profile, Rousseau has been a USC clinical education professor and urban scholar since 2006. Prior to that, she served as the superintendent of Local District 7 in the LAUSD from 2001 to 2005. During her time as superintendent, she led four years of consistent student improvement, partnered with colleges and Teach for America to “create a major increase” in credential teachers, converted high schools to small learning communities and created tools to promote literacy and standards-based instruction.
Numerous candidates have opted to fill the District 1 seat following Rousseau’s interim appointment. They are educator David Earle Moch, education consultant Genethia Hudley-Hayes, retired principal/superintendent George McKenna, retired educator/counselor Hattie B. McFrazier, teacher/coach Sherlett Hendy Newbill, educator/Gardena council member Rachel C. Johnson, parent Marco P. Mendoza, education advocate/engineer Alison Noel, educator/school psychologist Marilyn Veincentotzs, teacher/children advocate Omarosa O. Manigault, education policy advisor Alex Johnson, volunteer/advocate Priscilla Reed and teacher/publicist Lady Cage-Barile.
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