Holding on to the cherished memories of his late friends Brenda Marsh-Mitchell and Marguerite LaMotte, District 1 Seat LAUSD Board Member Dr. George McKenna took the oath to fill out LaMotte’s term through March 2014. McKenna was sworn in Tuesday August 26. He has vowed that will run for reelection. (Troy Tieuel photo)
With a heavy heart and community trust he returns to service
An emotional Dr. George McKenna III, clasped an obituary of Brenda Marsh-Mitchell in his right hand and former school board member Marguerite LaMotte in his left hand and then sat in District Seat 1 at the Los Angeles Unified School Board in a historical swearing in ceremony on Tuesday August 26.
His long time friend LaMotte died last December creating an urgency for the nationally acclaimed educator to return to service from retirement. Marsh-Mitchell was the fuel for his campaign victory before she passed away in early August.
McKenna continued to embrace them both as he accepted the oath from The Rev. Jesse Jackson while both Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Brotherhood Crusade and Los Angeles Sentinel and Los Angeles Watts Times Publisher Danny Bakewell Sr. held the bible in a standing room only board room.
“We as a team experienced an opportunity that was hard fought, but well deserved because we all did it for the right reason,” said McKenna, “to try to emancipate our children, our families and our staff members from anything that stands in the way of a quality education.”
The team instrumental in securing the District 1 Seat for Dr. George McKenna included Jackson, Rep. Waters, Bakewell, Congresswoman Karen Bass who was out of town and could not make the ceremony and United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl.
The packed crowd which consisted of former board member Rita Walters, former and current city council members, Bob Farrell, David Cunningham, Jan Perry and Jackie Robinson (Pasadena) as well as LAUSD teachers, parents and concerned community members applauded McKenna’s every completed sentence.
“With the existing team that we have here, I think that we are now complete,” added McKenna.
“I want to acknowledge the presence of two important people. In my left hand is a picture of my dear friend who sat in that seat Marguerite LaMotte. In my right hand is a friend who is still in my heart whose children are here today Mrs. Brenda Marsh Mitchell. [Brenda] has been a friend of mine for at least 40 years and has worked with us on many campaigns, the Brotherhood Crusade and other community activities with Danny Bakewell, like family. The greatest testament she paid to me was she sent her children to Washington High School before any of you knew what Washington High School was or what it was going to become. That was a great testament when people are willing to trust you with their most prized possession---their children. When others are saying why would you go there. She said, ‘because George McKenna is there.’”
The long and exhaustive political mudslinging did not deter or deny McKenna who transformed Washington High School from an under performing public school into model educational facility.
Tamela Marsh-Mitchell, who sat in the front row with her son Kennedy, is one of many examples of that legacy.
Jackson challenged the parents.
“We need to challenge our parents. It takes a village to raise a child. Sick villages raise sick children and we want parents to do six basic things,” he said.
“Take your child to school. Meet your child’s teachers. Exchange phone numbers. Turn the TV off three hours a night. Pick up your child’s report cards every nine weeks. Take your child to church or synagogue once a week.”
Waters rejoiced in the hard fought political victory for her friend McKenna.
“Today is a wonderful and special day in the city,” she said.
“We are so fortunate to have Dr. George McKenna who came out of retirement to be of service to our children and our parents one more time. We have one of he nation’s best educators who decided to come out of retirement to take District Seat 1 because we lost Marguerite LaMotte. He decided he would come out of retirement because this school district and city needs him.”
Bakewell hailed McKenna was being the right man for the job.
“The community has spoken,” Bakewell shouted.
“He is the right man for the right time for the right job and we appreciate him stepping up and making us proud. We know that our children’s futures are in the right hands and if we just follow his lead, we know that LAUSD, not other schools, but LAUSD will set the standard so when we talk about quality education we will be talking about education that fits our school district.”
The August 12 special election was certified on August 19, declaring Dr. McKenna the winner to fill the vacancy created by the December 2013 death of Board Member LaMotte. Board District 1 spans from Windsor Hills to the southwest, Cheviot Hills to the northwest, and Hancock Park to the north, and University Park to the northeast and parts of Gardena to the southeast.
A community swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, September 6, at Washington Preparatory High School in South Los Angeles, to accommodate the community’s interest in celebrating the victory and congratulating Dr. McKenna.