Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte was for the last several years on the losing side of the Los Angeles Unified school board. Her strong alliance with United Teachers Los Angeles and her dislike of most charter schools and of various reform efforts were at odds with where the board was headed under the heavy influence of then-Mayor Antonia Villaraigosa.
It took just one turnover of a board seat — from reform-oriented Nury Martinez, now a councilwoman, to more independent-thinking Monica Ratliff, a lawyer-turned-L.A. Unified elementary teacher — to change all that. Suddenly, when it came to questioning Supt. John Deasy and challenging his proposals for everything from buying iPads to spending the new money coming to the district from the state, LaMotte had plenty of allies on the board.
LaMotte, whose death was reported by The Times on Thursday afternoon, will be missed as a fierce champion of directing more resources to the largely black and Latino students within the district she represented. She understood the community well, though she differed sharply with the reform movement about the best ways to help that community. In recent weeks, she at times seemed confused about exactly what was being proposed or discussed, but to her credit, she wasn’t afraid to ask the questions it took to find out. In most cases, she could be counted on to have a strong opinion — and to voice it.