December 12, 2013
By Kenneth D. Miller
Asst. Managing Editor
The Los Angeles Community and the massive Los Angeles Unified School District are still reeling after the stunning demise of treasured Board Member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. She died in her hotel room while attending a conference in San Diego on Dec. 5. LaMotte was 80.
LaMotte was elected to represent District 1 of the LAUSD Board in 2003 and was re-elected in 2007 and recognized as a devout educator and advocate for children all of her adult life. She affectionately called all of the students “her babies.”
Multiple celebrations of her life have been scheduled; included are Lying in Repose on Dec. 19 at Angelus Funeral Home on Crenshaw Blvd. from 12p.m. to 5p.m., Celebration of Life Services on Dec. 21 at St. Brigid Catholic Church located at 5214 S. Western Av. in Los Angeles to be followed by Interment at Holy Cross Cemetery located at 5835 W. Slauson Ave. and a Public Memorial on Jan. 18, 2014 at a location to be announced.
LaMotte was born on July17, 1933 in New Orleans, the youngest of seven children, to Leon and Amy Poindexter.
She flourished in a segregated Louisiana school system and graduated from Xavier Preparatory High School and the YMCA Business College in New Orleans.
Her career in education began at age 18 when she was appointed director of Spaulding Business College in Baton Rouge. She took classes on a part-time basis at Southern University and was awarded a B.A. degree in Education, Summa Cum Laude in 1961. She completed her Master of Education Degree in 1965 from Louisiana State University.
LaMotte was the first African-American woman to serve as visiting professor, LSU Undergraduate School of Education.
When she relocated to Los Angeles in 1973 she described her first teaching assignment in the Special Education Department at Drew Junior High as one of the most rewarding of her life.
Successful promotional examinations led to her service as head counselor, Edison Junior High; assistant principal, Francis Polytechnic High School and in 1984 LaMotte was appointed principal of Horace Mann Junior High School. The tremendous improvement in students’ academic performance and social behavior was featured on several television programs including the Tom Brokaw NBC Nightly News.
In 1988 LaMotte was promoted to director of secondary instruction in Administrative Region C. She also served Region C as administrator of operations. With the District’s reconfiguration in 1991, she requested to return back to the schools, “back to the real action working directly with and positively changing the lives of the students.” She was assigned as principal of Washington Preparatory High School.
Under LaMotte’s direction Washington Prep received Outstanding Accreditation Review by WASC for a maximum 6-year period. LaMotte credited the school’s staff with developing and producing an innovative school-wide study skills program which provides each student with a focused 2-day exposure to the basic study skills needed to be successful and productive. In addition the implementation of standards-based lessons, a continuing effort of all departments, placed Washington in the forefront with common lesson plans for curriculum mapping. LaMotte’s staff considered her the “founder” of the Theater Arts Academy at Washington Preparatory High School.
The former teacher, counselor and principal was elected to serve District 1 of the LAUSD Board of Education in 2003. She was re-elected in 2007 and 2011. LaMotte represented a geographically and ethnically diverse area, including Palms, Mid-City, Baldwin Hills, Pico Union, Jefferson Park, Vermont Knolls, Gramercy Park, Exposition Park, North University Park, Gardena and much more.
Her many colleagues on the board and other prominent elected officials immediately began to mourn their tremendous loss.
“When you think about her life and her accomplishments, she was an educator’s educator,” said Rep. Maxine Waters, a friend and associate of LaMotte’s for some 30 years.
Others also gave a fitting tribute.
Los Angeles County Democratic Party (LACDP) Chair and California Democratic Party Vice Chair Eric C. Bauman issued the following statement on the passing of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte:
“We we mourn the loss of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, one of the strongest advocates for teachers and students in the history of our city. A lifelong ally to Democratic causes, LaMotte never backed down from a hard fight. Her leadership will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with her family and many, many friends.”
Councilmember Curren D. Price Jr. said:
“Marguerite LaMotte was a long time community leader who dedicated her life to the noble cause of educating children, spending most of her professional career serving the South Los Angeles community. Her spirit will be missed and my condolences go out to her family.”
Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) released the following statement on the passing of Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member Marguerite LaMotte, who had served on the board since 2003:
“Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte’s legacy is the difference she made in the lives of countless people who attended Los Angeles schools, and who benefited from her passionate and determined leadership. My sincerest condolences are with her family and many friends.”
“I am honored to have known this fearless fighter of public education for over 15 years. As a field organizer at Unified Teachers of Los Angeles, we worked closely together on significant education policy issues that made an enormous impact on our youth. Likewise, I have also volunteered on her successful bids to represent District 1 of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board in 2003 and 2007,” said Carson City Councilman Mike Gipson.
Los Angeles Sentinel Executive Publisher Danny J. Bakewell Sr., for whom a school is named in his honor and sits in her district, was also saddened by the loss.
“First and foremost Marguerite LaMotte was a friend. She was someone who could always be relied upon and each of us have a responsibility to become caretakers of a legacy that can not be duplicated in the education field,” Bakewell stated.
She was preceded in death by her parents, brothers, Frank and Willie Poindexter and sisters, Elodia Rogers and Alma Ferebee. She leaves to cherish her memory, a son, Dale LaMotte of Little Rock, Arkansas and daughter, Faye Landry of Los Angeles and three grandchildren: Christopher, Clayton and Danielle; brother, Leon Poindexter of Houston, Texas and sister, Juanita Shepherd of Katy, Texas; faithful companion, Melvin Morris and a host of relatives and friends.