Sunday, July 27, 2014

Politics as (un)usual: As ugly as it gets

4LAKids: Sunday 27•July•2014
In This Issue:
 •  Endorsements by the L.A. Times & AALA: GEORGE McKENNA FOR L.A. UNIFIED SCHOOL BOARD
 •  GEORGE McKENNA CAMPAIGN UNDER ATTACK: Community Outraged over lies, innuendo and propaganda
 •  What can YOU do?

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On August 12th there will be an election to determine who gets to fill the final 10½ months of the late Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte’s seat on the LAUSD Board of Education. August 12th is also the first day of school for the new school year. And as the kids head back to the classroom the adults are behaving badly.

There’s a theme here; you will read below differing accounts of the goings on/shenanigans/dirty politics in District One. • The L.A. Times re-endorsement of Dr. McKenna– and that of AALA, the administrator’s union. •Sandy Bank’s attempt to be fair+even-handed …though in telling the truth she cannot help but side with the truth. •The Red Queen’s intellectual outrage. • The L.A. Sentinel’s grassroots outrage – tempered with pure political intimidation, fearful in naming the name of the Powerbroker-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. (Does the name Lord Valdemort ring a bell?) • And the angry censored Soulvine columns of Betty Pleasant; the editor pulled the plug on her L.A. Wave op-eds the past two weeks – lest He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Offended/The Outside-Operator-in-Chief take offense.

4LAKids has already declared our support for Dr. McKenna. In attempted equal-time/fair-play I have yet to find an article supporting Dr. McKenna’s opponent that doesn’t reek of framing, spin and paid political wordcraft. Or just plain lies.

That said opponent has a name, it is Alex Johnson. And he has qualifications: 1. He is the Assistant Senior Deputy for Education and Public Safety to County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas – the overlord of this intrigue. And 2: He has a lot of money backing his candidacy. That money translates into a lot of campaign posters and election mailers and robocalls. He has been promoted, packaged, branded and sold by MRT, the charter school promoters, the Gates and Broads and Waltons and Deasys – the forces of $chool ®eform, Inc. – the very “outside operators” who have been given more schools in District One than anywhere else. Community activist Betty Pleasant says only the Johnson supporters are “preachers who tow [Mark Ridley Thomas’] line because they have charter school and preschool contracts with L.A. County which they believe would be jeopardized if they didn’t back Johnson.”

A special Political Action Committee has been formed to promote Johnson behind the scenes. [“NEW POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE FORMS IN L.A. BD OF ED RACE: PAC is run by Dan Chang, who headed Deasy’s nonprofit”|] At the end of the day Johnson is an attractive empty package, new and shiny and sparkly, who shows some promise. Get some today!

Alex Johnson has no record, as Larry Aubry said in his L.A. Sentinel Op-Ed “Alex Johnson is just carrying his boss’ water.” His experience in education has been that of a student. Not to downplay students - this is all about students - we all have been students and the best of us work at it every day. But as George McKenna says: “I have been a patient in a hospital; that doesn’t qualify me as a nurse or doctor or surgeon or a hospital administrator. Or for a seat on the Board of Directors at the hospital”

If you can’t run on your own record you run against your opponent’s.

Mostly Mark+Alex’s spending of millionaire-donor’s money translates into a lot of very ugly negative campaigning against Dr. McKenna – who has the audacity to be an educator with fifty years of experience holding every job from classroom teacher to superintendent of schools in three school districts – and beaucoup experience in LAUSD as an administrator from principal to local district superintendent. George McKenna has talked-the talk, walked-the-walk; taught-the-class, got-the-degree; been there, done that and got the whole drawer of t-shirts. (This is hyperbolic – I have never seen McKenna in a t-shirt!)

McKenna bristles at being called a called a hero, or at his work being called heroic by Hollywood or others. It may not be good TV movie fare but the heroism practiced in the schools everyday by teachers and administrators and students is what needs to motivate us. Education is not easy, it’s hard. Teaching children to read - and learning to read are the hardest things imaginable – especially for a six-year-old who doesn’t have a book at home, who doesn’t speak English at home – who may not get enough food or sleep – who may not feel safe in his own neighborhood.

There is no hidden agenda here. George McKenna’s heart is on his sleeve – his entire career has been spent preparing young people for successful lives. In so doing he has been preparing for the days after August 12th when he can continue that life’s work on the Board of Education. This election is about children’s promising futures ….not his own.

School starts on August 12th, part of our superintendent’s (just-in-time-for-global-warming) Early Start Calendar. If you live in District One you can outflank the supe and the powers-that-be – the folks who insist on turning over your schools to outside operators. You can start The New School Year and the future of LAUSD even earlier - and better prepared for success - by completing and mailing-in your ballot before Aug 5th.

NOVELIST BEL KAUFMAN HAS DIED; she was 103 – but she will always be the brand new fresh faced turned cynical teacher-cog-in-the-public-education-machine Sylvia Barrett in the novel/memoir “Up The Down Staircase” (1965) – “…shot through with despair and hopefulness, violence and levity, bureaucratic inanity and a blizzard of official memorandums so mind-bendingly illogical as to seem almost Kafkaesque — hailed as a stunningly accurate portrait of life in an urban school.”

I first read UTDS when a was a student-cog-in-the-public-education-machine - and it helped me realize back in pre-history that Fiction Is Something That Didn’t Happen, Not Something That Isn’t True, that Truth and its sidekick Reality can be as painfully funny as a Roadrunner cartoon …and that there’s no avoiding the forgoing two things – one might as well write them down. UTDS still lives on my Kindle alongside Moby Dick, Anna K. and the columns of Jack Smith.

AND FINALLY: 4LAKids has sadly learned of the death of DIANA DIXON DAVIS – the longtime legislation director for 31st District (San Fernando Valley) PTA a week back.

Diana was a force of nature. She was as powerful an advocate for Kids and Parents and PTA as ever there was in this District ...and as tenacious and authoritative an authority as there could be on matters legislative – and served on many LAUSD Board of Ed committees, commissions and task forces.

Diana was a big part of whatever passed for parent engagement back in the day (as opposed to what passes for it in this day) and was certainly+intellectually engaged in committee work and board business both at 450 No Grand and Beaudry. She was excellent at calling me at all hours and telling me what I should be doing ...and she was invariably right.

As another said of her: Diana was wonderful person.


¡Onward/Adelante! - smf


GEORGE MCKENNA FOR L.A. UNIFIED SCHOOL BOARD: “McKenna continues to come across as someone whose first consideration is helping kids learn.”

By The Times Editorial Board |

July 21, 2014, 5:10 PM :: Two candidates with different styles and viewpoints are vying to join the Los Angeles Unified school board, replacing longtime board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who died in December. Both of the candidates also hold different beliefs than did LaMotte, who was a fiery opponent of most school reform.

This is an opportunity for voters in District 1, which includes South Los Angeles and sections of West Los Angeles, to make themselves heard. That's especially true, sad to say, because voter turnout on this one-race election day, Aug. 12, is expected to be below 10%. The only good thing that can be said about such low participation is that those who do turn out to vote will be making their ballots count.

When they do, a strong choice for the job is retired L.A. schools administrator George McKenna, who won national attention and praise for reforms he instituted during the 1980s as principal of one of L.A. Unified's high schools, George Washington Preparatory High in Westmont. Thirty years later, McKenna continues to come across as someone whose first consideration is helping kids learn, especially socioeconomically disadvantaged students who for too long have been shorted on classroom space and qualified teachers.

McKenna hasn't always been a successful administrator — his tenure as superintendent of the Inglewood schools was marked by fiscal and other problems that were addressed too slowly — but we think his well-thought-out positions will serve him well as a school board member.

McKenna's opponent, Alex Johnson, also talks about putting students first. But Johnson, an avid reform candidate and education aide to L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, lacks the depth of educational understanding that McKenna would bring to the board. Johnson tends to phrase his concerns in generic political terms rather than thinking through his positions and backing up his assertions with facts.

It's encouraging to see that both candidates support the continued leadership of Supt. John Deasy, who has been a positive force for the school district. McKenna is more likely to question Deasy's proposals when he feels the superintendent is heading in the wrong direction, but he made it clear to the editorial board that he hopes Deasy will continue in the job through the expiration of his contract in 2016. Given Deasy's occasional tendency to make bold moves too hastily — including his original proposal to purchase more than 600,000 iPads — it's a good thing if board members are willing to challenge him when necessary.

Ideology holds little interest for McKenna. As a board member, he is likely to consider each issue on its individual merits rather than follow pre-set allegiances. We trust him to ask serious questions and vote for common-sense solutions.

On Aug. 12 — which is also the first day of school — voters should remember that this year, there's another important part of the day. They should show up at their polling places to help shape the district's future.


From the AALA Update week of July 28, 2014 |

July 24, 2014 :: As the race for the District 1 seat on the LAUSD Board of Education enters its final days, AALA-endorsed candidate Dr. George McKenna is continuing to garner more endorsements (Mónica Ratliff, CSEA Chapter 500, California Title 1 Parent Union, LA School Police Association) while his opponent has resorted to a smear campaign. On the day that the Los Angeles Times printed another editorial supporting Dr. McKenna, in a show of desperation, the opposing side sent out a distorted letter misrepresenting Dr. McKenna’s character and leadership. While the McKenna campaign has focused on his experience, strengths, leadership and knowledge, the opponent can only respond with attacks and negativity.

The Times also reported that a new political action committee has formed to influence the outcome of the election. It is called the Great Public Schools Los Angeles Political Action Committee and is headed by Dan Chang who was the executive director of LA Fund, the nonprofit created by Superintendent Deasy to support LAUSD, as well as an executive with Green Dot and L.A.’s Promise. Clearly, this is another attempt by outside interests and charter schools to get an even stronger foothold into the District.

CSEA Chapter 500 recently endorsed Dr. McKenna and its president, Linda Perez, sent an appeal to her members and leaders of other organizations saying:

…I must also tell you that I was Dr. McKenna's secretary for a couple of years and I got to know him very well! In my humble opinion, Dr. McKenna is the only candidate worth fighting for…Dr. McKenna is a man of integrity, honesty, passion for our students and fairness for LAUSD employees, particularly CSEA Classified Professionals. I know! I was there with him, 5 days a week. I witnessed closely his dedication and love for his profession. I saw how students from decades reached out to him to thank him for "forcing" them to become professional and honest citizens. Now I'm reaching out to you to ask you to please support Dr. McKenna so he can continue supporting our students and staff, not only in District 1 but across the District, because his contributions to the Board of Education will not only affect District 1 but the entire LAUSD.”

Dr. McKenna is clearly the most qualified candidate; one on whom we can depend to make independent decisions that are in the best interests of students and employees of the District. He is not interested in furthering his political career, just continuing to pursue his passion for children and public education. If you live in District 1, it is incumbent upon you to vote. If you do not, please support the campaign by participating in the next fundraising event on July 27, 2014

(see flyer:, or joining with CSEA to walk the precincts on July 26 and August 2 (see flyer:

An appeal for support from Dr. McKenna


By The Red Queen in L.A. in her blog |

Thursday, 24 Jul 2014 :: Did you know there’s an election in three weeks?

If you do not live in LAUSD’s first district, you might be excused from awareness of it, though not if you drive anywhere within that district. You’d have to be blind (inadvisable if driving) to have overlooked the gigantic – and unethical, according to the COLA elections commission – political propaganda polluting public property in proclaiming the primacy of their favorite son, hand-ordained staff-member of Mark Ridley-Thomas, Alex Johnson.

Ginormous and ubiquitous, these signs represent the might of the political machinery backing Mr Johnson, rather than, say, the size of his public support or job qualifications.

At the age of 33, Mr Johnson has accrued basically zero track record in issues educational, either politically or pedagogically or theoretically or practically. He does, however, nicely reflect his bosses’ readiness to assert opinions educational a propos of no experience or background in the matter at all, as this account of County Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, his aide Alex Johnson and chief-of staff, attests. All three politicos cheerfully admit to having never read the thoughtfully crafted 29-page opinion regarding a Culver City charter school – before rejecting outright the school board’s denial of this petition. Without permitting the deliberations of local elected political leaders or education experts to derail their well-buttressed pre-conceived convictions, nary a whiff of public education advocacy was permitted sway. These three officials asserted their right to an unreflective, uninformed support for the rejected petition because of “a philosophical difference [with the Culver City Unified School District board president] about charter schools”.

Just so, this episode accurately encapsulates the arcane board race in LAUSD1 too. It’s about charter schools.

This is a race that has been recapitulated with its underlying distinction over and over and over again all across this nation of ours. In our local school board elections, the body politic has weighed in cumulatively not once, not twice but in the three successive school board elections against the candidates allied with the political – that is not pedagogical but political – ideology of privatizing public education.

The first of these recent elections was won by Bennett Kayser over Luis Sanchez, candidate of privatizing champion, former-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of the moribund Coalition For School Reform. The second of these wins pitted LAUSD board incumbent Steve Zimmer against millions of dollars corralled from across this nation, foremost among them from Mike Bloomberg, school privatizing, billionaire mayor of New York City. And most recent in the LAUSD series was Mónica Ratliff vanquishing challenger Antonio Sanchez, backed by a breathtaking constellation of corporate reformers.

Now we meet yet the latest iteration of this Borg-like incursion of corporatizers intent on subsuming our children’s schooling. Alex Johnson, having shallow education bona fides but deep political patronage roots, must be understood in that context so charmingly articulated by his padrone, as The Candidate From Charter Land. Alex Johnson may not be an educator or parent or theoretician, but his political placement enables those who seek public monies to underwrite essentially private schooling enterprises. That is, Alex Johnson derives utility by enabling charter schools and those who would champion them.

And who is it that champions charter schools in Los Angeles? Apart from the LAUSD board which has approved school charters numbering in the hundreds, rendering the westside of Los Angeles ground zero for the charter school movement? We have more charter schools here in our little ‘hood than in any other spot on the planet.

Superintendent Deasy can be thought of as Enabler Extraordinaire of the charter school movement, graduate of Eli Broad’s “academy”, installed by Antonio Villaraigosa and possibly salaried by his one-time employer the Gates Foundation, sustained by the last leg of the educational reform triumvirate, the Walton Family Foundation.

Note well and carefully: these charter schools are every bit as much a political phenomenon of the 1% as an educational one. In obeisance to neoliberalism, they are tearing apart the very edifice — literally and figuratively — of our democratic public education system.

And that is what, and really only what, this election is about. What flavor of school champion do you favor? Are you inveigled by the corporatizing reformer lining private pockets with money and expertise from the public coffer? Or do you support and extend the oft-reiterated preference of our electorate for the professional educator, one in the mold of Kayser, Zimmer, Ratliff and Marguerite LaMotte herself, represented this time around by former school superintendent George McKenna?

Who holds the intellectual needs of our young citizenry at heart? Teacher or Politician? Who protects their education as a basic human civil right rather than a monetized commodity? Who expresses the voice that we have elected time after time in recent years, the educator’s voice of concern for pedagogy?

George McKenna.

Vote for George McKenna on the first day back at school:
Tuesday, August 12, 2014.


By Sandy Banks in the L.A. Times |

July 26, 2014 :: It was one line from a column of mine about the response of Los Angeles Unified officials to revelations of child abuse by a teacher at Miramonte Elementary.

I'd quoted senior administrator George McKenna telling a community meeting that Miramonte's principal was not to blame and parents "ought to be grateful" for the principal's leadership.

Two years later that "ought to be grateful" phrase wound up on a campaign mailer, suggesting that McKenna — who is running for school board — doesn't care about the safety of students.

The flier is the product of McKenna's opponent, Alex Johnson, who has spent four years working on education issues for Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Nobody's questioning [McKenna's] personality or his motives. We're simply raising questions about his performance. - Roy Behr, campaign consultant for Alex Johnson, McKenna's rival

Johnson's campaign says the mailer is aimed at debunking "the myth of McKenna," who drew national acclaim almost 30 years ago, when his tough-love reform of troubled Washington Prep High was made into a TV movie, with Denzel Washington playing McKenna.

"If he's going to take credit for that, then everybody ought to take a look at what he's done since then," said Johnson campaign consultant Roy Behr. The mailer blames McKenna for "FAILED SCHOOLS. FALSE CLAIMS. FISCAL MISMANAGEMENT. FAILURE TO PROTECT KIDS."

I understand that politics is war, and a candidate's words and record are fair targets.

But McKenna wasn't excusing child molesters in that comment from my column. He was defending Miramonte's staff — which was about to be replaced by Supt. John Deasy in a wholesale housecleaning aimed at clearing the taint of child abuse from the South Los Angeles campus.

McKenna didn't agree with that move, but was tasked with carrying it out. He spent hours each week helping teachers-in-exile cope with shock, frustration and grief, and cheered — along with parents and students — when they were allowed to return to Miramonte six months later.

Is McKenna old-school? Yes. He can also be blunt, impatient, demanding and unyielding.

But I have never seen or heard anything that makes me doubt his commitment to students.


The race between Johnson and McKenna is for a South Los Angeles school board seat that's been empty since the death seven months ago of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. The special election is Aug. 12; less than 10% of the area's voters are expected to turn out.

Low turnouts tend to favor the candidate with the most enthusiastic supporters. That would probably be McKenna, who began his career as a teacher in Watts and spent half a century in local school districts loaded with low-income kids. He won 44% of the vote in a crowded June primary, and has adopted the campaign slogan "The community's choice."

But Johnson stands to benefit from his association with Ridley-Thomas, who's considered a kingmaker by politicians in black Los Angeles. He has spent twice as much money as McKenna and relies on savvy political pros for campaign advice.

Johnson's campaign consultant calls McKenna "a status quo guy" who has failed to deliver relief to troubled schools. Behr defended the mailers that portray McKenna as lax on student safety and indifferent to parents' concerns.

"Nobody's questioning his personality or his motives," Behr said. "We're simply raising questions about his performance."

The campaign is relying on a political staple in trashing the front-runner. There's certainly plenty to question in McKenna's 50-year career, which includes mixed reviews of his stints in Inglewood, Compton and Pasadena.

But branding McKenna a "failure" suggests naivete about what it takes to significantly improve perpetually struggling schools. It's painstaking work, marked by huge obstacles and small victories — and problems so deep they can't be fixed by iPads or side-stepped by charter schools.

By the logic of Johnson's campaign, McKenna is suspect because he hasn't always had the kind of success his Hollywood movie projects.

Even Johnson's boss might recognize that perspective has its problems.

Twenty years ago, Ridley-Thomas rose to McKenna's defense when a politically divided Inglewood school board voted not to renew his contract as superintendent.

Board members blamed McKenna for the district's budget problems; they'd granted bigger pay raises than he'd advised and wound up in a hole.

That's what Johnson's mailers now call McKenna's "fiscal mismanagement."

But back then, Ridley-Thomas — then a Los Angeles city councilman described in The Times as McKenna's "longtime friend and colleague" — called the Inglewood decision "just nonsensical."


It's easy to pluck a phrase from a newspaper story and make it say what you want.

So for a little context, here are other McKenna comments from my columns that might not make the Johnson campaign's cut.

In 2000, I criticized McKenna for imposing such a strict staff dress code in South L.A. that a male teacher couldn't wear an earring because McKenna considered that a hallmark of gang membership.

I thought that was demeaning to teachers and socially out of sync. McKenna lectured me about students who'd been shot for wearing the wrong thing: "I have an obligation to set standards that are wholesome and safe for students and that's what I'm trying to do."

Two years later, McKenna was an assistant superintendent in Pasadena when a flap erupted over a white teacher's contention that unruly black students were responsible for low test scores and poor teacher morale at Muir High School.

I wrote about a public forum on the comment and included this quote from McKenna: "If children are disruptive, let's say that. Let's not say they're disruptive because they're black."

McKenna reminded the crowd that almost half of Muir's students lived in poverty, one-third came from single-parent homes, and 1 in 10 lived in shelters or group homes. Teachers who couldn't accept that the stress of students' lives might spill onto the campus "ought to be teaching in Beverly Hills," he said.

And two years ago when McKenna retired from L.A. Unified, I interviewed him for hours, retracing the steps and missteps of his long career.

"He wasn't a miracle worker," I wrote then. "But he was a wise and tireless advocate for underachieving, underprivileged kids."

GEORGE McKENNA CAMPAIGN UNDER ATTACK: Community Outraged over lies, innuendo and propaganda

by Danny J. Bakewell, Jr. – Executive Editor of the Los Angles Sentinel | this article also appears in the LA Watts Times of July 24 |

Published on Thursday, 24 July 2014 19:24 :: Long time educator and child advocate George McKenna didn’t know his over 40 years of service on the front lines and in the trenches of education in some of California’s poorest and most underserved schools and school districts was a piece of cake compared to the political road that he would need to travel to the Los Angeles Unified School Board – District #1 seat. But not even McKenna or any of the community residents he has spent his life fighting for have could have imagined that the reputation and credibility of one of the nation’s leading educators would have come under attack in such a brutal and shameful way as it has in recent political mailings from his opponent Alex Johnson.

The accusations levied by the Alex Johnson for School Board Campaign and his supporters through an independent expenditure campaign have released a scathing array of accusations against the longtime educator, from blaming him for the child molestation charges which have plagued all of LAUSD for several years, to the state take-over of Inglewood and Compton Unified School Districts (the truth is McKenna left Inglewood Unified in 1994 and the state took over Inglewood in 2013. The State took over Compton Unified in 1993 and the state administrator brought McKenna in to repair the troubled district).

“George McKenna’s track record speaks for itself; he is a man of unquestionable character and integrity who has always put children first,” Congresswoman Karen Bass.

“He has spent a lifetime fighting long and hard to make sure our kids have a level playing field. He has committed his life to insuring equal opportunities for Black and Brown kids and all underprivileged and underserved children in the field of education. His reputation is beyond reproach” stated Congresswoman Karen Bass.”

Rev. Jewett L. Walker, Jr. manager for the Elect McKenna Campaign and who served for years as the campaign director for former LAUSD Representative Marguerite Poindexter- LaMotte who passed away in December 2013 stated, “there's a word to describe this type of dirty campaigning: SHAMEFUL!” The Alex Johnson Campaign is engaging in the worst kind of politics a lie-and-smear campaign or “poli-tricks” – which we can only assume his chief endorsers and sponsors condone.”

“There's a word to describe this type of dirty campaigning: SHAMEFUL!”

“Our community has never witnessed an outrageous smear campaign against a candidate such as the Alex Johnson Campaign is waging against Dr. George McKenna. The community must reject these kinds of lies and distortions against Dr. George McKenna who is a nationally known, successful and respected educator. Furthermore Alex Johnson is neither knowledgeable or experienced or credible as an educator. THIS IS IT. He needs to quit it,” stated Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

George McKenna almost won the June Primary Election outright with over 44% of the vote compared to Alex Johnson’s 24%. He has been engaged in a heated battle to the August 12 special election finish line since the June 3 primary ended. While Johnson has outraised McKenna 2 to 1 in money, mostly coming from large corporate donors and charter school advocate groups, the community and the residents of the district clearly appear to be supporting McKenna. McKenna has received the endorsement of almost all of his opponents from the District 1 primary election including Genethia Hudley-Hayes, LAUSD Board of Education(ret.), School Teacher Rachel Johnson - Gardena Councilmember & Hattie McFrazier-LAUSD Educator/Pupil Services and Attendance Counselor (ret.). McKenna has also been endorsed by former school board member and city council woman Rita Walters, UTLA, The Democratic Party just to name a few.

The latest slate of mailers sent out last week by the Johnson Campaign and other organizations supporting Johnson don’t appear to be promoting Johnson or his qualifications. Instead they are attacking McKenna’s credibility and giving no credence to the years of leadership and service that he has provided to the children of our community. Bishop T. Larry Kirkland, Presiding Bishop of the 5th Episcopal District of the AME Church stated that “Dr. McKenna is a man of unquestionable, integrity, character and experience who has always put our children’s best interest first to question or try and taint his integrity is disgraceful.”

“As a veteran campaign manager I can tell you that when a candidate loses a primary by 20 points, like Alex Johnson did, there is no clear path to victory in the runoff,” said Walker.

“Over the last several days Mr. Johnson and his supporters have revealed his plan: smear the good name of George McKenna.”

His powerful boss/political sponsor, has cut deals with billionaires and special interests to raise a boatload of money to flood the district with mailers and doorknockers that seek to trash the reputation that McKenna spent decades building by honorably serving our community. The good news is the Johnson campaign has no defense for McKenna’s greatest weapon: THE TRUTH.”

McKenna’s reputation as an educator is unquestionable. Upon arriving in Southern California from his native New Orleans, he was assigned to Washington High School in Los Angeles in 1979 when the school was besieged with violence, drugs and gangs. When he was done nearly 80 percent of the students went on to college.

This track record of success inspired the award-winning CBS movie, The George McKenna Story, starring Denzel Washington. He is passionate about education and the many children who are trapped in despair. This is a man who has received more than 400 citations and awards from civic, legislative and professional organizations.

In 1989, McKenna received the Congressional Black Caucus’ Chairman’s Award and in 1997 was elected into the National Alliance of Black School Educators’ Hall of Fame. Last week even local advisories joined forces to unify in support of a man so desperately needed that August 12 could not come soon enough.

Some individuals are risking their reputations to tarnish that of McKenna’s. George McKenna when asked about the slanderous accusations stated, “I will not be deterred, I will continue to push forward offering an inspiring message of hope for our kids future. This is the message that is resonating with school age children their parents, teachers and community advocates who are willing to stand up for honesty and integrity. My campaign and the work I have done around here throughout my life stands on its own. I have always stood tallest for kids, for education and for this community and I am not going to let false accusations sway me now.”

Gwendolyn Landry a parent and community education advocate stated that “The trickery and lies being asserted by the Alex Johnson Campaign are terrible. We cannot trust a person who distorts the truth to lead the education of our kids.”

It appears the political wrangling and power politics are just heating up as the campaign enters the last few weeks. Award winning journalist Betty Pleasant had her weekly Soulvine column pulled at the last minute at another local weekly publication because of her support of McKenna and because of her outrage to the tactics being used by the Johnson Campaign to smear McKenna’s good name. However, in today’s world of social media the censured column has now gone viral and was emailed, blasted, tweeted, posted on Facebook and other local mediums by community members outraged by this type of blatant disregard for the truth. Betty has been in the business of community news for a long time and she was totally caught off guard and surprised that her editors refused to run her column. Reverend Joe B. Hardwick president, Western States Baptist Convention and Pastor of Praises of Zion Church in Watts said “people think they can buy this election, but the truth is, our children, our community, and our future are not for sale. George has built his reputation and dedicated his life to working for these kids and we are prepared to fight to insure that his legacy of service continues all the way to the school board.”

●● The L.A. Wave’s always outspoken “Soulvine” columnist Betty Pleasant has never been afraid of going one step too far, that is how the game of agent provocateur is played, no matter the ‘hood. Her last two columns for the Wave have not been published, withheld for reasons unstated. Maybe because they speak for Dr. George McKenna – or against Mark Ridley Thomas? Or both? Maybe.

By Betty Pleasant [published under John Walsh’s byline in the THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE]

7:00 AM July 18, 2014 :: This Is It! --- For the past seven months, the people of Los Angeles County have been engaged in a great war against the politicians we elected to represent us. For the most part, our battles have been pity-pat encounters to make our local politicians respond to our needs --- rather than to their own obsessions to reign over us as little kings doing everything they can to create and/or perpetuate rich dynasties for themselves, their kin and their sycophants.

Well, nuclear war was declared this week when residents of LAUSD’s District 1 received two sets of campaign mailings in support of the election of Alex Johnson, King Mark Ridley-Thomas’s chosen minion, to the district’s seat on the School Board. These mailings are the worst pieces of campaign literature I’ve ever seen in my lengthy career. They are full of baldfaced and boldfaced lies about the people’s candidate, George McKenna, and constitute the nastiest smear campaign money can buy. I did not believe King Mark could stoop that low.

Sentinel publisher Danny Bakewell and I have not agreed on a single thing in almost 50 years --- until now. We both wholeheartedly support the election of McKenna --- who last week received the overwhelming endorsement of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, and today was endorsed by LAUSD Board member Monica Ratliff, who, like everyone else, maintains that McKenna’s “years of experience as a dedicated and successful teacher, principal and administrator will continue to serve the students and parents of District 1 well.”

It’s time to fight nuclear bombs with nuclear bombs. The only people who support Johnson are preachers who tow King Mark’s line because they have charter school and preschool contracts with L.A. County which they believe would be jeopardized if they didn’t back Johnson. They told me that. They told others in the community as well. It’s now common knowledge, particularly in view of what reportedly happened in one of our largest black churches a couple of Sundays ago when the pastor refused to interrupt his service to allow Johnson and King Mark to speak to his congregation. The preachers are getting bold, as they come to realize that the election of the truly qualified candidate, McKenna, would set them free.

Smearing McKenna

The first batch of smear literature against McKenna sported the disclaimer that it was not sent by the candidate or his campaign committee. It did state, however, that it was sent by the African American Voter Registration, Education, Participation Project (AAVREP), which, as we all know, is King Mark’s pet organization. He founded it, and he is, therefore, responsible for viciously maligning McKenna’s stellar career. The offending document lists as supporters, King Mark, Rep. Diane Watson (ret.), Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke (ret.), Congresswoman Janice Hahn, L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson and SEIU #99, Education Workers United. Now, it really upsets me when people I like do something I hate. So I called them for an explanation. I called Hahn in Washington D.C. and Watson at her house and both women were appalled that their names appeared on such a raunchy piece of campaign literature. “You know I’ve never participated in anything like that!” Watson said. “Johnson came to my house and presented himself well and asked for my support if he ran for the School Board,” Watson explained. “This was early when the election was finally agreed upon and I wanted McKenna in the seat. But he said he did not want to run for it. So I agreed to support Johnson, not realizing that McKenna would change his mind,” Watson said. “Now that he’s in the race, I definitely support McKenna. I do not like having my name on campaign pieces that attack him. I’m going to get to the bottom of this,” Watson said.

Like Watson, Rep. Hahn said she made an early commitment to support Johnson when he took her to lunch, where he made a decent impression on her. “Politics can get really dirty sometimes and this looks like one of those times,” Hahn said. “I must call over there,” she added. The other supporters named are obvious, as Burke’s support of Johnson is quid pro quo for King Mark’s support of her daughter for the Assembly. Wesson’s support may have something to do with the rumors that Wesson has been anointed to replace King Mark on the Board of Supervisors when he terms out. We will speak of this, and related matters, some more.

The House Is Open --- The McKenna campaign held an open house last Saturday at its Crenshaw area headquarters to which an overflow crowd attended. The people left the morning rally held in Leimert Park to protest the beating of Marlene Pinnock and headed straight to the McKenna party. In addition to good food and great camaraderie, we had the pleasure of hearing rousing speeches from Rep. Maxine Waters, former School Board member Rita Walters, venerable LAUSD teacher Owen Knox and Rep. Karen Bass’s deputy chief of staff, Solomon Rivera, who exclaimed to the enthusiastic crowd: “We will not be owned by anybody.”

SOULVINE UNCHAINED (The 7/24/14 Soulvine column rejected by the Wave)

Received by 4LAKids by email from a secret source.
By Betty Pleasant | Journalist

MEAN MAILERS --- As the Aug. 12 runoff election for the 1st District LAUSD school board seat draws near, potential voters are being inundated with campaign mailers, the overwhelming majority of which are sent by the Alex Johnson campaign and all of which malign education icon George McKenna and shed little light on Johnson.

One woman complained to the Soulvine that she had received nine mailings from Johnson that were nothing but smears against McKenna, and she’s angry about them and said she’s sorry she can only cast one vote for McKenna on Aug. 12.

Civil rights activist Pedro Baez of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, was so angry about the series of mailers Johnson has been sending to the people that Monday, Baez and his group filed a formal complaint with the Los Angeles Ethics Commission demanding “a probe into the false, misleading and slanderous mailers sent by the Alex Johnson campaign.”

While Baez has been upset by previous anti-McKenna mailings from Johnson, he said the mailer that arrived Monday was beyond the pale and was more than he could tolerate. “In it, Johnson verged on labeling McKenna a pedophile enabler as he alleged that McKenna covered up sexual abuses in the school district!” Baez shouted.

In his complaint to the Ethics Commission, Baez wrote: “I and other civil rights leaders formally call upon the Los Angeles Ethics Commission for a probe into the false and slanderous mailings from the Johnson campaign against McKenna. We are demanding that the commission issue a cease and desist order and impose the maximum fine against the Johnson campaign for the fraudulent attacks.”

At Tuesday’s press conference about the mailer, Baez blamed Johnson’s financial backers --- Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Maria Elena Durazo of the L.A. County Federation of Labor --- “for this despicable act” and he said he “also urged the Ethics Commission to charge Ridley-Thomas “with gross violations of ethics and human decency and order him to send out another mailer apologizing to the voters of the LAUSD District 1 --- and for Alex Johnson to withdraw forthwith from the race for this seat.”

The people have given the Soulvine the two most recent Johnson mailers that have upset them so, and I must say they are really raw. Johnson has a one-note theme to his campaign mailings and it appears to be about child molestation as opposed to child education, and in that regard he has accused McKenna of some despicable stuff which I must investigate. And while I’m investigating Johnson’s sex-tinged accusations against McKenna, I will probe Johnson’s lack of delineated credibility in the field of education. In his mailers, Johnson prides himself on having been an assistant district attorney (in the Bronx, N.Y.) “who prosecuted domestic violence, standing up for children and families who were victims of violence and abuse.” If that’s true, then why isn’t Johnson running for Los Angeles County district attorney? Lord knows we need prosecutors in the DA’s office, not on the school board! “Our kids are being prosecuted enough!” declared a group of women Saturday when they found Johnson literature on the windshields of their cars. They’re right. We need experienced educators on the school board, but education is a subject Johnson does not broach in his mailings. After further study we’ll discuss these things about McKenna and Johnson during the next couple of weeks.


··         Judges rule against letting public see LAUSD teachers' performance |

• FEDS BACK ENGLISH LEARNER LAWSUIT AGAINST CALIFORNIA, allegation is that 2% of qualified kids slip through the cracks



• JUDGE FINDS “EVIDENCE ESTABLISHING FINANCIAL MISMANAGEMENT” …BUT ALLOWS MAGNOLIA CHARTERS TO REMAIN OPEN - Either LAUSD staff overreacted or the Bd of Ed underreacted. Whichever it was Magnolia Charters get out of jail free.|


• NEW POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE FORMS IN L.A. BD OF ED RACE: PAC is run by Dan Chang, who headed Deasy’s LAUSD nonprofit |

• FIRE BURNS GREEN DOT CHARTER SCHOOL CAMPUS …as ‘Mystery Drone’ hovers overhead |

What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-5555 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6387
...or your city councilperson, mayor, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think! • Find your state legislator based on your home address. Just go to: • There are 26 mayors and five county supervisors representing jurisdictions within LAUSD, the mayor of LA can be reached at • 213.978.0600
• Call or e-mail Governor Brown: 213-897-0322 e-mail:
• Open the dialogue. Write a letter to the editor. Circulate these thoughts. Talk to the principal and teachers at your local school.
• Speak with your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Stay on top of education issues. Don't take my word for it!
• Get involved at your neighborhood school. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
• If you are eligible to become a citizen, BECOME ONE.
• If you a a citizen, REGISTER TO VOTE.
• If you are registered, VOTE LIKE THE FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT. THEY DO!.

Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?

Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD and is Parent/Volunteer of the Year for 2010-11 for Los Angeles County. • He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represented PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee for ten years. He is a Health Commissioner, Legislation Team member and a member of the Board of Managers of the California State PTA. He serves on numerous school district advisory and policy committees and has served as a PTA officer and governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is the recipient of the UTLA/AFT 2009 "WHO" Gold Award for his support of education and public schools - an honor he hopes to someday deserve. • In this forum his opinions are his own and your opinions and feedback are invited. Quoted and/or cited content copyright © the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright © 4LAKids.
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