Why TNN Is Endorsing George Mckenna For the South LA LAUSD Board Seat - Run Off Election Aug 12

LAUSD special run off election for District 1- Aug 12. 2014

According to Jim Newton, Editor at the Los Angeles Times - the August 12th, District 1, LAUSD School Board elections between Alex Johnson and George McKenna will have great consequence for many of the regions poorest communities who are "desperately in need of quality schools."  He goes on to say "
Of the two, McKenna, 73, has the clear edge in experience, having served for nearly half a century as a teacher, principal, administrator and superintendent. Johnson, 33, counters with energy and a commitment to education reform honed in his work for the New York City school system and as education aide to Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas."

George McKenna

It's a tough fight and recently TNN's editor received some campaign literature against McKenna from the pro-Johnson camp that seemed extremely damning and would give anyone pause.  But then...we also received information that shed a glaring light on the ugly tactics of the Johnson campaign and the literature. After some additional research, TNN feels confident in supporting McKenna for the post. 

We present here info that has come to us including a column from the popular columnist, Betty Pleasant, which was rejected by one of her regular publishers, The Wave.  It is very No Holds Barred but perhaps an appropriate response to the ugly McKenna smear by the Johnson camp. It has since been published in several other places and we provide you with a copy.  We also provide you with some quotes from Los Angeles Times journalist Sandy Banks whose comments in one of her columns were taken out of context and used in the Johnson campaign literature against McKenna. She clarifies for the record.  We start with an email that sums up the debacle quite neatly:

" What can one say about a person, [Alex Johnson] who 9 months ago people only knew as the tall quiet young man who carried Mark Ridley-Thomas' coat, who is attempting to tarnish the legacy of one of America's most decorated educators, a true icon in South LA and urban education, with lies and misrepresentations about his record and the unforgivable false claim that he enabled and excused child molestation? 

For the third time in a week, the publication that is "the source" of the overwhelming majority of the Johnson's campaign quotes (LA Times) has called Alex Johnson and his boss Mark Ridley-Thomas bold-faced liars.

#1: Sandy Banks' column calling them out for using a quote in her column on Miramonte completely out of context to make their most vile claim against George: http://bit.ly/sblat726  or see below

#2: LA Times, Editor-at-large Jim Newton, who called the smear campaign "scurrilous," said they used newspaper quotes "wildly out of context," and emphasized that when he hunted down the articles Johnson/MRT "cited" he came away more impressed with McKenna: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-newton-column-school-board-election-20140728-column.html

Now, in Monday's LA Times, reporter Howard Blume expands on some of the other misrepresentations and points out that even the Johnson campaign co-chair is denouncing their below-the-belt campaign tactics: http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-school-board-race-20140804-story.html"

From Betty Pleasant:

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’ chosen minion, to the district’s seat on the Board of Education. These mailings are the worst pieces of campaign literature I’ve ever seen in my lengthy career. They are full of boldface 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 and 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.

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 and 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.  [Ed. note: Ms Watson has since sent out her own flyer giving clear support to McKenna]

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, and 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 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 Waters, venerable LAUSD teacher Owen Knox and Rep. Karen Bass’ deputy chief of staff, Solomon Rivera, who exclaimed to the enthusiastic crowd: “We will not be owned by anybody!!” 


“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. 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.”

In the article she goes on to say: " 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."


News Category


Currently are 49 guests and no members online

Kubik-Rubik Joomla! Extensions

About Us

Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

Contact Us

Dianne V. Lawrence
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.