- Photo by Gary McCarthy
Brewer's forced exit stuns Black educators
The impending departure of Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent David L. Brewer leaves only 13 Black superintendents in school districts across California, down from 23 in 2007.
Five black supes have lost their jobs in the past eight weeks.
By OLU ALEMORU, Staff Writer Los Angeles Wave Newspapers
As L.A. school board moves to oust superintendent, African-Americans wonder how big a factor race will play in charting the district's future.
11.DEC.08 -- A group representing Black school superintendents in California has criticized the actions of the Los Angeles Unified School District school board, after it effectively fired Supt. David L. Brewer III on Monday by voting to buy out the remaining two years of his contract.
Dwight Bonds, acting executive director of the California Association of African-American Superintendents, reacted with “disappointment” to the news after a week of heated speculation over Brewer’s future. “We were pleased with the process he was making,” said Bonds, “especially in test scores and other areas of growth — particularly in African-American male improvement.”
In an interview, Bonds also voiced concerns about a recent decline in the number of Black superintendents across the state. He said five have lost their jobs in the past eight weeks, leaving only 13 in place, compared to 23 in 2007.
“So, our challenge and mission,” he said, “is to garner support for our members and make sure we are continued to be represented within the 1,140 school districts within California.”
The LAUSD board met behind closed doors for over two hours before announcing it had voted 5-2 in support of the $500,000 buyout, which included an annual salary of $300,000, $45,000 a year in expenses and a $3,000 a month housing allowance. Board members Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte and Julie Korenstein were the dissenting votes.
“I do not believe that a buyout of $500,000 during a budget crisis was appropriate,” said Korenstein in a statement. “We are in the worst possible times, and we’re going to have to cut millions of dollars and positions, and I believe this was a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
LaMotte declined “to comment at this time.”
“I serve at the pleasure of the Los Angeles Board of Education,” Brewer said in a statement after the vote. “I plan to continue my role until Dec. 31. No matter what happens next, I will remain a champion for the children, teachers and staff of the LAUSD.”
The 62-year-old former U.S. Navy vice admiral had vowed last week to stay on the job in the wake of a plan to discuss buying out his contract two weeks ago. However, LaMotte, the only African-American member of the board, forestalled proceedings when she refused to return from a previously scheduled education conference in San Diego.
But Monday, he announced that even though things had improved under his leadership, he would accept a buyout in order to avoid a racially charged confrontation with the school board, whose president — one of his most vocal detractors — is Latina. Some have speculated that racial considerations were key to the board’s desire to fire Brewer and replace him, at least temporarily, with Deputy Superintendent Ramon Cortines.
“We have a lot of work to do,” said board President Monica Garcia, who had also thanked Brewer for his hard work and dedication. “The district is facing the worst financial outlook in 20 years.”
In a Tuesday morning television interview on KTLA, a defiant Brewer described the buyout as “an ouster” and admonished “the press to do your job.”
“Student achievement went up dramatically,” he said.
Second District County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who sat on a special selection committee that helped choose Brewer for the job in 2006, said he took “ownership” of that decision but wouldn’t draw any racial implications.
“It wasn’t working out, and they mutually agreed that severance was appropriate,” he said. “It’s back to the drawing board and they need to open up another search and try to get it right. LAUSD needs a leader of credibility to bring the enterprise of public education to the L.A. region in a significant way.”
Rush to Remove: Another Take on the Brewer Exit
By BETTY PLEASANT, Contributing Editor the WAVE Newspapers. 11.DEC.08Soulvine Betty Pleasant writes Soulvine for THEWAVE
11 Dec 2008 — What happened to LAUSD Superintendent David Brewer wasn’t so much racist as it was a naked power play on the part of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who never liked Brewer from jump street.
He never liked him because he wasn’t his.
This wasn’t the first time an ambitious Los Angeles mayor orchestrated the ouster of the superintendent of schools: Mayor Richard Riordan commanded then-school board President Genethia Hayes to get rid of Superintendent Ruben Zacarias in 1999 and now nine years later, Villaraigosa’s handmaiden, school board President Monica Garcia, carried out her assignment to do the same to Brewer, with Villaraigosa’s toxic water-carrier, former Councilman Richard Alatorre, aiding and abetting the whole mess. (Remember the firing of Franklin White as the CEO of the M TA in 1995? Remind you of anything you see today?)
The school board names have changed, but the purported issues remain the same — “the need to improve the quality of education dispensed by the Los Angeles Unified School District.” That’s what Riordan, Hayes, et al. said then, and that’s what Villaraigosa, Garcia, Alatorre, et al. are saying now.
But the real issue is power. Brewer had the misfortune of being hired by a school board which was in a bitter fight with Villaraigosa over who would run the school district — the board or the mayor — so the mayor did what politicians do best: He politicized the school district, bought himself a school board and assumed the power over everyone except Brewer. Villaraigosa wanted very much to oust Brewer, but he couldn’t.
Until recently, the mayor had a potential formidable rival to his bid for re-election in the form of former Police Commission President Rick Caruso. Villaraigosa had to have known that if he caused Brewer’s removal, he would trigger an instant replay of what happened to former Mayor James Hahn when he fired then-Police Chief Bernard Parks. Black people would elect Caruso, just like Black people elected Villaraigosa.
But, Caruso decided not to run for mayor, thus freeing Villaraigosa to rid himself of Brewer with little concern about a racial backlash, since he has no viable competition in his re-election race. Well, absent a nice big backlash, the only thing for those of us to do who are uncomfortable about what happened this week is to vigorous repudiate assertions that Brewer hasn’t done anything during his two years as school superintendent, as the data begs to differ.
According to LAUSD’s own reports, the academic performance of the district’s elementary school pupils was noticeably improving during the six years Roy Romer served as superintendent, but middle and high school students struggled. That is where Brewer put his emphasis and it showed, as API scores rose 74 points in the middle schools and 62 points in the high schools under Brewer. Nearly 70 elementary schools made gains of 40 or more points on the API last year, with 122nd Street School making the greatest progress — 70 points.
Jefferson High School made the greatest improvement among high schools with a 60-point gain, and Dorsey also showed strong improvement with a 30-point increase. Standardized test scores went up in the double digits at every level last year, as the district’s overall progress outpaced every other public school district in California.
Brewer’s detractors admit these successes, but they say Brewer had nothing to do with them. Nonsense! He’s the head of the joint! It’s his tenure, his leadership and all that that entails. That’s like saying when the nation’s economy starts to improve, President Barack Obama will have had nothing to do with it!
In Brewer’s two years on the job, he has dealt with round after round of devastating budget cuts, which caused LAUSD to lose $800 million this year, a total that would easily result in school closures in other districts. Yet, no LAUSD school has closed; no teachers have been sent home, no children have been put on the street. The district eliminated 650 positions at its Beaudry headquarters and managed to keep the cuts out of the classroom. When it comes to leadership, this ought to count for something.
But I reiterate, Brewer’s ouster is not about his job performance, his management style or the academic performance of the students. It’s about that old bugaboo: political power.
Therefore, I wholeheartedly agree with Councilwoman Janice Hahn’s proposal to seek a change in the City Charter allowing the superintendent of schools to be elected by the people rather than being hired by the board of education and manipulated by the mayor.