By ALICE WALTON, City News Service | Los Angeles Wave
A statement released by LAUSD board President Monica Garcia indicated the panel will buy out the contract of Superintendent David L. Brewer III, seen here in a file photo.
‘Although this debate is disconcerting and troubling, it must not become an ethnic issue,' says David Brewer.
8.DEC.08 - 4:25PM --The superintendent of Los Angeles schools, calling speculation over his future “demoralizing and debilitating,’’ asked the school board Monday to buy out his four-year contract.
Superintendent David L. Brewer III, a retired Navy admiral, has two years remaining on his $300,000-a-year contract as head of the nation’s second- largest school district. He has been under pressure from some members of the LAUSD board and civic leaders to resign, but had vowed last week in media interviews that he would stay on the job.
“I have decided to do what I think is in the best interest of the children — to put all of our students first,’’ Brewer told reporters Monday afternoon. “Although my two years of service contain an undeniable record of significant accomplishments, I am asking the Los Angeles school board to shield our students from this contentious debate and honor the buyout provisions of my contract.’’
He was introduced by Ramon Cortines, a senior deputy superintendent who was hired by Brewer in April to oversee LAUSD’s day-to-day operations and instruction. Cortines said Brewer was not resigning per se, but neither he nor members of the school board — some of whom were on hand — would answer questions about the situation.
Brewer, 62, also refused to take questions after his 10-minute speech, during which he listed a variety of LAUSD accomplishments during his tenure before addressing his future with the district.
The school board had planned to meet behind closed doors last week, apparently to discuss buying out Brewer’s contract. But no action was taken because Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, the only African-American member on the seven-member board, declined to return from a previously scheduled conference in San Diego.
“As an African-American, I’ve experienced my share of discrimination,’’ Brewer said. “I know what it looks like, smells like and the consequences. Although this debate is disconcerting and troubling, it must not become an ethnic issue.
“When adults fight, it can manifest itself in our children,’’ he added. “This must not become an ethnic or a racial battle that infests our schools, our campuses, our playgrounds. This is not about settling an old score; this is about what is best for every LAUSD student.’’
A statement released by LAUSD board President Monica Garcia after Brewer’s speech indicated the panel will buy out his contract.
“I thank Superintendent Brewer for two years of hard work and dedication to our district. We salute his willingness to tackle one of the country’s toughest and most important challenges, reforming our urban public schools,’’ Garcia said. “I will be working with the board to meet the challenges ahead, and to achieve 100 percent graduation for all of our students.’’
The move to oust Brewer midway though his four-year contract came in response to indications that the retired vice admiral had lost the backing of key civic leaders, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former Mayor Richard Riordan and billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad.
Villaraigosa, who attempted to take control of the school district two years ago before the issue was stalled by the courts, does not plan to make any statement Monday regarding Brewer’s position with the district, according to his office.
But when Brewer was hired in 2006, Villaraigosa said he was “deeply disappointed that the school board made this decision without the meaningful inclusion of parents, teachers, the Council of Mayors or the broader Los Angeles community.’’
Brewer recently addressed criticism of his administration by bringing in Cortines, a move widely viewed as positive. It apparently failed, however, to repair critics’ perceptions that Brewer’s management skills are not equal to the task of navigating the LAUSD’s politics and funding crisis.
Brewer’s supporters, meanwhile, have noted that two years into his tenure, test scores have bumped upward and voters last month resoundingly approved the largest-ever local school bond for the LAUSD.
AJ Duffy, head of United Teachers Los Angeles, said those accomplishments were already in motion when Brewer took over.
“He’s a nice guy, well-meaning, he wants to do the right job. I just think he’s ill-placed in Los Angeles,’’ Duffy said. “I think it was not a good selection by the previous board.’’
Earl Ofari Hutchinson of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable said the school board should address questions about whether pressure on Brewer to resign was the result of poor performance or political pressure.
“The board still must tell what and why it took the action it did against Brewer,’’ Hutchinson said.
Brewer was chosen as superintendent after an eight-month search to find a replacement for Roy Romer, former governor of Colorado, who retired after six years at the helm of the LAUSD.
Brewer, who retired in March 2006 after 35 years in the Navy, served as its vice chief of naval education and training from 1999 to 2001, where he was responsible for educational programs for hundreds of thousands of sailors and their families.
Brewer developed partnerships between the maritime unions and public schools in the San Diego area to motivate students to stay in school and participate in apprenticeship programs.
In 2001, he assumed command of the Military Sealift Command, which provides ocean transportation of equipment, fuel supplies and ammunition to sustain U.S. forces worldwide, a position he held until his military retirement.
Brewer, a native of Farmville, Va., and the son and husband of educators, has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Prairie View A&M University and a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College.
Brewer heads The David and Mildred Brewer Foundation, which provides scholarships to black students. Prior to his LAUSD appointment, he frequently visited high schools throughout the nation, seeking to inspire students to remain in school.