by Jason Song and Howard Blume | LA Times LA NOW/Breaking News blog | 11:15 AM, December 9, 2008
The school board at this hour is meeting in closed session, with the main order of business being how to terminate the employment of Supt. David L. Brewer, who is midway through a four-year contract. Brewer announced Monday his willingness to accept a buyout, one week after Board of Education President Monica Garcia made it clear she would seek to replace him.
Garcia -- and some of Brewer's critics -- have said the superintendent has not moved quickly enough and effectively enough to improve the school system. Brewer has pointed out that gains on test scores this year well outpaced the state as a whole and that the district last month successfully passed its largest bond issue ever.
In April, Brewer brought in veteran educator Ramon C. Cortines to manage day-to-day operations as well as long-term planning, and Cortines is expected to replace Brewer as interim superintendent once a deal is made. Brewer's contract entitles him to an 18-month buyout, which apparently could cost in excess of $500,000 including salary and expenses.
Today's meeting, which began in open session, proved an anticlimatic sequel to Monday's dramatic events. A sober Brewer said nothing during the 10 minutes of open session before he and board members went behind closed doors.
Only two of six scheduled speakers came forward to the microphone. One of them was Scott Folsom, a PTSA board member who also sits on the appointed committee that oversees school-bond spending. He spoke in support of Brewer staying on, praising the superintendent's effectiveness as a lobbyist on behalf of the district during the current budget crisis.
With Brewer apparently departing without a fight, activism on his behalf also has wound down. Community activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson had scheduled an event this morning at board headquarters, where he planned to present a letter to board members urging them not to rush to judgment on Brewer and to disclose their reasons for wanting to replace him. The event was canceled.
Good morning Madame President, members of this board. Mr. Superintendent. I speak to you today as a member of the LAUSD community to which we all belong.
You have a packed closed session before you.
· You will discuss a pending lawsuit and acquisition of millions of dollars worth of land for new schools - the futures of many peoples' homes and businesses. The lives and livelihoods of people you will never meet.
· You will discuss with your negotiator the state of ongoing contract negotiations with seven employee unions (including the teachers) and unaffiliated employees and personnel. Your negotiator is Superintendent Brewer.
· And, item # 2: You will discuss the future of Superintendent Brewer himself.
· You do this against the backdrop of the Global Economic Meltdown, the State Budget Crisis and a potential $400+ million mid year/this year budget cut. There is the inevitability of layoffs and possibility of the District's insolvency and bankruptcy; the very real possibility that LAUSD may have to close down and send the kids home - their schoolwork incomplete - three weeks early this year for lack of funds.
Much has been said and written already about Superintendent Brewer's performance.
I hope you have done your homework and read the Superintendent's statement yesterday; it is an eloquent claim to success and an appeal to reason.
And - in due respect to the Superintendent, I hope you respectfully reject his offer.
I have been with the superintendent in the halls of power an Sacramento; I have seen how well he represents the interests of this district - yourselves, your employees, this community of educators and parents, citizens and taxpayers we call LAUSD - and most of all the best interests of schoolchildren -- in the state capitol.
I have spoken with others who have seen him at work in the nation's capitol.
David Brewer in his Navy career if anything learned to navigate the deep water and the shoals of bureaucracy and power; the skill set of a modern peacetime navy admiral is to obtain an audience and support for mission and programs from politicians who would prefer to invest their money and influence somewhere else.
Politicians live to argue with other politicians ….but they listen to admirals - whether they want an aircraft carrier or flexibility in categorical funding.
Against the economic crisis and the budget squeeze David Brewer is an admiral when we need one.
So please thank the admiral for his suggestion and table agenda item number two until another time. Support him in what he does best - which is supporting our children - and move forward.
I'm going to end here by quoting my friend and fellow LAUSD parent Bob Sipchen from his Op Ed in today's Times: "The LAUSD could do worse than having a superintendent who has already made the school board so mad he has nothing to lose."
I started by saying good morning; you can make one of it. Thank you.