By George B. Sánchez, Staff Writer | LA Daily News
Photo Credit: Studio cCty, 10/17/06....New Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent, David Brewer lll is all smiles on Tuesday morning in Studio City, Ca. Tina Burch/staff photographer
December 3 -- An attempt to oust Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent David Brewer III midway through his four-year contract hit a snag Tuesday when the board president, seeking his dismissal, failed to gather all seven members at a hastily planned session.
News of the closed-door meeting surprised and irritated some board members, including one who charged that board outsiders, such as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former Mayor Richard Riordan, were behind plans to dismiss Brewer.
The superintendent's fate has been put on hold until next week, but it was unclear how the board might proceed. A simple majority could remove Brewer.
Talk of Brewer's possible dismissal has been circulating for months, but there was nothing substantive until school board President Mónica García informed her colleagues by phone Monday afternoon that his tenure would be discussed as part of Tuesday's regular meeting. Garc a did not return newspaper calls for comment.
LAUSD board member Marguerite LaMotte, who like Brewer is African-American, was in San Diego representing the district at the California School Boards Association conference. She fired off an angry e-mail to her board colleagues, accusing them of violating the Ralph M. Brown Act - the state's decades-old sunshine law - and conspiring behind her back to get rid of Brewer.
The board's decision to take up the issue in her absence was "a disingenuous and unconscionable cover-up to exclude me from this strategically and externally motivated plan," LaMotte wrote.
She refused to leave the conference to attend the meeting.
Brewer, who signed a four-year contract worth $1.5 million in 2006, has been criticized by many for failing to take charge of the nation's second-most-populous school district.
While his supporters point to improved test scores since he became superintendent, his critics say those improvements are not the result of any action by Brewer, whom they accuse of taking a back seat on major decisions.
A retired Navy admiral, Brewer was hired by the previous school board though he had no education experience. His arrival was greeted with skepticism from A.J. Duffy, the teachers union president, and disappointment from Villaraigosa, who has no official role in appointing the superintendent.
Though Brewer lately has been praised for meeting with state legislators to fight cuts to the education budget, his tenure has been marred by accusations of ineffectiveness. Critics say rather than step up to the challenge, Brewer simply responded to the complaints by hiring Senior Deputy Superintendent Ramon Cortines, at about $250,000 a year, to do the day-to-day managing of the district.
The action against Brewer is premature and inappropriate, said board member Marlene Canter, who was board president when the district hired Brewer.
"I never felt we should have had the meeting today," Canter said.
Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry said she was relieved the school board took no action Tuesday. Perry said this might give everyone involved time to step back and have a more open dialogue.
"I had just read that test scores were generally in an upward trend," Perry said.
Board member Yolie Flores Aguilar said she and her colleagues must consider buying out Brewer's contract.
"If he stays on, we pay," she said. "If not, is it worth the cost? Maybe that's the right decision to make."
Flores Aguilar expressed disappointment with Brewer over the dropout rate, teacher quality, elementary student reading rates and exclusion of parents as stakeholders. Canter said Brewer arrived with an extraordinary vision that he has been slow to achieve.
Board members said that for the past several weeks, they heard rumors of outsiders calling for Brewer's removal. But Flores Aguilar and Canter said they had never been contacted by Villaraigosa, Riordan or philanthropist Eli Broad.
Riordan said Tuesday that he had been aware of plans to force out the superintendent as well.
"I think he is a well-meaning person, but he has been unable to get the job done," said the former mayor.
He said Brewer should be leading district reforms, setting the tone and empowering principals to improve their campuses.
Canter said any outsiders attempting to influence the board should stick to their own responsibilities.
"There are seven of us that do this job," she said. "Anybody else doesn't understand the full complexities of this job."