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Brewer's Forced Exit Stuns Black Educators

Wave Newspapers , News Report, Olu Alemoru Posted: Dec 12, 2008

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.

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 Brewers 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 were 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 boards 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 wouldnt draw any racial implications.

It wasnt working out, and they mutually agreed that severance was appropriate, he said. Its 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.

Related Articles:

California's Teachers Too Few, Too Unprepared

Politicians Point Fingers in California Budget Crisis

School Boards Launch Many California Politicians' Careers



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