Monday, December 8, 2008

Brewer out at LAUSD

David Brewer, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, announced his resignation today.

That was fast. There have been grumblings about Brewer for months, but it's just been in the last couple of weeks that he has lost the support of the Board. The president of the Board, Monica Garcia, tried to get rid of him last week, but couldn't quite do it. But she wouldn't have made that move unless she knew she had enough support. It helps that she has the support of the Mayor, and Brewer doesn't.

To his credit, Brewer, who is black, made it clear that he did not want anyone to see his resignation in ethnic terms.

"As an African American, I've experienced my share of discrimination," he 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. This must not become an ethnic or racial battle that infests our schools, our campuses, our playgrounds. This is not about settling an old score; this must be about what is best for every LAUSD student."
I was a little surprised when he was hired. He was a retired vice admiral, and he said all the right things, but he had no background in education. Which would mean, in part, that he wouldn't be able to bring in his own team with him.

The traditional liberal explanation for failing schools is lack of money, but that doesn't really fly here. LAUSD has passed five construction bonds in the last few years. Money for construction is not a problem. Of course, money for ongoing operations will be a problem, given every government's lack of resources in the current economic climate.

But the big issue in LA is the exceesive bureaucracy. That's true of large urban school districts across the country, and LA is no different. Brewer did nothing to address that problem. Green Dot schools is making a difference on that front with Locke High School, but they are doing it from outside the system.

Whoever can crack the nut of redefining school bureaucracy in this country will be a hero. Now that Brewer is gone, Antonio Villaraigosa might take another stab at it. He tried to take over the school system when he was first sworn into office, but didn't manage it. He now has a majority of the school board as allies, so the next superintendent will be selected with input from him. Rumors are constantly swirling around Antonio about what office he will be looking for next. Many people think he will run for governor in 2010, when Arnold will be term limited out. I'm not sure - I think he might want to stick around and dedicate himself to transforming LAUSD. He's certainly got the energy and the constituency. It might be a stepping stone to higher office, like governor or senator. At the very least, it would be a great, great legacy.

As we big au revoir to Adm. Brewer, we cross our fingers and hope for better luck this time. Much, much better luck.

4 comments:

MizzB said...

It's not a question of luck at all. It's about getting a competent school board that makes competent hiring decisions. Last time around they had the choice to go for educational depth and experience, or flashy business-speak. Guess which way they went? The LA Weekly did a great expose on Brewer in December, 2007.

Anonymous said...

It is very interesting to see what Michelle Rhee is doing in the D.C. schools.....

What do we think about her folks?

JohnTEQP said...

I love Michelle Rhee. I think she's great. I think someone needs to shake up the system big time, and I think tenure has to be one of the things that we address. We have to be able to fire bad people. That's called accountabiilty.

JohnTEQP said...

MizzB-

Well, yes, of course, we need a competent school board. The comment about luck was a figure of speech. How about this as a final comment, instead of crossing our fingers:

We need to take all that energy from the campaigns of '08, and focus on electing competent members of the school board who are willing to challenge the status quo and deliver for our children.