The tenure of the second African American Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has officially come to an end, with a lot of controversy.
The Los Angeles Board of Education voted to buy out Supt. David L. Brewer after only two years of his four-year contract, to the sum of $500,000.
Brewer's critics, led by Board of Education President Monica Garcia, believe that Brewer has not improved the school district at a quick enough pace. But Brewer has a different point of view on that matter.
"LAUSD students had the highest academic gains of any other major school district in the state last year," Brewer said. "Elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools had record gains, and not just by a point or two, but by double digits."
A.J. Duffy, president of the powerful teachers union, does not back up Brewer on that point. Duffy said that steps were already in process to raise test scores before Brewer took office.
"To claim victory on that is not really accurate," Duffy said.
Brewer's critics believe that he was a bad choice to begin with.
"I think he was not a good selection by the previous board," Duffy said. "To bring in what was considered to be the anti-mayor candidate. Admiral Brewer has no idea about LAUSD politics and the City of Los Angeles politics, and he was dropped in this situation."
Brewer was certainly not Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's selection. Brewer came into office as Villaraigosa was pressing to take control of the school system. Since then Villaraigosa has helped elect a new board majority that was dissatisfied with Brewer from the beginning.
Last week's fiascle by Garcia to oust Brewer has cast a shadow of racism over this situation. Sentinel columnist Larry Aubry, who is a Brewer critic, pointed out that it was not right for Garcia to attempt to discuss ousting Brewer with other board members on such short notice, especially since Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, the board's only African American member, was out of town.
Garcia quickly backed off after hearing LaMotte's frustrations about the situation.
Leon Jenkins, Vice President and President-elect of the NAACP's Los Angeles chapter, did not claim racism, but he believes that race could be an issue.
"Test scores were raised, which he was brought in to do," Jenkins said. " He's the only supervisor to not be allowed to finish out his term. Roy Romer (Superintendent before Brewer) completed six years. The test scores were very low, but he was able to finish. Under Brewer there was a double-digit increase. You can argue about the pace of progress. But the changes were significant enough to allow him to finish."
Jenkins believes that Villaraigosa may be behind this.
"I don't think she's (Garcia) doing anything without his blessing," Jenkins said. "If she's promoting a Hispanic for the position it can show racial overtones."
Brewer is distancing himself from the race issue.
"The current debate about my leadership and the performance of the district has been contentious," Brewer said. "It has been demoralizing and debilitating, not only to our valued employees, but has spilled over into our community. As an African-American, I've experienced my share of discrimination. When I joined the Navy as an officer over 37 years ago, there were only 250 African-American officers out of 72,000. 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."
It is speculated that Senior Deputy Supt. Ramon C. Cortines will accept the superintendent position on an interim basis. Cortines has managed day-to-day operations as well as long-term planning for the LAUSD since Brewer handed them over to him eight months ago. Critics questioned why the district should be paying two superintendents.
There has not been a decision on a permanent successor. More than likely the next superintendent will have a background in education.
"Brewer was the superintendent and he was a soldier, but he never was an educator," said Danny Bakewell, Community Leader and Sentinel Executive Publisher. "We need to stop hiring military men to oversee the education of our children. Hiring military leaders to run school districts seems to be a pattern [Washington D.C., New Orleans and Los Angeles all hired ex military to head their districts] and each time it has failed miserably."