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L.A. meets schools chief

first_img“To everyone in this community, I say, I am not a reformer, I am a transformer. I aim to transform this district. … This is a world where our children have to compete globally. We are going to shoot for a world-class district.” Community leaders and others reacted cautiously to the appointment of Brewer, who faces skepticism about his professional qualifications and the district’s selection process. Brewer has broad administrative experience but no background in running a school district – the same criticism that former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer faced when he was hired as LAUSD superintendent in 2000. While Villaraigosa had pleaded with the school board to include him in the selection process, the board chose Brewer by unanimous vote late Thursday – while the mayor was on a trade mission in Asia. The Mayor’s Office, which had condemned the board’s unilateral action Thursday, issued a conciliatory statement Friday, saying Villaraigosa is still upset with the school board but hopes to meet with Brewer upon his return. “It is my hope the admiral will be committed to bringing fundamental reform to our schools, putting students first and building a genuine partnership,” Villaraigosa said in a statement. Brewer said he had already called the Mayor’s Office. “I think, once we meet, he will find that we agree on the fundamentals,” Brewer said. “I want to be his partner. I want to work with him and the other mayors. “I am an outreach guy, and I think we have the same vision for our children.” School Board President Marlene Canter insisted that the school board had not tried to insult the mayor by choosing a superintendent while Villaraigosa is away. “The mayor is doing his job as the mayor of the city, and we are doing what we were elected to do – to provide for the education of the children of the city,” Canter said. “The first call I made after the board took its action was to the Mayor’s Office to let them know what we had done.” Duffy’s concerns In the next few weeks, as his contract is finalized, Brewer said, he plans to meet with as many officials and stakeholders as possible, including A.J. Duffy, head of United Teachers Los Angeles. Duffy said he had some concerns about Brewer’s lack of education experience, but he was reserving judgment. “I would have hoped for someone with a background who understands what classroom teachers are going through. “At least Romer had a grounding in education issues and was one of the nation’s leaders on education. I’m not sure what we have with the admiral.” Brewer, 60, retired this year as a three-star admiral who oversaw the Navy’s supply lines. He said he was enticed to apply for the LAUSD job because of his parents’ work as educators and his desire to help youths. He said one of his jobs in the Navy was overseeing education programs, including remedial programs for recruits. “I know what is involved and what is needed,” said Brewer, who is married and lives in Washington, D.C. Brewer said all L.A. residents need to make a commitment to support education and improve city schools. “I say if you live in Los Angeles, you have a stake in the education of the children of this district,” Brewer said. “You will find me in your community, and you will find me asking, What are you doing for the children of Los Angeles? – whether it is a fundraiser or standing on a corner making sure of their safety. “That philosophy is based on Martin Luther King when he said we are all inescapably linked in a network of mutuality, tied in single garment of destiny. “What affects one of us affects all of us.” After taking over from the retiring Romer as superintendent, Brewer said, he will target problem students and those at risk of dropping out. “If we can make some strides there, you will begin to see improvements in other areas. If we can solve the problems of those kids at the lower end, we will be helping the gifted students and providing them with more opportunity. “And if we are successful there, I hope we will be bringing back the kids who are in private schools.” ‘Are they safe?’ Brewer said he also will seek to ensure that students have safe home environments. “We have the beyond-the-bell programs, but I want us to look at what’s happening with these kids from 6 at night until 10 at night. “What are they doing? Are they safe? Can they study? That’s a key to their success.” Longtime L.A. political consultant Joe Cerrell said Brewer has the right formula to succeed. “My suggestion to the new superintendent is that he try to cozy up to the mayor,” he said. “With all due respect, the seven members of the (board) don’t equal the mayor in popularity.” Veteran consultant Joel Kotkin of Valley Village also cautioned Brewer not to underestimate Villaraigosa’s considerable influence. “The new superintendent comes in facing a culture in Los Angeles that has never been more defined by the mayor and his circle than at any time that I can remember,” said Kotkin, who has written extensively about the city’s power structure. “It’s the Antonio show, and no one wants to say anything negative. I don’t know if it’s fair to portray the school board as a bunch of obstructionists, but (Brewer) has to know what the political terrain of the city is.” Black activists concurred that Brewer needs to be wary of the political power structure. “Antonio enjoys an incredible amount of support from the black community,” said South Los Angeles activist Deacon Alexander, a onetime member of the Black Panther Party. “If anyone, because he’s black, wants to play that kind of credential, they have no idea of the politics of L.A. at this time. “Race has no bearing at all. “The admiral has to network with the mayor, and he will have to answer the question: Is he the one with the magic bullet to solve the problems of the LAUSD?” Syndicated columnist and radio commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson, an expert on African-American issues, said the issues facing the district cut across racial lines. “He has to come in with both barrels blazing and show that he’s the right man. “And then he has to satisfy the politicians … to show that he can navigate all the waters – the teachers union, the administrators, the bureaucracy, the inner city.” Political consultant Bill Orozco, who once worked as a Latino community liaison for school board member David Tokofsky, said Brewer could immediately make an impact by trimming administrative costs. “It’s amazing how much dead weight there is in the district until you’ve worked there and seen the enormous waste,” Orozco said. “That’s where he should start. “He should audit the district and find what how many people you really need to operate it and eliminate the enormous amount of dead weight.” [email protected] (213) 978-0390160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! With the fervor and passion of an evangelical minister, Los Angeles Unified’s new superintendent introduced himself to the city Friday with a pledge to elevate school achievement and build support among civic leaders and parents. Retired Navy Adm. David Brewer III’s outreach effort specifically included Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, whose effort to take charge of educational reform has been met with stiff resistance from LAUSD officials. Brewer said he hopes to bring a renewed sense of urgency and involvement in education to the 727,000-student district. “I’m a firm believer that you can’t keep doing the same things and expect different results,” Brewer said during a morning news conference. center_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe joys and headaches of holiday travel: John Phillipslast_img read more