Following weeks of speculation on the longevity of Superintendent David L. Brewer’s career with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the district’s Board of Education agreed to buy out his contract Tuesday, December 9th for more than $500,000. He plans to remain as superintendent until December 31st.
The board’s decision will mark the end of Brewer’s time as the head of the nation’s second-largest school district, which had shown some improvement at certain schools in recent years but has been heavily criticized for its bloated bureaucracy, a spate of sex scandals involving teachers and students and one of the highest dropout rates in the nation.
The superintendent, who is in the second year of a four-year contract, agreed to the buyout days after indicating that he would prefer to leave rather than see his ability to lead descend into a racial debate.
“Although this debate is disconcerting and troubling, it must not become an ethnic issue,” Brewer, who is African American, told the board. “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.”
An aborted attempt to oust Brewer came a week prior to the buyout when board president Monica GarcÌa, a Latina and a Brewer critic, sought to discuss his future with the board while Marguerite LaMotte, the school board’s only African-American member, was out of town attending a conference. Those plans were scrapped when GarcÌa’s plan became public.
One downtown business organization moved quickly to recommend Brewer’s second in command, deputy superintendent RamÛn Cortines, to lead L.A. Unified.
“The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce urges the school board to immediately hire RamÛn Cortines as superintendent on a permanent basis,” the organization said in a statement.
Pete Accardi, a mathematics teacher at Westchester High School, said he did not see marked improvement for teachers or students during Brewer’s two-year stint as the head of the school district.
“I think that we need new leadership,” said Accardi, who is the high school’s union representative. “I’m sorry that [Brewer] had to leave, but I’m not sure that hiring him was a good decision from the beginning.”
Brewer was a supporter of the autonomy movement in Westchester, where five of the seven schools have opted to establish local control of their schools and implement their own governance models within L.A. Unified.
At a meeting at Westchester High School last year, the superintendent lamented the education gap that had grown between African American students and their peers.
“This has been the most pernicious problem in America for a long time, and we’ve got to do something about that,” Brewer said.
At Argonaut press time, the district had not named an interim superintendent.