L.A. School Superintendent Steps Down

The move causes more tumult for a district that's likely to face $200 million to $400 million in cuts.

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The Los Angeles Unified School District's Board of Education voted earlier this week to pay its superintendent more than half a million dollars to leave his job midway through his four-year contract, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Although Superintendent David Brewer publicly vowed just last week to serve the remainder of his term, he announced Monday that he would accept a buyout, avoiding what could have quickly become a racially charged battle for his job. Brewer is African-American; only one member of the L.A. school board calling for his departure is black.

Brewer, a retired Navy vice admiral, had no education experience when he applied to serve as superintendent of the 700,000-student district, but he impressed the school board members who hired him with his "take-charge attitude." One of the school board's biggest criticisms of Brewer today is that his reform efforts are moving too slowly.

Brewer accepted the job at a tumultuous time for the district. When Brewer assumed his post two years ago, Los Angeles's Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa began pushing to disassemble the city's school board and take control of its public schools. Though the mayor's plan failed, the debate left Brewer confused about whether he ultimately answered to the mayor or to the school board.

The school board has not yet named Brewer's successor, but city leaders anticipate Senior Deputy Superintendent Ramon Cortines taking over at least in an interim capacity. Cortines served as Los Angeles's interim superintendent in 2006 and has experience as a senior education adviser to the mayor.

City officials agree that replacing Brewer with a veteran like Cortines is essential. Next year, the district could face $200 million to $400 million in cuts to its $8.6 billion operating budget. The schools need someone at the helm who can foster financial stability and move forward with reform efforts simultaneously.

Los Angeles