LYNWOOD — Larry C. Tripplett, assistant principal of South Pasadena High School, has been named principal of Lynwood High School by a unanimous vote of the Lynwood Unified School District Board of Education.
Lynwood High, with an enrollment of 2,800, had been without a permanent principal since August, when Harold Cebrun resigned to become director of pupil personnel services for the Tustin Unified School District.
The Lynwood board, which had been without a fifth member since the Oct. 1 resignation of Trustee Jo Evelyn Terrell, had been at a stalemate over the two top candidates for the job.
The board previously had deadlocked, 2-2, on Tripplett before Willard Hawn Reed was elected the fifth member in a March 5 special election. But Tuesday night the board voted 5-0 on Reed's motion to name Tripplett as principal immediately.
Board member Helen Andersen, who previously had opposed Tripplett's appointment, reversed her vote because of an extensive background check on him done by Reed, she said. She had been concerned that Tripplett lacked experience as a principal.
Trustee Richard Armstrong, who also had voted against Tripplett earlier, could not be reached for comment.
Tripplett will serve out the remainder of the school year at Lynwood and sign a contract for next year. His salary will be in the neighborhood of $50,000, the board said.
"I don't anticipate a problem, " Tripplett said in a telephone interview about his move. "I will be leaving as soon as I can clean out my desk."
Tripplett, 34, has been assistant principal at South Pasadena for two years. A resident of Inglewood, he said the South Pasadena administration was aware that he had applied for the Lynwood job and might leave before the end of the school year.
"I have been working to become a principal. This is my chance," said Tripplett, who has bachelor's and master's degrees from Cal State Long Beach. He is working toward a doctor of philosophy degree in administrative policy studies at UCLA.
Supt. Charlie Mae Knight, who has been at odds with the board of education, said she was "delirious, excited" about the appointment of Tripplett.
"I think he is an outstanding educator. He is a leader. He has the skills, and he loves kids," said Knight, who had been asked by the board late last year to take over as principal of Lynwood High until a new principal could be found.
But the board reversed itself after several months and asked Knight to relinquish her role as principal in March and return to her duties as superintendent.
Asst. Principal Mickey Cureton has been serving as acting principal at the high school.
Meanwhile, in a closed meeting last week the board reportedly asked the district's attorney to draw up a new job description for Knight, one that will vastly reduce her role in the 12,000-student district. The board reportedly agreed to transfer many of Knight's duties to one of her top aides.
The board made no mention of the proposal to reduce Knight's power at Tuesday's meeting.
However, Reed said in an interview that the board still believed there was a need "to better define duties of all personnel in the district, not just Dr. Knight's."
Reed said the district's attorney, Eric Bathen, is expected to report back to the board on reorganizing administrators' duties at its next meeting April 23.
"Hopefully, some order can be brought to the district," Reed said. "It is in real bad shape. There's poor communication between administrators and teachers. There's low teacher morale. There's lots of absenteeism, particularly at the high school."
The proposal would strip Knight of her responsibility for attendance, curriculum and bilingual education. Knight would be in charge only of business services and personnel.
"It is not unusual for these duties to be held by associate superintendents in other districts," Reed said.
Knight, known for her aggressive and outspoken style, said she would not have any comment on the matter at this time.
On the naming of the new principal, she said she was pleased that the board had taken a unanimous vote on Tripplett's appointment.
Reed said he was "a little surprised but grateful" that the board was in complete agreement.
Reed said he had visited the South Pasadena High School campus and talked with administrators and teachers who worked with Tripplett.
Impressed by Performance
He said he came away "impressed that he will do an outstanding job. He is outstanding in personnel management. He has mastered pupil attendance."
Tripplett said he was aware that the Lynwood district has problems.
"But this is a challenge. This is an opportunity. This is what I have been working for," said Tripplett, who was also an assistant principal at South Pasadena Junior High School for two years.
In a related action, the board announced that an April 30 meeting had been scheduled with the Lynwood City Council to discuss the continuing debate over where to build a second high school in the city of 54,000 residents.
The state approved $32 million for the complex more than a year ago.
The district proposed building a new high school on 32 acres that include parts of Ham Memorial Park in the southeast portion of the city. But city officials have maintained that because of a deed restriction, the land can be used only for a park.
The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the school administration board room.
The board also scheduled a public hearing on the issue at 6 p.m. May 13 at Bateman Hall, adjacent to City Hall.