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New L.A. School Superintendent

May 25, 1987

I retired in June after teaching 24 years in the Los Angeles City district and I believe the choice of Britton will prove to be a wise one for reasons I have not yet seen mentioned in a news article.

The administrative structure of the Los Angeles School District is a classic example of an "old boy (and girl) network." Administrators rise in rank by supporting and enforcing the decisions of those above them. Their careers depend on their loyalty and conformity rather than on the quality and independence of their thinking.

Del Olmo says: "What would be safer than appointing a minority from within the system, someone who knows it and plays by its rules . . ."

That it would have been safer is the more reason to doubt that this is a racist choice. The members of the board are politicians, if nothing else, and they well understand ethnic pressures. This was a unanimous choice, which suggests that there was much more than race involved. "Playing by the rules" means supporting the next administrator up without question. This leads to rigid policy, impacted thinking, and sluggish response to change.

Also, Del Olmo says: "William Anton is a company man almost to a fault. Yet when he finally had a chance to head the company, it apparently didn't matter."

"Company men" support their supervisors without question. In a bureaucracy it should not be assumed that the best people rise to the top. All too often the best people simply leave for greener and more stimulating pastures and what rises to the top are those who have best learned to "get along."

The board all too often makes decisions and policies based on the information provided it by the administrative hierarchy rather than an independent source. The result is a reinforcement of past habits, a continuation of bad policies that no one dares criticize, and an ever-growing administrative monolith. Choosing a person from outside the city provides the possibility that some fresh ideas will arise, that ambitious sub-sub-administrators can get on with doing their job and worry less about internal politics, and that the school district can begin to focus on real needs, which the existing multitude of administrators have failed to deal with.

ARTHUR ARMSTRONG

Los Angeles

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