COMPTON — The list of candidates for superintendent of schools has been narrowed to five who will be interviewed by the Board of Education on Aug. 11, according to the consultant hired to help find a new schools chief.
Latino leaders in Compton want the board, which has six black members and one Latino member, to make acting Supt. Elisa L. Sanchez superintendent. This year, Latino children are more than half of the district's approximately 26,000 students.
Wilson Riles, former state superintendent of public instruction and now the head of his own Sacramento search firm, declined to reveal the names of the finalists for the top job in the Compton Unified School District.
"The people at this stage of the game, all of them are employed and they may not have notified their employers that they have applied at Compton," Riles said. He would not say if Sanchez is among the five finalists nor would he say if any women or Latinos are on the list.
"I cannot go into details at this point," Riles said. "But let me put it this way, the board did not close the door to anybody."
Sanchez declined to say if she is among the finalists. Likewise, school board members were keeping a lid on the list. School trustees John Steward and Kelvin D. Filer declined to talk about what names are on the list. Trustee Sam Littleton could not be reached for comment. Four other board members, President Mary B. Henry, Manuel Correa, Cloria Patillo and Lynn Dymally-Lee, did not return telephone calls.
About 40 educators, Riles said, applied for the Compton job, which became vacant in January when Supt. Ted D. Kimbrough left to become head of the Chicago public school system. Sanchez joined the district in 1983 as an assistant superintendent of educational services and later became deputy superintendent until the board named her acting superintendent.
Riles acknowledged that the school board is a little behind schedule in the search for a new superintendent, but said he believes the choice will be made by the opening of school Sept. 11.
Whoever gets the job faces a multitude of critical problems. For years, Compton student test scores have been among the lowest in the state; the dropout rate is among the highest. School buildings are badly deteriorated.
Labor relations have been poor for years, too. Teachers, among the lowest paid in Los Angeles County, have been working for two years without a contract because their union and the school board cannot agree on salaries. In addition, the district had to make deep cuts in its budget this year in order to make it balance.
Starting pay for teachers in Compton is $23,226, compared to about $27,000 in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
And, according to a report issued in April by a state researcher hired to help negotiate a teacher contract in Compton, the maximum salary for teachers there is $37,575, while the average highest salary for the top 10 districts in Los Angeles County is $44,569.
Riles said that he and his staff met with parents in order to find out what sort of superintendent they want.
"They are very concerned about the achievement level of their kids," he said. "When they look at the test scores that are published, their kids are always low on the scale and they want that turned around.3