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School Board Draws Fire for Awarding Job to Councilman : Education: Omar Bradley is hired to develop video programming. Critics say others should have been allowed to apply for the new position.

August 20, 1992|HOWARD BLUME | TIMES STAFF WRITER

COMPTON — The hiring of Compton City Councilman Omar Bradley to promote the Compton Unified School District has sparked sharp criticism from teachers union leaders and heated division on the school board.

Supporters praise Bradley as the perfect candidate to improve the school system's tarnished image. Opponents said the board majority hired Bradley improperly, without giving other candidates a chance to apply.

Trustees hired Bradley at Tuesday's meeting by a 4 to 3 vote. Bradley's job will be to develop video programming for classrooms and the district's cable television station.

Board members authorized the new position Tuesday. Then Trustee Amen Rahh immediately nominated Bradley to fill it.

"In the last 10 years, the image of the school district by the average Compton citizen is so bad that we need someone who can bring forth the positive programs," Rahh said after the meeting. He praised Bradley as "someone the community trusts."

Publicity over low test scores, financial mismanagement and other problems has hounded the district in recent years.

Bradley said he would be delighted to try to change negative perceptions of the district.

"I think I can have a positive impact," said Bradley, a 34-year-old English teacher in the neighboring Lynwood Unified School District. "I'm happy I'm going to be back home."

Joining Rahh in voting to hire Bradley were board President John Steward and board members Lynn Dymally and Sam Littleton. Members Manuel Correa, Cloria Patillo and Kelvin D. Filer voted against both creating the position and picking Bradley to fill it.

Filer said it was the responsibility of the superintendent and not that of the board to provide a list of candidates for jobs.

"I have absolutely no problem with the individual. He is a friend of mine," Filer told fellow board members. "This particular motion is setting a dangerous precedent. . . . The perception is going to be that we're creating a job for this individual."

Patillo called the decision "totally illegal" and "shoved down the throats" of staff members by Bradley's board supporters.

"Anyone else who works for the district has to apply for the position," she said.

The president of the teachers union echoed the criticism. All teaching jobs should be filled through an open application process, said Margie Garrett, head of the Compton Education Assn. The union will file an official complaint with the district because the board's decision violated the teachers' contract, she said.

Supt. J. L. Handy could not be reached for comment.

Rahh said the only injustice was taking so long to bring Bradley, a lifelong Compton resident, to the district.

"We were standing up to a historical injustice, the tradition not to consider people from the community for a job in the district," Rahh said. "It seems as if it's a tradition in the district not to work with people politically involved in the city."

Bradley has a high political profile in Compton. He won election to the council last year after earlier unsuccessful attempts to run for mayor and the school board. He said he is a likely candidate to run for mayor again, and his opponents probably have political motives for wanting to keep him out of the school district.

"I'm from the community, and I shouldn't have to go through this. They should be welcoming me with open arms," Bradley said. "I've got a reputation in the community of being someone who's always there for the kids."

Critics said Bradley's supporters might also have political motives. The yes votes included board President Steward, a likely candidate for Compton city treasurer, and Lynn Dymally, who recently ran unsuccessfully for Congress. Bradley won friends in the Dymally camp when he publicly withdrew his endorsement of Dymally's opponent, Walter R. Tucker III.

Steward and Dymally insisted Bradley would be a big plus for the district. "He understands the needs of the community," Dymally said. "He understands the direction the community and district needs to take to develop a positive image. . . He relates well to young people. I don't think we could find a better qualified person."

Part of Bradley's job will probably include working with students to create videos. His position is officially listed as a teaching post at a salary of $34,000.

Bradley said his qualifications for the job include a major in television communications and a minor in public speaking from Cal State Long Beach.

Lynwood High School Principal Mickey Cureton also praised Bradley, saying he would be sorry to lose him as a faculty member.

Bradley promised to justify the board's choice. "Everything I've ever touched in Lynwood has turned to gold. . . . They're going to find that I'm the best guy for any job they have."

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