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Crisis of Confidence in Compton School District

September 02, 1993

The Compton Unified School District is in a state of crisis, which is likely to erupt into an explosive situation that could result in the destruction of this educational institution.

The responsibility for some of the past and present problems of the Compton Unified School District belongs with the Los Angeles County Office of Education and interim state administrator Stanley G. Oswalt, the official in charge of running the school system.

The County Office of Education was negligent in its duty to oversee the school district's budget. For several years prior to the current budget problems, the office allowed the district to operate with less than the legally required budget reserve of 3%. It is noteworthy that other school districts in Los Angeles County, all under the authority of the County Education Office, also are experiencing financial problems.

Last year, the county office performed an extensive review of all district operations under the authority of Assembly Bill 2503. I believe that the intent of the Legislature and the governor's office was for this review to result in a collaborative effort involving the county education office and the Compton Unified School District to improve services to Compton students.

Such has not been the case since a state-appointed administrator took control of the school system in July. The district fell under the control of this administrator as a condition for receiving an emergency $10.5-million state loan.

Assembly Bill 1200, which contains the rules for such loans, provides for the elected school board to lose governing authority, but to remain as advisers to the state administrator. Dr. Oswalt, the current state administrator, and officials from the County Education Office have excluded the elected school board members from this advisory role.

They also have excluded the district's own top administrators, acting Supt. Harold L. Cebrun and former acting Deputy Supt. Thelma Moore. Incidentally, during the seven months of their leadership, there was an improvement in school operations, staff performances and a slight improvement in some test scores.

After having excluded elected officials and district administrators, the state administrator and consultants with the County Education Office promoted division between African-Americans and Latinos in the community. This was accomplished by focusing district resources on providing additional services to students who speak limited English at the expense of English-speaking students. Compton Unified has an increasingly large immigrant population with genuine needs. However, the issue here was not overcoming language barriers, but divide and conquer.

Dr. Oswalt and County Education Office administrators are effecting a power grab to disenfranchise this community of its educational institution.

In so doing, professional careers and a school district are being destroyed to accommodate cronyism and greed. In addition, the County Education Office is stepping well beyond its traditional role of providing school districts with financial services and special classes for disabled students.

Personnel decisions have been whimsical, capricious and vindictive, causing talented teachers and staff to leave the district. Longtime friends are hired as long-term consultants.

During my 12 years of school board service, I have learned that there are far too many unmonitored, self-serving bureaucrats masquerading as educational administrators. Along these lines, nothing has changed since the state took over in Compton Unified.

My concern is not to obtain your favorable or unfavorable opinion, but to inform and invite inquiry. Should you wish to witness the disenfranchisement of a community or the destruction of an educational institution, Compton schools open Sept. 8, 1993.

JOHN STEWARD

School Board Member

Compton Unified School District

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