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State to Take Over School District

August 08, 2001|From a Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — The board of a nearly bankrupt East Bay school district has voted to become only the fourth district statewide to fall under state oversight, accepting a $2.3-million state bailout.

The Emery Unified School District Board voted 4 to 1 Monday night to approve the loan and the appointment of a state auditor to oversee the finances of the tiny district, whose superintendent resigned under allegations of financial impropriety.

J.L. Handy, who was superintendent of Compton schools in 1992 when that district became the first in California to submit to state takeover, has pleaded innocent to two counts of theft of public funds and one count of violating state conflict-of-interest laws.

"Handy is responsible for 50% of the state takeovers--two out of four," said Doug Stone, a state Department of Education spokesman.

The other two state takeovers occurred at Richmond Unified, now known as West Contra Costa Unified, and Coachella Valley Unified.

For at least a year, the state administrator will oversee Emery's financial decisions with the school board serving in an advisory capacity.

"This is a new chapter for Emery," said Stone, "a chance to restore its financial health and improve its overall morale."

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