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Romer Gets 2 More Years in Schools Job

Education: L.A. Unified board expresses general satisfaction with the superintendent's work.

June 27, 2002|SOLOMON MOORE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles Board of Education has unanimously renewed schools Supt. Roy Romer's contract for two years.

The board's action late Tuesday extends Romer's position until 2005. The 73-year-old former Colorado governor was hired two years ago after serving as the head of the Democratic National Committee.

Romer will continue to be paid $250,000 a year and after five years will receive a state-funded annuity, pension plan and lifetime health coverage.

The board also doubled Romer's expense account for meals and entertainment, to $30,000 a year, during a closed session Tuesday. For the second year in a row, Romer declined what was to be a $100,000 bonus, and the board granted his request that it be written out of his current contract.

Romer said that his contract had come up for renewal so early to give the board time to look for a replacement in case they were dissatisfied with him. Board members said they have been generally happy with his leadership, despite debates on such difficult issues as the completion of the Belmont Learning Complex and class-size increases.

Board member Julie Korenstein, who has been critical of Romer on budget issues, said that she voted for the contract renewal because "he certainly is aggressive in tackling literacy and math in our schools. And he's aggressive on facilities.

"Those are efforts I applaud him for."

The board also ordered its auditor to investigate the staff recommendation that a joint venture be awarded three construction management contracts worth $33 million.

Board members voted 6 to 0 for the audit the day The Times reported that 3D/International Inc. and URS Corp. had been dismissed from a large school modernization job in Maryland after complaints of lax supervision. Facilities officials at Los Angeles Unified said they were unaware of the partnership's problems before it became a contract finalist here.

In 2000, the Los Angeles district auditor reported that 3D/International and O'Brien Kreitzberg--a predecessor of URS Corp.--were charging L.A. Unified fees higher than the industry standard.

The 3D/Iinternational-URS venture was one of 21 firms recommended to share $230 million in construction management contracts. The board Tuesday approved all but the 3D/International contracts, which were delayed until the investigation is completed.

Romer contended that any problems in the joint venture will be overcome.

Expressing concerns that L.A. Unified did not adequately review the contracts, the board also ordered Romer to strengthen the district's contract selection process.

In other matters, the board voted 5 to 2 to approve a provisional $5.9-billion general fund budget. The district still needs to shave $9.7 million to balance the budget by its deadline of July 1. The final budget is due Sept 8.

Romer has also said that to cover health benefits for district employees, the board must find at least an additional $30 million that is not currently included in the budget.

The board approved the sale, for $12 million, of 7.6 acres in Sullivan Canyon near Pacific Palisades that for 22 years had been leased to a private equestrian club. The Sullivan Canyon Preservation Assn., a group of neighbors and horse enthusiasts, bought the property.

The board also voted 5 to 2 to allocate $7.6 million in change orders for renovations to the future district headquarters at 333 S. Beaudry Ave. The increase amounts to 24.99% of the cost of the total renovation.

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