From the dozen, the committee chose five very different finalists. Joining Brewer were Tom Vander Ark, executive director for education initiatives at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Carlos A. Garcia, a former head of the Clark County, Nev., school district; Ted Mitchell, a former Occidental College president who heads a nonprofit firm that funds charter schools; and Maria Ott, a former senior Los Angeles schools administrator who runs the Rowland Unified School District.
Early last week, the selection committee handed over its choices to the school board. Hamilton and several members of the committee reviewed each of the finalists for the board. It was clear to some board members that Brewer had made a strong impression.
Over the next few days, the board interviewed in private each finalist except Mitchell, who withdrew from consideration. By week's end, Brewer was the favorite, scoring far and away the most points on the rating system the board used.
Ott, who faltered somewhat in her interview, according to several sources, withdrew her name. Faced with the three remaining choices, Lansing and other board members said they went into Thursday still undecided. Each man brought a very different skill set to the table: Garcia has experience running a large urban district and Vander Ark is a leading figure in public education reform with an understanding of pressing issues.