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Brewer Aced His Final

L.A. UNIFIED'S NEW LEADER

The retired admiral wins over L.A. Unified's board with his `brutally honest' answers, take-charge attitude and strong personality.

October 14, 2006|Joel Rubin | Times Staff Writer

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.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday October 18, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 69 words Type of Material: Correction
Superintendent: A story in Saturday's Section A on David Brewer's selection as the next superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District quoted Brewer as saying: "A good friend came up to me and said, 'Dave, why wait? Why wait to help disadvantage children?' " The quote should have read: "A good friend came up to me and said, 'Dave, why wait? Why wait to help disadvantaged children?' "

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.

In the end, however, sources close to the board said Garcia could not escape questions about his record in Nevada. And Vander Ark turned the tables on the board, asking questions and laying out what one member called a "marriage proposal" that apparently left some questioning his desire for the job.

Much as they might have wished otherwise, board members were not working in a vacuum. A contentious debate swirled over what role, if any, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa should have in the selection.

Villaraigosa, who had won a power struggle with the board last month, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation that will give the mayor of Los Angeles considerable authority over the district, had made clear that he expected to be involved. He called for the chance to conduct his own interviews, but no agreement could be reached.

Board members dismissed the notion that the fight with the mayor had weighed on them as they pondered their choices. But while watching Brewer at a boisterous news conference Friday in which the new leader had people shouting and clapping, Lansing said it dawned on him that they had found a man who could go "toe to toe" with the city's charismatic mayor.

"He's going to be a light that attracts as many moths," he said.

joel.rubin@latimes.com

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