"That's unfortunate," Duffy said, "because he's a well-meaning guy, probably with a lot to give. He was dropped into an untenable situation and unfortunately he didn't create his own life raft by surrounding himself with a strong management team."
In his statement, Brewer appeared to take aim at critics who said he lacked "the human factor." He repeatedly invoked the needs of the city's children, saying at one point: "My passion and commitment have not and will not diminish. I will not leave the children of Los Angeles."
He seemed to allude to the school board majority's agenda when he said: "What children need is not what adults want."
Brewer came to the job with little background in public education, but impressed the board as an inspiring leader with a "take-charge attitude." Over time, he was criticized for moving too slowly to fill key positions and for failing to fully grasp the complexities of running a vast, politically charged organization that struggles to educate its 700,000 students, especially the many who are poor and not fluent in English.
Earlier this year, Brewer handed off day-to-day running of the district to Cortines, 76, who has headed school districts in New York and San Francisco. While Brewer considered the partnership to be a success, others questioned why the district should be, in effect, paying two superintendents.
Some are already pushing for Cortines to take over.
"Ray has started what we consider a very good process of bringing reform to the LAUSD. We believe that he is uniquely qualified to pick up the reins and run the district," said Gary Toebben, president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. "This would be a terrible time to have a leadership vacuum."
Brewer took the job at a difficult time. He replaced former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, who served six years as superintendent. Brewer, who arrived as Villaraigosa was pressing for control of the school system, didn't know whether his ultimate boss would be the school board, which opposed the takeover, or the mayor. The board prevailed in court, and Brewer initially received high marks for cultivating good relations with both sides. Villaraigosa later helped elect a new board majority that was dissatisfied with Brewer virtually from the start.
He leaves in equally difficult times, as the district faces what could be its biggest budget shortfall ever. Although Los Angeles Unified is now flush with construction funds, from the passage of five bond measures over 11 years, it faces a $200 million to $400 million cut in its $8.6-billion operating budget this year, followed by another $400 million next year.