Panel discusses replacing Brewer

December 12, 2008|Jason Song | Song is a Times staff writer.

The Los Angeles Board of Education met behind closed doors Thursday to discuss potential replacements for Supt. David L. Brewer, with all signs continuing to point to the elevation of veteran educator Ramon C. Cortines, who currently holds the school system's No. 2 position.

Board members voted 5 to 2 earlier this week to exercise the buyout provision of Brewer's contract midway through a four-year pact at a cost of at least $517,500.

Cortines, 76, was the district's interim head in 2000 and has managed day-to-day operations as well as long-term planning for the Los Angeles Unified School District since being named senior deputy superintendent in April.

Cortines could not be reached for comment.

The issue of racial politics continues to swirl around the termination of Brewer, who is African American.

During a Thursday news conference at Dorsey High School in South Los Angeles, an informal coalition of black civic leaders demanded to meet with the school board and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who implicitly endorsed Brewer's removal. The participants also said they wanted a representative of their group on the selection committee for the next superintendent.

At that event, the school board's only African American member, Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, stopped short of saying that Brewer's ouster was racially motivated, although she accused Villaraigosa of interfering with the school district.

Villaraigosa has denied playing a role in Brewer's ouster. The effort was led by board President Monica Garcia, a close ally of the mayor who, like him and Cortines, is Latino. Garcia's three closest allies on the board were elected with significant fundraising help from Villaraigosa.

Brewer has said that he does not want his dismissal to take on racial overtones, although he did blame "power politics" in a television interview this week.

At a separate news conference Wednesday morning, the mayor said he respected Cortines, who served as his top education advisor before taking the senior deputy superintendent job, but said the selection of the next chief would be the school board's decision alone.

"The problem . . . is that we just hire a superintendent and not a team with a plan. We've got to put in a plan that transforms this district," Villaraigosa said.


Times staff writer Maeve Reston contributed to this report.

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