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California Briefing / LOS ANGELES

Power to change schools sought

June 28, 2008|Howard Blume

L.A. schools Supt. David L. Brewer said this week he would push to give school principals real authority over their staffs and budgets and hold them accountable for academic results -- if the school board and other leaders would stand behind him.

"The captain of a ship is a god," said Brewer, a retired admiral, at a Thursday meeting to discuss how the Los Angeles Unified School District is organized. "I want the principals to be captains of their ships. . . . Then I found out about all the union issues," which, he added, revolve around the needs of adults rather than children.

"Give me political cover to kick some ass and make some changes," he said to the three board members present, as well as to representatives from the administrators union, charter schools and the League of Women Voters.

Recently, some district and civic insiders have questioned Brewer's performance, although he recently received widespread praise for hiring Ramon C. Cortines, the former superintendent in New York City, San Francisco and Pasadena, to work directly under him.

Contacted later, a teachers union official said democratic systems work best at schools. Key decisions should be made by a team of administrators, teachers, parents and older students, said Joshua Pechthalt, a vice president with United Teachers Los Angeles.

"This idea that you need an ultimate decision-maker, because he or she has great insight, is not borne out by reality," Pechthalt said.

-- Howard Blume

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