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Inglewood schools' administrator resigns

The action comes after Kent Taylor made tentative agreements with the teachers union, which he did not have the authority to do.

December 08, 2012|By Stephen Ceasar, Los Angeles Times
  • Kent Taylor was appointed two months ago by the state superintendent of public instruction to turn around the Inglewood Unified School District.
Kent Taylor was appointed two months ago by the state superintendent of… (Gary Friedman, Los Angeles…)

Kent Taylor, the administrator in charge of the financially troubled Inglewood school district, resigned Friday after the state Department of Education learned of tentative agreements he made with the teachers union without the authority to do so.

Taylor's resignation comes two months after he was appointed by state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to lead the school system — which was taken over by the state in September when Gov. Jerry Brown approved legislation granting $55 million in emergency loans to help the 14,000-student district.

Torlakson has appointed La Tanya Kirk-Carter, the district's assistant superintendent of business services, as interim state administrator for the district.

"This change is in the best interests of taxpayers, students and employees of the Inglewood Unified School District," Torlakson said in a statement. "I'm confident that our work to address the district's troubled finances will proceed without interruption."

The resignation came after the Education Department learned of a proposed collective bargaining offer between the district and the Inglewood Teachers Assn.

In his position as state administrator, Taylor did not have the power to enter into a labor contract without prior approval by Torlakson or a designee or before the completion of a financial review and plan to bring the district back to solid fiscal health.

In a letter, the department informed the teachers union that the agreement was voided.

Taylor could not be reached for comment.

Peter Somberg, president of the Inglewood Teachers Assn., said that the agreement and a memorandum of understanding were negotiated in good faith and that union officials were under the impression that Taylor had the authority to enter into them. Before beginning the bargaining process, union officials asked Taylor several times if he did in fact have the power to make collective bargaining deals. He assured the union that he did, Somberg said.

When Taylor was appointed, Somberg added, there was no indication from Torlakson or other state officials indicating that Taylor did not have that power.

"There was nothing ever mentioned that he didn't have authority to negotiate with us," Somberg said.

The tentative agreement would keep current employee health benefits intact and limit the number of furlough days for employees over the next two school years. It also allows parties to resume salary negotiations based on state funding changes in 2013 and 2014, Somberg said.

After years of cuts to programs, layoffs and salary reductions, the contract would give teachers a reprieve from further financial damage in coming years, Somberg said. The union intends to move forward with ratification of the agreement in January — despite Friday's announcement by the state.

"Years and years and years of cuts make people weary," he said. "This contract gives teachers hope that they're going to be appreciated."

The community embraced Taylor, and his rapport with teachers and others in Inglewood was appreciated, Somberg said.

"There was — and hopefully there will continue to be — a palpable atmosphere of hope among all the stakeholders in this community," he said. "To grow enrollment, grow opportunities for all of us, all our kids."

After the state takeover, the district's elected school board was forced to act only as an advisory body.

Board Member Johnny J. Young said he and others on the board did not know Taylor was negotiating with the union and were consistently left in the dark by Taylor.

"I'm not upset to see him go. He did not involve the board in any type of advisory role at all," he said. "He made all the decisions unilaterally."

Young said he has requested a meeting with Torlakson as soon as possible to discuss placing a permanent state administrator who will work with the board.

Before taking over in Inglewood, Taylor was the superintendent in southern Kern County and worked as a teacher, principal, administrator and school board member in several Southern California districts, mostly in the San Bernardino area.

Taylor moved to Inglewood when he was in the sixth grade and graduated from Inglewood High in 1982. In a recent Times story he was optimistic that his return to the district would prove a success. "None of this is going to be easy," he said. "But I believe that I'm the person with the background to do this job."

stephen.ceasar@latimes.com

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