Kent Taylor, superintendent of education in southern Kern County, was selected Wednesday to lead the Inglewood school district — the first major move by the state after its takeover of the financially troubled district.
Before his Kern County stint, Taylor worked as a teacher, principal, administrator and school board member in several Southern California districts, mostly in the San Bernardino area. He grew up in Inglewood and graduated from Inglewood High in 1982, facts he emphasized repeatedly during a Wednesday news conference.
The appointment is about "coming back to the community that I love, the community that produced me," he said, recalling several teachers who mentored him as a youngster. "This is a great district, a wonderful district, and we have great things happening here.... Do we need to figure out some fiscal things? Yes, we do. But I'm the guy who is going to come and work with everyone and listen to everyone.... We're going to continue to move forward."
The state took over in September, when Gov. Jerry Brown approved legislation granting $55 million in emergency loans to help the roughly 14,000-student district pay its bills. State control will continue until the district's finances solidify, a process that will probably take two to six years, according to state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.
The state legislation created Taylor's position — he's officially the state administrator — and gave him authority to assume control of the district. Inglewood's superintendent has been let go, and its elected school board can now act only as an advisory body.
Taylor said he planned to meet with school board members immediately, seeking their input. From there, he said, he will launch into a review of the district's books.
"I have to look at the money aspect and see what exactly is going on," he said, noting that expected cuts will have to come after negotiations with the district's unions. By next week he plans to tour campuses districtwide.
Taylor said one of the biggest challenges Inglewood faces is dwindling enrollment — which hurts the budget because the state pays districts on a per-pupil basis.
"Parents have choices today that they didn't have before," he said. "They have private schools, charter schools and the traditional method that we operate, so in my position you really need to be able to market to them well. As far as the idea that kids can't get a quality education at places like Inglewood or Morningside High? Well, that's not true. What's the marketing tool? Myself."