Oh the pain, the pain…you got to feel for Admiral David Brewer, the man in charge of a broken-down and obsolete school system that has defied the reform efforts of the city’s civic elite, a succession of mayors and dozens of community groups for 30 years.
Here’s a military bureaucrat who’s read every management treatise ever written and comes out of nowhere to head the nation’s second largest school district — a stranger in a strange land of palace politics, back room dealing and insider contracts, to name just a few of LAUSD’s more visible problems.
He never stood a chance. Today, the school board just might pull the plug, according to the Times, a johnny-come-lately to the campaign to blame Brewer for sins that are all our own.
A dozen or so superintendents who actually had some background in education preceded him without success at changing the “can’t do” culture of the vast soporific LAUSD bureaucracy or breaking the resistance to change of the unions.
Breaking up the district into pieces that would bring parents, teachers and principals into partnership was always the only way to generate the energy needed to turn around the district.
And, unintentionally, that’s what was happening under Brewer’s watch through growth in the charter school movement.
You can bet the school board, functionaries as they are, will come up with the sweetest of sweetheart deals to get Brewer to take a buy-out on his $300,000 annual salary.
Brewer’s days were numbered more than a year ago when the civic elite lost confidence in him and started tilting belatedly toward small schools and charters. And when Ray Cortines, the mayor’s right-hand man was put in charge of just about the entire district, it was only a matter of time before the taxpayers wrote him a big check and gave him his discharge from this thankless task.
What really matters is what happens next. It’s a certainty that Cortines will take over as superintendent in name as well as function. It will be his second shot at the job and maybe reform is easier the second time around but I doubt it.
LAUSD won’t be saved by tinkering and clearly it hasn’t been saved by $20 billion in new and renovated buildings.
The problem is in the classroom and on the campuses. Teachers need to be freed to educate and rewarded for success and held accountable for failure. Parents need to be fully engaged in their children’s education. Principals need to provide the leadership.
That’s not a secret. It’s what Dick Riordan’s LEARN program and every other reform effort was about. It’s what charters do.
So the problem isn’t really Brewer, is it?
It’s the lack of political will to clean out the bureaucracy and confront the unions over protections for failed administrators and teachers.
And the question is: What’s going to be different with him out of the way? That’s what the school board, the civic elite and the mayor need to provide answers for after they make Brewer their latest fallguy.