But then Thompson represented a nadir, even within the serried ranks of lackluster LAUSD chiefs. Zacarias had his own problems, though. He was reported to be largely responsible for the district’s ineligibility for new state school moneys, and while he‘s promised things like more textbooks, these remain undelivered. So in some ways, he’s obstructed the reform those demonstrators demanded.
Worse, Zacarias rewarded with advancement many of the spavined hacks who diverted the district‘s focus from serving children to serving their own decision-taking careers. The superintendent who opposed social promotions in the classrooms apparently saw nothing wrong with social promotions of fellow administrators, who in fact did make the LAUSD what it is today.
To be fair, however, much of the Friday protest was not about restoring Zacarias. Indeed, the Mexican American Legal, Education and Defense Fund’s suit against the school board merely alleges that the Brown Act was violated. (Supervisor Gloria Molina, U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard and Assemblyman Gilbert A. Cedillo take the same position.) The MALDEF action attacks the process whereby the school board met to place new facilities executive Howard Miller over Zacarias without due notification. I think most people agree the board did fail to do this.
So board president Hayes might as well do the whole thing over and do it right -- due notification and open sessions right up to the final point of closed-session necessity. I know that many of his supporters say that they want Zacarias to get a proper employee evaluation too, but I think they might want to first check that demand with the superintendent. A hostile evaluation (look at the one the MTA gave construction chief LeRoy Graw before they fired him) can be a vicious thing, even for an exemplary employee. Which, even at his best, Zacarias doesn‘t altogether appear to be.
Hayes might also consider giving Zacarias some real-time administrative duties. They should be unrelated to the mighty tasks of getting the LAUSD’s rusty and decrepit machinery rolling.
But there‘s not much time left. Zacarias’ legislative supporters are only the latest batch of opportunists to urge the shattering of the entire LAUSD. Call the breakup the ”Let a Thousand Comptons Bloom“ alternative to the tottering, present organism. There may actually be reasons for such an undertaking, but the issue of where Ruben Zacarias sits until his planned retirement next June doesn‘t seem like one to me.
If the breakup proposal’s became a shopworn cliche, there‘s another possible LAUSD reinvention on the horizon no one seems to want to talk about. Within 15 months, this country could have itself a new president -- George W. Bush -- who devoutly believes in school vouchers. And how can the LAUSD, in its present state, begin to defend itself against a national innovation so contrary to its very nature?