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“I respected, and the mayor respected, their process,” he added. “I just felt very strongly about his inclusion going forward, that it would really send a sign to the community that we were not just using the word partnership, that it was very sincere.”
There’s that word again — partnership. By now, who can take it seriously? School board member Marlene Canter used it as she stood with Brewer in Leimert Park, the cultural heart of black Los Angeles. School board member David Tokofsky promised partnership too — once the district blocks the mayor’s bill in court, that is.
“Hopefully, we’ll get an injunction, and then we’ll all be working together,” he declared.
Even Canter and Cortines, the most conciliatory faces on each side of the divide, couldn’t work out an agreement on the superintendent search, despite Canter’s offer to let Villaraigosa sit in on the board’s closed-door candidate interviews. And if relations are strained now, how will Brewer, a brand-new administrator with scant education experience, run a district when his two bosses — Villaraigosa and the school board — are at war on the campaign trail?
James, the campaign spokesman, downplayed such worries. “People always run against incumbents. That doesn’t mean everything in government grinds to a halt,” he said.
Others aren’t so sure. Former school board member Genethia Hudley Hayes turned down a request from the mayor’s campaign committee to engage in a rematch against incumbent board member Marguerite LaMotte, in part out of dismay over the bad blood between Villaraigosa and L.A. Unified. Hayes said the mayor’s committee told her that a “plethora” of people were out to replace not just LaMotte, but also school board members Jon Lauritzen and David Tokofsky.
“I think both sides have erred in the handling of this,” she said. “Somebody needs to de-escalate this thing. Somebody needs to defuse this thing.”
Others aren’t so shy. Education activist Luis Sanchez, who managed the campaign of Monica Garcia, Villaraigosa’s only ally on the school board, is gunning for Tokofsky. Johnathan X. Williams, whose South L.A. charter school was the backdrop for the mayor’s State of the City speech, is mulling a contest against LaMotte. And Richard Vladovic, a former L.A. Unified administrator, wants the seat being vacated by school board member Mike Lansing — and says the district should drop its legal fight against the mayor.
So what’s the score? In the feud between Villaraigosa and the school board, the two sides are officially tied, 1-1. But that could change. The school board could screw Villaraigosa by awarding Brewer a four-year contract, keeping the new superintendent in place well into the mayor’s second term. Then the mayor could screw the board, by convincing a handful of suburban mayors to oust Brewer. That can’t happen, however, without an ugly political fight and a flat-out belly flop by the new supe. “Breaking that contract will have great repercussions,” warned U.S. Representative Diane Watson, who sued Villaraigosa to block his school bill.
The funny thing is, political victories have a way of being quickly reversed. Villaraigosa’s education bill could be found unconstitutional. And Brewer, a man still unsure if he supports school vouchers, could find himself in way over his head. He could emulate Roy Romer, the superintendent who came to L.A. Unified six years ago and made huge strides. But he could also resemble former LAPD chief Willie Williams, who came to Los Angeles in 1992 amid great fanfare, only to slink out of the city a failure five years later.
Publicly, Brewer isn’t the least bit worried about the school fight. Asked who his real bosses are, he answered, “The children of L.A. Unified.”
Like they said in Leimert Park — as smooth as Villaraigosa.