“As an African-American, I’ve experienced my share of discrimination,” he said, in a statement distributed to the media. “I know what it looks like, smells like, and the consequences. Although this debate is disconcerting and troubling, it must not become an ethnic issue.” Oops. Too late.
At the start of Tuesday’s meeting, Brewer flashed a broad smile — perhaps aware that he was about to get half a million bucks from the district’s badly strained budget if he agreed to leave quietly. The buyout stuck in the craw of flaky Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who, hardly known as a fiscal watchdog at City Hall, last year voted to spend large sums of taxpayer money amidst the housing crisis and thus played a role in L.A. city government’s record 2008 deficit.
In the circuslike atmosphere surrounding Brewer’s departure, Councilwoman Hahn got on TV by telling reporters, “I have a real problem with spending half a million on someone who’s not going to be doing the job anymore.” She then bizarrely suggested that the school superintendent’s job be made into an elected position.
Reporters hammered Hahn with questions about her oddball announcement, which would introduce even more political scheming into the schools and would almost certainly be decried by serious education leaders and political leaders statewide — as well as nationwide.
Not to be outdone in grabbing some media attention, A.J. Duffy, head of the United Teachers of Los Angeles, reminded anyone who would listen that potential labor troubles loom, threatening whatever stability the school district might muster. Duffy bid good riddance to Brewer with a warning to Cortines or whoever comes next. “There’s been precious little collaboration between the superintendent and the teachers,” Duffy said outside the boardroom. “We’re sending a message to Ray [Cortines]: If he doesn’t deal fairly with us, we’ll have issues with him.”
If there is a plan at the top of LAUSD, it is hard to discern, given the unwillingness of everyone in power to be forthcoming about the future. Not one of the seven elected board members returned phone calls to answer questions for this story. Even players who despise one another — Brewer and Garcia, for example — conceal the animosity behind a facade of civility.
Only at unscripted moments does the dysfunction burst into the open, as it did in the last few days, when the months-long push to get rid of Brewer suddenly took on a now-or-never fervor.