School Board Closes Doors, Opens Discussion

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles school board met behind closed doors Tuesday to discuss the possibility of buying out the contract of Superintendent David L. Brewer, but the board took no action.

The move to oust Brewer from his $300,000-a-year position apparently came in response to indications that the retired vice admiral had lost the backing of key civic leaders, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Times reported that the civic leaders -- including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former Mayor Richard Riordan and billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad -- were quietly pressing for Brewer to step down as head of the nation's second-largest school district. Riordan and Broad are influential in local reform efforts, especially in promoting charter schools.

The board met Tuesday in closed session, but board members took no action, according to The Times. According to anonymous sources quoted by the paper, the panel was hesitant to act because board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte -- the only black board member -- was not present. Brewer is also black.

Months ago, Brewer handed over day-to-day operations of the district and long-term planning to a deputy, Ramon C. Cortines, while remaining the district's public face and serving as its most visible lobbyist.

Sources close to Villaraigosa suggest he would support elevating Cortines, 76, who served previously more than a year and a half as his top education adviser, The Times reported.

But Villaraigosa has not moved openly. When Brewer was hired in late 2006, analysts said Villaraigosa could face political risks if he pushed for his removal, according to The Times.

The seven members of the Board of Education have been divided over the future of the 62-year-old retired vice admiral, The Times reported.

Two years into Brewer's tenure, test scores have bumped upward and voters last month resoundingly approved the largest-ever local school bond for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

But Brewer's critics have characterized him as nonessential to these accomplishments and say his alleged lack of internal leadership has become an anchor slowing reforms, The Times reported.

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