After a months-long, nationwide search, the L.A. Board of Education has selected a new superintendent. The political and business savvy of former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer could speed reform at the mammoth, troubled Los Angeles school district, but he lacks direct experience in public education and in-depth knowledge of the L.A. area. So the Business Journal asks:
What advice would you give LAUSD's new superintendent?
Senior Vice President
I would say just focus on the facts and use your solid management skills. It doesn't take much to see how mismanaged the district is. There's a lot of resistance to an outsider coming into L.A. because he may not be familiar with the ethnic issues here. But in my opinion, management experience, which he has, coming from the state government level, should come before politics racial or regional. At the crux of the problem is that you're dealing with limited resources, so it will take someone talented to figure out how to best allocate them.
I'd tell him to get rid of the bureaucracy. If there was some magical way we could get the politicians out of the schools, and have the educators making the decisions, maybe we could get back to basic education old-fashioned learning. Listen to the people in the trenches. We have some wonderful teachers, but they get thwarted by the system. We're having problems retaining them because of that. The bureaucracy is too big and too cumbersome and teachers aren't paid enough.
Brecek & Young Advisors
I would tell him to listen to people. He should talk to parents, students and teachers, not to the administrators and principals. It doesn't bother me that he doesn't have educational experience I'd like to see the school district run more like a business. The whole idea of merit pay for teachers and administrators really appeals to me. I'm very Libertarian in my views, so I'm all for the breakup of the huge school district. Public education here is in a shocking state.
He should remember that LAUSD is a business like any other. It needs to be efficient, organized and accountable. I have children in kindergarten and first grade, and I get so mad when I see how they change programs without thinking how they're going to affect the kids. And even though L.A. is a unique melting pot, he needs to focus on how we can best educate all of the kids. Wherever they come from, they should be taught in English because it's the most important language here. I'm from Colombia myself, and we have a saying: To the country that you go, you do as you see.
One of the things he's going to have to do is be a good listener. He may be walking into an adversarial situation, so it would work to his advantage to try and truly understand the issues before making policies. If he's for real, he'll get to the core of the issues first and listen to the people out there in the schools. Maybe he could also work to get the business community more involved in the schools not like Pepsi sponsorships but in terms of programs like Junior Achievement, (which encourage business people to serve) as role models for students.
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