Maybe it's just me, but I can't look at David Brewer without thinking "short termer."
I mean, I can't see the guy hanging on to his new job as Los Angeles school superintendent for long.
After all, he was snuck into his new post as superintendent of Los Angeles schools when his soon-to-be boss, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, was out of the country. Then Brewer promptly said he was going to chop the roster of administrators and get rid of bad teachers.
So, in only a couple weeks, a superintendent who wasn't chosen by the guy above him quickly frosted off two big groups of entrenched employees below him. Is that a formula for long-term employment?
Brewer seems like a nice guy and all that. He was a vice admiral in the U.S. Navy, so he clearly knows how to be successful in a bureaucratic setting. But still, the fumbles are piling up so fast I feel like I'm watching an Oakland Raiders game.
Take Brewer's meeting with reporters and editors at the Los Angeles Times in which he said he intends to get rid of bad teachers. "We're gonna get them out," he was quoted as saying. "The question is, how is the system going to react to the way we get them out?"
I know very little about the L.A. Unified School District, but even I know the question is not how the system will react but whether the system will allow him, or anyone, to do such a thing. A strong union protects bad teachers. As the Times pointed out, the district tried to fire less than one-third of 1 percent of teachers in the last decade, but couldn't even manage that very well.
A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, was quoted as saying the incoming superintendent has a lot to learn about the school district.
"We will continue to fight tooth and nail to protect our folks," Duffy said, in a line that kind of sounded like, "Go ahead. Make my day."
That's not the end. Brewer has no experience in education. He said it's in his DNA, since his parents were both educators and his wife is a teacher. That's the right thing to say, and the kind of thing you'd say if you were in his position. But most people know better. If your parents were postal clerks, would you be qualified to be postmaster?
There's one more constituency: the public. Brewer could still enjoy success if he really wins over the people. But that hasn't gone particularly well, either. First, he's said some real head scratchers. He wants to be a transformer, not a reformer. Something like that.
And then there's his pay package, which is bigger than that of his predecessor, Roy Romer. He is to get $300,000 a year and $3,000 a month for housing and a $45,000 expense account and a car and six months in a hotel and a partridge in a pear tree. Handsome pay makes the public suspicious
Politically, it would be difficult for Villaraigosa to fire a black ex-military guy. Still, I can't help but think he's a few missteps away from being shown the door.
I hope I'm wrong. I hope Brewer's phenomenally successful. The district could stand to fire bad teachers and dramatically shrink its bureaucracy. For that matter, it could use a transformer and a reformer. Maybe Brewer's the guy to do all that. But so far, he looks like a short termer.
Charles Crumpley is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org om.
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