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LAUSD facilities director resigns

March 15, 2011 | 12:36 pm

The head of the $20-billion construction program for the Los Angeles Unified School District announced his resignation Tuesday in the wake of revelations in a Times series about his role in the building program at the local community college district.

James Sohn was the deputy to the head of construction at the Los Angeles Community College District and later moved on to L.A. Unified, where he became the chief facilities executive.   

Neither Sohn nor the district explained the reason for his departure, but he has been highly regarded by L.A. Schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, who is retiring next month.

Among the revelations in The Times series was a description of Sohn's investment venture with a contractor he was supposed to be supervising.

An L.A. Unified news release noted that during Sohn's tenure, 21 new schools opened to reduce overcrowding, including the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex.

Sohn has also had to confront questions about his management of L.A. Unified's program, which is the nation's largest school construction project. Among them was his oversight of a group of senior contractors who were later accused of successfully obaining a contract that they had essentially created for themselves while working for the district. Those contractors have denied wrongdoing.

He has also come under fire for allegedly using highly paid contractors instead of district employees.

Cortines especially valued his efforts to streamline the maintenance of schools in the wake of budget cuts.

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L.A. mayor urges charters to take on more challenging schools and students

-- Howard Blume

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