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Brewer and the question of race in L.A.

December 9, 2008 |  8:40 am

Brewer1 David Brewer's decision to step down as head of the Los Angeles Unified School District ended, like so many things in L.A., as being about race (at least in part). Much had been made about how the effort to oust Brewer was coming from a Latina school board president. His replacement is expected to be his deputy, Ramon Cortines. The ouster attempt drew some concerns from African American political leaders. But in stepping down, Brewer said he was trying to avoid racial discord:

The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education is expected to hash out the final details of an exit package today for Brewer, the retired Navy vice admiral who was supposed to bring military know-how and a deep passion for education to the job of running the nation's second-largest school district. "As an African American, I've experienced my share of discrimination," he told reporters, school board members and district employees Monday. "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. When adults fight, it can manifest itself in our children," said Brewer, the district's second African American superintendent. "This must not become an ethnic or racial battle that infests our schools, our campuses, our playgrounds. This is not about settling an old score; this must be about what is best for every LAUSD student."

More on Brewer:

L. A. Times editorial: "Had board President Monica Garcia handled the matter more gracefully, by conferring with the board and offering Brewer a well-planned and dignified retreat, she might have saved the retired vice admiral considerable humiliation and saved the district considerable money."

Bob Sipchen: "Brewer, lacking pedagogic experience, was an unorthodox choice for the job. But he spoke with passion about how the system was failing poor kids. He clearly cared. I reserved a measure of hope for the possibility that his apparent passion for helping students would enable him to overcome the bureaucracy that so often ensnares LAUSD superintendents."

Ron Kaye: "It speaks a lot about the state of the Los Angeles -- the nation's most racially diverse city where a fusion culture of black, brown, Asian and white is being born among young people -- that the color of a person's skin takes precedence over the value of their public service."

-- Shelby Grad

Photo: Nick Ut/Associated Press