"To everybody in this community, you can expect one thing: I am not a
reformer; I am a transformer. I am going to transform
this district into — not a
No Child Left Behind Act district. That is a low star. This is a
global, global economy. This is a world in which our children have to
compete globally. We're going to shoot for world-class."
-- David L. Brewer III
David Brewer has a distinguished military career, and now he's transforming into the latest hope for the public schools of Los Angeles. In a rather extraordinary political move, The LA Board of Ed has made their choice for the new Superintendant of the LA Unified School District and as the LA Times reports, they're very excited about him:
"Almost everything we threw at him, it seemed, he was able to relate to some experience he had had," said board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. "He had a presence, a take-charge attitude…. He talked about potential solutions for many issues and was brutally honest about the few things he didn't know."
Hours later, a giddy board President Marlene Canter announced Brewer as the next superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School District.
Brewer's surprise selection culminated a seven-month search that saw scores of candidates — many of them well-known educators considered at the outset to be likely choices — fade, flop or withdraw. Although he was an ostensibly unlikely choice, several board members and others said that by the end, Brewer showed leadership skills, intelligence and a commanding, infectious personality that made him what they considered the obvious choice to lead the nation's second-largest school district.
Everything I've seen about this guy so far, bristles of Old School, and I look forward to see a no-nonsense attitude from this man. He seems feerless and not so worried about politics as he is about results, and when the man says 'world-class' I think he means it.
He promises to go to the communities of sub-standard and dysfunctional and request increasing participation between parents and school. Brewer wants to know what goes on after 6pm. He's a fan of Kozol's book Shame of the Nation. He's also got a 'drop squad' mentality with regard to getting kids outside of their environment and letting them see everything out there so that they become familiar with the world of choices they will have.
On this last point, I agree with him 110%. In his interview he said 'field trips' and he gave some personal examples of experiences that bear him out. It is my experience as well, in doing community service that often the best thing you can do for folks in susbstandard communities is get them out of their comfort zone and show them that they will have to learn how to experience other parts of the world. Even if it scares them to death. My kids here in the Redondo School District all look forward to going to Camp Keep. In the South Pasadena elementary school the kids walked to the Post Office (incidentally in the wake of 9/11, there were a lot of questions about anthrax) But even trips much simpler can be life changing. I still remember field trips I took in elementary school, to a science lab and to a bakery.
You can listen to his interview with Patt Morrison here.
Brewer walks into a politcal poop storm with the usual suspects voicing usual complaints:
The top local teachers union official was in no mood to celebrate. "The idea that he has no grounding in K-12 is disturbing," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles. "And the idea that UTLA and the broader community were not consulted. I don't want to hear that his wife and family were teachers. That doesn't do it."
"A classroom is different from a battlefield," he added. "The goals and objectives are completely different. And it's disconcerting to a certain portion of teachers who are fighting against military recruitment on campus."
Others took no issue with Brewer but faulted the process.
"What they did was just another mistake," said Luis Sanchez, executive director of InnerCity Struggle. Board members said they don't need legislation to collaborate, but "there's no collaboration that happened here. They basically told the mayor you have to agree with who we choose."
The Rev. Frederick O. Murph, an African American and a Villaraigosa ally, said that it was a "low blow" for the board to act while Villaraigosa was out of town. But he called Brewer "an excellent choice" and a man of integrity.
So, let us watch and see. This is going to be interesting.