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In a Sunday ‘retreat,’ LAUSD picking firm to find next superintendent

Mike Szymanski | August 28, 2015

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superintendent searchThe LA Unified board is going to the end of the earth, or close to it, to accelerate the search for the district’s next superintendent.

The seven board members are gathering at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Point Fermin Outdoor Education Center in San Pedro, about a quarter mile from the Pacific Ocean, for a retreat that board President Steve Zimmer had intended to hold earlier this month but couldn’t because of members’ travel plans.

So it was finally scheduled on a day all could attend, even through it precedes by only a few days the September board meeting, planned for Tuesday in the usual place, the district’s downtown headquarters.

The Sunday retreat differs from a regular board meeting in two ways: One, it’s less formal, which means members might show up in shorts and t-shirts and certainly without ties. And, two, only one item is on the open session agenda: a decision on which of five executive search firms will win a $250,000 contract to find the district’s next leader.

“The Sunday meeting will give board members the opportunity to spend important time together to make sure we all understand each step in the process that lies ahead of us,” Zimmer told LA School Report. “It has been almost a decade since LAUSD conducted a national search for our superintendent. We all know that this is a pivotal moment for public education and the collaborative equity mission of this district.  And that the eyes of the nation are upon us.”

In recent weeks, the board has requested proposals from the following firms:

  • Hamilton, Rabinowitz & Associates of Carmel, California
  • Hazard, Young, Attrea & Associates of Rosemont, Illinois
  • Leadership Associates of La Quinta, California
  • McPherson & Jacobson of Omaha, Nebraska
  • Ray and Associates, Inc. of Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Each company has submitted a formal bid, and the members are expected to discuss them in a closed session before announcing the winner. That decision will kick off the formal start to replacing Ramon Cortines, who intends to end his third term as superintendent in December.

Cortines, who turned 83 last month, will also be part of the search firm selection process.

“I am grateful that Superintendent Cortines will be joining the Board and working with the Board on Sunday,” Zimmer said. “He is the most accomplished public education leader in the United States. And the effort he has made to bring the entire LAUSD family together this past year is one of the great acts of public service in our time. We will be leaning on and learning from Superintendent Cortines’ wisdom and experience throughout this process and throughout this school year.”

The retreat format also gives the board’s two newest members, Scott Schmerelson and Ref Rodriguez, a chance to mingle with their colleagues without the more formal trappings of the Beaudry headquarters. Rodriguez, in particular, drew sharp criticism from some board members, including Zimmer, for the tone and substance of his election campaign, in which he ousted Bennett Kayser.

The Tuesday meeting is far more routine, with the usual laundry list of agenda items, most of which are approved with little controversy or debate.

This meeting, too, will include a closed session in which one of the more troubling issues to on the agenda is the class action teacher jail lawsuit evolving out of the district’s disciplinary action against teacher Rafe Esquith.

Among issues scheduled for open discussion is the Girls Academic Leadership Academy (GALA), which would become the district’s only all-girls school.

There will also be four items involving charters, one seeking to deny a charter for Today’s Fresh Start Adams Hyde Park. The board is being asked to approve charter revisions for two Citizens of the World schools to add a site and to approve a five-year charter for Equitas Academy 4 in Pico-Union.

These will be the first charter issues to come before Rodriguez, who served as a charter school executive before winning his board seat.

The board will also hold public hearings to consider applications from three other charters seeking five-year terms — El Camino Real K-8 Charter School at Highlander, El Camino Real K-8 Charter School at Oso and Rise Kohyang High School in Koreatown.

On the labor front, the board will consider approving Salary Reopener Agreements between the district and the Los Angeles School Police Association, the Teamsters Local 572 (which includes food service employees) and Office-Technical and Business Services employees.

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