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Zimmer criticizes LA Times speculation over possible finalists

Mike Szymanski | December 11, 2015

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Steve Zimmer is not happy.

In a highly unusual move, LAUSD school board president Steve Zimmer issued a statement late last night, criticizing the Los Angeles Times for speculating who might become the district’s next superintendent.

“We hope that the speculation on the part of the LA Times in an article published this evening does not cause harm or controversy for any of the individuals named in the article,” Zimmer said in the statement sent out after 10 p.m. “We have committed to the individuals whom we will interview that we will maintain confidentiality around their possible candidacy. We hope the LA Times will honor that commitment moving forward.”

Zimmer was reacting to a story that once again threw out names of potential candidates for the top spot at LA Unified. It was the second time the paper posited a list of potential successors to Ramon Cortines, following a November story that identified 43 potential candidates, ranking them according to their perceived chances.

But now, timing is crucial. The school board is in the process of winnowing the list of candidates to a final few from a starting pool of about 100, and it’s all being conducted in secret even though a few of the school board members had expressed interest in making the entire process public. The number of people involved in this part of the selection process is believed to be fewer than a dozen, including the seven board members, district lawyers and the board secretariat.

It’s also the last full week for Cortines, 83,  who has been privately saying good-bye to staff and departments over the past month, and even faced a surprise party.

Zimmer has remained protective of the secret search process, rebuffing persistent media inquiries seeking confirmation of potential candidates and inquiries about the search’s closed sessions. The seven-member elected board is holding a meeting this Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and another on Dec. 15. Last week, the interviews were held in a downtown office building to protect the identities of potential candidates coming to speak to the board.

The board could announce a selection as early as the 15th but more likely after a two-week winter break, in early January.

In his statement, Zimmer emphasized that the board “is committed to finding the best leader to guide our school district in the coming years. We request that the media and the community honor the decision to conduct a confidential search and allow us to do the job that we were elected to do on behalf of the students, families and school communities of LAUSD and the residents of our district.”

He added, “The purpose of conducting a confidential search was to ensure the best possible candidates could apply to lead what we believe to be the most important school district in the nation.”

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