Thursday, January 15, 2009

Diversity Thursday

Remember my love letter to VADM David Brewer (USN Ret.) over two years ago? What started with such promise in OCT 06 - ain't ending pretty.
One thing is certain: If anyone doubts the abilities of David L. Brewer III to handle the superintendent's job, it is not Brewer himself.

As a young student attending Prairie View A&M University during the turbulent late '60s, David L. Brewer III had a singular confidence in his abilities: He was "the rare one," he told his dormitory mates, a little bit different than others and perhaps destined for great things.

It is instructive, said his friends, that while some may have thought him cocky, no one thought he was joking. That confidence and strong sense of self are likely to be put to the test soon as Brewer goes about the task of managing and reforming the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Brewer's selection Thursday as the new superintendent of the nation's second-largest school district was in many ways a gamble for the board.

A long-serving military commander, Brewer has no experience in school administration. But in interviews Friday, Brewer, his family and friends all emphasized how his love and respect for education infuse every aspect of his life.

Both his parents were educators, as is his wife, Richardene, or "Deanie," a middle school teacher. In 1999, he founded the David and Mildred Brewer Foundation, named after his mother and father, to provide scholarships for African American students.

"I'm a third-generation college graduate," Brewer said. "My grandparents went to Tuskegee. My aunts and uncles went to college, my parents went to college — education was understood. There was never any question or doubt that that was what I was going to do. I didn't have to have the epiphany."
Good intentions sometimes are not enough. When cornered as things go south, when you are often faced with a few options, one is the refuge of the desperate and can destroy the credibility that you spent a life building.

Sadly, all that training by the Navy's Diversity Bullies seem to have paid off. See, you don't have to actually prove racism - you just have to feel it.
The black 62-year-old former U.S. Navy vice admiral called efforts to oust him "demoralizing and debilitating" and suggested he was the victim of racism.

"As an African-American, I've experienced my share of discrimination," Brewer said. "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.
Sir, you just did - or you are letting others do it for you. It sure does pay well if it is there though.
Brewer's compensation package includes an annual salary of $300,000, $45,000 a year for expenses and a $3,000 monthly housing allowance. Under the terms of his contract, he would be entitled to 18 months' severance, which is worth about $500,000.
This is a shame because like I mentioned in '06, it seems he had all the right enemies.
But AJ Duffy, head of United Teachers Los Angeles, said those accomplishments were already in motion when Brewer took over.

"He's a nice guy, well-meaning, he wants to do the right job. I just think he's ill-placed in Los Angeles," Duffy said. "I think it was not a good selection by the previous board."

Brewer was chosen as superintendent after an eight-month search to find a replacement for Roy Romer, former Colorado governor, who retired after six years at the helm of the LAUSD.
Additional background here. Things were going in the right direction it seems. some measures, he should be riding high. Two years into his tenure, test scores have bumped upward and just this month, voters resoundingly approved the largest-ever local school bond for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

But Brewer's critics have characterized him as nonessential to these accomplishments. They say his alleged lack of internal leadership has become an anchor slowing reforms in a school system in which most students never achieve academic proficiency and at least one-third fail to graduate on time. And his annual compensation package -- $381,000 including expenses and housing allowance -- leaves some district insiders objecting to the symbolism of Brewer, in an apparently secondary leadership role, pulling down the district's top salary amid a massive budget crisis.
It looks like the problem was, as it often is in this nation's guv'munt school system - the education bureaucracy.
"In another context, Adm. Brewer is probably a very inspiring leader, but not here," said civil rights attorney Connie Rice, who heads the appointed outside committee that oversees school bond spending.

"Running L.A. Unified is harder than running the United States," Rice said. "And at this point, L.A. Unified can't afford anything but leadership that is completely fluent in why and how the district is dysfunctional."

As an example, Rice drew a contrast between Brewer and his predecessor, former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, who established the nation's largest school construction program. To keep the $20.3-billion effort on track, Romer "would not permit micromanaging from under-informed board members" or other political interference. Under Brewer, she said, facilities administrators suddenly had to manage politics as well as bricks and mortar, even when Brewer assured them matters were under control.
Emblematic of some current and former staff members is Kathi Littmann, who said she is grateful that Brewer made her the head of his Innovation Division and then signaled its importance by making the division his signature reform. But when internal bureaucratic resistance emerged, Littmann said, she couldn't rely on Brewer.

"Brewer was faced with a group of local district superintendents who challenged him," Littmann said. "They just didn't want to do it."

Like Rice and others, Littmann said Brewer didn't know how to overcome resistance or chart a firm course between competing priorities or political pressures....
"David Brewer is a very intelligent, well-meaning man in the wrong job," said Littmann, who recently accepted a top job with the California Charter Schools Assn. But he has not figured out "what he should be doing. He never built the team around him to do the work. And he lost the confidence of the staff around him in his first 90 days and never got it back."
It reads more and more here that the problem we have is that of either poor leadership (I never worked for the guy - but most VADM I know can lead a Staff; not all - but the vast majority, and those who can't get a very good Chief of Staff to do it for him, as it should be.)

I know the race environment in LA is toxic by design, but I just don't see race being the issue here - an excuse by one side or a smokescreen by another - but not the issue here.

Then again, when you focus on race, you get thinking like everything is race focused.
In the black community, Brewer is passing the test with flying colors and everybody I talk to is willing to let him finish taking the test. Anybody who has half a brain knows that nobody can fix this level of dysfunction—one that was 30 years in the making—in four years, much less two. The Times need to stop their biased foolishness.

Obviously, Brewer has done a better job at adjusting to the L.A. landscape than The L.A. Times new owners have. The Times editorial was wrongheaded and misguided. With the way they continue to endorse the wrong choices in the black community (No on Measure Q, Bernard Parks for Supervisor), whatever the Times likes, we don’t (except Obama), and whatever the Times dislikes, we definitely need to take a longer look at. David Brewer included.
Just ugly.
One Brewer critic, Larry Aubry of Community Call to Action and Accountability, said, “I think there were some racial implications, I don’t have the information inside but I don’t doubt there is any question that there were racial implications because it’s been perceived as racially charged therefore it has those implications and you have to deal with those implications. But on the other hand I think that Brewer is an abomination. I think that Brewer was not doing his job. He came in here, he had this big euphoria. …The reasons [for his dismissal] were founded but the process was absolutely messed up.”

As for African-American students, Aubry accused Brewer of having “no vision, no connection. … Brewer didn’t even have a handle. Staff in Brewer’s own shop — high level, low level, teachers — all say the same thing substantially, which is that he’s not accessible, we don’t see him, we don’t know where he’s coming from after two years.”

According to Marguerite LaMotte, the only African-American currently on the LAUSD board, her “no vote [on the buyout] was based upon several tenets, including “potential racial discrimination that … has to be investigated.” She added that LAUSD data reveals that students have progressed under Brewer’s leadership, forcing her to question the board’s dissatisfaction with his work.

“As reported in most of the media, external forces continue to unfortunately be the driving force of this board,” said LaMotte. “This occurs to be the potential failure of focusing on what’s best for adults rather than focusing on what’s best for students and their families. While I am disillusioned by the antics and power tricks that resulted in the demise of Brewer’s superintendency of this district, as one elected to serve my constituency, especially the underperforming students … I shall continue to work hard.”

Longtime L.A. resident Jack Johnson said the board doesn’t “want to come straight to the point [and say] that a Black man was removed because the school district is of another race — primarily most of the students are another ethnicity — and that’s why he was released. He was clearly forced out, he had no intention, David Brewer was not looking to leave the [district], he was not looking to leave his superintendency, not at all. I think the pressure was on him such that he felt like ‘I can’t even do an effective job because the people I’m supposed to be working with are undermining me and going through the media to seek my ousting.’

“It clearly was racism and you know all the politicians across this city and all the Black leadership, self appointed, can claim all they want that this was nothing to do with that and we need to look forward,” Johnson said. “Well now you’re asking our Black kids to be subjected to the same racism that drove David Brewer out of office.”
Sigh. Sad. You want a culture that has to focus on "Diversity" all the time? This is what you will get. Focus on excellence instead - then you can get effort focused on the real problem - in this case ineffective and toxic teacher's unions and the edumucashion bureaucracy - and not on false issues like race in 2009.

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