INGLEWOOD — Assemblywoman Autumn Burke has no plans to reschedule a meeting with State Superintendent Tom Torlakson and Inglewood stakeholders regarding the selection of a new state trustee to oversee the Inglewood Unified School District.
A meeting scheduled Aug. 14 at Inglewood City Hall was canceled earlier that day after Burke received word that Torlakson would not show up for the meeting. Burke swiftly moved to call her 10 unnamed community stakeholders and cancel the meeting.
“My office does not have plans to organize a new meeting with State Superintendent Torlakson and the public to discuss the hiring of the next state trustee,” Burke said Aug. 17.
Burke said she canceled the meeting to which the public and media was not invited due to an article printed in the Aug. 13 issue of The Wave.
“I canceled the roundtable because the article in the Wave Newspaper put a negative spin on the meeting and the IUSD,” Burke said. “My work on behalf of the Inglewood School District has been very positive and I want to keep it that way. I care about Inglewood. That is why I am involved.
“I simply wanted to have a community roundtable of key stakeholders to provide them with an opportunity to address Torlakson openly,” Burke added. “In addition to our meeting, Torlakson had various other meetings scheduled the same day.”
Torlakson had separate meetings with members of the Inglewood Teachers Association, IUSD senior staff and Joe Bowers, an education activist, earlier in the day Aug. 14. Torlakson said he wanted to find out if the district was ready for the opening day of school, which is Aug. 24.
A representative of one of two unions representing Inglewood school employees said he was annoyed that no one from the union was invited to Burke’s meeting.
“Cal-Pro represents over 400 local members and if anyone should have been invited to attend, it should have been us,” said Christopher Graeber, spokesperson for California Professional Employees, Local Union No. 2345. “If we are not a major community stakeholder, then I don’t know who is.
“This is upsetting because we made it clear from the start, we want to be involved every step of the way. In the past, we’ve worked with Burke on a few important IUSD issues and it went well then,” Graeber added.
“I know Torlakson has been down here a lot because of all the trouble we keep having with the school district. Also, I know Torlakson has the power to choose our next state trustee. However, we are wondering who is really calling the shots here,” he said.
The Aug. 14 meeting was originally scheduled to provide Torlakson with input on the selection of the next state trustee to oversee operations of the Inglewood Unified School District.
The curent state trustee, Don Brann, has expressed an interest in retiring, but has agreed to stay on the job until a successor is appointed.
“The state superintendent needs to follow the example of LAUSD and hire a professional search committee to conduct a statewide or national search,” Graeber said. “The state needs to fund this expense.
“All functions of this professional search committee must be public. The state superintendent needs to attend the monthly IUSD meeting to report on the status of the search,” he continued. “Any and all meetings regarding the selection of the next state trustee must include the two labor unions … CalPro and the Inglewood Teachers Association.
Bowers, who met with Torlakson Aug. 14, said the superintendent is positively engaged and believes the public should know the ideas Torlakson wants to put forth to help the district.
“It’s too bad Assemblywoman Burke’s meeting was canceled because Superintendent Torlakson met with [the Education Equity Coalition] and we found what he said very encouraging for the future of the school district,” Bowers said.
“Had Burke’s meeting not been canceled more people would have heard what he had to say. We feel better that Torlakson is finally taking serious his responsibility for running the school district and is being more hands on in its operations.
“He has been conducting a series of meeting with school administrators and teachers to better understand what he needs to do to make IUSD better. He told us he has a list of strong candidates to be the next state administrator and he is committed to involving the community in the selection process. It is important that the community hears directly from Superintendent Torlakson that he is committed to a better IUSD,” Bowers said.