INGLEWOOD — In an unexpected move June 29, state trustee Don Brann announced he plans to retire from the Inglewood Unified School District, ending his attempt to return the district to solvency. The announcement was made at a special school board meeting.
“I don’t plan to always be here,” Brann told those attending the meeting. “I’ve been talking with state Superintendent Tom Torlakson about a transition during 2015 so that it would be smooth and seamless going forward.”
In a press release June 30, Torlakson thanked Brann for his leadership at the helm of the district.
“Don Brann brought his enthusiasm and experience to the district at a time of great challenges, and set it on course to return to local control by balancing the budget,” Torlakson said.
Union officials for school district employee groups said the departure of Brann, the third state trustee to serve at the district since the state took over school district oversight in 2012, were critical of the timing of Brann’s announcement.
“We want stability,” said Inglewood Teachers Association President Kelly Iwamoto. “What we’ve always said [is] that in order for this district to move forward, we need stable people and the revolving door makes it worse.”
Chris Graeber, field representative for the California Professional Employees, which represents non-certified district employees, said his union wanted more of a say this time in who replaces Brann.
“As a major stakeholder in the outcome of the district, the union requests a major role in the selection of the next state trustee,” Graeber said. “Our members work and live in Inglewood and we need to be heard regarding this process.
“Our members and the community felt the major impact when the last two trustees made major cuts to the safety and cleanliness of the district.”
Graeber said his union wasn’t a big fan of Brann “because we weren’t sure who was pulling his strings,” but added that finding a new state trustee was likely to take three months at least.
In the meantime, “we think the state should step up with more support.”
Brann will remain with the district until a replacement is appointed by Torlakson.
The state superintendent said a search for his replacement will begin immediately.
Torlakson said he stands ready to make the transition as smooth as possible and pledged to work closely with the school board and the community.
Brann had recently announced he had balanced the district’s budget for the first time since the state oversight began in 2012.
At the time, he said he was eager to begin working toward his next goal of returning the district to local control.
Saying he had inherited many issues when he took over, he added: “It is very hard to deal with the problems of poverty.”
Some critics of Brann said he had ample opportunity to fix the budget two years ago. Brann had spoke of corruption in the IUSD system but has not gone into details about any specific wrongdoings that he knew of.
Other critics said Brann wasn’t culturally sensitive enough to serve Inglewood.
“We need someone who knows the people, that is sensitive to the people, and the kids, and the needs of Inglewood,” local education activist Charlotte Bell said.
Brann had received backlash for demanding personal bodyguards to escort him in and out of Inglewood. The cost of the extra security services for Brann cost the district more than $300,000.