Lead Story Local News West Edition

Public barred from Inglewood meeting on next state trustee

INGLEWOOD — Residents and observers of the Inglewood Unified School District are up in arms over a meeting organized by Assemblywoman Autumn Burke with state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and 10 unnamed community stakeholders to be held at City Hall Aug. 14.

Those invited to the meeting will be discussing the desired attributes of the next state trustee to oversee the school district.

“Recommendations for who should be selected are not a part of the meeting’s agenda,” said D’artagnan Scorza, a member of the Inglewood school board, which has been reduced to an advisory capacity under the state oversight. “We may discuss the hiring process that we would like to implement in order to search out our next state trustee but no names will be tossed around, at this point.”

In an email invitation that The Wave obtained, Burke stated the purpose of the meeting is to collect community feedback on the next state trustee.

The public and the press are being shut out of the meeting even though the meeting is being held in a public location and public policy is to be discussed.

Those invited to the meeting were chosen at the sole discretion of Burke. It is unknown what criteria were used in selecting the invited community members.

“I am not privy to disclose who is invited to the meeting,” said Tina McKinnor, Burke’s chief of staff. “We are not inviting the public or the press because we want our most important community stakeholders to feel comfortable speaking directly to Torlakson.”

“This meeting is part of our process to select the next state trustee for Inglewood schools,” said Jazmin Ortega, Southern California liaison for Torlakson. “The meeting is private because we want the stakeholders to speak candidly about the qualities and skill sets desired of the new appointee.”

The Inglewood Teachers Association is invested in the process and is closely monitoring all phases of the appointment process, association President Kelly Iwamoto said.

State Superintendent Tom Torlakson
State Superintendent Tom Torlakson

“Superintendent Torlakson has assured [us] that we will be included in a thorough and transparent interview and selection process and we intend to hold him to that promise,” Iwamoto said.

“We want to see someone who has experience running an urban district, who wants to foster a collaborative relationship with [the teachers], and who places the unique and diverse needs of our students before their own personal and/or professional agenda,” he added.

“We would like to have this selection and hiring process done in a timely manner. However, we want a person who’s a good fit in our district. There has been a revolving door of state-appointed trustees the since state takeover. In fact, this will be our fourth trustee in the last three years.

“While ITA is eager to begin working with our new trustee as soon as possible, the search for a new administrator must be thorough and transparent and consider internal and external candidates,” Iwamoto added.

“It’s unfortunate that Assembly member Burke’s office chose not to include the very concerned residents and parents of Inglewood students to attend this meeting. We all have a right to know what is happening in the education system of our children,” a local education activist said.

State Trustee Don Brann
State Trustee Don Brann

Donald Brann, the current state trustee, announced his desire to retire in June after serving just two years as the third state trustee since the state assumed oversight of the school district in 2012.

Brann did not elaborate on a specific timeframe for his departure and said he would stay until Torlakson appointed his successor.

His retirement announcement came one week after he sent out a press release stating he had successfully balanced the district’s budget for the upcoming school year.

Brann’s succeeded LaTanya Kirk-Carter and Kent Taylor as state-appointed trustees. Taylor served about three months in the post before being replaced for negotiating raises for district labor unions in the wake of the district’s near bankruptcy.

Kirk-Carter served approximately 14 months.

The state took over the district in September 2012 under legislation passed at the request of the district that provided up to $55 million in emergency state loans to help the district meet its financial obligations.

The legislation required Torlakson to appoint a trustee to assume the powers of the school board while getting the district back on sound financial footing.