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Was the Public Deceived in the LAUSD Superintendent Search?

Is this for real?
- LAUSD Board Member Scott Schmerelson

When the East Area Progressive Democrats filed a complaint with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office regarding alleged violations of California’s Brown Act, LAUSD Board member Scott Schmerelson’s Public Statement was used as Exhibit A. In releasing this document, Schmerelson exposed that the Board had taken a vote in closed session on April 20, but had not reported this action to the public as required by law. This violation was further compounded by the fact that the Board’s Executive Officer had announced that there were “no actions to report”, “creating a deception that misled the public and confused any accurate understanding of the genuine status of decision-making by the Board.”

Schmerelson has now provided additional information about the LAUSD Board’s actions leading up to the appointment of Austin Beutner as the new Superintendent. In a presentation before the Northridge East Neighborhood Council last Wednesday, he confirmed that a vote was taken on April 20. Additionally, he divulged that “certain Board members had this planned months ago.” Originally, he was told that “Beutner [was] going to work for one dollar.” However, the other Board members ignored their fiduciary duty to the students of the LAUSD and taxpayers by voting for a contract that pays him $350,000 annually.

In describing Beutner’s conversations with the Board prior to his being hired, Schmerelson states that “it was the worst interviews [that] I have ever seen in my entire life. Not one question was answered about education.” Every time Schmerelson “asked a question about education, [Beutner] couldn’t answer because he really didn’t know.” In selecting Beutner, the Board passed over Vivian Ekchian, whom Schmerelson described as a “wonderful, lifetime educator. Smart. Good heart. Considerate” and “an easy pick to be Superintendent.”

Schmerelson acknowledges that Beutner’s experience as an investment banker could be of benefit and says that he would have been open to having him consult with the District and Ekchian as Superintendent, a role that requires a working knowledge of how education works. Perhaps this is a scenario that could play out if the Los Angeles District Attorney finds that the Brown Act was violated and voids any votes that were taken as a result. This would also give the Board a second chance to be honest with the public in a process that values their input above backroom dealings with their donors and provides an example of an open government that actually puts kids first.

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Carl Petersen is a parent and special education advocate, elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.