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LAUSD'S ROMER TAKES MESSAGE TO TV.

Byline: Harrison Sheppard Staff Writer

Tinseltown, politics and education. Mix them together, and you've got Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Roy Romer, a seemingly irresistible draw for the national media.

Less than a month on the job, Romer made the round of TV talk shows last week, drawing more national attention than past school chiefs by appearing on NBC's ``Today'' show, and ABC's ``Politically Incorrect.''

Romer downplayed the significance, noting he had been on ``Politically Incorrect'' when he was head of the Democratic National Committee and Colorado governor.

``The show is one where before I got in the superintendency, you can really take off on anything you want. But when you're a superintendent of schools, you have to be careful.''

``There is certain bantering back and forth that I would not participate in because I just can't do that.''

But the national attention for the LAUSD didn't find a warm reception everywhere in Los Angeles.

School board member David Tokofsky, for one, was unimpressed, saying he would rather see the superintendent focus on the district's specific problems rather than play to a national audience.

``I don't mind TV appearances, but all politics should be local,'' Tokofsky said. ``We've got some local problems here that require an understanding of local audiences to know communities from Chatsworth to Pacoima to Watts to East L.A.

``And those shows are particularly national audiences. And I don't think the national audience cares much about L.A. Unified, to tell you the truth.''

On the show, Romer did join in some of the bantering, getting in a few barbs at host Bill Maher.

Maher tried to provoke him by criticizing teachers, suggesting that rather than following President Clinton's suggestion to hire 100,000 more teachers, they ought to fire 100,000 lousy teachers.

``I gotta take you on that. Look, there are some lousy teachers like there are lousy comics,'' Romer replied, to laughter and applause from the audience. ``You just don't generalize for everybody.''

And Romer did tout some ideas that he might try in the district.

In between lighthearted repartee, Romer made a few serious declarations about educational policy, saying teachers are ``tremendously underpaid,'' supporting merit pay - as long as it is based on more than just test scores - and suggesting programs to put high school seniors into the working world before they graduate.

``We learn a lot by doing work out there,'' Romer said during a debate on the problems of public education. ``I think you ought to get out of the building. In fact, I think there's a very good argument to be made to take the last year and cut it in half and put you out in the field and have you experience what the world and the job market's going to be like.''

In a later interview, Romer said he thinks seniors tend to lose interest in classes once they've been accepted to college, so schools should consider ways to send them out into the working world.

He said he has bounced the idea off several staff members, but is not yet actively working to create a program.

On the ``Today'' show, which was filmed in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Romer appeared between Police Chief Bernard C. Parks and a report on the county's recently completed subway system. He said he supports merit pay for teachers - a proposal bitterly opposed by the Los Angeles teachers union - but said it should be based on more than test scores.

``To pay a teacher only because of the scores of the students I think is wrong,'' Romer said. ``You ought to pay a teacher in a broader way. What does a teacher contribute to the whole school?''

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 23, 2000
Words:622
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