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WHILE ANTONIO'S AWAY, THE SCHOOL BOARD PLAYS.

Byline: NAUSH BOGHOSSIAN Staff Writer

A retired Navy admiral who served more than 35 years as a military officer but has no experience as an educator has emerged as the top candidate to succeed Roy Romer as superintendent of L.A. Unified, sources said Wednesday.

Retired Admiral David L. Brewer III, who oversaw the Military Sealift Command before retiring earlier this year, ranks the highest among the finalists. If he ultimately is chosen over the four other finalists, Brewer would become the district's first African-American superintendent.

Sources said the board could announce Romer's successor Friday -- a week before Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa returns from an Asian trade mission to resume preparations to take greater control of the district Jan. 1.

``He has experience running large enterprises, which is something the other four lack,'' a source said of Brewer. ``But, they're also looking at candidates who it would be difficult for the mayor to get out.''

The process of hiring a superintendent has been complicated by passage of Assembly Bill 1381, which would give Villaraigosa significant authority over the district's operations. After Jan. 1, he'll also have majority power to hire and fire the superintendent, although that timeline could be altered depending on the outcome of the LAUSD's lawsuit challenging the measure.

``This is one of the most important decisions the board is elected to make and our parents and kids deserve an open and transparent process -- not a rush to judgment behind closed doors,'' said mayoral spokesman Matt Szabo.

Even as he prepared for his two-week Asia trip, Villaraigosa sought to build an alliance with the school board and had asked to be involved in hiring Romer's successor.

School board President Marlene Canter repeatedly rejected his request, saying the mayor and his supporters had already had time to provide input.

Canter refused to comment Wednesday on the status of the selection process.

But the posted agenda shows that the board is scheduled to meet behind closed doors from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday. At 5 p.m. today, another session is scheduled to consider appointing somebody to negotiate a contract with the new superintendent.

An education advocate criticized the district for proceeding so blatantly with the hiring process while the mayor is out of town.

``It takes the support of an entire community to have a functional and successful school district,'' said David Abel, chairman of New Schools Better Neighborhoods, a civic advocacy organization for California's urban school districts.

If Brewer is hired, it would not be the first time the board has chosen someone with no experience as an educator to head the district. Romer had served as governor of Colorado and as chairman of the Democratic National Committee when he was hired to the $250,000-a-year job in 2000.

A native of Farmville, Va., Brewer began his naval career in 1970, and earned numerous awards during his career. His last assignment was overseeing the Military Sealift Command, which operates 124 ships and employs more than 8,000 people around the world, according to an official biography.

Brewer was one of five candidates recommended by an appointed search committee. One, former Occidental College President Ted Mitchell, has reportedly taken himself out of the running.

The committee also recommended Carlos A. Garcia, former superintendent of the school district in Clark County, Nev.; Maria Ott, a former deputy superintendent for the LAUSD who now heads the Rowland Unified School District; and Tom Vander Ark, executive director for education initiatives for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

naush.boghossian(at)dailynews.com

(818) 713-3722

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 12, 2006
Words:610
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