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Kent Taylor, IUSD State Administrator presents his plan to restore financial management to the troubled school district
Board Members Now Advisors, Superintendent Gone
Last week, a standing-room only crowd of parents, elected officials, and Inglewood Unified School District (IUSD) employees listened intently as California’s Supt. of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, announced that Kent Taylor, a product of the Inglewood School System, would lead the IUSD, the existing board members would serve as unpaid advisors, and the superintendent had been relieved of duty.
Taylor, previously serving as the superintendent of education in southern Kern County, is charged with leading the IUSD out of the fiscal shortfall that led Gov. Jerry Brown to sign legislation, written by Sen. Rod Wright, granting $55 million in emergency loans to keep the district afloat. Taylor’s appointment will last as long as it takes for the district to return to sound financial footing, anticipated somewhere between two and six years.
Taylor praised the efforts of the IUSD as well as the existing board members as he traced his Inglewood education through Warren Lane Elementary School, Crozier Middle School and finally his graduation from Inglewood High School in 1972. He admitted that he was not always a model student but credited the IUSD teachers, administrators, and other staff for putting him on the path to success.
It was very clear that Taylor welcomed an appointment that allowed him to return to the district that produced him.
“This is a great district, a wonderful district and we have great things happening here,” said Taylor. “Do we need to figure out some fiscal things? Yes, we do. But I’m the guy who is going to come and work with everyone and listen to everyone. We’re going to continue to move forward.”
Arnold Butler, one of the side-lined board members, attributes the districts fiscal shortfall to several factors including declining student enrollment, deferred payments by the state and the general faltering economy of our state and the nation. “The board has always made decisions that are in the best interest of the students, “said Butler. “This is a tough day for me but I look forward with optimism. This is an opportunity for us to re-group and we (board members) will work with the state administrator to make the tough decisions that are in the student’s best interests.”
Rod Wright, State Senator representing the __ District, which includes the city of Inglewood, and a staunch advocate of education for California’s youth, drafted the measure that the governor signed. He noted that, “we have a financial challenge but our first responsibility is to the children,” as he acknowledged the yeoman’s work the board members had done, up to the time of the state takeover.
“I can’t say enough about the board members,” said Wright. “They recognized the pending financial shortfalls and that the needs of the children were greater than their personal goals or ambitions.” The consulting role of the board members will help Taylor return the district to sound financial footing and eventually return local control of the district to the board members.
Assembly member Steve Bradford, whose district also includes the City of Inglewood, echoed Wright’s praises of the board members, welcomed Taylor to his new assignment, and committed his support to “right this ship and move forward,” referring to returning local control of the IUSD.
In addition to the parents, IUSD faculty and staff members who attended the IUSD Board Room press announcement, the audience was packed with a number of elected officials, union leaders, community leaders, and others who were present to demonstrate their support of the state’s takeover.
Torlakson, who conducted the press conference and introduced the speakers, acknowledged each of the City of Inglewood Council Members, union representatives, local and state PTA officials, parents, and others, who packed the board room for this history-making announcement.
Before ending the press conference, he asked if reporters had any questions. This reporter, a former teacher at Warren Lane, asked Torlakson to elaborate on the length of the takeover, whether or not the proposed faculty and staff’s salary reduction would be lifted, and the pay status of the board members.
Torlakson and Taylor made several points very clear. The state administrator will control the district until fiscal insolvency has been eliminated, between two to six years; the pay cuts the board hastily slashed days before the takeover have been staid, pending review and contract negotiations, and the board members advisory role is an unpaid position.
With the leadership Taylor is expected to provide, combined with the advisory input he shall receive from the board members, elected officials, union representatives, faculty, staff, and others, everyone hopes that the IUSD will be positioned to increase the nine schools with scores at 800 and above, continue to deliver academic excellence to the students, and eventually return local control of the district to local, elected board members.
IUSD is the ninth school district in California to request an emergency loan, thus triggering a state takeover, since 1990. Since then, local governance has been returned to five districts. Their recovery plan also includes steps to improve the district’s community relations and governance, pupil achievement, financial management, and personnel and facilities management.
“We have quite a support team to work with the new administration and it will take all of us, working together,” Torlakson concluded.