Mayor James Butts has responded to an eye-opening investigation that revealed some Inglewood schools are operating under unsafe and unsanitary conditions. In a statement dated Nov. 11, 2014, the mayor said:
“When I read the November 6, 2014 KPCC article, I contacted the newly re-elected State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson that same day and forwarded to him by email a copy of the article. . .I explained my concerns regarding the multitude of operational, fiscal and sanitation issues that must be addressed immediately.”
The scathing article interviewed staff and volunteers at Inglewood High School, Monroe Middle School and Highland Elementary School. The investigation revealed the presence of:
In 2012, the Inglewood school district was taken over by the state due to financial problems. Former State Sen. Rod Wright authored legislation at the IUSD School Board's request to have the State of California loan the District up to $55 million, to be drawn down as needed. So far, approximately $29 million has been used.
The move stripped the school board of power and put the decision making authority into the hands of a State appointed trustee. Inglewood has had three trustees within two years. Current trustee, Don Brann, has been with the district since July 2013, and his authority is subject to review only by the Office of the State Superintendent of Schools
“Unfortunately, 2 years later, and 15 months into the tenure of Dr. Brann, although some progress has been made, a report issued in August by the Fiscal Crisis and Management Team (FCMAT) documents a number of fiscal, operational, and managerial shortcomings, the majority of which are incompatible with a healthy learning environment and are unacceptable for our children,” Mayor Butts said.
He continued: “Equally unacceptable, neither I nor the Council were briefed contemporaneously by the State Trustee regarding the breadth of the issues chronicled in the FCMAT report.”
According to KPCC, notes were written by independent consultants Brian Hawkins and Dean Bubar for a report issued in August by the FCMAT.
Brann laid off close to 150 employees earlier this year to help cut the deficit. Those let go included mostly cleaning staff and all 23 campus security guards. Most Inglewood schools have been without security since this school year began.
Last week, Brann announced to Inglewood Unified faculty and staff in a memo that the district "has selected 17 individuals to fill safety positions at our school sites as soon as possible," according to KPCC. In addition to campus security, the new guards will provide other services, including CPR, truancy and drug prevention, and conflict resolution. Brann said the district expects to hire more school police in the near future.
Major improvements to Inglewood schools are planned to begin in 2015, including construction of a brand new Inglewood High School. The project is estimated to cost $148 million.
Butts said he told Torlakson, “the safety, health and sanitation issues must receive priority. He (Torlakson) committed to having maintenance crews at Inglewood High this past weekend and on into the week to remediate this situation immediately.”
Brann has been criticized for his $300,000 personal security detail contract. In an interview last month with KPCC, Brann said “I don’t want to get hurt here. I don’t know enough about present-day Inglewood to know how good the chances are for that so I’m just erring on the side of safety.” He later apologized to Butts and the Inglewood City Council for his “insensitive” remarks. Brann admitted he has not received any threats since coming to Inglewood.
"That's a lot of money, that's at least, probably six or seven ... security people," says Chris Graeber, a union official representing non-teaching staff, about Brann’s security cost. "We say this line, 'the students come first.' Well no, in this case it's the state trustee comes first."
Butts, who was re-elected last week, said, “During this term as your Mayor, I will more closely monitor the progress of the State in improving the IUSD and will vociferously advocate for our childrens', parents' and Inglewood taxpayers' interests. I will periodically advise you as to the status of the State's effort to stabilize and improve the IUSD.