Board Majority Supports Compton Supt. : Trustee Presses for Kimbrough's Resignation

Times Staff Writer

Schools Trustee John Steward has called for the immediate resignation of Supt. Ted Kimbrough, saying in a written evaluation that the superintendent does not trust the school board, is a poor leader and planner and has remained aloof from the community.

Steward also said in his evaluation that the superintendent's "relationship with the seven members of the Board of Trustees has been less than desirable. (He) appears to use every strategy to keep the board members bickering, uninformed and suspicious of each other."

Steward's conclusions were presented to the full board in a closed session Jan. 22 as part of the trustees' annual review of the superintendent, who was hired 2 1/2 years ago to shape up a district beset by accusations of employee wrongdoing.

Kimbrough, who retains the support of a majority of the trustees, said he responded to the evaluations in a confidential memorandum Monday. The evaluations and Kimbrough's response are scheduled for discussion in closed session in two weeks.

Motives Questioned

In an interview, Kimbrough refused to answer specific Steward criticisms, but he questioned the motives of Steward and veteran Trustee Bernice Woods, who he said were the only board members highly critical of his job performance.

"It appears to me that two of the board members have a personal vendetta that has nothing to do with a fair evaluation. These are the only two evaluations I have any concern about," said Kimbrough.

Woods, a longtime opponent of Kimbrough, said Tuesday that her evaluation of the superintendent was not a personal vendetta, but she would not comment further.

The superintendent's four-year contract does not expire until September, 1986, but his performance is reviewed annually by each board member. He could be removed before the contract expires, but his $75,000-a-year salary is guaranteed through the entire contract period.

Steward said he did not expect Kimbrough's resignation or his removal by the school board. Kimbrough would not say whether he intends to stay with the district for the remainder of his contract.

An copy of Steward's evaluation of Kimbrough was sent anonymously to The Times.

Personnel Matter

Kimbrough said he was particularly upset because the Steward evaluation was a personnel matter and legally could not have been made public.

"I'm consulting with my own personal attorneys because, when you violate the (law) and you attack the superintendent and his professional career, there may be injury involved there," he said.

Steward maintained that he provided copies of his evaluation of Kimbrough only to the trustees and the superintendent. He did not mail a copy to a reporter nor was he responsible for it being mailed, Steward said.

He asked The Times not to report on the contents of the evaluation, though he confirmed its authenticity. He also said he had intended to read his conclusions into the public record if the school board decided to keep Kimbrough in Compton for another year.

"I really feel I'm being set up to give the appearance that I'm not working with the board or I'm not respecting the rules of the game," Steward said. "I don't know what's happening, but I feel I'm being victimized. This is directly undermining my credibility."

Because three school board seats, including Steward's, are on the November ballot, potential opponents "might want to portray me as being off track or out of kilter," said Steward, who was elected as a reform candidate in 1981.

Steward defended his critique of Kimbrough, saying it was "an objective evaluation . . . substantiated by fact."

Different View

Trustee Manuel Correa, a board member since 1970 and a candidate for re-election this fall, said he sees things differently than Steward.

"I do not agree with Mr. Steward's evaluation. . . . I don't agree with any of it," said Correa.

Trustee Sam Littleton said he was among the majority of the trustees who gave Kimbrough better than average marks for the last year. The superintendent was evaluated in specific areas on a scale of one to five, five being highest, he said.

"I gave him fives in quite a few things," said Littleton. "I think there were some who gave him fives in almost everything, and some gave him ones in almost everything."

School board President Kelvin Filer declined specific comment on Kimbrough's evaluation but did say, "I don't want to get into a dialogue from individual board members. . . . The board acts, not individual members of the board."

Comment Declined

Trustee Lynn Dymally declined comment, and board member Mary Henry could not be reached for comment.

Steward said Tuesday that trustee comments clearly show that "a majority of the board feels (Kimbrough) is doing an excellent job, or at least a commendable job." Because of that, Steward said he was going to drop the issue, at least for now. "Why beat my head against a brick wall?" he said.

The Kimbrough evaluation is the second confidential document written by Steward to be made public in the last three months.

The first document--a letter to the county district attorney and grand jury that asked for an investigation of Kimbrough--was also leaked to the press. Steward said he was not responsible for either leak.

In the first letter, Steward said that district security officials told him they had been directed by Kimbrough to investigate school board members for possible misuse of public property. Steward asked the county agencies to determine whether such an investigation, if conducted, would have been a misuse of public money.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Candace Beason said Tuesday that "an investigation is pending. This is something we are going to look at."

In his year-end evaluation, Steward specifically criticized Kimbrough for allegedly ordering the security officers' investigations of the trustees, who are his collective boss. Kimbrough has refused comment on the issue.

'Serious Decline'

Overall, he said of Kimbrough: "The absence of educational leadership has resulted in a serious decline in enrollment at the secondary level, low staff morale and excessive personnel leaves."

In an interview, Steward said an increasing number of Compton high school students are attending school in Long Beach, Lynwood, Carson and Gardena. He said he did not know what the precise numbers are, but district officials estimated that 2,500 Compton residents may be attending out of the city.

The district, which has about 27,000 students, was not able to immediately to supply figures on Compton residents attending high schools in other cities.

"They live right around the corner from Compton schools," Steward said, "but they're sending them to other places and in some cases paying for it. Many of them are children of district employees, so that tells you something."

More and more teachers are taking leaves of absence to avoid having to instruct the students of others when substitute teachers cannot be found, Steward said. "We're into our second year of that, and it should have been resolved," he said.

Kimbrough has said that a regionwide shortage of substitute teachers, exacerbated by a state basic skills test that many substitutes did not pass, has been felt acutely in Compton. He declared an emergency situation here two months ago, making administrators available for classroom duty as fill-in teachers.

Two-Year Objectives

Steward also said that Kimbrough has failed to meet his two-year objectives set after a study in late 1982 of school district deficiencies.

"The study said there was poor lighting, heaters weren't being serviced, there was poor maintenance. There were problems in purchasing and getting supplies and tracking supplies. . . . The (report) demonstrated how some employees were not doing their jobs, and it appears that the job is still not being done," said Steward.

Money that has been spent for maintenance and repair has not been spent wisely, he said. Roofs that have been repaired still leak and workmen are having to do the same jobs again, he said.

Responding to such criticisms in the past, Kimbrough has said that a greater share of the district's budget is now being spent on maintenance of schools than at any time in the past decade, which he said was marked by neglect of facilities.

Kimbrough has also said that a large majority of faults in financial management reported by an auditing firm in 1982 have been corrected.

That Kimbrough, a former Los Angeles schools administrator, and several other top administrators recruited by him remain on leaves of absence from their former districts reflect a lack of commitment to Compton, Steward said.

Termed Legal and Prudent

Kimbrough has acknowledged the leaves of absence, but has said they are legal and prudent. Compton has had 11 superintendents of school since 1969.

Steward also maintained that Kimbrough has routinely denied trustees easy access to information. Though repeatedly requested by Steward in 1983, district telephone bills were not available to him until after the full school board requested access to them, Steward said.

Other information, such as student scores on statewide tests and "report cards" on individual schools now done by the state, have not been presented to the board in a timely manner, Steward said.

The superintendent's alleged failure to include confidential personnel information in the agenda packet school board members receive three days before each trustees' meeting shows "an obvious lack of trust," said Steward.

Steward also said that Kimbrough does not attend enough after-school functions and that he lacks "a feel for what's going on in the community" because he does not attend local churches or support local organizations.

Series of Controversies

The call for Kimbrough's resignation is the latest in a series of controversies surrounding him since he arrived in September, 1982.

Kimbrough, 50, was hired after a scandal over altered student scores on statewide tests and amid accusations that the district had awarded illegal maintenance contracts, engaged in wide-ranging nepotism and employed people holding phony college degrees.

Almost immediately, the new superintendent launched investigations of the district's security, maintenance and accounting departments. He also reassigned 40 top administrators. Two unsuccessful recall campaigns followed against trustees who supported the moves by Kimbrough.

By last spring, after a school year of rocky relations with the board, trustees were saying most of the differences had been resolved.

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