Lynwood Board Fails to Act on Cutting Duties : Schools Chief’s Future Left Hanging

Times Staff Writer

The Lynwood Unified School District School Board, which was expected to adopt a resolution dividing embattled Superintendent Charlie Mae Knight’s duties, took another tack Tuesday and started an evaluation of the superintendent’s job performance.

In a five-hour business-as-usual meeting, the board made no mention of its previously discussed plan to reduce Knight’s power as head of the 12,000-student district. On April 2, the majority of the board had agreed in concept to transfer many of Knight’s duties to one of her top aides. The board had agreed to take a final vote Tuesday night.

Instead, board president Helen Andersen gave fellow board members forms on which to evaluate the superintendent’s performance.

Andersen told board members to fill out the forms--which had nine categories, including relations with the board, community and public, and business and fiscal mangement--and return them to her by the next regularly scheduled meeting, May 28.


“We haven’t decided what will be done after that. No decision has been made,” said Andersen, who is part of the board majority that wants to revise the superintendent’s job description.

‘Still Up to Something,’ Knight Fears

But Knight said she thinks the plan is still alive. “I think they are still up to something. I think they still expect to go through with it,” she said after the meeting.

Eric Bathen, an attorney hired by the board to draw up a reorganizational chart, confirmed Wednesday that the “reorganization is still in the works. We are still trying to resolve the problems of Dr. Knight’s duties,”


“I can’t give you a time line. I can’t say it will be on the agenda of the next regular meeting,” he said.

Bathen said he was having “continuing discussions” with Knight’s attorney, Spencer Covert.

“We both (the board) would like to resolve this, short of litigation,” Bathen said.

Knight has never been evaluated by the board during her tenure. Bathen said he had advised the board that “all administrators should be evaluated.” In an interview last week, Covert said Knight is unwilling to share her position with aides and maintains she has done a good job in her four years as superintendent.

Covert could not be reached for comment this week. Knight would make no further comment.

The reorganization is supported by board members Andersen, Richard Armstrong and Willard Hawn Reed. Board members Thelma Williams and Joe Battle are opposed.

Board members supporting the proposal to divide Knight’s duties have said they believe that the move is necessary to improve education, including raising test scores and morale among teachers in the predominantly Latino and black district.

“They (majority of the board) are just waiting for the public interest to die down, for people to stop coming to the meeting and the media to stop paying attention, then they will take action,” Battle said after the meeting.


“I think they are just trying to throw the public off,” Williams said Wednesday in an interview.

Under the plan, most of the district’s educational functions would be moved to Associate Supt. La Voneia Steele, who would report directly to the board.

Principals would report to Steele rather than to Knight. Steele would have control over curriculum, special education, state or federal grants and projects. Knight would retain control of maintenance, transportation, security, food services and data processing. The administration of attendance, which is now under Steele, would go to Knight.

The board room Tuesday night was filled to its capacity of 85, with many in the audience apparently expecting something to happen.

“I expected them to make a decision. I wanted the opportunity to speak on her behalf and to ask them why they were doing this to her,” said Karen Fuqua, a supporter.

Lynwood teacher Caffie Green, another Knight supporter who attended the meeting, said she believed the board “was in a holding pattern. It is ludicrous for them to do anything to Charlie without an evaluation. If they give her a low evaluation, then they will have an excuse to divide her duties.”

Knight, whose contract runs through 1987, has weathered a number of problems as superintendent. She has faced a teachers’ strike, a grand jury investigation of the district, low test scores and a dispute with the City Council over where to build a $34-million high school.