Roos to Head School Advocacy Group


A group of Los Angeles business and civic leaders next week will announce the formation of a nonprofit group headed by Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Mike Roos to study ways of improving the troubled Los Angeles Unified School District, Roos said Thursday.

Roos, a 13-year veteran lawmaker and a ranking member of the Assembly hierarchy, told The Times that he will resign from his elected position effective March 15 to accept the job under a three-year contract. The Los Angeles Democrat said he will announce his resignation Monday on the Assembly floor.

According to Roos, the aim of the privately funded group will be to devise ways to better prepare students to enter and successfully compete in the job market.

The membership includes attorney Richard Riordan, a leader of Kids 1st, a community-action group for school reform; Robert E. Wycoff, president and chief executive officer of Arco; Phillip Williams, vice president of the board of Times Mirror Co., which publishes the Los Angeles Times; Roy Anderson, chief of the civic planning group L.A. 2000, and John Mack, president of the Los Angeles Urban League.

Also in the group are Bill Anton, the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District; Helen Bernstein, president of United Teachers-Los Angeles union; Virgil Roberts, chairman of the Los Angeles Educational Partnership; Rosalinda Lugo of the grass-roots activist group East Valley Organizations; John Singleton, vice president of Security Pacific Bank; Joseph Alibrandi, chief administrative officer of the Whittaker Corp. and another Kids 1st organizer, and William Ouchi of the UCLA Graduate School of Management.

The name of the group and its board of directors are expected to be announced at a news conference in Los Angeles sometime next week. Roos said he will be the organization's president and CEO and will earn a "six-figure" annual salary.

"The general charge is to restructure the district in a way to deliver a better educational product and to make recommendations to appropriate authorities," Roos said.

Bernstein said last month that Roos' legislative skills and contacts would be very important in helping the district achieve the kind of basic overhaul needed to turn it around.

The 86% minority, 625,000-student district, the nation's second largest, has been reeling under explosive growth and increasing numbers of poor, immigrant students who have many special needs. In the face of shrinking state revenues, the Board of Education has made a series of sharp budget cuts, with even deeper ones anticipated in the coming fiscal year. Standardized test scores remain well below state averages, and business and other groups have called for reforms.

"This goes far beyond a study group. This will be an action-oriented program. We are not doing the job now that we should be doing to keep California competitive in the workplace in the 21st Century."

Roos had indicated interest in running for other political office in recent years, including mayor of Los Angeles. But Roos said he would not use his new job as a political platform and said he would remain in the job for at least three years. The next mayoral election is scheduled in 1993.

"I have signed a three-year contract," Roos said, "and I intend to fulfill the terms of that contract."

He added: "I am not taking this job to be a candidate for mayor. In many respects this job is more important than being mayor. I want to do a good job more than have a title. If you do things well, the future takes care of itself."

Gov. Pete Wilson will have to call a special election to replace Roos in the Assembly. Asked why he was leaving the Assembly, Roos said: "I see this as a chance to do something different and meaningful that also allows me to go home to my wife and daughters every night." He said term limitations imposed by voters under Proposition 140 were not a factor in his decision.

Roos was first elected in June, 1977, and is a member of a tight inner circle that advises Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) on policy matters.

He scored a major legislative victory last year with the passage of laws he helped sponsor that banned assault weapons. This came after a man armed with an assault rifle shot up a Stockton schoolyard, killing five children.

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