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Reformer Chosen to Run County Education Office

TIMES EDUCATION WRITER

One of the more obscure, if high-paying, jobs in local public education was filled Tuesday when a divided Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors named a former Kentucky official and noted reformer to be superintendent of the county Office of Education.

Donald W. Ingwerson was awarded a three-year contract during a closed-door session on a 3-2 vote. Supervisors Deane Dana and Ed Edelman voted no, an indication of the controversy surrounding the appointment to what historically has been a low-profile but increasingly powerful post.

The new superintendent’s salary will be set by the appointed county Board of Education. His predecessor, Stuart Gothold, who is retiring at the end of the month, earns $118,000 annually.

Ingwerson, 60, who holds a doctorate in school administration from the University of Wyoming, was superintendent of Jefferson County Schools in Louisville for 12 years before leaving in 1993 to head the Galef Institute, a private school-reform organization in Santa Monica. He previously worked as a teacher and counselor, then administrator in several Southern California school districts, including Temple City, Glendora and Orange Unified.

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While in Jefferson County, Ingwerson implemented Kentucky’s highly touted reform effort--which overhauled financing of schools and demanded higher results--and became a figure in the national drive to improve public schools.

After he was named Kentucky Superintendent of the Year in 1992, the Louisville Courier-Journal published articles disputing academic improvement claims. The paper also ran stories about Ingwerson’s hiring of school district employees to perform work on his real estate properties. In the stories, Ingwerson denied doing anything improper. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Edelman said his vote against Ingwerson was prompted by his strong belief that “there were much better candidates.” Supervisors had interviewed four other finalists: two local superintendents, Robert Aguilar of the Norwalk-La Mirada district and Ronald Hockwalt of the Walnut Valley schools, and two administrators from the county Office of Education, Gilberto Anzaldua and Jennifer Hartman.

Edelman said he and the other supervisors knew about the Louisville controversies, but he declined to say whether they played a role in his vote against Ingwerson.

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Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, one of those voting for the new superintendent, said she was impressed by Ingwerson’s national stature, his support in the business community and his tremendous record, especially in improving achievement among minority students. Burke added that supervisors looked at the Kentucky controversies but felt that they were a very small part of Ingwerson’s overall track record.

Ingwerson is taking a job that is little known outside local education leadership circles. The superintendent runs the county Office of Education, which advises and provides support to 94 school districts and operates a variety of specialized schools and programs. The agency has 3,400 employees and a $339-million budget. In recent years, as increasing numbers of financially strapped California districts began heading into the red, the Legislature gave county superintendents greater power to intervene to keep the districts solvent.

Gothold, a respected educator who held the county post for 14 years before accepting a teaching post with USC’s School of Education, told colleagues that he preferred the change to let him work behind the scenes in a style where he felt most effective.


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