Romer Targets Bureaucracy, Overcrowding


New Los Angeles schools chief Roy Romer on Thursday said his top priorities will include shrinking the district bureaucracy, relieving overcrowding and calming the clamor for breaking up the district.

“There’s no issue that has caused me more concern than building more schools,” Romer said at a Town Hall Los Angeles luncheon. “I don’t yet see a path to get us out of that thicket.”

“I just want to say to you that I’m very excited to take this on,” the former Colorado governor said. “There is nothing more important to me than the education of the children of this community.”


Romer, 71, was introduced to the gathering at the Biltmore Hotel by Henry Cisneros, head of Univision, the nation’s largest Spanish-language television company. Cisneros had been the board’s first choice to be superintendent but declined for personal reasons.

“The right person was selected to be superintendent,” Cisneros said in an interview.

Vice President Al Gore, speaking elsewhere in Los Angeles on Thursday, said, “I know Roy Romer extremely well. He’s extremely capable. L.A. will find him hard-working, energetic and imaginative.”

At an earlier news conference, Romer stood shoulder to shoulder with Mayor Richard Riordan, City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, Occidental College President Theodore R. Mitchell, businessman Eli Broad and four members of the Los Angeles Board of Education.

Conspicuously absent were three board members who have publicly criticized the process that led to Romer’s selection.

In an interview, Riordan shrugged off such criticism, saying, “that stuff always happens.”

“You take hits for two or three days; you just have to have the guts to stand up to it,” Riordan said.

Riordan described the school district as “the most dysfunctional bureaucracy in the history of the world.”

“Roy was an excellent choice--but it’s a tough job,” Riordan said. “We’ll have to judge his performance a year from now. Whatever he needs, I’ll help him all I can.”

“I just hope he’s got the backbone to say the F word and fire people who fail to teach our children,” he added.

Romer declined to say whether he plans to purge district offices. He also declined to comment on such pressing concerns as whether teachers should receive merit pay, as the district has proposed.

“There will be a time and a place where that’s appropriate,” he said. “But I’m not going to talk about it on my first day on the job.”


To hear Roy Romer’s speech at Town Hall Los Angeles, go to The Times’ Internet site: