School District Executive Resigns

TIMES EDUCATION WRITER

Only two months after his appointment, the chief operating officer of the Los Angeles Unified School District has abruptly resigned the post.

Allen Solomon, the former associate vice dean of operations at UCLA, canceled his remaining appointments last week. He gave no official explanation for his decision and was not available for comment Monday.

Supt. Roy Romer said Solomon chose to leave after the job evolved into one with less authority than he had expected. As the district's new management team took shape, Romer said, it became clear that the superintendent needed to retain a direct link to the head of facilities. Solomon had expected to oversee facilities himself at a time when the district is struggling to build about 85 schools under harsh deadlines.

"There is so much at stake there I have to be involved on a daily basis in facilities," Romer said. "When we looked at it, we all agreed that putting a layer between them and me was not effective."

Romer said he has not decided yet whether he will fill the position.

Solomon's departure adds a new twist to a saga of abortive attempts to bring in non-educators to oversee the district's sprawling business operations.

In 1994, former Supt. Sid Thompson made the first attempt when he hired former Arco executive William Magee as business czar. Magee resigned five months later, saying Thompson had consistently overruled his personnel decisions.

The next superintendent, Ruben Zacarias, created the position of chief administrative officer and named retired Kaiser Permanente executive Hugh Jones in October 1997. Amid a controversy over bond work, Jones resigned two months later citing personal reasons.

Zacarias then appointed longtime district business manager David Koch to the post. Koch accepted a buyout not long after being named in a report by the district's inspector general as one of nine district employees primarily responsible for allowing construction of the Belmont Learning Complex atop an oil field without adequate environmental assessments.

Shortly before Zacarias was ousted, the board appointed real estate lawyer and former board member Howard Miller to the new position of chief operating officer, overseeing all business operations including facilities. Miller vacated the post nine months later on the same day Romer replaced interim Supt. Ramon Cortines.

Romer announced Solomon's appointment April 4, as the last piece of the new business team.

Board member Caprice Young said it was reasonable for Romer to make changes as the new team gels.

"It's the outcome I'll hold Romer responsible for," Young said. "Whether or not he has a chief operating officer is not as important to me as whether or not he gets the job done."

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