Theodore T. Alexander Jr., associate superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District and a nationally respected education administrator who helped steer local schools through the challenges of desegregation, has died. He was 66.
Alexander, who lived in Baldwin Hills, died Saturday night at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center only a month after he was diagnosed with leukemia, school district spokesmen said. He had been hospitalized for more than two weeks for treatment of respiratory problems that developed into a rare fungus in his lungs.
“Ted Alexander was one of the unsung giants of this community,” said Mark Rosenbaum, who for decades spearheaded the ACLU’s legal pursuit of school desegregation in Los Angeles. “He had an abiding faith in the ability of every child to succeed and a fierce determination to provide equal opportunity education for children of all races.”
As a senior staff administrator of Los Angeles schools, Alexander was in charge of the 700,000-student district’s specially funded parent and community programs division, with an annual budget of about $1 billion.
Alexander was responsible for district integration after a 1977 court order required Los Angeles schools to desegregate, a ruling that prompted a citywide fight over mandatory busing.
To help defuse community opposition to busing, Alexander supervised the establishment of magnet schools. The magnet campuses achieved integration by attracting students of all races from across the city with specialized classes that included science, journalism and curricula for the academically gifted.
Alexander worked to expand and improve the magnet schools, with their enrollment of more than 37,000 students and a waiting list of thousands of students, as district budgets contracted and were diverted to other projects.
When limited funds forced him a decade ago to curtail bus transportation for children to magnet schools within two miles of their homes, he reminded angry parents: “The magnet program is not a transportation program for the district. It’s an integration program and an education program.”
Alexander was also responsible for the district’s human relations programs, parent advisory committees, and measuring and improving student performance.
As a part of that responsibility, in 1987 he established and oversaw what was largely his brainchild -- the Ten Schools Program -- with an annual budget of about $10 million. The program was designed to raise achievement at 10 of Los Angeles’ most troubled inner-city elementary schools.
Alexander emphasized improving the students’ skills in oral and written communication to help them progress through school and move into the workplace.
Delighted with the Ten Schools’ early success in elevating student test scores, Alexander told The Times in 1992: “The administration and teaching staff are the critical factors. We have to have dedicated, experienced people who want to be in these schools, who are willing to build their skills and be the best they can for these kids. And we need them to stay.”
Born in Los Angeles, Alexander earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cal State Los Angeles and later obtained a doctorate in education at USC. He joined the school district in 1960 as a teacher at Wadsworth Elementary School. By 1966 he was an assistant principal and soon began moving up the administrative ranks.
Long a leader in the community as well as in education administration, Alexander served as president of the Council of Black Administrators and of the Educare support group at USC, and was active in the Interchange for Community Action, 100 Black Men, the Black Leadership Coalition, the NAACP and the Westside Jewish Community Center.
Earlier this year, the NAACP presented Alexander with its W.E.B. Dubois Education Award. Alexander is survived by his mother, retired teacher Pauline Bruner Alexander; two sons, Theodore III and Mark Anthony; and three grandchildren.
Services will be held Monday at 1 p.m. at the Trinity Baptist Church, 2040 W. Jefferson Blvd., Los Angeles.