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Romer’s Contract Is Extended to 2007

Times Staff Writers

In a vote of confidence for Los Angeles schools Supt. Roy Romer, the Board of Education on Thursday extended his contract as leader of the nation’s second-largest school system until 2007.

Board President Jose Huizar said the action “brings stability to the district, which this district very much needs.”

Since he joined the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2000, Romer has launched a massive school building program and has pushed to improve academics. Elementary and middle schools have shown significant rises in standardized test scores, although high schools have lagged behind.

Most details of the superintendent’s contract will stay the same, including his annual salary of $250,000 and a $30,000 expense account for meals and entertainment.

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The former governor of Colorado and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Romer turns 76 in October. He said he did not want to retire yet and was eager to finish his work in Los Angeles schools.

“My mind is active and my body is active,” he said.

“It’s tough work,” he added. “But I happen to have satisfaction in doing tough work these days.... And we have really made remarkable gains in four years.”

Romer’s current contract, which expires in June 2005, will be replaced by a new contract through June 2007. As part of a compromise, either party can terminate the pact before its third year.

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That arrangement addresses some concerns expressed by board members in previous weeks that an extension to 2007 would leave them little flexibility. Some trustees, including Huizar, originally wanted to add a year at a time to Romer’s contract. But a 6-0 vote Thursday approved the extension, with board member Marguerite Poindexter-LaMotte abstaining.

Romer has been widely credited with refocusing instructional programs, spearheading the aggressive construction effort and energizing a bureaucracy long ridiculed as inefficient -- even as he drew the ire of teachers who accused him of pushing centralized reforms without listening to their concerns.

Romer hired experienced professionals to run the district’s key operations, such as facilities and procurement. He pressed for centralized reading and math curriculums that standardized instruction. And he launched two successful bond campaigns, raising $14 billion for building new schools to ease severe overcrowding.

At the same time, state budget crunches have meant that Romer has presided over nearly $1 billion in cuts in the last two years, reluctantly raising class sizes in grades 4 through 12 and slashing many support services.

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In an interview Thursday, United Teachers Los Angeles President John Perez said the superintendent would succeed only if he included teachers in decisions that affected classrooms.

“Most people like Romer tend to view teachers as grown-up children who are best not heard,” Perez said. “We are going to try to continue educating the superintendent about what goes on in the classroom. We’re not going to stop.”

Former board President Caprice Young called the contract extension a smart move, saying that “we’ll all be better off with three more years of Roy Romer.” Young, who was on the board when it hired Romer and now runs a charter school organization, said the superintendent had brought credibility to the district.


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