Inglewood Unified trustee says budget's balanced, plans departure

State-appointed trustee Don Brann, who has run Inglewood Unified since 2013, plans to step down later this year.
State-appointed trustee Don Brann, who has run Inglewood Unified since 2013, plans to step down later this year.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

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Inglewood Unified's state-appointed trustee announced plans to leave later this year after declaring the once financially strapped district is now in the black.

"I don’t plan to always be here," state trustee Don Brann told those attending the school board meeting Monday evening. "I’ve been talking with state superintendent, my boss, Tom Torlakson, about a transition during 2015 so that it would be smooth and seamless going forward."

Brann would not explain why he is resigning.

In 2012, the district was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and asked the state for a $55 million bailout. As part of the deal, the district lost local control and a trustee stepped in, making all decisions instead of the school board.

Brann, appointed in 2013, is the district's third trustee. The announcement that he plans to leave surprised many in the audience attending Monday's meeting.

"We want stability," said Inglewood Teachers Association President Kelly Iwamoto. "What we’ve always said, that in order for this district to move forward, we need stable people and the revolving door makes it worse."

She's worried that a new trustee will remove Brann's administrators just as they're making progress in getting the school district back on stable financial footing and improving student performance.

Brann said layoffs last year and additional state funding allowed him to close the district's $12 million deficit. Next year’s school budget will be the first that's balanced since the state takeover. 

Whoever replaces Brann will still face challenges, among them declining enrollment that will mean a cut in state funding tied to attendance. Student enrollment has declined by 5 percent between the 2012-2013 school year and 2014-2015, when the district's 20 schools served 13,469 students.

Inglewood Unified will remain under state control until it turns around student performance, it’s finances are solid, and it pays back nearly $29 million that it still owes the state.

Inglewood school union leaders criticized Brann last year for spending $335,000 on a driver who also provided security while implementing belt-tightening districtwide. Brann angered some when he said he needed the security because he feared he might get hurt in Inglewood.

Brann lives in nearby El Segundo. He later apologized for his "insensitive" remarks.

In November, KPCC reported on the dilapidated facilities, faulty fire alarms and filthy restrooms at Inglewood High School, prompting a cleanup.

“We need someone who knows the people, that is sensitive to the people, and the kids, and the needs of Inglewood,” said Inglewood activist C. Bell at the meeting.

Bell and others also criticized Torlakson, saying he hasn't appointed a trustee who knows the needs of Inglewood's schools. The district largely serves Latino and African-American students while Brann is white.

"I stand ready to work with the community, including teachers and classified employees, and the school board to immediately begin a search ‎for a new leader," Torlakson said in a written statement.