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Los Angeles Taps Deputy as Interim Superintendent

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The Los Angeles school board last week appointed Sidney Thompson, the deputy superintendent of the district, to be the interim superintendent until next July.

Mr. Thompson is the first black to head the Los Angeles Unified School District. He replaces William R. Anton, the district's first Hispanic superintendent, who resigned last month. (See Education Week, Sept. 30, 1992.)

In an apparent conciliatory move, the board named a top Latino administrator, Ruben Zacarias, to be Mr. Thompson's second-in-command. The board had been under intense pressure from Hispanic community groups to choose a Hispanic superintendent; African-American groups had lobbied for a black schools chief.

The vote in favor of Mr. Thompson, who is 61 years old and has worked in the district for 36 years, was 5 to 2. Mr. Thompson was a finalist for the superintendency in 1987, when the board hired Leonard Britton to head the system.

Mr. Zacarias had been the district's deputy superintendent for human resources and parent and community services.

Both men pledged to work closely together. They face a continuing struggle to reach agreement with the United Teachers of Los Angeles over proposed salary reductions that have prompted the union to threaten a strike.

Before the board's decision on an interim superintendent, one Hispanic leader had threatened to organize a student boycott if the board failed to name a Hispanic to the job.

Hispanic Permanent Chief?

Last week, Latino leaders indicated that they would now turn their attention to lobbying for a Hispanic to be named as the permanent superintendent.

Board members have said they intend to conduct a national search for a new superintendent, who would begin work in July.

In arguing that the board should name Mr. Zacharias superintendent, Hispanic community activists noted that nearly two-thirds of the district's students are Latino. Non-Hispanic black students make up 14 percent of the enrollment.

"The pressure will continue to seek representation for 63 percent of the student body,'' Antolin Gomez of the Mexican American Political Association, a political lobbying and endorsing group, said last week.

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