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School District’s Top Financial Officer Resigns

By Jorge Casuso

November 28 -- In a move that has hit the rumor mill before being officially announced, Winston Braham, the School District’s top financial officer, has left the post he has held for less than a year and a half.

Braham’s departure comes in the wake of a public dispute with new Superintendent Diane Talarico and other top district officials over a contract with the teachers’ union that would put the local public school system in the red. (see story)

Braham -- whose $121,200-a-year contract was not set to expire until June 2008 -- submitted his letter of resignation last Wednesday and cleared out his office at district headquarters, according to the superintendent’s office.

The board will consider the resignation at its December 4 meeting and likely launch a search for a successor.

“We don’t know if the board members have had a chance to review the letter with the holidays,” said a spokesperson for the superintendent’s office. The letter will be made public after all the board members have received copies, the spokesperson said.

The district will miss the financial expertise and strong connections Braham brought from the Los Angeles Unified School District, where he served as business manager, according to members of the District’s Finance Oversight Committee.

“He brought a wealth of experience to school district finance and direct relationships with State and County officials,” said Paul Silvern, who chairs the committee.

“It’s a loss for the district. He was very informative… and very well rounded,” said Silvern, noting that Braham had also worked in the private sector.

“I was really sorry to hear that,” said Committee member Patricia Hoffman, a former School Board president. “I wanted to see it work out. I thought he was a really good financial officer. I’m sorry they weren’t able to resolve whatever the conflicts were.”

Rumors that Braham would resign began circulating earlier this month after it was learned that, in a highly unusual move, the district’s top financial officer failed to certify a 5 percent salary raise for teachers that would all but deplete the district’s nearly $7.3 million in reserves over the next three years.

“It’s not entirely surprising, because I know there were disagreements among senior officials about financial matters,” Silvern said. “There’s a new leadership in the district, and in times of change, things happen.”

Braham’s resignation comes as the board begins crafting a plan to come up with $7 million over the next three years to pay for the tentative agreement. Board members this month agreed to hire an outside consultant and hold a public meeting to come up with a plan. (see story)

Members of the Financial Oversight Committee, which expressed strong reservations about the contract, said they are confident the expertise will be there to move the process forward.

“Underneath Winston there are very skilled district staff, so in terms of facts and figures, I am confident good solid information will be available,” Silven said.

“I have full confidence that the school board is acting in the best interests of the district and will ultimately approve a financially viable agreement with the teachers,” said Ralph Mechur, a local architect who has help run campaigns for bond measures that have raised some $500 million for the district.

Hoffman agreed.

“I think that the district has a long history of overcoming adverse circumstances, and I think they’ll do it again,” she said. “This too will pass.”




“It’s a loss for the district." Paul Silvern


“I think that the district has a long history of overcoming adverse circumstances, and I think they’ll do it again.” Patricia Hoffman

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