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
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
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
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.
“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.”