County administrator to leave Inglewood school post

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By Emilie St. John

Contributing Writer

INGLEWOOD — Erika Torres, who has overseen the Inglewood Unified School District since 2018, has announced her resignation from the district effective Oct. 31.

In a late-night email, Torres notified district administrators of her intended departure.

Citing her health as a factor, Torres disclosed that she was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago and had a recurrence that she must focus on.

“My health is preventing me from being able to continue the work with the same pace and intensity that a district in receivership deserves,” wrote Torres in her emailed statement.

Torres was out for a month this summer for unspecified reasons.

Torres is the sixth administrator to leave the district since it went into receivership in 2012.

Los Angeles County Office of Education Superintendent Debra Duardo has appointed former county Deputy Superintendent Arturo Valdez to replace Torres on an interim basis. She said a permanent replacement should be in place by Jan. 2.

In a letter posted on the district website, Duardo thanked Torres for her service to the Inglewood district, calling her “one of the most hardworking and committed individuals I know.”

Torres has been at the helm of the district for the last four years. Since taking over in 2018, Torres has consolidated schools and led the closure of Warren Lane Elementary School citing declining enrollment as the main factor.

The school was scheduled to close after the 2020-21 school year, but residents fought to increase enrollment, which was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2002 the district’s enrollment was 18,000 students and is expected to drop to 6,800 students by the 2024 school year.

With declining enrollment and looming school closures, Torres approved a $240 million school bond to be placed on the 2020 ballot that passed with overwhelming support.

The district is on pace to close another five schools, although those schools have not been publicly identified.

“I appreciate every single one of you who has been a part of this journey with me,” wrote Torres. “Collectively, we have moved our schools forward, closer to returning our district to local control.”

After the announcement of the closure of Warren Lane Elementary School, Torres and Inglewood Mayor James Butts wrote a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asked for forgiveness of the balance of the state loan, which was $21 million.

“In light of the state’s significant budget surplus, and the continuous declining enrolment, as well as the challenges of recruiting and retaining highly qualified staff, the district would like to request the forgiveness of our state loan so we can redirect the annual $1.8 million payment to other services, recruitment and retention efforts.” The state declined to take that action.

Torres and Assemblywoman Tina McKinnor held a town hall meeting last month that was met with frustration from residents who want local control to return to voters.

“It’s important to note that the state receivership of IUSD is not exclusively about the emergency loan,” McKinnor said at the meeting.

There are a number of areas the district needs to improve on to return local control to voters.

Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at emiliesaintjohn@gmail.com.

 

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