By Emilie St. John
INGLEWOOD — The Inglewood Unified School District has announced the selection of James (Jim) Morris as the latest county administrator to lead the district.
“I am very pleased to share with you the appointment of … James Morris as the new county administrator for the Inglewood Unified School District,” said Debra Duardo, superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office of Education in a statement announcing his hiring.
Morris joins the Inglewood district with more than 40 years of public education experience, including seven years as the superintendent of Fremont Unified School District, which Duardo said was “one of California’s highest-performing school districts.”
The statement noted that Morris passed the “largest school bond” in the history of Alameda County, yet Fremont Unified announced last year it would be forced to male $30 million in budget cuts. The release also stated that since retiring from Fremont Morris he has served as a consultant to the county office of Education and led the Los Angeles Unified School District’s efforts on COVID vaccinations.
Duardo described Morris as “an incredible leader with a demonstrated history of building community, developing instructional practices and budgeting.”
Morris becomes the Inglewood Unified School Districts eighth appointed administrator since the district was taken over by the state in 2012.
The district is in the process of consolidating enrollment and closing schools after having passed a multi-million dollar school repair bond in 2020 and has received nearly $85 million in COVID funds from the federal government.
The COVID funds were supposed to be used to increase ventilation in classrooms but during a sweltering two weeks last August it was discovered that many classrooms didn’t have operable air conditioning systems as the students returned to school. One of the most recent state reports slammed the district for not addressing structural needs while students were not on campus during the pandemic.
Morris also will have to grapple with the ongoing allegations of discrimination by members of the staff.
His biggest challenge will be declining enrollment which none of the previous administrators were able to adequately address. The district estimates it is losing 500 students each school year with no administrator able to stop the decline.
To address the declining enrollment, the district decided to close Warren Lane Elementary School, the last school in the 90305 zip code last year. The school was closed after enrollment plummeted to less than 300 students.
The district is also working to consolidate more schools, with next round of closures projected to be Kelso and Worthington elementary schools.
Kelso is along the path of the proposed Inglewood Transit Connector that has yet to be 100% funded. The city is hoping to have word on whether it will receive $407 million requested from the state’s surplus by the end of this month.
Should the state award the funding, it will trigger a federal match to complete the project’s financing.
The city has already purchased property north of the Kelso site as they prepare to break ground in time for the 2028 Olympics.
Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.