Some days ago, we questioned why Gov.-elect Jerry Brown was taking so long in announcing his appointments. Now that he's seated and making a few, we wonder if he should have taken a bit more time.
Brown made an excellent choice in appointing former Assemblyman John Laird as natural resources secretary. Laird's deep knowledge of coastal issues – and his strong advocacy of water conservation while in the Legislature – will serve the state well. So will his expertise on all state programs, having chaired the Assembly Budget Committee from 2004 to 2008.
The reappointment of Mary Nichols as California Air Resources Board chair is also a smart choice, providing some continuity between administrations.
Some of Brown's first announced picks were to the state Board of Education, a signal that public schools will be a major focus of his administration. His selections will be interesting to watch. It's a diverse group, both ethnically and in their connections to education, with some strong personalities. Some come from an academic background, such as Michael Kirst, a retired Stanford professor, longtime adviser to Brown and presumptive chairman of the board. Others have experience in big urban school districts, such as Carl Anthony Cohn, who was superintendent of the Long Beach United School District for a decade. Some may interpret the selection of James Ramos, chairman of the San Manuel Band of Indians, as a sop to tribal casino interests, who supported Brown's campaign. Yet Ramos, who serves on the San Bernardino Community College Board, is a good pick in helping build stronger collaborations between higher education and public schools. He also could play an important role in advancing education among the state's Indian population.
Some school reform advocates are alarmed that Brown appointed a former legislative advocate for the California Teachers Association – Patricia Ann Rucker – to the board and didn't attempt to retain Ben Austin, an outspoken advocate of the "parent trigger" – a new law that gives parents more power in closing down failing schools and getting their kids into better ones. No doubt, reformers will have to closely watch how this new board adopts regulations that will implement the parent trigger. Yet critics should give this board a chance to operate, remembering that Brown, who helped create two charter schools in Oakland, is hardly an enemy of the school reform movement.
To read the complete editorial, visit www.sacbee.com.