By Barbara Jones, Los Angeles Daily News | http://bit.ly/1aLuBam
LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy during a board meeting at LAUSD headquarters, Tuesday, October 29, 2013. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)
Posted: 10/30/13, 7:54 PM PDT | Updated: 10/31/13 4AM :: A day after the Los Angeles Unified school board and Superintendent John Deasy held a discussion that led to him remaining on the job, district, city and civic leaders encouraged the adversaries to put aside hard feelings and move ahead for the sake of the kids.
Deasy met privately with the board for nearly five hours Tuesday while they reviewed his performance for the past year. Board members either did not return phone calls or refused to discuss what happened during the closed-door meeting.
However, one source with knowledge of the session called it an “extremely frank, important and honest conversation that is essential for moving forward.”
The board emerged from the meeting and announced that members had given Deasy a “satisfactory” performance evaluation, which automatically extended his $330,000-a-year contract through mid-2016. The decision capped five days of drama that included reports that Deasy was prepared to quit and concerns that the board was ready to fire him.
Deasy was in Albuquerque on Wednesday for a meeting of the Council of Great City Schools and did not return phone calls.
However, those who had a hand in trying to keep Deasy aboard said it’s now time for the superintendent and the board to put students ahead of politics.
“I am pleased with the board’s decision,” Mayor Eric Garcetti told reporters. “I think progress in the district will depend on much more than one person or one leader. It’s important to me that we prioritize a collaborative approach (and) that the school board works well with the superintendent and with the teachers, who like the parents, have sometimes been shut out.”
Deasy’s frustration with his job emerged Oct. 24, when sources say he told board President Richard Vladovic he wanted to resign in February, then work for 16 months as a consultant.
After news of that proposal was leaked, momentum quickly grew among prominent civic and education leaders to keep Deasy in L.A. At the same time, the board — especially Vladovic, who has frequently clashed with Deasy — found themselves facing accusations that they have tried to interfere in Deasy’s successful efforts to raise test scores and graduation rates.
Deasy would say only that he hadn’t actually submitted a letter of resignation, fueling the debate over his future and that of the district.
In the days leading up to Tuesday’s meeting, Garcetti spoke privately with the superintendent and individual board members, and he also discussed the unfolding situation with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who he met during a trip this week to Washington, D.C.
Board members also received calls from former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who recruited Deasy to come to the district as a deputy superintendent in mid-2010, and remained an ardent supporter after Deasy was promoted to replace retiring Superintendent Ramon Cortines just six months later.
Board Vice President Steve Zimmer called a meeting with reporters Monday, saying that he wanted his colleagues and Deasy to find a way to work together. On Wednesday, Zimmer said he now hopes the rival factions can find ways to be more flexible and open-minded in dealing with one another.
“I think that putting kids, families, teachers and school employees — our LAUSD family — ahead of any other issues that may have been clouding this is what won the day,” said Zimmer, whose district stretches from Woodland Hills to Hollywood.
“We are going to do everything we possibly can do to move forward and have stability in a moment of profound change and profound uncertainty.”
Board member Tamar Galatzan, who represents the West San Fernando Valley, said Tuesday’s meeting left her “cautiously optimistic about the district’s ability to move forward and continue to deliver a strong educational product for our kids.”
The Communities for Los Angeles Student Success, a coalition of more than two dozen education groups that organized a pro-Deasy rally outside LAUSD headquarters, released a statement echoing calls for new cooperation.
“Now that the district’s leadership is stable once again, we’re looking forward to a new spirit of collaboration among the school board, Dr. Deasy, and teachers, parents and the community,” said the statement from CLASS. “We hope that unnecessary politics are behind us. It’s time to give our kids what they deserve — a school district that puts them first.”
Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State L.A., said the rival factions on the board can find a way to work together despite their philosophical differences.
“They don’t have to get along,” he said. “They just have to have the incentive to cooperate, which is a totally different thing. While the personality stuff can be important, the incentives are that both sides have played their cards and both sides have strengths to be dealt with.”
Warren Fletcher, who had put out a statement last week expressing satisfaction at what he then thought was a pending change in LAUSD’s leadership, said Wednesday he was “dumbfounded” that Deasy received a “satisfactory” performance review despite falling short in meeting most of his performance goals.
“Dr. Deasy has a no-excuses philosophy,” Fletcher said. “Apparently, there are no excuses — except for Dr. Deasy.”