By Dakota Smith, Los Angeles Daily News | http://bit.ly/1dVZLNW
LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy delivers his State of Schools report to members of the City Council at City Hall, Tuesday, January 21, 2014. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)
Posted: 01/21/14, 8:26 PM PST :: Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy made a rare appearance before a City Council committee on Tuesday, marking the potential start of a closer relationship between City Hall and the school district.
Deasy and members of the Education and Neighborhoods Committee discussed ways the two independent government entities could work together on education issues; for example, he suggested, the city’s neighborhood council system or town halls could help parents get involved. He also proposed using public transportation to help advertise LAUSD issues.
“It’s the access to all those channels,” Deasy told the council.
Deasy’s appearance before the Education and Neighborhoods Committee marked one of the first times in recent memory the council has sought a more formal relationship with the nation’s second biggest school district.
Historically, relations between the city and the district have ranged from friendly to hostile, but that was a relationship driven more by the mayor’s office. They particularly grew tense in the early part of former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s term, when he tried unsuccessfully to take over control of the district. Other mayors, like Richard Riordan, have gotten deeply involved in school board politics and elections.
It is more rare to see the City Council reach out to the district, said Raphael J. Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles.
“While the school district would like to have the help of the city government, there may be concern if there are any strings that come with that,” Sonenshein said.
City Councilwoman Nury Martinez, a former school board member for four years who now sits on the council’s education committee, said the two groups “have so much in common.”
“So many of the families in our districts look at the quality of our schools,” Martinez said.
Tuesday’s hearing was requested by Councilman Bernard Parks, who represents parts of South L.A. and chairs the Education and Neighborhoods Committee. Parks said he was interested on how education correlates with reducing poverty in his district.
Parks also said information simply isn’t being passed between the two agencies.
“A constituent would ask you for a question about LAUSD and (as a councilmember) you didn’t feel comfortable answering,” Parks said. “You didn’t know who to call.”
During the two-hour hearing, Deasy outlined recent academic gains at the district, and answered councilmembers’ questions on issues ranging from budget cuts to arts funding. He also defended the rollout of the district’s $1 billion iPad program.
Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, education deputy to Mayor Eric Garcetti, attended Tuesday’s hearing. The former Santa Ana school superintendent has kept a low profile in Garcetti’s administration, and the mayor had announced no major education policies since taking office.
“Mayor Garcetti was pleased that Superintendent Deasy visited City Hall today and looks forward to partnering with LAUSD to help our students succeed and be prepared for the jobs of the future,” said Jeff Millman, a spokesman for Garcetti.
Deasy is expected to return to the city council next month with a detailed list of how schools in each city council district are faring, Parks said.
Article IX, Sec. 6 of the CA Constitution states that “no part of the Public School System shall be, directly or indirectly, transferred from the Public School System or placed under the jurisdiction of any authority other than one included within the Public School System.” Mayors and City Councils are not part of the “Public School System” as defined by the constitution. Just sayin’
Deasy’s partners in the operation and running of LAUSD are his bosses – the Board of Education. He reports to and is accountable to them.