by smf for 4LAKidsNews
Tuesday August 5, 2014 :: This morning Superintendent Deasy hosted his annual back-to-school confab for principals and administrators in the new auditorium at Garfield High School. The highlight of these affairs is usually a barnburner of a kick-off-to-the school year speech from the superintendent to his assembled principals – a listing of the successes of the past year and a go get ‘em team/”Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; or close the wall up with our English dead!” motivational oration that sets a vision and goals for the coming year.
I have stated elsewhere that I thought the best speech of the day was not Dr. Deasy’s | http://bit.ly/1nr3DY5
A reporter called me after the speech to ask my opinion – and I told her it was an unfair question to me and to Dr. Deasy. I have already made up my mind to disagree with Dr. D’s vision for LAUSD – we have a fundamental disagreement about the direction the District should be taking. Sure, we agree that kids should be job one and we would both like to see all students graduate. We agree on the need to get from A to B – but we disagree on the route. And probably the definition of “B”.
In my intro I set the expectation for CEO speeches to Middle Managers like Dr. Deasy’s to be similar to Shakespeare's Henry V at the gates of Harfleur: “Once more…”. But King Hal and Shakespeare’s best motivational speech – the one by which all others are measured – was on the morn of Agincourt. “We few, we happy few. We band of brothers…” Dr Deasy didn’t come close.
But I set the bar too high.
I am going to try and be fair – and not too snarky. Dr. Deasy wrote his Ph.D. thesis on evaluating administrators – one should not evaluate his performance on how well he gives a speech but on how he performs as superintendent.
The scorecard: Dr Deasy quoted Martin Luther King three times.
He quoted Cesar Chavez twice. (Not counting his spectacular mispronunciation of “Si se puede.”)
He quoted John XXIII once.
He used a strange metaphor about Boy Scouts never getting lost, incarcerated prisoners never getting lost but LAUSD losing 6950 dropouts that still eludes me.
He found irony in the fact that he reads about people criticizing his Common Core Technology Initiative on his iPad and iPhone. That’s not irony, that’s product placement.
He mentioned that all of the Districts collective bargaining partners except UTLA has agreed to new union contracts. What he doesn’t mention is that all the partners have ‘me too’ clauses in their contracts – entitling them to whatever UTLA gets.
The recession is over and UTLA would like to see some of the recession-driven cuts restored and Deasy disagrees. Most importantly the teachers would like to see class sizes reduced. 4LAKids is not a fan of educational policy decisions being made at the bargaining table or the union contract becoming the governance document of the District. Those sorts of policy decisions should be made by the elected Board of Ed in open meetings, not negotiated at the bargaining table.
But if the only way LAUSD can reduce class size is through contract negotiation so be it.
And when his presentation was over and the rousing video (“sure to win an award” – because it’s all about award-winning videos) with the soundtrack by Will I. Am and Carlos Santana (and a large spelling typo in the end credits) was over he called on each administrator in the hall to stop one troubled student from dropping out. And – in a pure Oprah Moment (or what someone else suggested was “a pandering ploy”)informed them the the name and location code of the student they were to save was taped to bottom of of their seat in the auditorium!
I am not making this up!: from L.A. Times’ Howard Blume’s Twitter feed
- Supt. Deasy, in annual address, assigns every admin, at random, a troubled student to keep on track for graduation.
- One student name was in every sealed envelopes taped to bottom of fold-up seats in Garfield High auditorium, where Deasy spoke.
Dr. Deasy’s charge when he came to LAUSD was to improve student achievement as measured by test scores – to eliminate ‘bad teachers’ through test scores - and perhaps to divest the District of assets and programs he thought it couldn’t afford as the (not so) Great Recession and the ®eformy rush to privatization-of-public-education descended upon us. New schools were spun off to charters in the name of ‘Choice’. Teachers and staff were RIFed in the name of belt-tightening, paring down to the basics and ‘rightsizing’. Programs like Adult Ed and Health Ed and Arts and Music Ed and Afterschool and Summer School – programs that aren’t basic and aren’t tested – were cut or eliminated. Class size grew, Maintenance was cut. Corners were cut. The numbers of tests grew. iPads were purchased because iPads are test platforms. Arne Duncan visited and clucked approval. “Why can’t all of California be like LAUSD?”
Now the recession is somewhat over. Now there is more money. Now Dr. Deasy has a new mission: He is going to eliminate poverty and create a fair immigration policy. It’s more important to eliminate poverty than it is to restore programs and class size and maintain schools.
This is all well and good – but the job of the General Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District is to educate the children of Los Angeles. It’s a day-to-day job; day in and day out.
Immigration policy is everyone's business at one level, but none of the superintendent’s business at another. Eliminating poverty takes patience and generations and it takes a concerted effort by everyone pulling together. Dr. Deasy is not patient. I don’t see Dr. Deasy as being that kind of leader and I don’t see how today's kindergarteners or third graders or middle schoolers or high school juniors have generations.
This is school year 2014-15. We don’t pull it out with stunts or names stuck to the bottom of chairs.
We do it by working hard one day at a time.