Monday, September 29, 2014





It starts out as an innocent enough tweet from @newton_jim: “My latest, on the deepening rift between the LA school board and Supt. John Deasy:

Deasy's impatience threatens to overshadow LAUSD achievements…which takes us to the OpEd page on the Times website. Jim Newton is editor at large of the Los Angeles Times and writes a weekly column for the Op-Ed page on the policy and politics of Southern California

Deasy's impatience threatens to overshadow LAUSD achievements

by Jim Newton | LA Times |

Supt. John Deasy
Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. John Deasy listens at a Board of Education meeting in August. (Los Angeles Times)
The Times has a ‘choose your own headline’ feature on the website; the choices here are:
  • Performance evaluation of L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy could turn into a major confrontation
  • L.A. schools chief John Deasy shouldn't be punished for aggressiveness in pursuing reform
  • There's a storm cloud gathering over Los Angeles politics these days, and the man at its center is schools Supt. John Deasy.

29 Sept 2014  ::  In office since 2010, Deasy has fenced with his bosses, the seven-member school board, almost from the get-go. Lately, however, the situation has deteriorated: United Teachers Los Angeles, the union that represents teachers in the L.A. Unified School District, has sharpened its critique of the superintendent, calling for him to be held "accountable" in his upcoming evaluation. A recent election to fill a vacancy on the closely divided board went to the candidate, George McKenna, considered less friendly to Deasy. Deasy has made matters worse by some admittedly sloppy handling of a deal intended to put iPads in the hands of students. The board is scheduled to deliver its performance evaluation of Deasy next month, and that could turn into a major confrontation.

It's taking a toll on the superintendent. I visited him in his office last week, and though he seemed as energetic as ever — he talks fast and riffles through papers with lightning speed — he looked drawn. Already slight, he's lost weight.

Deasy is hardly the first public official to be put through the local grinder — those with long memories will recall LAPD Chief Willie L. Williams' slow end, and a number of Deasy's predecessors in the superintendent's office have been dragged across these coals — but what makes his case unusual is that he's being pounded despite considerable success.

During Deasy's tenure, student test scores have steadily improved and done so across the district's ethnic groups. The percentage of non-English speakers who master English every year has nearly doubled. The number of students suspended from school has dropped from 46,000 in Deasy's first year to 8,300 last year. Attendance is up, dropouts are down. The graduation rate, 69%, is the highest in the district's modern history.

Deasy is hardly the first public official to be put through the local grinder, but what makes his case unusual is that he's being pounded despite considerable success. - 

In short, more students are in school for more time. They are doing better on tests and graduating at higher rates. And that's despite grinding budget battles and an overwhelmingly poor student body: More than 8 out of 10 LAUSD students live in poverty; 18,000 of them are homeless .

"My purpose in this job," Deasy told me emphatically during our interview, "is to lift children out of poverty."

Some of those trends, such as improving test scores, were underway before Deasy came to office, so he cannot rightly claim full credit for them. But he personally led the effort to reduce suspensions, he's championed "pilot schools" where teachers and other members of a school community take charge of their campuses, and he's aggressively fought to boost graduation rates by addressing the issues that cause students to drop out. Even Deasy's critics acknowledge that he is a powerful intellect and a determined education reformer.

So, what's not to like? By his own admission, Deasy can be bullheaded and impatient. More than 1,000 district employees were let go last year — some were fired, some resigned rather than be fired, some were denied tenure — and Deasy's proud of that. He's quick to correct and sometimes short-tempered. A 2011 clash with a substitute teacher — he dropped in on her class and objected to her teaching approach, to which she responded by asking him to leave — ended up with her being fired. Teachers still talk about it.

And then there is the iPad issue. Over the objections of some doubters, Deasy pushed hard to secure tablet computers for every student in the district. Eager to launch the program quickly, he may have skirted district contracting rules, and his communications with vendors are under investigation. No one is suggesting he did anything for personal gain, but his trademark impatience may have left him vulnerable. "I could have done a thousand things better," he conceded during our conversation. Nevertheless, rather than taking a conciliatory approach with the school board, he has gone on the offensive, filing a public records request to obtain email correspondence of board members relating to the iPad project.

But here's the perversity of punishing Deasy for aggressiveness: For more than 20 years, the dominant complaint about the district has been its lethargy. District officials have tinkered with this program or that, and all too often they have been content to offer solutions that will take years to show results. To a parent with a child in school now, that's not reform; that's failure.

With Deasy, the board traded in complacency for urgency. That's sometimes been rough, but the alternative robbed generations of Los Angeles students of their futures

smf: Newton didn’t just “visit him in his office last week”, he spent three hours interviewing him – that’s how its done when you pull out all the stops in trying to save a public figure under attack – even when the attackers include your own newspaper.

That said, Deasy+Co. may not just have “skirted district contracting rules”, he may have rigged a multi-million dollar public contract. 

The first is a no-no; the second is a federal crime.

He may not have acted for personal gain …or he may have. His contract rewards success with bonuses. He has received a 15.8% raise last year (but no bonus – his performance wasn’t ‘satisfactory’  enough.).. And others - working for contractors and the contractors themselves - do stand to make immense personal gain. Its called “profit” – and that’s what Apple and Pearson are in it for. And that’s what the bidders who didn’t get the contract are in it for. And if they were cheated they are going to get 1.) mad, 2.) litigious and 3.) even.  On the day the Apple/Pearson contract was announced an attorney from Microsoft threatened as much at the board meeting.

We are running the District on a business model; that’s how it’s done in business. I think they teach that at the Broad Academy.

But enough about me being serious. Enough measuring the slight-and-getting-thinner Dr. D for an orange jumpsuit.

Let’s resort to literary satire. Let’s conflate Emily Bronte with 50 Shades of Grey. Let’s have fun!

Offred Gillead, a fictional reference to a character in a Margaret Atwood dystopian novel, comments in LA School Report on September 29, 2014 at 11:48 am:  (In other moments Offred Gillead is ‘Martin Eden’, a major character in a forgotten Jack London novel)

We have officially entered into a super bizzaro, gothic world with Jim Newton.

With his Emily Bronte opening: “There’s a storm cloud gathering over Los Angeles politics these days” before moving into gaunt, haunted purple poignancy, “It’s taking a toll on the superintendent. I visited him in his office last week…he looked drawn. Already slight, he’s lost weight.”

Deasy’s rich, cultish supporters, have always given us a variation of THE MARTYRDOM OF JOHN DEASY. I tingle over Newton’s words like “have been dragged across these coals” and “put through the local grinder”.

Okay. I get it.

I’m really reading 50 SHADES OF DEASY, a story that makes Deasy’s backers swoon.

Newton says, “Deasy has made matters worse by some admittedly sloppy handling of a deal intended to put iPads in the hands of students.” Really? “Admittedly?” When did Deasy EVER admit to this?

Newton tells us, “So, what’s not to like? By his own admission, Deasy can be bullheaded and impatient.”

Ana Steele could understand that. She might say, like Newton, “No one is suggesting he did anything for personal gain, but his trademark impatience may have left him vulnerable.”

Sensitive and obsessively-driven! Like Moses! Dr. Frankenstein! Ahab! Hamlet! Dr. Strangelove!

Deasy confides, “‘I could have done a thousand things better,’ he conceded during our conversation.”

Really? How about naming ONE thing, Doc?

In Deasy’s perverse brain, his biggest fault is that he CARES TOO MUCH. He is TOO MUCH of a perfectionist. His only goal is to lift children out of poverty and has to put up with hundreds who stand in his way.

“He’s quick to correct and sometimes short-tempered….Even Deasy’s critics acknowledge that he is a powerful intellect and a determined education reformer.”

Karl Rove also breathlessly informed us that George Bush was the smartest person he ever met and, famously, “The Decider”.

I don’t know what Christian Grey non-disclosure contract might have gotten signed between the two, but the Op-Ed hints: “But here’s the perversity of punishing Deasy for aggressiveness…”


Do we really need to read the whole trilogy to find out where this story ends? I hope the BOE has the good taste to call this series quits.


Two groups urging LAUSD board to be objective, transparent …and give the good doctor a pass!

by Vanessa Romo in the LA School Report |

groups urging board to be transparent deasy evaluationPosted on September 29, 2014 3:13 pm   ::  With all the uncertainty about how the LA Unified school board intends to evaluate Superintendent John Deasy in his next annual performance review, two new voices have entered the debate, urging the board to act with transparency, put student interests first and keep Deasy where he is.

In separate letters to the board today, both groups called for more objectivity in evaluating Deasy and more transparency in how they decide on the criteria used to judge him.

The board is planning to meet tomorrow in a private session to discuss what metrics to use when Deasy appears before the members next month — again, in private — for his annual job evaluation. Deasy has not been invited to tomorrow’s meeting.

In one letter, the LA Civic Alliance, which includes some of the city’s most influential philanthropists, real estate developers, bankers, lawyers and non-profit leaders, called into question board members’ “real motives” for tomorrow’s closed-door meeting, which many district insiders have speculated is clearing a path to remove Deasy from the helm next month.

While neither letter mention’s Deasy’s handing of the iPad problem or the new computerized student-tracking system — both of which have been plagued with problems — both make it clear that Deasy should be judged by more objective data.

“Superintendent Deasy is not perfect. But progress made in boosting the education of our children under his leadership outweighs the business decisions by which he is being judged,” the Civic Alliance said in the letter, sent to all seven board members.

The groups argue that dismissing Deasy would throw the district into chaos with another transition at LA Unified, and that instability would jeopardize the student achievement gains the district has made over the last two years.

Since Deasy was appointed in 2011, district graduation and attendance rates have gone up, the numbers of African American and Latino students taking Advanced Placement courses and exams have increased, and the district’s school discipline policy has been overhauled resulting in a drastically reduced suspensions and expulsions.

The group says it is alarmed by the board’s decision to call an emergency closed session to discuss the Superintendent’s evaluation.

“We are very concerned that the Board of Directors is going backwards in terms of more closed sessions that curtail community engagement and transparency and potentially allow political influence,” its letter said.

That sentiment was echoed in the second letter, this one from a consortium of educators and community groups.

Leaders from InnerCity Struggle, the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, Community Coalition and Educators for Excellence, all of whom have partnered with the district on significant programs, want a more objective means of evaluating Deasy.

UPDATE: According to the Daily News SEIU Local #99 has joined the WeDZ Club.

“We urge the Board to ensure a fair process for determining the parameters to review the Superintendent, the groups say in their letter to board members and their staffs. “We call for an open forum to better understand the perspectives of Board Members on leadership priorities for LAUSD. We also request that these parameters be widely published to all families and employees to foster public trust and transparency.”

And like the Civic Alliance, they called on the board to open decision-making to the public, saying, “Real and honest change doesn’t happen behind closed doors.”

Offred Gillead on September 29, 2014 4:19 pm at 4:19 pm said:


From George Keiffer’s LA Civic Alliance letter:

“We have fought for, invested in, and supported the district in taking accountability of our Collective responsibility to educate the next generation. We hope you appreciate the support Our Civic Alliance continues to offer the District in service of a better future for our children.”

OUR children.


Board of Ed…please, please, please. This is where in the olden movie days, someone would slap the face of a raving person, shake them and scream, “Come out of it!”

If this group didn’t have so much MONEY and POWER over my students’ lives, they would be scripted as the powerful overlord villains in the HUNGER GAMES. Who are they? The article puts it sweetly: Some of the city’s most influential philanthropists, real estate developers, bankers, lawyers and non-profit leaders,

I weep with the hubris of this:

“Our children.”


George Keiffer’s children? No.

Did they go to LAUSD schools? Do they live under Deasy?

My kids want what HIS kids get.

But would Keiffer want Deasy’s pedagogy and temperament for HIS kids?.

One should never be surprised at the gall of the 1%.

They have staked John Deasy a fortune in the run of the casino of my kids lives in the various economic, political and media spheres they lord over. Both of these letters of Deasy “support” encapsulates EXACTLY where he gets his mojo and from what tax bracket.

And yes, this Orwellian “Civic Alliance” will get to move the BOE in the ways LAUSD’s hurting teachers and community cannot ever seem to be able to.

I’m afraid Offred is having a bit of a Sense of Humor failure.

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