Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Updated (3 stories): “WE HAVEN’T DECIDED ANTHING” …as names are floated for interim leader to replace L.A. Supt. John Deasy

School board starts weighing Supt. Deasy's evaluation

'We haven't decided anything,' school board president says of deliberations over Supt. Deasy's performance

Names have been quietly floated for possible interim leaders to replace L.A. Supt. John Deasy

by Howard Blume, LA Times |

A conspicuous absence from Tuesday Board Meetings.

1 Oct 2014  ::  The Board of Education began deliberations Tuesday on the evaluation of Supt. John Deasy, who has come under fire for his handling of a $1.3-billion effort to provide iPads to all students and for what critics call an autocratic, ineffective leadership style.

It remained unclear Tuesday evening whether the board would move against Deasy at a later date; an evaluation has been scheduled for Oct. 21. After the four-hour closed-door meeting, no action was reported.

"We haven't decided anything, and we agreed not to talk about it," said board President Richard Vladovic. "We all agreed not to discuss anything because it is to be continued. I can't say anymore because I promised not to say a word."

We haven't decided anything, and we agreed not to talk about it. We all agreed not to discuss anything because it is to be continued. - Richard Vladovic, Board of Education president

Relations between Deasy and the board have deteriorated, especially in the wake of his push to provide computers to students, teachers and campus administrators.

Problems plagued the rollout of the computer effort last year at 47 schools. Then in August, a critical report by board member Monica Ratliff raised numerous questions. Critics, including other board members and the teachers union, have charged that Deasy moved too quickly, without adequate planning or a long-term funding plan to sustain the effort.

And emails between Deasy, his former top deputy and the companies that eventually won the contract led to increased scrutiny. Deasy has denied any impropriety and defended the technology program as a civil rights imperative.

Deasy has talked lately of having different priorities from the board and said he has considered whether he should remain in the job. He declined to discuss the impending board deliberations early Tuesday, but said he is proud of his work.

Critics and supporters alike have predicted that Deasy's days as superintendent were dwindling, but have offered different views on the cause.

Deasy's supporters characterize the superintendent as a victim of petty animosities and the influence of the teachers union, along with a general resistance to change in the giant organization.

A group of local organizations and business leaders, known as the Civic Alliance, hailed district progress under Deasy in a letter to the board.

"Superintendent Deasy has brought an unrelenting focus on poor children of color and there has been much progress as a result of his leadership," according to the letter, which criticized the board. "If the Board remains unfocused, we run the risk of losing the student achievement gains we have made during a short period of time."

Names already have been quietly floated for possible interim leaders. One possibility circulated internally was Deputy Supt. Michelle King, who, like Deasy, was asked not to attend Tuesday's meeting.

Deasy came to the district four years ago as deputy superintendent, and the presumed heir apparent to Ramon C. Cortines, who turned over the job in April 2011.

Deasy oversaw a rise in student test scores and improved graduation rates — mostly during a period of budget cutting. Two major moves, reducing student suspensions and providing breakfast in classrooms, won praise for good intentions but some criticism for how they were carried out.

Deasy also used his position at the helm of L.A. Unified to alter the education landscape in California.

One case in which Deasy participated, called Doe vs. Deasy, forced L.A. Unified — and other school districts — to follow state law requiring student achievement to be part of a teacher's evaluation.

Later, Deasy emerged as a star witness in a lawsuit, Vergara vs. California, that overturned key teacher job protections. That ruling, which is on hold pending an appeal, eliminated tenure, shortened the dismissal process and set aside the use of seniority to determine who is laid off.

Such efforts made Deasy a hero to philanthropists and others who have focused in recent years on improving the teaching corps and weakening the influence of teachers unions.

Some board members and district insiders, however, expressed consternation over Deasy's apparent encouragement of lawsuits against the school district for which he worked.

Deasy's job also was put in greater peril when his allies failed in elections to defeat four current board members.

For more than a year, Deasy could call on only two firm supporters on the seven-member board. Still, the other members were unwilling to move against Deasy for various reasons.

That changed with the fallout over technology.

When board members began to seize on that issue, Deasy, through a private attorney, tried to turn the tables. He filed a Public Records Act request seeking information that might link members to technology vendors.

Another technology problem arose at the beginning of the school year when a new student records system resulted in chaos at many campuses.

Board member Bennett Kayser said in a recent interview that Deasy's leadership has been epitomized by an excessive sense of " 'We want to be No. 1.' That was the attitude that was conveyed — being the organization that drives what will be the norm. There's a desire to be first."

Deasy's supporters said the technology stumbles are more of an excuse than a rationale for his potential dismissal. They point to the close ties of some board members to the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles.

Stalled contract talks with UTLA have only exacerbated Deasy's problems. Deasy doesn't think the union is willing to reach a deal with him — a point on which some of his supporters and critics agree.

Deasy deputy expresses interest in serving as interim superintendent

by Vanessa Romo, LA School Report |

Michelle King

Posted on September 30, 2014 8:01 pm While LA Unified board members are contemplating the continued employment of Superintendent John Deasy, one of his chief deputies has volunteered to serve as a short-term successor.

<< Michelle King

Michelle King, Senior Deputy Superintendent School Operations and one of the highest-ranking African-Americans in Deasy’s administration, today forwarded a letter to all seven board members, saying she would be willing to take the reins, should the board move to fire Deasy, according to three sources with knowledge of the letter.

The letter arrived on the same day board members met in closed session to discuss the parameters of Deasy’s performance review, which is scheduled for Oct. 21. Despite that scheduling, the board has the right to dismiss Deasy at any time.

A senior district official, who had not seen King’s letter, was taken aback by its unexpected delivery.

“It would be a logical choice considering, her experience and position; I’m just surprised this did not take place until after the board made its decision on Deasy’s future,” the official said. Sources said King’s overture had been unknown to Deasy.

A message sent to King, seeking comment, was not immediately returned.

King started off as an LA Unified teacher and is considered to be a district “lifer” by her colleagues. She has also served as Deputy Chief Instructional Officer, Assistant Superintendent of Health and Human Services, a high school principal and assistant principal.

As word of the letter circulated among officials inside and outside the district, several speculated that King may have been asked to throw her name into the ring at the suggestion of one or more board members as a means of ensuring a smooth transition while the board conducts a search for a new leader.

LAUSD board takes no action on Superintendent John Deasy

By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News |

Posted: 10/01/14, 12:44 AM PDT  ::  After meeting behind closed doors for nearly four hours to discuss Superintendent John Deasy’s upcoming performance evaluation Tuesday evening, Los Angeles Unified School Board members emerged without taking action.

The meeting was called in part by one of Deasy’s critics and elected-bosses, Board Member Monica Ratliff, ahead of the superintendent’s annual performance evaluation Oct. 21. A similar meeting was held last year, spurring speculation Deasy’s tenure would end.

School Board President Richard Vladovic said there was no action taken, adding that board members had vowed to keep the talks secret.

When asked whether the school board laid out parameters to evaluate Deasy’s performance, Vladovic said “we all agreed not to discuss anything because it is to be continued.”

Deasy was not in attendance for the meeting.

Under the terms of Deasy’s employment contract, he can be terminated at the board’s discretion, so long as he receives one month’s notice. Additionally, Deasy would be paid for unused vacation days and sick days would count towards his time on the job for retirement credits, according to the contract.

Deasy earned $393,106 in 2013, according to tax records obtained by this news organization.

Three and a-half years into his job atop the nation’s second largest school district, Deasy has become a lightning rod for controversy and criticism from the teacher’s union.

Leadership of the 35,000-member union has threatened a strike failing an acceptable pay proposal - teachers want 17.6 percent while LAUSD is offering 6.64 percent and a 2 percent bonus.

Union leadership has used the district’s recent technology blunders, including a canceled plan to put iPads in the hands of every student and launch a new record-keeping software to decry Deasy and rally members.

Allegations of favoritism surround the district’s plan to buy iPads for all 650,000 students. Emails released in August show the company that won the sub-contract to create academic software, Pearson, was in communication with high-level district staffers before the project was put out to bid. Pitches made by Pearson representatives during those pre-bid discussion were later included in requirements – a practice that can eliminate competitors.

More recently, Deasy’s decision to launch a new record-keeping system, MiSiS, at the start of the school year caused a host of issues, as student records were lost and educators were left to work long hours scheduling classes by hand.

But Deasy’s tenure had highlights, some of which were outlined in a letter this week from business and community leaders to board members.

Graduation rates improved by 3.3 percentage points from 2010-11 to the most recently recorded year, 2012-13. English proficiency among third grade students grew by three percentage points, while there was also a three point uptick in freshmen testing proficient on Algebra exams, according to California Department of Education records.

The three categories were identified as areas in which Deasy could win performance pay, although he fell short of the mark required to earn the extra dollars.

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