Friday, October 17, 2014

THE DEASY DENOUEMENT: The national media

New York Times: Deasy Resigns as Los Angeles Schools Chief After Mounting Criticism

By MOTOKO RICH, New York Times |

    John E. Deasy resigned after three and a half years as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Credit Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press

    OCT. 16, 2014  ::  In a sign of the powerful resistance that big-city school chiefs face in trying to make sweeping changes, John E. Deasy, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, resigned on Thursday after reaching an agreement with the city’s school board that ended his tumultuous three-and-a-half-year tenure.

    Mr. Deasy, a strong proponent of new technology in schools and of holding teachers accountable for improving student test scores, had faced mounting criticism from board members and teachers who saw him as an enemy. He testified against teachers’ unions this year in a lawsuit in which a California judge ruled that tenure protection laws deprived students of their basic right to an education and violated their civil rights.

    Detractors also criticized Mr. Deasy, who led the second-largest school district in the country, for the difficult rollout of an ambitious $1.3 billion plan to give iPads to every student in the district, which has an enrollment of 640,000 across 900 schools. Students hacked the tablets and used them to play games or use social media rather than to follow the new digital curriculum.

    A new school data system introduced this fall also ran into snags, leaving some students unable to get assigned to classes or obtain transcripts for college applications.

    Ramon C. Cortines, who preceded Mr. Deasy as the Los Angeles Schools superintendent and in the mid-1990s served as the chancellor of the New York City schools, will take over as the interim chief of the Los Angeles schools next week. Mr. Cortines was named to lead the New York schools in 1993 by Mayor David N. Dinkins but was dismissed two years later by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who said he was not satisfied with the chancellor’s budget-cutting efforts.

    Los Angeles is far from the only place where aggressive education overhauls — such as expanding charter schools, using standardized tests to evaluate teachers and attempting to revamp tenure and seniority — have hit pushback.

    Michelle A. Rhee, a former chancellor of the Washington public schools, drew hostility from teachers with her efforts to lift performance in the district. In Newark, community leaders have objected to many of the changes pushed by Cami Anderson, the superintendent there, who has closed low-performing schools and reworked teacher evaluation systems. Two years ago in Chicago, the teachers’ union went on a nine-day strike, in part to protest new teacher evaluation methods that were imposed by the State Legislature and strongly supported by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

    The Obama administration has vigorously supported sweeping changes to public education, including pushing for more rigorous academic standards and using standardized test results as a measure of a teacher’s quality. But in response to enormous protests from educators and parents who decry what they see as an overemphasis on testing, Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, announced in August that states could delay using test scores in teacher performance ratings by another year.

    Education experts said Mr. Deasy’s resignation was part of a broader pattern, partly because change-minded leaders may have pushed too hard without securing the commitment of the teachers who would be responsible for making the modifications in their classrooms. “There are a lot of places where I think it’s been pressed as far as it can go,” said Gary Orfield, professor of education and co-director of the Civil Rights Project at University of California, Los Angeles, referring to many of the latest changes. “And I hope there will be something new emerging. We have to be sensitive to teachers, and they have to be involved if these reforms are ever going to actually work.”

    Supporters of Mr. Deasy pointed to his track record improving test scores and graduation rates, as well as a new effort to overhaul disciplinary practices in schools to reduce arrests of students.

    “John was just a big thinker, and he was going to go as long and as hard as he could,” said Steve Barr, founder of Green Dot charter schools and chairman of California Democrats for Education Reform, an advocacy group that supports test-based evaluations and changes to tenure.

    Mr. Barr said the bitterness that had developed between Mr. Deasy and his critics had impeded healthy discussion. The question, he said, “is can we actually move forward without the extremes dominating the debate.”

    In a statement issued Thursday, the Los Angeles school board thanked Mr. Deasy for his service and noted that during his tenure, “academic achievement rose substantially despite severe economic hardships, and the students of the district have benefitted greatly from Dr. Deasy’s guidance.”

    Commenting on the iPad experiment, the statement said an investigation was pending, but “the board wishes to state that at this time, it does not believe that the superintendent engaged in any ethical violations or unlawful acts, and the board anticipates that the inspector general’s report will confirm this.”

    Mr. Deasy, the board said, will remain “on special assignment with the district” until the end of the year.

    Critics had questioned the cost of the iPad project at a time of fiscal constraint, while some board members and other critics were concerned that Mr. Deasy had not run a fair bidding process. In August, he canceled the iPad contract.

    Mr. Deasy joined the Los Angeles schools as a deputy superintendent in August 2010 and took the helm in April 2011. Previously, he worked for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a deputy director of education. Earlier in his career he led the school district in Prince George’s County, Md., and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District in California.

    Teachers in Los Angeles complained that he did not consult the people who would be most affected by his mandates.

    “He had made a series of autocratic decisions,” said Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, the teachers’ union, referring to the iPad project, the new teacher evaluations and other changes. He said Mr. Deasy’s departure signaled “a national shift towards a more collaborative style.”

    Steve Zimmer, a member of a Los Angeles district school board, said that seeking Mr. Deasy’s resignation was the most difficult thing he had ever done, “other than my first year of teaching.”

    He added, “Sometimes when you’ve been the propelling force behind a lot of difficult changes, it’s almost difficult to bring everybody on board to do the collaboration to make the changes real.”

    Mr. Cortines, 82, said in an interview that he was enjoying retirement but was persuaded to take the interim job after the school board voted unanimously to enlist him.

    He declined to comment on Mr. Deasy’s legacy. “I’ve been quarterbacked so many times,” he said in a telephone interview, noting that he had appointed Mr. Deasy in 2010.

    Mr. Cortines said his first priority would be to resolve problems with the new student records system. More broadly, he said, he wanted to start a “civil and respectful” dialogue involving the district, board, teachers, administrators and parents.

    “That’s not what’s been going on,” he said.

    • Ian Lovett contributed reporting.

    AP/Washington Post: Los Angeles schools superintendent resigns

    By Tami Abdollah,  Associated Press  from the Washington Post | Tami Abdollah

    FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2012 file photo, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy listens during a school board meeting in Los Angeles. Deasy announced his resignation Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. (Damian Dovarganes, File/Associated Press)

    October 16 at 5:22 PM  ::  LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles schools Superintendent John Deasy resigned as head of the nation’s second-largest school system after failing to overcome technological problems, clashing with the teachers union and losing allies on the school board.

    The resignation was announced Thursday in a joint statement by Deasy and the board. A separate statement said former Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines would return to head the school system for the third time starting Oct. 20 while officials search for a successor.

    Deasy, 53, led the district for more than three years and was applauded for improving student performance. Under him, the district had higher test scores, improved attendance and better graduation rates.

    However, a $1 billion plan to give each student an iPad was fraught with problems, and Deasy’s communications with vendors were investigated. In addition, the district’s new computerized scheduling system left students languishing in useless classes or without courses needed to graduate.

    Deasy had a rocky relationship with the teachers union and school board, where he lost a number of allies after the 2013 election. He was also criticized for a brusque leadership style. Deasy did not respond to a request for comment.

    Early in his tenure, he removed 130 teachers from Miramonte Elementary School when teacher Mark Berndt was charged with lewd acts on children. The teachers were placed at an unopened empty campus while an investigation ensued. The unprecedented move strained his relationship with the United Teachers of Los Angeles.

    It was further stressed by his support of a lawsuit intended to undo teacher tenure protections in the state. A judge ruled the protections are unconstitutional and discriminate against minority and low-income students. The decision is being appealed by the state.

    Deasy also sought to measure the performance of teachers and supported legislation to make teacher dismissal easier.

    United Teachers Los Angeles said in a statement marked with an exclamation mark that Deasy’s departure was “an opportunity to move in the direction of fully funded schools and collaborative management, instead of treating school improvement as a ‘corporate turnaround’ model, over-emphasizing testing, undermining equity and access for students, and attacking educators.”

    However, education advocates lauded Deasy for his efforts to bring reforms and accountability to public education.

    Students Matter, a nonprofit group that filed the teacher tenure lawsuit, said Deasy showed a tireless commitment to education equality.

    “For all his successes, Dr. Deasy has been met with an ever-challenging and dysfunctional political environment as LAUSD superintendent,” the statement said.

    He was driven from his post in part because he advocated for significant changes to California education policies, it added.

    School board member Steve Zimmer said Deasy’s work for youths was game-changing and included revamping school discipline to make it more holistic than punitive.

    The joint decision regarding his resignation was “incredibly difficult,” Zimmer said.

    “When you are a catalytic leader, sometimes there’s going to be pain that’s associated with the changes that you’re making and you’ve got to be able to balance the urgency of the momentum for change with making sure everybody is moving along with you,” he said.

    Deasy’s contract had been set to expire in 2016. According to a six-page separation agreement, Deasy will remain on special assignment through the end of the year, helping the district with the transition.

    The statement announcing Deasy’s resignation noted that the district was continuing to investigate the iPad project but the board does not believe that the superintendent engaged in any ethical violations or unlawful acts.

    In 2012, the district paid $200,000 to settle a claim by a former district employee of sexual harassment by Cortines. He acknowledged bad judgment in a statement released by the district at the time but said no harassment occurred.

    The 82-year-old Cortines, whom Deasy succeeded in 2011, said he was somewhat apprehensive about his third turn at the top job. When a district official approached him about it 10 days ago, he said he wouldn’t agree without all seven board members voting in his favor. He said the official called his bluff when that happened earlier this week.

    “I will give it my best shot,” Cortines said. “No superintendent can solve or deal with the issues alone that are facing that district...The board and the superintendent have to be a team. It doesn’t mean they always agree, but they have to respect each other and there has to be civility.”

    He said he’ll be meeting with district leadership Monday to start work on solving the computer system’s problems. Cortines said he’s also asked to meet Monday with the head of the teacher’s union.

    “We have to have somebody right now who can bring everybody together and I think that person is Ray Cortines,” Zimmer said.


    Ed Week: John Deasy Resigns Top Post in L.A.; Ramon C. Cortines to Be Interim Chief

    By Lesli A. Maxwell in Education Week |

    October 16, 2014 1:45 PM  ::  Superintendent John Deasy has now officially resigned from Los Angeles Unified, bringing an end to an at-times tumultuous run as the chief of the nation's second largest school district.

    Deasy announced his resignation in a joint statement with the Los Angeles school board. The school board also announced that Ramon C. Cortines will serve as the district's interim superintendent, effective Monday, Oct. 20. This will be Cortines' third go-round as chief in L.A. Unified. John-Deasy-Los-Angeles-School-Superintendent-blog.jpg

    Here's the joint statement from Deasy and the school board:

    Today, Superintendent John Deasy tendered his resignation as General Superintendent of Schools from the District. We thank Dr. Deasy for over three years of devoted service to the District and its students. In that period of time, academic achievement rose substantially despite severe economic hardships, and the students of the District have benefitted greatly from Dr. Deasy's guidance. We look forward to jointly celebrating all of the successes of our students that have occurred during Dr. Deasy's tenure as Superintendent. While the District's investigation into the Common Core Technology Project has not concluded, the Board wishes to state that at this time, it does not believe that the Superintendent engaged in any ethical violations or unlawful acts, and the Board anticipates that the Inspector General's report will confirm this.  We further jointly desire a smooth transition in leadership. Towards that end, Dr. Deasy has agreed to remain on special assignment with the District until December 31, 2014.

    Deasy's resignation is hardly a surprise, and last night, both the Los Angeles Times and LA School Report reported that he had already worked out his departure agreement with the board and would make the announcement today.

    The school district also posted Deasy's full resignation letter on its website.

    For months, the hard-charging Deasy has sparred with the school board, as well as United Teachers Los Angeles, over a range of issues, including the district's botched rollout of a $1.3 billion iPad program and his leadership style that some critics contend has demoralized teachers and staff members across the district. Deasy, who has overseen a rise in graduation rates, higher test scores, and improvements for English-language learners, has kept strong support in the city's civic and business communities.

    Photo credit: Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy listens during a 2012 board meeting in Los Angeles. --Damian Dovarganes/AP-File

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