LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Ending days of speculation that John Deasy was prepared to step down as superintendent of the nation’s second-largest school district, the Los Angeles Unified School District board today gave Deasy a “satisfactory” job evaluation and extended his contract for another year.
The announcement came after a nearly five-hour closed-door meeting between board members and Deasy. An attorney for the district said Deasy’s contract, which was scheduled to end in June 2015, was extended to June 30, 2016.
The board’s decision sparked some gasps from Deasy opponents in the audience, including one who asked loudly if there was any way to contest the action. Deasy simply thanked the board for its support.
“I thank the board very much for a good and robust evaluation,” he said. “I particularly thank you for a really excellent and honest conversation on building the (rapport) to work together so that we can continue to lift youth out of poverty. I’m very proud, as you all were, of what we have done for students and what we’re going to continue to do for students, and I look forward to us as a team continuing to advocate on behalf of the students of this amazing city, and I thank each of my board members very much and look forward to that.”
Board President Richard Vladovic, who has been among Deasy’s detractors at times, offered little insight into the board’s decision, saying the closed-door discussion was a personnel matter.
“This has been a journey for all of us, and we’re focused on the children,” he said. “We are moving forward.”
The decision was a surprise reversal of fortune for Deasy, who appeared over the last several days to be preparing to move out of the superintendent’s office. The Los Angeles Times reported last Thursday that Deasy was likely to step down in February. Deasy did not comment directly on the report, but insisted he had not submitted a letter of resignation.
While the board was meeting behind closed doors, a senior district official circulated copies of a proposed settlement agreement that had been drafted by an attorney for the district. That agreement, which Deasy apparently presented to Vladovic at a lunch meeting late last week, called for him to step down Feb. 1, but then remain with the district as a consultant through the end of contract on June 30, 2015.
That deal would have allowed him to keep earning his $330,000 salary.
Before the board went into closed session, it heard about an hour of public testimony, most of which was favorable toward Deasy. Some negative comments were made, including a lengthy statement from a former substitute teacher who said Deasy once came into her classroom and berated her lesson plan in front of her students.
Vladovic noted at the beginning of the meeting that he had spoken to Deasy probably “at least 10 times in the last four or five days.”
“We’re all working very hard to do what’s best for children and we’re doing what’s in the best interests of this district,” he said. “I look forward to a very strong conversation, a very fair one. … The most important thing is we need to come together as eight individuals that literally govern this district and sit down as with any family when issues arise. We need to talk in a straight, very frank way, but very professional, and that’s what we intend to do.”
Courtni Pugh, executive director of Service Employees International Union Local 99, which represents LAUSD cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers and teachers assistants, said Deasy has always been supportive of the district’s support staff.
“We have had hard budget discussions and we have often disagreed with his decisions,” Pugh said. “But we have always appreciated his openness, his value of classified employees and his commitment to put our children first. These leadership qualities are necessary to move LAUSD, and our communities, forward.”
Deasy became superintendent in April 2011, succeeding retiring Superintendent Ramon Cortines. Deasy joined the district in August 2010 as Cortines’ chief deputy.
Deasy previously served as deputy director of education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and Prince George’s County Schools in Maryland.
During his tenure, he championed a revamping of the teacher-evaluation system to include the use of students’ standardized test scores. He also altered the seniority system to limit the effect of job cuts at schools with large numbers of less-experienced instructors, who are generally the first to be laid off.
His actions have frequently made him a target of criticism by the powerful teachers’ union, United Teachers Los Angeles.
UTLA President Warren Fletcher said earlier that Deasy’s leadership “was not taking the district in the right direction.”
“Deasy has ignored the concerns of the district’s teachers and health and human services professionals for a very long time,” Fletcher said. “UTLA is hopeful that the school board and the entire LAUSD community will take this opportunity to refocus the district back to its most basic mission — providing every student with a well-rounded education.”
Deasy has also found himself occasionally at odds with members of the board of education, including Vladovic. Deasy has also taken heat in recent weeks over the troubled rollout of a program to provide iPads to students and teachers.
Coincidentally, board member Tamar Galatzan formally introduced a resolution today calling for the public censure of Vladovic, who has been the target of allegations of intimidation and harassment of district employees. The resolution calls on Vladovic to publicly “take responsibility for his actions and commit to abiding by district policies and behaving in a professional manner.”
Vladovic has denied harassing or bullying anyone, but he acknowledged violating what he called the board’s “civility code,” the Daily News reported. He also said he has sought treatment for anger issues, the paper reported.
The board is expected to vote on the resolution next month.
Fred Shuster| City News Service