Twitter and other social media accounts interested in LA Unified news started blowing up late Wednesday night after LA School Report broke the news that John Deasy was stepping down as superintendent, and the online chatter has continued through today.
What a momentous day it was. One superintendent out. Another steps in.
The LA Unified community and social media were alive with chatter — people sorry to see John Deasy go, people celebrating his departure, people happy to see Ray Cortines return for a third deployment, people wondering what the school board was smoking in bringing him back.
So many comments, opinions and responses.
But one person was conspicuously absent.
Board President Richard Vladovic had nothing to say.
Apart from whatever contribution he made to the district’s “joint statement” from the board and Deasy, he issued no press release. He made himself available for no interviews. He made no public appearances to talk about the day’s events.
He appeared to be missing in inaction.
At times of crisis and change — in a family, an organization, even a public agency — constituents want a comforting word that everything will be okay, that problems will be solved, that divisions will be closed, even if it’s more hope than certainty.
In the case of the LA Unified family, teachers deprived of raises for years might like to know there could be better times ahead, parents might like to hear that their kids’ schedules will be straightened out, students might appreciate encouragement to stay the course despite the messes created by the grownups.
If there were ever a moment for a leader to step forward at a critical time from within a bureaucracy wracked by divisiveness, technological dysfunction and public discontent, this was it. And the logical person to utter those soothing words would have been the school board president, the elected face of the school district, second-biggest in the country.
But in this case, the school board president had nothing more to say beyond the joint statement, or so his office advised.
Other board members were quiet, too, but they don’t set the board agenda. The board president does. Continue reading
Deasy resigns as Los Angeles schools chief after mounting criticism
In a sign of the powerful resistance that big-city school chiefs face in trying to make sweeping changes, John Deasy, LAUSD superintendent, resigned. New York Times
Why did the Los Angeles superintendent resign?
In his efforts to improve his district, John Deasy took risks and made impressive gains. He also made mistakes and earned some enemies along the way. The Atlantic
How the iPad helped bring down the Los Angeles schools chief
John Deasy resigned after a bungled effort to give an Apple tablet to every student in the district. Time
LAUSD Supt. John Deasy’s resignation is no cause for celebration
Commentary: More than anything else, Deasy’s departure is a dispiriting sign of a district that is in grave danger of losing its way. Los Angeles Times
Students at South LA’s Manual Arts High react to Deasy resignation
Students at South L.A.’s Manual Arts High School are hopeful that a future superintendent can be a model leader. Intersections South LA
Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of the teachers union, UTLA, stopped short today of saying he was pleased with former LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy‘s resignation, instead insisting that achieving the union’s contract demands — not Deasy’s resignation — would be a victory.
“What’s going to be a victory for UTLA is actually winning the demands in our Schools LA Student’s Deserve campaign,” he said at an afternoon prerss conference at UTLA headquarters, referring to the union’s contract demands that include higher salaries for teachers, smaller class sizes and the end of teacher jail. “I think his departure offers an opportunity to actually address some of the demands in our campaign”
The union president has been one of Deasy’s most vocal critics over the last few months, rarely missing an opportunity to publicly hammer him on his policies, leadership style and fumbling of two huge computer technology initiatives.
But he always avoided directly calling for Deasy’s firing or resignation, and despite Deasy’s now official resignation, he continued to use aggressive yet pin-pointedly careful language that has characterized most of his attacks on the former superintendent. (See the attached video for highlights of the press conference.)
Caputo-Pearl called Deasy’s resignation “an opportunity towards a more collaborative management style and towards building fully-funded schools that serve all of our students” and a shift away from a “corporate turnaround model of public schools.”
No one was more surprised that Ray Cortines became the latest LA Unified superintendent than Ray Cortines.
“I hadn’t been planning to return, and I didn’t negotiate with the board,” he told LA School Report today. “The only caveat I put out was that it would have to be a unanimous vote, and I didn’t think it would be. I was taken aback: they called my bluff!”
Cortines, 82, a former school district leader in New York, San Francisco, Pasadena and twice before in Los Angeles, was named today as the interim replacement for the resigning John Deasy – the result of a unanimous vote by the board to bring him back. He served as LA Unified superintendent briefly in 2000, then again from 2009 to 2011, when he retired and one of the deputies he hired, Deasy, succeeded him.
What Deasy leaves to his former mentor is a district with improving student academic metrics but also whirlwinds of problems, not least a teachers union, UTLA, that had a balky relationship with the district under Deasy. These days, the difference in their bargaining positions for a raise in teacher salaries amounts to $188 million a year.
“Ray Cortines has more experience, skill and expertise at running a large urban public school district in the nation and maybe the world,” said board member Steve Zimmer, explaining why the seven board members turned to Cortines. “There simply is no one who could immediately step in and stabilize our district while continuing to build a collaborative trust needed for us to keep our momentum moving forward.”
Cortines said he’s ready to jump in, already with plans for two meetings on Monday, his first official day on the job: a session with the district’s labor negotiating team, followed by a meeting with the union’s counterpart.
In a long, closed-door meeting of the seven board members earlier this week, one of Deasy’s staunchest critics on the board, Monica Ratliff, was the lone dissenter. The six other members voted to approve the language and terms of the separation agreement, which was announced earlier today.
It is unclear, however, why Ratliff voted against the agreement, raising questions of whether she objected to some of the language, some of the severance terms or offering an agreement at all. Further, it was Ratliff, as chair of the Common Core Technology Project Committee, who asked for the district Inspector General to examine emails from Deasy to Apple and Pearson on the possibility that he steered the bidding to those companies.
By terms of his separation from the district, Deasy was absolved of any “unethical violations or unlawful acts” regarding any emails.
When asked to clarify the reason for Ratliff’s vote, her chief of staff, David Zlotchew, said, “No comment.”
Deasy is remaining an employee of the district “on special assignment” earning his existing salary but not any additional vacation time. His payout will include the cost of his health benefits until June of 2015.
Until the end of the year, the agreement states, he may be called upon to assist in the hand-off to his replacement, Ramon Cortines, who is also his former boss.
However, it clearly states that he is “not to perform any DISTRICT work unless requested to do so.” He is also free to pursue employment, and if he gets one, his relationship with the district would end upon his starting date of the new job.
Deasy is also required to be available for any legal action involving the district.
Former LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy was a polarizing figure, earning almost equal parts praise and scorn, and naturally the news of his resignation has evoked similar opposing reactions.
Some have expressed disappointment and outrage over his resignation, while some can barely contain their glee.
In an email to LA School Report, Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Trigger, a group that helps parents overhaul failing schools, perhaps summed up the viewpoints of most Deasy supporters that student achievement should have outweighed other factors.
“While It’s certainly true that John departs under a cloud of controversy, it’s easy to forget that avoiding controversy is not the job of a superintendent,” he wrote. “It’s serving kids. By that measure, John has been the most successful superintendent in modern LAUSD history. Powerful adult interests have been working for years to oust John. Today was a victory for them and a setback for my children and all the children of the LAUSD.”
Maria Brenes, executive director of Inner City Struggle, a community group that works for improving educational achievement for urban students, said, “We are very grateful for Dr. Deasy’s work in expanding educational opportunities for students of color in LAUSD. We expect the School Board to move forward in this period of transition to ensure that the academic successes that came as a result of Dr. Deasy’s leadership, continue and grow.”
Another community group that worked closely with Deasy and the district — CLASS, or Communities for Los Angeles Student Success — expressed gratitude for the academic advances made during Deasy’s tenure.
“The thousands of families and educators we represent appreciate his unrelenting commitment to delivering a high quality education to the students at LAUSD,” The group said in a statement. “Dr. Deasy embraced a number of community-led efforts and policies that have resulted in tremendous gains for the district including a jump in four-year graduation rates to 77%; expanding Linked Learning to twenty-three high schools districtwide; decreasing suspension rates for students of color resulting in 37,655 more days spent in the classroom; and increasing the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses.”
One of the victors in Deasy’s departure is United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), whose president, Alex Caputo-Pearl, has been unrelenting in his criticism of Deasy, including his policy of teacher jail, his “autocratic” style, his support of the Vergara lawsuit and Deasy’s gamble on two computer technology programs viewed by many as failures. The union also sought to paint him as a tool of reform movement.
In his resignation letter to the LA Unified school board, out-going Superintendent John Deasy used most of his words to describe a school district that is far better off today than the one he took over in 2011.
“I am overwhelmed with pride in what this administration has accomplished for the youth of Los Angeles over the last 4 plus years,” he wrote, adding, “By every single measure of our work, the youth have a significantly better education today than they did more than 4 years ago. Measures of achievement, access, outcomes, agency, climate, and success are all substantially better than when we started this work. Graduation rates, achievement rates in math and English language arts, reclassification rates, AP course takers, safety, suspension, attendance, and so many others clearly point to a better life for students in our care.”
Deasy also praised his staff for working “ceaselessly to ensure a better outcome for youth,” and he alluded to the issues of the past months that have pulled so much criticism his way, specifically the iPad program and its’ tumultuous introduction.
Referring to a forthcoming report from the district’s Inspector General, who is examining emails between Deasy and the companies involved in the iPad program, Apple and Pearson, he wrote that he “look(s) forward to his conclusion and findings that will determine that there were no missteps on my part in the process whatsoever.”
While Deasy was known to have grown weary of friction with the board and his challenges in convincing members follow his vision, for the first time publicly he mentions the impact his job has had on him personally.
“Needless to say this has been hard work, in fact exhausting work,” he wrote. “I have neglected my family, my health, and my parent’s heath. We all carry the ball for a while, and then give it to others to continue. I have had this amazing opportunity and privilege. I am proud and honored, but it is time for a transition.
In a concluding thought, he thanks his ever-growing list of critics “for they have helped us see where we can do our work better, and that is what we do with each opportunity to improve. I also wish to thank my supporters. You have enabled us to move quickly to right wrongs in the lives of youth, but please do not be satisfied, there is so much more we need to accomplish.”
The entire letter is available here.
LA Unified has confirmed that the district’s former superintendent, Ray Cortines, will return to the post on an interim basis until a permanent replacement is found for John Deasy, who resigned today.
Here’s the statement:
“The Los Angeles Board of Education has appointed Ramon C. Cortines to serve as Superintendent of Schools pending a search process for a successor superintendent to Dr. John E. Deasy. The District appreciates Mr. Cortines agreeing to serve in this capacity.
“Mr. Cortines will begin his tenure on Monday, Oct. 20.”
Here’s the statement:
“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.”
Ray Cortines appears to be returning to lead LA Unified for a third time.
With John Deasy resigning, Cortines was chosen unanimously by the seven member board, a condition Cortines insisted upon before agreeing to take the helm of the district, according to sources who were made aware of the board’s decision.
An official announcement is expected sometime today.
Cortines, 82, served for a brief stint in 2000 before landing the position permanently in 2009, following David Brewer’s swift and expensive departure. Ironically, it was Cortines who handed the baton in 2011 to Superintendent John Deasy, who was his deputy at the time.
Shortly after stepping down, his reputation was marred by scandal when a former LA Unified senior manager sued him, charging sexual harassment.
Cortines was Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s choice for the post in 2009, and under his direction, the district developed the “public school choice” model, which allowed a proliferation of charter schools to set up shop in the district. That put him at odds with several board members who opposed charter school growth.
He also steered the district through the first three years of the financial crisis, cutting a staggering $1.5 billion from the budget and massive layoffs. About 2,700 teachers and 4,900 other employees lost their jobs during that period.
Cortines has lead four other school districts: San Francisco, San Jose, Pasadena and New York City.
LA School Report incorrectly reported last night that Deasy’s deputy, Michelle King, would be named the interim, while a permanant replacement is sought.
Popularity grows anew for year-round schooling When Stiles Simmons, the superintendent of a two-school district outside Lansing, Mich., looked at the data, he realized summer break was hurting his mostly-low-income students. Education Week
Teacher training extends to gender sensitivity Along with the heavy load of training tied to the new Common Core content standards, a growing number of teachers are also being asked to take professional development intended to improve gender identity awareness and inclusiveness. S&I Cabinet Report
Calif. schools have dogs in unlikely proposition fights When it comes to the Nov. 4 statewide General Election, most of the K-12 education community’s attention has been on Proposition 2, but schools also stand to be impacted by two other ballot measures. S&I Cabinet Report
Norward Roussell, who led schools in Selma in turbulent time, dies at 80 Norward Roussell, who in 1987 arrived in Selma, Ala., as the city’s first black superintendent of schools with aspirations to equalize educational opportunity, died on Monday in Selma. He was 80. New York Times
As Deasy’s fate remains uncertain, other districts continue tech purchases School officials across the U.S. say they have already learned one major lesson from Los Angeles’ botched iPad rollout: Classroom technology is here to stay, but it is important to choose wisely. The Hechinger Report
John Deasy, the beleaguered superintendent of LA Unified, the nation’s second-largest school district, is expected to step down as soon as Thursday, according to five district and school board sources with knowledge of the situation.
After weeks of negotiations between lawyers for Deasy and the seven-member board, he submitted his resignation and signed a separation agreement that brings an end to his employment, well before the 30-day grace period he would have had in a case of dismissal by the board, sources told LA School Report.
The district is expected to make the announcement, perhaps as early as tomorrow morning. It is also expected that one of his chief deputies, Michelle King, will be named the interim superintendent while the board begins a search for a permanent replacement. Deasy, who succeeded Ramon Cortines in 2011, is LA Unified’s fourth superintendent since 2000.
The board several weeks ago had authorized its lawyers to begin negotiating a separation agreement with lawyers for Deasy. The final terms of the agreement were reached in the last day or so, with Deasy in South Korea on an cultural visit, said sources, all of whom spoke only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issues and legal restrictions against discussing a private matter.
Deasy was scheduled to return to Los Angeles by the end of this week. He did not attend the most recent board meeting yesterday, which included closed-door discussions of his employment status.
He was unreachable tonight for comment.
Deasy’s resignation after three years as superintendent brings to an end a volatile but productive period in the district with his tenure marked by dramatic improvement in student academic measures yet traumatic developments in programs undertaken by his administration, all at a time budget restraints have limited the district’s ability to support more personnel and programs.
He has made no secret of his growing frustrations with a board that has often been at odds with his approach to public education, more so since the school board elections of 2013 and last August reduced the number of members who supported his vision.
That vision — the belief that quality public education is a civil right — came to include his championing of a program to deliver an iPad to every district student. More than anything else, problems with the iPad distribution came to symbolize the collision between vision and reality, starting a drumbeat for his dismissal.
Nor was he helped by testy relations with the teachers union, UTLA, which has been a steady critic from the start of his tenure, most recently over his unwillingness or inability to raise teacher salaries to levels they are seeking in negotiations for a new contract.
Lawyers at the ACLU and Public Counsel plan to ask the state by tomorrow to intervene at LA Unified’s Dorsey High School and Freemont High School in a similar way that it stepped in at Jefferson High School.
The move comes after last week’s court-issued temporary restraining order (TRO) that required the state to fix an array of scheduling problems at Jefferson that led to several dozen students being placed in multiple free class periods with no educational value.
“We have documented [class problems] are present at Freemont and Dorsey. So we are proposing that the order that was issued as to Jefferson, if the defendants would agree, should be extended to those schools as well,” David Sapp, a lawyer for ACLU Southern California, told LA School Report.
Fingers have been pointed in different directions by the teachers union, the administrators union and the district as to who is responsible for the Jefferson situation. Blame has been placed on administrative turnover, teachers not altering their schedule to reflect evaporating grant funds and the district’s troubled MiSiS computer system.
The ACLU and Public Counsel represent plaintiffs in the Cruz. vs. California case that accuses the state of failing to provide an adequate education to students in nine California high schools by sticking them in free periods instead of real classes.
The TRO that was issued last week is part of the lawsuit and resulted in the LA Unified school board yesterday approving a $1.1 million plan to fix the problems, which includes adding more staff and extending the class day. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson appeared before the board and spoke in support the plan. Continue reading
Board member Tamar Galatzan volunteered yesterday to lead a task force examining LA Unified’s email deletion and retention policy, which is intended to eliminate unnecessary emails even as some some board members fear it could lead to the destruction of important records.
“It is critical that the public have confidence in the district’s commitment to transparency,” said Galatzan, who represents the most of the West San Fernando Valley and several East Valley neighborhoods, including Sherman Oaks and Studio City.
“We want to make sure we have a system that safeguards critical emails and lets us easily access them when and if they are needed,” she added. “We also want employees to be able to work efficiently, and to have clear guidelines for the types of emails they should be retaining.”
The current policy, established in 2012, mandates that all district emails be destroyed after one year or be automatically deleted. The only way to save emails for more than a calendar year is by saving or archiving them onto a hard drive.
The panel, which will include district administrators, representatives of district labor unions and members of open-government groups, will consider whether some types of communications should be automatically archived.
“At the September 9 board meeting, I raised concerns that the District’s records policy provided for the destruction of emails that could have value to the public as historical records,” said Monica Ratliff, who co-sponsored the resolution to form the task force alongside Bennett Kayser and Galatzan.
Some students at Jefferson High School have been asked to do a lot of waiting this school year — waiting in an auditorium for days or weeks with no class work, waiting to get into the right classes, waiting to get enough classes.
“At the beginning of the year, I went with hundreds of other students to the auditorium, waiting to be called up to get our classes,” Jason Magaña told the board. “At the beginning of the year, I was assigned to graphic design, even though I had taken and passed that class twice. I needed to be taking economics or government so I can complete the requirements to graduate and be eligible to get into college.”
Magaña said he did eventually get into an economics class four weeks into the semester and has found it difficult to catch up. He is also still assigned two home periods that he did not ask for and is done with school before noon several days a week.
“It is frustrating to me to be sent home early instead of being in challenging classes that will make me better prepared for college,” Magaña told the board.
Magaña is a plaintiff in the Cruz vs. California lawsuit that accuses the state of failing to provide students at nine California schools — including Jefferson — a valuable education. As part of the lawsuit, a judge issued a temporary restraining order last week ordering the state to fix the problems the Jefferson students were there to talk about.
MiSiS mistakes were made, and LA Unified can expect to fork over millions more dollars to fix the software system’s myriad problems and get the program functioning properly.
In all, it was another demoralizing revelation about the MiSiS rollout debacle last night, and school board members’ frustrations quickly boiled over, leading to a verbal beat down of Chief Information Officer Ron Chandler, who served as the face of a new request for $3.6 million to buy 3,343 desktop computers for the nearly 800 schools with the most difficulty accessing the computer student data software because their devices are incompatible with the system.
“This should have been readily apparent all along and it should have been one of the considerations when rolling MiSiS out,” said Tamar Galatzan, whose every statement on the subject ended with a verbal exclamation mark.
An obvious question to ask before developing the system, she said, would have been, “What kind of devices are members going to use to enter this data? Beside the fact that the system doesn’t work, if you don’t even have a computer that’s new enough to be able to run it, it’s just ludicrous!,” she said.
When Chandler tried to defend his department’s actions, noting that the district failed to invest scarce dollars in acquiring new machines as a result of the recession, Steve Zimmer went on the attack.
“That was not a choice the board got to make,” he said pointing a finger at Chandler.
John Deasy is still the LA Unified superintendent.
The district board met for more than 13 hours yesterday, including seven in closed session, where Deasy’s employment status was on the agenda. But the members emerged after a final 30 minutes in closed session at 11 o’clock last night with no announcements.
That means that the beleaguered boss is still at the helm of the nation’s second-largest school district even if his continued association with the district remains uncertain.
Little is really known about what’s going on. The board has authorized settlement negotiations for a buyout package, but there has been no public indication that lawyers are close or even if they are still talking.
Short of a buyout or an outright resignation, the board has several choices: It could vote to fire Deasy under several scenarios, which include instant dismissal, which would leave him in charge for nor more than 30 days; or judging his performance, scheduled for Oct. 21, less than “satisfactory,” which would mean letting him remain through the end of his “at will” contract, June 2016.
The thing about a vote to fire him is tricky. The board needs four votes to do, and the votes don’t appear to be there yet. As much as several members clearly want Deasy out, the board operates with a majority rule on votes. It seems reasonable to assume that if a majority wanted him gone, he’d be gone by now.
Anyway, Deasy returns at the end of the week from South Korea to await his fate — not to mention updates on Jefferson High School, MiSiS problems, iPads, Title I battles and all the other issues plaguing LA Unified these days.
LAUSD ‘blowing the whistle’ on bullying, hazing of LGBT student athletes
Officials announced Tuesday the Los Angeles Unified School District will “blow the whistle” on bullying and hazing of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender student athletes. Los Angeles Daily News
A fortune for iPads, but not enough for math books
Commentary: With the conversion to Common Core standards, L.A. Unified purchased new math books for eighth grade, but not for sixth or seventh. The reason was lack of funding. Los Angeles Times
Deasy and keeping students at the center of political battles
Commentary: Los Angeles Unified School District recently announced a 15-point increase in its graduation rate. This is cause for immense celebration as more students are on their pathways out of poverty. The Hechinger Report
There’s no Superman, but Deasy wasn’t afraid to try on the cape
Commentary: John Deasy wasn’t dealt a winning hand. He’s a very smart guy, so I think he knew it from the start, but he wanted to play the game as superintendent of Los Angeles Unified so badly that he picked up the cards anyway. The Hechinger Report
LA school board backs $3.6 million ‘bailout’ of faulty data system
The LA Unified board Tuesday night approved the purchase of 3,340 computers costing $3.6 million for school sites struggling to properly schedule classes, take attendance and track student needs in a new data system. KPCC
L.A. school board OKs plan to resolve Jefferson High problems
The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday approved a $1.1-million plan to provide a longer school day, additional classes and tutoring to Jefferson High students who lost instructional time. Los Angeles Times