A year later, secrecy surrounds FBI probe of LAUSD’s iPad program


Former LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy

On Dec. 1 it will be a year since FBI agents showed up at LA Unified’s headquarters with a federal grand jury subpoena and carted off 20 boxes of documents related to the district’s controversial iPad program.

Since that day little if any new information has been publicly revealed about the investigation’s status, and that is primarily due to the secrecy laws that surround federal grand juries. Unless the jury issues an indictment or an investigative report, the evidence and testimony is by law to remain forever sealed, and leaks of federal grand jury evidence are extremely rare.

With almost a year passed since the subpoena, it is possible the grand jury found no evidence of wrong doing and has dissolved, but James A. Cohen, an associate law professor at Fordham University, said it’s unusual — though not impossible — for a grand jury investigation to take more than a year.

“It’s coming up on a year in December. It’s a long period, no question. It’s not that unusual, but it is still on the unusual side,” he said.

Cohen helps run Fordham’s Federal Litigation Clinic, which represents defendants charged with federal crimes; he has also written about and researched the grand jury system. Cohen pointed out that an LA Unified school board agenda item from August, as was reported by LA School Report, indicates that the district’s lawyers might have foreseen trouble coming from the investigation or a related lawsuit.

The brief item, which simply said the board was going to discuss the case in a closed session, was listed on the agenda due to a state law that reads “on the advice of its legal counsel, based on existing facts and circumstances, there is a significant exposure to litigation against the local agency.”

Cohen said this is an important indicator.

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Search firm creates the profile for LAUSD’s next superintendent

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 1.45.10 PMIt doesn’t matter if the next superintendent is a he or she, but it does matter if the he or she is bilingual. The person should be good at communicating and love Los Angeles. And, the candidate should have been a teacher at one point in his or her career.

Those are some of the findings in the draft Leadership Profile compiled by the search firm hired to seek candidates for the next LA Unified superintendent.

In preparation for a public presentation tomorrow to the LAUSD school board, the search firm of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates posted an array of responses collected from the surveys and from the 100-plus community meetings and interviews the firm held. The data dump includes breakdowns of the kinds of people they’ve heard from as well as all the comments posted on the surveys and all of the issues brought up at community meetings and by the board members.

From the seven school board members themselves, the suggestions included finding a fast learner, a listener, someone who cares about children and education, and someone who is media savvy.

A total of 9,461 people filled out the survey either online or on paper, and the same number of teachers filled out the survey as did parents (about 28 percent each). The number of students filling out the online survey was higher than the number of administrators (10 percent compared with about 8 percent).

A total of 1,605 people participated in interviews and focus groups, and the number of “community members” attending was higher than the combined totals of teachers, staff and students.

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The ‘reanimation’ of John Deasy, will the next superintendent be a native?

school report buzzUTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl released a 12-minute video on YouTube today in which he asks members to vote for a dues increase.

According to Caputo-Pearl, the union has not updated its dues structure since its inception 45 years ago, which now “literally threatens the future of UTLA.”

In the video, Caputo-Pearl points out that UTLA’s monthly fees are lower than other large teacher unions in the country and lower than most other teacher unions in the state.

The video also includes a humorous reference to former LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy, who resigned a year ago. Deasy and Caputo-Pearl locked horns frequently, but now Deasy is working at the Broad Center, and its affiliated Broad Foundation is currently developing a plan to expand charter schools in the district to include half of all students.

reanimator_1024x1024Caputo-Pearl claims in the video that UTLA has confirmed that Deasy is, in fact, the architect of the plan, which was outlined in a 48-page draft report. Caputo-Pearl calls this the “reanimation” of Deasy. Reanimation? Is that a reference to the 80s cult classic film, “Re-Animator“?

The film is about a doctor who discovers how to bring corpses back from the dead. Using the film as a metaphor, it certainly shows the ironic position Caputo-Pearl finds himself in. He helped chase Deasy out of the district, which he hailed as a “victory” for UTLA. But now Deasy is arguably in a much more powerful position as he allegedly orchestrates a plan that would wipe out half of the jobs of UTLA members.

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LAUSD board sees ‘significant exposure’ from FBI’s iPad probe

FBI logoEver since the FBI seized documents in December related to LA Unified’s controversial iPad program, there have been no public updates on the case, but now it appears that the LA Unified school board and its legal department see trouble coming.

It is just a single line in the agenda for tomorrow’s closed board meeting, but it may speak volumes.

Described as “anticipated litigation,” the board will be discussing possible ramifications of the FBI probe, arising out of state law that reads, “A point has been reached where, in the opinion of the legislative body of the local agency on the advice of its legal counsel, based on existing facts and circumstances, there is a significant exposure to litigation against the local agency.”

The document seizure happened as the result of a federal grand jury subpoena looking into potential bid rigging in the district’s $1.3 billion Common Core Technology Program, which sought to get a computer tablet in the hands of every student and teacher in the district.

Due to the secrecy laws surrounding federal grand juries, little has been known about the nature of the investigation since the seizure. But the board’s closed meeting agenda is the first indication that a grand jury might have identified legal problems with how the district conducted the bid process and, as a result, that the district might face legal action. No indictments have been brought in the case, and federal law requires that details of the grand jury investigations remain sealed unless one is brought.

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UTLA making clear to LAUSD board what it wants in next superintendent

UTLAAn open and transparent search, background as an educator and under no circumstances someone from the Broad Academy. Those are the three major criteria that UTLA wants in the next LAUSD school superintendent.

Alex Caputo-Pearl, the president of the United Teachers Los Angeles union, told the LA School Report that he has made it known to the school board the kind of superintendent teachers want in a successor to Ramon Cortines.

“So far we have been advocating these three issues,” he said. “We want the process to be transparent and open and understandable. It can’t be a move from the corner office to the front office like John Deasy was last time around and without a process. That didn’t work out well.”

The search process is now underway, with the board set to pick an executive search firm on Sunday. There’s a deadline to the extent that Cortines says he want to step down by December. At the outside, the board wants a successor in place before the start of the 2016-2017 school year.

Once the finalists are chosen, Caputo-Pearl is advocating public meetings where educators, parents and the community can ask the candidates questions and voice concerns. “We need to see how they get to engage with folks,” he said.

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LA teachers planning campaign to oppose charter expansion

Alex Caputo Pearl LAUSD Board meeting-9.9.14 charter

UTLA President Alex Caputo Pearl


UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl said the teachers union is planning an aggressive campaign to oppose Eli Broad and other wealthy foundation leaders who have announced plans for a major expansion of charter schools in LA Unified.

In a wide-ranging interview that focused on the state of charters in the district, Caputo-Pearl was highly critical of the effort, asserting that charters are undermining the ability of traditional district schools to maintain a quality education for all students.

“We’re going to make every effort that we can to organize against the expansion of what are essentially unregulated non-union schools that don’t play by the rules as everybody else,” Caputo-Pearl told LA School Report. “So we’re going to take that on in the public, take that on in the media, engage the school board on it. We’re going to try to engage Eli Broad. We’re going to try to engage John Deasy because we understand he’s the architect of it. It will be a major effort. It is a major concern.”

The charter expansion plans involve three major foundations that have been active for years in education reform across the country: the Broad Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and the W.M. Keck Foundation. They said they intend to create enough charter schools in eight years to serve as many as half of LA Unified students.

The California Charter School Association has consistently denied that there are separate rules for charters, pointing to the fact that charters have to demonstrate academic achievement and financial stability to remain operating. Many charters do employ non-union teachers, but UTLA in recent years has succeeded in unionizing a number of them.

Caputo-Pearl’s targeting of Deasy evolves from Deasy’s association with Broad before and after he served as LA Unified’s superintendent. Before he was hired in 2011, Deasy attended the Broad Academy, which prepares senior executives for roles in urban education. He resigned as superintendent last year after problems with the iPad program, leading to a federal investigation of the bid process. Currently, he is a consultant for The Broad Center, a separate non-proft organization that helps train future education leaders.

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Cortines promises MiSiS is fixed and ready to go as new school year opens

RamonCortinesLooking to calm any last-minute fears that the start of the new school year will mirror last year’s troublesome beginning, LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines is promising that the MiSiS computer system has been fixed and will operate smoothy when schools open later this month.

“MiSiS is the heart of this district,” he said in a statement from the district. “After months of tireless repairs, our heart has some new stents, replaced valves, a pacemaker, and reduced cholesterol, and it is pumping much stronger.”

It was a mighty sick patient a year ago, with malfunctions causing computer breakdowns, scheduling nightmares and other distuptions. Jefferson High School was hit the hardest, with the MiSiS problems leading to a walkout after hundreds of students were left without proper class schedules.

MiSiS was given an original price tag of $29 million, but it has ballooned to $133 million. The additional investment of funds and personnel has paid off, Cortines said.

“Despite the challenges we’ve faced, I’ve never seen so much excitement and enthusiasm for the start of the school year,” he said. “Everyone has come together to help pick up the broken pieces of our schools and put them back together again. I’m very grateful that the LAUSD community was there to take action.”

The district said technical teams have spent the past year rebuilding MiSiS — My Integrated Student Information System — to ensure that class schedules and attendance programs will be operating properly when classes begin on Aug. 18. The district said its experts will be available to resolve any last-minute issues.

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LA Unified board preparing first step toward hiring new superintendent

Superintendent Ray Cortines

The LA Unified board takes its first step in choosing a new superintendent, with a largely closed door meeting scheduled for tomorrow night.

It’s a baby step, with the seven-member board most likely deciding on the parameters and requirements for a head-hunting firm that will bring them the top names for the position.

While it’s a lofty job and a challenge for any search firm, given the complexities of LA Unified in terms of size, annual budget and classroom demands, there are a handful of companies that specialize in educators and school administrators, such as Korn Ferry Executive Recruitment and Talent Management based in Los Angeles, which was hired for two past superintendent searches.

This time the board is seeking a successor for Ramon Cortines (again), who stepped in after John Deasy left last year. Cortines, who was hired without a search firm, has said he wants to leave by the end of the year but might agree to stay until an ideal replacement is found.

The administrative position paid Deasy nearly $440,000 a year salary. That’s more than the governor makes, and about $100,000 more than the district is paying Cortines. This second-largest school district in the nation has about 644,000 students.

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A toast to the survivors of LA Unified’s wild and crazy year

LA Unified

UTLA rally at Grand Park

The end of another school year this week brings to a close one of LA Unified’s most crazy, controversial and dysfunctional academic years. It’s a real testament to students, teachers and other school personnel that they persevered through so much disruption and tumult.

So, a tip of the hat to the nation’s second-largest school district as it navigated through a Hit Parade of memorable moments. Here are 10 of them, in no particular order of consequence:

The MISIS Meltdown

Even before the first day of school, the MISIS debut was a debacle. Summer school teachers who tested out the district-developed software, which was supposed to streamline and centralize all student data including scheduling, grades, attendance records, and disciplinary files, did their best to sound the alarm about the program’s myriad problems.

But under the direction of Matt Hill, Chief Strategy Officer, and Ron Chandler, Chief Information Officer — both of them now working elsewhere — the district plowed ahead with the district-wide roll out assuring anyone who asked, “We got it!”

While the original budget allocated for MISIS was $29 million, spending is likely to top $133 million next week when the board is expected to approve after another $79.6 million in bond funds. Meanwhile, the district’s IT team is working alongside Microsoft employees on continued repairs that will last through 2015-16.

Superintendent John Deasy Resigns

Superintendent John Deasy was at ideological odds with three, then four members of the school board throughout most of his tenure. But it was the one-two punch of the MISIS failure that left thousands of students across the district class-less for several weeks combined with the continued scrutiny over the terrible iPad deal the district struck with Apple and Pearson that ultimately lead to his departure in October 2014.

His aggressive policies — such as the iPads-for-all program, reconstitution of consistently low-performing schools and his anti-tenure stance — kept him at odds with board members, teachers and the public at large.

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Deal with teachers puts LAUSD on track to new evaluation plan

teacher_evaluation_satisfactoryLost in the focus on double-digit salary increases in the tentative deal between LA Unified and UTLA is an agreement to overhaul the process by which the district’s 30,000 teachers will be evaluated.

Under the new plan, which begins next year, both sides agreed to an interim three-tier final evaluation system, with three ratings: “exceeds standards,” “meets standards” and “below standards.”

The new system replaces a two-tier final evaluation system that rated teachers as “meeting standards” or “below standards.”

The district and the union also agreed to form a joint task force to re-write the Teacher Growth and Development Cycle, a series of protocols that form the basis of the final evaluation rankings, by 2016-17.

Those procedures came under fire during Superintendent John Deasy‘s tenure when UTLA argued that Deasy was trying to lay the groundwork for merit-based pay when he added a new ranking of “highly effective” to other evaluation metrics. The union took the issue to the state labor board, PERB, and a judge ruled in its favor.

That decision ultimately forced the district to eliminate the added ranking and revert to the previous system. But it still left teachers and their supervisors — school principals — frustrated and confused. Principals especially complained that the system had become too burdensome with a backlog of paperwork, leaving little time to conduct multiple class observations and to provide meaningful feedback. Continue reading

Pearson stock takes a dive after rebuke by LA Unified

Pearson stock-2Things went from bad to worse for publishing giant Pearson yesterday, as its stock took a dive following the news Wednesday that LA Unified announced plans to seek a refund for thousands of Apple iPads pre-loaded with Pearson educational software that the district said was ineffective.

Pearson was the single worst performer on the Financial Times Stock Exchange Thursday and suffered its worst loss since February 2014, according to Market Watch. The stock dropped four percent after LA Unified issued a letter that it was “extremely dissatisfied” with the Pearson content and wanted a full refund potentially worth tens of millions.

The Pearson-loaded iPads were part of what was once a grand initiative of LAUSD’s former Superintendent John Deasy, who set out to use $1.3 billion of bond money to get an iPad into the hands of every student and teacher in the district. The program, part of the now defunct Common Core Technology Project, was to purchase $500 million worth of devices and spend $800 million on Internet capability upgrades at schools.

The plan now lies in ruins and surrounded by controversy, including a grand jury investigation and a SEC inquiry. LA Unified to date has purchased roughly 43,000 of the Pearson-loaded iPads, which came at a cost $768 per device.  Continue reading

LAUSD reboots technology program with launch of new task force

students use ipads* UPDATED

With the launch of the new Technology Initiative Task Force yesterday, LAUSD is restarting its approach to integrating technology and instruction in the classroom after the last effort ended with an FBI probe.

The Common Core Technology Project drew criticism from the start, in part for questions over the procurement process with software publisher Pearson and iPad provider Apple. The new initiative will be characterized by public access to information and community input from the get-go, the task force chairwoman told LA School Report.

“The goals of this group are complete transparency and to hear the voices of groups throughout the district,” said Judy Burton. “Part of the process will include town hall meetings and focus groups with students, teachers and parents throughout the district before anything goes forward.”

Meetings will be open to the public and everything discussed will be available on a new website, which is scheduled to go live early next week.

“I think the bright light about this is the task force and the district are not just looking at using technology to prepare for tests, but at how to use technology to deliver instruction,” Burton said. “We’re thinking more about what students really need to be successful in college and in careers — today students have to be able to use technology as a tool to learn.”

Instead of uniformly dropping the same device with the same pre-programmed curriculum into the hands of every student, the new task force has set a goal to avoid the previous one-size-fits-all approach.

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Successful appeal put teacher in LAUSD’s top 10 salary list

judgeThe release of salary records for all LA Unified employees by the Los Angeles Daily News on Friday produced a list of the district’s highest paid officials in 2014, with one apparent anomaly: an elementary school teacher.

While nine of the top ten earners are headquarters administrators, starting with former Superintendent John Deasy, who made $439,998 the year he was ousted, the odd name on the list is Jose Martinez, a grade school teacher who earned $235,329.

Martinez was removed from his job by the district in November 2011, though it’s unclear under what circumstances. He fought the decision, appealing to the Office of Administrative Hearings and the Commission on Professional Competence, which sided with Martinez and ordered the district to reinstate him and the salary he would have otherwise been paid.

According to a statement from LA Unified’s legal department, “The District unsuccessfully appealed the decision to reinstate the teacher, entitling Mr. Martinez to reinstatement and approximately $164,564.92 in back pay.”

The lump sum covered unpaid earnings from “November 2011 to March 2014, which explains the unusually high salary reporting in 2014,” district officials said.

In case you missed it, here are the top 10 paid LA Unified employees in 2014, courtesy of the Daily News:

John Deasy, superintendent of schools: $439,998

Michelle King, deputy superintendent: $282,792

David Holmquist, general counsel: $264,407

Mark Hovatter, chief facilities executive: $248,841

Jose Martinez, elementary teacher: $235,329

Megan Reilly, chief financial officer: $231,648

Janalyn Glymph, personnel director: $204,331

Matthew Hill, chief strategy officer: $203,743

Gregory Garcia, director, facilities project E: $200,904

Vivian Ekchian, chief labor negotiator: $199,034

Week in Review: New offer to UTLA, new job for Deasy

lasr logo square
In case you missed it, here are the top five stories from LA School Report this past week:

LA Unified, citing new money, ups its offer to teachers
Bolstered by a more robust state budget, LA Unified said it was doubling its offer to UTLA.

Survey: Teachers support changes in state job protection laws
The majority of public school teachers who participated in a new survey support changes in state teacher job protection laws that were the focus of last year’s landmark ruling in Vergara v. California.

Deasy to work for Broad Center as ‘superintendent-in-residence’
Former LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy will be working as a consultant for The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems as a “superintendent-in-residence.”

Feds find lack of leadership, vision, planning on iPads, MiSiS
A report from the U.S. Education Department on the district’s troubled $1.3 billion iPad program and gitchy MiSiS computer system had few positive things to say.

LAUSD middle school among California’s ‘Schools to Watch’
LA Unified’s Luther Burbank Middle School in Highland Park was honored as a model middle school by the state program, “Schools to Watch-Taking Center Stage.”

Deasy, Austin join Vergara suit sponsor, Students Matter

LA Unified Supt. John Deasy testifying at the Vergara trial

Former LA Unified Supt. John Deasy testifying at the Vergara trial

The non-profit behind the Vergara lawsuit, Students Matter, is adding two former LA Unified lightning rods to their ranks. Ex-Superintendent John Deasy and founder of Parent Revolution, Ben Austin, are joining the advocacy group.

Students Matter successfully sued the state of California and its public school teachers unions, overturning five laws governing tenure, seniority and dismissal that the student plaintiffs argued kept ineffective teachers in their classrooms. The state and the unions have appealed, vowing to defend the statutes challenged in the case.

It’s the second job-related announcement this month for Deasy, who will be serving on the Students Matter advisory board. He was recently named a consultant for The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems as a “superintendent-in-residence.” Austin will serve as head of policy development and advocacy for Students Matter, leading the organization’s “Courtroom to Classroom” campaign.

“By hiring Ben Austin and adding Dr. John E. Deasy ’s expertise to our board, Students Matter is expanding its commitment to fighting for political change that focuses on the needs of our kids,” David Welch, the group’s founder and a Silicon Valley entrepreneur said in a press release today.

Austin stepped down last month as executive director of Parent Revolution, a group he founded six years ago to aid parents pushing for change in their children’s poorly-performing schools.  Under his leadership, the organization played a role in creating California’s parent trigger law and, later, helping three area schools use it. Three other schools used the threat of it to force changes.

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Feds find lack of leadership, vision, planning on iPads, MiSiS

students use ipadsA report from the U.S. Education Department on the district’s troubled $1.3 billion iPad program and gitchy MiSiS computer system had few positive things to say, as it found problems in both efforts with their planning, execution and metrics for success.

The report, which was requested by LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines, found that the iPad program suffered from a lack of a grand vision as to how the devices were to used, that it was deficient in providing enough field support, that it did not have any overall metrics to evaluate its success and that it was overly-dependent on the iPad while ignoring the possibilities of other devices.

“There is no district educational technology plan, goals, or metrics for success for how technology will support learning at the district level,” the report, which was first publicly released on the blog 4LAKids, stated.

The iPad program was conceived and touted by John Deasy, the district’s former superintendent who resigned in October under heavy criticism that included the iPad program.

The report is not the first to criticize the iPad program. An internal report by LA Unified board member Monica Ratliff found similar problems, and an independent report by the American Institute for Research found problems with the planning and execution of its pilot program.

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Deasy to work for Broad Center as ‘superintendent-in-residence’


Former LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy

Former LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy will be working as a consultant for The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems as a “superintendent-in-residence.” The center is a leadership academy for school administrators, which is funded by Eli Broad, a longtime Deasy supporter and powerful financier of California education reform efforts.

Deasy resigned in October under pressure due to mounting criticism of his managerial style and several bungled technology initiatives. Since resigning, criticism of his three-and-a-half year tenure has continued, in particular since the FBI seized files in December related to his $1.3 billion iPad program as part of a federal grand jury investigation. Deasy continued to be paid by the district through December.

Deasy’s role with the Broad Center was announced in a press release on its website and was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The center’s mission is to “raise student achievement by recruiting, training and supporting leadership talent from across America to transform urban school systems,” according to its website.

However, the Broad Center and related Broad Academy are viewed with great skepticism by some in California education. As the Times pointed out, the academy “is regarded with suspicion by some, especially union activists, who have long speculated that Broad wanted leaders better trained to outmaneuver and weaken unions representing school employees, especially the teachers union.”

The Broad Center’s press release announcing his new role touted Deasy’s accomplishments.

“John Deasy’s long history of boosting opportunity and achievement for all kids is a testimony to his relentless drive for social justice and fundamental belief in what’s possible when school systems are organized around what is best for students,” said Christina Heitz, managing director of The Broad Academy, in the press release.

Deasy oversaw a rise in graduation rates and student test scores along with a fall in dropout rates during his tenure at LA Unified. It’s unclear whether he would be held accountable by the federal grand jury investigation into possible bid rigging with the iPad program, which sought to put an iPad in the hands of every LA Unified student and teacher.

Federal grand jury proceedings are secret, but the files seized in October were related to the program’s procurement process, for which Deasy was criticized for the perception that he may have tilted the bid in favor of Apple and Pearson, the company that provided educational software for the iPads.

Deasy halted the program in August when emails were publicly released showing a high level of communication Deasy and a former deputy had with Apple and Pearson.


Labor board rules against LAUSD for teacher evaluations

teacher_evaluation_satisfactory* UPDATED

LA Unified violated state employment laws by imposing an evaluation system on members of its teacher union, UTLA, a state agency said in a tentative ruling made public today.

If the ruling made on Christmas Eve by the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) stands, the district would have to stop the evaluation process, which was implemented in 2013 under former Superintendent John Deasy. The district would also be ordered to compensate UTLA members for any financial losses incurred as a direct result of the evaluation system, which was based on a four-level observation rating system.

UTLA, which filed the complaint in June 2013, said in a statement it is “gratified” for the board ruling. The district has until Feb. 22 to appeal, but the union said it “is confident that if there is an appeal, the full PERB board will affirm the administrative law judge’s decision that the District acted unlawfully.”

David Holmquist, the district’s chief legal counsel, declined to comment on the preliminary ruling, saying he has not had an opportunity to discuss the ruling with the school board.

“I’m not ready to say what we think it means,” Holmquist told LA School Report in a phone call. “There’s a lot that we need to figure out,” he added.

The board will review the findings and plan a potential response at its board meeting next week.

“Once I bring it up to the board we will decide what responses we want to make to that,” Holmquist said. Some possibilities he mentioned are filing an extension of time to continue litigation or firing off a list of objections to the preliminary ruling.

In the meantime, Holmquist confirmed the district is “in conversation with UTLA.”

Since the district implemented a four-level evaluation, UTLA has objected, arguing that the union’s 30,000 members never had a chance to vote on it. They also allege it creates a path to establish merit pay to reward the highest performing teachers. Another element they oppose, is the use of student testing data in judging teacher efficacy.

Teacher evaluations have been part of the contract negotiations between the district and the union that have generated little progress so far. The sides are scheduled to resume talks a week from today.


*Adds comment from UTLA.

Cortines doubles number of direct reports in LAUSD overhaul

LAUSD organizational flow chartJohn Deasy was often described by critics as an autocrat in how he ran the district. Nine senior aides reported to him directly.

That was nothing. In the two months since taking over, his replacement, Ramon Cortines, has doubled the number of LA Unified officials under his direct supervision. He has 18 aides reporting to him directly.

The change came early this month when the district circulated a new organizational chart of top district management. In another realignment, Cortines continued the expansion of some departments while eliminating others.

Taken together, the changes throw into relief the differences in management styles between the two men: Where Deasy had a handful of people delivering information from the bottom up, Cortines prefers a more hands-on approach with direct contact.

In a letter to the board that accompanied the new organizational charter, Cortines offered no specifics as to why he was making so many changes, other than to say they would “continue the trajectory of stability and calmness that our schools and support staff depend on.”

The most notable changes within the top tier, which took effect on Dec. 1, affect Matt Hill and Donna Muncey.  Hill’s job as Chief Strategy Officer has already undergone some alterations under Coritnes, after the resignation of the district’s Chief Information Officer, Ron Chandler. A month ago, Hill was asked to share oversight of MISIS, but he has since been pulled off of that project to oversee the Information Technology Department.

Aside from his experience with the district in managing the development and troubled rollout of MISIS, it is unclear what experience Hill has in running an IT department. Prior to his career in education, Hill worked in Black & Decker’s business development group. He’s also been a strategy consultant in the financial services industry.

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A turbulent year in LA Unified: Our top 11 stories of 2014

Top LA School Report storiesThe year 2014 was not a banner one in the history of the Los Angeles Unified School District. While there was positive news – in particular continued improvement in student achievement – the district often found itself the subject of increasingly negative headlines.

Here, in no particular order, are the top stories about LA Unified as reported this year by LA School Report.


Superintendent Deasy resigns

On Oct. 15, LA School Report broke the news that John Deasy was going to resign the next day as superintendent of LA Unified. Although his future with the district had been openly debated for weeks, the news still rocked the education world to the core and made headlines around the country. Despite his eagerness to help students with the greatest need, his departure was viewed as a victory by those who opposed his centralized style of management.

Key Deasy resignation stories: Breaking News: LAUSD makes it official, Deasy steps downRatliff: lone vote on school board against Deasy settlementCaputo-Pearl insists Deasy’s resignation not a victory for UTLAIn resignation letter, Deasy ‘overwhelmed with pride’

tuck torlaksonSchool reform loss is union’s gain 

Deasy’s departure was a reflection of a general retrenchment of school reform advocacy in 2014. The teachers union showed a strong hand at local and state level in elections this year while reform advocates suffered not only the loss of Deasy but also reform candidate Marshall Tuck in his bid to unseat Tom Torlakson as state Superintendent of Public Instruction. The shift occurred at the local board level, too, with the election of George McKenna, who defeated a candidate, Alex Johnson, heavily supported by charter schools.

Key reform stories: In words of congratulations, Zimmer blasts ‘reform billionaires’Tuck, in defeat: In California, ‘a growing call for change’Reaction to Deasy resignation as polarizing as his tenureMcKenna victory gives appearance of a pro-teacher union board.

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