Deasy puts Apple deal on hold, starts new bidding process

Deasy cancels ipad contract*UPDATED

LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy told members of the school board yesterday that he is halting the district’s contract with Apple, Inc., effectively ending his grand plan to put an iPad in the hands of every district student.

Following the disclosure of emails that suggest he and aides had tailored the bid process to favor Apple and the software maker, Pearson, when the district was seeking proposals for digital devices, Deasy said the district would reopen the bidding to take advantage of a changing marketplace and student needs.

In his letter to board members, who are meeting today, Deasy said “Moving forward, we will no longer utilize our current contract with Apple Inc.” He explained the decision in adding, “Not only will this decision enable us to take advantage of an ever-changing marketplace and technology advances, it will also give us time to take into account concerns raised surrounding the CCTP and receive new information from the California Department of Education regarding assessments.”

CCTP stands for Common Core Technology Project, the district’s over-arching plan to supply and distribute digital devices to students. A committee headed by board member Monica Ratliff was appointed last year to oversee its implementation. It was after her draft report leaked was to media outlets last week that emails were disclosed, showing that Deasy and his deputy at the time, Jaime Aquino, exchanged ideas that appeared to some that the district was rigging the process to favor Apple and Pearson.

The original plan was for the devices to be rolled out in phases as part of a $1 billion spend. By his action yesterday, it will go no further than iPads delivered to 52 schools and laptops to 18,000 students under the existing contract, he told the members.

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iPad report shared only with LAUSD officials in secrecy

iPad Report LAUSDA draft report on LA Unified’s handling of the controversial iPad contract that was leaked to media outlets last week was made available to board members and district administrators only if they agreed to sign a non-disclosure agreement, barring them from sharing the report with anyone.

While some signed, others, including Superintendent John Deasy, did not, leading one board member to raise questions about the legality of such a demand. Deasy said today he has still not been given a copy of the draft report.

The request for non-disclosure agreements came from board member Monica Ratliff, chair of the Common Core Technology Project Committee and author of the report, who has led the 10-month long effort to evaluate the program and recommend changes.

The draft report was supposed to remain confidential while participants provided feedback. The report was believed to have been given only to members of Ratliff’s committee, a group that included board member Tamar Galatzan; Quynh Nguyen, a member of the LA Unified Bond Oversight Committee; Ron Chandler, the district’s chief information officer; and Gerardo Loera, executive director of curriculum instruction.

Galatzan, a deputy city attorney, had assigned a staffer to represent her on the committee. She told LA School Report today she declined to sign the non-disclosure and, thus, did not receive a copy of the draft from Ratliff, who is also a lawyer.

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After Ferguson, LAUSD giving schools tools to discuss conflict

LAUSDlogoWith tensions from Ferguson, Mo. stirring yet another national debate on race relations, LA Unified is distributing an informational packet, “Engaging Students in Peaceful Dialogues about Conflict and Bias,” with a goal of helping solicit questions or concerns from students in “a neutral, safe and respectful space for constructive dialogue.”

The packet includes suggested activities for students in elementary, middle and high school.

“We encourage youth to consider issues much larger than themselves in order to learn and grow. In this instance, we want to allow our students to reflect, discuss and debate with the guidance of adults at school,” Superintendent John Deasy said in a statement from the district.

The material, developed by the District’s Human Relations, Diversity and Equity team, was designed to help teachers facilitate student dialogue and lead lessons on conflict resolution.


Deasy planning to hire his own liaison for MiSiS project


Superintendent John Deasy

As LA Unified teachers continue their complaints about the district’s new student data management program, MiSiS, Superintendent John Deasy said today he plans to hire an independent liaison to  keep him informed of corrective actions.

“This is not my area of expertise so I have to be sure, when I think something is not optimal, that I have my own person working on this to tell me if we are doing this smartly,” Deasy told LA School Report. “I want a third party who is knowledgeable about changing student informations systems, to give insight into are we making enough changes, are we making our changes correctly.”

Deasy said the person he will hire — within a week or so — will report directly to him and will not require board approval. He also said he intends to meet next week with a new court-appointed monitor charged with overseeing the development of a district-wide student tracking system. The previous person serving in that role died.

Since 2012, the person directly in charge of MiSiS is Bria Jones, according to Bria Jones. On her LinkedIn profile, she identifies herself as head of a small Arizona company hired by the district as “IT Project Director.” She claims she “Provide[s] day-to-day project direction and management of the MiSiS team.”

How she came to the district as the only candidate for the job was among questions that board member Tamar Galatzan included last week in a written request to Ken Bramlett, the district’s Inspector General, seeking an examination of the MiSiS program.

Efforts to reach Jones through the district and her LinkedIn account drew no response.

In an eight-minute telephone interview today about Jones’s role in the MiSiS launch and subsequent problems, Chief Information Officer Ron Chandler told LA School Report that “there are several project managers on the project…her role is to oversee different parts of the development of specifications and code development.”

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LA Unified names Ruth Perez as successor to Aquino

Ruth Perez LAUSD

Dr. Ruth Perez

Eight months after Jaime Aquino’s departure as LA Unified’s Deputy Superintendent of Instruction, the district has a candidate to fill the seat.

Superintendent John Deasy announced today he would recommend Ruth Pérez, former superintendent of the Norwalk-La Mirada school district, whose hiring is scheduled to come before the board for approval at its next meeting, on Aug. 26.

 “Dr. Pérez’s track record of success with students who are growing up in poverty, and youth who, like her, didn’t speak English when they started school, equips her to lead instruction for LAUSD,” Deasy said in a statement.  “Focused on high academic achievement for all students, she excels with diverse enrollments.”

A native of Puerto Rico, Perez began her career in Kissimmee, Fla., teaching English literature and English as a second language.

After moving into administration, she became an area superintendent in the Orange County public schools in Orlando.

Later, as the chief academic officer for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg public schools in North Carolina, she implemented initiatives such as intensive reading programs for students in Kindergarten through the third grade; extensive training for teachers instructing English learners and professional development strategies to teach children of poverty. She also expanded after-school programs to middle school students and reduced suspensions.

During her five years as superintendent at Norwalk-La Mirada, the overall graduation rate increased to 94 percent from 76.5 percent. Performance on state standardized tests also rose—as did the Academic Performance Index (API) score, which increased 54 points.

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Teachers union talking strategy for combatting teacher jail

Teacher Jail LAUSDWhile officials from the teachers union, UTLA, are contemplating salary demands in a new labor contract with the district, they have not lost sight of another key issue, how to deal with teachers housed in what union officials derisively call “teacher jails.”

The union’s Committee for Unjustly Housed Teachers was meeting today, for the first time this school year, in a strategy session to determine how to tackle what they view as the district’s abusive use of the “teacher jails.”

“We need to develop a plan for getting the district to follow the policies that they have in place for housed teachers,” committee point chair, Colleen Schwab told LA School Report before the meeting. “That’s our goal, at the minimum. To get them to do what they said they would.”

Schwab, who’s co-lead of the committee since its inception a year ago, stressed that the teachers union has no intention of calling for the complete elimination jails.

“Obviously, we need a place for teachers who could harm students while the district conducts its investigations,” she said. “But there has to be a better solution than what is happening right now.”

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Deasy, LAUSD board members to welcome back students

John Deasy with students* UPDATED

As LA Unified students begin their first day of school tomorrow, district officials will be out in force, welcoming them.

Superintendent John Deasy has a full schedule over two days, with plans to greet principals and to tour schools that are under construction.

Planning to visit nearly a dozen campuses tomorrow and Wednesday, Deasy will start his tomorrow with a 5 a.m. appearance at Solano Avenue Elementary School where he will be joined by LAUSD board member Monica Garcia and chief facilities administrator Mark Hovatter, followed by a visit to Dolores Huerta Elementary School from 7 to 7:30 am.

Later, Deasy and Hovatter are scheduled to appear at John C. Fremont High School, while LAUSD board member Monica Ratliff heads to Mountain View Elementary School and then to Van Nuys Senior High School.

At 9 am, Deasy, Hovatter, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris,  LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer and LAUSD’s out-going liaison to District 1, Sylvia Rousseau, will gather at Baldwin Hills Elementary School and Gifted/High Ability Magnet School.

Deasy ends the day with visits to Playa Vista Elementary School, Paul Revere Charter Middle School and Magnet Center, Emerson Community Charter Middle School and David Starr Jordan High School.

On Wednesday, Deasy is scheduled to visit four schools, joined by Garcia and Hovatter at Dr. Julian Nava Learning Academy, one of four new four pilot schools opening this year, followed by Haddon Avenue Elementary School and North Hollywood Senior High School.  Deasy will be joined by LAUSD board member Bennett Kayser for his final visit to South Gate Middle School.

As for the two other board members, Tamar Galatzan is starting the day tomorrow with her own children, and President Richard Vladovic has plans to visit schools but has announced his schedule.


* Clarifies Vladovic’s plans to visit schools

From Deasy: RFK, apartheid, Chavez and an Oprah moment

John Deasy at state address LAUSDIn his annual State of the Schools address, LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy today called to mind Robert F. Kennedy, apartheid in South Africa, Cesar Chavez and national immigration reform. He even hammered home this year’s theme, “My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper,” with an Oprah-like moment.

Deasy instructed every LA Unified employee in the audience — about 1,500 principals, assistant principals and district administrators — to reach under their chairs and pluck an envelope taped to the bottom of the seat.

“Take the envelope and hold it in your hand for a minute,” he told the giddy crowd at Garfield High School in east LA. But rather than a set of keys to a brand new “caaaaaaar” that Oprah might have delivered, each Deasy envelope contained the name of a student.

“[It] is the name of a youth in LAUSD who is going to come back to us a week from today, and they need you — exactly you,” he said, challenging members of the audience to “find that youth, stay with her or him until graduation.”

Only with this degree of one-to-one commitment, he said, can the district hope to achieve a 100 percent graduation rate.

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Deasy on UTLA’s talk of a strike: ‘breathtakingly irresponsible’

John DeasyAs LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy prepared to deliver his “State of the District” speech to school leaders and educators at Garfield High School today, he sat for a wide-ranging interview with LA School Report yesterday, addressing the possibility of a teachers strike, implementation of Common Core, his relationship with the board and the importance of reading, among other issues.

Here’s what he had to say.

Question: As the school year opens, and with only one bargaining session under your belt, UTLA is preparing teachers for the possibility of a strike. How much of that is real and how much is theater for bargaining leverage?

Answer: What is there to strike over? We have yet to receive [UTLA’s] bargaining proposal. We don’t even know what their demand is? I just don’t understand such a language whatsoever. It would strike me as breathtakingly irresponsible to talk about something as great as a strike when we have only had one bargaining session. I would never even have a conversation about something as ludicrous as saying to the public that we might have a strike when we met people once. The gravity of telling parents something like that is breathtakingly irresponsible.

Q: We know what they want: Teachers are demanding a 17.6 percent raise.

What we have offered is a 26.3 percent compensation over three years. We have committed to completely picking up the all district’s pension costs, taking care of all increases in health benefits for the next three years and maintaining all the raises that everybody gets. And that is a non-starter? Someone should clue in the LAPD, who are getting zero.

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Deasy joins President Obama in ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ update

LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy joined other education officials at The White House yesterday as President Obama announced new partnerships to help young men of color gain greater access to programs offering support from pre-K through high school.

The program, which includes private companies, nonprofits and the NBA as participants, represents a $100 million expansion of My Brother’s Keeper, a White House initiative launched early this year.

LA Unified and dozens of other big school districts are involved in the program, which carries goals that been too distant for man black and Hispanic young men, including high attendance rates, fewer suspensions and expulsions and higher graduations rates.

Speaking to The New York Times, Deasy said improving learning and lifetime opportunities for boys of color is “a deep moral commitment issue.” In the video above, Deasy talks to Gwen Ifill of PBS.

Top 6 shockers: how Weingarten and Deasy agree on tenure

Courtesy: Aspen Ideas Festival

Courtesy: Aspen Ideas Festival

The stage was set with the two public education luminaries, ready to square off on such lightning rod issues as tenure and teacher dismissal laws in the wake of last month’s Vergara trial: Randi Weingarten, leader of the nation’s second largest teachers organization, AFT, and Superintendent John Deasy, leader of the second largest school district in the country, Los Angeles Unified.

The Vergara decision, striking down tenure and dismissal laws in California as depriving the state’s most vulnerable students equal access to a quality education, was widely seen as a blow to the teachers union and has moved public opinion toward agreeing with change.

But when Weingarten and Deasy engaged in debate earlier this week at the Aspen Ideas Festival, instead of fireworks, they seemed to find surprising common ground.

Could this be an opportunity for consensus building? Here are some highlights:

1. Weingarten supports speedy dismissal for misconduct!
“Misconduct cases should happen within 100 days not 10 years.”  “If someone is guilty of misconduct they should not be teaching… what we did in New York, frankly, is we actually said, ‘no hearing if you are guilty of misconduct — you don’t get a tenure hearing. You’re guilty, you’re fired.’”
2. Deasy supports tenure!
“I absolutely believe in tenure. I believe that people should have a level of regard, celebration, we’re saying we want you for the rest of your career, hopefully with us, we’re investing in you. And there is a just a level of protection because you have demonstrated you have those skill sets. The issue is — not in a year, in two months — that just doesn’t make sense.”

LAUSD using new ‘equity index’ to restore arts to areas of need

Arts Education LAUSDThe plan to expand arts access for students across LA Unified and restore nearly $16 million in arts funding will include data gathered in a new Arts Equity Index, a tool to identify schools in greatest need of arts instruction.

School board member Steve Zimmer, who proposed the idea at the board meeting Tuesday, called it the most comprehensive arts inventory the district has ever taken.

To determine where arts programs are in greatest need, the Index will consider existing arts instruction at a school, proximity to arts centers or places that offer community based arts activities, and levels of poverty (among other factors which have not yet been defined). The results are intended to generate support in the form of district money, foundation grants, private donations and partnerships with local arts facilities.

“Until now access to arts education has been really about entitlement and luck,” Zimmer told LA School Report. “There are some rockstar arts programs that are concentrated in areas of high poverty, but you have other schools in areas of mid-range need that only get one hour of arts instruction a week.”

For example, schools in downtown LA, which are regarded as high needs campuses in most respects, have access to Inner City Arts, a non-profit arts education provider for many LA Unified schools. These schools, according to Zimmer, would fall to a lower position on the arts index.

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JUST IN: LAUSD school board passes $6.4B budget unanimously

Superintendent John Deasy LAUSD School Board Meeting Final Budget 2014-2015*UPDATE

The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education unanimously approved a $6.4 billion budget for the 2014-15 school year, ending a tumultuous year for the district and Superintendent John Deasy.

The budget represents the first in seven years that does not include cuts from the previous year. It reflects a $332 million injection of statewide revenue over last year, as a result of the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).

The 6-0 vote followed a round of comments by all the members, who praised Deasy for a new approach to resolving contentious issues with a strong effort to include community input, especially when it came to supporting the districts students with the greatest needs.


*Clarifies amount to show only the budget for non-Federal money.

LA Unified board nearing finish line on 2014-2015 budget

Superintendent John Deasy LAUSD budget

Superintendent John Deasy

The long road toward finalizing LA Unified’s budget for the 2014-2015 school year ends later today (maybe) when the school board votes to approve Superintendent John Deasy‘s $7.2 billion spending plan.

The new budget reflects not only added support from the state but also new guidelines for how to use the money, which is earmarked to assist students with the greatest needs.

While approval is expected, the budget plan could undergo last minute changes if members push to alter funding for specific programs, such as school police or a district-wide arts program. It’s possible final approval could be delayed a few days to work out final details, but the district is required by state law to have a budget approved before July 1.

Regardless of when final approval comes, Deasy needs at least four of the current six members to vote yes.


LAUSD board hears final arguments on the budget

LAUSD School Board Meeting LCAP Hearing 6-17-2014 budgetIn a surprising move, the LA Unified Board of Education today moved swiftly through multiple motions that had been expected to be quite contentious. Most board meetings these day, go well into the dinner hour.

The highlight, aside from the meeting lasting less than two and a half hours, was a parade of speakers making their final pleas for funding pet programs in the 2014-2015 budget. The budget is scheduled to be finalized and approved by the board on June 24.

The speakers were students, parents, teachers and union officials, including the in-coming UTLA president, Alex Caputo-Pearl, whose microphone was shut off when he exceeded the two-minute time limit. In general, they all offered congratulations if the board is funding programs they liked and criticism if the funding fell short of expectations.

In any event, the $7.8 billion budget, as devised by Superintendent John Deasy, is virtually set, barring any last minute changes, and it’s doubtful that anything anyone said today will make much difference.

In more routine action, the board approved Bennett Kayser’s resolution to reappoint Stuart Magruder, the Bond Oversight Committee member who was essentially booted off the panel in a campaign lead by board member Tamar Galatzan.

She had accused Magruder of “overstepping his bounds” on the committee and temporarily succeeded in blocking him from serving another two-year term.

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Groups pushing ‘need index’ helping LAUSD shape the budget

Alberto Retana Community Coalition LAUSD

Alberto Retana, Executive Vice President of Community Coalition

Among the challenges poor kids in south LA are forced to overcome just to meet the most basic learning conditions in schools, are cockroaches.

Not in their classrooms. In their bodies.

LA Unified students in neighborhoods like South Gate and Watts regularly visit health clinics to have the insects that crawl inside their ears, plucked out,  Alberto Retana, Executive Vice President of Community Coalition, one of three groups that developed the Student Need Index, told LA School Report.

“How can you learn in a classroom if you have a cockroach in your ear that stems from poor housing conditions in the community?” he asked rhetorically. “You can’t. There is a link there.”

And it’s one of several links Retana hopes Superintendent John Deasy makes today when the LA schools chief unveils his plan to distribute $837 million in supplemental and concentration funding for three groups of students with specific needs for academic achievement — foster youth, English learners, and those from lower-income households — to the district’s neediest schools.

Deasy has been instructed by the board to devise a formula using his own set of indicators and data to target the money where the need is greatest and where it will have the biggest impact on academic outcomes.

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Public gets last chance to shape LAUSD 2014-2015 budget

Superintendent John Deasy LAUSD*UPDATED

The revised budget is in the hands of the LA Unified Board of Education, but the public has a final opportunity tomorrow to weigh in on how the district’s $7 billion budget will be spent.

The board has set a limit of 30 speakers to address the six members for two minutes each, to advocate for their causes célèbres.

But in all likelihood, the budget presented last week by Superintendent John Deasy and the spending plan that reflects the new revenue from the state’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) will not change significantly after parents, students and community leaders have their say. In fact, there’s very little the board members can do, either, as the budget approaches a final vote on June 24 and presentation to the LA County Office of Education before July 1.

School board members cannot veto line items. To adjust spending in a particular area, a member must raise the issue for discussion, make recommendations on where to find an offset, then persuade a majority of colleagues to agree to the changes.

“I don’t think that’s going to be happening,” Chris Torres, Chief of Staff for board President Richard Vladovic, told LA School Report. “The board members have expressed everything they’ve needed to express in the past meetings.”

The only item on the agenda that may impact the budget is Bennett Kayser’s resolution to invest $44 million over the next three years in early education. His motion would earmark $10 million for the upcoming school year, $14 million in 2015-2016 and $20 million in 2016-2017.

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Teachers union planning a salary rally at LAUSD board meeting

UTLA logo teachers unionThe LA Unified board meeting on June 17 might be more crowded than usual.

UTLA, the teachers union, is planning a noon press conference outside the district’s downtown headquarters and handing out leaflets to call attention to the board’s demand for “a fair pay raise” for the coming years.

The union’s activities come at a precarious time. The 2014-2015 budget is almost complete, pending a final review and vote by the board, which is scheduled for June 24.

At this point, the district has offered the teachers a 2 percent raise for the academic year just ending, and another 2 percent for the coming year. By contrast, the union is demanding a 17.6 percent increase over an unspecific number of years.

The distance between them and the number of days left before the budget has to be completed, about two weeks, suggests that teachers might begin the new school year under salary terms of the old school year.

The union says in an advisory on its website that members will attend the meeting to demand “a fair pay raise that respects educators’ work and our financial sacrifices during the recession” and “authentic resources and support for our schools—such as lower class size and direct services to students—instead of (Superintendent John) Deasy-driven priorities and more out-of-classroom positions.”

The board is allowing 30 people to appear at the meeting to argue their case. If enough union members get there in time, they can grab all the slots.

A change in communications for LAUSD’s Tom Waldman

Tom Waldman, the communications director

Tom Waldman, the communications director

Tom Waldman is moving on, although he’s not going far.

The Director of Communications for LA Unified is stepping into a new role with the district: the newly created post as Executive Director of Board Communications.

Taking on the role, which was Superintendent John Deasy’s idea, means Waldman will work with the school board, exclusively. He will field all media communications for the six, soon to be seven, board members, and he’ll manage communications between them and Deasy.

“There’s a misconception that there’s bad relationship between the superintendent and the board, so this is a way to work on tightening that relationship,” Waldman told LA School Report.

Waldman took over district communications and media relations about three years ago. From 2007 to July 2011, he was chief of staff to school board member Tamar Galatzan.

Deasy’s Special Assistant, Lydia Ramos, will take over as the head of the district’s communications office starting in mid-July.

“This is a return to the communications office and to journalism for me,” said Ramos, who worked as a Public Information Officer between 2008 to 2011.

“My first day as a journalist was almost exactly 20 years ago,” she recalled. “I remember because my very first day at NBC, I was waiting for O.J. Simpson to show up to court. Of course he never did.” That’s the day he hit the road in the white Bronco, cop cars and cameras hot on his tail in a slow chase.

Waldman, the TV host

Waldman, the TV host

Ramos says she wants to celebrate LA Unified’s “major initiatives.”  She added, “Our parents and our teachers are the public…we need to tell them our story.”

As for Waldman, if the new gig doesn’t work out, he can always rely on his other job — hosting a TV series on KLCS called “Rock N’ Roll Stories,” in which he interviews musicians. He sometimes wears a leather jacket.

Deasy’s revised budget for LAUSD a ‘doggone’ improvement

LAUSD Superintendent John DeasyThe LA Unified Board of Education got one step closer yesterday to approving Superintendent John Deasy’s 2014-15 school budget. And unless the six-member board makes radical changes over the next two weeks, his work, which includes plans for divvying up $332 million in new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) monies, will carry the day.

Passage would signify a major political triumph for Deasy, winning board approval on his version of a near $7 billion budget, eight months after friction with the board left him considering resignation.

As part of the budget, Deasy also presented the board an updated and revised version of the district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), a state-mandated action to demonstrate how districts will spend new money from the state for low-income students, foster youth and English language learners.

The new proposal was supposed to be the culmination of months of input from community groups, educators, parents, and students who have expressed their spending preferences at public meetings and board meetings. But it included only minor changes from the initial plan, presented in April.

“The dollars portion of the LCAP haven’t changed; it’s the goals of the plan that have been expanded,” Edgar Zazueta, LA Unified’s chief lobbyist, told LA School Report.

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