LA Unified opens its doors for a new school year tomorrow, and despite an especially contentious few months for LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, he’s all optimism.
In Part One of a two-part interview, LA School Report contributor Vanessa Romo talks with Deasy about his relationship with teachers, the challenges of pioneering the new Common Core curriculum and the possibility that district-wide test scores might fall this year.
Q: Despite the upward trend of metrics that suggest the district is making progress – rising API scores, increasing graduation rates, and a significant reduction in suspension rates – the vast majority of respondents* to a teachers’ union survey found your performance either “below average” or “poor”, especially when it comes to morale and spending money. How do you answer your critics?
A: I can make no sense of it whatsoever. I have a fantastic relationship with the teachers of this district. Our teachers are doing a phenomenal job. I’ve been calling on the Board to give teachers and all employees a raise. I admire them, and I’m not confused about my mission, which is to lift youth out of poverty.
If you want to get technical about it, I don’t spend money. I make recommendations, and the [school] board decides. So since my recommendation is that 96 cents of every dollar go to schools, I don’t even know how to respond to that statement. I’m looking for partners to do this work with the teachers union leadership. I would love to have a partner to advance this work and recognize great teaching.
(*About 27 percent of the union’s 32,000 members participated in the survey.)
Q: In a speech at the teachers’ union leadership conference, UTLA President Warren Fletcher said you have conducted a “witch hunt” on teachers, and that Los Angeles “has become the teacher dismissal capital of California. While LAUSD employs about 10 percent of the state’s teachers, the district accounts for nearly 40 percent of California’s teacher dismissal cases.” Are you on a witch hunt?
A: Of course not. The board recommends to dismiss teachers when they harm children. Like when they sleep with a child or do drugs with a child or strike a child or steal money from the system; that’s when people get dismissed. I think those are morally obligatory reasons to have no one working with a child.
I don’t criticize the union, and I don’t criticize their leadership. I think the record is explicitly clear, I’ve never actually had a criticism out loud of Warren Fletcher. But I certainly hope he wants to be a partner for the new $30 million in federal money to honor classroom practice that’s in Race to the Top. I hope they don’t leave that money on the table again.