What’s next *if* Deasy is out? Speculation abounds
Vanessa Romo | September 17, 2014
The possibility that LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy will no longer be at the helm of the nation’s second largest school district – whether by choice or by force – is looming ever larger as the deadline for his annual evaluation approaches, leaving some district officials to speculate over how to replace him.
The seven-member elected school board, often split between Deasy supporters and Deasy critics, could deem his performance over the last year “unsatisfactory” at a his annual review slated for next month, automatically preventing his contract from rolling over into a new year.
Or Deasy could choose to quit.
A number of sources say he has grown tired of defending himself amid a growing controversy over whether emails exchanged with vendors, including Apple and Pearson, were appropriate before the bidding process began in the $500 million dollar purchase of iPads for the district. He says the issue is fabricated by those trying to oust him, but has admitted he’s lost confidence in his ability to continue working alongside the fractured school board.
Under either departure scenario, several district officials say even with the warning shots, the process for finding a replacement will be long and arduous.
It’s up to the school board to set new hiring guidelines and processes, says Executive Officer of the school board, Jefferson Crain. “Only they can decide how they want to do it and how long it will take,” he said.
But no one is saying it will be easy.
“The truth is there aren’t a lot of superintendents out there who have run any government agency of this size,” a district staffer told LA School Report. “That leaves LAUSD with a very short list of candidates with actual experience.”
In its 2006 search for a new leader, the school board deliberated for about seven months before landing on David Brewer, a retired Vice Admiral of the United States Navy with no experience in education. The recruitment process included a citizens commission, a head-hunting firm, and a second review committee. Nonetheless, Brewer’s tenure was short, marred by the rocky launch of a new payroll system and disappointment in his lack of vision and leadership for the district. Despite being ousted by the board after just two years, the district agreed to pay him over 500,000 dollars to buyout the remainder of his contract.
Within a month, Ramon Cortines, who had been brought in by Brewer to operate the district day-to-day, was tapped by the board to serve as the next chief in 2009. A former superintendent of schools in New York and education deputy under Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaragosia, Cortines was credited with improving school performance, but announced he would retire after just 18 months.
One of his last acts was to hire John Deasy to be No. 2 at the district, and the board voted to promote him to superintendent in 2011.
While speculation on recruiting a new superintendent is becoming a pastime among insiders, it could be premature, as events last year demonstrated.
Almost exactly a year ago in advance of his annual review, Deasy either threatened to quit or was about to be fired, depending on who is speaking. (See story here). But by the end of a tense, closed-door session, the superintendent and the board emerged with a new signed contract through 2016.
And some are recommending caution.
“It is not a given that the board is going to give [Deasy] a negative review,” said Steve Zimmer, one of the school board members who is credited with brokering the deal last year.
“I’m not ready to say where I will land, I’m just willing to say it will be a comprehensive evaluation. It will include all of Deasy’s strong successes, and where improvement is absolutely going to be needed.”