Reforms

Civic leaders mobilizing to support LA schools chief


LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy

A University of California regent is gathering support from civic, business and philanthropic leaders to pressure the seven member Board of Education of the Los Angeles Unified School District to “make every effort” to retain the services of John Deasy, its embattled school superintendent.

George Kieffer, a prominent attorney in the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, is seeking signatures from well-known Los Angelenos for a letter to the board that he is circulating. The letter highlights the divisions that have opened up regarding Deasy’s shaky status and rumors of his possible departure.

The letter describes a “tremendous sense of disappointment, approaching anger that the Los Angeles community is feeling” as a result of the ongoing conflicts between Deasy and the board.

A number of other actions are being planned for this week on Deasy’s behalf, including press conferences and rallies before the Board of Education. The United Way of Greater Los Angeles is convening the coalition of community and civic groups it  helped organize last spring, Communities for Los Angeles Student Success, or CLASS, and will hold a telephone conference call of its members on Monday morning to plan its mobilization efforts.

UC Regent George Kieffer. Credit: UC Office of the President

UC Regent George Kieffer. Credit: UC Office of the President

The letter being circulated by Kieffer asserts that “the leadership of the business community and the non-profit community strongly supports Superintendent Deasy and we encourage the school board to meet with him immediately to work out a plan to continue his tenure as our Superintendent of Schools.”  It notes the multiple reforms currently under way in the district, and concludes by saying “it will be very difficult to make good decisions for our children if we do not have a strong and experienced leader in the superintendent’s office. ”

“Firing Superintendent Deasy, or making his life so miserable that he has no choice but to leave, is not in the best interests of the students of Los Angeles,” the letter states.

What seems clear is that the city’s power structure is likely to mostly back Deasy.

Mayor Eric Garcetti has already come out unequivocally in support of Deasy. “I think the adults at the school district, across the board, need to remember that there are kids who (will be) the collateral damage to any loss of leadership, any loss of momentum, and any dysfunction and fighting,” he said las week.

He indirectly criticized the board of micromanaging, saying, “a board is there to set policy, is there to guide the direction. But at the end of the day, they are not the ones who are supposed to run the district. That’s supposed to be the superintendent.”

One clear opponent has been the United Teachers Los Angeles – whose members approved a referendum expressing no confidence in Deasy, who succeeded Ramon Cortines in 2011 – and gave him failing grades last summer.

A Los Angeles Times article reported last Thursday that Deasy had proffered his resignation, but Deasy in a text message to EdSource on the same evening said “I have not resigned. Have not submitted letter of resignation.” But he has not publicly addressed reports that he has told some board members that he intends to resign, or is contemplating doing so.

Matters could come to a head on Tuesday, when he is scheduled to go through an performance evaluation in a closed session with the board.

The rapidly approaching evaluation may have prompted the letter being circulated by Kieffer. Kieffer was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown during his second term as governor in 1980 to serve on the Board of Governors for the California Community Colleges, where he eventually became chair. He was chair of the L.A. Charter Review Commission, which rewrote the city’s charter. He was twice elected chair of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. Even though the chamber opposed the recall of then Gov. Gray Davis, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – who ousted Davis in the recall election – appointed Kieffer to a 12-year term on UC Board of Regents in 2009.

Kieffer did not respond to an email from EdSource seeking a comment on the letter.

The following is the full text of the letter:

Dear Members of the Board of Education:

This letter is to inform you of the tremendous sense of disappointment, approaching anger, that the Los Angeles community is feeling today because of the inability of the School Board to develop a plan with Superintendent Deasy to move forward together for the benefit of the students of the Los Angeles Unified School District (“LAUSD”).

LAUSD has seen important gains across the board in student achievement over the last few years. Under LAUSD Superintendent Dr. John Deasy’s leadership, the District has improved student test scores and other student success indicators such as the number of students accessing college preparation courses. It has also seen decreases in student drop-out rates and truancy rates.

The District is embarking on a massive roll out of professional development and technology tools that will prepare teachers and students to implement the new, and highly more rigorous, state education Common Core standards and student assessments. Further tests to Dr. Deasy’s leadership will be presented as the District prepares to develop its Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), as part of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) that was passed by the State Legislature and signed by the Governor earlier this year. The LCFF is a much needed step in the right direction to ensure that all California schools receive equitable funds from the state.

All of these and other important initiatives are crucial to ensure students are succeeding academically and graduating prepared for college and 21st century competitive careers.

We believe that John Deasy has the unique skills and commitment necessary to move the district forward on each of these topics. The leadership of the business community and the non-profit community strongly supports Superintendent Deasy and we encourage the School Board to meet with him immediately to work out a plan to continue his tenure as our Superintendent of Schools.

In the next few months, and for the first time in several years due to an increase in funding, the Board will make critical decisions about the budget and technology programs. It will be very difficult to make good decisions for our children if we do not have a strong and experienced leader in the Superintendent’s office.

Firing Superintendent Deasy, or making his life so miserable that he has no choice but to leave, is not in the best interests of the students of Los Angeles. We urge you to pull the board together and make every effort to retain one of the top Superintendents in the country.

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14 Responses to “Civic leaders mobilizing to support LA schools chief”

  1. navigio said

    on October 29, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    I expect anyone who cares already knows, but just in case: Deasy’s contract got extended to 2016. So much for conflict with the board..

    • navigio replied

      on October 30, 2013 at 11:39 am

      I wonder whether the Super and the Board will have the integrity to publicly talk about what exactly is meant by ‘satisfactory’ (the rating it gave Superintendent Deasy, which extended the length of his contract). Since this is the second largest school district in the country and serves over a tenth of all CA schoolchildren, it would seem that his approaches should be adopted state and even country wide.

      “[Charters schools] are in many ways the gorilla in the room of public education in this country. There is no question any longer that charters are a viable and necessary opportunity to serve all youth. That conversation is gone. The conversation is what will the traditional public school system look like as a result of this.”
      – John Deasy

      gulp.

      • el replied

        on October 30, 2013 at 1:55 pm

        Fun fact I learned about charters. All those public hearings we’re supposed to have and public input we’re supposed to do for the LCFF spending/accountability plans… won’t apply to charters and their plan development. Charter boards are private entities and don’t have Brown Act obligations in the same way districts do.

  2. Manuel said

    on October 29, 2013 at 10:06 am

    This is a tragedy ending in farce.

    Who is this “Los Angeles community” Mr. Kieffer talks about? Is it the organizations that make up CLASS? Or is it the people that send their kids to LAUSD schools as well as those who work there as janitors, teachers, staff, and administrators?

    The “accomplishments” Mr. Kieffer cites are laughable. The District increased its test scores, but not much better than the rest of the state. In fact, LAUSD failed to reach the goals that Mr. Deasy set in his “Performance Matrix.” Access to college preparation courses? Where is proof of that? Are there more AP courses being taught and are those students passing the AP exams? That’s what counts, not empty sentences.

    Sure, drop-out rates have changed, but it is an accounting trick that was once reported at this site. Truancy rates have not dropped, last time I looked.

    The technology tool roll out Mr. Kieffer is referring to has been marred by problems. Most glaring is the inability of Mr. Deasy’s staff to answer simple questions posed at public meetings. And this is not technology by any stretch of the imagination: iPads are the equivalent of toasters when it comes to technology as they are wonderful conveyors of media and nothing else.

    Professional development for the Common Core should have taken place two years ago but Mr. Deasy never bothered to implement early measures. Instead, resources were devoted to create a Value Added Method to grade teachers and schools based on a set of tests known to be terminated within two years. Is this the mark of a forward-looking administrator?

    Mr. Kieffer refers to the Mr. Deasy’s leadership in implementing the LCFF. This is demonstrably wrong as LAUSD has yet to produce a budget that reflects the funding changes brought about by LCFF as it was supposed to by state law. To date, nothing has been communicated to the community on how LAUSD intends to allocate funding other than saying “the Board will decide.” How can the Board decide when it has no idea what the funding level is other than the budget presented to them on June 18?

    Mr. Deasy has not been a good manager if Mr. Kieffer’s points are scrutinized. No good manager would threaten to resign because s/he is not allowed to spend nearly one billion dollars of bond money on non-durable equipment with little scrutiny.

    Mr. Deasy needs to go.

    (And I have not even talked about dissatisfaction and unrest among principals and teachers…)

  3. Zane W. de Arakal Ed.,D said

    on October 29, 2013 at 1:00 am

    LAUSD is too big to manage. Accordingly, its superintendent should not ride point pushing distribution of student computers in view of so many major issues facing the LAUSD. The chief officer should work at the cabinet level in public relations, politics, trustee interface, the instructional program, quality control of personnel, and finance.

  4. Sharen said

    on October 28, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    It’s amazing how all the folks supporting Deasy are in business – and unless they are in the business of charters, none of them are real educators! George Kieffer is in stunning denial of the fact that 91 percent of the teachers have no confidence in Deasy as a school superintendent! In light of the recent iPad debacle, how he can make statements like the one below, is laughable!

    In the next few months, and for the first time in several years due to an increase in funding, the Board will make critical decisions about the budget and technology programs. It will be very difficult to make good decisions for our children if we do not have a strong and experienced leader in the Superintendent’s office.

  5. TheMorrigan said

    on October 28, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    I am a little concerned with how this whole situation has played out. First, Deasy is set to resign (did he leak the that or did someone on the board leak it?). Then Deasy states that he “may” resign and it depends on how his performance evaluation goes (this suggests that he does not expect a rosy review and he wants outside intervention to come and save him? Or perhaps this is a distraction?). However this truly played out, someone is playing the Game of Thrones here.

  6. Mary Johnson, Parent-U-Turn said

    on October 28, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    Deasy now know how the parents felt when he got rid of the District Advisory Council and others parent advisory councils. In the past Los Angeles Unified School District, where I live, broad-based community exclusion of parents and community members has been standard practice for many, many years under Deasy watch. Parents representing all manner of needs, ethnicities, languages, backgrounds, neighborhoods, etc. have routinely participated in the planning, formation and implementation of programs and curriculum, with great benefits to the children and their families before Deasy. Under Deasy, he single handedly expels thousands of key stakeholders from the educational planning and decision-making table.This reversal in course on parental involvement worries parents because we know that energized parents are the key to all educational improvement, so out with Deasy and bring in someone that want to work with all stakeholders of the District.

  7. Bonnie said

    on October 28, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    Will this Board Meeting be streamed?

    This meeting promises to offer significant theatre – involving the strength of direct corporate backers vs. those who see themselves as the guardians of the trust for true public education.

  8. XYZ said

    on October 28, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    Good point: how many of the people who are supporting him have or have had their children in LAUSD schools. That is the core of it.

  9. navigio said

    on October 28, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    I wonder how many of the notables making noise would send their kids to an LAUSD school.

    Anyway, looks like things are heating up. Laschoolreport says a new agenda for the meeting has been published with one addition: consultations with attorneys over the ‘superintendent separation’.

    http://laschoolreport.com/new-item-on-board-agenda-separation-from-deasy/

    -

  10. George Buzzetti said

    on October 28, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    He is going to have a bad day tomorrow and his friends who want to rob our children of their future. They have already made the fatal mistakes in their arrogant moves. We have the documents to take them down. Watch the pros tomorrow. It is going to be real fun as for the first time we have the TV screen for our power points from now on in writing from the district. Have a good day going down in flames astroturf group CLASS.

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