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Analysis: A deal between Deasy and the board? No real surprise

Michael Janofsky | October 2, 2014

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Superintendent John Deasy LAUSD

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy

So now we have a hint of what the LA Unified board members were discussing during the four hours they met in private Tuesday night.

Part of the conversation dealt with finding a way to reach a financial settlement with Superintendent John Deasy to remove him from his post, as the LA Times reported this morning.

Who could be surprised?

The talks suggest that a majority of board members want Deasy gone, and Deasy himself has told people he has grown weary of dealing with incessant criticism — some deserved, some irrational — from board members who do not share his vision for the district and from a teachers union that views him as the embodiment of evil.

Setting aside all that toxicity, what the board doesn’t want is for Deasy’s employment to come down to a show of hands. That’s the plan for now. His performance review scheduled for Oct. 21, and a negative vote could start the countdown.

It seems apparent by the talks that the board would prefer a swifter resolution. Why? Lots of reasons.

Let’s start with the most obvious: Each member of the board would have to defend the vote he or she casts. Four of them are facing re-election early next year, and voters in their districts might not have the same feelings toward Deasy as a board member who follows him blindly or as a member who parrots the teachers union.

Yes, Deasy has ultimate responsibility for the disruptive events in the iPad and MiSiS programs. But he has also presided over improved academic performance and steadily rising graduation rates.

Further, it was the board, after all, that approved every one of Deasy’s steps and missteps, never mind a member’s day-later confessions of regret. Whatever happened, right or wrong, the board approved it.

Next, the district has been subsumed by a constant barrage of negativity. Reports of rising test scores and higher graduation rates are routinely overshadowed by the next example of blunder in the iPad and MiSiS adventures. The teachers union has been especially vocal on that score with outrage that obscures the fact that higher test scores, higher graduations rates and fewer dropouts reflect as well on teachers — maybe even better — than it does on Deasy.

Finally, crafting a settlement agreement unites the board as nothing else possibly could, even if the action appears to some city residents as cowardly. Even Deasy’s frequent supporters, Tamar Galatzan and Monica Garcia, can support a deal if it seems fair to Deasy, giving the board a united voice in saying, “Thanks, John. Have a nice life.”

So then what. The board appoints an interim — Deasy’s deputy Michelle King has raised her hand for the job — and a search begins for the district’s fifth superintendent since the turn of the century.

No doubt, the board members will seek out the most un-Deasy-like person they can find. Maybe that’s good, in a way. The board gets a few Kumbaya years with a go-along to get-along superintendent who slows the pace of change, builds on the positive student performance of the Deasy years and satisfies a teachers union that has been threatening to strike for higher salaries, the end of teacher evaluations, elimination of teacher jail and a return to pre-recession staffing levels.

Of course, the new superintendent gets the old superintendent’s budget, but that’s another story.

For now, though, the board has to decide the terms of disengagement: A thumbs up or down vote later this month or a clean deal that leaves both sides with genuine smiles of relief, each happy to be done with the other. Or maybe Deasy just decides he’s had enough and walks away.

Short of a performance evaluation, the only people who really get shortchanged are district voters. They’ll never get a full accounting from the school board members they elected of how they judged the good that Deasy brought to LA Unified against the issues they found untenable. 

Previous Posts: Board emerges from private meeting with no decision on Deasy; Deasy deputy expresses interest in serving as interim superintendent; Future of Deasy moves behind closed doors in board meeting

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