In Partnership with 74

Board emerges from private meeting with no decision on Deasy

Vanessa Romo | October 1, 2014

Your donation will help us produce journalism like this. Please give today.

Superintendent John Deasy

Superintendent John Deasy

John Deasy is still the LA Unified superintendent.

After four hours behind closed doors last night, the district school board emerged with nothing to say. For Deasy, who did not attend the meeting, that was a plus, because it meant that the members might have talked about his performance, but they didn’t take a vote to fire him.

“To be continued,” board president Richard Vladovic said as he left district headquarters, without being clear whether he meant the board discussions or Deasy’s employment. “We haven’t decided anything.”

He also said the members agreed not to discuss their deliberations publicly. 

This was a meeting that was only recently added to the board schedule, honoring a request from Monica Ratliff who thought the members would be well-served by a preliminary discussion about what parameters to use when Deasy’s performance review comes up on Oct. 21. 

Some metrics appear automatic, like academic performance, graduation rates and attendance. His $330,000 annual contract, which has been altered over the years, stipulates that he must increase district revenues, though it does not specify by how much; he must boost enrollment by 5 percent each year and improve daily attendance by 1 percent district-wide and 3 percent at targeted schools.

But other issues have pushed their way to the fore, not least Deasy’s handling of the iPad program, from its early procurement days to the actual rollout. Deasy has been criticized for his emails that suggest he steered the bidding process, for the price paid for the devices and for problems with them in classrooms.

More recently, he has drawn fire for the enduring issues with a new student-tracking computer system that has led to additional classroom disruptions and angry teachers who say the system is scrambling student schedules and instruction time.

There’s also a more amorphous issue, that some members just don’t like his gung-ho management style.  One clause in his contract says the board gets to rate his ability to maintain “good relations” with the board, communications, and responsiveness on a scale from 1 to 5. 

The challenge for the board is deciding which factors should prevail in an evaluation that will determine whether he stays or goes. If they judge him no worse than “satisfactory,” his contract extends another year, to 2017. With anything less, he’s gone in 19 months,  by terms of the contact.

A third possibility exists, that he would negotiate a severance package and resign before Oct. 21. So far Deasy has given no indication he  is engaged in such talks.

The likely result? For sure, a strong opposition is aligned against him, with five members of the board viewed publicly as critics. Further, the teachers union, UTLA, under the new leadership of Alex Caputo-Pearl, has turned up the heat and volume against Deasy in their demands for a new labor contract.

Calling on him to restore seven years of layoffs and cuts, the union is demanding far more in salary increases —  17.6 percent over two years — than the district has offered in its one and only proposal, raises of 2 percent, 2 percent and 2.5 percent over three years, so long as the money is there.

Deasy has his supporters, people around the city who trust his basic instincts, that lifting children out of poverty through education is a civil right worth fighting for, even if his methods are too strong for some. Two outside groups of civic leaders and community groups emerged yesterday, sending letters to the board members urging them to give Deasy a fair shake for the sake of district students.

How much that might sway the board members — if at all — remains to be seen.

Read Next