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Deasy, MiSiS, union talks among big issues before LAUSD board

Vanessa Romo | October 13, 2014

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 LA Unified school boardThe LA Unified school board is entering one of its most crucial periods of the year, meeting again tomorrow to deliberate a change at the top, the on-going contract negotiations with the teachers union and a solution to a range of scheduling problems at Jefferson High School.

Nothing is more urgent than what happens to Superintendent John Deasy, whose tenure has come into question over a myriad of issues, including the district’s iPad program, relations with the teachers union, UTLA, and problems the new student-tracking system, MiSiS, which his critics blame for the mess at Jefferson.

Even with Deasy visiting South Korea through the end of the week, the board will resume a closed-door discussion on his future, following a session last week in which the members discussed the parameters of his annual performance review, scheduled for Oct. 21.

Board members later acknowledged that they discussed offering Deasy an exit package to leave before the end of his contract in June 2016. Lawyers began negotiations but through last week, no deal was in place.

The board is also free to fire Deasy at any time, but that is not considered a likely scenario at the moment.

“Frankly, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said one official close to the situation.

Alongside the uncertainties involving Deasy are the negotiations between the district and the teachers union for a new contract. The board will get an update tomorrow, but there’s not much to update, with the union now asking for even more in salary raises, 10 percent a year, then it did in its opening salvo, 8.8 percent. The district has responded by telling the union such a high demand would push the district budget deficit well past $1 billion.

And now Jefferson High School has entered the list of emergency issues with a state Superior Court judge in Alameda, George Hernandez, ordering the district to fix an array of scheduling problems that have left many students without proper classes and educational time since the school year began, following the launch of district’s new student data software, MiSiS.

The judge also told Deasy to identify the resources needed to fix the problems and develop a remediation plan to present at the board meeting. A task force is expected to explain to the board tomorrow how to resolve remaining issues.

Two other MiSiS related issues are coming before the board: The first is another update from the Information Technology Division on how it’s handling widespread software problems. There’s little doubt it will involve more apologies about the system’s failures, especially in light of Judge Hernandez’s order. Second, the board will vote on a resolution to spend $3.6 million on buying more than 3,300 desktop computers for staff members at schools who use MiSiS on a regular basis.

Ron Chandler, the district’s Chief Information Officer, has said school computers at most campuses are too old to run MiSiS programs, a problem his office did not consider when developing the software.

Board member Tamar Galatzan’s proposal to lower the threshold for federal Title I funding is back. The original measure, which sought to bring Title I dollars to any school in which 40 percent of students or more are from low-income families, failed in a 3 to 3 vote last November.

This latest version by Galatzan calls for Deasy to commission an analysis of previous years’ Title I surplus revenue and how it was spent. Apparently, the district historically has a multimillion-dollar carryover of Title I revenue. Galatzan’s plan is to use any surplus to fund schools with Title I enrollments of 40-40.9 percent, beginning with the 2015-16 school year.

The Title I cutoff was raised to 50 percent after federal education dollars were reduced by nine percent in 2011.

Galatzan has teamed up with Bennett Kayser and Monica Ratliff to commission another study about the implications of deleting emails in a short period of time, including the possibility they may be needed for litigation or to fulfill Public Records Act requests. The three, who are rarely on the same side of issues, have banded together to have a task force in place by the end of the month to review the district’s Records Retention and Destruction Policy and report back with recommendations in January.

Ratliff and Kayser are calling for the district to declassify all reports from the Inspector General’s office related to the procurement of iPads purchased for the district’s one-to-one program. Ratliff is also pushing to make it easier to report fraud to the Inspector General by making a “Hotline” button on the district’s homepage easier to access.

The board will also consider a previously tabled vote that would require charter management organizations to notify parents when their children’s school is in jeopardy of losing the charter. The measure, originally proposed by Galatzan, has been modified and now includes Kayser and George McKenna as co-sponsors.

But it has been amended so that it also requires charter schools to inform parents of a range of other changes and actions involving such subjects as play space, teacher credential status, staff pay scale, instruction materials, special education services, curriculum content, food service and caloric content.

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