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Deciphering the Kayser Letter (updated)

Hillel Aron | July 22, 2013

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242764260-07182006Reporters were left scrambling late Friday afternoon when they received copies of a letter sent by School Board member Bennett Kayser to Superintendent John Deasy, asking Deasy to develop a “succession plan” for the superintendent and other senior staff.

The letter was littered with typos: The date at the top read “7/19/23.” The word “therefore” was spelled “therefor.” The word “prescribed” was spelled “proscribed,” which has an altogether different meaning. And the overall tone was strangely vague, leaving some with the impression that this was the first sign of a move to fire Deasy, although Kayser insisted otherwise.

“I simply want to know who the person is that is designated to step into the superintendent’s shoes when he is out of town, as he was this week, and who he has trained and expects to step in were the unexpected to happen; no more, no less,” Kayser said in a statement given to the LA Times

Indeed, Deasy and some members of his senior staff were in Washington, D.C. last week lobbying the federal government on behalf of nine California school districts for a “No Child Left Behind” waiver. A source close the the school board told LA School Report that Kayser and his chief of staff, Sarah Bradshaw, had tried to contact Deasy last week and could not reach him. The impetus of the letter, then, was what to do when Deasy was out of town, and who was steering the ship. But use of the phrase, “succession plan” — perhaps deliberately — confused matters, making it seem like a move to replace the embattled Superintendent.

“To some degree, Sarah Bradshaw is right,” said the source, pointing to a need to clarify who’s in charge when the superintendent is away. But, he added, “to some degree Sarah Bradshaw is a trouble maker. She’s going to antagonize Deasy, through Kayser, every chance she gets.”

{Update: Deasy told LA School Report that Kayser’s office never tried to contact him when he was away. He said other school board members had no trouble, reaching him on his cell phone. He added that when he is out of town, Deputy Superintendent Michelle King is in charge — “as every board office knows.”}

Of all the Board member chiefs of staff, none has a stronger influence than Bradshaw, who also served as chief of staff for former board member David Tokofsky. Under Kayser, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, she appears quite active in both communicating to the press and developing policy.

Bradshaw and Deasy have a long history of antipathy — at one point, they were reportedly not speaking to each other. And Kayser has been, since his election in 2011, Deasy’s chief antagonist on the school board, introducing a slew of resolutions aimed at challenging the superintendent’s agenda, many of which get withdrawn shortly before the board meeting.

The “succession” letter, which carries no authority unless it is put into a resolution and passed by the majority of board members, could therefore be seen as just another poke in the eye to Deasy by Kayser and Bradshaw.

One reason for the rampant speculation about the letter was the timing, its release coming so soon after the election of a new board president, Dr. Richard Vladovic, who is currently on vacation. Vladovic’s office reportedly had no knowledge of the letter until staff members read about it in the LA Times.

Previous posts: Is Kayser Pushing Deasy Out the Door?Unions Send Letter of Concern over Deasy CommentsVladovic Defeats Galatzan for Board PresidentDeasy Skirmish With Board Members a Long Time Coming

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