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LAUSD keeps no written records of Deasy performance reviews

Michael Janofsky | September 29, 2014

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Deasy comments on education politics

Superintendent John Deasy

As the LA Unified school board prepares to meet privately tomorrow to discuss how to evaluate Superintendent John Deasy in his performance review next month, it might be instructive to have a look at the board’s previous evaluations of him to understand what criteria they used.

Except for one thing: They don’t exist.

None of Deasy’s previous performance reviews has been codified, which is to say, there’s no record explain any vote cast.

A request to the district for past evaluations was answered quickly with one sentence from the legal department: “There are no documents that would respond to your request.”

The lack of written records of Deasy’s review is clearly a decision of this board and its president, Richard Vladovic, but it’s unclear, the department said, if previous boards have submitted them for other superintendents. (LA School Report has asked the district to do some digging.)

There is no law requiring the board to create a written or digital record of a superintendent’s evaluation. But the absence of a written report would suggest that no individual member could be held accountable for reasons voting for or against continued employment — a key measure for voters in considering school board election choices.

Deasy’s contract with the district says the board “may consider” such goals as 100 percent graduation, proficiency for all students, 100 percent attendance, “engaged parents and families” and “safety of schools.”

Combine the use of “may consider” and the imprecision of some of the goals, and it’s a pretty subjective accounting method. So it will remain unknown, for example, whether improved academic performance districtwide, falling dropout rates and rising attendance rates carry as much weight as his handling of the iPad program.

All the public learns is that following a decision to retain or dismiss the superintendent, the board announces the vote and nothing more, which was the case last year, when the board said Deasy had been retained in a 5-1 vote — Monica Ratliff abstained — triggering a one-year contract extension, to 2016.

Part of the discussion in tomorrow’s closed session is to kick around ideas for what criteria can be used this time to “evaluate” Deasy when his performance review arrives on Oct. 21 — whether anything is recorded or not.

Earlier this week, Bennett Kayser’s office circulated to the other board members a brief from the California School Boards Association called “Defining Governance.” It’s a best-practices document that includes a section on “The importance of board commitments in the areas of core beliefs, productive partnerships and board values, norms and protocols.”

As part of “board performance,” it suggests that “effective boards hold themselves accountable.” It also says, “Holding the superintendent accountable for results is a critical practice of effective boards.”

It’s silent on any requirement or recommendation that a board create a written record of its deliberations, including what criteria were used as a reason to take action one way or another.

But the absence of a written review on Deasy denies future boards the ability to learn from others’ experience and deprives parents insight into decisions made by board representatives they elected.

The state school boards association brief relied, to some degree, on research by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation included in its report, School Board Governance Guide.

The guide says, “Effective boards set clear accountability targets for the district, which can be measured by quantitative data such as student achievement results, graduation rates, attendance figures, and budget dollars. If the superintendent does not make satisfactory progress on these indicators, the board is charged with finding a replacement.”

There was no section on iPad programs.

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