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Ratliff: lone vote on school board against Deasy settlement

Vanessa Romo | October 16, 2014

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Monica RatliffWhile the LA Unified school board approved the contract settlement with former Superintendent John Deasy, the vote was not unanimous, several district sources confirmed.

In a long, closed-door meeting of the seven board members earlier this week, one of Deasy’s staunchest critics on the board, Monica Ratliff, was the lone dissenter. The six other members voted to approve the language and terms of the separation agreement, which was announced earlier today.

It is unclear, however, why Ratliff voted against the agreement, raising questions of whether she objected to some of the language, some of the severance terms or offering an agreement at all. Further, it was Ratliff, as chair of the Common Core Technology Project Committee, who asked for the district Inspector General to examine emails from Deasy to Apple and Pearson on the possibility that he steered the bidding to those companies.

By terms of his separation from the district, Deasy was absolved of any “unethical violations or unlawful acts” regarding any emails.

When asked to clarify the reason for Ratliff’s vote, her chief of staff, David Zlotchew, said, “No comment.”

Those voting in the majority included Deasy’s two strongest supporters on the board — Monica Garcia and Tamar Galatzan. District officials said they were not surprised that they voted in favor, given Deasy’s recent public comments that he was growing frustrated with working for a board that didn’t support many of his initiatives.

“It was toxic around here,” one official said. “Everybody knew that Deasy wanted out.”

In his resignation letter, he wrote, “Needless to say this has been hard work, in fact exhausting work…have neglected my family, my health, and my parent’s heath.”

Galatzan told LA School Report, “During his more than three years as superintendent, John Deasy raised the bar for student achievement. His vision of education as a civil rights issue fueled his passion to do right by kids and to ensure that they had access to great teachers, a relevant curriculum and 21st century technology.”

Garcia expressed similar sentiments in a statement. “Dr. Deasy gave us the absolute best of his leadership,” she wrote.

“Every day, he fought for the rights of our students and he challenged our district to imagine itself stronger and more effective than before. He leaves us with impressive results – increased graduation and proficiency rates and reduced suspension and expulsion rates,” Garcia said, adding that “challenges remain.”

Efforts to reach Board President Richard Vladovic were unsuccessful. His office refused to comment and referred LA School Report to the one-paragraph statement issued by the district. Neither Bennett Kayser nor George McKenna issued a public statement.

The member most willing to discuss events of the day was Steve Zimmer, who played in a leading role in crafting the settlement agreement.

“It was an excruciatingly difficult decision,” said Zimmer, who had been the lone dissenting vote when Deasy was hired in 2011.

But, Zimmer said, “We are moving into a period of implementing some of the transformational changes that were made in policy during the Deasy administration. And periods of implementation require a type of leadership that is rooted in trust and cooperation because everyone has to be on board and rowing together to change the reality for kids.”

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