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Top 5 reasons the school board won’t vote on Deasy

Jamie Alter Lynton | October 8, 2014

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John-Deasy-computer-glitch-problemsWill the fate of John Deasy, the beleaguered LA Unified school chief who evokes passion among both supporters and critics, come down to a school board vote at his performance review scheduled for later this month? We say unlikely. Here are the top 5 reasons why:


When the board meets behind closed-doors on Oct. 21 at least four members must approve of Deasy’s performance to extend his contract beyond its current expiration, in 2016.  Ditto for ousting Deasy — a consensus of four is a tall order for a fractured board, long plagued by in-fighting and competing ideologies. According to our math (see below) there are not many signs that four members are seeing eye to eye – especially when they know the vote would have to be made public.

The variables at play for each board member on ‘the Deasy question’ can be reduced to the election next March, when four of the seven members must defend their seats. School board elections can cost millions, pitting the teachers union against a coalition of SEIU and reform groups. Board members and even the teachers union, may want to avoid having Deasy’s departure become a campaign issue.

To complicate matters, the district has shown improvement under Deasy, and while the teachers union may condemn him, his policies and stances seem to be popular with the public, including his pivotal support of the Vergara lawsuit last year that challenged teacher tenure laws. He has modernized, streamlined and reorganized at LAUSD, prevailed under dismal economic conditions and formulated a budget this year that was praised publicly by every single board member.

Like it or not, the school board was complicit in every phase of the now controversial initiative to purchase iPads for LAUSD students.  While Deasy is taking heat for his push to put iPads in the classroom, the board supported him in the effort, voting unanimously as recently as January to approve Phase II of the rollout. The board may now find it hard to make iPads an excuse for ousting him.

Deasy has told close confidants that he is fed up with the hostility on the board, and is concerned about his health. The LA Times reports talks have been underway, and reaching an agreement would enable both sides to announce an amiable parting, leaving the ugliness of recent months behind them. This is the option that would suit his detractors on the board just fine.



thumbsdownBennett Kayser
District 5 (Griffith Park, Huntington Park)
Kayser, a former science teacher, who was elected in 2011 with the help of more than a million dollars from the teachers union, is considered Deasy’s staunchest opponent. He has voiced opposition to most of the Deasy-led reforms including expanding school choice options and charter schools. He surprised members of the board when he circulated a memo more than a year ago asking for a Deasy succession plan. Kayser is up for re-election in March against three opponents.


thumbsdownMonica Ratliff
District 6 (East San Fernando Valley)
One of the most recent additions to the school board, Ratliff, a former lawyer and 5th grade teacher, was elected with the support of the teachers union. She was the only abstention last year at Deasy’s performance review. Despite voting to support Phase 2 of the iPad rollout, Ratliff has emerged as the program’s most vocal critic. In August, she released a report highly critical of Deasy’s role in the program. Deasy issued a memo calling Ratliff’s report, “false and misleading.”  


thumbs upTamar Galatzan
District 3 (West Valley, Sherman Oaks)

The only board member with children enrolled in the district, Galatzan was elected in 2007 with the help of then Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a coalition of education reformers. Re-elected in 2011, Galatzan has consistently supported Deasy-led initiatives including increased school autonomy and expanding school choice. Galatzan is up for relection in March, facing at least four opponents.


thumbs upMonica Garcia
District 2 (Downtown, East Los Angeles)
First elected in a special election in 2006, Garcia ran unopposed in 2009 and won easily again in 2013 with the help of reform groups. Calling her newsletter ‘the Cradle of Reform’, Garcia is an unabashed booster of school choice, charter school expansion and a staunch supporter of Deasy. She served as the president of the school board for six years, including when Deasy was first hired as superintendent.


question markRichard Vladovic
District 7 (East LA, San Pedro)
A former teacher and principal, Vladovic was first elected in 2007 and again in 2011 with the help of reform groups and then Mayor Antontio Villaraigosa. While lately Vladovic has become a less predictable supporter of reform efforts and of the superintendent, he is up for re-election in March and may want to be cautious. Last year, he cast his vote to support Deasy on the same day his colleagues on the board were deciding whether or not to censure Vladovic for alleged sexual harassment.

question markGeorge McKenna
District 1 (South LA)
The most recent addition to the school board, McKenna was elected last August in a special election with the support of the teachers union. He has publicly criticized Deasy for his handling of a sex abuse case at Miramonte elementary school where Deasy removed the entire staff after a teacher was accused of lewd conduct. The teacher was later convicted and most of the staff returned. McKenna himself was the area supervisor at the time.  While sources say McKenna is not an ally of Deasy’s, he did tell the LA Times that he would let Deasy serve out his contract, and he is facing an election in March.


Steve Zimmerquestion mark
District 4 (West LA, Hollywood)
A former teacher, Zimmer was elected first in 2009 and again in 2013 after a bruising battle against a reform-funded candidate. While considered friendly to many reform initiatives he was elected with financial help from the teachers union. Often seen as a swing vote on the board, Zimmer avoids picking sides, and frequently steps in to play the role of conciliator in a controversy. Last year, Zimmer came out publicly to support Deasy before his review. This year, according to a source, while he would like to avoid a vote – he might not be willing to pull the trigger in a tie-breaker.

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