Last night news broke of LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy's possible resignation. L.A.-based civic organizations are reacting, slamming the Board of Education for going after him and calling his potential departure "devastating."
Schools leader since April 2011, Deasy oversaw a jump in graduation rates and test scores at LAUSD schools despite budget cuts. Now he may resign in February, but says he won't divulge any further information until Tuesday.
This afternoon, 11 organizations including United Way of Greater Los Angeles sent a signed letter to the seven elected school board members -- a board that's been bickering with Deasy and shown increasing disarray under LAUSD Board President Richard Vladovic.
The letter, also signed by Educators 4 Excellence Los Angeles, the Community Coalition, California Charter Schools Association and others, blasts the board for failing to support Deasy, who is viewed as a reformer who has turned around numerous troubled L.A. schools. It was written by the coalition Communities for Los Angeles Student Success, or CLASS:
Under Superintendent Deasy's leadership, our schools have made remarkable gains, particularly among poor children and children of color. Unfortunately, since the moment the School Board elected new leadership, some of you have struck a combative tone -- putting your own political agendas ahead of students' needs. There is little doubt that the Superintendent's reported resignation is due in large part to some board members' efforts to attack his leadership, undermine his agenda, and micro-manage the district.
The strongly worded letter was sent in an effort to urge the board to retain Deasy and suggests that, even if he doesn't keep his position, the board continue the policies he implemented to make LAUSD students more successful. (Many smaller groups also signed the letter, including Lanai Road Education Action Committee in the Valley and Parent Partnership for Public Education on the Westside.)
Similar statements over the past day by other top civic groups:
Angelica Solis, spokeswoman for Alliance for a Better Community, a nonprofit organization that advocates for Latinos, said that if Deasy left it would be "devastating," negatively affecting students in Los Angeles. Solis:
His resignation would be a devastating loss for all children across LAUSD. Under the superintendent's leadership we have seen remarkable gains, particularly with poor students. We hope that the school board would stop putting their own political agenda before students.
Solis went on to say that it would be best for students if Deasy was kept on.
John Lee, executive director for Teach Plus Los Angeles, an organization that ensures students are taught by experienced and effective teachers, emailed L.A. Weekly saying:
The prospect of Superintendent Deasy leaving is disconcerting. Throughout his tenure, Dr. Deasy has strived to hear what Teach Plus teachers think about top issues. Whether he's soliciting the advice from a team of teacher leaders on LAUSD's evaluation and support system or connecting with thousands of teachers at our Common Core conference in August, he has been a friend to teachers of demonstrated effectiveness who teach in L.A.'s highest-need schools.
More importantly, he has been a friend to their students. Under his leadership, students are now graduating at higher rates than ever before, taking -- and succeeding in -- Advanced Placement courses at higher rates than ever before, and consistently improving on various other measures of academic achievement. There is more work to be done and we hope Dr. Deasy's tenure will continue into the foreseeable future.
Oscar E. Cruz, president-CEO of Families in Schools, which works on behalf of children and their parents, said this:
Under Dr. Deasy's leadership, student success has increased. This period of improved student performance and the realization of the highest graduation rates in recent memory have coincided with strong school board leadership and a shared vision for school reform with the superintendent.
Leadership at LAUSD should be measured by student success and not by personal feelings about the superintendent or whether a project was controversial or not. It should be measured by student improvement. Families in Schools recognizes that there is room for more improvement at LAUSD. We need more of Dr. Deasy's kind of leadership to keep students improving, not less.
But not all were disappointed by the news. The teachers union, United Teachers of Los Angeles, is unhappy with many of Deasy's reforms, which are focused on children and have often taken the union to task.
A statement released by UTLA President Warren Fletcher said:
It is no secret that UTLA has had major concerns with John Deasy's leadership. Nonetheless the future of LAUSD is not about one man. The challenge going forward is to make sure students and schools get the resources they so badly need after five punishing years of recession. UTLA believes new leadership at LAUSD holds the potential to make that happen.
Deasy has made UTLA unhappy by revamping teacher evaluations and altering the teacher seniority system. Parents and civic groups have applauded him, watching test scores rise during a time plagued by massive budget cuts.
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The school board is believed by some to have an anti-Deasy majority led by the easily angered Vladovic, a former principal who is fighting public accusations of bullying and harassment by some of his former LAUSD employes.
Vladovic and the board are set to privately discuss Deasy's job performance Tuesday.
[Updated at 4:34 pm Friday]: Vladovic spokesman Michael Trujillo released the following reaction to the letter from the CLASS coalition:
Dr. Vladovic, like CLASS, believes in the fierce urgency of now and is also is a strong believer in the policies that John Deasy and the board together have implemented. We welcome this letter. We are pleased that they are fierce defenders of the superintendent. LAUSD is a large, diverse, robust family, and we will move forward in a positive fashion beginning on Tuesday.