Los Angeles Unified School District board members Richard Vladovic and Bennett Kayser may have screwed things up this time. Due to haranguing that has reportedly made John Deasy's work as superintendent increasingly difficult to perform, the respected education reformer may resign sometime soon and get the heck out of Dodge.
But an unusually broad range of major L.A. civic and social justice groups such as Teach for America and the Urban League are striking back today, holding what's expected to be a spirited rally outside L.A. Unified headquarters in support of Deasy (expect his detractors to show up as well).
Even the often-timid L.A. Chamber of Commerce is piping up:
“Firing Superintendent Deasy, or making his life so miserable that he has no choice but to leave,” Gary Toebben, president of the chamber, recently wrote in a weekly column, “is not in the best interests of the students of Los Angeles. It is imperative that the school board make every effort to retain one of the top superintendents in the country.”
After the rally, L.A. Unified board members will conduct a “performance evaluation” of Deasy — the bureaucratic event that has brought things to a head between Deasy and his bosses. The result of which may start another round of protests outside HQ. Things are going to be tense.
Vladovic, Kayser, and other critics of the superintendent may point to a highly problematic, and expensive, roll out of iPads at L.A. Unified, saying Deasy bungled the innovative program and therefore he needs to go. But those who watch LAUSD politics closely appear to agree: the iPads are not the real issue here.
Reformers lost control of the L.A. Unified board in July — when Vladovic, who's been accused of sexual harassment and verbal abuse and today faces a formal discussion by his fellow board members of a possible censure, was elected board president.
Vladovic and Kayser soon began gunning for Deasy, criticizing his generally applauded reforms and innovations. Kayser immediately began demanding that a “succession” plan for Deasy's replacement be launched.
The current brouhaha is an example of what happens when a school district gets too politicized — Vladovic, Kayser, and crew often hew closely to the desires of the teachers' union, United Teachers Los Angeles — and takes the focus off kids.
So now Deasy backers are taking matters into their own hands. They've created an online petition — supportoursuperintendent.com — they're writing op-eds, and they're holding a rally, where such progressive groups as Teach for America, the L.A. Urban League, the California Endowment, and the United Way of Greater Los Angeles are going to make their voices heard.
Interestingly, this unusual, high-profile battle is happening under the watch of L.A.'s newish mayor Eric Garcetti, who has announced his support for Deasy.
Will support from Garcetti and major L.A. civic and social justice groups make a difference? Does Vladovic and his crew care what they have to say? Is Deasy fed up and past the point of no return? Answers may come sometime Tuesday. Check back here for more coverage.
Patrick Range McDonald is a contributing writer to L.A. Weekly.