After days of tense rumors that he would resign, L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy will remain at the helm of the nation’s second largest school district until 2016, the Los Angeles School Board announced Tuesday afternoon.
After a passionate rally led by scores of parents, community activists and educators, and a marathon five-hour deliberation behind closed doors, the board said Deasy had satisfactorily passed his performance and extended his contract.
Deasy has been battling a pro-union school board after the new president Richard Vladovic was elected in July. Before that, the brash and often stubborn leader had been working with a clearly pro-reform, anti-union board that easily passed his initiatives.
Deasy thanked the board Tuesday for a "good and robust evaluation" and "excellent and honest conversation so we can continue to lift youth out of poverty."
Supporters who gathered outside the district headquarters said Deasy was one of the first superintendents to truly reach out to English learners and lower-income families.
Esmeralda Moreno has four children in different L.A. Unified schools. She said she has noticed a difference in her children’s education under Deasy’s stewardship.
"No one seemed to care about us or that my children were low in reading levels and English comprehension," said Moreno. "Now I have faith they are on their way to go to college."
She also said Deasy listens to parents.
“Before when we tried to get in touch with the Superintendent he would never return parents’ calls. With Deasy, he met us in a hotel lobby and heard us out and the next week set up a meeting in the office,” she said.
Rene Rodman, another L.A. Unified mother, said the average superintendent stayed on the job for less time than a middle school student.
“We really feel like we are just at the start of this and we need to give Deasy time to carry this out,” said Rodman. “But there has been too much in-fighting and politics it’s no longer about the children.”
Deasy is known as a school reformer. He has pushed for more charter schools, test score-based teacher evaluations, abandoning No Child Left Behind and working with more education and community groups.
Under his reign test scores, attendance and graduation rates have soared, fewer students have been suspended and more are signing up for college-level classes.
But his performance isn't perfect. Teacher morale is far too low, the district's new billion-dollar iPad program is flailing and Deasy has been continuously criticized for ignoring teachers.
Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said more than half of the union’s 35,000 members gave the superintendent a near-failing grade in a survey earlier this year.
“One of the two red flags was stewardship of the district budget. Teachers feel that resource decisions that are being made right now don’t match the needs of school sites and kids,” said Fletcher.
Fletcher elaborated in a written statement, condemning the board’s decision:
“It is unbelievable that the Board of Education has given John Deasy a ‘satisfactory’ evaluation despite a clear message from LA’s teachers and health and human services professionals that Deasy’s leadership is anything but satisfactory,”
Despite the drama and controversy, Deasy is here to stay, and parents hope the politicking and bickering will cease and the board will let the superintendent do what he was hired to do—reform a floundering school system.
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