Teachers rally as School Board ponders Deasy's fate

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Superintendent John Deasy's testy relationship with the Los Angeles Unified School District School Board spilled into homeroom this morning.

Teachers at Thomas Starr King Middle School in Silverlake marched two blocks around campus before first period began. As 12 and 13 year olds with bed head rickled into class in from of him, United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl listed his union's priorities--smaller class sizes, more school counselors and librarians, and better pay.

"All across the city today our educators from Chatsworth to the harbor, from the beach to East L.A, are in red in a show of unity behind the demands of the schools L.A. city deserves.

Ordinarily, the major story today would be UTLA's contract negotiations with the district. UTLA is asking for a 17% raise, citing years of teacher wages flagging behind inflation. The school board has balked at the proposal.

But today, the biggeer question was who exactly would be sitting across the bargaining table from UTLA in the months ahead.

"John Deasy in his four years in Los Angeles has been clear that all employees needs to be accountable," said Caputo-Pearl. "What we are saying of John Deasy and the school board is that he himself needs to be accountable in the same way." 

When pressed, Caputo-Pearl stopped short of calling for Deasy's removal. But plenty of Deasy's critics have.

School board members are meeting behind closed doors this afternoon to go over exactly how they'll evaluate Deasy at his upcoming performance review, scheduled for late next month.

They’ll have a lot to talk about. Deasy’s flagship project, the $1.3 billion effort to equip every student with an iPad, rolled out with serious flaws. Students bypassed security safeguards, the educational software had hiccups, and teachers weren’t sure how to incorporate the technology into curriculums.

And then the real bombshell hit. Last month, Deasy came under fire for conversations he had with Apple and an education software maker in the very early stages of the project’s bidding process. Critics cried cronyism.

Still, Deasy has his backers.  Yesterday, a letter signed by business and civic groups like the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce and United Way of Greater Los Angeles urged the board to retain Deisy. 

Many of these groups still see Deasy as the powerful force for reform he billed himself as when he first took office in 2011. 

"Anytime you implement change, you're gonna ruffle feathers. But I think it's really important for the students that the board and Deasy get together and focus on the well-being of the students," said Antonia Hernandez,  who signed the letter supporting Deasy as president of the California Community Foundation, a local philanthropic organization.

Under his contract, Deasy can be let go with 30 days notice.