LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The leadership of the Los Angeles Unified School District appears to be in a state of flux, with Superintendent John Deasy remaining quiet about his future and the school board taking preliminary steps that could lead to his departure.
The board met behind closed doors Tuesday, Sept. 30, to discuss its planned Oct. 21 performance evaluation.
Citing unnamed sources, the Los Angeles Times reported that the board authorized its attorneys to discuss terms of a possible departure agreement with Deasy. No decision was reached on whether an offer would include a buyout, several people close to the situation told The Times.
The board’s action stops short of signaling the end of the Deasy tenure, but it’s a step in that direction. The overture was described by sources as “amicable,” suggesting that acrimony could be avoided or explicitly forbidden as part of a separation agreement, The Times reported.
Deasy, who has been superintendent since 2011, has come under increasing scrutiny from the teachers’ union and some board members. He has butted heads with board members and activists over the district’s ambitious $1 billion effort to provide all of its students and staff with iPads or laptops.
The situation escalated last month with allegations that Deasy and a former chief deputy had been involved in extensive discussions with Apple and education publisher Pearson at least two years before the bidding process ended and contracts were approved.
Although there were no allegations that the discussions actually gave the companies an upper hand in the bidding process, the release of emails and other correspondence raised questions about the superintendent’s relationship with the companies that stood to profit from the contracts.
In light of the questions, Deasy canceled the existing contracts with Apple and Pearson and said the district would re-bid the program.
Deasy, 53, has also been the target of criticism over the troubled rollout of the district’s computerized student-information system known as MiSiS, or My Integrated Student Information System.
Deasy’s contract runs through June 2016. A favorable evaluation would result in an automatic one-year extension. The pact also provides for termination at any time with 30 days’ notice.
His supporters have credited Deasy for gains in test scores, graduation rates and improved results for students learning English.
In a letter to board members this week, a group of civic leaders
including the president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff, praised the work Deasy has done leading the district.
“Superintendent Deasy is not perfect,” according to the group’s letter. “But progress made in boosting the education of our children under his leadership outweighs the business decisions by which he is being judged.
“If the board remains unfocused, we run the risk of losing the student achievement gains we have made during a short period of time. We have a responsibility to work together and bring the focus back to improving academic achievement and fostering student learning.”
But the teachers’ union, United Teachers Los Angeles, has been highly critical of Deasy. The union is locked in contract negotiations with the district.
“We believe that John Deasy is responsible for causing serious problems in this district, from the iPad scandal — where there appears to have been bid-rigging — to the MiSiS crisis, which created a computer system, a student information system, that ended up hurting our most vulnerable students,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said Tuesday.