Los Angeles Superintendent John Deasy told his district's top leadership that he would be leaving in a few months. He came from the Gates Foundation and is yet another Broad superintendent to get exited or who left a job. He has been on the job since 2011.
Into this issue wades Robin Lake of the Center on Reinventing Public Education (basically
a local think-tank for ed reform). She lauds Deasy for leaving "a
comfortable job at the Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation." Then she
goes all in:
In nearly any other sector, a man like Deasy—who is able to articulate a
strong vision of change and pursue it relentlessly—would be able to get
people to follow him and accomplish most anything. But this was LAUSD,
where for decades strong leaders were eaten alive by the politics of
race and unions and poverty and rampant district dysfunction.
Note that ed reform jargon: dysfunction (again), politics of race and unions and poverty.
Then she explains what School Board should do:
But more than anything, it was impossible to make challenging policy
decisions and maintain the support of LAUSD school board members, who—as
in other cities—are influenced by community politics and stakeholder
interests, rather than acting like they should, as a governing body that
oversees a long-term civic vision and strategic plan.
of all, that civic vision INCLUDES the public ("the stakeholders") -
parents who invest their children's academic lives in the district AND
the taxpayers. So sorry that democracy is a bother and that parents and
taxpayers are to vote and then sit down and shut up.
Urban districts are so large and out-of-control that special dispensation should be given to urban superintendents? Because that's what I'm hearing here.
Again, she goes after the school board:
If you are honest with yourself (and older than 20), you may find
yourself believing that if a leader like John Deasy can’t make real
progress, the urban superintendency truly is an impossible job.
We need to stop relying on heroism and instead start dismantling
special interest-captured school boards and other governance structures
that get in the way of school improvement for urban students. We need
civic leaders to commit to a long-term vision of institutional change
that will weather the leadership shift of the moment.
And then she goes for the big ask:
What if we could go back and reprogram the game so that Deasy didn’t
have an elected board? What if he’d decided to use his political capital
during the mayor’s terms to turn 200 of LAUSD’s worst schools over to
the city’s highest-performing charter organizations, so that his gains
would be hard to reverse? What else could he have done differently to
fundamentally change the trajectory of the district?
Get rid of elected oversight.
In one fell swoop, turn 200 schools over to "highest-performing" charters? How does she know that those high-performing ones have worked with what are probably the students with more challenges? More poverty? More children of color?
because if this is the talk for LA, what are these ed reformers who
live in Seattle thinking for our district. This is very precisely why
we need Sue Peters and not Suzanne Dale Estey on the Seattle School Board.
If it wasn't so serious, it would be funny. Does every ed reformer get an e-mail or fax every day with talking points? Because you can't miss the messaging.
About Deasy from the LA Times:
His major initiatives have included revamping teachers evaluations to
include the use of students' standardized test scores. He also altered
the seniority system to limit the effect of job cuts at schools with
large numbers of less-experienced instructors, who are generally the
first to be laid off.
The school system recently embarked on a $1-billion project — led by
Deasy — to provide iPads to every student and teacher, using
school-construction bonds as the funding source. The effort has gotten
off to a rocky start, and Deasy has come under criticism for moving too
quickly while there are still unanswered questions.
Rocky start is right. High school students figured out how to hack into the iPads so they could avoid the firewalls set up by the district. And, as Diane Ravitch points out,
The cost–anticipated ultimately to be in excess of $1 billion–is one
concern at a time when classes are overcrowded, and many schools are in
need of repair, and thousands of teachers were laid off.
What is also interesting here is that Deasy was close with former LA mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa. Both of them backed ed reform candidates school board candidates who lost their races. It seems Deasy doesn't play well with others according to the LA Times:
The newly constituted board has made no moves against Deasy, but quickly began to challenge more of his policies.
The superintendent threatened to resign when the school board was
poised to elect Vladovic as board president in July. The board elevated
Vladovic anyway and Deasy stayed.
He threatened to leave when he didn't like the choice that duly-elected school board members were going to make for president?
One community leader said that it would be a loss and, shades of Seattle, said this:
Further, he said, the superintendent has been stymied by a dysfunctional school board.
"The failure has been to bring the board around to his vision for the district," he said.
Ed reform vocabulary word - "dysfunctional". Don't like your Board? Just call 'em dysfunctional.
From the Huffington Post:
"On the one hand, urban districts like LAUSD and New York are going
after the best qualified candidates in the national pool," said Wong.
"Oftentimes these strong charismatic leaders bring in innovative ideas,"
like Deasy's program to provide an iPad for every student, his support for a parental trigger for school reform and his push to include student performance as a part of teacher evaluations.
Contrast those district-wide reforms with an elected school board
whose loyalties lie with the residents who voted for them, and school
districts have a recipe for controversy.
Yes, those pesky elected officials who are there as the check and balance to a superintendent.