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Unions Decry Lack Of Search For LAUSD Chief

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LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines. (credit: Getty Images)

LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines. (credit: Getty Images)

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — When the Los Angeles school board appointed a deputy superintendent last summer, it was widely expected he would be first in line to replace retiring Superintendent Ramon Cortines.

Turns out, there is no line.

The board is expected to appoint deputy John Deasy on Tuesday in an abrupt move that comes before Cortines has publicly announced a retirement date and without a search for a replacement.

Unions said the board should have considered outside candidates as well as solicited input from players in the district.

“We’re the nation’s second-largest school district. That warrants a national search,” said AJ Duffy, president of the United Teachers Los Angeles union. “UTLA should have been part of the process.”

Others opposed the sudden nature of the expected appointment.

“The process needs transparency,” said Dan Isaacs, administrator with the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, which represents principals and other management personnel. “The board initially indicated it would undertake a search.”

The district remained silent Monday on the process. A press conference is scheduled after the board vote set for a closed session Tuesday.

Cortines, 78, has said he would retire sometime in the spring, although his contract runs through December.

Deasy will have his work cut out for him. A budget deficit, declining enrollment, 33 percent dropout rate, and low student achievement are among the challenges he faces.

Few quibble with Deasy’s credentials or his performance so far as second-in-command after assuming the deputy job last August. He  is a proponent of education reform. Prior to coming to Los Angeles, Deasy, 50, was deputy director of education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the country’s
leading school reform philanthropic organization. He has also been superintendent of three school districts — Prince George’s County in Maryland, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified in California and Coventry Public Schools in Rhode Island.

He has impressed reformers at the Los Angeles Unified School District with his intensity about turning around underperforming schools.

Doc Ervin, assistant superintendent at Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, which runs 15 LAUSD campuses, said he found Deasy scholarly and hands-on after meeting with him several times during
informal mentoring sessions.

“Man, this guy is really serious about education,” Ervin said. “It’s clear he’s in charge, but he also wants to hear from people.”

Added Ben Austin, executive director of LA Parent Union, a parent advocacy group: “Every single discussion I’ve had with him centered on what’s best for kids, not what the political center of gravity is. That’s unique.”

Teachers, though, have more reservations. Deasy advocates using student test scores to measure teacher effectiveness as part of a new evaluation system, In Maryland, he spearheaded a pay-for-performance system.

UTLA staunchly opposes using test scores to evaluate teachers, instead advocating a less rigid system culled from a study of best practices across the country, Duffy said.

“LA’s just a tough place to be doing the rehauling, the retooling that’s needed right now with the fiscal crisis,” said Marco Petruzzi, president and chief executive of Green Dot Public Schools, one of the district’s largest charter school operators.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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