LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The nation’s top education official was in the Southland Wednesday as part of a White House schools initiative.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was joined by LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy for a academic tour to “highlight excellence in education and the importance of community involvement and support,” according to a Education Department spokesperson.

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KNX 1070’s Margaret Carrero reports Duncan and Deasy took part in a roundtable discussion at the Family Source Center on Western Avenue in the Hollywood area.

Duncan said funds from the Education Department’s Promise Neighborhoods program help the Center serve as a “one-stop shop” for families by offering free youth and adult education and training programs.

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“The theory of collaboration is fantastic, the day-to-day reality is messy and difficult and hard,” he said. “I’m sure you have your issues and battles, but somehow you guys are working it through because you see the bigger picture.”

Duncan and Deasy were also expected to visit the Dr. Julian Nava Learning Academy, a middle school in L.A.’s South Central community that officials say utilizes a collaborative leadership style to meet the personalized needs of its 1,000 students.

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Prior to his nomination in 2008, Duncan served as the chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools from June 2001 through December 2008, becoming the longest-serving big-city education superintendent in the country, according to the White House website.