Los Angeles Unified’s board declined a traditional national search and today selected as its next superintendent a career schools administrator who’s worked with the district for six months.
The board chose deputy superintendent John Deasy on a 6-0 vote to replace Ramon Cortines, who’s retiring this spring after two years as district superintendent.
Board member Steve Zimmer abstained from the vote. After the closed session vote, school board president Monica Garcia led a news conference with Deasy, board members, and LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
"We are excited about this announcement. We must embrace change. We are a district in the midst of reinventing public education," Garcia told a packed board room.
Deasy worked as a school district superintendent in Maryland and at Santa Monica-Malibu Unified. Later he handled education initiatives for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Deasy first addressed the crowd in very broken Spanish, in deference to the large number of Spanish speakers in the district, he said. Then he switched to English to thank the school board.
"I and the entire team are going to work together to improve student achievement for every single student in this district. Second, I promise to honor and support our amazing employees," he said, because they've been doing their work amid tough budget cuts in recent years.
Deasy also called for the greater L.A. Unified community's help. The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the California Charter Schools Association issued statements of support soon after Deasy’s appointment.
After the news conference, teachers union president AJ Duffy said he’s unhappy about the way Deasy landed his new job. "We believe this should have been an open, transparent process where all stakeholders were involved. We believe the city of Los Angeles and the parents that are represented in LA Unified should have been a part of the process," he said.
That's not entirely how the district has picked four superintendents in the last decade. This time around the district did not hire a company for a national search.
Observers said that LA’s mayor pushed board president Monica Garcia to hire Deasy. Garcia didn’t directly address those allegations. "I think people always have an opinion about everything we do and I think it is right for people to be concerned about who’s going to replace Ray Cortines," Garcia said.
The board’s offered Deasy a three year contract, with an annual salary of $330,000. There’s no buy-out clause in case the employer wants to replace Deasy before his contract is up.
Two years ago Garcia and other board members spent more than $500,000 to buy out the contract of Superintendent David Brewer, who was hired by a previous board majority. Garcia could find herself with fewer allies on the board. Four of the board’s seven seats are up for election in two months.