Incoming LAUSD superintendent Deasy lays out broad agenda

File photo of John E. Deasy.
File photo of John E. Deasy.

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During a speech at Loyola Marymount University Wednesday night, incoming L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy laid out his priorities for the 650,000-student school district.

Before his appointment to the job, John Deasy worked at L.A. Unified for almost a year as deputy superintendent. He told the audience of students, educators and charter school officials that it was during that time that he discovered two districts: one with exciting, groundbreaking and successful schools, and "another, slowly receding, bureaucratic, inefficient, somewhat ossified and arcane rules and labor stalemates."

Raising teacher performance, he said, will be his main priority. He’d like to see more sharing of best practices, innovation and the tracking of teacher performance measured, in part, by improvements in student test scores.

He said that teachers who are struggling should be given a deadline. "I believe that poor performers, where we have tried repeatedly to improve their practice, and have invested dollars to do that, and they can’t improve, should be dismissed from the system."

L.A. Unified principal Jean Pennicooke said she liked Deasy’s focus on student learning. She predicted that some teachers will resist what they might perceive as lofty goals.

"They’re feeling that with not only all the different superintendents that have come in," said Pennicooke, "but it could be at a school site with principals, that all these different reforms and programs, they're not sure if this is just another thing that is come down and will leave if he leaves."

Deasy also said he wants to ensure that elementary school students have access to basic health services. "It is necessary that every single, solitary elementary student have health, vision and dental care that is provided to them gratis. That is an essential component to the way a city treats youth."

Deasy said he’d like L.A. Unified to partner with outside groups to provide students with health care.

Deasy’s speech at Loyola Marymount University was sponsored by former L.A. Unified board member Marlene Canter. She said the incoming superintendent has the skills, and the support from the current board of education, to achieve his goals for the district.