Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

The Los Angeles Unified School District board will meet behind closed doors Tuesday to discuss its upcoming performance review of Superintendent John Deasy, who has come under increasing scrutiny from the teachers’ union and some board members.

Deasy, who has been superintendent since 2011, has butted heads with board members and activists over the district’s ambitious $1 billion effort to provide all of its students and staff with iPads or laptops.

The situation escalated last month with allegations that Deasy and a former chief deputy had been involved in extensive discussions with Apple and education publisher Pearson at least two years before the bidding process ended and contracts were approved. Although there were no allegations that the discussions actually gave the companies an upper hand in the bidding process, the release of emails and other correspondence raised questions about the superintendent’s relationship with the companies that stood to profit from the contracts.

In light of the questions, Deasy canceled the existing contracts with Apple and Pearson and said the district would re-bid the program.

Deasy has also been the target of criticism over the troubled rollout of the district’s computerized student-information system known as MiSiS, or My Integrated Student Information System.

United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing LAUSD educators, said all its members would wear red today “as a show of unity with parents, students and the community as we demand the schools LA students deserve.”

UTLA, which is in the midst of contract negotiations with the district, held an early morning news conference and rally calling on Deasy and the district to “prioritize district spending on the things that matter most to our students’ education,” such as smaller class sizes, fully staffed schools and “educators who are fairly compensated.”

“We believe that John Deasy is responsible for causing serious problems in this district, from the iPad scandal — where there appears to have been bid-rigging — to the MiSiS crisis, which created a computer system, a student information system, that ended up hurting our most vulnerable students,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said.

But in a letter to board members, a group of civic leaders including the president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff, praised the work Deasy has done leading the district.

“Superintendent Deasy is not perfect,” according to the group’s letter. “But progress made in boosting the education of our children under his leadership outweighs the business decisions by which he is being judged. If the board remains unfocused, we run the risk of losing the student achievement gains we have made during a short period of time. We have a responsibility to work together and bring the focus back to improving academic achievement and fostering student learning.”

The LA School Report website reported that today’s closed-session board discussion will focus on the parameters and criteria that will be used in Deasy’s upcoming employment review, which is scheduled for Oct. 21. The discussion was added to the board’s agenda last week at the request of board member Monica Ratliff, according to LA School Report.

Deasy’s contract runs until 2016, but he can be removed by the board at any time.

On Monday, the heads of eight community organizations — including United Way of Greater Los Angeles, InnerCity Struggle, Community Coalition and Los Angeles Urban League — sent a letter to Deasy and LAUSD board members calling on them to hold the discussion regarding the superintendent’s review in public, instead of in closed session.

“We call for an open forum to better understand the perspectives of board members on leadership priorities for LAUSD,” according to the letter. “We also request that these parameters be widely published to all families and employees to foster public trust and transparency.”

The group leaders also said the parameters of Deasy’s review “must focus primarily on how well his efforts and priorities have led to student improvements at LAUSD.”

City News Service

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