Ex-Los Angeles schools chief says resignation came in polarized atmosphere

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 17, 2014 7:46 PM

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Former Los Angeles public schools Superintendent John Deasy said on Friday, a day after resigning from his post, that his testimony in a landmark case on tenure rules for teachers created a polarizing atmosphere over his leadership.

The former top official of the second-largest school district in the nation, who has been praised by reform groups seeking to hold teachers to more stringent standards, also told reporters in a conference call that he might eventually run for office.

Deasy, who led the school district since 2011 and oversaw a problem-plagued $1.3 billion effort to equip students in the district with iPads, announced his resignation on Thursday in a joint statement with the school board.

Former Superintendent Ramon Cortines will replace Deasy on a temporary basis, starting on Monday. Deasy will stay on in a new role for the rest of the year to aid the leadership transition.

Earlier this year, in a landmark California court case that saw a judge overturn some state-mandated teacher job protections, Deasy testified students were hurt by rules that made it costly and difficult to remove bad teachers.

The controversial ruling, which led the teachers union to accuse Deasy of scapegoating instructors in his role as a star witness, is on hold pending an appeal by California officials.

Deasy told reporters his testimony "did intensify a polarizing debate around leadership and my own leadership." But in a conference call organized by Students Matter, which helped bring the lawsuit, Deasy stopped short of criticizing the board that had negotiated his departure.

Deasy, who last year wrangled with the teachers union over factoring student test scores into performance evaluations, also said that approach and other policies could be endangered with his departure.

"I think all the policies could be at risk, and I think that would be a shame for youth," he said.

School board member Steve Zimmer said in a phone interview the school district would proceed with changes begun under Deasy, including the framework for teacher evaluations and an overhaul of student discipline to avoid suspensions.

"Every major initiative that we agreed on together will move forward," he said. "It's not a question of whether we move forward, it's just a question of how.”

Zimmer acknowledged Deasy's testimony in the teacher tenure case created tension with the board, but he said that did not lead to Deasy's departure.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Eric Beech)