L.A. schools chief pushes to change system's culture
From L.A. Times by Teresa Watanabe and Howard Blume:
It's 7:30 a.m. and the chief of the Los Angeles Unified School District briskly launches a powwow on the sensitive topic of how to place the strongest math teachers with the weakest students.
Supt. John Deasy leads two dozen administrators through statistics showing the schools where the district's most effective algebra instructors teach. They brainstorm incentives to get principals and teachers to buy into the plan, aimed at raising abysmal scores on state math tests. Some may believe it a waste to put their best with the worst, one administrator cautions, but Deasy's response is quick and characteristically blunt:
"You really shouldn't teach in LAUSD if you believe that," he says.
He pledges to act on the issue, asks the administrators for similar commitments and reminds them of their pace: "as many things as fast as possible." He adjourns at 9:29 a.m. ó one minute early. Then on to the rest of his 20-hour day.
Nearly a year after Deasy, 51, took over as head of the nation's second-largest school district, it is too soon to judge him on his own performance targets ó boosting student test scores, for instance.
But Deasy is pushing to change the culture of a behemoth school system with 660,000 students on 743 campuses across 710 square miles of urban sprawl. Some see Deasy as a dynamic leader driven by a moral urgency to give all students a quality education. But others view him as a relentless taskmaster intolerant of dissent.
"Either you do what he wants or you're gone," said one senior administrator who, like most senior aides and top administrators contacted, asked for anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Antonia Hernandez, president of the California Community Foundation, is one of many civic leaders who believes Deasy should press harder to improve a district where just over half the students graduate on time and half are not proficient in reading and math.
"We all know what LAUSD has been doing in the past hasn't worked," she said. "He needs to be even more aggressive. People are hungry for leadership."