Los Angeles school superintendent Deasy resigns after technology problems

The resignation was announced Thursday in a joint statement by Deasy and the board. School board member Steve Zimmer said the departure was a joint decision.

Damian Dovarganes/AP/File
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy listens during a school board meeting in Los Angeles, in 2012. Deasy announced his resignation, Oct. 16.

Los Angeles schools Superintendent John Deasy resigned as head of the nation's second-largest school system after failing to overcome technological problems, clashing with the teachers union and losing allies on the school board.

The resignation was announced Thursday in a joint statement by Deasy and the board. School board member Steve Zimmer said the departure was a joint decision.

A separate statement said former Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines would return to head the school system for the third time starting Oct. 20 while officials search for a successor.

Deasy did not respond to a request for comment.

Deasy, 53, led the district for more than three years and was applauded for improving student performance. Under him, the district had higher test scores, improved attendance and better graduation rates.

However, a $1 billion plan to give each student an iPad was fraught with problems, and Deasy's communications with vendors were investigated. In addition, the district's new computerized scheduling system left students languishing in useless classes or without courses needed to graduate.

Deasy had a rocky relationship with the teachers union and school board, where he lost a number of allies after the 2013 election. He was also criticized for his brusque leadership style.

Early in his tenure, he removed 130 teachers from Miramonte Elementary School when teacher Mark Berndt was charged with lewd acts on children. The teachers were placed at an unopened empty campus while an investigation ensued. The unprecedented move strained his relationship with the United Teachers of Los Angeles.

It was further stressed by his support of a lawsuit intended to undo teacher tenure protections in the state. A judge ruled the protections are unconstitutional and discriminate against minority and low-income students. The decision is being appealed by the state.

Deasy also sought to measure the performance of teachers and supported legislation to make teacher dismissal easier.

United Teachers Los Angeles said in a statement marked with an exclamation mark that Deasy's departure was "an opportunity to move in the direction of fully funded schools and collaborative management, instead of treating school improvement as a 'corporate turnaround' model, over-emphasizing testing, undermining equity and access for students, and attacking educators."

However, education advocates lauded Deasy for his efforts to bring reforms and accountability to public education.

Students Matter, a nonprofit group that filed the teacher tenure lawsuit, said Deasy showed a tireless commitment to education equality.

"For all his successes, Dr. Deasy has been met with an ever-challenging and dysfunctional political environment as LAUSD superintendent," the statement said.

He was driven from his post in part because he advocated for significant changes to California education policies, it added.

Zimmer said Deasy's work for youths was game-changing and included revamping school discipline to make it more holistic than punitive.

The joint decision regarding his resignation was "incredibly difficult," Zimmer said.

"When you are a catalytic leader, sometimes there's going to be pain that's associated with the changes that you're making and you've got to be able to balance the urgency of the momentum for change with making sure everybody is moving along with you," he said.

Deasy's contract had been set to expire in 2016. According to a six-page separation agreement, Deasy will remain on special assignment through the end of the year, helping the district with the transition.

The statement announcing Deasy's resignation noted that the district was continuing to investigate the iPad project but the board does not believe that the superintendent engaged in any ethical violations or unlawful acts.

Deasy replaced the 82-year-old Cortines in 2011 after Cortines was accused by a former district employee of sexual harassment. The district settled for $200,000 in 2012. Cortines acknowledged bad judgment in a statement released by the district at the time and said no harassment occurred.

"We have to have somebody right now who can bring everybody together and I think that person is Ray Cortines," Zimmer said.

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