Board member Steve Zimmer says he was ‘a catalytic leader,’ but ‘a catalytic force can sometimes be combustible’
By Gary Walker
John Deasy resigned from his post as Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent today after three and a half years at the helm of the nation’s second largest school district.
The LAUSD board voted 6-1 to accept Deasy’s resignation and has selected former LAUSD Supt. Ramòn Cortines to replace Deasy on an interim basis. This will be Cortines’ third stint as LAUSD superintendent. He led the district in 2000 and again from 2009 to 2011.
As part of the separation agreement, Deasy and the board confirmed his departure in a joint media statement Thursday that praised his tenure: “We thank Dr. Deasy for over three years of devoted service to the district and its students,” it reads. “We look forward to jointly celebrating all of the successes of our students that have occurred during Dr. Deasy’s tenure.”
Deasy had earned an annual salary of $350,000 and will continue to be paid through the end of the year while remaining available to the district on “special assignment” to help with the transition to Cortines.
The agreement also specifies that Deasy has agreed not to “seek or accept employment with LAUSD or as a contractor in any capacity in the future.”
Deasy led LAUSD through a period of severe state budget cuts, but the district saw a rise in academic achievement and higher graduation rates during his tenure.
In the last several months, however, clashes with the school board and the teachers union as well as controversy over Deasy’s ties to the vendor for the district’s iPad program took center stage.
“While the district’s investigation into the Common Core Technology Project has not been concluded, the board wishes to state that at this time it does not believe that the superintendent engaged in any ethical violations or unlawful acts, and the board anticipates that the inspector general’s report will confirm this,” the statement read.
LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer, who represents Westside schools, voted in favor of the separation agreement.
“John Deasy is a catalytic leader who has propelled systemic changes at LAUSD,” Zimmer said. “The result of a catalytic force can sometimes be combustible.”
Zimmer also noted that Cortines has a long history with the school district and believes that would in the short term help LAUSD maintain stability.
“With Ray Cortines we will be able to maintain the existing momentum for changing the outcomes for our students,” he said.
Deasy lost previous allies on the school board after he backed candidates last year and this year who lost to some of the current board members.
Zimmer, who won re-election last year over a challenger not overtly backed by Deasy, acknowledged that the superintendent had been at odds with the board over the last several months.
“He was certainly controversial. He was unafraid of criticism, and in many ways that is very necessary when you’re a leader. But if you are not able to listen to that criticism, it grows — and it can interrupt a collaborative partnership,” he said. “While we’re all committed to putting kids first, we’re all human. Sometimes it can be difficult to find common ground when board members believe that you think they shouldn’t be in their elected positions.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a statement saying that he had spoken with Deasy the night before his resignation and pledging support for Cortines.
“I look forward to working closely with the board and with Ray Cortines, a steady hand and experienced leader who can continue to focus the district on its critical work,” the statement reads.