Former Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District superintendent Dr. John Deasy has been appointed as the next superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the nation’s second largest district.

Having served as LAUSD deputy superintendent since August, Deasy will succeed Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines, who is retiring this spring. Deasy is scheduled to start in the new position on April 15.

The Board of Education voted 6-0 Tuesday, Jan. 11 to select Deasy, with Board Member Steve Zimmer abstaining. The board unanimously approved a three-year contract, which provides an annual salary of $330,000, and a company car and driver for the new superintendent.

“Today, this district is facing profound challenges in the form of a major state economic crisis which results in a monumental educational crisis, but I believe there’s hope,” Deasy said. “We will continue to dramatically improve student achievement because students have shown us that they can do it and, secondly, because we have the leadership, teaching, and support staff employees who are dedicated, smart and willing to do anything to help our youth.”

City leaders hailed the appointment of Deasy, who has nearly three decades of experience in education.

“John Deasy is the right person for this job and the Los Angeles Unified School District is lucky to have him,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. “John understands the unique challenges facing the LAUSD and has already benefited from on-the-job training as deputy superintendent.

“I would also like to thank retiring Superintendent Ramon Cortines for his decades of leadership and commitment to the students of Los Angeles.”

District officials say Deasy champions the academic achievements of all students including Latinos, African Americans, other minorities, those in special education, and students learning English as a Second Language (ESL). He has overseen districts that have narrowed the achievement gap between low-income minority students and more affluent classmates, according to LAUSD.

Prior to joining LAUSD, Deasy led the initiative on teacher effectiveness while serving as a deputy director of education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“We welcome John Deasy as our next superintendent at LAUSD,” said School Board President M—nica Garc’a. “We are a community focused on students and schools and have great expectations that John Deasy will strengthen and deepen the work of reading and writing and leading urban reform of schools that will prepare our students for college and careers.”

But United Teachers Los Angeles took issue with what the union called a “closed door decision making process” for the next superintendent and requested that the board postpone Deasy’s selection.

“We urge you to delay the selection of the new superintendent and immediately begin a nationwide search that represents the integrity of the Los Angeles community,” the union said in a statement.

Deasy previously served as superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu district before taking over as head of the Prince George’s County Public Schools, a large and diverse school district in Maryland. In that school district, Deasy initiated a pay-for-performance plan to reward teachers for measurable gains in student achievement.