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New LA schools superintendent won’t use district-paid Deasy as adviser

File: Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent of Schools Ramon Cortines.
File: Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent of Schools Ramon Cortines.
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New L.A. Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines said his improvement plans for the school district’s most pressing problems won’t involve the man who arguably knows the district best: resigned Superintendent John Deasy.

“Dr. Deasy did many things well, but I will not be using his services,” Cortines said in an interview with KPCC’s Take Two on Monday.

Last week, L.A. Unified’s school board announced Deasy had resigned as superintendent but would remain with the district as a paid adviser for $60,000, based on his previous salary, through the end of this calendar year.

Cortines ranked fixing the MISIS student tracking and class scheduling system as his top priority, but cautioned that it may take as long as a year to correct the problems.

Cortines and Deasy had previously worked together. When Cortines served as district superintendent from January 2009 to April 2011, Deasy was brought in as his deputy and was positioned to take over after Cortines, which he did in 2011.

It's not clear who would use Deasy's services if not Cortines. Board member Tamar Galatzan said she would not be calling on Deasy as an adviser. None of the other six board members replied whether he or she would or not. 

Deasy's resignation followed months of escalating tension with some school board members who criticized his rollout of a $1.3 billion iPad program and his handling of massive class scheduling problems on some campuses resulting from the new student information computer system.

The district's Inspector General is investigating Deasy's role in the iPad rollout and his contacts with Apple and Pearson software executives before the project was put out to bid. In remarks accompanying the separation agreement, the board noted it "wishes to state that at this time, it does not believe that the Superintendent engaged in any ethical violation or unlawful acts and the board anticipates the Inspector General’s report will confirm this."

In an interview with NPR after his resignation, Deasy acknowledged that his management style, which some called abrasive and dismissive, could have contributed to his departure. But he defended the actions he took and pointed to improvements in student performance.

Under the separation agreement, Deasy remains on special assignment with the district until the end of the year to “assist with the transition and to perform various assignments to be determined by the district, including but not limited to providing advice and assistance to the acting, interim, and/or successor Superintendent and with respect to various programs and issues." 

He may also be called on to assist the district in existing and future legal cases. Deasy can pursue other employment and consulting work while on the payroll, but will need to leave the district if he takes full-time work.

One clause in the agreement also states that after Dec. 31, Deasy agrees he won't seek or accept any employment with the district and the district won't look to employ him at any time in the future.

Deasy's supporters have lamented his resignation and cheer an editorial Friday in The Washington Post agreeing with the former superintendent's assessment that politics thwarted "reforms" within the district.

Others like Karen Wolfe, a parent of two kids in Venice-area public schools, are happy to see him go.“The day Superintendent Deasy walked out of the district it started saving us money,” she said. 

She said fixing the flawed computer system known as MiSiS or My Integrated Student Information System – should be at the top of Cortines’s to-do list.

Cortines agreed.

“We’re going to fix that but I don’t want to mislead anybody, I think the problem is so large that it’s not going to be fixed overnight. I think it will take us at least a year to get the information system up and running correctly.”

The school board meets Tuesday at 10 a.m. to vote on Cortines' employment agreement. It calls for an annual salary of $300,000 and would run from Oct. 20 to June 30, 2015, but can be extended or terminated earlier.