Guest Post by David Lyell. David is a 15-year veteran LAUSD teacher, now serving as Secretary of United Teachers Los Angeles.From March 5 to April 21, 2010, he was one of six activists to march the entire 352-miles from Bakersfield to Sacramento as part of The March For California’s Future, a diverse coalition that registered voters, raised awareness, and advocated for tax fairness and adequate funding for public education and essential public services in California. Born in Columbus, Ohio, he grew up and attended public schools in Palo Alto, California, where 90% of students graduate from college–all accomplished without ever having tied teacher pay and/or evaluation to student performance on standardized tests.
July 2, 2013, wasn’t just another day. On that day, there was a LAUSD School Board meeting unlike any other in recent memory.
Each year, at the first LAUSD Board meeting in July, the seven School Board members vote to elect a president. While the School Board president doesn’t have expanded powers, the position affords an opportunity to set the tone, run Board meetings, and work closely with the superintendent to determine meeting agendas.
When the U.S. Supreme Court wrongly ruled (my opinion) in 2010 (Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission) that an individual may make unlimited campaign donations to “independent expenditure” groups who advocate for issues and not candidates, the monetary floodgates opened in a way we’ve never seen, creating a situation that will inevitably only get worse over the next few years.
Despite smear campaigns spearheaded by donations as far away as New York—including NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who personally contributed at least $1.25 million (outside contributions topped $4 million) — through Mr. Zimmer’s and Ms. Ratliff’s amazing efforts, and those of their incredible community-based, grassroots campaigns, citizens voted for two individuals who don’t just stand around and talk about what students need. Mr. Zimmer and Ms. Ratliff both have had actual real-life classroom teaching experience.
On a related note, at the June 18 Board meeting, the School Board approved a $30 million contract to launch the first phase of an effort to purchase computer tablets for every student. There were questions as to whether competitive bidding practices were followed, and earlier this year, the current LAUSD superintendent, John Deasy, appeared in a promotional video for Apple, the winning bidder:
By the way, the MPAA has already voiced concerns in a letter to Superintendent Deasy about students using the devices to pirate music and movies instead of studying.
On March 20, Superintendent Deasy stated in a Form 700 public filing with the LAUSD Ethics Office that he didn’t have any investments in Apple. On June 17, one day before the Board vote, he revealed in an amended filing that he was in fact an Apple stockholder. So what that means is that while this entire proposal was being developed and vetted, the public had not been informed of the Superintendent’s stock holdings in the very company he was recommending the District do business with.
Which brings us back to July 2. In a 5-2 vote, the Board elected District 7 Board Member Dr. Richard Vladovic as its president. According to a July 6 L.A. Times article by Howard Blume, prior to the vote, Superintendent Deasy indicated that, were the Board to elect Vladovic as its president, Deasy would resign.
Substitute teacher and UTLA member Dan Moran recently emailed me a hilarious satirical article from The Onion about a charter school achieving phenomenal results. How does the school do it? They don’t have any students. I wonder if LAUSD’s “Talent Management Division” would support such a proposal? The obvious question: Could Superintendent Deasy be replaced with an iPad?
A few people may say such a statement is disrespectful. Please bear in mind that earlier this year more than 16,000 UTLA members cast a vote of “no confidence” in Superintendent Deasy’s leadership. Only 9 percent of voters (1,647) cast a vote of confidence. The results may stem in part from Superintendent Deasy’s decisions to implement Breakfast in the Classroom without teacher guidance, strip schools of categorical funding in order to promote unproven teacher evaluation proposals, suspend the Parent Advisory Committee that monitored the use of Federal Title I funding, and raise the Title I qualification threshold from 40 percent to 50 percent.
Then there’s the big issue of how Deasy treats teachers and health and human services professionals, including reports that he fired a substitute teacher who was following the lesson plan. LAUSD also continues to seem to be targeting teachers for dismissal who are at or near vesting accrual of life-time health benefits, and employees who have been accused and cleared of wrongdoing are rarely returned to the classroom—all under the guise of protecting students. Students know and openly talk about how there are no consequences for making false allegations against a teacher. There are even YouTube videos discussing best practices on how to get your teacher fired. Yet when UTLA appeals and wins dismissal cases, nearly all of those decisions are appealed by District leadership. Senior District leadership seemingly wants older teachers to retire, younger teachers to question seniority, and for teachers and health and human services professionals to be mad at and blame our union.
To date, Superintendent John Deasy has not resigned.
In the interests of full disclosure, this article was written using Apple products. I shopped around for the best price, and there weren’t any conflicts of interests or free advertising involved.