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Take chances and work as a team, John Deasy urges school principals

In his annual speech to administrators, Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy exhorted principals to be brave, take chances and not be afraid to make mistakes during a time of rapid change in the nation's second-largest school system.

"We will do this as a team," Deasy said at Hollywood High School in his address to principals, school board members and others. "We will learn together. We will grow together and we will make mistakes together."

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Administrators are familiar with the changes Deasy alluded to. This year, they have to evaluate teachers under a system they find much more time-consuming. The district is moving toward a new curriculum to meet state learning standards. And a district college-prep policy will require students to pass more rigorous classes, among other things.

"I agree with the words," said administrators union President Judith Perez, referring to the speech. But, she added that principals need help. "If you want to help school leaders do their jobs, give us more assistant principals. Let's be concrete here."

United Teachers Los Angeles President Warren Fletcher attended Deasy's speech but said he had no immediate comment.

Other speakers at the back-to-school event included new L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and school board members Richard Vladovic and Steve Zimmer.

As he has before, Garcetti indicated he would adopt a conciliatory relationship with all parties, including district leadership and employee unions.

"I want to be a  bridge-builder," Garcetti said. Too often the discussion has been about whether someone is "pro-union or pro-reform instead of figuring out a way to be pro-teacher and pro-change."

Garcetti also pledged to seek more state funding for schools and to use city dollars and city projects to benefit neighborhood campuses. He added that he would work to make sure every neighborhood had broadband Internet access, so that students would have that capability at home. L.A. Unified is planning to buy iPads for all students, beginning this year at 47 campuses.

This will be the first year that the district will not be faced with severe budget cuts; in the past several years, L.A. Unified has laid off thousands of teachers and others, and cut services and programs to schools. Vladovic, the new Board of Education president, spoke of the sacrifices made by employees and the need to restore services to students and jobs to employees.

Deasy, meanwhile, returned repeatedly to the theme of managing so many changes so quickly.

"Stay calm," he said. "It's what we tell students when we have our earthquake drill. ... We can do it."

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