John Leichty, the Los Angeles Unified School District associate superintendent who developed innovative programs to keep at-risk pupils from dropping out of school, has died. He was 60.
Leichty died Dec. 28 in Los Angeles of cancer, district officials announced.
Leichty, a former high school dropout, became a passionate advocate for children who failed to thrive in the regular classroom -- those who had left school or were in danger of dropping out. During his 37-year career with the school district, he worked to make sure all students were treated with dignity and encouraged to reach their potential.
Leichty was named associate superintendent in charge of extended-day programs in 2000. He created the district's Beyond the Bell program and built it into a national model. The $250-million-a-year operation provides before- and after-school activities and summer school as well as academic interventions for those having trouble with class work.
To interest his at-risk students in learning, Leichty encouraged activities as diverse as taking them to Dodger games and helping them rebuild a truck.
Born on an Idaho farm, Leichty moved to Southern California with his family at age 8. After deciding to continue his schooling, he not only graduated from high school but earned a bachelor's degree in social studies and economics and a master's in education from Cal State Los Angeles.
Before his work with Beyond the Bell, he taught high school social studies and reading, and was a high school principal, a director of instruction and an assistant superintendent in charge of all district middle schools.
Leichty is survived by his wife of 22 years, Sheridan; four children, Daniel, Amy Davis, Mandy Leichty Rosales and Carrie Foss; and 11 grandchildren.
A memorial service is pending. The family has asked that, instead of flowers, memorial donations be made to the American Heart Assn., 1710 Gilbreth Road, Burlingame, CA 94010.