Deasy would replace Ramon C. Cortines, 78, who announced last year that he would retire this spring from the system he has headed since 2008.
No Los Angeles Unified School District officials or administrators were willing to publicly discuss Deasy's presumed hiring. Employees said they had no authorization to do so, and elected officials said it would be improper to discuss the board's private deliberations. Deasy also said he could not discuss the matter. Several insiders, however, confirmed the pending hire.
Deasy joined the district in August as the top deputy to Cortines, who promptly vacated his office for his heir apparent, moving into smaller quarters next door. Deasy, 50, came from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he oversaw efforts to revamp how teachers are evaluated, but he also has 20 years' experience as a school district superintendent.
During his five months in Los Angeles, Deasy has pushed for the controversial use of student test score data as part of a revamped system to evaluate teachers and principals. When The Times published a series on teacher effectiveness using a "value-added" model that ranks instructors by their students' test scores, Deasy urged the board and the teachers union to negotiate a new evaluation that would include a similar analysis.
That effort has been vigorously opposed by United Teachers Los Angeles. The district's teachers union supports the use of data to improve teaching but opposes its use in formal teacher evaluations. Deasy has historically enjoyed a good relationship with employee unions, despite their disagreement with him over the use of data.
Deasy's anticipated promotion ends months of speculation on when he might take over. There also have been uncomfortable moments between Cortines and Deasy, both of whom are strong-willed leaders with a clear idea of what they want to do. They got along in part by focusing on different arenas. Cortines led the way on managing painful budget cuts. Deasy oversaw the teacher evaluation initiative and litigation that is widely expected to alter traditional seniority protections for teachers.
Still, past heirs apparent to the top job have fallen out of favor before rising to the top. That didn't happen with Deasy, who has generally impressed board members, even when they disagree with him.
Deasy's hiring is nonetheless expected to meet some resistance from a minority on the seven-member Board of Education. Their objection will probably be over the lack of a nationwide search for Cortines' replacement.
In securing Deasy, the board hands the reins to one of the nation's most respected and energetic educators, but there's an element of political gamble. Four seats on the school board are on the ballot in March. If the board's philosophical composition changes, it could want to choose its own superintendent.
That happened in 1999, when an outgoing school board extended the contract of Ruben Zacarias. The new board quickly became disenchanted with the holdover and fired him anyway — resulting in a contract buyout and extended uncertainty over district leadership.
A similar scenario happened in 2006, when the board locked in former Navy Adm. David Brewer with a four-year contract. A new board majority that arrived months later never warmed up to Brewer, who lasted about two years before accepting a costly buyout.
The result is that upcoming board elections loom large. Candidates backed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will probably support Deasy. It's unclear whether the same would be true for candidates backed by the teachers union, which is expected to oppose the mayor's slate. Villaraigosa has yet to formally endorse candidates.
But the mayor did meet with Deasy and school board President Monica Garcia on Wednesday morning to discuss "transition issues," according to sources who said they were familiar with Deasy's calendar. The mayor's office had no comment Thursday.
Districts Deasy has headed include the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and Prince George's County Public Schools in Maryland.
Deasy has a bachelor's and a master's degree in education from Providence College in Rhode Island and a doctorate from the University of Louisville in Kentucky. His three children are in their early 20s; two attend college locally. His wife Patty is a nurse practitioner.
Officials have tentatively scheduled a news conference for Tuesday that is to follow a closed-door session at which the board members will vote. No candidate other than Deasy will be considered at the meeting, and contract terms are already under negotiation, district insiders said.