Zimmer says majority of L.A. Unified board wants Deasy to stay

L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy listens at a meeting. He is scheduled to have a performance review with the Board of Education.
L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy listens at a meeting. He is scheduled to have a performance review with the Board of Education.
(Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press )

A day before Los Angeles schools chief John Deasy meets with the Board of Education to discuss his performance and his future with the district, board member Steve Zimmer indicated that Deasy has the backing of most of his colleagues to remain as superintendent.

Deasy, days before the scheduled performance review, had told some top officials that he may step down, according to district insiders.

The closed-door meeting will be conducted by a new, less supportive school board that has become more willing to challenge his policy efforts and philosophy.


Zimmer said Monday that he felt a majority of the board, despite disagreements on policy and other issues, wants Deasy to remain at the helm of the nation’s second-largest school district.

“I want to continue to work with John Deasy as our superintendent and I believe that the majority of the Board of Education wants to continue to work with John Deasy,” he said.

Zimmer bristled at suggestions that the board set out to make Deasy’s job more difficult or was attempting to force him out. “It might be a compelling narrative, but it’s fiction,” he said.

Deasy’s second in command, Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino, submitted his resignation last month after complaining that the board’s micromanagement made it virtually impossible to function.

Zimmer said he hopes that the board and Deasy can “figure out how we can work together on behalf of kids.”

Community organizers and activists plan to rally on the superintendent’s behalf Tuesday; they attempted to shore up support Monday.

In a morning call with more than 80 participants, Ryan Smith of the United Way asked groups to commit to a specific number of supporters for a Tuesday morning rally, followed by testimony to the school board in the public portion of its meeting.

The group Parent Revolution committed to a delegation of 20 to 30. Unlike other superintendents, Deasy has been unwilling to oppose the group’s efforts to lead parent takeovers at low-achieving schools. The Eastside group InnerCity Struggle promised similar numbers. A Teach for America group pledged 10 to 15. Deasy has supported the use of instructors provided by Teach for America. The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center said it would send five people, as did a parent from Aldama Elementry, where Deasy approved a dual-language Spanish and English program.

“We see that there are a lot of policies that have put students first and this is important for putting students first,” Smith said. Smith, the director of education programs and policy for United Way, also emphasized that the rally had to be about more than Deasy, in case the superintendent is determined to leave or the school board is set on replacing him.

Smith said a key goal was “making sure these policies continue no matter what happens.”

A revised meeting agenda for Tuesday refers to the prospect of the superintendent’s “separation.”

If Deasy were to leave, the board and district are prepared for the transition to a new leader and would assure the district’s gains do not lose momentum, Zimmer said.

“We are prepared for something that we do not seek,” he said. “It is our obligation.”


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