Teachers union gives poor grade to L.A. schools Supt. Deasy

A teachers union survey of its members gave consistently low marks to L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy, who enjoys strong support from some community groups and education philanthropists.
A teachers union survey of its members gave consistently low marks to L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy, who enjoys strong support from some community groups and education philanthropists.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
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<i>This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.</i>

The L.A. teachers union pressed its campaign of criticism against L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy Thursday with the release of a survey in which 85% of those who responded rated him below average or poor.

The superintendent scored poorly on every one of 25 questions, which, taken together, were a read on the morale of teachers who participated. About 26% of union members returned the survey, according to United Teachers Los Angeles.

“We’re constantly being told you have to do better, you have to do better, the data is showing you’re not doing job. It’s frustrating. It’s demoralizing sometimes,” said Tarltonette Binion, a teacher at 156th Street Elementary, who took part in a news conference at union headquarters in Koreatown. “I am overwhelmed. I feel I am unable to do my job sometimes because of the expectations of the district coming down.”


“I love what I’m doing,” Binion added, “but for the first time in 32 years I wonder how much longer I can keep doing this.”

The union’s gambit of evaluating Deasy is an intentional twist on Deasy’s nascent evaluation that relies in part on student standardized test scores. Many teachers are uncomfortable with the system. Under Deasy, teachers have been under increasing pressure to deliver higher scores.

Susan Racavich, a 33-year veteran instructor at Van Deene Avenue Elementary, said she was told to stop teaching music and art to her kindergarten students until schoolwide test scores moved considerably higher.

Before the release of the survey, Deasy said he had no comment.

Deasy has had to manage sharp state budget cuts that have, on their own, damaged morale and hurt programs.

But union president Warren Fletcher insisted the results deserve notice.

“No one is perfect,” said Fletcher. “I think it’s exceptional that in this many different elements…the ratings were consistently, consistently, either below average or far below average. This is troubling.”

The schools chief has had the consistent backing of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and a coalition of some community groups, philanthropists and organizations funded by those philanthropists.


Scores also matter for Deasy when he is reviewed by the Board of Education.

UTLA adapted the questions about the superintendent from those in a survey that faculty members complete annually about their school principal.

On providing “effective instructional leadership,” the rating was 78% below average or poor. On positively influencing “the morale of the staff,” 84% gave that same low rating. On creating “an environment where teachers can feel free to express their views to Administration without fear of retaliation,” 82% gave low marks.

Deasy has taken pride in a sharp reduction in student suspensions, but teachers who responded were not impressed. When it came to developing and installing “effective student discipline and suspension policies,” 76% said the superintendent was below average or poor.

The survey comes on the heels of a straight up or down “confidence” vote on Deasy in April. In that, 91% of teachers opted for “no confidence.” About 17,700 of the union’s more than 32,000 members cast ballots.

This latest survey was conducted between May 3 and May 10, according to the union website.

Fletcher said the goal was to provide more specific detail to the Board of Education on the superintendent’s strengths and weaknesses.

Some union activists have been pushing for strategies to force Deasy out of office, especially in the wake of a school board election that somewhat altered the balance of power on the Board of Education.


On Wednesday, the union had taken another poke at Deasy -- this time in collaboration with Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, which represents principals and other middle managers with teaching credentials.

In a letter to the school board, the unions criticized Deasy for seeming to disregard the direction of the Board of Education in remarks quoted in an online publication, L.A. School Report.

If Deasy’s remarks about following his own agenda are to be taken at face value, Fletcher said in an interview, “in that case he was acting as a rogue bureaucrat.”

Deasy also had no comment on this matter.

[For the record, July 12, 3:25 p.m.: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that the survey on Deasy was included in one that faculty members complete annually about their principal.]

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