Los Angeles Unified's superintendent John Deasy will have been in his position for a year on April 15, 2012. The hardworking Boston native is continuing in his drive to boost test scores by moving to get rid of underperforming teachers and getting parents actively involved in their children's education. He was originally hired in 2010 as deputy to Ramon Cortines and promoted without a job interview last year.
"L.A. needed not only a reformer but a transformational leader to set the highest standards for our kids," said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who helped broker the Deasy deal. "John was a proven reformer, who believed in data and measurable results and in holding people accountable.
"I appreciate the urgency that he's bringing to improving the district," Villaraigosa added. "I couldn't be more hopeful."
Deasy has visited all of the district's campuses, a number that exceeds one thousand, and usually spends Monday, Wednesday and Friday touring schools and is known for greeting as many students as he can personally and gauging how confident they feel about their lives after graduation.
"My biggest fear is that we will not do right by kids, that we will not get things better fast enough for kids," said Deasy, 51. "I worry about that all the time."
He attributes his social conscience to his parents encouraging him to volunteer and give back to the community. Deasy's strategy for improving the future of young Angelenos can be boiled down to three basic principals: Have the best possible teachers in the classroom, allow parents to choose which type of school they want for their children, and make the district more efficient. Despite his liberal parents' strong support of the unions, Deasy's policies have set him on collision course with union interests. He acknowledged when taking the job that his biggest challenge would be fence mending with United Teachers Los Angeles, and although he believes he has improved the working relationship, they have yet to agree on performance evaluations and other major issues. He doesn't appear willing to sacrifice his commitment to the wellbeing of the children in his school system.
"He truly operates an A-plus game 110 percent of the time. I think a lot of people talk about his passion and urgency – that's John's calling card," said Zimmer, whose district stretches from Woodland Hills to El Segundo and Hollywood.
"The superintendent is the nexus of two jobs – big-picture leadership and day-to-day management. It takes an extraordinary amount of focus, energy and pure effort, and his is what has impressed me the most."