Flickr photo by Alan Turkus
A top official involved in pushing for new teacher evaluation procedures and other reforms at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was appointed Tuesday as second in command at the Los Angeles Unified School District.
After discussing the appointment in closed session, the LA Board of Education approved John E. Deasy to become Superintendent Ramon Cortines' deputy – thereby filling a post vacant since Cortines ascended to the top position in December 2008.
Deasy is deputy director of education at the Gates Foundation, responsible for overseeing $200 million in education grants, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Before joining the Gates Foundation, Deasy was superintendent at Prince George’s County Public Schools, Maryland’s second-largest school system and the nation’s 18th largest district with 134,000 students.
His stint in Maryland became tumultous when allegations surfaced that Deasy may have awarded a $125,000 contract to his academic adviser in exchange for favorable consideration toward his doctorate. The adviser, Robert Felner, former dean of the school of education at the University of Louisville, pleaded guilty to 10 federal charges of fraud, tax evasion and money laundering. Deasy's attorney, Scott Cox, insisted his client was innocent and was merely the victim of Felner's bad publicity:
And Dr. Deasy, as far as we can tell, earned legitimately his Ph.D. And there is so much negative publicity associated with Dr. Felner and anything he's connected with, it really is unfortunate that Dr. Deasy got dragged into this. He didn't do anything wrong except get his Ph.D.
Deasy's appointment could put him next in line to assume LAUSD's top spot, if 77-year-old Cortines decides to step down. It also could signal a more intense focus on reforming the district's policies toward teacher pay, tenure and accountability. Deasy is on record for favoring a different approach, according to an observer's account of one of Deasy's presentations:
For example, Deasy said $8.4 billion nationally goes into compensat(ing) teachers with a master's (MA/MS) degree, yet there is no relationship between a MA degree and increased student achievement. … Deasy said we must completely re-conceptualize tenure with a dramatic change in compensation and accountability.