On Monday evening, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy gave a talk at the Claremont Graduate University titled, “Autonomy and Accountability: Unleashing the Power of the Professional.”
Within hours of the lecture, a column by Los Angeles Times writer Sandy Banks that could yet go viral—if it hasn’t already—takes Deasy to task for losing his cool with a substitute teacher at Washington Prep High School in South L.A. According to the incident, which occurred last fall and first appeared in a Times profile of Deasy on Easter Sunday, the LAUSD chief found the teacher presiding over a 12-grade English class in which students were “copying a list of classroom rules into their composition books.”
Referring to Deasy’s encounter as “just one morning out of 365, one campus visit out of more than 500” in his first year as LAUSD chief—a milestone that is being widely observed in the media—Banks argues that the super’s “tiff diverts attention from systemic issues” at the nation’s second-largest school district.
But Deasy has also “garnered mostly good reviews in his relentless—and some way insufferably impatient—efforts to improve L.A.’s public schools,” writes Banks, adding: “That’s why Deasy blew his top.”
We’d like to hear what our readers think about Deasy’s outburst. Was Deasy justified in shouting at LAUSD substitute No. 970595, as the teacher is identified in Bank’s column, and who has reportedly been banned from teaching in the District? “I’m sitting with students who have not dropped out, who have not quit, who are the most likely to go to college,” Deasy reportedly wrote in his defense. “And I’m watching them copying rules that were handed to them into a notebook. I struggle with that. I struggle with that a lot.”
Or did Deasy overreact, while making little or no contribution to improving teaching at LAUSD? As Banks puts it: “Perhaps a conversation with that substitute teacher, without students as spectators, might have taught the ‘super attendant’ something. It certainly would have accomplished more than a classroom tantrum that reduced the issue to an ego clash.”
Please share your views in the Comments section below.
To offer a bit of context for the discussion, here’s what Deasy said in a speech that he gave at Occidental College last October—around the same time of his alleged outburst—and which Patch transcribed in a four-part series:
“So in my office—and in every local district superintendent’s office—are assignments we collect every week. And what we try to do is that we randomly go into a school and we take five classrooms and see the work we’re doing today. These are only high school visits. Last week, I collected the following assignments: In 11th grade AP Lit—I think everybody knows ‘Advance Placement Literature’—the assignment was a word search. And the word search was words associated with Jane Eyre. Like ‘Jane.’ ‘Eyre.’ ‘Drama.’ I kid you not. It was horrifying.
A word search—not only is it demeaning, and not only is it disrespectful, but we don’t teach kids to read on a diagonal or backwards. Okay? It doesn’t even make cognitive sense. And I said to myself, ‘well, that’s just ridiculous—that must be a one-off.”