On Thursday, February 9, 2012 two large, angry groups — in separate parts of Los Angeles — protested against LAUSD, for two different reasons. At Miramonte Elementary School, around a hundred angry parents and students protested the transfer of the entire staff — teachers, janitors, everybody — to a new school still under construction, while an entirely new staff was brought in, at a reported cost of $5.7 million. The parents and students complained of the disruptive effects of this radical response to child abuse allegations against two teachers. Meanwhile, outside LAUSD Headquarters at 333 S. Beaudry Avenue in Los Angeles, over two thousand angry teachers and adult students protested the threatened elimination of LAUSD’s adult and career education programs, which serve over 300,000 students.
Both demonstrations protested disruption — one disruption costing the cash-strapped district close to $6 million, the other disruption ostensibly intended to save the district money. Saving money, spending money… maybe they were beside the point. Maybe the real goal was the disruption itself.
It seems ludicrous to even suggest that the superintendent of a large public school system would purposely cause disruption in the school district he or she had been chosen to run. Ludicrous, that is, until one looks into the background of LAUSD Superintendent Dr. John Deasy, a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy.
Do a Bing search by typing “Deasy” and “Broad,” and the first thing you get is this:
According to that official website, John Deasy is a proud 2006 graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy, a 10-month part-time program that “identifies and prepares prominent leaders — executives who have experience successfully leading large organizations and a passion for public service — then places them in urban school districts to dramatically improve the quality of education for America’s students.”
This all seems quite laudable, until you look down the list of “hits” on that Bing search. Here’s #2:
At the top of that blog, the “Broad Report,” you get this quote : “What is happening in large urban districts today has been carefully orchestrated by vulture philanthropists.” That’s from Susan Ohanian, author of One Size Fits Few: The Folly of Educational Standards.
The “Broad Report” is full of unpleasantness about Eli Broad, including a rather sour look at his main cash cow, KB Homes, whose chief executive — Bruce Karatz — in 2010 was brought up on twenty felony charges including securities fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud and making false statements in securities filings. He was convicted on charges of backdating stock options. (Details: Bruce Karatz found guilty on stock option backdating charges)
As one Michael Fiorillo wrote, commenting on an article about Eli Broad in
“It’s revealing that Broad earned the first of his many fortunes building gated communities and subdivisions in white flight suburbs of Southern California. Originally named Kaufman and Broad, the company is now known as KB Homes, the stock of which is a major part of his foundation’s endowment.
“So, a fortune created by federally subsidized housing inequalities is then channeled into a tax exempt foundation that funds the dismantling of the public schools and creation of a separate and unequal education system. It’s almost like a perpetual motion machine, as designed by Mephistopheles.”
Click to the right for more on Michael Fiorillo’s observation.
Broad is well known to favor charter schools, and by some odd coincidence, his superintendents also seem to favor charters schools. In LAUSD, board members who were elected to the school board largely through Broad money have routinely voted in favor of charter schools. More on charter schools at another time, God willing. But back to “Dr.” John Deasy.
The first post in the “Broad Report” blog asserts that John Deasy left a superintendent job in Prince George, Maryland three weeks after being investigated regarding the validity of his doctorate. He then took a job with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which offers a public school reform program that has been criticized for favoring charter schools and over-emphasizing the use of standardized test scores in evaluating students, teachers, and educational programs. Some critics point out that the Gates Foundation exerts undue influence over public education policy without being accountable to either voters or taxpayers.
Deasy was hired by LAUSD in 2010, and only six months later promoted to Superintendent, in a process that seems, in retrospect, rather hasty and ill-considered. There was no job interview. To my knowledge, Dr. Deasy never had to answer any hard, job-interview-type questions. The LAUSD school board voted 6-0 to hire Dr. Deasy, with only one abstention: Steve Zimmer, Board District 4. (Full disclosure: I helped elect Zimmer to the school board by phone-banking at UTLA headquarters.) Regarding Deasy’s selection as superintendent, Mr. Zimmer commented later for the L.A. Weekly: ”We didn’t have a process — internal or external — for the most important job in public education in the United States… I can’t be sure that I got the best person for the job if I didn’t get to even talk to anybody else.” According to the L.A. Weekly, “Mayor Villaraigosa was ‘making all the moves behind the scenes to make [Deasy's promotion] happen.’” This would be consistent with Antonio Villaraigosa’s well-known ambition to control LAUSD.
But. Other unpleasant questions linger in the matter of Dr. John Deasy.
First, there are still those questions as to the validity of his Ph.D.
Second, apparently there were inconsistencies in his resume that still haven’t been resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned.
Then there was the small matter of his having been trained by the Broad academy, which has garnered a great deal of unfavorable press in some circles.
In a February 20, 2012 article in Education Week, Cristina A. Samuels speaks with educators who see Broad’s academy and his pressure on public education as “a destructive force.” Samuels’s article was reprinted in the Christian Science Monitor:
Critics of Broad’s academy accuse his superintendents of running school districts like corporations, trying to destroy unions, excluding parents from the decision-making process, and pushing educational reforms that haven’t been proven by research or successful implementation.
One of Broad’s critics, Sharon Higgins, started The Broad Report in 2009 after the Oakland (California) school district went through three Broad-trained superintendents one after another. (Each was a state appointee.)
The Samuels article says of Higgins,
She said she grew alarmed when she started seeing principals and teachers whom she called “high-quality, dedicated people” forced out. She contends in her blog that Broad superintendents are trained to aim for “maximum disruption” when they come to a district, without regard for parent and teacher concerns.
“It’s like saying, let me come to your house and completely rearrange your furniture, because I think your house is a mess,” Ms. Higgins said, adding that other parents around the country have reached out to her to complain about their own Broad-trained school leaders.
According to Erica Lepping, spokeswoman for the Broad Foundation, the academy promotes a management model of “continuous improvement” that is used by successful businesses, corporations, nonprofits organizations, and educational systems. Part of that corporate management model seems analogous to boot camp in the the military: rough up the new recruits, break them down into quivering messes, then start again almost from scratch, rebuilding the “cherries” into lean, mean killing machines. Or consider the methods of a developer like KB Homes: come in with bulldozers, tear up the hillsides, devastate whatever ecosystem might have been there previously, and make a lot of money selling houses to nervous white folks fleeing the city.
Charter schools are the Holy Grail of many “school reformers” such as Broad and Gates. They have also come to be known as places where the “right people” (i.e. not disabled, not sight-impaired, not hearing-impaired, not mentally or emotionally challenged, not in any kind of trouble with the law) might get a better education. At least the lucky ones accepted to charters will be away from all “those people.”
And to make way for charters — well, as a friend who was in U.S. Army Special Forces used to say: “You have to break a few eggs to make an omelette.”
Could disruption, then, be a goal of our superintendent when he proposes to summarily move the entire staff of the largest elementary school in the country to another school? Or when he proposes to summarily close an entire program such as adult education, which is intrinsic to the social and economic fiber of Los Angeles?
Well, it depends on how you mean “disruption.”
Thomas W. Payzant does training for the Broad Academy. He also used to be superintendent of Boston public schools. Payzan says that BSA (Broad Superintendents Academy) graduates must be ready to shake districts up. “You don’t go into a leadership role with a notion that you’re just going to coast… You want to be able to show improvement, and often improvement in the education sector means change that will make some people very uncomfortable and will not be popular.”
Bring in the bulldozers.
A Broad critic named James Horn (associate professor of education policy at Cambridge College in Massachusetts) has a blog for educators: Schools Matter. Horn believes that Broad and other venture philanthropists are “wielding influence not to help public institutions, but to destroy public institutions, or take control of them… This is a dangerous place, where corporations and government get mixed up.”
Just how dangerous? I, and anyone in LAUSD’s adult and career education program, can tell you. In December we all got word that Dr. Deasy had recommended that the budget for the Division of Adult and Career Education be cut to zero, along with early childhood education and several other programs.
(For more on this, including videos on protests against the proposed zeroing of adult ed, including videos by me, click here:
One conspiracy theory that drifted through my e-mail was that Deasy was using the budget crisis as a pretext to serve a secret pro-Broad agenda. Think about it. The programs he was trying to eliminate help support the success of non-charter K-12 programs, in the following ways: 1. Adult education helps drop-outs graduate and helps parents help their kids in their studies; 2. Early childhood education helps kids from economically challenged families get a better chance in school. By demolishing those buttresses, Broad-I-mean-Deasy-and-all-the-other-Broadies could help bring on more failure for non-charter K-12, thus being able to more easily say, “See? Traditional K-12 programs aren’t working. Let’s make this a charter school district.”
I can also imagine Dr. Deasy and Eli Broad saying, behind closed doors, “Hmmm… there’s a lot of nice real estate sitting under those occupational centers and adult education centers. I’ll bet they would make real nice charter schools. If it weren’t for all those damn… PEOPLE.”
Photo by Michael Eivaz
I’m just saying.
And now I get the following email from a sender too nervous to leave his or her name at the bottom:
(Dated February 19, 2010)
Hi All, TWO VERY IMPORTANT MESSAGES!!!!
1. We can’t let the Mayor change boundaries that will have a negative impact on our Board member support.
We have to get this info out fast and have as many people at the meetings as possible. The meeting is scheduled for this Tuesday the 21st at 6pm at Sepulveda Middle School. Call 213-241-6387 and let them know you plan to attend. Please see the attachments. I have also placed a link to additional information below:
2. In AdditionHelp Save the LAUSD by Removing Dr. John Deasy as SuperintendentPlease write letters to the board members asking them to ask Dr Deasy to tender his resignation.Why:1. He has not demonstrated the ability for reasonable fiscal decisions i.e. proposing the elimination of Adult and Career Education, ESL, Early childhood, etc.2. He finds it necessary to ask for a steep tax increase to balance the school budget on the backs of property owners instead of finding other creative alternatives.3. He has demonstrated poor judgment in handling the child abuse scandal at Miramonte from the beginning.4. Under his watch he allowed the district to break state law by waiting a year to tell California’s teacher credentialing agency that it was firing an instructor under investigation for alleged lewd acts with students.5. Before promoting him to the position of Superintendent the Board of Education failed to have a process — internal or external — for the most important job in public education in the United States right now.
Gentle reader, it is certainly up to you whether or not you would like to join the efforts to fight town hall (Villaraigosa’s redistricting proposals) or recall Superintendent John Deasy. But I will tell you this: My wife has excellent instincts about people, and is a pretty good judge of character. And she tells me that both Villaraigosa and Dr. John Deasy give her “the creeps.”
I will also go out on a limb and make a prediction. I predict that in attacking adult education, Dr. Deasy and the “Broadies” on the LAUSD school board have made a fatal strategic error that has exposed them as wrong-headed corporate elitists who do not know, understand, or truly care about the communities they purport to serve. I believe history will show that attacking adult education was Broad-I-mean-Deasy’s bridge too far. It was an act of hubris that — at the Board of Education’s raucous meeting on February 14 — was roundly and justly rebuked by a tag team of celebrities, elected officials, and a military veteran or two. Even the relatively conservative Daily News has come out foursquare in support of adult education.
I think Deasy’s term as superintendent will be as short as it is messy. Hopefully when the Board of Education chooses Deasy’s replacement, they will be more enlightened and will not take whatever corporate whore Eli Broad pushes their way. Hopefully they will think first of the people in the communities they serve, and less about the deep pockets of vulture philanthropists.
Hopefully we will one day have a truly effective system of public education that is not a subsidiary of private corporations. Because if history shows us anything, private corporations do not necessarily have in mind “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.” What they really have in mind is profit.
My vote: Let’s keep public education a non-profit organization.