28 Thursday Aug 2014
accountability, CCTP, contract fixing, contract fraud, cronyism, ipad, ipadgate, John Deasy, LAUSD board, leadership succession, leaked report, MiSiS, Pearson, ratliff, School Reform, school scandal, sycophancy
The Edu Revelations coming from west of downtown over on Beaudry are fast and furious, like the responses from all around. So fast is the news regarding Deasy’s ipads morphing in the media, that no sooner does one settle as a stakeholder on some sort of ask or demand in response, than the situation reveals itself to be altogether different as a new set of spin replaces the old. Everything is just topsy turvy: Oopsy Deasy.
Casual eavesdropping reveals snippets of conversation all around; everywhere whispers from strangers to aficionados include epithets from a realm that is nothing if not melodramatic: “criminal” and “indictment” and “grand jury” and “fraud” and “liar” and “accountability” and “crook” and “cronyism” and “bid fixing” and “unethical” and “yes men” and “pig in a poke” and “falling on a sword” and “thrown under a bus” and “leaked report” and “inspector general” and “audit”.
Angeleno’s numeracy skills are well-limbered as we contemplate unfathomable numbers like “one billion dollars” and “$61m” and forty seven thousand ipads. What are we going to do about the national embarrassment that is Los Angeles’ Educator In Chief?
“ipad-gate” has grown to be a national story as John Deasy announced he was backing out of the multi million dollar contract for Pearson software bundled into Apple hardware. Following release of emails that indicate a suspicious degree of contact between vendors for whom contracts appear to have been crafted, Superintendent Deasy has tried to staunch the flow of questions by calling the whole thing off.
This reaction does not sit well with Deasy’s professional corp, the voting members of Los Angeles’ teachers’ union, 91% of whom expressed “no confidence” in their leader last spring. They argue “[t]he superintendent does not get to just say, ‘never mind’ after all the problems the iPad rollout caused this district”.
And therein lies the monumental dilemma that has grown ever clearer this past week even as more and more scandals stained the start of the new school year. While “there were mistakes” of the highest, most pervasive order, so varied and so terrible, it is hard to see the way through this thicket of jeopardy without making things worse.
Plenty of district stakeholders are animated by a bloodlust that can’t be appeased fast enough in seeing the departure of an icon of neoliberal school privatization, the so-called “reform” agenda. From Breakfast In The Classroom to flawed teacher accountability measures to deferred maintenance to calamitous loss of administrative function to unconscionable union breaking to burgeoning and unaddressed classroom sizes with concomitant loss of classroom support from allied professionals and service workers alike – nurses, counselors, librarians, PE and arts teachers, plumbers, janitors, copy clerks, administrators — Deasy’s critics are so ubiquitous that like a locked-door who-done-it where everyone hates the deceased, it is hard to find a contingency shy of the 1% and their paid mercenaries, that is not agitating for Deasy’s departure.
At the same time a contingent of stakeholders invokes the moral imperative that Deasy’s very own myopic exaltation of “accountability” should dictate precisely that he not leave, and in staying assume responsibility for the mess he has made all around, and not obviate legal entities in pursuing investigation.
Be careful for what you wish! That is the line of thinking that fears unintended consequences, a recapitulation of the history that swept John Deasy into the Beaudry horseshoe on the heels of his precipitously departing boss, Ramón Cortines. There was no job search then, our elected school board conducted no national call for a leader suited to the needs of this nation’s second-largest unified school district.
Instead the panicked board simply waived through the “heir apparent”, and thus we inherited this Broad-trained, controversial and ideologically-riddled John Deasy without so much as an interview. His employment was a fait accompli, a Trojan Horse usurpation of the top job by political entities elected to another realm.
The danger exists very much today that the board will again lose control of succession, should political buffeting render this vulnerable district once again precipitously leaderless. As it happens a newly appointed second-in-command, the largely unknown, peripatetic Ruth Pérez lately of Norwalk-La Mirada but before that “Florida” and the notorious Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district of North Carolina — famous for its own version of “ipadgate” replete with revolving-door industry shills — has alighted in LA Unified just in time to re-warm the chair of LAUSD’s very own corporate mole, Jaime Aquino.
And thus we mere parents of LAUSD, arguably the most complex and invested stakeholders of public education, are left swiveling our heads from one crazed and confused political entity to another. Spinelessness is present in no small measure everywhere, as are traitors to a clean political process where votes would consist just of conscience and not gerrymandered, cajoled or calculated quid pro quos. The whole thing is mind-bendingly convoluted and the number of vested interests simply boggles the mind. Lost, as always, is the prerogative of the next generation in the fray, our children, the “youth” of Los Angeles. These young people ought to be as diverse as the city we all live in, but skillful political manipulation has narrowed the constituency to that of the largely unsupported poor, alien and otherwise “disadvantaged”. These shenanigans never were and continue not to be about “the children” no matter how big the proverbial Lie claiming otherwise. The popcorn we pass is a measure of our impotence as this Grand Kabuki plays out on Beaudry utterly independent of any advocacy we might wish to exert on behalf of fellow citizens. We have all become pawns in a class war of eclipsing proportions and all of Los Angeles is agog awaiting the outcome of this microcosmic skirmish played out through Deasy, his corporate overlords and their technological toys.