LAUSD's teachers union issued an overwhelming vote of no-confidence Thursday in the leadership of Superintendent John Deasy as he finishes his second year, while a rival survey released by civil rights groups showed strong support for his reform strategies and called for an even more aggressive approach to improving student achievement.
In the poll by United Teachers Los Angeles, 16,040 union members expressed displeasure with Deasy, while only 1,647 said they had confidence in the direction of LAUSD since he took the helm two years ago. UTLA President Warren Fletcher said the results of the no-confidence vote would be shared with the school board, whose seven members supervise the schools chief. The union has about 33,000 members, but only about half offered their opinions in the poll.
"The school board needs to be presented with this data. If there are concerns that arise about his performance, they have to be addressed," Fletcher said. "A superintendent is always a reflection of the school board. They need to look into their vision of the district and see if that's where they want the district to go."
Fletcher criticized many of Deasy's strategies, including what he called the "hyper-simplified use" of student test data in performance evaluations, and proposals to implement a merit pay system for educators.
"The education program is not on the right track," Fletcher said. "Testing and phony reforms are taking the focus away from what teaching and learning are all about and are harming the district."
Deasy dismissed the results of the no-confidence vote, saying in an email: "I am far too busy working to serve all students and assure their right to graduate college- and workforce-ready to pay attention to this nonsense."
Fletcher had refused to comment on the confidence question during the weeklong poll, although the union's website urged members to vote "no" and carried a list of 10 complaints "" each dubbed a "whoopsie Deasy" -- which had been submitted by teachers. They included concerns about salaries and layoffs, the loss of school counselors and the treatment of teachers accused of misconduct with students.
UTLA members also voted 77-23 percent in favor of an initiative mounted by a faction of union members, demanding that leaders strengthen their demands on issues like smaller class size and the rehiring of laid-off nurses, librarians and other campus professionals. The initiative also called for "a series of escalating actions, including preparing to strike if necessary, to fight for the demands of the campaign."
Fletcher said UTLA members plan to appear "en masse" at the school board's May meeting to demand a long-term budget strategy for small class size, fully staffed schools and other improvements.
As the union votes were being counted, a new coalition of civil rights groups, led by the United Way, was releasing its own survey of civic, education and community groups, reflecting strong support for Deasy's efforts.
The survey by CLASS -- Communities for LA Student Success -- was conducted in the wake of a divisive school board race that pitted the so-called reform movement against organized labor. It included a series of questions centered on some of the more controversial issues facing the district, such as transforming underperforming schools, evaluating
teacher performance and increasing the number of charters and other nontraditional campuses.
According to the poll, 98 percent believe it is important or critical to improve graduation rates for Latinos and African-American students, and 95 percent supported greater autonomy for local schools. There also was strong support for expanding the use of technology in the classroom and for using a data-based system to evaluate the performance of teachers and principals.
"Our goal is to figure out what the community wants," Ryan Smith, the education policy director for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, said during a press conference outside LAUSD headquarters. "By taking a poll of more than 100 community leaders and civil rights activists, we were able to see what their belief was for the priorities of the district.
"We've seen that many people are reaffirming many of the priorities the district has taken. And many of those priorities have been set by Superintendent John Deasy's agenda."
Deasy released a statement saying he was "gratified and heartened" by the CLASS poll, and that it reflected the broad-based interest in public education as critical to the future of Los Angeles.
"While the responses to this survey indicate that we are moving in the right direction, they also send a clear message that this agenda must move quicker and with more courage," he said.
The results of both polls come about five weeks before a May 21 runoff for two candidates to represent the East San Fernando Valley on the LAUSD board -- an election that also includes the mayor's race.
Outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called this week on the mayoral candidates, Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel, to create substantive strategies for dealing with the problems facing the nation's second-largest school district. Both Greuel and Garcetti have expressed support for Deasy.