Monday, October 14, 2013

LAUSD Board President Sparring With Superintendent John Deasy

LAUSD Board President Richard Vladovic

Despite Some Ugly Allegations, Los Angeles Unified School District Board President Richard Vladovic  Still Hangs In There And It's A Good Thing As The Board Appears To Move Away From Only Trumpeting Test Scores

By Diana L. Chapman

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy
The reporter called to ask what I had to say about Los Angeles School Board President Richard Vladovic and the recent allegations that he yells at people, has been accused of sexual harassment and is overall a big bully, according to a report released from the district and other sources.

It took me two seconds to assess this having volunteered for the district for years: "I have met few people who care more about students than this man," I told the reporter.

"Yeah, everyone says that," the reporter said, sounding deeply bored by my thoughts -- which in fact were very unexciting and did not appear in the article.

All of these allegations  leaves me with much food for thought, more than anything, about the timing of  these implications and the more than strained relationship between Vladovic and Los Angeles School Superintendent John Deasy. Last week, LAUSD released a report filled with allegations that Vladovic allegedly sexually harassed an employee more than a decade ago and had berated two employees and further retaliated with snubs more recently. Vladovic was cleared in an investigation that he improperly handled molestation allegations against a teacher at George De La Torre Jr. Elementary School  in Wilmington.

Vladovic, 68, has spent more than half his life in education mostly in Los Angeles Unified from starting out as a middle school teacher, to managing gifted programs district wide to holding principalships at three inner city high schools. He retired as a senior administrator, but  later rose as a board member in 2007 to head  up the southern region of the district, which has scores of Harbor area and south Los Angeles campuses. He admitted publicly in a released statement that he had lost his temper and would seek professional  guidance to help  him control it. He also denied having sexually harassed or overly abusing anyone.
 "I violated the district's civility police along with the board's policy, and for that I'm truly sorry," he said in the statement.  "I also apologize to any employee who has felt intimidated because of my actions. In my capacity to serve the district I admit to having crossed the line and I intend to never do so again."
I am happy Vladovic clearly admitted that he needed counseling and took ownership of his actions. The trouble I am having is why are these allegations flying out wildly now?  Why now is an employee  reporting sexual abuse more than a decade later? It seems that will be difficult to prove at this late date. It's also gives me  the read between the lines feeling.  

The crux of it might be this: It's no secret that Los Angeles Superintendent John Deasy and Vladovic  have been at odds for a while now, especially after Vladovic realized what a mistake he had made initially joining former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in heading up many actions in the school district, including allowing the mayor to  take over some schools. Two years ago, Deasy came in riding the same ticket siding with the mayor about the takeover. Most of the board, was on board, including Vladovic until things began to crumble. The mayor took over several schools, but had no more success than LAUSD had handling  them and Deasy and his support staff were so focused on raising test scores in the flailing district that they forgot about one thing -- looking at the whole student.

That pains me greatly as I see much more in the kids I work with beyond their test scores. I see intelligence. I see creativity. I see students who need guidance to determine how to define and refine their attributes for their futures. The whole test score thing shoved that and all the poor performing students into a muddy bucket, making them feel stupid and worthless when they do poorly  -- even for some good students.

"I have fifty reasons why I hate it (the California Standardized Test)," wrote student Cicely Arana, a 13-year-old middle school student. "I hate it, but I'm only telling you five.  One, I hate how many questions we have. Two, the teachers and staff put pressure on you, making you stressed and making you do badly. Three, it's not even fair how they determine if you are smart or not by your scores. If they didn't make such a big deal of it, we would do better. Four, I hate how right after the CST, we have more school and more quizzes and tests. Five, we have to come home to: 'How did the test go honey?' Then all you do, is fake a smile and nod."

Under Deasy's reign, elementary teachers were reporting  that the fix at poorer performing schools was so intense on testing that they were told to drop the sciences and not to do any art until the last 20 minutes of the day. They had to stick strictly to math and English. While there are probably countless reasons for this inner-district battle, I knew sticking strictly to testing would further unhinge  the already stilted relationship between the board president and the superintendent.

Having worked with Vladovic, and having talked with his fiercest critics, I still was able to see one thing: Vladovic wanted to return to look at the whole picture of the child and not just the limiting view  of tests, which is like taking one facet of a diamond to determine its worth. The board president joined that testing movement at the time due to the intense amount of sharp criticism that the second largest  district in the nation was a complete flop, with a dropout rate nearing 50 percent. With test scores continually on the rise, the board appears ready to move on to bring back the polish and spit of some important principles  that were dropped such as returning fine art to the classroom.

 Deasy and Vladovic are two giants sparring over philosophy and the right ways to teach kids. It appears only one will survive, which happens often when two personalities are too large for the town. My bet is on Vladovic. The reason: Deasy threatened to quit if Vladovic was named board president in December.

 Despite the threat, the board unanimously voted Vladovic into the seat. Bosses typically don't like threats. Rumblings of the accusations began to hit before that. After the vote that brought Vladovic into the presidency in July, Deasy didn't leave his post. He stayed.

Deasy denies that he has anything to do with the allegations against Vladovic. Still criticism seems to brimming over for the Deasy. The United Teachers Los Angeles gave Deasy an F grade as superintendent. I can't help but agree.

While Vladovic is getting beaten up for his temper, Deasy isn't actually a keep -it-in-control-kind-of-guy either. He berated a substitute -- in front of the students -- for having them copy instructions off the board, a request from their teacher, an issue reported by Los Angeles Times columnist Sandy Banks.  He told the sub it was a waste of time. But as far as I know substitutes are supposed to follow the teacher's instructions. In reality, she wasn't doing anything wrong. It should have been a debate between him and the regular instructor.

For myself, I am so ready for Los Angeles Unified to move on.  Deputy Superintendent Jamie Aquino announced his departure after calling the board members micro-managers and said they threatened the academic progress of the district's students. He also accused the board of mistrusting the top school officials, according to many news accounts, and plans to depart at the end of December. 

"The current political climate does not allow me to lead an agenda that is in the best interests of the kids," Aquino said in news accounts.

The truth is that really depends on how you look at it.