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L.A. mayoral candidates back schools chief Deasy

February 27, 2013 |  6:42 pm

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy explains the need to transform Crenshaw High School in South Los Angeles on Jan. 15.  Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press

The five leading candidates for mayor said Wednesday that they favored keeping Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy on the job overseeing the nation's second-largest school system. 

Deasy’s policies — and his job security — have become a major undercurrent in the contests for three seats on the L.A. Unified Board of Education. A coalition of wealthy donors and civil leaders including L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have backed school board candidates who strongly support Deasy.

The teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, is backing different contenders in two of those races. The union has frequently opposed Deasy, but has not called for his dismissal.

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Education hasn’t been a major theme in the race for mayor, but the topic was thrust into the spotlight by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, which organized a campaign forum as part of a broader education conference at the downtown Convention Center.

Deasy has done “a very good job in the face of some incredible challenges and I would stand with him to make sure he got reappointed,” said L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry, who also praised Deasy’s “patience, intelligence, knowledge and great technical skill” as well as an ability to “speak truth to power.”

Attorney and former radio talk host Kevin James called Deasy “a reform-minded superintendent” who “has overall done a good job.” James said he looked forward to working with Deasy even though he took issue with some of Deasy’s actions or positions.

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

“I support you as well,” said technology company executive  Emanuel Pleitez, addressing Deasy, who was in the audience. Pleitez added that he supported Deasy’s technology push but wanted to see even more in that arena. He also challenged Deasy to redouble efforts to bring together people with conflicting views on improving schools.

“It sounds like you’re going to get reappointed,” said L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel, who, like the others, was aware that the mayor does not appoint the superintendent. “He came in taking no prisoners. He said, ‘I’m going to do what’s best.’…That’s the kind of person we need.” She added: “Thank you very much, Mr. Deasy, for what you do every day.”

L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti praised Deasy for doing a “great job,” adding: “He needs to be reappointed.”

INTERACTIVE MAP: How Los Angeles voted

Deasy, who is selected by the school board, has a multi-year contract with performance targets. 

When invited to discuss Board of Education candidates, Garcetti endorsed one-term school board incumbent Steve Zimmer — who, as a longtime community activist, had worked with Garcetti in the Elysian Valley area.

Deasy’s civic allies are trying to unseat Zimmer in District 4 and elect parent and attorney Kate Anderson.

Garcetti said no other school board candidate had asked for his endorsement, but noted that he had worked effectively with board president Monica Garcia, who is running for reelection in District 2.

Greuel then looked in the direction of Garcia, who also was present and asserted: “I’m proud to support you even before you asked me.” Perry also specifically lauded Garcia.

The pro-Deasy coalition is backing Garcia, Anderson, and, in District 6, Antonio Sanchez.

The teachers union is neutral in District 6. It’s funding an independent campaign for Zimmer and has endorsed three of four challengers against Garcia, hoping to force her into a runoff.

The union has endorsed Garcetti in the race for mayor.


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--Howard Blume

Photo:  Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy at a meeting in January.  Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press