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Deasy Brings Back Tainted Legacy

January 11, 2010,

Dear Editor,

Your article on John Deasy's candidacy for Superintendent at Los Angeles Unified School District ("Deasy Rumored to Be in Line to Head Los Angeles Schools," January 11, 2011) lacks a telling aspect of John Deasy's legacy in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District:

As superintendent here Deasy got rid of reform-oriented upper level staff and hired Tim Walker, giving Walker absolute authority over special education students with no checks and balances. Walker replaced the Individual Education Plans (IEPs) of special education students with gagged settlement agreements at a furious rate. District records indicate that before Deasy left for the East Coast, Tim Walker had created more than 160 gagged settlement agreements, which came to be known as "secret deals."

You will recall that after Santa Monica City Council heard from aggrieved parents, they decided to withhold funds from the district until the practice was stopped. ("Council Withholds School Funding at District’s Request," April 23, 2008)

The independent audit that brought an end to the secret deals also brought parents out of the shadows, making the observation that "Many parents reported feeling physically ill because they felt forced to sign a document that they did not agree with but had to sign to get their children services." (An Independent Evaluation of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Special Education Program by Lou Barber and Associates).

Your paper called the story one of the "Top Ten" of the decade. ( "Decade's Top Stories," January 4, 2010)

Today's LA Times editorial ("Head of the Class: New L.A. Supt. John Deasy clearly has changes in mind," Jan. 11, 2011 ) calls Deasy "inclusive" and "affable" and "a collaborative leader." Previous LA Times reports on Deasy make no mention of the role he played in bringing secret deals to Santa Monica-Malibu, which is still in the process of recovering. Many parents here continue to feel that Deasy created a culture of secrecy and intimidation in our school community. I thought when Deasy arrived that he would bring much needed educational reform to special education, but instead Deasy brought in Tim Walker.

Now that Deasy has been hired as superintendent of LAUSD, he should take the opportunity to acknowledge the harm that was done and apologize to the parents and disabled children who were forced to enter into secret deals.

Tricia Crane
Santa Monica

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