Teachers are calling for Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy to be sent to “teacher jail” in response to stumbling, multi-million dollar technology changes the education chief championed.
Leaders of United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents 35,000 educators within the district, gathered in front of district headquarters Wednesday morning, calling on Deasy to step aside while the controversies over a $1 billion plan to equip students and teachers with iPads and a new computer registration system are investigated.
“What concerns us the most about John Deasy is his overall autocratic approach to education,” union president Alex Caputo-Pearl said. “Education is not a business. Education is not a dictatorship.”
Deasy cancelled the district’s existing contract with iPad manufacturer Apple last week after internal emails obtained by NBC4 media partner KPCC revealed district officials were already negotiating with the company before a proper bidding process began.
He has said he is not shelving the program, but simply reopening the bid process.
The superintendent of the country’s second largest district has also come under fire after hiccups with MiSiS, an automated scheduling and attendance record keeping system, led to delayed registration and system-wide confusion at the start of the school year.
"If I were a teacher today at Roosevelt High School, where I was a teacher for 21 years, and I had to use this MiSiS - I would want John Deasy's head. This thing is just terrible," said John Perez, retired president of the union.
Deasy responded to critics in a six-page letter sent to the school board.
“Detractors have shifted to alleging that there was too ‘cozy’ of a relationship between district staff and some vendors such that the bidding process may have been skewed to favor those vendors. Such an allegation is baseless,” the statement read in part.
But teachers say an investigation is needed to determine if the allegations have merit.
"I don't think we know enough about what went on with the iPad and what's going on now," said middle school teacher Betty Forrester. "Many schools are reporting that they had sets of iPads and now all they've got is the iPad storage containers left at the school sites. 'What happened to those?' is the question they're asking us."
Union officials asked Deasy be sent to “teacher jail,” the name many use for the system by which teachers are asked to either sit at home or in district offices with no duties during school hours while under any type of possible disciplinary review.
"We are saying he's got to play by his own rules. And when under investigation he must report to teacher jail. He must not report to work here," said Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.
The practice has been decried by the union, which argued the current process keeps teachers out of the classroom for months at a time, often for minor infractions or unfounded allegations.