In an annual address to more than 1,500 school principals and administrators, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy called on school leaders today to make courageous decisions to eliminate dropouts and sure graduates are college- and career- ready.
The speech at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles was somewhat overshadowed by lingering labor negotiations with United Teachers Los Angeles, the union that represents the district's teachers. The union has hinted at a possible walkout if negotiations do not progress, but Deasy said he was hopeful a deal would be struck.
"For our teachers, we look forward to settling as soon as possible," he said.
Deasy said he was proud of the school board and district negotiators for reaching labor deals with a series of employee unions. "While every single union has not yet settled, we are proud in this district to have said it was painful, let us begin repair," he said.
UTLA representatives had no immediate comment on Deasy's speech.
But with school set to begin next week, Deasy focused his speech on motivating the crowd to boost graduation rates. ``I am convinced in my soul that we can successfully graduate every single solitary student to be college- and career-ready,'' Deasy said. ``We can have a graduation rate of 100 percent. It is in your hands.''
Deasy said the 6,950 students who dropped out of LAUSD schools last year was unacceptable. Under each seat in the auditorium, Deasy taped an envelope containing the name of one troubled youth and challenged each administrator to personally reach out to that person.
"I am positively convinced we can take the number from 6,950 to zero," Deasy said. "We can do it by reaching out one youth at a time -- every single one of us."
Deasy said that lifting children and families out of poverty is one way the district can help students reach graduation.
He praised the school board for approving a $15 minimum wage for school staff -- many of whom have children that attend LAUSD schools.
"It was both just and historic,'' Deasy said. "Youth cannot be lifted out of generational poverty if their parents and guardians remain in poverty."
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Deasy also said his budget plan has added hundreds of new faculty members, nurses and other staffers and is helping reduce class sizes. Addressing criticism of the district's iPad program, Deasy poked fun at skeptics and said giving students access to technology is essential in the 21st century.
"For those who have been critics and those who have been sarcastic, you wouldn't need to see the supreme irony that all of your criticism comes to me via iPads and iPhones," Deasy said. "I look forward to the 900,000 new digital citizens that will be joining the rank of having their voice heard in the 21st century."
In the mostly upbeat address, Deasy also championed some of the district's successes, including reduced suspension rates, all-time high AP class enrollment and improvements in English and math test scores.
"We are strong at LAUSD," Deasy said. "We have never been stronger."