Staff Writer Nick Anderson broke the story in the Washington Post last Thursday morning, February 16. The Prince George’s County school board has chosen a Southern California superintendent as the likely next chief executive officer of the 133,000-student system, officials said this morning.“John E. Deasy, 45, who heads the 14,000-student Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, was picked from among three finalists after public auditions this week. He beat out two longtime New York educators: Marcia V. Lyles, who oversees schools with 80,000 students in Brooklyn; and W.L. “Tony” Sawyer, who headed Manhattan high schools before moving recently to lead the 13,400-student Topeka, Kan., school system.“The board arrived at the decision Wednesday night, according to three senior school system sources. One top source with first-hand knowledge called the pick of Deasy “a bold decision” and said he had impressed Prince George’s officials as an educator with “a young, energetic, creative mind.”“The school board made the choice official this morning in a press release.“ I am pleased to report that Dr. Deasy is the lead candidate as a result of being the clear consensus choice of the board and our many stakeholder groups,” board member Charlene M. Dukes (Glenn Dale) said in a prepared statement.The board will further investigate Deasy and enter into contract negotiations before taking a formal vote to hire him. The schools chief position in Prince George’s opened up last spring after Andre J. Hornsby resigned amid an ethics controversy.The school board advertised the position as paying a minimum of $250,000 a year, which is comparable to what other local superintendents make.Deasy, who is white, would be the first schools chief in more than a decade who is not African American to head the majority-black system. Before his stint in Santa Monica-Malibu, he headed a smaller system in Coventry, R.I.In a story that ran in the Post Tuesday, February 14, Anderson wrote “Deasy had several hours of meetings with union leaders, elected officials and other key players in the school system, which has Maryland’s second-largest student population and second-lowest test scores.“During his visit, Deasy depicted himself as an educator with a squeaky-clean record and a passion for raising student achievement. Those are two paramount concerns for the nine-member Board of Education.“[Deasy] said Prince George’s, which has nearly as many students in public schools as Montgomery County and test scores higher only than Baltimore’s, offered an alluring challenge for an educator looking to move up.“‘This is a remarkable opportunity,’ Deasy said in an interview with The Washington Post. ‘It’s a community that has a great base to launch from. There’s no reason in my mind why this can’t be the premier school system in Maryland.’ “Deasy also said he has never been fired, has excellent relations with his school boards and unions and has never been accused of scandal. ‘No allegations’ would show up in a newspaper clip search, he said. ‘Do your LexisNexis. Not going to find a thing. Nor should you.“The president of the Santa Monica-Malibu school board confirmed Deasy’s assertion that he had raised achievement at high-poverty schools in the district, where about half the students are non-Hispanic white, one-third are Latino and one-tenth are black.“‘We’re a school district that has great privilege and great poverty,’ said Julia Brownley, president of the Santa Monica-Malibu board. ‘He has been an extraordinary superintendent and a guy who is extremely knowledgeable and able. He has a laser-sharp focus around teaching and learning.’“To show solidarity with teachers, Deasy said, he declined performance bonuses during two years of sagging budgets. He said he later accepted bonuses after his teachers and staff were given raises. His base salary is $153,000. “Deasy said he would hasten to build bridges to the community and speak forthrightly about education and race in a system with historic racial achievement gaps.“‘Do I have concerns? No,’ he said. ‘Do I have a lot of awareness that race is an incredibly important issue in America and in schools? Absolutely.’ He added, ‘When you are of white privilege in society, you only have one obligation, and that is to use every bit of your abilities to make sure that everyone is at the same level of privilege.’”Deasy broke the news of his impending departure to the District staff in a Thursday email: “Good Morning. Please forgive the impersonal nature of this email, but I am trying to communicate with a large number of people at once. As you all know I was recruited to apply for the superintendent of Prince George’s County Maryland. It is a very impacted urban district of approximately 136,000 students. It is the 17th largest district in the nation and has numerous issues around student achievement and a community, board, and faculty and staff that are deeply dedicated to making this work for all students. I have been informed that I am the choice of the Board and have been offered the job. I plan on accepting this challenge with very mixed emotions. The Board in Maryland must make an appointment of a superintendent through the State Superintendent of Instruction and must visit our district and negotiate a contract. These are all ongoing at this time. They will announce today through a Board motion that I am the Lead Candidate and that they are undertaking their required Due Diligence.“I wanted each of you to know before you hear it in the media and before I make a public announcement. My most conflicted emotions are about leaving this school district. I have been honored to have worked side-by-side with each of you and am beyond proud of your accomplishments and that of our students!!!“I do not know the exact details of my transition yet, but the Board and I will be meeting frequently over the next week to iron out details, and we will let you know as soon as possible. Needless to say the Board is fully committed to the vision, mission, and strategies established in our district and intends to see them through and to build on them. This, of course, means that your support is as crucial as ever. Especially in communicating that there is no ’trauma’ over the transition and that we will easily stay the course on our initiatives. It is extremely important for our community, parents, and faculty to have the strongest sense of surety and ease when a transition takes place. This will fall on your shoulders and I know you will do a great job with this.“We are in excellent condition. Financially, educationally, and achievement-wise, Santa Monica-Malibu is on a great path. I have worked with the best community, union members and union leadership and administration I have ever known. And our Board is beyond remarkable… as you know. All of our numerous accomplishments were possible because of you! It is an honor to have been chosen for such a large and high profile district, this would never have happened had we not accomplished so much together… I am grateful. This is a very emotional time for me and my family… as I prepare to leave a place and a community I love and move to a community I am going to love and continue the work of assuring the civil rights issues of our times are made real for all students ACCESS and ACQUISITION.“Words cannot thank each of you enough…so I will do that in person shortly.My Best.”A press release that was subsequently posted on the SMMUSD website was headlined:“PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY MARYLAND WANTS SANTA MONICA-MALIBU UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT’S SUPERINTENDENT.”The release said, “Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s (SMMUSD) Superintendent, Dr. John E. Deasy, announced today to the Board of Education that he has been selected as the lead candidate for the Superintendent of Schools of Prince George’s County Maryland. Prince George’s is a very impacted urban district of approximately 136,000 students. It is the 17th largest district in the nation and has numerous issues around student achievement and a community, board, and faculty and staff that are deeply dedicated to making this work for all students. The Board in Maryland must make an appointment of a superintendent through the State Superintendent of Instruction and will visit SMMUSD and begin contract negotiations. They will announce today, through a Board motion, that Dr. Deasy is the Lead Candidate and begin the process of the required due diligence. “Dr. Deasy is accepting this challenge with very mixed emotions. ‘My most conflicted emotions are about leaving this school district and community. I have been honored to work side-by-side with the most dedicated and competent staff, administrators, teachers and students. I am beyond proud of all our accomplishments and that of our students!’ ‘The Board will be meeting frequently over the next week to iron out the details of this transition, appointing an interim Superintendent in the process. Dr. Deasy’s notification comes at a time when the SMMUSD is in excellent condition financially, educationally, and achievement-wise. The Board is fully committed to the vision, mission, and strategies established at the SMMUSD and intends to see them through and to build on them.”Thursday night, at the opening of the School Board meeting (see related story, page 1), Deasy announced the Maryland appointment. Subsequently, several School Board members paid tribute to Deasy. Jose Escarce said, “He really has done what I believe to be remarkable, outstanding work for this community for the last five years. He has earned the ooportunity to do the same type of work for a different community. One which I believe will put him up for enormous challenges. If anyone is up to those challenges it is certainly John. Our challenge, of course, is to replace John.” Emily Bloomfield said, “Our loss is this new district’s gain.” Kathy Wisnicki said, “I think he’ll be a tremendous asset to Prince George County. From the Board perspective, it’s a privilege to work woth such a creative, enthusiastic, energetic, effective superintendent. We’re committed to finding the best candidate and we have a great leadership team who will continue to ensure we move in a forward direction during the transition.”
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