LOS ANGELES — Faced with a shocking case of a teacher accused of playing classroom sex games with children for years, Los Angeles schools Superintendent John Deasy delivered another jolt: He removed the school’s entire staff – from custodians to the principal – to smash what he called a “culture of silence.”
“It was a quick, responsible, responsive action to a heinous situation,” he said. “We’re not going to spend a long time debating student safety.”
The controversial decision underscores the 51-year-old superintendent’s shake-up of the lethargic bureaucracy at the nation’s second-largest school district. His swift, bold moves have rankled some and won praise from others during his first year of leadership.
Hired with a mandate to boost achievement in the 660,000-pupil Los Angeles Unified School District, Deasy has become known for 18-hour days that involve everything from surprise classroom visits and picking up playground litter to lobbying city elite for donations and blasting Sacramento politicians over funding cuts.
He’s also gained a reputation for outspokenness and a brisk decision-making style some have criticized as heavy-handed. Earlier this year, for instance, Deasy ordered a substitute teacher fired after finding students doing busy work.
“I’m intolerant when it comes to students being disrespected,” he said in an interview sandwiched between school visits and meetings. “I do what I think is right and everyone has the right to criticize. You appreciate the critics, but you wouldn’t get up in the morning if you listened to them.”