Tuesday, August 20, 2013

John Deasy vs. Sarah Palin

In the wake of Los Angeles School Superintendent John Deasy first receiving a 91 percent Vote of No Confidence from his teachers and then a failing grade in their subsequent Performance Review (both in the Spring of 2013), questions must be asked. In the former vote, only 1,647 of LA’s 33,000 teachers expressed any confidence at all in Deasy while in the latter the vast majority of teachers who participated rated his performance below average or poor in every single one of their 25 performance areas. The ratio of poor to below average was often six to one. On a scale of one to five with five being highest, Deasy scored 1.36 overall. In a world where most teachers issue fails with anything below 60 percent, the Superintendent's grade was 27.2 percent. Had he somehow managed to double his score, he still would have fallen short of a D by more than six percentage points.

Given such dismal numbers, it is fair to ask would anyone be a more effective superintendent?  What about John Deasy vs. Sarah Palin, for example?

Let’s start with their educational backgrounds which are surprisingly similar. Sarah Palin enrolled at the University of Hawaii at Hilo in 1982. Shortly after arriving in Hawaii, she transferred to Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu for a semester and then to North Idaho College for the spring and fall semesters of 1983. In August of 1984 Palin enrolled at the University of Idaho in Moscow for an entire academic year and then attended Matanuska-Susitna College in Alaska in the fall of 1985. Returning to the University of Idaho in Moscow which apparently sucked up all her units from all her other colleges and universities as if it was one giant academic vacuum cleaner, she received her degree in communications with an emphasis in journalism in May of 1987.

John Deasy began his PhD studies attending the State University of New York at Albany from 1991 to 1993 and earned 33 units, an astounding 8 units per semester. He then divided his time from 1997 to 2003 between the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College in a dual program. In those seven years of serious academic rigor, Deasy earned 44 units, barely 3 units per semester. Perhaps exhausted from that breath-taking 3-units-per-semester pace, Deasy then turned his attention to a fourth institution, the University of Louisville where he slaved away to earn a relatively astonishing 9 units for a single research course in the Spring  of 2004. How many 9-unit, single-semester classes does the University of Louisville offer, I wonder? How many does any university? Much like Palin’s University of Idaho, Deasy’s University of Louisville sucked up all of Deasy’s units from three different universities like a giant academic vacuum cleaner.  Deasy was awarded his PhD with stunning swiftness at the end of a single semester in May while the weather was still relatively nice.

Such an achievement is particularly remarkable when you stop to consider the fact a typical University of Louisville student at the time completed (and now in the wake of the Deasy fiasco is required to complete) its PhD program in approximately three years with at least one year in full time residency and a minimum of 18 units.

Palin narrowly defeated Deasy in the number of colleges and universities attended for a single degree by the narrow margin of five to four.

In June 2008, Northern Idaho College alumni gave Palin its Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award. To date John Deasy has been awarded No Distinguished Anything from Anybody.

In its 2013 Performance Review, of the 25 performance areas Los Angeles teachers rated Deasy the lowest in the area of his ability to positively influence the morale of the staff with 86 percent of teachers rating him below average or poor. More than six times as many rated him poor compared to below average. He was second lowest in his ability to spend money wisely according to the teachers with starkly similar numbers. In stark contrast to Deasy, Palin received the Miss Congeniality award and was awarded a college scholarship in finishing third in the Miss Alaska Pageant of 1984. Sarah Palin had already won the Miss Wasilla Beauty Pageant, an impossible feat for anyone lacking loads of congeniality. For Miss Alaska, Sarah Palin played the flute in the talent portion of the contest again in stark contrast to John Deasy who slashed arts spending in 2012.

While John Deasy has virtually destroyed staff moral in his two and a half years as LAUSD superintendent, Sarah Palin enjoyed approval ratings as high as 94% while governor of Alaska and is universally credited with single-handedly restoring the morale of the Republican Party when John McCain named her his Vice-Presidential running mate in August of 2008. McCain/Palin promptly surged ahead of Obama/Biden in national polls and remained there for quite some time. Newsweek and Time both put her on their covers. Morale was never higher in the Republican Party because of Palin.

Even at the nadir of her popularity while governor of Alaska in May of 2009, Sarah Palin received only a 42 percent vote of no confidence according to Hays Research, less than half of Deasy’s 91 percent.

Sarah Palin’s 400-page book Going Rogue: An American Life sold 300,000 copies the day it was released, a million copies in two weeks, spent six weeks on top of the New York Times Best Seller List, was the best-selling nonfiction book of the year in 2009, and sold 3,472,639 hardback copies in its first two years. In contrast, Deasy’s book, the 184-page An Analysis of Leadership: Investigating Superintendent Leadership in Context Within a Standards-Based, Non-Optional Reform Initiative fared less well with readers. Its release remains controversial as it is dated prior to his enrolling at the University of Louisville which accepted the book as Deasy’s dissertation. As Deasy’s PhD sponsor Robert Felner was later convicted of tax evasion and fraud and sentenced to 63 months in a federal penitentiary, it is questionable whether anyone besides Deasy ever read it at all. At 184 pages, one might reasonably ask if the book was even read by Deasy himself.

In 2010, Deasy became superintendent without so much as an interview, let alone a national search. McCain met Palin at the National Governor’s Meeting in February of 2008 and was “extraordinarily impressed.” On August 24, Palin’s candidacy was discussed in depth by McCain’s top advisors who reached a consensus and McCain personally spoke to Palin on the phone that same day. After an interview with Palin at his home on August 27, McCain formally “offered her the job.”

In 2010, Deasy immediately began firing what would become, at least at the time, a record number of teachers and promptly established himself as the most divisive superintendent in the country since Michelle Rhee’s similar teacher carnage and cheating scandals in Washington DC. He remains the most divisive in LAUSD history. In 2012, as a result of his mishandling of the Miramonte Child Abuse Scandal, Deasy’s teacher jails would swell from a few prisoners to more than five hundred and he would subsequently break his own teacher-firing record. He would displace more than a thousand primarily inner-city teachers from their positions and place them on track to be fired as well by ordering principals not to hire them under any circumstances. So much for teachers dedicating their lives to serving the city’s most desperate and needy children. Deasy views the acceptance of such a challenge and this level of dedication as a liability to be stamped out.

Simultaneous and in stark contrast to Deasy’s carnage beginning in 2010 and ever-increasing divisiveness which ultimately resulted in both the 2013 No Confidence Vote and failed Performance Review, Sarah Palin launched her Pink Elephant Movement which set about building coalitions and support for women candidates in both houses of Congress as well as State Capitols. Her success rate was 7 to 2 in the Senate, 7 to 6 in The House, and 6 to 3 when it came to State Governorships. Even Christine “I’m Not a Witch” O’Donnell’s political fortunes changed overnight with Palin’s endorsement allowing her to defeat the “unbeatable” Republican Establishment candidate Mike Castle in the Delaware primary. In November, Palin released her second book, America by Heart, which hit number two on the New York Times Best Seller List in its second week of release and was the fifth best-selling nonfiction book of 2010. Also in 2010, Sarah Palin was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine.

Who would make a more effective superintendent? 

John Deasy or Sarah Palin?

Saturday, August 17, 2013


From: PETRA BUTT  xxxxx 
Sent: Saturday, August 17, 2013 11:04 AM
To: Randy Traweek
Cc:  xxxx 
Subject: Re: Where to Begin in the City of Angels
Oh my god !!!!!!

Randy tis just such an unbelievably funny story ... I was in fits of laughter all the way through...the funniest thing by far the most passionate and desperate kiss you never recovered from... I'm rolling on the carpet with fits... 

On a more serious note ... incredibly captivating writing!!!

Thanks for making such a massive effort. I am amazed how far you have been round. Did you visit Lake Constance in Germany? I was born there .. near to Bavaria.

Not long now!

Kind regards


From: Joseph K
To: 'Neville Copperstone'  xxxx; xxxxxx 
Sent: Friday, 16 August 2013, 5:07
Subject: RE: Where to Begin in the City of Angels

I used to lead bicycle trips, primarily with teenagers. We would usually start in London, of course, and then travel west to various places like Stratford upon Avon, Oxford, Bath and Stonehenge, Salisbury and its magnificent cathedral, eventually heading south to Plymouth or Portsmouth for the boat to France. No Chunnel back then. We would ride from Cherbourg or Isle de Batz or some place to Dinan,  various parts of Northern France , depended upon the trip, then eventually take a train to Paris. Then either a train to Bern or perhaps cycle the Loire Valley or to Chartres, Orleans and then to bits of Germany (usually Bavaria), Austria, all over. I remember the endless and brutal hills of Devon nearly devouring me. I remember being saved by Devonshire Clotted Cream. We have nothing like that in the United States. I have no doubt that if Heaven exists, a scone with Devonshire Clotted Cream is one of  the first things they serve you.

Later, I began taking solo trips and those were the real epics. Since a teenager, I always wanted to see the Loch Ness Monster as I loved any and all "unsolved mysteries" and when I started cycling at 14 I always wanted to bicycle the Scottish Highlands. Approx. ten years ago I set out from London bound for Scotland and the Highlands in particular. At one point I left the confines of my "tourist map" of London, but still hadn't reached the countryside where I could wander the country roads listed on my Michelin maps. Those maps were so detailed, I think one inch equaled one inch. With no direction known, other than north, I just kept heading generally north on the outskirts of the city. At one point I came to a T in the road and in either direction I could see nothing heading north. So I waited for a passer by. Eventually a garbage truck came slowly up the street. I asked this rugged man which would be the best way to go if I wanted to head north. He said, "Where are you going?" I said, "North." He said, "I know that, but where?" I said, "North. I just need to head north." He said, "But where north?" I said, "Well eventually I want to hit Scotland." I wish I could describe the look on that man's face. It was like I had answered, "The North Pole." He looked across at his partner and said something like, "My God. This bloke is riding his push bike all the way to Scotland." I think he pointed to the right just out of confusion.

I meandered all over the Yorkshire Dales and stumbled into the Lake District. I had no idea so much of England was north of London. On the tiny globes we have in school, London looks like it is roughly in the middle. And I'd ridden south to the Channel many times. I figured it couldn't be that much further. As it turned out, I miscalculated. From the Lake District I finally made it to the border at Jedburg where I meandered my way eventually to Edinborough.  Eventually I was at Stirling Castle, Loch Lomand and indeed Loch Ness. Didn't see the monster. In fact it was raining so hard when I got there, that although the hostel is right on the Loch, I barely even saw the Loch. I rode to the top at John O'Groats, took a boat to Orkney Island and to this day wear a silver bracelet and ring from that wonderful island 24/7. Just recently I took them off for the first time in many, many years. I did it begrudgingly. But I needed an MRI of my wrist. Nothing short of an MRI will pry that jewelry off my wrist and finger.

Back on the mainland, I headed west through the endless clouds of midges  (no-see-'ems)  to catch a boat to the Outer Hebrides. From there I turned south island hopping from island to island until I reached the Inner Hebrides and the Isle of Skye, Iona and lord knows where all. Eventually I ran out of time and had to catch a train back to London. It wasn't too long after they'd deregulated British Rail. What a wise move that was. Do we thank Margaret Thatcher for that or Tony Blair? Suspect it was Thatcher. No one else could be that stupid. Anway, with a thousand deregulated rail lines, it was virtually impossible to get even to Glasgow with a bicycle, let alone London. Through some freak miracle of nature, they managed to cobble a train trip for the two of us back to London. It wasn't easy. The poor woman in the station nearly had a heart attack trying to print me the tickets I needed. I was certain I'd never see my bicycle again.

I have many of these stories. Countless stories. I have two different, but similar adventures in Spain/Portugal alone. My Bath adventure will have to wait. But that widely meandering trip from London to Orkney, the Hebrides and back was really something. I spent time with Sylvia Plath, Beatrice Potter, the Bronte Sisters; I went all over the place.

As I sit here writing in my den/office/bedroom, there is a picture of me with my bicyle (including full camping gear) on the bookshelf right behind me. I am standing on the photo rock at John O'Groats. August 4, 2002. One arrow points to Lands End  (the southernmost tip of England, you guys) , 874 miles away. My route from London may have carried me twice that far. Another arrow points to Los Angeles some 5,953 miles from home.
It appears I weighed less than I do now.

In the meantime, I will say this about Bath. I received one of the best kisses I have ever received in my life somewhere around three or four in the morning in Bath. I had met some "locals" in a cellar bar dating back to something like 1400. They took a shine to me. The atmosphere was as thick as shepherd's pie. I loved it. They took me to some after hours club. A fair bit of drinking occured prior to the after hours and the after hours for some reason gave us no reason to slow down. I was hours away from having to bicycle to Stonehenge on the way to the cathedral and youth hostel in Salisbury. The girlfriend of one of the young men decided to kiss me goodbye. Though standing right in front of him, she did not kiss me like someone with a boyfriend. Instead, she kissed me like someone without a boyfriend for the last three hundred years. She kissed me like she was long overdue. I kissed her back or perhaps more accurately just tried to keep up. I was not too successful in that regard.

Though it came somewhere in the mid 1980's, to this day I'm not entirely sure I've recovered from that kiss.

The vicious, mercilous headwind that struck us every inch of the way to Stonehenge and Salisbury did nothing to assuage my hangover when the teenagers woke me up after breaking back into the hostel and a few hours of sleep at most. Quite the opposite, in fact.

That kiss may have helped.

But not much.

-Joseph K