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Finalist for Clark County superintendent job withdraws

Updated April 12, 2018 - 7:29 pm

Former Los Angeles schools Superintendent John Deasy, one of four finalists for the Clark County School District’s superintendent post, has withdrawn his name from consideration, he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Thursday.

The news came just hours after the Clark County School Board decided on Wednesday night to add internal candidates to the list of finalists selected in a national search, all of whom were from outside Nevada.

Deasy, who led the Los Angeles Unified School District from 2011 to 2014, was on vacation. But in an email sent to the Review-Journal early Thursday morning he said he had withdrawn from the search. He did not offer any reasons and did not respond to an email request for further comment.

The other finalists selected by the search firm are Donald T. Haddad, superintendent of St. Vrain Valley Schools in Longmont, Colorado; Shonda Huery Hardman, former chief school support officer for the Houston Independent School District; and Jesus Jara, deputy superintendent of Orange County Public Schools in Florida.

They were still in the running as of Thursday morning, the district said.

Controversial candidate

Deasy may have been the most controversial candidate of the four. He resigned from the Los Angeles district in 2014 following several issues, including an investigation into an iPad initiative he championed that resulted in an FBI raid, according to the Los Angeles Times. His selection as a finalist generated concern among some in the Clark County education community.

But some current and former employees of the Los Angeles district said they appreciated his hard line on academic improvement and achievement goals.

“It’s certainly a loss for the students,” Lydia Ramos, former communications director for the LAUSD, said of Deasy’s withdrawal. “What I love about the way Dr. Deasy operates is that students’ rights trump everything. Students’ rights to a quality education are paramount, and he works night and day to protect their rights.”

Clark County School Board President Deanna Wright said she did not know Deasy had withdrawn when reached Thursday morning.

But she expressed disappointment in the search.

“I think that after having done cursory Google searches and fact-finding, that the four finalists that came forward are concerning,” she said. “That it seems like local candidates … or former CCSD people were not looked at seriously.”

‘Misinformed and misled’

Wright said the board feels that the search firm, Ray and Associates, did not heed its guidance.

“I personally feel like I was misinformed and misled about some of the candidates,” she said.

Trustee Carolyn Edwards had a different view.

“We’re always sad to see a candidate pull out, but we’re very excited about the three remaining candidates” and any other internal candidates who are brought forward, she said. “We think the process is going just fine.”

Gary Ray, chairman of the search firm, did not return a call from the Review-Journal seeking comment.

CCSD Chief Academic Officer Mike Barton, who didn’t make the finalist list but has garnered strong support from the local community, said Thursday that he’s respectful of the School Board’s thoughtful deliberation in the matter.

Elementary schools’ principal John Haynal, Assistant Superintendent Jesse Welsh, and former interim CFO Eva White previously confirmed to the Review-Journal that they also applied.

The district will post a list of all current and former district applicants willing to have their names made public by Monday. On April 19, trustees will determine which of those candidates they will interview as a finalist.

Finalist interviews are now scheduled for April 27, with a decision on May 2.

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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