The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District selected a new superintendent, replacing Neil Schmidt who retires early this summer.
John Deasy, 40, who is currently supervising the Rhode Island Coventry Public School District, will take over the job from Schmidt July 5.
Deasy received his B.A. in biology/chemistry and his masters in education administration from Providence College, R.I. He is currently working on a doctorate at the University of Rhode Island.
Deasy has three children who attend elementary and middle school in Rhode Island.
The transition to California will be a bittersweet experience for the new superintendent and his family; they will have to be separated for a while as he begins his work on the West Coast.
Deasy and his oldest daughter, who is about to start high school, will come to California first, while his two younger children and wife, Pat, will arrive January, next year. This will enable Pat Deasy, who is also on the academic track, to complete her studies for a nurse practitioner’s degree in Rhode Island.
“We’ve visited California a few times and we always enjoyed it very much,” said Pat Deasy, as she spoke about the prospect of moving west.
“But it will be hard to be apart until then,” she said.
Another obstacle for the Deasys is that they have not yet found a place to live in California. They hope to find housing within the district so the children can attend local schools.
“But we don’t know where that will be,” said Deasy.
And the cost of housing locally may pose a challenge.
As a point of comparison, current real estate values indicate that a three-bedroom house sells for $100,000 – $200,000 in Rhode Island, while the same three-bedroom house in Malibu could cost significantly more.
The family will receive some assistance from the district. “There will be some relocation funds [available for the family],” said Jeannie Wells, superintendent assistant at SMMUSD.
School board officials are happy he is making the move despite the challenges.
“We selected John Deasy because he believes that every child can succeed,” said Tom Pratt, school board president.
The district selected Deasy after reviewing approximately 60 applications. He will make $150,000 per year as superintendent.
“John is such a perfect fit for our district,” said board member Mike Jordan. “It is impossible to be in a room with him for more than a few minutes and not to feel a sense of excitement and duty. He is a can-do leader.”
Deasy said his number one goal is to improve student achievement and instruction, “providing the opportunities to do the best we can at that.”
When he first arrives, Deasy plans to start working on an entry plan that will document to the community and the board a review of what he has found after hearing parents, administrators and teachers talk about their concerns and objectives for the schools.
Once he has evaluated the needs of the district through listening, he will begin to list the work and major goals for the schools, focusing on accountability.
For the SMMUSD, Deasy already has some ideas about what the current needs are. The purpose of his evaluation is to confirm that these ideas are accurate.
“The schools need to get a handle on the fiscal difficulties of the district,” said Deasy. “Part of my responsibilities, in the short term, will be to explore alternative resources and examine spending practices.”
Deasy will attend the next school board meeting, which will take place tonight, May 3, at 7 p.m. at the HRL auditorium in Malibu.