John E. Deasy, the superintendent of the 128,000-student Prince George’s County, Md., school district, is leaving to become the deputy director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s education division early next year.
The news of his departure comes just 2½ years after Mr. Deasy took the helm of the district, which is in the midst of major improvement efforts. It marks the fourth time since 1999 that the county school board will have to find a new chief.
In announcing his selection, the Seattle-based foundation pointed to Mr. Deasy’s work in the Maryland district, the nation’s 18th largest, to narrow the achievement gap between low-income and minority students and their peers.
“We’re eager to take what he has learned and accomplished in Prince George’s County and continue to help students all across the country prepare for college,” Vicki L. Phillips, the director of the foundation’s education division—and herself a former superintendent—said last week in a press release.
Mr. Deasy previously was the superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District in California and the Coventry, R.I., school system. He was named Rhode Island’s Superintendent of the Year in 1991, and was a fellow in the 2006 class of the Broad Superintendents Academy, sponsored by the Los Angeles-based Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.
An Oct. 1 Washington Post editorial praised Mr. Deasy for driving “the pace of test-score gains faster than the state average,” and for bringing a “new culture of honesty and accountability to the system.”
But it lamented that the district in the suburbs of the nation’s capital was just starting to benefit from his leadership. “Mr. Deasy is leaving well before the job has been done,” it said.
Asked about criticism that hiring Mr. Deasy risked disrupting his efforts in Maryland, Christopher J. Williams, a spokesman for the Gates Foundation, noted that the superintendent has worked closely with the school board to devise a succession plan to continue the district’s progress. (The Gates and Broad foundations give grant support for some special projects in Education Week.)
He added, “We hope that we’ll really be able to give him an opportunity to expand his reach.”
A version of this article appeared in the October 08, 2008 edition of Education Week