Sunday, May 30, 2004

4LAKids: Memorial Day Weekend, May 30, 2004

This is the Memorial Day weekend – and we remember and honor the hundreds of thousands who made the sacrifices that guarantee what we all take for granted. There is a fine line between taking something for granted and holding it dear — and occasionally we need to cross that line in our thoughts, and if we go there, in our prayers.

There is much more here than the first long weekend of summer; more than the auto race and the backyard barbecues. The things we celebrate on the Fourth of July were made possible and made real by the individuals we honor on Memorial Day. This is the first Memorial Day to consider the sacrifices made by 806 young men and women in Iraq and 122 in Afghanistan. We should and indeed must hold each and every one of them dear – for the moment and forever.

Because of sacrifices made we can and do take an awful lot for granted ...but never their lives, frozen in time — forever young.

"I'd like to see the effort we put in observing Memorial Day better spent throughout the entire year. In the United States we spend seven times more preparing for war than we do in educating our children. There's something wrong with that." — Andy Rooney


In Walt Disney’s Bambi, Thumper the Rabbit’s mother
asks Thumper to recall and repeat some important
advice from his father. (Thumper is the rare Disney
character with both a mother and a father.)

Thumper, chagrined and embarrassed, paws the earth
and slowly recites: "If you don't have something nice
to say ...don't say anything at all."

These are difficult words to live by. At the risk of
being glib, Thumper’s dad obviously never had to deal
with LAUSD. Or NCLB. Or any of the rest of the
alphabet soup of edu-speak!

On Tuesday Superintendent Roy Romer delivered his
proposals for restructuring the local districts.

In Romer’s defense he doesn’t want to do this. He
believes the eleven local districts have been effective in
administering LAUSD; he points to successes in
raising student achievement and construction — these
he attributes in part to the local districts.

Critics argue that the local districts are costly
bureaucracies the District cannot afford.

• UTLA, the teacher’s union, savages them as being
eleven fiefdoms of power with inflated budgets and no
• Parents groups – PTA among them – criticize some
local district administrations as being uncommunicative
and non-responsive; instruments that take local control
way from the schools in contravention of their original
• AALA (the principal’s union) President Mike
O’Sullivan simply says the District simply cannot
afford all eleven. He calls for there to be only as many
local districts as LAUSD can afford.

Much of the good news, the test score improvements
and constriction programs, can be directly attributed to
Superintendent Romer’s leadership. He has directed
the eleven local district Superintendents, he has hired
and occasionally fired them. As such they have been
effective tools of his leadership. His single minded
focus on student achievement – and ‘turning the
district around’ has paid off — but at a cost.

In a time of diminished resources his mission is being
questioned. By the school board. By the unions. By
parents. Many believe LAUSD can do even better
with less central control, less bureaucracy — put
principals and school site councils in charge of their
schools and their budgets, place more of a focus on the
classroom and the neighborhood school.

Simply stated: Less adherence to ‘the script’ ...and
more innovation where the instruction meets the

Looking to the long term there is an evolving
opportunity for LAUSD to continue on the forefront
of big city school reform. Proactive, not reactive,
reform. The budget crisis offers an opportunity to
revise the structure of the district to better serve the
community of – excuse my hyperbole – the greatest
city in the world with a program of true educational

* * *

The seven plans the Superintendent grudgingly
delivered to the Board of Education on Tuesday are an
incomplete start. They represent a couple of ways to
go, but they are basically only maps with demographic
data attached. It is obvious that Gov. Romer is
unhappy with the exercise – he unmistakably doesn’t
like any of them! How can he possibly have a favorite?

Tuesday’s plans were drawn up by demographers with
computer mapping software while the superintendent
was on vacation. Nowhere is there any information
about the instructional merits or lack thereof of any of
the schemes.
• What do educators think?
• Which of the blueprints best supports schools?
• Which one is best for local communities, parents,

Two obvious political issues are addressed. The San
Fernando Valley gets its own district(s). And the small
cities of the southeast (South Gate, Maywood, Bell,
Cudahy, etc.) are kept together.

However a couple of the plans don’t even meet the
basic criteria for any redistricting — that districts be
compact and contiguous. Some districts are absurdly
drawn; in four of them the San Fernando Valley is
bisected North and South, seemingly spanning entire
time zones!

And nowhere in the plans is the future addressed!
• Where are the schools we are building?
• How do they fit in?
• Are we planning for July 1, 2004 ...or for the future?

I’m going to ask again: Please, let us have some real
reform in the structure of the District! A Central
office and Local Districts that assist and support
schools – not command and control them. Involve
teachers, administrators and parents in the process.
Allow for dynamic long term planning. Budgetary
reform. Empowerment of principals. True

Please. No more quick fixes.

The seven maps can be viewed here.

and the Daily News:

• From the Los Angeles Times:
By Cara Mia DiMassa and Jean Merl - Times Staff Writers

May 30, 2004 - One year after a slate of candidates backed by the teachers union forged a new majority on the Los
Angeles Board of Education, United Teachers-Los Angeles and its scrappy president are making their political muscle strongly felt and are increasingly clashing with district Supt. Roy Romer.

Turning up the pressure in recent weeks with marches,
speeches and lobbying of school board members, the
union and its president, John Perez, are pushing to
dismantle the Los Angeles Unified School District's
system of 11 administrative subdistricts.

Perez seems headed for at least a partial victory on the
issue. A majority on the seven-member school board
— five of whom were elected with at least some
financial support from UTLA — has voiced support
for reductions in that area. Though insisting that the 11
geographic units are needed, Romer is now offering
backup plans that would cut the number to six, seven
or eight.

Perez, a former government teacher who won the
union presidency in 2002 by a narrow margin, calls
district administrators "fat cats" and "six-figured
bureaucrats" at public meetings. He talks about the
school bureaucracy's "rapacious appetite" and labels
the local districts "the worst example of LAUSD waste
and misplaced priorities."

In an interview last week, he made no apologies for
what he says is his increased activism. His goal, he
said, is to do all he can to protect the 45,000 teachers
and other staffers he represents and their classrooms.
Though teachers have not been laid off, the nearly
$500 million in trims this year from the district's
$5.7-billion operating fund have made teaching more
difficult by cutting into support services and supplies,
he said.

"In a political world, if you do nothing, you get
squashed. We have to play within the political system,"
said Perez, who is running for reelection next year.

Using inflammatory language is sometimes necessary,
he said. "Do I plead? Absolutely, I do. It's in the nature
of the political process."

But others question his tactics and the union's
influence over the board's decisions. They fear that
tense relations between Romer and Perez are spilling
into already tough negotiations over health benefits
and other contract issues.

Perez "does all the political stuff … but he has created
a situation where you can't get anything done," said
Nancy Brown, a teacher who ran the campaign of
Perez's chief competitor for union president, Becki

For Perez, the subdistricts symbolize misplaced
priorities and "all the pressures that have been put on

However, Romer said Perez's campaign against the
subdistricts was "about as irresponsible an act as I can
imagine," with "potentially tragic" consequences. He
believes such a sudden, drastic overhaul would
threaten the academic gains the district has made in the
last few years and disrupt its $14-billion school
construction program.

Designed to bring services closer to campuses, each
subdistrict oversees 59,000 to 80,000 students. For
each local district eliminated, L.A. Unified would save
only about $2 million to $2.25 million in operating
costs, Romer estimated. UTLA officials say the figure
would probably be higher, in part because they believe
many employees would retire rather than accept new,
sometimes lower-paying, assignments at schools.

The subdistricts employ 987 of the district's roughly
75,000 employees, according to L.A. Unified officials.

The union recently sent its members a flier that
portrayed Romer as trying to keep bureaucracy at the
expense of teachers. In an interview last week, the
superintendent called the flier "pure intimidation."

But otherwise, he declined to discuss Perez's tactics.

"I am desperately trying to solve problems for this
district, and this involves negotiating with the union,"
Romer said. "A fundamental problem is that school
board members are elected, so they are dependent on
campaign money. I am trying not to get into that at
this time."

The balance of power on the board has changed
dramatically twice in the last five years.

In 1999, the Coalition for Kids, a civic organization
supported by then-Mayor Richard Riordan and
billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad spent nearly $2
million to get a reform slate elected. That altered the
balance of power, removed some of the teachers
union's sway and led to Romer's hiring in 2000.

But in last year's election, a resurgent UTLA gave
about $1.4 million to candidates in board races,
compared to the $1.1 million spend by the coalition.
Three UTLA-backed candidates — Jon Lauritzen,
Marguerite Poindexter-LaMotte and David Tokofsky
— defeated coalition-backed opponents. They joined
member Julie Korenstein in the majority of
union-backed votes.

Perez then pushed for Jose Huizar — who had
received backing from both UTLA and the coalition
when he was elected to the board in 2001 — to
become president.

According to several board members, the union head
now meets or talks regularly with the board members
that the union backed. (All of the board members
except Poindexter-LaMotte, who was unavailable,
were interviewed for this article.)

Perez calls his frequent interaction with board
members "people of like minds banding together."

Lauritzen said he saw Perez "a couple of times a
week," sometimes on social occasions and sometimes
on business. "He is not afraid to call and give me his

"I don't make decisions based on what the unions have
to say," Lauritzen said. "But when they give me an
opinion, I give it maybe more than a little weight than
the other areas, just from past history."

Board member Marlene Canter, who was not backed
by the union, said UTLA had become more active
behind the scenes, and that had caused more tension.
"It is distressing to see that, when there is so much on
the table to be united about," she said.

Some board members say they have seen UTLA
leaders passing notes to the dais when the board is
considering issues important to the union. "UTLA is
controlling the puppet strings on these board
members," said trustee Mike Lansing, who was
supported by the Coalition for Kids in his reelection
last year.

In recent weeks, Lansing has become increasingly
critical of Perez. At one meeting, the trustee
sarcastically suggested that the board simply replace
Romer with Perez. "I can't speak for the
superintendent," Lansing said in an interview, "but I
think it must be really tough."

The union, he said, should "definitely have influence."
But he said the extent of that influence has become too

After Tokofsky voted to postpone a vote on
Lauritzen's initial motion to dismantle the local
districts altogether, the union urged its members in the
same flier that criticized Romer to contact Tokofsky
and pack upcoming meetings.

That flier, Tokofsky said, contained "brash
manipulations of the truth." The union, he said, made it
seem, incorrectly, that he was blindly supporting the
local districts. In fact, he said, he is interested in
changing the district's top-down approach to
management, no matter how many subdistricts there
are. "That could be in none, or four or six or 11," he

Perez said the union sent the flier in response to
members who were upset about Tokofsky's vote.
"Should I remain deaf, dumb and blind" to members'
complaints, he asked.

Darry Sragow, a Democratic political consultant who
has managed three successful bond measure campaigns
for the district, said union efforts to affect policy didn't
always succeed.

"I know people are cynical about this, but it has been
my experience that once you are in office, no matter
which interest group helped get you there, you are
going to have to thread your way through competing
arguments … or risk being blamed by voters if you
make the wrong choice," he said.

In the months ahead, he said, both Romer and Perez
will be vocal.

"Here you've got two very tough, strong-willed
leaders, and they'll both press hard on the school board
members," Sragow said.

• from the Los Angeles Daily News:
ROMER’S UPHILL BATTLE: LAUSD's chief faces pressure from UTLA

By Jennifer Radcliffe - Staff Writer

Saturday, May 29, 2004 - With just a year left on his
contract, Los Angeles Unified School District
Superintendent Roy Romer faces intense pressure from
the teachers union and its handpicked school board
majority, who are demanding he dismantle the
localized administrative system, pour money into
employee health benefits and weaken teacher

Romer fears union pressure could end up destroying
the legacy he's trying to create by improving test
scores and building $10 billion in new schools in the
once-faltering district.

While supporters note that Romer, as a former
governor of Colorado, is a skilled politician and
negotiator, they worry that the 75-year-old architect of
LAUSD reform will get fed up with interference from
United Teachers Los Angeles and the board it helped

"I've already told him: Do not take an extension in
your contract if this continues. It's not worth your
health. It's not worth your life," board member Mike
Lansing said. "If I were him, I'd tell everybody to go
take a flying leap."

Since Romer took the reins of the LAUSD in July
2000, elementary students' scores have steadily
increased, a districtwide reading program has been
implemented, teacher training has been increased and
schools are being built.

Romer said he's not going to be driven away by the

"I'm not a quitter. If I were a quitter, I would have quit
a long time ago," said Romer, former chairman of the
Democratic National Committee.

He vows not to let the politics get in his way. He said
that while he still wants to preserve LAUSD's 11 local
districts, he's willing to consider a compromise of eight

Any further reduction may threaten the district's
future, he said. The board will decide June 8 whether
to reduce the number of local districts to between four
and eight.

"When somebody starts taking apart the opportunity of
kids getting a better education, I get upset. We've been
making dramatic improvement in the last four years --
I don't want someone to put that in the trash can. I'm
not going to allow that if I can avoid it."

Faced with a $500 million budget shortfall this year,
UTLA has been calling for blood from LAUSD's 11
local districts. The union insists the money could be
better spent at the schools and on teachers' health

UTLA President John Perez said the union turned to
the local districts because they're the most obvious
waste of money. About 10 percent of the district's $5.3
billion budget goes to administrators, he said.

"That's far in excess of what was necessary," Perez
said. "The superintendent should have voluntarily cut
back on the administration."

For months, Romer refused to make anything more
than minor cuts to the local districts, saying they are
needed to oversee construction, implement programs
and serve parents -- especially as new schools are built.

But in a series of emotional board meetings,
union-supported board members laid out their own
plans for restructuring the district.

The union's role was highly visible at those meetings.
Several board members were getting calls and e-mails
and even hand signals with directions from union

"It's so blatant. It's like a baseball game -- people are
giving signals out there. It's ridiculous," Lansing said.
"These guys are puppeteers, and we've got board
members who can't think for themselves."

At one point, West San Fernando Valley board
member Jon Lauritzen, who received nearly $750,000
from UTLA in the last election, moved to conduct the
vote on the massive restructuring when Romer was
scheduled to be out of the country.

Lauritzen said that as a retired teacher, he agrees with
the union. He said he pressured Romer to make him
realize how serious they are about cutting bureaucracy.

"One of the things that this board perceives is that the
superintendent is communicating everything top down.
If we feel the schools should have more autonomy and
less direction from the top, that's what we need to tell
him," Lauritzen said.

"Sometimes he still thinks he's governor."

Union-backed board member Julie Korenstein said that
while she was upset that Romer stalled on offering the
alternatives, she's glad he finally got the message. The
relationship between the board and the superintendent
is now on the upswing, she said.

"I'm feeling better now than I was two or three months
ago, and I think the superintendent is really working
hard to find the best way to resolve the differences."

But board member Marlene Canter maintains that
Romer is being forced into a compromise he doesn't
believe in.

"My feeling is that we hired Roy Romer to implement
our goals and objectives. I'm very uncomfortable when
as superintendent he says, 'This isn't really what I want,
but I have to do this.' You don't want to tie the hands
of the superintendent.

"I look at Roy Romer as a gift to Los Angeles. The
man does not have to do this."

Canter and Lansing are both holding out hope that the
board will vote June 8 to keep the 11 minidistricts.

And with the LAUSD slated to receive an additional
$30 million from finding other savings, some people
think the controversy surrounding the 11-district issue
may be fizzling out.

The extra money is expected to be used to reinstate a
$50-per-student cut, offset health benefit cost
increases and reinstate school nurses and counselors --
all items the union has been fighting for.

Some controversial teacher review programs, called
Red Teams and Learning Walks, may also be
restructured or eliminated to meet other union

"There is a deal to be made that helps the classrooms,
the teachers and the institution. But it may not help to
have the rhetoric continue to be so escalated. It will
require good deal making by the head of the union and
the head of the district," board member David
Tokofsky said.

But some union officials said that a reduction to the
local districts is still needed to show that Romer is
loyal to teachers and students, rather than his army of

"The teachers don't feel that he's been the best friend
we can have," UTLA member Matt Taylor said. "I
think everybody likes the governor. He's a nice man,
but he makes my job way more difficult. He's listening
to administrators instead of us."

For some teachers, the jury is still out on Romer. He's
yet to meet their expectations, but there's still time,
Taylor said.

"You say 'Romer' and people just kind of shrug.
There's still hope that the democratic governor from
Colorado with a nice personality ... would be able to
get in between the factions of the second-largest
district in the nation," he said.

Parent Edwin Ramirez said it would be a shame to cut
the local districts solely because of politics. UTLA is
really only interested in securing the increased cost of
teachers' health benefits, and the board needs to
support Romer, he said.

"The biggest problem the district has it that the board
will not stand up to UTLA," he said. "The board does
not have the courage."


• smf notes: This a story about a math teacher – a truly
outstanding teacher who helps 100% of her at-risk
students meet the federally mandated No Child Left
Behind mathematics standards for 2007 – yet doesn’t
meet the statutory requirement for being ‘highly

Welcome to the Catch 22-land of NCLB, where “highly qualified” equals adequate ...and “excellent” isn’t
good enough! 

• from National Public Radio: May 28, 2004

ROBERT SIEGEL, host: From NPR News, this is

The No Child Left Behind law requires that teachers
be highly qualified in the subjects they teach. For
mathematics teachers, that often means having an
advanced degree in math. Some researchers believe it
takes more than that to be a good teacher, and they
say it's not only an understanding of the subject that
counts but the ability to understand how children learn.
From Ann Arbor, Michigan, Robert Frederick reports
on efforts to find out what mathematical knowledge is
needed to teach math.


Twice in the last four years, Detroit City High School
has had 100 percent of students proficient in
mathematics, meeting the year 2013 goal of No Child
Left Behind policy. Charlene Peak has taught for
35-plus years. She leads the otherwise young math
department at this alternative high school that serves
at-risk students. She says her success comes naturally.

Ms. CHARLENE PEAK: I just have this little knack
of being able to break it down so that the students
really understand it, and then I sit back and I study a
lot. People call me a nerd because if I go out to dinner,
I'm alone, I read a math book. I do math problems.
And it's just that I just have an affinity for math. I love

FREDERICK: But Peak didn't start out as a math
teacher. After an undergraduate degree in English, she
began teaching fourth grade. She then put herself
through two master's degree programs, but neither one
was in teaching math.

Ms. PEAK: When I thought about going back to get a
degree in teaching math, I found that I had been
teaching too long. And a lot of the ideas that they were
giving teachers and the approaches that they were
giving the teachers to me just were not practical. So I
felt that I didn't want to go into a classroom and be
cynical in the classroom and tell the young people the
way it really is in the classroom.

FREDERICK: Teachers who don't have Charlene
Peak's natural knack for teaching math don't stay long
in the classroom. Deborah Ball teaches teachers at the
University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She illustrates
one aspect of what a teacher needs to know by looking
at a simple arithmetic problem, 35 multiplied by 25.
The answer is 875.

Ms. DEBORAH BALL (University of Michigan): And
I show mathematicians different methods, all
producing 875, many mathematicians are very, very,
very slow at trying to ascertain whether those other
methods in fact are viable if you were to use them in
general for other numbers. And teachers can't afford to
be all that slow. Or suppose I were to show
mathematicians four different answers now that are not
875. It won't be good enough as a teacher just to say,
`Oh, this is the wrong answer.' It's not useful. As a
teacher you actually have to be able to see, like, what
went wrong.

FREDERICK: How do you teach a teacher how to see
what went wrong? Experts funded by the National
Science Foundation are trying to figure that out. Judith
Ramley of the NSF attended a recent conference on
this topic at the University of Michigan.

Ms. JUDITH RAMLEY (NSF): One of the things
we're learning is that it isn't enough to know the
material. But we're also learning that if you don't know
the material, nothing else will substitute because it's a
necessary condition. The challenge is that that is not
sufficient. They also need to understand how the minds
of young people work and how to diagnose, if you
will, the kinds of tangles kids get into.

FREDERICK: But defining success for math teachers
eventually all comes down to whether students
improve on their math tests. Asked whether teachers
should teach to the test, Ramley quickly responds.

Ms. RAMLEY: One important thing to keep in mind is
that if the test is a good test, there's absolutely nothing
wrong with teaching to the test.

FREDERICK: But, she adds, what is on the test and
whether it is a good test is decided vocally.

Ms. RAMLEY: If teachers are teaching to the test, if
students are spending more time in activities that aren't
really drawing them into thinking more deeply about
mathematics, then maybe it's time to rethink the
choices that those schools are making.

FREDERICK: Back at Detroit City High School,
Charlene Peak wonders if federal No Child Left
Behind policy will let her continue to teach
mathematics. That policy requires her to become
highly qualified by the 2005-2006 school year. But
because she doesn't have a degree in math and she's
not enrolled in an alternative certification program, she
doesn't know what will happen.

Ms. PEAK: As far as myself as being grandfathered in,
will I still be teaching math? I don't know. I might. I've
been pretty lucky, you know, because I find my
principal here and the other principals that I've worked
for over the years have said--thought I was OK. So I
might be all right. Maybe I'll just help the children do
their remedial work. I'll be happy doing that.

FREDERICK: For NPR News, I'm Robert Frederick.

You can hear this story and/or you can try to figure out where students go wrong in some sample math problems on the NPR Website.


• smf asks: Please read the following article from the
Daily News— and then answer: What’s wrong with
this picture?

LA Unified is in the midst of laying-off 60+ attendance
counselors - the folks we used to call “truant officers”
- school district employees who make sure students are
in class.

Attendance in school is good because:
a) it’s the law.
b) it’s a good idea — it keeps children off the streets,
away from TV and out of the malls between
8AM–3PM Monday through Friday.
c) it’s what the taxpayers pay for.
c) education is a good thing.
d) students in seats produce $26 a day for the school
f) all of the above.

If you didn’t answer f.) the test is over. You may put
down your pencil and go out and play.

Attendance counselors make money for the district but
we are letting them go ...and LAUSD wants to boost

The District central office downtown is proposing to
‘reward’ cash strapped schools by giving them half of
the income they might earn in improving student
attendance; improvements they must make without the
assistance of attendance counselors. I’m sorry - but by
grabbing half of the ADA (Average Daily Attendance)
revenue gain the central office is reducing services and
increasing fees. Tea has gone into harbors for less! All
of that ADA increase should go to the school site!

And then there’s this:

• Districtwide student attendance is at 93.5 percent.
• Employee attendance is worse at 93 percent.
• Every missed student day costs LAUSD $26.
• Every missed teacher day costs about $234. for a
substitute teacher plus benefits. And instruction is

Do the math. Maybe some of the attendance
counselors need to be transferred to the employee
attendance department.

• from the Daily News:
LAUSD plans campaign to boost attendance
By Jennifer Radcliffe - Daily News Staff Writer

Thursday, May 27, 2004 -

The Los Angeles Unified School District will launch a
public-awareness campaign this summer to increase
high school attendance by 2 percent -- an effort to
increase student achievement and raise LAUSD's state
revenue by $30 million.

The campaign will be the first step aimed at improving
what district leaders consider a dismal attendance rate
of 89.9 percent for high schoolers, compared to 93.5
percent districtwide.

LAUSD's high school attendance rate is nearly 5
percentage points below the rates of Fresno, San
Francisco and Long Beach.

"This is something we're going to have to tighten up
very quickly," said Tim Buresh, chief operating officer.
"Kids that are gone more will not learn as much. Those
kids will fail because of that."

Improving attendance is also a quick way to increase
revenue. The state gives LAUSD about $26 a day for
each of its 750,000 student who attend class.

District leaders said they'd also like develop a policy
that punishes students who miss too many classes and
create a program that awards extra revenue to schools
that post attendance gains.

The proposals come on top of a recent move to crack
down on employee absenteeism. About 7 percent of
employees miss work on any given day, costing
LAUSD about $430 million a year.

As of Thursday morning, 800 teachers had already
called in sick for today, which sets a bad example for
students, Buresh said.

"As the adults on campus behave, so do the children,"
he said.

The focus on employee and student absenteeism
follows another round of budget cuts. LAUSD has
chopped more than $1 billion from its budget in the
past 18 months, and more reductions are expected to

LAUSD hopes to enlist the help of the Los Angeles
Dodgers as part of the public-awareness campaign.
They plan to ask the team to post messages and make
announcements during a July game, reminding parents
to make sure their children go to school.

Under the proposal, the district will also give schools
who post gains 50 percent of the additional revenue.
Schools will be able to chose how to spend that

"One of the reasons I'd like to see the (school) board
get on board with the campaign is that this is where we
can encourage parents to get involved," board member
Jon Lauritzen said. "Here's a positive thing they can
do: Just increase attendance at their school and they'll
have more revenue coming in."

To make the effort a success, however, Lauritzen said
the district must offer secondary students classes that
interest them. Too often, students feel that school is
irrelevant, he said.

"So many of them feel like they're in a dead-end
situation and they just quit coming to school," he said.

The most aggressive part of LAUSD's plan asks the
board to craft a policy that says students will fail their
classes if they have too many absences -- a policy
many districts already have.

"It's time we contemplate exactly that type of policy
here," Buresh said.

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
note: the LAUSD Facilities Calendar was unavailable at this writing. Check it out at:


A free seminar designed for LAUSD parents/guardians to encourage student achievement is scheduled Saturday, June 5, from 8 a.m.-noon at Wilmington Middle School, 1700 Gulf Ave., in Wilmington. The topic to be discussed is "How to Be an Informed Parent."

Los Angeles Board of Education member Marlene Canter from District 4 will be the keynote speaker.

The event, presented by the LAUSD's Beyond The Bell Branch, in partnership with The School Volunteer Program, is part of the E-Factor Series: "Educate, Energize & Empower." A Continental Breakfast and Translation will be provided.

details: The School Volunteer Program
333 S. Beaudry Avenue, Suite B2-216
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Phone: 213-241-6900
Fax: 213-241-8974
Phone: 212.241.4700
Phone: 213.633.7616


4LAKids Book Club for April & May – LETTERS TO THE NEXT PRESIDENT: What We Can do about the Real Crisis in Public Education
Carl Glickman, Editor, Prologue by Bill Cosby,
Epilogue by The Late U. S. Senator Paul Wellstone (Teachers College Press, 2004 Paperback: 272 pages)

• KIDS, HERE’S A FINE MESS THEY’VE GOTTEN US INTO - from the prologue by Bill Cosby

Dear President-to-Be,

I'm looking at the junkiest room I've ever seen. It is a classroom in an American public school; it is public education in America today. A child did not make the room junky; generations of litterers — legislators, school board members, superintendents, principals, taxpayers, teachers and presidents did.

Given the mess, it is a wonder that our children are able to do even as well as they do. We must be grateful that there always have been talented and determined teachers who find their way through the maze of rules and special interests and do what they became teachers to do: help their students shine.

Our neighborhood schools are cluttered and crumbling. Of course, I'm assuming that anyone
applying to be president probably never went to a poor and neglected public school where books have missing pages, walls have peeling paint and children have nothing to write with. Wealthy people comfort themselves that money is not the issue. But nothing dear to America was ever maintained without it. We need money to secure great teachers, money to update teaching methods, money for technology and supplies, and money for time.

Time is a precious commodity and teachers need it to plan lessons and meet with students, parents and administrators.

When the junk is cleaned out of that junky room, its structure is sound: Public education is a good foundation on which to build a better life for each of us. And if we want to prove to these children who never made the mess in the first place that education is worth the trouble, our schools have to inspire them so they can do what they ought to do.

A young teacher, returning to college to hone her skills, asks herself why she wants to teach children who do not have a safe environment to learn in and who lack resources and support from administrators and family. Besides her intrinsic love for teaching, we need to give her a reason to stay.

We must make firm commitments to educators who can show us the way, and learn from the many clear examples of their success. The media constantly focus our attention on the very worst schools when we should really have before us, like shining examples, these school success stories. Why do we accept failure as an example when we can demand that the successes be made visible?

School leaders have to be seen to be heard and to be supported. And we ought to pay them livable salaries, at least enough to afford the chalk and crayons and countless other supplies they buy out of their own pockets. I invite you to look into this room. You can say to our nation, "We must begin — we cannot wait
for someone else to clear out the mess."

• This stellar collection of more than 30 letters speaks to the heart of public education, the future of American students, and the need for an educated and engaged citizenry. Contributors include students, parents, teachers, prominent educators, and public
leaders who write to our next president, and to all fellow citizens, in an honest and direct way about the dangerous shortcomings of current state and federal policies. The letters provide provocative answers to
critical questions such as:

• What kind of education do we want for all of our children?
• What changes must we make to achieve that goal?
• How do we ensure that the voices of parents,
teachers, students, and citizens who care deeply about public education are heard at local, state, and national levels?

This timely volume provides a strong response to government intrusions that have resulted in thousands of pages of simplistic directives and under-funded requirements for local schools and districts. It offers practical and just solutions for guaranteeing higher standards with comprehensive assessments, allocating
equitable resources with responsible local control; attracting and retaining good teachers; improving school choice and the promise of small schools; providing for universal high quality early childhood education, and ensuring a rich, academically sound and engaging curriculum-both inside and outside of school—for all students.

Get LETTERS TO THE NEXT PRESIDENT from your local library, bookstore - or order it by clicking here.

What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member. Or your city councilperson, mayor, assemblyperson, state senator, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think.
• Open the dialogue. Write a letter to the editor. Circulate these thoughts. Talk to the principal and teachers at your local school.
• Speak with your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Stay on top of education issues. Don't take my word for it!
• Get involved at your neighborhood school. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
• Vote.

Contact your school board member