Sunday, August 08, 2004

Theodore T. Alexander, Jr. 1938 — 2004

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View Large Image 4LAKids: Sunday, August 8, 2004
In This Issue: Theodore T. Alexander, Jr. 1938 — 2004 
•   WILLIAMS v. CALIFORNIA: Once the settlement is announced the debate can really begin
•   4LAKids Book Club for August & September—THE HUMAN SIDE OF SCHOOL CHANGE: Reform, Resistance and the Real-Life Problems of Innovation—by Robert Evans
•   A QUESTION OF AGE AND ABILITY: State panel's proposal to delay kindergarten for youngest pupils should fund preschool for those who would have to wait
•   EVENTS: Coming up next week...
The children of Los Angeles and the school district lost a true champion last week with the death of Associate Superintendent Theodore T. Alexander, Jr.
Ted died quite suddenly of the complications of leukemia
discovered only a month before. He was 66.

Ted was a big guy. He was “the big guy” in the Parents
and Community Services Branch – the “go-to guy” as the
District reached out to parents and struggled to make
schools centers of communities they serve. He juggled the
responsibilities of wrangling the interests of Parents,
Students, the District, the Board and the Superintendent –
and the alphabet soup of government mandated programs
with grace and a smile. It is a thankless job and we all
owe him thanks. I have seen him defuse angry situations,
when parents were tempted to turn in wrath on someone
who lost track of who their partners in education are. Ted was always a gentleman, always a listener
— a calm voice in a storm.

TedÂ’s greatest accomplishment came years back when we
took over the wreckage of the DistrictÂ’s disastrous
forced-busing integration program and saw it turned it
into the Magnet Schools Program. The Magnet Program
is respected nationwide as an inspired way to address
school choice, integration and specialized education in
urban education- including but-not-limited-to gifted
education. The Magnet Program flourishes still; the
criticism it suffers is that it is not extensive enough,
doesnÂ’t offer opportunities enough across the spectrum of
students and schools it serves. That failure (...if being
too-successful is failure!) is not Ted Alexander’s — it is
of not enough money being spent when and where it can
make a difference. After all these years the magnet
program still has a waiting list, students are still selected
to participate by a lottery. Einstein said God doesnÂ’t play
dice; nether should we in the education of our children.

Ted AlexanderÂ’s LA Times Obituary
Though Ted AlexanderÂ’s efforts the only two new high schools in LAUSD since 1971 have come to be:

and — with its ribboncutting last Thursday –


OHMHS is the paradigm of where LAUSD must go in
the next few years:

• A small high school of 762 students on
four-and-a-quarter acres, serving the inner city.

• The very design and truly excellent facilities – 32
classrooms, library and adminsitartive offices in two
freestanding buildings – forms a model for Small Learning
Communities with individualized/personalized instruction to provide every student with the opportunity to achieve their educational goals and vocational potential in a nurturing environment.

• A school created through a dynamic strategic
partnership of LAUSD, Othropædic Hospital and Los
Angeles Trade Tech College – with adjacencies of real
estate and operations to form a single campus focused on
medical, health, math and science education.

This is the future and it will work! Both UCLA and SC
and their medical schools and schools of public health are
partners. The community is on board. It needs only great
teachers (...and they are coming!)and hard working young
people (...also on the way!) to be a truly excellent

The first day of school is September 9. Programs such as
this are the continuing legacy of Ted AlexanderÂ’s vision and hard work. Good job!

Orthopædic Hospital Magnet High School
A QUESTION OF AGE AND ABILITY: State panel's proposal to delay kindergarten for youngest pupils should fund preschool for those who would have to wait
The following, from the LA Times, looks at the
GovernorÂ’s proposal to postpone the admission date for
new kindergartners; the panel that made the proposal mad
e it as a cost saving move. As the article discusses - and
as a number of correspondents with 4LAKids have
brought up - such a move would be only educationally
sound if coupled with a universal preschool program.

While the original idea may be a bad one, the resulting
debate is worthwhile! —smf

By Jean Merl & Erika Hayasaki - LA Times Staff Writers

CALIFORNIA: August 7, 2004 – Lorraine Fong can pick
them out in a heartbeat:

They can't sit still for long, follow directions, or work
with other students. Some struggle to learn colors or
numbers. And many of her school's youngest
kindergarteners even have trouble executing the simplest
drawings, said Fong, principal of Bennett Kew
Elementary School in Inglewood.

"The ones who aren't ready usually draw stick figures that
have legs, arms and hands coming out of their heads," she

So Fong, along with many other educators and early
childhood experts, tentatively welcomed a
recommendation by a special state commission that the
birthday cutoff for kindergarten enrollment be moved
from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1. But their support was almost
universally made conditional on the state's providing
quality, affordable preschool for youngsters who would
be kept out of kindergarten for an additional year. Parents
seemed more leery.

"I would be hesitant to have children waiting and starting
school later if we don't have preschool," said Kim Bishop,
principal of Horace Mann Elementary School in Glendale.
Almost all of the youngsters there enter kindergarten with
limited English language skills and need to be in an
educational setting as soon as possible, she said.

Most parents of pupils at Mann don't have the money for
private preschool, she said. And space is limited in
publicly funded classes for children younger than 5.

In recommending a change in the cutoff date for
kindergarten, framers of the California Performance
Review, a 2,500-page report officially released Tuesday,
heaped fuel on a debate that goes back at least two
decades in California and dovetails with a national trend
toward excluding younger children.

The recommendation worried parents who would have to
scramble for kindergarten alternatives for children born
later in the year.

Still other parents said that debating the cutoff date
misses the point: They say a child's readiness, not
chronological age, should determine kindergarten

Hilin Sarkisian, a Glendale mother of three, knows how
difficult it can be to find space in an affordable preschool.
She wanted to put her toddler son, Mina, in Head Start,
only to be confronted with a long waiting list. So she
cares for her youngsters at home, postponing her own
dream of returning to school.

"It's better when they start younger," Sarkisian said,
"because they learn more."

Jose Guadalupe also opposes changing the rules. His
daughter Veronica, 4, is in kindergarten at Glendale's
Mann Elementary, and he says her early start has helped
her learn to write her name, identify shapes and speak

He wants his 3-year-old, Victoria, to have the same
opportunity as her sister.

"I prefer that she be in school" as soon as possible,
Guadalupe said, "because she will learn something — like

Around the nation, the practice of excluding younger
children from kindergarten has increasingly found favor
since the 1980s, when kindergartens started becoming
more academic as part of a drive to improve students'
overall achievement.

Priscilla Wohlstetter, a USC education professor, said the
state report's recommendation could be a smart
educational decision, given the added achievement
pressures put on schools by the federal No Child Left
Behind legislation and a trend toward replacing traditional
half-day kindergartens with full-day sessions.

"What we expect of kindergarteners today is far more
advanced than what we expected even five years ago,"
Wohlstetter said. "As these expectations increase, I am
not sure that anyone under 5 should be there."

The younger children should be in a good preschool, not
at home, Wohlstetter said, adding that there is also a
nationwide push for universal preschool, so that
kindergarten will not be a child's first scholastic

California is one of only five states, plus the District of
Columbia, that have cutoff dates of Dec. 1 or later,
according to the Denver-based Education Commission of
the States. Many have changed their entrance dates to
ensure that most, if not all, children are 5 by the start of
the school year.

"There is no perfect date," said Michelle Galvan, a policy
analyst for the states commission, "but there could be
value in aligning more closely with other states."

Some parents think that policymakers are wrong to focus
on chronological age. They want to see kindergarten
entrance determined by testing a child's readiness. (State
law permits districts to make exceptions to the cutoff
date, but some, including Los Angeles Unified, adhere to
the cutoff.)

Howard Blasberg's twin boys, who will turn 5 on Sept.
21, can start kindergarten next month at Kester Avenue
Elementary in Van Nuys. They would have been excluded
under the proposed change.

Blasberg worries about his precocious 3-year-old, whose
Dec. 10 birthday will keep her out of a Los Angeles
Unified kindergarten until she is almost 6.

"She's almost ready for kindergarten now, so I have a
tremendous issue" with waiting, Blasberg said.

"I would like to see some sort of testing or some sort of
alternative for children who are intellectually and
emotionally ready," Blasberg said. "I don't think it should
be based solely on age. I'm personally seeing the age thing
almost as a punishment."

In California, moving up the date by which a child must
turn 5 to enter kindergarten has been proposed
unsuccessfully several times, including in 1985 by Jack
O'Connell, then a Democratic assemblyman and now state
superintendent of public instruction. In 1992, then-Gov.
Pete Wilson tried changing the cutoff date to Sept. 1 as a
way to help balance a tight budget — and quickly backed
off in the ensuing outcry.

Still, such groups as the California Teachers Assn.,
California Assn. for the Education of Young Children and
the California School Boards Assn. have supported at
least some of the subsequent attempts to move up the
cutoff date.

Some attempts have failed over concerns that an earlier
cutoff date would harm low-income youngsters already at
risk for school failure. Other versions, which would have
funneled state funds into preschool for youngsters kept
out of kindergarten, died due to cost objections.

"I believe that if you put the best interest of the child first,
you are going to have to provide a program for those
children" who would be required to wait a year for
kindergarten, said Assemblywoman Fran Pavley
(D-Agoura Hills). She proposed giving school districts
the option of moving up the cutoff date in exchange for
state money to offer preschool to the youngsters with late
birthdays. Her bill died in committee earlier this year. The
voluminous state report cites several studies showing
poor outcomes for some children who begin kindergarten
before turning 5. It also includes savings estimates by the
California legislative analyst, which found that moving the
date up three months would keep about 90,000 children
out of school each year and save at least $660 million a
year for 13 years.

The report, however, makes no mention of providing
alternatives for children who would have to wait until the
next school year to begin kindergarten. And that omission
could cost the proposal support.

Jim Morris, assistant superintendent for elementary
instruction in the Los Angeles Unified School District,
opposes changing the cutoff date without guaranteeing
preschool slots for every low-income student, many of
whom are learning English. He said he agreed that
younger students would be better off in preschool, but
added that having them in kindergarten was far preferable
to no education.

"Our district has more preschool opportunities than most,
but we still don't have nearly enough to meet the
demand," Morris said.

Kindergarten teacher Laura Recio agreed. Five of her 20
students at the year-round South Park Elementary School
in South Los Angeles have birthdays after Sept. 1.

"If they weren't here, they'd just be at home," Recio said.
"I would rather have them here and get them ready. It
would only be a bigger challenge if they had to wait a

WILLIAMS v. CALIFORNIA: Once the settlement is announced the debate can really begin
As a parent and as a member of the Bond Oversight
Committee I have been following with interest – but
without much information – the proposed settlement of
Williams v. California. The settlement, which will effect
public education in California for generations into the
future, is being hammered out in lawyerÂ’s offices, judgeÂ’s
chambers, the governorÂ’s office, caucus rooms and
executive board of education sessions.

In other words: In secret; far from the public eye.

The facts of the case are unquestioned. California urban
school districts have been shortchanging their
socioeconomically disadvantaged students. It is in
immigrant neighborhoods and communities of color that
overcrowding, poor facility conditions, inadequate
textbooks, year around calendars, not enough space on
the playground and poorly qualified teachers have been
most prevalent.

LAUSD, through the $14 Billion construction and
modernization programs approved by the voters as
Proposition BB and Measures K and R has been making
huge strides to correct over thirty years of neglect.
Schools being built are being built where they are needed
— in the very neighborhoods most neglected.

This week a new high school opened in the central city –
the first new LA high school since 1990. LAUSD is
committed to build 243 projects to reduce overcrowding
throughout the district by 2012. Of the 243 projects, 12
schools, 22 expansions, and 12 early education centers
have been completed – with another 99 projects currently
under construction across the city.

This is the biggest public education construction effort
ever undertaken anywhere and is the both largest public
sector construction project in the nation and the largest
building project of any kind in California. LA
taxpayers are investing billions of dollars in correcting
thirty years of neglect - to get kids off the bus and into
quality neighborhood schools on a traditional
two-semester calendar. The Williams settlement may
change those priorities.

The settlement of Williams will bring $188 million
statewide to address the inequity – and LA Unified stands
to get a large amount of that money. But whatever
percentage LAUSD receives will not impact the students
in need unless those funds are spent wisely when and
where they can have the most immediate impact.

The proposed settlement will not be by court imposed
consent decree but through a package of legislation that
must be passed by the legislature and signed into law by
the governor. Only when they are assured that they will
get what they want will the plaintiffs abandon their
lawsuit. It will be interesting to see just how cooperative
the legislature will be under that gun!

The following questions remain to be asked and answered
by the court, the plaintiffs and the defendants — by the
State, the ACLU and the individual school districts that
are parties to the settlement.

• Is the money enough to remedy the problems, or does
the settlement require more solution than the money can
solve? $188 million doesn't buy much! And before
someone says that the districts should pay a percentage of
the settlement let me remind us all: All funding for
schools in California is controlled by the state!

• Does the State in its settlement commit to funding any
shortfall? Is compliance binding on the state ...or on the

• How does the enforcement, accountability and
compliance work? Who reports to whom and when? Who
oversees this?

Questions specific to LAUSD are:

• Saturday's unfortunate death of Ted Alexander takes the
District's obvious and highly respected point person on
compliance out of the picture. Who steps in?

• What is the impact of this settlement upon the District’s
$14 Billion effort to pretty much solve the problems that
the first six symptoms (Overcrowded schools, deplorable
conditions, leaky roofs, poor plumbing, rodent and insect
infestations) describe?

• Do the District’s priorities and prioritization change?
LAUSDÂ’s first priority is end mandatory busing; the
Williams settlement apparently prioritizes ending the
Concept 6 calendar. When push comes to shove will kids
get pushed back on the bus?

• Will the inevitable strings that will come attached to the
Williams settlement tie the hands of LAUSD as we
struggle to put our house in order?

Hopefully LAUSD will have the foresight use its
WilliamsÂ’ settlement money on needed things bond dollars
cannot be used for, things like purchasing and replacing
insufficient or out-of-date textbooks and attracting, hiring
and retaining qualified teachers. That would leverage the
money we are already investing into a true, dynamic
capital investment in the children and the future of Los
Angeles. Otherwise weÂ’ll all be back in court, and another
generation of schoolchildren will be left behind. — smf

4LAKids Book Club for August & September—THE HUMAN SIDE OF SCHOOL CHANGE: Reform, Resistance and the Real-Life Problems of Innovation—by Robert Evans
Publisher: Jossey-Bass Paperback: 336 pages ISBN: 0787956112

4LAKids Book Club for August and September:
Reform, Resistance, and the Real-Life Problems of
Innovation — by Robert Evans

Paperback: 336 pages ISBN: 0787956112

This book was pressed into my hands by a senior
educator, high in the DistrictÂ’s hierarchy.

We were wary of each other. She undoubtedly
viewed me as a wild eyed parent activist — intent
on upsetting the apple cart — a proponent of the
bottom-up reforms espoused by William Ouchi in
“Making Schools Work”; a would-be empowerer of
parents and school site administrators.

I viewed her as the protector of the status-quo of
slow, steady improvement as measured by test
scores — and the great top-down centrally-driven
bureaucracy that is LAUSD.

WeÂ’d both be right. I have no respect whatsoever
for apple carts; I come from the film industry and
apple carts are always the first to be smashed in the
big chase scene! I press Bill OuchiÂ’s book into as
many hands as I can. She and I discussed at length
the LEARN reforms at LAUSD, a too-brief
wrinkle-in-time where principals and parents were
empowered ...until the interest waned and the
political will and money ran out. Until other
agendas took hold. Time passed LEARN by before
it had a chance to work or fail.

I expected EvansÂ’ book to be an apologia for things
as they are, instead I found a truly enlightening
vision of where we are in public education and just
how difficult the very necessary change will be. I
returned the borowed copy with many thanks and
bought my own.

Evans is a psychologist - and his analysis is of the
teaching profession and the business of public
education. Imagine youÂ’re a teacher. Imagine you
are faced with the challenges of the classroom, the
politics of the schoolsite and the dynamics of the
administration, children, parents and school district.
Now mix in the politicians – right, left and center –
and activists, bureaucrats and theorists. All call for
every flavor of reform imaginable ...and embrace a
new one with every lunar cycle! Even if youÂ’re a
good teacher every successful practice you have
and every decision you make is second-guessed and
compared to a rubric that measures success – or
lack thereof – in a new way every day. And all the
while your friends from college are making three
times more money than you!

Evans analyzes management styles and models of
reform and suggests strategies for building a
framework of cooperation between leaders of
change and the people they depend upon to
implement it. He is no fan of top-down
central-control — but he truly abhors
‘change-of-the-month-club’ reform! Evans does not
tell us to be slow in school reform, only to be
thoughtful, thorough and respectful of the true
instruments of change: Those in the classroom
working with young minds.

Two thumbs-up, one for Ouchi and another for


• Dr. Robert Evans is a clinical and organizational
psychologist and director of the Human Relations
Service in Wellesley, Mass. A former high school
and preschool teacher, he has consulted to hundreds
of schools and districts throughout America and
around the world and has worked extensively with
teachers, administrators, school boards, and state
education officials.

• Editorial Reviews:
"A unique, superb, and penetrating analysis of the
human side of educational change. Evans knows the
human realities of change and portrays them vividly
in both individual and organizational terms. His
discussion of hope and realism in the final chapter is
a gem." —Michael Fullan, dean, Faculty of
Education, University of Toronto

"Evans certainly understands what gets in the way
of real school change and what the simple, key
elements are that can make it happen. No board
member, superintendent, or school principal should
make one more decision or host one more meeting
without reading this book." —Judy Cunningham,
principal, South Lake Middle School, Irvine, Calif.

"Evans has written a realistic yet hopeful book that
sets a new standard for providing the leadership
needed to implement school improvements. An
engaging and much-needed update of the critical,
but often overlooked, human side of change."
—Thomas J. Sergiovanni, Lillian Radford Professor
of Education and senior fellow, Center for
Educational Leadership, Trinity University

"School leaders will find this book realistic about
the difficulties of change, rich in practical advice
about school improvement, and useful in showing
how to transcend the limits of their own experience
to practice effective leadership." —Thomas W.
Payzant, superintendent, Boston Public Schools

Get THE HUMAN SIDE OF SCHOOL CHANGE from your local library, bookstore - or order it by clicking here.
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EVENTS: Coming up next week...
• Monday Aug 9, 2004

1PM – Funeral Services for Theodore T. Alexander, Jr.
Trinity Baptist Church
2040 West Jefferson Boulevard
Los Angeles

• Tuesday Aug 10, 2004
Bell ES #3 Middle School Addition
Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

Please join us to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of your new
community school!

Ceremony will begin at 10 a.m.

Bell ES #3 Middle School Addition
5071 Live Oak Street
Cudahy, CA 90201

• Wednesday Aug 11, 2004
15th Street Elementary School Addition
Groundbreaking Ceremony

Please join us to celebrate the groundbreaking of your
new classroom building!

Ceremony will begin at 10:00 a.m.

15th Street Elementary School
1527 S. Mesa Street
San Pedro, CA 90731

• Thursday Aug 12, 2004
Central Los Angeles High School #12
Design Development Meeting

6:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Gratts Elementary School
309 Lucas Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90017

Central Region Elementary School #14
Phase II Site Selection Update
Local District 4

Your participation is important! Please join at this
meeting where we will review:

* Criteria used to select potential sites
* Sites suggested by community and by LAUSD, and
* We will present and discuss the most suitable site(s) for
this new school project

6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Rosemont Avenue Elementary School
421 N. Rosemont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Phone: 212.241.4700
Phone: 213.633.7616

Scott Folsom is a parent and parent leader in LAUSD. He is Vice President for Education in Los Angeles 10th District PTSA and represents PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He serves on various school district advisory and policy committees and is a PTA officer and governance council member at two LAUSD schools. He is also the elected Youth & Education boardmember on the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council.
• In this forum his opinions are his own and your opinions and feedback are invited.
• This and past Issues are available – with interactive feedback — at

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