Sunday, October 10, 2004

The spin, the spin

8-Article Newsletter Template
4LAKids: Sunday, October 10th, 2004
In This Issue:
 •  Spin as Truth I: THE AMBASSADOR
 •  Spin as Truth II/LA Times: A CLASH OF TWO PASSIONATE FORCES – L.A. Conservancy finds itself sparring with Kennedys over Ambassador site.
 •  EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 •  4LAKids Book Club for October & November — ACHIEVEMENT MATTERS: Getting Your Child the Best Education Possible, by Hugh B. Price
 •  What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
 •  READING TO KIDS: Read to some kids one Saturday morning a month. Make a difference. Change some lives (including your own!).
 •  MAKING SCHOOLS WORK: Get the Book @
 •  FIVE CENTS MAKES SENSE FOR EDUCATION- Target 5� from every federal tax dollar for Education
The level of political discourse at the beginning of the
Twenty-first Century — and the operation of this school
district and the education of Los AngelesÂ’ children is
nothing if it is not politics — is compromised by spin
doctors, rhetoricians and anointed and appointed shapers of opinion. 4LAKids is of course far, far above the fray; speaking as it does with uncompromised veracity for Social Justice, Parents, Teachers and Children — with the crystal clarity of revealed truth!

And anyone who says otherwise is itchinÂ’ for a fight!

• Monday, October 18th is the last date to register for the
November 2nd election. If you are not yet registered – or
if you know of somebody who should be registered but
isn’t – Please get registered - get informed - and vote!

Thank you —smf

Last Wednesday afternoon in a special meeting convened
in the spectacular 27th floor Tom Bradley Room at City
Hall the Bond Oversight Committee approved the
SuperintendentÂ’s plan for the Ambassador Project/New
Central Learning Center #1 — with the caveat that no
bond funds be used for any of the reuse/renovation of the
old hotel where such reuse would increase the overall
cost of the project over the cost of new construction.

In other words: The Committee requested that the fifteen
million dollars that architectural and historical
preservation adds to the project be raised and paid for
from outside sources: Private, corporate or foundation
moneys — or other public funding specifically intended
for historic preservation.

The Committee approves of and supports historic
preservation. Los Angeles has a history of forgetting and
bulldozing its past – but we found that the voters intended
the BB, K & R Bond funds be used for school
construction and modernization — not historical
preservation. The majority of the Committee found (and
my and my fellow PTA representativeÂ’s votes supported)
that the $15 Million would be best spent on building a
new elementary school – or on preserving and
modernizing older schools — not an old hotel!

Superintendent Romer personally argued vehemently
against this position, equating the reuse expenditure to
other non-construction costs the bonds pay for such as
environmental clean-up, demolition of old buildings and
relocation fees paid to dislocated residents and business
owners. Demolition and clean up is of course a
requirement of any new construction — and relocation
fees are mandated by law. There is no such mandate for
preservation of the Ambassador; it is not listed on any
register of historic places. If it were the SuperintendentÂ’s
plan wouldnÂ’t come close in terms of preservation!

The next day the School District issued a press release,
trumpeting the support of the Greater Los Angeles
Chamber of Commerce for the SuperintendentÂ’s
Ambassador plan – including historic reuse. That support
came in the form of the ChamberÂ’s vote on the Bond
Oversight CommitteeÂ’s action ....a vote on the failing

At that meeting Wednesday MayorÂ’s HahnÂ’s office
offered to facilitate further discussion between the
opposing parties: LAUSD, the Los Angeles Conservancy,
the Alliance for a Better Community and the Ambassador
K-12 Coalition. This is a most welcome development —
Mayor Hahn has a history with LAUSD and the
Ambassador project . It was the Mayor’s “over my dead
body” stance – opposing a last minute alternative
development plan that helped close the Ambassador
purchase deal by LAUSD in 2001. Further quiet
discussion and compromise – and some true civic
engagement – can perhaps avoid rancor and litigation
....and get the needed schools built without further delay!

Please! —smf

Spin as Truth II/LA Times: A CLASH OF TWO PASSIONATE FORCES – L.A. Conservancy finds itself sparring with Kennedys over Ambassador site.
By Bob Pool - Times Staff Writer

October 9, 2004 - For more than a quarter-century,
they've been the ones in the white hats, the cavalry riding
to the rescue of beloved landmarks threatened by

Then two weeks ago, the conservancy collided with

And suddenly, the Los Angeles Conservancy found itself
in an emotional battle with one of America's most
prominent political families.

The widow and children of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy
denounced the group's efforts to preserve the
Ambassador Hotel and the pantry where he was
assassinated in 1968.

Kennedy family members asked that all remnants of the
Ambassador be removed and replaced with new school
buildings. The hotel, they said, is a "reminder of anger,
fear and hate." It would be wrong "to preserve a site of

Conservancy leaders responded by stepping up their
campaign to persuade the Los Angeles Unified School
District — which owns the 24-acre site — to keep the
Ambassador intact and convert its guestrooms into

In a compromise that the conservancy has rejected,
school administrators proposed keeping the Ambassador's
look by erecting a hotel-like facade in front of a new
classroom building and incorporating the Cocoanut Grove
nightclub, the pantry assassination site and the Embassy
Ballroom into the new school. School board members are
to vote Tuesday on the site's future.

Preservationists say they have spent nearly two decades
studying ways to save the 83-year-old hotel. They
consider it one of Los Angeles' signature landmarks, a
place where celebrities mixed with the common person
and where local and global histories are intertwined.

The Kennedy family went public with its opposition Sept.
23. An essay written by Robert's son Maxwell and
published in The Times urged that the millions of dollars
that preservation would cost be directly spent on
classrooms instead.

A week later, widow Ethel Kennedy and seven of her
children warned school officials that "if these offensive
elements remain part of the school design, our family
would seriously question as to whether to support naming
the school for Robert Kennedy," as many locals have

The family's stance jolted some conservancy supporters,
many of whom say they admire both the work of the
Kennedy family and the efforts of the preservation group.

"I don't think the conservancy realized the family didn't
want that as a memorial. I don't think the conservancy
realized the depth of the family's feelings," said
Councilman Tom LaBonge, a preservation advocate and
expert on city history.

Journalist and local historian Kevin Roderick, who has
written a book about Wilshire Boulevard, said of the
group: "Maybe they should have seen it coming. But I
would disagree it's a black eye for the conservancy."

But conservancy member and Kennedy family friend Paul
Schrade thinks the group has come away with a pair of

"The conservancy has been dishonest with me as a
member, and maybe with its board," complained Schrade,
a union and community organizer who has a unique
perspective on the dispute: He was standing in the hotel
pantry next to Robert Kennedy at the time of the
assassination and was wounded in the head by one of the

"Preserving that hotel is not an appropriate memorial to
Robert Kennedy. It is ghoulish," said Schrade, who has
long advocated replacing the Ambassador with a school
in Kennedy's honor.

Conservancy members remain passionate in believing they
are on the right side of the dispute. But they expressed
frustration that the Kennedys waited so long to speak up.
"We always thought they had very personal reasons
whether this building should be preserved," said Linda
Dishman, the conservancy's executive director.

"We had been told by somebody in the family that
everything related to the assassination should be sent to
Ted Kennedy. We did, but we never heard back. That was
about two or so years ago."

(Schrade disputes this, saying that Sen. Edward Kennedy
asked him to relay the family's position on the hotel's
preservation to the conservancy a year ago and that he

Actress Diane Keaton, a conservancy director, said the
Ambassador could be retrofitted as a learning center
where language students could read "The Great Gatsby"
in the very place its author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, stayed.
Youngsters studying theater and music could perform at
the Cocoanut Grove, where myriad performers of the
20th century worked.

History lessons would be taught in a place where every
president from Herbert Hoover to Richard Nixon once
stayed, Keaton said Friday, noting that Nixon wrote his
famous "Checkers" speech at the hotel in 1952.

Perhaps most important, youngsters would experience
history by walking where Robert Kennedy took his final

"The Ambassador, as a vital educational campus, can be a
living testament to the RFK legacy," the conservancy
asserts in a position paper.

Conservancy leaders point out that they have weathered
criticism and controversy many times since the group was
organized in 1978 to save the downtown Central Library.
Since then, successful preservation campaigns have been
waged for such structures as the 1931 Art Deco Wiltern
Theatre, the 1939 Streamline Moderne Wilshire
Boulevard May Co. building, the 1876 St. Vibiana's
Cathedral and Downey's circa-1953 "world's oldest
McDonald's" restaurant.

In their Ambassador campaign, conservancy officials
erected a 48-foot billboard Tuesday on the hotel's
Wilshire Boulevard grounds urging school leaders:
"Teach History. Don't Erase It."

But the message was removed Friday, angering
preservationists who paid $5,000 to rent the billboard
from an outdoor advertising company that leases the sign
space from the school district. Glenn Gritzner, a special
assistant to L.A. Unified Supt. Roy Romer, said school
officials did not request the removal.

Nonetheless, Dishman was outraged. "This is censorship.
They're censoring history and they're censoring debate,"
she said.

She said she remained puzzled by the Kennedy family's

"Why they decided to weigh in on this instead of the
six-floor Book Depository Building I don't know,"
Dishman said of the Dallas structure where President
Kennedy's assassin hid in 1963.

"Should one family be able to say what should happen to
the site? If they have a very painful memory, often they
don't want the building preserved. But the victim doesn't
get to set the punishment in horrible crimes."

• This article misstates the Kennedy family’s timing —
though it does make for a more exciting story! The Kennedys have quietly opposed preserving the site as an RFK memorial from the very outset.

And if “no school district officials” caused the billboard company to remove the offending billboard ....who or what did? —smf

Counselors from private schools help out at public
schools, giving students a crash course in the college
admission process.

By Stephanie Chavez - Times Staff Writer

October 10, 2004 – Michele Bird, a college counselor at
the private Harvard-Westlake School, took a seat
Saturday at a table of six high school seniors, all of whom
wanted to go to college, all of whom sought her advice.

She had volunteered as a one-day mentor for Los Angeles
public school students who needed help navigating the
complexities of college admissions. "Well," she began,
"Have you all identified a list of the colleges you want to

Not yet, five answered. Kind of, said one senior from
Crenshaw High School.

"I don't have the money for college," said a young woman
from Banning High. "I mean, I'm just looking for anything
at this point."

The financial aid workshop is up next, Bird said. Don't
worry about money; just apply to a college of your

Next question from Bird: "Have you all taken your SAT

No. We missed it. Next month.

This was not good.

Bird was flustered and began the college-counselor
equivalent of crisis management, rattling off instructions
on how to register for the college entrance exam at the
last minute. Dates, deadlines, websites. She talked;
students wrote.

The veteran counselor would say later that she wasn't
sure what to expect when she agreed to participate in Go
For College Day. The event at Occidental College was
designed to bring college admissions counselors from
some of the city's most exclusive schools together with a
few hundred public high school students, who sometimes
struggle for one-on-one access to counselors at their
crowded campuses.

The event, sponsored by the nonprofit Los Angeles
Mentoring Partnership, or LAMP, drew students from
high schools and community organizations, including the
East L.A. Boys & Girls Clubs and Para Los Ninos.

After her initial assessment, Bird realized she had
ventured into an educational arena that she had little
experience with — helping students from schools where
the counselor-student ratio can be hundreds, even
thousands, to one. At Harvard-Westlake, 10 deans
manage 90 students each, including 30 seniors.

"I felt panicked," Bird said. "I thought, 'Oh my God,
where do I start?' "

And after one session with her students-for-the-day, she
almost laughed at what had been her biggest stressor of
the week — advising a group of Harvard-Westlake
seniors on whether they should audition for the Stanford
University performing arts program or take their second
SAT test, both scheduled for Saturday.

"Our kids come from so much privilege," she said. "It's
just two very different worlds."

The event served up inspiration, encouragement and
nuts-and-bolts advice.

Peter Chernin, News Corp.'s president and chief operating
officer, told the students to "find out what you love in
your life, and think how you can go to college to pursue

Megan Chernin, his wife, said she came up with the idea
for the event as part of her work with LAMP after she
experienced the challenges of guiding her own three
children through the college admission process. "And we
had a lot of help from Harvard-Westlake," where her
children attended high school.

Some students, including Felicia Herrera of Banning
High, said the event offered a rare opportunity to become
immersed in the admission process.

Although many said counselors at their own schools have
open-door policies and an abundance of reference
materials, getting enough individual attention is often

"They announce important dates over the PA system for
tests and stuff, but it's a lot to keep track of," said
Herrera, 17, part of a contingent of Banning High
students enrolled in the school's month-old Academy for
Hospitality and Culinary Arts. Herrera said her teacher,
Virginia Marsoobian, encouraged her to pursue a college
education and career in hotel management.

"Basically, Ms. Marsoobian changed my life for the
better," Herrera said. "She's Hispanic. We have similar
backgrounds, and she knows where I come from. She
helped me be a leader, get organized, take pride."

And there sat Marsoobian at the table next to Bird. She
was taking notes just like the students, knowing that her
two master's degrees, which qualify her to run Banning's
new academy, didn't prepare her for what has been an
unexpected role — unofficial college advisor.

"There are 3,400 kids in our school and one counselor,"
Marsoobian said. "An opportunity for them to attend a
day like this is a big first stepÂ…. I want our kids to have
as big of the piece of pie as kids everywhere."

Yet, Marsoobian, too, almost laughed when Bird began
talking about the range of higher education options, from
Ivy League to community colleges. "I wanted to raise my
hand and say, 'Back up, you need to tell them what Ivy
League means.' "

After lunch, Bird decided she needed to delve deeper into
the students' high school education, if she were to really
help them in the next 45 minutes, all the time left to make
a difference. She talked about the basic course
requirements they would need to attend a four-year

Did they all have one year of American history? One girl
said no. How are their grade-point averages? A collective
moan, along with expressions of hope.

"I've really improved my grades this year," said Jaynae
Anderson, 18, of Crenshaw High.

"I'm on the seventh chapter of my novel," said Otis Lewis,
17, also of Crenshaw. "I know my English teachers would
write me a good recommendation."

But the session was ending. Bird was nervous, putting her
face in her hands.

"We're running out of timeÂ…. I hope I helped you Â… but
I'm worried Â… there's so much to tell you."

She then rattled off her final set of instructions — the
direct phone line to her office, her e-mail, her address.

"Call me," she said.

• smf notes: High School and Middle School Guidance
Counselors are probably the most challenged,
underappreciated and misunderstood folks in this or any
public school district. But the counselors who havenÂ’t
helped these kids at their own schools havenÂ’t done their
jobs ...and in not doing their jobs they have failed these
students. I am sure they were kept very busy doing other
things, things like discipline and tardy sweeps. Things that
arenÂ’t their job! Hopefully the Smaller laerning
Community reforms outlined below will make a

— L.A. Unified approves the conversion of 131 middle
and senior high campuses to 'learning communities' of 350
to 500 students.
By Erika Hayasaki - Times Staff Writer

October 6, 2004 - Every middle school and high school in
the Los Angeles Unified School District will be divided
into smaller clusters of 350 to 500 students within five
years under a plan approved Tuesday by the Board of

Los Angeles is one of the last large urban school districts
to move to small "learning communities," a reform
intended to provide more personalized education.

"We need to go down this path," said Supt. Roy Romer,
who pushed for conversion of the district's 131 middle
and high schools as a way to raise test scores and
dissuade students from dropping out. The district's largest
high schools serve up to 5,000 students.

Tuesday's vote determined that the change would occur
districtwide within five years. Beyond that, little is
decided. For instance, some small learning communities
could specialize in dance, music or other arts. Others
could be divided by grade level. District officials plan to
look to their own magnet and academy programs as
possible prototypes and to research models in other cities.

Districts in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and
Washington, D.C., have embraced the small-schools
movement because research has shown that students at
such campuses are more likely to finish high school and
attend college. To create smaller schools, districts have
sometimes divided campuses into separate units that share
the gymnasium or cafeteria.

In Los Angeles Unified, larger schools will be divided into
groups on the same campus, Romer said. Also, many new
schools will be built as smaller campuses.

Liliam Leis-Castillo, an administrator who is leading the
development of small learning communities in the district,
said each school would determine its redesign.

Six of the seven board members approved Romer's
proposal. Board member Jose Huizar was absent.

Board members and union leaders said they supported
small learning communities but expressed concern over
how the reforms would be implemented.

Dan Isaacs of the Associated Administrators of Los
Angeles union said the district needed a "better-defined
process and procedure" to determine how the schools
would be organized, staffed and managed.

Romer said the shift would occur on a school-by-school
basis and involve parents, teachers and administrators.

He urged the board to approve the change because the
school district faced a deadline for use of certain federal
funds and, he said, so the district could apply for state and
federal grants.

Last year the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a major
supporter of creating small schools nationwide, gave Los
Angeles Unified a $900,000 planning grant for the reform
effort, and the organization is considering donating more
money to help individual schools convert.

• We've become too timid to take care of ourselves
By Karen Stabiner - LA Times/October 10, 2004

I had to Google the P in PSAT to find out what it stands
for, which is "preliminary," not "practice." The exam is
still practice for my sophomore daughter and her
schoolmates, though, a chance to hone their bubble-grid
skills a year before the real test — which, in turn, is a
rehearsal for the SAT.

I understand the notion that familiarity improves
performance. I also understand our school's extra prep
session and practice exam to help students who break into
a cold sweat when they hear the words "standardized

What I don't understand is the otherwise reasonable mom
who called to find out where she could find a PSAT tutor
— and fast — to better prepare her seemingly competent
daughter for a practice version of a pretest.

We usually think of "assisted living" as services provided
for the very elderly, for people who can't walk or talk or
think straight. Yet daily life for the rest of us seems more
and more like a remedial program: We're afraid to do
anything without outside help; we don't even trust
ourselves to park the car anymore.

That's not an idle reference. Our new car has a sensor that
beeps with increasing urgency when the car decides that I
am too close to whatever's behind me. And the sensor is
one nervous driver: It starts shrieking when I still have a
good 3 feet of space left, and builds to a horrid crescendo
just when I should be feeling victorious for having nailed
a parking space between two hulking SUVs. Parallel
parking ends up sounding like the shower scene in Alfred
Hitchcock's "Psycho."

I used to pride myself on my parallel parking. Now the
electronic voice of doubt chimes in before I've even cut
the front wheel: "Be careful. I said, be careful. You're not
being careful enough. Oh, my god, you're going to hit the
car behind you!"

What else can't we do by ourselves anymore?

We can't lose weight, not even with the old-guard Weight
Watchers. Oh no, we need someone to deliver slimming
prepackaged meals and snacks, as though we have lost
the ability to distinguish between rocky road ice cream
and a stalk of celery.

The hip among us can't seem to make their own espresso
in the morning. The latest gadget on the home-brew scene
is a machine that uses prepackaged, sealed pods of
ground coffee — to spare us the arduous task of pouring
some beans into a grinder and pushing a button.

And heaven knows, we can no longer take our children to
college for their freshman year on our own. That
escapade used to call for a box of Kleenex and a
temporary obsession with shelving and a good desk lamp.
Now universities offer separation workshops for parents
who haven't figured out that it's a bad idea to spend the
first week of classes camped out in their child's dormitory

Institutionalized assistance — everywhere we look. We
all seem to have forgotten the cardinal rule of quivering
neuroses: The best way to raise an incompetent is to
assume that he always needs help with everything.
Metaphorically speaking, a kid whose mother always ties
his shoes will grow up having to wear slip-ons.

That's where we seem to be headed. Our credo has
become, "I don't think I can handle this on my own." We
are timid, riddled by self-doubt and fanatical about
micromanaging life's vicissitudes. I don't really think my
friend's daughter needs a private tutor for a pretest for a
pretest. I think my friend needs to get her daughter that
private tutor so she feels that some part of her life is
under control.

Remember the tagline from the 1986 horror movie "The
Fly"? "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

We are, and we can't quite figure out what to do about it.
George W. Bush tells us that everything is going just fine
— and people are so terrified of change that they intend
to vote for him even as they disagree with him. John F.
Kerry says that not much of anything is going fine but he
can fix it — yet people are reluctant to vote for him
because he is less likable, as though we're electing a dad,
not a commander in chief.

Many of us probably are looking for a dad. In scary times,
we regress. We take comfort in the buffers that protect us
from the smallest blow, whether it is the tap of a car
bumper at 2 miles an hour or an espresso that's not quite
as good as yesterday's. We don't allow ourselves to be
ambushed by a stealth carbohydrate, and we call that
victory — though we used to know (when we felt more
self-confident) that we could survive the occasional bagel
with cream cheese.

In our youth-obsessed culture, we like to say that 50 is
the new 30, but we're acting as though 30 were the new
80. I may ask the car dealer if there's some way to
disconnect its reverse sensor, so I can be my own woman

• Karen Stabiner is the author of "All Girls: Single-Sex
Education and Why It Matters."

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
•• Tuesday Oct 12, 2004

• Local District 5: Wilson & Lincoln School Families
Phase III Community Meeting - Defining New School Projects
Please join us at a community meeting regarding the additional new school seats for your area.
At this meeting, you will:
* Hear about new school projects being built in your area
* Learn about new opportunities to alleviate school overcrowding
* Continue to help define new school construction projects in your community
* Find out the next steps in this process
6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Lincoln High School
3501 N. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90031

• Local District 2: Sylmar, San Fernando and Polytechnic School Families
Phase III Community Meeting - Defining New School Projects
Please join us at a community meeting regarding the additional new school seats for your area.
At this meeting, you will:
* Hear about new school projects being built in your area
* Learn about new opportunities to alleviate school overcrowding
* Continue to help define new school construction projects in your community
* Find out the next steps in this process
6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Pacoima Middle School Auditorium
9919 Laurel Canyon Blvd.
Pacoima, CA 91331

•• Wednesday Oct 13, 2004

• Central Region Elementary School #17 Preliminary Design Meeting
Join us at this meeting where we will:
* Introduce the architect
* Present preliminary design for the school
* Provide an overview of the school facilities, including: number of classrooms, sports facilities, lunch area etc.
* Get feedback on the project design
6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Wadsworth Avenue Elementary School
981 E. 41st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90011

• South Region Span K-8 #1
Phase II Site Selection Update
Local District 8
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
6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Wilmington Middle School
1700 Gulf Avenue
Wilmington, CA 90744

•• Thursday Oct 14, 2004

• Central Los Angeles Area New Middle School #1
Groundbreaking Ceremony
Please join us to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new community school!
Ceremony will begin at 1 p.m.
Central Los Angeles Area New Middle School #1
650 S. Union Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Community Organizer: Julissa Gomez

• South Region Elementary School #2
Phase II Presentation of Recommended Preferred Site
Local District 7
At this meeting we will present and discuss the site that will be recommended to the LAUSD Board of education for this new school project.
6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Miramonte Elementary School
1400 E. 68th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90001

*Dates and times subject to change. ____________________________________________________
Phone: 213.241.4700
Phone: 213.633.7616


4LAKids Book Club for October & November — ACHIEVEMENT MATTERS: Getting Your Child the Best Education Possible, by Hugh B. Price
Publisher: Dafina Books, 256 pages ISBN: 0758201206

Hugh B. Price is the President of the National Urban League. On the face of it his excellent book is about closing the Achievement Gap that seperates poor children and children of color from high performing “white” students.

But his message is loud and clear — and every
parent can learn from it: Parents from underperforming schools must insist upon the same level of performance as suburban parents do. Every parent has a right to expect and insist-upon excellence from teachers, administrators and the school district; we must also insist-upon and expect excellence from our own children.

Price lays much of the responsibility for the Achievement
Gap off to what he calls the “Preparation Gap”; the
dearth of adequate pre-school programs in inner city
neighborhoods. But he is not easy on parents. All must
follow the example of archtypical "pushy" suburban parents: Be Involved in Your ChildrenÂ’s Lives and Education Every Step Of The Way!

This isnÂ’t about race and economics; itÂ’s about hard work at home and in the school and in the community!

• from Chapter Eight: DEMANDING – AND GETTING
– GOOD SCHOOLS: What Parents Can Do

Entrenched bureaucracies sometimes change out of
enlightened self-interest. In other words, they see the light
and reform themselves before it's too late, before a more
compelling alternative comes widely available. Other
times, it takes concerted external pressure to force
bureaucracies to change-for the sake of their "customers"
as well as themselves.

For far too long, public educators have kept their heads in
the sand, like ostriches, in the face of an urgent need to
improve urban and and rural schools. Parents, politicians,
and business leaders have grown restless with the sluggish
pace of school improvement. I urge parents, caregivers,
and community leaders to keep up the relentless pressure
to create straight “A” schools for your children and every
American child.

Even parents in comfortable suburbs must stay right on
the school's case. "I made an assumption that in suburbia
the school would place my child where she needs to be,"
says Mane, a stay at home mother from a well-to-do
community in New Jersey: “We moved here from
Brooklyn where my daughter, Taisha., was in an
overcrowded, understaffed kindergarten class. One of the
reasons we moved to this town was for its highly rated
school system When Taisha was in third grade, the school
sent me a notice that she was reading and doing math at
an eighth grade level. I called her teacher and asked him if
there were any special classes my daughter could take at
the school that would encourage her academic talents. He
said, 'Oh well, we do have a gifted and talented

“I didn't RECEIVE that call — I MADE that call!"

"My daughter was testing in the 90th percentile nationally, and if I hadn't found out on my own that she was eligible for advanced classes, she would never be there now."

So regardless of where you live and what your family
circumstances are, here's what you must do in order to
make sure that your children are well served by their
schools and placed squarely on the path to academic

1. BE VIGILANT. Make it your business to ask your
children what's going on at school. Look for possible
trouble spots such as teachers' negative attitudes,
tracking, discipline problems, safety issues, and so on.
Stay in touch with your kids and pay attention to what
they are telling you-and keeping from you.

2. BE INFORMED. Educate yourself about what your
children are learning in school and what the school offers.
Find out if the work they're doing is grade level or better
and whether it meets the academic standards imposed by
the states. Familiarize yourself with the standardized tests
your children are expected to take, when they must take
them, and how they should prepare properly to do well on
them. One school superintendent has the parents of
fourth-graders actually take the state reading exam from
the prior year so they'll better understand what their
children are expected to know for the exam. Read up on
national and state educational policies and regulations,
with an eye to how they will directly affect your children.

3. BE INVOLVED. Join the PTA. Attend parent-teacher
conferences and "meet-the-teacher" nights. Vote in the
school board elections — maybe even run for a seat on the board yourself. No one can fight harder than you for your children's right to a good education.

4. BE VOCAL. Speak up if you see a problem with your
childÂ’s schooling, even if you think there may be
repercussions because of your activism. Go to your child's
teacher or principal if you detect. unfairness in the way
your child is being treated. If you feel you — or your
child or your child-are being punished for your
outspokenness go to your pastor, the local Urban League,
or another community organization.

5. BE VISIBLE. Make sure the school knows that your
are actively involved in your child's education. Become
involved in the governing process of your local school
system. Attend school board meetings and get to know
your local elected representatives

6. ORGANIZE. Meet with other parents to discuss how
you can work as a group to help your children. Start on a
the grassroots level with neighbors, relatives, friends.
Many voices are stronger than one, and work in unison to
ensure that achievement matters much to your children's
school as it does to you.

* * * *

Children want to do well. When large numbers of them
fail its because adults-school administrators, teachers,
parents and their larger community-have failed them.

We all know it doesn't have to be this way. Lousy public
schools can be turned around if the adults mobilize to do
so: If adults will say: “No more excuses for school
failure!” I'm not downplaying the many problems that
many schools and the families they serve face. -Just the
opposite. While these problems may not go away. they
neednÂ’t defeat the efforts of determined parents and
educators to close the Preparation Gap and ensure that
children achieve, regardless of their family circumstances.

Get ACHIEVEMENT MATTERS 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

Scott Folsom is a parent and parent leader in LAUSD. He is Vice President for Education of 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 three 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.
 Â• THE 4LAKids ARCHIVE - This and past Issues are available with interactive feedback at

 Update Profile  |  Unsubscribe  |  Confirm  |  Forward