Sunday, February 12, 2006

4LAKids: Lincoln's Birthday Sunday, Feb 12, 2006
In This Issue:
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
READING TO KIDS: Read to some kids the second Saturday morning each month. Make a difference. Change some lives (including your own!).
The Blueprint for Effective School Reform: MAKING SCHOOLS WORK — Get the Book @!
THE BEST RESOURCE ON CALIFORNIA SCHOOL FUNDING ON THE WEB: The Sacramento Bee's series "Paying for Schools."
FIVE CENTS MAKES SENSE FOR EDUCATION- Target one nickel from every federal tax dollar for Education.
The news of Superintendent Romer's impending if not imminent departure [see: ROMER AIMS TO LEAVE POST BY FALL] overshadowed Friday's LAUSD good news story – the LAUSD Academic Decathlon results:

Taft High School has won the 2006 LAUSD Academic Decathlon; it is the school's second consecutive win. The nine-member team, which led all LAUSD schools with a score of 51,516.2 points, will compete next in the 2006 California Academic Decathlon competition - scheduled March 17-19 in Los Angeles.

In all, eight teams from LAUSD will join Taft High School in the state competition. They are El Camino Real High School (49,448.9 points), Granada Hills Charter High School (47,311.6 points), Los Angeles High School (46,150.7 points), Marshall High School (45,855.9 points), Garfield High School (44,310.4 points), North Hollywood High School (43,970.9 points), Reseda High School (43,950.6 points) and Palisades Charter High School (43,751.4 points), which have all earned "wild card" invitations to the state contest. The state competition allows for eight wild card invitations statewide based upon the scores in the regional competition. LAUSD earned all eight invitations.

LAUSD has had three great scholastic success stories over the past decade:
• The MAGNET PROGRAM – which created dynamic and effective small school learning communities across the District before that was the reform du jour in K-12.
• The BEYOND THE BELL Program – LAUSD's after-school program that set the national paradigm for such programs in urban districts, now rudderless with the death of John Liechty.
• The District's overwhelming dominance in the ACADEMIC DECATHLON – LAUSD schools are the teams to beat in state and national competition.

Two quick points: If point scores from regional competition were to be used to rank teams nationally, Taft and El Camino would be #1 & #2, Granada Hills #4. And LA, Marshall, Garfield and North Hollywood are critically overcrowded schools on the Concept Six/Three-track/163-days-a-year calendar; their success is truly extraordinary.

The reality is all these nine LAUSD teams start the state competition with clean slates, any of them can emerge as state and eventual national champion. And that is the expectation!

This issue of 4LAKids focuses on three issues: The Superintendent's Dropout Initiative. The Mayor's continuing campaign to take over LAUSD. The Dental Federation report on the sorry state of children's dental health in California.

• smf notes: Throughout the articles below you will see wildly varying statistics on the dropout rate. No one agrees on what the statistics are or on how the compile them. Two words suffice: Abysmal and unacceptable.

►The Superintendent's dropout plan is part of dynamic reform effort along with Small School Learning Communities, the District's Construction Program and the A-G Curriculum in secondary schools. The media has opined that this may be a quick fix counter to the series of LA Times articles last week. [see: "The Vanishing Class"] The timing of the announcement may have been that - but I have been involved in the process and a lot of hard work and study by a number of inside-and-outside LAUSD folks has been going into the evolution of the plan for a time now. The A-G piece was driven by forces outside the District hierarchy; the Parent Involvement component comes direct from the parent community. The "Superintendent's Plan" has been a true collaboration.

Those that ask "Why wasn't this done long ago?" pose an excellent question – and I'm sure that with time there will be a plethora of the guilty promoted, a surfeit of innocents punished and an embarrassment of the inept transferred to other jobs!

But we cannot waste time sorting that out now! And Mayoral Takeover - or any other draconian reform - isn't going to go back and magically do what needed to be done in the past.

►The Mayors takeover bid continues and the rhetoric heats up. Senators Romero's twice "gut-and-amended" SB 767 attempts brings the State Librarian into the brouhaha – and seems to fall short of the Mayor's timeline.

►And a study by the Dental Federation says that Dental Disease is epidemic among California schoolchildren, whose poor oral health is second only to the children of Arkansas.


Daily News story on Academic Decathlon


Today, I want to announce changes in secondary instruction in the Los Angeles Unified School District in order to reduce the dropout rate and increase the graduation rate. While you are already familiar with our efforts at restructuring high schools into smaller more personalized learning communities, you may not be aware that at the same time over the past months we have been working with teachers, administrators, parents and community leaders to revise secondary curriculum and instruction.

In support of the Board's established goal of improving the graduation rate, we will begin with strengthening our graduation requirements and establishing support systems to meet the needs of students at-risk, who drop out or at risk of dropping out.

Redesign and restructuring efforts being announced today will address specific student and family needs:

1. Monitor student academic progress and attendance
2. Provide counseling and support services to students "at-risk"
3. Implement a new approach to prepare students to pass algebra
4. Improve parent outreach

Most of these actions will address student and family needs beginning in the 2006-07 school year, while others have already begun.

I am announcing today:

1. A new, comprehensive dropout prevention and intervention program. Built on the foundation of a focused effort that was begun earlier this academic year, a comprehensive dropout, prevention, and intervention program has been established and resourced for all secondary schools. The highlights of this program include:

a. We will provide a system of monitoring all secondary students' attendance period by period at each grade level through a new ISIS - Integrated Student Information Computer System. Currently the program has been implemented in 107 secondary schools and will be in all schools by June 2006. This will increase student accountability for being in every class every day. This system will ensure that parents are regularly informed of their child's attendance in each class on an ongoing basis. We are also providing a clerical position at secondary schools to manage the implementation of ISIS and parent notification when students are absent during the day.

b. To support this action we will add a Dropout Outreach Adviser at middle and high schools to address the personal and academic needs of both at-risk students and their families, and to implement the prevention, intervention and recovery program components. The outreach adviser will work closely with students and their parents, by offering support services that include monitoring student progress guiding student intervention and engaging parents as partners in their child's academic success.

c. We are establishing a system to identify "at-risk" students through multiple criteria that includes student grades, achievement, attendance and behavior beginning in middle school.

d. The dropout program will be preventively targeting at-risk 8th and 9th grade students and an intervention and recovery program for students who have dropped out in the 10th, 11th and 12th grades. We will begin with mathematics July 1, 2006, and phase in additional core subjects in 2007.

3. We are introducing a new course in 8th grade called Algebra Readiness. We cannot promote students into Algebra if they have not been prepared for it. We have too many students failing Algebra because they never learned the fundamental skills to be successful in that course. Students in the 7th grade who have not mastered those skills will be programmed into that course beginning July 1, 2006.

4. We are proposing a reduction in class size in Algebra Readiness and Algebra to ensure no class exceeds 30:1. Our ability to reach this goal will be dependent on funding, space available at schools and hiring additional mathematics teachers.

5. The transition from elementary to middle school and from middle school to high school is often difficult for students. To address the needs of students, and in particular students at risk in the 5th and 8th grade, we have developed a Summer Bridge Program beginning this year. The program will address the skills (both academic and personal) that are necessary to be successful in school. The program also has a major parent component to involve parents as partners in their child's education.

6. We are requiring that each student complete an Individualized Graduation Plan (lGP) with the assistance of their counselor and parent beginning in grade 6. The plan will continue through to graduation ensuring that students and parents clearly understand graduation requirements and parents are continually updated on students' progress. The IGP will be coordinated with the required Title One Parent-Student Compact.

7. Finally, I want to stress our commitment to engaging parents and addressing their needs as they work with their children. I am putting the following procedures in place beginning this spring to address the needs of parents:

a. We will conduct quarterly meetings through the Outreach Adviser with parents of students "at-risk."

2. I am also announcing a new middle school accountability program that will require all 6th, 7th and 8th grade students who are not making normal progress during the school-year to be assigned to required intervention before and after-school, on Saturdays and during the school day. These programs will assist students with academic challenges and provide for credit and attendance recovery.

b. We will conduct a district-wide survey regarding communication between home and school.

c. All teachers will send home the first week of each semester a parent letter explaining the course they are teaching, grading practices, classroom rules and how the parent can contact the teacher for assistance.

d. School staff will be required to personally notify parents whenever a student is referred to intervention, in danger of not passing a class, or is identified as being at- risk.

e. Schools will be required to hold parent/student orientations for students in the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grades. College and career information nights will be held for students and parents in grades 1 0 through 12.

f. Secondary schools will be required to involve parents in the annual course programming of their child for each subsequent grade.

This is the beginning. These actions will have an immediate impact on student achievement and parent involvement. On February 23, 2006 at the Board Committee of the Whole Meeting, we will announce additional efforts to improve secondary student achievement, as well as, expand parent involvement activities.

►ROMER PROPOSES REFORMS TO STEM TIDE OF DROPOUTS: At least $21 million -- if the funds can be found -- would go toward algebra-readiness classes, catch-up courses and more counselors.
By Mitchell Landsberg,LA Times Staff Writer

February 8, 2006 - Los Angeles schools Supt. Roy Romer announced an array of measures Tuesday to keep students from dropping out of school, but said he didn't know where the district would find the money and teachers needed to carry out the plans.

Romer's announcement called for a minimum of $21 million in new spending — not a pie-in-the-sky figure in a district with a $7.1-billion annual budget, but money that would have to be diverted from other programs.

Because state funding for schools is based on the average number of students in class every day, Romer said the new programs could pay for themselves if they succeed in keeping more students in school.

Romer's initiatives come on the heels of a Times series about the dropout problem in Los Angeles schools. Four members of the Los Angeles Board of Education joined Romer at the news briefing and voiced enthusiasm for the measures, some of which require board approval. Members Marlene Canter and Julie Korenstein acknowledged that they have been grappling unsuccessfully with the dropout problem for years.

Now, said Canter, the board president: "We do not have a moment to waste. Every day that we lose is a day that we cheat the kids."

At the heart of the plans outlined by Romer are two changes aimed at catching students before they slide into failure.

One would require middle school students who fall behind to take additional classes outside the normal school schedule until they catch up. The classes could be held after school, before school, on Saturdays or wedged into the school day. The program would begin in the 2006-07 school year with math classes only, and would be expanded the following year to include students who are struggling in other core classes.

The second initiative would add one counselor to the staff of every middle and high school to help at-risk students. The counselors would hold quarterly meetings with the students' parents and would work with the students to keep them in school.

Two additional measures are aimed specifically at improving achievement in algebra, which is required for graduation and has emerged as a major stumbling block for many students. Nearly half the ninth-graders who take algebra in the Los Angeles Unified School District fail it.

Romer said the district would introduce new "algebra readiness" classes in eighth grade for students not yet ready for algebra, and would try to reduce class size in that course and in algebra by five students per class. Currently, class sizes range from 32 to 40 students.

But, Romer said, he wasn't sure if the district had the money to do that, or whether it could find enough qualified teachers.

Romer also announced plans to add attendance clerks to every secondary school and to work more closely with students and parents to monitor academic achievement and keep students on track to graduate.

Romer said the timing of the announcement had nothing to do with The Times series, and that the initiatives had been "on our minds for months."

Reaction to Romer's plans was generally favorable, although some educators said they didn't reach far enough.

"We are behind the superintendent all the way," said Canter, who added that the Board of Education had asked Romer to find a way to keep students from dropping out. "We have been ahead of the curve in terms of our vision," she said.

Korenstein said she had seen "10 billion different programs come and go" during her 19 years on the board, but expressed enthusiasm about those outlined by Romer.

She said, however, that the board might have to reconsider recently adopted plans that would require all students to take a rigorous course of study that is required for admission to the University of California. Opponents of the idea say it will keep many students from graduating.

"I think we're going to look at that very seriously if we want to keep our students in school," she said.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called the announcement "a step in the right direction," but said it would not deter him from his campaign to take control of the school district from the Board of Education. In an interview with Times editors and reporters, he referred to the school board, along with teachers and administrators, and said: "I am taking on all of these stakeholders because they are defending the status quo."

Neal Kleiner, principal of John Muir Middle School in South Los Angeles, said in an interview that the new initiatives aimed at middle schools should be helpful, although his school is already doing much of what the superintendent proposed. For instance, he said, Muir already channels low-performing math students into a pre-algebra class in eighth grade, holds Saturday classes for at-risk sixth-graders and schedules quarterly meetings with parents.

He questioned, however, how schools could enforce the mandatory classes for at-risk students. "Are they going to back us up if we apply the heat?"

Kleiner said he believes the problems that are prevalent in middle schools have much deeper roots, and the best weapon may be an expansion of high-quality preschool. "That's where I'd put money," he said. "If I were the education czar, I'd get more and more preschools going."

Marcia Coates, principal of Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, which The Times profiled in its series of articles on the dropout problem, was particularly pleased by the proposal to reduce the size of algebra classes. "I think it's wonderful," she said.

She predicted that the new programs would "make a dent," but saw no magic bullet for the dropout problem. She noted that many middle schools have pre-algebra classes for eighth-graders, but that there is little indication they succeed in getting students up to speed by ninth grade.

One of the sharpest reactions came from Jeannie Oakes, a professor of education at UCLA whose study of graduation rates in Los Angeles Unified has become a central component in the turf battle between the Board of Education and Villaraigosa. Oakes' study found that only about half of the students in the district make it to graduation; the district claims the correct figure is two-thirds.

"What Romer … should have said is that we have a moral responsibility to make sure these kids don't slip through the cracks, but we don't have the resources to do an honest and respectable job of that," she said Tuesday. The initiatives announced by the superintendent "are all good things" but don't get at the root of the problem, she said. "To bill them as some extraordinary intervention and recovery program — it's so sad."

The announcement of the Los Angeles Unified initiatives coincided with the annual "state of education" speech in Sacramento by Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. In it, O'Connell said that the dropout rate, "no matter how you calculate it, is unacceptably high." He said the state's current drive to establish "small learning communities" within larger schools would help keep students in school.

He also called for universal preschool, saying he was "convinced that preschool for all will improve students' success in school and in their futures."

Times staff writers Duke Helfand in Los Angeles and Joel Rubin in Sacramento contributed to this report.


►LAUSD GOVERNANCE DEBATE MUST BE INCLUSIVE: Villaraigosa would do well to consider the concerns of other cities whose boundaries overlap the school district.

Daily Breeze editorial

February 10, 2006—You can't say Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa lacks a grand vision when it comes to governance. As chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, Villaraigosa has ambitious plans to expand commuter rail. He is campaigning to place the Los Angeles Unified School District under his office's control. And he tried to steer the selection of a new general manager of the Metropolitan Water District.

There are merits to thinking boldly, of course, but a backlash may be emerging against the mayor's initiatives. This week, the water wholesaler's governing board rebuffed the mayor's lobbying efforts to place a Villaraigosa ally, former Assemblyman Richard Katz, in the manager's chair.

The mayor's lobbying apparently didn't sit well with board members, some of whom feared the hiring process was becoming too political.

Villaraigosa's efforts to change LAUSD's governance and gain the power to appoint board members is also controversial. One reason is that 24 other cities in the region are entirely or partially within district boundaries, and their elected leaders are reluctant to see their voters' power to elect school board members wither away.

At the urging of City Councilman Mike Gipson, Carson passed a resolution opposing state legislation to give the L.A. mayor the power to appoint board members.

And former Gardena Mayor Don Dear has suggested a decentralization plan for the district that creates a system of nine boroughs, each with its own school district. Dear is a member of the Joint Commission on LAUSD Governance, which is examining ways to restructure LAUSD.

However the debate about LAUSD governance is resolved, Villaraigosa would do well to consider the concerns of other cities whose boundaries overlap the school district. They also deserve a say in the district's future.


LA Daily News

February 8, 2006—Continuing efforts to give the mayor control of Los Angeles public schools, Sen. Gloria Romero has authored a bill asking the California State Library to research other cities where mayors control school districts.
The bill seeks a report by Oct. 1, 2007, on factors such as the correlation between student performance and mayoral governance; the participation of students and parents in dealing with student problems; management efficiency; and problems relating to a mayor's governing a school district whose boundaries extend beyond a single city's.
Romero's bill had originally been written last year to give the mayor control of Los Angeles Unified School District, but she was unable to get support from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for its terms and it did not get through the Legislature.
"I believe this study, independently and objectively performed, will show the link between governance structures with mayoral responsibility and successful school outcomes," said Romero, D-Los Angeles, who added she has not recently talked with Villaraigosa about mayoral control of LAUSD.
"We've seen it in other districts, so I'm anticipating we can see it here in Los Angeles."
Earlier this week, Villaraigosa said he is working out the final details of a proposal for state legislation to allow a vote on the issue. The plan will ensure that neighboring cities play a role in the district's management.
"One thing I am pleased to see is that all this conversation and my efforts have put a spotlight on the district, and this has resulted in the schools responding in some level," Villaraigosa said.

►Julie Korenstein: FIGHTING THE ANTI-LAUSD RHETORIC - From rising test scores to building new schools, the District is on the right track.

By Julie Korenstein, LAUSD School Board Member: An Op-Ed to United Teacher, the newspaper of United Teachers Los Angeles

January 13, 2006 – I have given a great deal of my life to assure that public education, the backbone of democracy, continues in an urban metropolitan city. I have served for more than 18 years on the LAUSD Board of Education, and during that time I have observed numerous changes. I feel it necessary to speak out and expose the misinformation that is being regurgitated by politicians and newspapers. I do not wish to be defensive but rather share information based on facts, not rhetoric.

Let me begin with a description of LAUSD.
• We cover more than 700 square miles with 727,000 K-12 students and an additional 400,000 early education (preschool) and adult school students.
• More than 1 million students enter our facilities.
• We have 85,000 special education students, larger than the enrollment of the entire San Francisco School District.
• Forty-three percent of our students are English-language learners, and this means they come to LAUSD either not speaking English at all or are gradually transitioning into a new language. We have more than 86 languages spoken in our school district.
• Approximately 78 percent of our students are at the poverty level. We serve more than 500,000 meals each day to children who might otherwise suffer from malnutrition.
• We are made up of 27 cities or parts of cities.

Now let me tell you what we have accomplished over the past five years.

• Test scores have increased dramatically Districtwide.
• Our elementary school students have made remarkable gains; 95 percent of all of our elementary schools are achieving scores higher than 600 API.
• We have 96 schools that have achieved API scores higher than 800.
• In LAUSD 14 schools have achieved the exemplary score of higher than 900 API, and there will be more in the future.
• The number of high schools scoring above 600 has tripled, from 21 percent to 62 percent.

There is still a great deal to do to help our middle school and high school students, but nevertheless, they have also shown improvement.

Thanks to the voters’ approval of four bond measures, we are in the process of building 180 new schools. This is the largest construction program in the nation.

We will now be able to have all of our children return to a traditional calendar and attend their neighborhood schools. By the end of this school year, we will have opened 50 brand-new schools in LAUSD.

We are also in the process of implementing full-day kindergarten in all of our elementary schools. All of our K-3 classes have been reduced to 20:1, and that means a maximum of 20 students in a classroom. Although there are many who may be critical of our District, we have accomplished a great deal.

You may have repeatedly heard that the dropout rate is at 50 percent, but this is based on inaccurate information. According to the California Department of Education, considered the official source for statewide data, LAUSD has a 24.6 percent dropout rate. Of course we need to lower that percentage, but giving out the wrong information is extremely detrimental to the teachers, principals, and students who are working so hard. Politicians must stop using our students to enhance their popularity. This is meanspirited and harmful.

We are now in the process of reorganizing our high schools and some of our larger schools into the Small Learning Communities that have become popular across the United States. Our hope is to develop educational facilities that help nurture the students, encourage students to stay in school, and ultimately develop students who are ready to enter colleges, universities, and the workplace. LAUSD has approved more than 86 charter schools with 35,000 students attending.

Those who choose to criticize the District about not being open to change may be either uninformed or prefer to ignore accurate information for their own political gain. The evidence is clear that the District is pushing aggressively for rapid reform and must continue to do so. The children of LAUSD deserve no less.

There are reasons to celebrate our accomplishments. Although it is clear there is a long road ahead, we encourage the mayor and community and business leaders to join us in our effort to improve public education.

Finally, I understand that there may be some interest in the idea of having an appointed Board of Education. I am opposed to this idea, because LAUSD includes all or part of 27 different cities plus unincorporated areas. But more important, an appointed board would not be able to represent the public’s needs and concerns as well as a Board elected by district. If we want a governance system of true representation, then people should have the right to elect those individuals who will indeed represent them. An appointed system will do just the opposite.

Democracy is based on the election of representatives of the public. Let us not forget the Boston Tea Party and “No Taxation Without Representation.” If I remember correctly, that was the beginning of a revolution.


►NO. 1 KIDS' EPIDEMIC: BAD TEETH - Tooth Decay Plaguing State's Kids
By Troy Anderson, LA Daily News Staff Writer

Feb. 5, 2006 - Almost two-thirds of California's youngsters have dental disease by the time they reach third grade, making it the No. 1 children's health problem in the state, says a study released today by the Dental Health Foundation.

And among the 25 states surveyed, California ranked second to only Arkansas for the incidence of dental disease among its children.

"This is a serious epidemic," said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, the health officer for Los Angeles County. "We know there is a lot more that needs to be done. I think first among them is making sure everyone has access to fluoridated water."

Fielding noted that only four of the 88 cities in the county - Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Long Beach and Pico Rivera - fluoridate their water, a process shown to prevent tooth decay.

Dr. David Perry, who chairs the Dental Health Foundation, said when people think of children's diseases they most often think of obesity and asthma.

"But dental disease is now the single most common chronic disease of childhood, and is seriously impairing the quality of life for thousands of children in California each year," Perry said.

Researchers surveyed more than 21,000 kindergarten and third-graders during the 2004-2005 school year and found that more than 25 percent had untreated tooth decay. That means as many as 750,000 elementary school children statewide may need dental care.

The study also found that 4 percent of the children, or 138,000, are in pain or have untreated tooth infections. Researchers noted that dental disease in California is five times more common in children than asthma.

Of 3,700 children surveyed in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Fielding said, more than 60 percent had dental decay by the time they got to kindergarten, compared with 50 percent statewide.

And 70 percent of LAUSD children had a history of dental decay, compared with 62 percent statewide. Finally, only 21 percent of third-graders had received teeth sealants - a process designed to protect teeth against decay - compared with 28 percent statewide.

"This is almost entirely preventable," Fielding said. "And once kids are in school and parents find tooth decay because of school screening, it's pretty late in the game."
Researchers estimated that school children ages 5 to 17 missed nearly 2 million school days in a single year nationwide due to dental health problems.

"Kids can't study when they hurt," Perry said. "They can't sit still, they can't focus.

"While there are children in some high-income schools that have never had a cavity, in other schools there are kids in debilitating, chronic pain in every classroom."

Parents' financial difficulties, including a lack of dental insurance, are the primary barriers to dental care, the survey found. A total of 72 percent percent of Latino children surveyed had experienced decay, while 26 percent had rampant decay and 30 percent needed immediate treatment - nearly twice the rates of white children surveyed.

Unlike many other diseases, dental disease is almost entirely preventable if children and parents start practicing good habits early. By the time children are in kindergarten more than 50 percent already have dental decay, 19 percent have rampant decay and 28 percent have untreated decay.

"Many parents think, 'They're just baby teeth. They're going to fall out anyway. Why bother?' But these first teeth hold the space for the adult teeth emerging under them," Perry said.

"If they are severely decayed, need to be pulled or fall out too soon, the permanent teeth can come in crooked and crowded, condemning the child to years of orthodontia or a lifetime of twisted teeth."

Of the children surveyed, 17 percent of kindergartners and more than 5 percent of third-graders had never been to the dentist, leaving them at a significantly higher risk for decay.

On Feb. 28, the foundation will present the study to the California State Assembly Standing Committee on Health to discuss the results and advocate for increased services for children's oral health in the state.

The foundation is also working to help prevent tooth decay by developing a surveillance system, increasing access to dental coverage and preventive care and increasing the use of fluoridation and dental sealants.

Sealants applied to permanent molars can avert tooth decay for an average of five to seven years, but currently only 28 percent of third-graders in the state have sealants.
"We cannot stop this epidemic just by treating these problems after they occur," Perry said. "We have to prevent them. We have to monitor all our kids' dental health needs from an early age. We have to increase the use of sealants, which can prevent cavities and greatly reduce dental treatment costs, especially among high-risk children."■

►MORE FLUORIDATED WATER NEEDED, OFFICIALS SAY: Los Angeles County authorities react to a study that lists oral disease as the No. 1 health problem among California children.

By Arin Gencer, LA Times Staff Writer

February 7, 2006 -- Los Angeles County health officials Monday called for additional fluoride in water throughout the county and state, in response to a new study that identified oral disease as the No. 1 health problem among California's elementary-school children.

Though adding more fluoride is just one step that officials said is needed, "fluoridation is a cornerstone of the responses that we need to have," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of public health for the county Department of Health Services.

Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel, which protects against decay. California has continually lagged the rest of the nation, with a little less than 30% of its population having access to fluoridated water — compared to 65% nationwide, said Dr. Tim Collins, dental director of the county health services department.

Four of the 88 cities in Los Angeles County — Los Angeles, Long Beach, Beverly Hills and Pico Rivera — add fluoride to their water. Santa Monica and Inglewood plan to do so.
The Metropolitan Water District, which delivers water to Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties, is scheduled to complete water fluoridation in 2007, said Dr. David Nelson of the California Health and Human Services Agency. The result will be "the largest single water fluoridation project in the United States," Nelson said.

The Dental Health Foundation study, which screened 21,399 kindergarten and third-grade students at 186 schools statewide, found that two-thirds have experienced tooth decay by the third grade.

Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed showed signs of untreated decay. Children from low-income and minority families were more likely to suffer from oral disease than any other group, the study said.

Latino children demonstrated "the highest risk for dental health problems," with almost twice the rates found among their Anglo counterparts, the study said. Seventy-two percent of Latino youths surveyed had experienced tooth decay, with 30% identified as needing treatment and 26% suffering rampant decay.

As California's Latino population continues to grow, those numbers have serious implications for the future and suggest that the prevalence of oral disease in the state is actually beginning to rise, said Wynne Grossman, executive director of the Dental Health Foundation.

Among 25 states with similar data, only Arkansas ranked below California in dental decay among its youngest residents.

The study also cited barriers to dental care as part of the problem, including lack of dental insurance and parental education. Its findings echoed a 2000 U.S. surgeon general's report, which described oral disease as a "silent epidemic" throughout the United States.

"It's important to recognize this as a serious health problem," Fielding said. "It is a preventable epidemic, and we need to do more to try and erase it."

Besides fluoridation, Fielding and other dentists stressed the need for dental insurance, sealants on permanent molars and greater attention to proper tooth care from infancy.

Those measures might have made a difference for Maria Sanchez and her 10-year-old son Edward, who was getting his teeth cleaned Monday morning at the not-for-profit Children's Dental Center in Inglewood. Edward started going to the center three years ago, after a school dental screening showed that his love for sour candy and ice cream had resulted in cavities.

Sanchez, who has no dental insurance, said she started taking Edward to the dentist when he was about 3. No doctor, she said, told her about the importance of getting to the dentist's office earlier — when Edward's baby teeth appeared — a step pediatric dentists recommend.

Education for parents such as Sanchez is key, Fielding said. "People think that dental decay is that it's just the teeth," he said. "But it affects everything you do."■

The complete survey and results:

• The L.A. schools chief's plan, announced by officials, signals a shift as he faces tension on the board and criticism from the mayor.

by Joel Rubin and Rebecca Trounson, LATimes Staff Writers

February 11, 2006 - Los Angeles Schools Supt. Roy Romer has told the Board of Education he wants to leave his post by this fall, about nine months before his contract expires, officials said Friday.

The announcement, which comes after months of increasing tension between Romer and board members, signals a distinct change of heart for the superintendent, who in the past has voiced his intention to serve the full term of his contract.

His desire to leave early comes as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa continues to harshly criticize district leaders and pursue his plans to take control of the school system from the elected board.

At a closed-door meeting a few weeks ago, Romer, 77, told the seven-member board "that he would like them to find his replacement by September or October, but that he would certainly stay until an appropriate replacement is found," said Stephanie Brady, communications director for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Brady declined to speculate on Romer's reasons for wanting to leave. Romer, who is on vacation, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Board members emphasized that Romer said he would not depart until a new superintendent was hired to run the 727,000-student system.

"He said he would stay as long as needed until we found exactly who we wanted," said board President Marlene Canter, a strong Romer ally. "He said he'd work every single day as long as he's here."

Board member David Tokofsky echoed Canter, saying, "He's still awake and at work more than most of us."

The board has yet to hire a firm to run the search for Romer's successor. Tokofsky said an "ambitious pace" would be needed to find someone as soon as September.

Canter added that the search was not being accelerated or driven by anything Romer told the board. "We always intended to begin the search now. What Roy Romer said to us is that if and when we find someone, he would be willing to leave."

Romer, a former governor of Colorado and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was hired in 2000. In 2004, the board extended his contract until the end of June 2007. In September, Romer and the board let pass an option that would have allowed him to opt out of the last year of the contract.

At the time, Romer said, "This board has a lot of strong and different opinions. We will continue to have a lot of exchanges at times, but we will continue going down the road…. I've got a lot of work left to do."

But recently, he has grown increasingly exasperated with board members and weary of defending the district against the mayor's attacks.

Villaraigosa's repeated labeling of the district as "failing" and use of controversial dropout statistics to justify his takeover plans have irked Romer. At Romer's request, the two met last month to give the superintendent a chance to highlight the district's rising test scores and other accomplishments.

Villaraigosa reacted coolly to the pitch, and has not backed down from his takeover rhetoric.

And, at a public board meeting last month, Romer grew visibly upset when panel member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte tried unsuccessfully to pass a resolution that, in part, accused him of not doing enough to promote African American administrators to senior positions.

Romer's legacy will center on his leadership of the district's massive $19-billion school construction and repair project. By 2012, the district plans to have opened about 160 campuses and modernized hundreds of others in an effort to relieve severe overcrowding in many schools. Romer is widely credited with rescuing the project when he was hired and bringing in a highly regarded team to keep it on track.

But even the construction project became a source of frustration. Romer had to fight to convince board members the time was right to place a fourth construction bond measure on the special election ballot last November. Ultimately, the board approved the bond campaign and voters vindicated Romer by approving it by a wide margin.

Romer also is overseeing the rebuilding of Belmont High School, which had become a symbol of bureaucratic bungling and mismanagement. And, he pushed for the controversial construction of schools on the site of the former Ambassador Hotel.

Despite improvements at the elementary level, the nation's second-largest district still faces daunting problems in its middle and high schools, including high dropout rates and sluggish test scores.

Recently, several of Romer's top aides have resigned. The head of the building program announced last month that he would leave in June, and Romer's special assistant for political affairs left recently.

A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said he had called Romer to discuss his early departure but downplayed its significance.

"If he goes in September, he's a little early; that's all," Duffy said. "Clearly, his legacy is the building of 160 schools and presiding over a district where test scores have gone up. He's done some pretty incredible things

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Monday Feb 13, 2006
Cienega Elementary School Addition: Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony: Please join us to celebrate the completion of your new classroom building!
Ceremony will begin at 10:00 a.m.
Cienega Elementary School
2611 S. Orange Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90016

Wednesday Feb 15, 2006
South Region High School #6: Site Selection Update Meeting
Local District 8
Join us 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 8:00 p.m.
Washington Preparatory High School Auditorium
10860 S. Denker Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90047

Thursday Feb 16, 2006
Los Angeles New Elementary School #1: Project Update Meeting
6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Los Angeles New Elementary School #1
4063 Ingraham St.
Los Angeles, CA 90010

Thursday Feb 16, 2006
Sylvan Park Elementary School Addition:Pre-Construction Meeting
6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Sylvan Park Elementary School
6238 Noble Ave.
Van Nuys, CA 91411
Meets this Wednesday Feb. 15 at 1PM at:

Los Angeles New Primary Center #5
987 S. Mariposa Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90006
Agenda link @
BOC Phone: 213.633.7493
Phone: 213.633.7616


What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6387
Office Vacant | Election Mar. 7th | VOTE! • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6383
...or your city councilperson, mayor, assemblyperson, state senator, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think!
Call or e-mail Governor Schwarzenegger: 213-897-0322 e-mail:
• 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.

Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?

Scott Folsom is a parent and parent leader in LAUSD. He is President of Los Angeles 10th District PTSA and represents PTA as Vice-chair the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He serves on various school district advisory and policy committees and is a PTA officer and/or 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. Quoted and/or cited content copyright © the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright © 4LAKids.
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