Saturday, March 11, 2006

The news that didn't fit

4LAKids: Sunday, March 12, 2006 | Part II
In This Issue:
 •  The news that didn't fit: SAENZ 1-2-3
 •  The news that didn't fit: GOVERNANCE 1+2
 •  What if they gave an election and nobody came? UNION'S CHOICE NEARLY FLUNKS + UPDATE + SIDEBAR
 •  THREAT OF MACE SCATTERS GARDENA STUDENTS: Principal thinks presence of newscopter over campus may have encouraged students' posturing

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 that didn't fit: SAENZ 1-2-3
►Saenz 1 | BOARD MOVE RAISES CONCERN: Maneuver made to shift control

By Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

March 7, 2006 The county Board of Education - whose president is a chief architect of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's plan to take over Los Angeles Unified - is quietly maneuvering to assume the duties of an elected committee in charge of reviewing school district reorganizations.

The Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, which appoints education board members, was set to discuss the plan today but has put it off for two weeks. Supervisors were to consider asking the state Board of Education to transfer the duties of the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization - an elected body - to its panel of appointees.

According to the Board of Supervisors' resolution, the transfer would increase efficiency and reduce costs, but no savings is specified.

But some education officials worry that the plan to put decisions impacting local school districts in the hands of an appointed body is politically motivated and would bolster Villaraigosa's effort to reorganize LAUSD.

"This seems under the radar," said Jo Ann Yee, senior director for urban affairs for the California School Boards Association. "One has to wonder what the motivations behind this are."

With Villaraigosa's chief counsel, Thomas Saenz, heading up the county board of education, the move has raised eyebrows.

"Somebody's playing cat and mouse," LAUSD board member David Tokofsky said.

"Whatever the motive is, it doesn't bode well for public discussion and publicly elected officials to take things and make them the authority of an unelected body when issues of school district borders either on breakup or consolidation are among the most passionate issues the populace ever has.

"Making this a nonpublic discussion in a nonelected body because of some alleged cost misses the real cost of losing a bit of democracy," he said.

Neither Villaraigosa nor Saenz could be reached for comment.

The 11-member Committee on School District Organization reviews proposals for school district reorganizations and recommends to the state Board of Education whether to unify or create new districts. The state panel, not the committee, makes the final decision on district reorganizations.

In 2000, for instance, the committee recommended against a plan that would have asked voters to break up the LAUSD and create two San Fernando Valley districts.

Sophia Waugh, vice president of the seven-member Los Angeles County Board of Education, said she opposes the move to shift the committee's duties to the board.

"What we have in place right now is working so well and they're very effective, a body elected by peers to serve on the committee," she said. "Why make that change unless it wasn't working well. The system is working as it is now."


By Steve Hymon, LA Times Staff Writer

March 7, 2006 � A vote to push aside a key group that oversees school district breakups and boundary changes was postponed Monday after some critics said that a top advisor to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was trying to secure greater influence for his boss.

A proposal to transfer power from a Los Angeles County panel on school district organization to the county Board of Education was to have been presented today by its author, county school board President Thomas Saenz. He is also legal counsel to Villaraigosa and part of the mayor's team looking at taking control over the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Over the last several days, Saenz's plan became a hot topic in school governance circles, because some viewed it as a way for Saenz to gain a measure of control over plans involving the future of the school district.

The mayor has said he wants control of the school system, which he has criticized for complacency, a reluctance to reform and an untenable dropout rate.

Saenz said he supported a delay of the proposal to give critics and others time to air their grievances.

"I understood there was opposition, and I wanted to facilitate that opposition being heard," Saenz said. "This has nothing to do whatsoever with mayoral accountability or my position working for the mayor. The impetus behind the motion is streamlining government."

The Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization, whose members are elected by school boards in the county, is a little-known panel that holds a considerable amount of power.

It reviews disputes over school district boundaries � such as when a community wants to leave one district and join another � and decides whether to allow the issue to go before voters and who can vote for it. The committee's decisions can be appealed to the state.

The mayor's plans to take over the school district have been short on specifics, leaving many questions about the role of the county board. Would the county Board of Education be more likely than the committee to vote for a breakup of the school district? Would county board members, such as Saenz, have to recuse themselves from votes related to Los Angeles schools?

Some questioned the timing and motivation behind Saenz's plan.

"I think the reasons for the proposal aren't transparent and one has to question whether perhaps the motivation for such a proposal is purely political," said Jo Ann Yee, senior director of urban affairs for the California School Boards Assn.

Sophia Waugh, vice president of the county Board of Education, said she believes that the members of the committee are better informed to make decisions about school districts.

"The part that really troubles me is that some issues that come to the committee involve the LAUSD," she said.

It remains unclear whether Saenz has the votes among his colleagues on the county Board of Education to win approval for his proposal. A vote is scheduled in two weeks.

From the Los Angeles Times

March 8, 2006 - A proposal to consolidate more power for the Los Angeles County Board of Education was shelved Tuesday by board President Thomas Saenz.

The proposal by Saenz would have given the county board oversight over boundary changes and school district breakups. Another agency that serves under the board currently oversees those issues.

Saenz also serves as legal counsel to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Other board members and some school officials in the county feared that Saenz was trying to gain more power for the mayor, who is seeking control over the Los Angeles Unified School District.

▲smf: Ya think?

The news that didn't fit: GOVERNANCE 1+2

by Mindy Farabee, Exclusive to Eastern Group Publications

Community members weighed in on the question of restructuring Los Angeles Unified School District at a meeting with the Presidents' Joint Commission on LAUSD Governance Monday February 27 at Ramona Hall in Highland Park.

Formed in July 2005 by then School Board President Jos� Huizar and then City Council President Alex Padilla, the 30 member President's Joint Commission was organized for a one year term to study possible structural changes to the district's governing body as a means to more efficiently utilize school resources, increase district accountability and improve overall performance.

The panel is looking at seven broad areas for possible reorganization: changes to the school board, e.g. its size, role, compensation, or selection methods; district decentralization; mayoral involvement from both the city of Los Angeles and the 26 other cities encompassed by LAUSD; formal collaborations between cities and the school district; alternative funding mechanisms; and upgrading campus and student safety.

While the Commission won't release it's own findings until June 2006, commissioner Mary Rose Ortega, appointed by Mayor Villaraigosa during his tenure as CD14 councilmember, and Bill Mabie, Communications and Policy Director for Councilmember Alex Padilla, were on hand Monday night to collect testimony from local residents.

Residents offered up a number of suggestions and concerns, including:

� Creating a new internal management mechanism to ensure adequate oversight of LAUSD's massive construction effort, addressing issues of zoning inappropriate businesses away from school grounds and preventing the politicization of contract awards.

� A curriculum retooling to make room for more occupational/industrial arts courses.

� Splitting the district into two entities, one serving LAUSD's Westside, the other the Eastside.

� Broadening and strengthening partnerships between schools and nearby institutions, such as Debs Park, in order to alleviate budget constrains that have all but eliminated science-related field trips for cash strapped schools.

� Decentralizing power to end top down, �across the board policies� and provide local schools with the flexibility to meet unique challenges.

One proposal, though, sailed into political waters.

�In a district with a number of immigrant parents, I'm at the point of saying it's a good idea to extend the franchise for school board elections to parents whether or not they are citizens,� said Scott Folsom, President of the Tenth District Parent Teacher Association. �It makes sense, and it's done in other places.�

Allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections is a controversial topic. In November 2004, voters in San Francisco shot down a similar proposal to extend the franchise, and in 1992 LAUSD's board briefly flirted with the idea before parent groups pulled it off the table.

However, California is one of only 10 states which has never allowed non-citizens to vote. Currently, in parts of Maryland immigrants can vote in all municipal elections, two towns in Massachusetts recently approved the idea, and the movement is gaining steam in 12 other states, from Maine to Texas, according to Michele Wucker of the Immigrant Voting Project.

Since April 2004, the city of Chicago has allowed non-citizens to cast ballots in school council elections, partly in an effort to boost sagging turnout.

�It's very complicated to check everyone's citizenship,� said Tim Tuten, staff writer in the Chicago Board of Education Office of Communications. �And a lot of people are afraid to vote, and our priority is that children get the best possible education.�

Chicago residents now only need to show up at the polls with any two forms of ID testifying to the fact that they live within the district. So far, widening their voter pool hasn't translated into higher voter turnout, but Chicago officials still see it as significant in making the process more democratic.

In New York City, on the other hand, from 1970 to 2003, non-citizens voted in the city's school elections, producing some tangible results. An aggressive late 80's mobilization effort in New York's Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights turned out the highest number of voters in the city, with their candidate ultimately taking over as board president.

How could non-citizen voting effect school board elections in Los Angeles?

�It would maybe be a different type of campaign,� said Bob Stern, President of the non-partisan Center for Government Studies during a recent interview. �[Candidates would maybe reach] out to people in a different way.�

�But it's an idea whose time has not come [here]�,� Stern added, citing the recent fervor over immigration issues. �This is our tradition and that's not going to change for a while.�

All meetings of the Commission on LAUSD's Governance are open to the public. The panel meets on the second and fourth Thursday of each month from 4-8pm at the Metropolitan Water District's downtown headquarters located behind Union Station at 800 N. Alameda Street.

►Governance 2 | AREA RESIDENTS AT FORUM ON LAUSD CALL FOR LOCAL CONTROL: Harbor Area residents want more accountability from the L.A. Unified district and they expressed their opinons Friday at a town hall meeting.

by Melissa Milios, Daily Breeze

March 04, 2006 � San Pedro and Harbor Area residents want more local control of their schools, more face-to-face accountability from their elected leaders, and more cooperation -- not conflict -- between the Los Angeles Unified School District and the 27 cities it serves, according to testimony at a town hall meeting this week.

Many of the approximately 40 parents, teachers and former LAUSD employees who attended the meeting Thursday in San Pedro said that decentralizing the district -- possibly by creating local, elected school boards with decision-making power -- would spur more involvement and oversight.

"The more you bring it closer to the local level, the better off you are in terms of parent involvement," said San Pedro resident Diana Nave, recalling a thwarted attempt to speak before the seven-member LAUSD school board downtown. "It's very hard to have input that many miles away."

Members of the Joint Commission on LAUSD Governance, which is considering large-scale changes to the nation's second-largest school district, held the forum at the Port of Los Angeles charter high school to spur community comment. The venue -- an independently run LAUSD school -- may have drawn a crowd particularly supportive of local control.

But citizens also expressed support for increasing the number of school board members -- which would decrease the number of constituents each represents -- and for making their positions full time.

Only one person at the forum spoke in favor of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa -- or any mayor, for that matter -- appointing school board members. Citing the high dropout rate among LAUSD students, Villaraigosa has promised to take control of the district within two years.

But Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn voiced a concern echoed by more than a dozen other residents.

"I want school board members elected. I want them to be accountable to the people," she said. "And when you have people appointed by the mayor of Los Angeles or the mayor of Carson or the mayor of Gardena, they are only accountable to that mayor."

Hahn also said she liked an idea promoted by Joint Commission member Don Dear, a former mayor of Gardena, that would create elected, local school boards to monitor education initiatives while maintaining a districtwide board to oversee business.

"The thought of having a district that was a harbor district with its own superintendent, with its own school board, seems to me to make sense as we move forward," Hahn said.

Still, some speakers warned that LAUSD's previous attempts at decentralization have created a larger bureaucracy but little local power.

"I've lived through six generations of reconfiguration of the Los Angeles Unified School District," said Sandra Bradley, a 39-year LAUSD educator who founded Port of Los Angeles charter high school. "Each one had something positive, but ... (they) didn't have time to work before we were on to something new, with somebody else, who had another brilliant idea."

Residents also called on city and school district leaders to collaborate more effectively on a range of projects, from building schools to providing campus security and after-school options for kids.

"If we look at the school district as a business, and our product is an educated work force for the community ... we're not getting the job done. The only way I feel we can get to that is through decentralization," said LAUSD parent Charles Eldred.

The Joint Commission will hold seven or eight additional town hall meetings throughout the LAUSD -- though no more are scheduled for the South Bay and Harbor Area -- before releasing recommendations in June.

What if they gave an election and nobody came? UNION'S CHOICE NEARLY FLUNKS + UPDATE + SIDEBAR
� A DIVIDED UTLA AND ITS WOUNDED CANDIDATE FACE THREE MORE MEAN MONTHS | Democracy shoplifted � Only 10 percent of voters bothered to vote

by David Zahniser, LA Weekly

March 8, 2006 � Round 1 in the fight over mayoral control of the Los Angeles Unified School District wasn�t much of a contest. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has talked for nearly a year about taking over the school district, saw his candidate, M�nica Garc�a, roar into first place � less than three points shy of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.

Running a distant second was Christopher Arellano, who had taken a vocal stance against mayoral control and had been buoyed by nearly $300,000 from United Teachers Los Angeles, a foe of mayoral control and a deciding factor in most school-board elections. Arellano had been politically bloodied in the final days of the campaign, as revelations surfaced about his name change, two shoplifting convictions and a pumped-up r�sum� that misled voters about the extent of his educational credentials.

Foes of a mayoral takeover who had made a pitch for democracy � that is, allowing the voters, not the mayor, to select the school board � woke up Wednesday to find that the electorate wasn�t interested. Only one out of every 10 voters had even bothered to vote in District 2, which stretches from Koreatown on the west to El Sereno on the east, despite a ballot featuring five candidates.

Arellano almost certainly would have perished in the primary election without UTLA, whose rank-and-file representatives decided in the final week to stand by their candidate, working five phone banks and paying for last-minute mailers. But the backing came at a price, roiling the inner workings of UTLA, which served as Villaraigosa�s foot soldiers in last year�s mayoral election and now stands divided over how closely to stick with an ally who has made education reform his No. 1 issue.

With three months left until the June 6 runoff, the fissures within UTLA � and between the union and the mayor � could easily widen. Villaraigosa plans to unveil his takeover plan during the runoff campaign, giving each candidate a preview of the plan that will likely reach voters in 2007. Meanwhile, hard-line supporters of Arellano say privately that they are determined to find out whether UTLA president A.J. Duffy, who was lukewarm at best over Arellano�s candidacy, is a committed foe of mayoral takeover or someone willing to cut a deal down the road.

�This [runoff election] is going to bring it to a head,� said one member of UTLA�s 350-member House of Representatives, who asked for anonymity out of a fear of reprisals. �It�s one thing to say, �I�m against mayoral control.� It�s another thing to 100 percent fund a candidate who decisively speaks against mayoral control.�

Duffy had a sharply different view, saying he had been fielding angry calls and e-mails about UTLA's decision to stick with Arellano. One day after the election, the UTLA's endorsement committee recommended that it yank its endorsement of Arellano and halt all of its expenditures on behalf of his Campaign. The UTLA's legislative body won't make a final decision on Arellano until March 29. But Duffy is already warning the union's pro-Arellano activists that they should not draw a line in the sand over mayoral control � adding there is "absolutely no connection" between the school board election and a mayoral takeover.

�They don�t even get it,� said Duffy, referring to his critics within the union. �The mayor doesn�t even need the board members for mayoral control. All he needs is the [state] Assembly, which in all likelihood he probably has, and then he has a referendum. And with an 82 percent popularity poll � come on. If he puts [a ballot measure] out in the community on mayoral control, there�s a strong likelihood he would get it in a heartbeat.�

For Duffy, the biggest flashpoint in the school-board race came last week, one day before the Spanish-language newspaper La Opini�n broke the story that Arellano had been arrested twice for shoplifting, once in 1992 and again in 1995. Duffy and his allies went to UTLA�s House of Representatives � a group of nearly 350 union leaders � to suggest that they rescind the endorsement, only to be greeted with boos. Convinced that Arellano was the subject of a smear campaign, UTLA activists demanded that their candidate receive the opportunity to speak. Once Arellano appeared, he received a standing ovation and re-won their loyalty.

�The House of Representatives basically stuck to their guns,� said Fernando Ledezma, who serves on the union�s board of directors and is backing Arellano.

Duffy emerged the next day to restate his support for Arellano. But one day later, he openly voiced disappointment that Arellano, who spoke throughout the campaign of his double master�s degrees from USC, had in fact received neither � even though he walked in the graduation ceremony and finished the course work in one of the two degrees. Duffy said it was too late to schedule another leadership meeting but promised that the issue would be revisited if Arellano made the runoff.

Privately, Arellano supporters with UTLA were furious. Some asserted that Duffy had been trying to torpedo Arellano�s candidacy from the beginning, first by recommending that the union offer no endorsement in the school-board race, then by backing away from Arellano during a time of crisis. Duffy, in turn, said rumors on political blogs had forced him to do the responsible thing � ask the union�s lawyers to perform a detailed background check on their chosen candidate � and contended that Arellano�s biggest problem was not necessarily his criminal record, but failing to level with the union from the beginning.

Backers of Arellano remained suspicious, saying Duffy obtained the background information from two sources with close ties to the mayor � California Teachers Association representative Don Attore, who served on Villaraigosa�s transition team, and UTLA attorney Jesus Qui�onez, a longtime personal friend of Villaraigosa who works for UTLA�s law firm, Geffner and Bush. Qui�onez is also a mayoral appointee to the board of the Metropolitan Water District, where Villaraigosa recently tried without success to install former Assemblyman Richard Katz as that agency�s CEO.

Hours before UTLA�s meeting on Arellano, Attore and Qui�onez conferred with the union�s leadership, presenting them the package on Arellano�s candidacy and criminal background. The California Teachers Association, which had sent Arellano a $50,000 check, had already decided to pull its money. UTLA activists, on the other hand, were deeply skeptical about the union�s ties to Geffner and Bush, now that the mayor was seeking passage of a municipal takeover.

On election night, Arellano emerged from days of media seclusion, showing up at a campaign party in Lincoln Heights that was attended by UTLA stalwarts, as well as lawyer and peace activist Art Goldberg � brother of Jackie, the state assemblywoman � and renters�-rights advocate Elena Popp, who is running to replace Goldberg in the state Legislature. While a DJ played reggae versions of Cher�s �Believe� and R. Kelly�s �I Believe I Can Fly,� Arellano spoke in halting terms about his past, saying he is sorry about misleading voters about his academic record at USC and admitting that he put Duffy in a �tough situation.� Still, Arellano said he thought he could overcome a gap of nearly 30 percentage points, by talking about the less flattering aspects of his life.

�I�m perfectly willing to sit down with the public and say, �Hey, I made dumb decisions, but look what I�m doing now with my life,� � Arellano said. �Look how I�ve changed my life around. It�s important for our youth to know that yes, you make mistakes, but you can always do better.�

In an odd way, Arellano�s personal storyline bore eerie resemblances to the biography of the current mayor. Like Villaraigosa, Arellano was a onetime dropout who went on to earn a bachelor�s degree at UCLA. Like Villaraigosa, Arellano had a brush with the law in his mid-20s, only to rebound a decade later as an organizer with UTLA. But where Villaraigosa proved a master of his own biography, shaping its unpleasant parts into tales of personal triumph, Arellano overreached with his repeated declarations that he had gone from an eighth-grade dropout to a USC master�s recipient. In fact, he had finished the course work in one degree and needed another semester to finish the other. Furthermore, Villaraigosa worked doggedly to ensure that there were no surprises left in his past; Arellano seemed uncomfortable, even on election night, with spelling out precisely why his adolescence and early adulthood had been so troubled.

Only a few miles away, Villaraigosa stood onstage at the Puente Learning Center at the election-night party for Garc�a, the candidate who secured an impressive 47.1 percent finish in the five-way primary election. The mood was ebullient, with Garc�a standing before a buoyant crowd surrounded by the city�s new political stars: Villaraigosa, Councilwoman Wendy Greuel and Garc�a�s old boss � Councilman Jose Huizar. Huizar voiced some disappointment that the school-board district, which covers neighborhoods that surround downtown Los Angeles, would be without a representative for three more months. But he effusively praised Villaraigosa for wading into the public school debate.

�Let me welcome a person who�s passionate about education, who doesn�t say no when people tell him he can�t be and should not be involved in education,� said Huizar, who served on the school board for four and a half years. �I just want to say, it�s our children too.�

Garc�a dodged the question of mayoral control throughout the campaign, initially speaking against the concept but later refusing to say whether she had an opinion. And on election night, she and Arellano agreed on one thing � that the election should go well beyond the debate over mayoral control to focus on the dropout rate, classroom overcrowding and quality teachers. But Garc�a supporters also made clear that they view their candidate as unstoppable, with one privately saying UTLA could put up $1 million and still not overcome their candidate�s powerful connections and tremendous momentum.

▲Update: UNION IS URGED TO DROP ARELLANO ENDORSEMENT: A United Teachers Los Angeles panel acts after learning the school board candidate lied about a degree and has shoplifting convictions.

By Joel Rubin, LA Times Staff Writer

March 10, 2006 - The city's powerful teachers union distanced itself from embattled school board candidate Christopher Arellano this week, when an influential committee voted to suspend support for him and recommended that the union withdraw its endorsement.

United Teachers Los Angeles' political action committee voted 27 to 3 Wednesday night to recommend to the union's 300-member house of representatives that it pull its support for Arellano, said union President A.J. Duffy. Pending that decision, Duffy said, the committee has halted any further contributions and campaign activities, such as phone banks and precinct walks, for Arellano.

In Tuesday's special election for an open seat on the seven-member Los Angeles Unified School District board, Arellano, 33, earned enough votes to narrowly force a June runoff against front-runner Monica Garcia.

The union committee's vote is the latest, and most serious, blow to Arellano since his admission that he lied about completing a graduate degree from USC and reports surfaced that he had twice been convicted of shoplifting during the 1990s.

Loss of the union's backing would probably cripple Arellano's campaign. He has relied almost entirely on the union to fund his war chest with $200,000 in contributions, as well as the ground campaign that it launched on his behalf.

Even the temporary loss of the union's money and resources is bound to hamper Arellano as he tries to gain ground on Garcia.

Under normal circumstances, Duffy said, "We would be going full-bore to get [Arellano] elected."

A campaign consultant for Arellano declined to comment, and Arellano could not be reached.

The revelations about Arellano's missteps have led the Los Angeles County Democratic Party to suspend its support and Sheriff Lee Baca to call on Arellano to drop out of the race.

Eric Bauman, chairman of the county Democratic Central Committee, said he was aware that party members were pressuring Arellano to withdraw.

It is unclear what would happen if Arellano tried to drop out. City Clerk Frank Martinez said the City Charter calls for the third-place finisher to be put on the runoff ballot in the event of "the death, resignation or other disqualification" of a candidate. City attorneys, he said, were looking into whether the clause would apply to a candidate's withdrawal. Enrique Gasca placed third in Tuesday's election.

Duffy declined to comment on whether union officials were leaning on Arellano to drop out but said anger among rank-and-file members had grown in recent days.

"There has been a lot of feedback from all over the union expressing disfavor with our continued endorsement of Christopher," he said.

Only the union's house of representatives can decide whether to cut ties with Arellano. Its next scheduled meeting is March 29, although Duffy said union officials were considering an emergency meeting.


Mar 4, 2006 � (CBS/AP) LOS ANGELES� Free parking will be offered near polling places next week to encourage Los Angeles residents to get out and vote in the Unified School District Special Elections.

Parking will be free within one block of all designated polling places for the election on Tuesday, March 7.

"By implementing this program, we are hoping to remove a barrier that may hinder some voters' ability to vote at their polling places," Villaraigosa said.

The parking program was developed in cooperation with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and the City Clerk�s Election Division.

Money will not be required for parking meters within a block of polling places and time limits on parking meter will not be enforced. Street cleaning parking restrictions will not be enforced on election day and neither will permit parking areas.

This is the first time free parking has been used to encourage voters and it could be used again if it is successful, according to the mayor�s office.

▲ This is a tremendous idea and demonstrates how the Mayor can be helpful to the school district �and to the City as a Whole! What a concept!! Of course the Law of Unintended Consequences remains in effect: Many polling places are at schools ....hopefully voters didn't park in the drop-off and pick-up areas or the school bus zones! �smf

THREAT OF MACE SCATTERS GARDENA STUDENTS: Principal thinks presence of newscopter over campus may have encouraged students' posturing
By Brandy Underwood, Daily Breeze

March 10, 2006�Waving mace canisters, police broke up a standoff between black and Latino students Thursday at Gardena High School, marking a third straight day of turmoil at the campus.

Students from the two groups, believed to be mostly new transfers with likely gang connections, rushed toward each other in the school quad just as the lunch break was about to end. Los Angeles School Police, who were on campus as a precaution, intervened before any blows were thrown.

Students said police shook mace canisters in the air, threatening to spray them. Teens stampeded in all directions, igniting what some student witnesses described as a riot.

"I was scared," said Tracy McRae, a 16-year-old junior at Gardena High. "This was my first time being scared because I almost got maced."

No students were injured or sprayed in what turned out to be the fifth incident at the school since Tuesday, when two fights erupted during lunch. Two near-fights were thwarted Wednesday.

As a result of the earlier disturbances, administrators had locked down the school Thursday.

"What we do know is that we have identified that this is more than a black and Latino situation," said Alex Ayala, a Los Angeles Unified School District official who oversees high schools. "It's more that students are likely gang affiliated."

Myrna Rivera, LAUSD superintendent for District 8, was on campus with Ayala on Thursday morning to monitor students. Rivera said many of the students involved in the disturbances are recent transfers from other schools.

Students acknowledged there is tension between black and Latino students at Gardena High School, where Latinos make up 49 percent of the school population and blacks 41 percent.

Police briefly detained two teenagers, who were handcuffed in front of the school, after they were seen leaping over the school's fence during the lockdown. Police cited one detainee, a student, for truancy.

The other teen, not a student, was cited for trespassing on school property and having an outstanding warrant from Redondo Beach for failure to appear in court, LAUSD police Sgt. Kim Kimbrough said.

Parents stranded outside the school's locked gate were obviously dismayed by the latest round of violence at the school.

"I just think this school needs more security," said parent Rachel Solano.

George Cornish, another parent, said violence has no place in the school yard. "I'm not worried about my son because he can take care of himself," Cornish said. "He knows that if any action goes on, he should stay away from it. At least that's what I taught him."

While some students were simply inconvenienced by the lockdown, others seemed concerned about their safety.

"I have to walk into this lion's den tomorrow," said Charles Austin, 18. "I don't even want to come."

Christina Gurrona, a 15-year-old freshman, said, "I think it's wrong and they shouldn't be doing stuff like this in school."

Russ Thompson, principal of Gardena High, speculated that the standoff was partly sparked by students showing off for a hovering news helicopter.

School administrators sent letters home with students Thursday about the violence and additional police presence on campus. They also plan a meeting for parents today.

"I'm hoping we'll get back to normal as soon as possible," Thompson said.

► If indeed these were "mostly new transfers with likely gang connections" � what were the adults in charge of arranging and approving these transfers thinking? Awareness-of, sensitivity-to and engagement-with of the communities they work in must be a prerequisite for assignment as a principal, vice-principal or counselor.

� If these transfers were because of attendance boundary changes someone needs to get real: Gangs, gang affiliations and gang turf have been facts of life in LA since before the Zoot Suit riots of the 1940's.

� A student from one gang turf who finds him-or-herself in another need not be a gang member or affiliate to be in trouble.

� "Neutral turf" is a piece of dramatic license from West Side Story; it doesn�t happen in real life.

� There is a dynamic tension in communities making the transition from one predominant demographic group to another that the district must be cognizant and respectful of �that part of West Side Story was authentic!

� And the principal who exercises "opportunity transfers" to pass along gang members, troublemakers or even 'problem parents' � and the principal who accepts them � are exercising Opportunities for Disaster.

The "opportunity" in "opportunity transfer" is for the student; not for the administrator, school or district. -smf

By Jean Guccione, LA Times Staff Writer

March 8, 2006 - Hundreds of students, dressed in denim and carrying backpacks, jammed into a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Tuesday to lend their voices to a case that could decide the future of their magnet schools.

Most are members of a group � the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights, and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary � that is expected to join school district and civil rights lawyers in defending voluntary busing and race-based admissions in the L.A. district's magnet schools.

Students cheered when Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Paul Gutman said he was inclined to let them intervene in the case. He said he would rule by Monday.

"We think magnets should stay how they are and not be divided by race," said Lilian Peper, 12, a Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies student who lives in the Hollywood Hills.

The school district was sued in October by the American Civil Rights Foundation, an anti-affirmative action group that is asking the court to ban the use of racial and ethnic criteria in school admissions.

"We are by no means trying to get rid of the programs," the foundation's attorney Paul Beard told the court Tuesday.

The Los Angeles Unified School District defends the programs, created by a 1981 court-ordered desegregation plan. Opponents, however, say the court order has expired and the programs are unconstitutional under Proposition 209, the 1996 statewide initiative that bars preferential treatment by race.

The only issue Tuesday was whether the students could join the case. One of their attorneys, Shanta Driver, argued that students must be represented because if they are returned to their home schools, "they would lose all hope and all prospect of going to college. For them, it's a matter of life and death."

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Hon. Paul Gutman
Presiding Judge, Department 34
Los Angeles Superior Court Central District
Stanley Mosk Courthouse
111 North Hill Street
Los Angeles, California 90012

Dear Judge Gutman:

I read with interest the article in Wednesday's LA Times about the students petitioning to be a party in the case before you regarding Los Angeles Unified School District Magnet Schools and the Magnet School Program. Almost immediately I heard from PTA members asking that PTA support the students � if only for the instructional value and lesson in civics education PTA supports the students in their effort to be heard in this case!

As an LAUSD parent and as a parent leader I am familiar with the Magnet Program. I am aware of the program's strengths, foibles, bureaucratic Catch-22s, weaknesses and shortcomings � and of its history and intent to integrate District schools.

Despite all this the Magnet Program is one of LAUSD's greatest successes; over time it has been the longest lasting and most important educational reform effort in the District.

The Magnet Program offers students and parents choice in programs for K-12 education. It makes parents decision makers in their children's education, not just for gifted and special ability students �but for many programs across many disciplines.

I am not going to try to argue the facts or the law; I'll leave that to the attorneys. Instead I want to offer a small piece of the truth: Parents empowered with this level of choice are involved � and involved parents are key to the success their own children's education. In a city where the demographics skew towards the growing Latino majority true integration may be illusory � but this opportunity for choice needs to be expanded rather than curtailed or eliminated so that a majority of the applicants to the Choices/Magnet Program are accepted rather than passed over and/or decided by lottery. An expanded Magnet Program can and would expand choice and opportunity in the Latino community. Then the Magnet Program � with Small School Learning Communities and Parent and Student Choice � the current 'favorite flavors' of Ed Reform can truly flourish!

Your honor, you cannot go wrong by letting the students speak for themselves. And we all can do well if we listen to what they have to say.

Respectfully �

Scott Folsom
President, Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA

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.
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