Sunday, April 23, 2006

Mayoral Control, Open Court, Reform/No Reform; another day in LA | 4.8.06

4LAKids: Sunday, April 8, 2006
In This Issue:
 •  FAST ONE, ROY: Now that L.A. Schools chief got his school bond, he can watch enrollment drop by 100,000
 •  HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
 •  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.
It was a week of mixed messages. School Board President Marlene Canter announced that the key to education reform lies in hiring better teachers [see: "TEACHERS CALLED KEY TO REFORMS"] � yet the District's own lawyers successfully argued that the court ordered program to hire better teachers has been so successful they don't have to do it anymore. [see: "CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS LOSE BID TO EXTEND LAUSD CONSENT DECREE"] I guess we should put a fork in the Rodriguez Consent Decree, it's done!

"SILENCING TEACHERS IN AN ERA OF SCRIPTED READING" presents an unflattering view of scripted reading programs; specifically McGraw-Hill's Open Court � the District mandated elementary reading instruction program in LAUSD.

In "BRIDGING THE CLASSROOM, HOME FRONT: From high tech to living room visits, schools involving parents to boost student performance" [link below] Sacramento Bee writer Laurel Rosenhall opines that the secret to academic success is Parental Involvement /Engagement/Empowerment. She certainly won't find any argument here � just mail her the Pulitzer Prize and let's get on with the other stuff!

IN "Q&A: L.A. MAYOR VILLARAIGOSA TALKS ABOUT SCHOOLS, STUDENT PROTESTERS AND RACE" � hizzoner explains his first foray in LAUSD goverenance �apparently he's already taken control at Jefferson High School! Los Angeles Magazine's POWER POLITICS 101 puts Villaraigosa's campaign to take over ALL of LAUSD in a purely political light.

And in "FAST ONE, ROY", the LA Weekly worries what to do if LAUSD builds too many new schools. What indeed? Maybe the mayor can make them police stations.


► The bullet points from Ms. Rosenhill's article, courtesy of Sacramento City Unified School District, Parent Support Services Department:

GETTING INVOLVED: Research shows that children do better in school when their parents are involved in their education. Here are some ways parents can boost involvement in their children's schools:

� Join school committees, such as the PTA or school site council.
� Chaperone field trips.
� Attend events at school such as parent conferences, science nights and health fairs.
� If you speak a language other than English, offer to help the school with translations.
� Walk your child to school and get to know the staff.
� Volunteer in the classroom, the parent resource center or around campus.
� Ask the office manager at your school how you can sign up for a committee or volunteer position.
� Keep in contact with your child's teacher and other staff at the school.
� Read with your child at home.
� Check each night to make sure homework is finished.
� Talk with your child daily about how the school day went.
� Listen to your child's concerns, joys and wishes.
� Tell your children you believe in them.

BRIDGING THE CLASSROOM, HOME FRONT: From high tech to living room visits, schools involving parents to boost student performance

By Elizabeth Jaeger for Rethinking Schools Online - Spring 2006

"I have been told by the district that I will be transferred to another school effective Monday. I am very sad to be leaving you, but you are strong students and I know you will be successful. I have always taught you to stand up for what you believe in, and sometimes when you do that, there will be unhappiness. But in the end, you have to do what you feel is right. I will think about you every day and wish you all the best."

I never would have imagined having to speak those words, yet there I was, standing in front of my class while the principal looking on silently. I had been forced out of the school where I had worked enthusiastically for more than five years because I had challenged required instructional practices that I believe interfered with teaching and learning.

Serving nearly 1,000 students, Downer is the largest elementary school in the West Contra Costa Unified School District, north and east of San Francisco. Its students are predominantly poor, non-native English speaking Latino children. I had been hired to work with teachers and students in an effort to increase achievement in reading and writing. Having provided after-school staff development the previous year, I was well known by the faculty. There was no get-to-know-you period; we hit the ground running. In my first two years we charted a long list of accomplishments. We developed a list of English Language Arts standards that we hoped all 6th graders would meet; an accompanying curriculum to promote these standards beginning in 4th grade; a Reading Block program in which we grouped upper graders by reading level and read short novels and related articles; a Challenge Class for students designated as gifted and talented; and Literacy Academy classes for struggling readers. These programs were based on several principles: that print knowledge and understanding of text develop in tandem, that teachers can adjust instruction to provide more support for less proficient learners, and that literacy is constructed in social settings rather than in teacher-imposed isolation.
Open Court Arrives

Then, in the spring of 2001, the school district adopted the Open Court reading series, a scripted reading program that tells teachers what to say and do at every moment. The following fall, the district began a rigid implementation of this program, insisting that teachers cover every detail of the curriculum. This occurred amidst the chaos caused by large numbers of teachers being removed from their classrooms to attend five-day trainings, often with no substitutes available.

Required by the district to spend two to three hours a day on Open Court instruction, teachers felt unable to include the literacy curriculum we had previously developed � curriculum that more fully addressed the range of levels and the varied strengths and weaknesses of our students. These students � full of energy and, by and large, eager to learn � became victims of a system that refused to teach them in the way they learn best: actively, holistically, and cooperatively.

In kindergarten and 1st grade, teachers now taught the least meaningful aspects of literacy � letters and sounds � and postponed emphasis on meaning for nearly two years. These children faced a steady diet of so-called decodable texts ("The cat sat on the mat. The cat is fat. Where is the cat?"). Teachers presented the lessons to all students at the same time, limiting the opportunity to differentiate instruction. Open Court also required a tremendous amount of "teacher talk," limiting communication among children � especially problematic for English learners. Teachers got laryngitis while children remained silent.

In order to cover all the required lessons, teachers had to present the material at a very fast pace. This resulted in moving on through the curriculum even when students needed more time to understand the lessons. Frequent text-based assessments took up to 20 percent of instructional time. This over-emphasis on testing promoted teaching to the test rather than learning of greater substance. All of these factors reduced the interaction between teacher and student to a mechanical and impersonal back-and-forth.

I wasn't a classroom teacher, but my ability to serve teachers and students was severely affected by the adoption of Open Court. I couldn't bring myself to demonstrate lessons from a program so inappropriate for our students. And, overwhelmed by the Open Court curriculum, teachers found little time for anything else. The struggling readers I saw in my pull-out intervention classes were further weakened by a curriculum that didn't meet their needs. I was reluctant to speak freely about these difficulties in order to protect the small acts of resistance that classroom teachers took with my encouragement.

The following year, McGraw-Hill trainers and other outside consultants began entering classrooms at will � interrupting lessons, chastising teachers in front of their students, going through personal files without permission. If teachers veered from the Open Court script, altering less effective lessons or expanding upon those lessons, the principal threatened them with disciplinary action.

By spring 2004, teachers were demoralized; rather than discussing ways to facilitate learning, teachers focused on how to make it from day to day. Children were either bored or frustrated, since there was virtually no opportunity to meet their individual needs. Administrators grew increasingly rigid, focusing on things like whether teachers had posted sound/spelling cards in the correct place.

It is important to note here that not all teachers in our district fell victim to the heavy-handed implementation of Open Court. Teachers in other schools told me they were allowed great flexibility in use of the materials and advised by their principals to focus on standards rather than on the scripted teacher's guide. Policing by consultants was minimal. How did these schools differ from Downer? They were located in middle-class neighborhoods with a greater percentage of white students. The district shackled teachers of poor children with generally lower achievement to a curriculum that did not let them modify their teaching. Teachers in more affluent schools could enrich the curriculum to emphasize higher-level thinking and aesthetics. These students had the opportunity to obtain an education that prepared them to assume demanding leadership roles. Poor kids received an education that prepared them for McDonald's, McMilitary, and Mc-Prison.
Resistance Grows

In spring 2004, I think most teachers at Downer shared my concerns about Open Court. They spoke privately about their frustrations and concerns for their students, but, fearful of possible repercussions, most were less vocal than I. They chose other forms of resistance. They closed their doors and did what they could to make the curriculum more responsive to the needs of their students. The district hired a new principal in the fall of 2005, the fifth in six years. He removed me from my position as literacy specialist and placed me in a 6th grade classroom, stating that I was unable to effectively support bilingual teachers since I didn't speak Spanish. Later he admitted to one of my colleagues that the actual reason had been my opposition to Open Court. Despite teachers' efforts to work together with administration to improve literacy instruction, school climate deteriorated over the course of the year.

In August 2005, the regional superintendent asked me to meet with yet another new principal. At that meeting, district administrators told us that they had listened and learned their lesson; they had chosen this person because she was willing to share decision-making with our staff. A short time later, our faculty watched a video made by the acting superintendent and president of the school board stating that they had realized that top-down management was ineffective and that they wanted to work with teachers to improve our district. We took these leaders at their word.

It soon became evident to nearly everyone on staff that the new principal was struggling. She had great difficulty managing a large, complex school community. Meetings were neither effective nor efficient. She had trouble solving even the simplest of daily problems. Through all of this, my colleagues and I repeatedly volunteered our help. We offered ideas for inservice trainings, assistance with discipline, a plan for organizing the student study team, and help in mentoring newer teachers. The principal refused or ignored our efforts.

On Oct. 5, 2005, after attending a speech by author and activist Jonathan Kozol, four other teachers and I were inspired to take further action. After repeated efforts to establish a collaborative relationship with administration in the district, we regretfully determined that more of the same would not prove successful. So the only option available to us was to state what we believed, what we hoped would change, and, finally, what we could no longer do in good conscience. We wrote a letter to our colleagues offering to assist with several of the school's most intransigent problems such as school governance and after-school programs. Specifically, we refused to:

� Administer an English language development assessment that required teachers to spend 45 minutes working individually with each child while other students worked independently (this would mean 12 to 15 hours of missed instructional time).

� Attend weekly staff development meetings. Despite contract language stating that at least three meetings per month were to be jointly planned by teachers and administration, the principal had developed each agenda.

� Allow Literacy Coaches to provide 20 minutes per day of phonics instruction in heterogeneous 4th grade classrooms; this was over and above the approximately 10 minutes per day of phonics required in the Open Court lessons. If we were to follow this practice, phonics would total 25 percent of the daily instructional minutes in literacy.

� Attend ineffective literacy trainings that would require us to leave our students with a substitute for up to a week at a time.

We didn't want to tell any other teachers what to do, nor put them at risk of reprisal, so we didn't actively solicit other signatures.
Repression and Hope

Within a few weeks, district administrators rectified the first three of these concerns; they deemed the ELD assessment and 4th-grade phonics lessons voluntary and agreed with the union that the issue of co-planned meetings had been resolved in a previous grievance. We were never told to attend any trainings during the school day. Neverthe-less, the repercussions began. First, the principal told us that we could not use the intercom system to announce our meetings, and then that we were not to meet at all on school grounds. She stated that we could not rebut the handouts that Literacy Coaches put out to defend their practices by putting a response in teachers' mailboxes, nor even provide research articles that offered another perspective. Next, the principal called several of us into her office and threatened us with possible disciplinary action. Then, she sent us warning letters, full of inaccuracies. Soon thereafter, the district personnel department transferred me and another teacher to other schools. Despite vocal and public protests by teachers, parents, and community activists � as well as grievances filed on our behalf by the union � the transfers have not been rescinded.

Never once throughout years of effort to advocate for our predominantly poor, non-native English-speaking students has any district administrator ever said, "These seem like intelligent, committed educators. Maybe they have something of value to offer."In a culture strongly influenced by the punitive regulations of the No Child Left Behind act � a culture of fear, threat, and retribution � administrators evidently viewed us only as troublemakers.

There are signs of hope. We've received messages of support from across the country. School board members have expressed a desire to begin genuine dialogue. Activist groups such as Justice Matters and Teachers for Social Justice in San Francisco have invited us to speak about the widespread teacher silencing and the tyranny of scripted reading programs.

Nevertheless, a clear message has been sent to any teacher in our district who might contemplate taking a stand that might be unpopular with administration: Speak up and you will be punished; advocate for your students and you will be silenced.

If this situation were unique to one school in one district, it might not be worthy of much attention. But it is not an isolated case. Whatever the original intentions of No Child Left Behind, the result is that more children are being left behind than ever before, and this is especially true of poor children and children of color. In an effort to raise achievement by standardizing curriculum, the implementation of this law has robbed teachers of the opportunity to act on their professional judgment. Teachers who know better are teaching scripts instead of children because they fear the consequences of opposition to these policies. In this atmosphere of mistrust and intimidation, how easy will it be to move forward in our efforts to serve the children entrusted to us?

►Elizabeth Jaeger ( is the intervention coordinator and teacher coach at Acorn Woodland Elementary School in Oakland, Calif. She and her colleagues from E.M. Downer Elementary received the 2006 "In Defense of Good Teaching Award" from University of Arizona's College of Education Department of Language, Reading, and Culture � awarded annually to educators who have stood up for their beliefs in an extraordinary way.

►TEACHERS CALLED KEY TO REFORMS: Head of LAUSD board says hiring better instructors should be focus

By Rick Orlov, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

April 7, 2006 - Despite high-profile attention over Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's call for a takeover of Los Angeles Unified, school board President Marlene Canter on Thursday urged officials to focus on other areas for reforming the district, including the quality of teachers.

"Governance is something that can be tweaked, but it's not the lever for change," Canter said for a presentation before the President's Joint Commission on School Governance, which is studying ways to reform the Los Angeles Unified School District.

"I've looked at the issue of governance for a long time and the real issue is the leadership and the quality of the people in place. ... I know people get antsy and they want to change direction, but you need people in who can develop programs with sustainability."

Canter and the school administration have been at odds with Villaraigosa for months over his call to take over the school district.

The panel studying how to improve the nation's second-largest district has heard a number of recommendations including expanding the school board, creating subdistricts, establishing more charter schools and changing the role of school board members to full-time jobs.

Villaraigosa did not return phone calls.

In her appearance before the panel - of which she is a co-leader - Canter said she wants to see the panel look at how the district can hire better teachers and principals as well as work with other institutions to refine classroom curriculum.

Canter said she also wants to see a district program in which all teachers contact the parents of each of their students at the beginning of the school year to ensure they are involved in their child's schoolwork.

"We have to do all we can to make those connections between the teacher and the parent," Canter said.

Canter said school officials also have to develop a new relationship with the teachers union.

"We have to include accountability when we talk. I want us to get rid of terms like `must-place' teacher and the `dance of the lemons' when it comes to principals."

Both terms have been developed by LAUSD critics when they talk about the inability of the district to get rid of poor teachers and administrators.

In a report to the City Council late last month, the governance panel said reform of the nation's second-largest school district cannot rest solely on whether the mayor takes over.

The panel's report and recommendations are scheduled to be submitted in June. Leaders have said district reform is inevitable - even if it stops short of full mayoral control.

By Paul Pringle, LA Times Staff Writer

April 8, 2006 - Rejecting arguments that the measure had fallen short of its goals, a judge Friday declined to extend a 14-year court settlement that required the Los Angeles Unified School District to spend extra money on teacher training and other programs at some low-performing campuses.

The so-called Rodriguez consent decree obligated the district to set aside $11 million a year for the schools because they had large numbers of inexperienced teachers and administrators.

Civil rights groups that sued to obtain the decree had asked the court to extend it five more years, saying the district had not spent enough money on it. The settlement had been due to expire in December but was kept in force while the court considered the extension.

Superior Court Judge Joanne O'Donnell denied the plaintiffs' request Friday.

District officials said afterward that the decree was no longer needed because their efforts to improve teacher recruitment and training had worked.

"We have outlived it," said John Walsh, the district's assistant general counsel.

Lew Hollman, attorney for the plaintiffs, said "we're very disappointed" about the judge's decision.

Download of the Week: GETTING HONEST ABOUT GRAD RATES: How States Play the Numbers and Students Lose (EdTrust)

FAST ONE, ROY: Now that L.A. Schools chief got his school bond, he can watch enrollment drop by 100,000
Written by David Zahniser for The LA Weekly

April 5, 2006 � Los Angeles school officials hit the electoral jackpot in November, persuading voters to pass a $4 billion school-construction bond measure � the fourth in less than a decade and the second within two years. Even some district leaders were surprised by how enthusiastically voters embraced Measure Y.

Five months after the bond measure passed, Superintendent Roy Romer has produced new demographic projections showing that the Los Angeles Unified School District expects enrollment to drop by more than 100,000 students over a six-year span, once independent charter schools � which are eligible for only 1 percent of Measure Y funds � are factored out of the equation.

Romer�s latest budget � posted Monday on the district Web site � shows that Measure Y, which promised to reduce overcrowding by constructing 20,000 new classroom seats, passed just in time for enrollment to drop by up to 20,000 each year.

Opponents of the bond measure accused Romer of being less than candid about the magnitude of the enrollment decline during his campaign for the bond, the district�s fourth property-tax hike since 1997. They also questioned whether the school board timed the bond to coincide not with the district�s needs but with Romer�s desire to leave a legacy before he steps down.

�It appears, based on these projections, that he probably knew that the schools weren�t needed,� said Richard Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association, who signed the ballot argument against Measure Y. �But if he could get the money, he would build the schools, whether or not they were needed.�

Ironically, the school-construction program has been the one point of agreement in the fractious relationship between the school board and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is seeking to take over L.A. Unified. Even as he blasted the district on Tuesday as a place where students don�t learn, Villaraigosa boasted that he was among the bond measure�s biggest champions: �I�m the only elected official who was willing to stand up with the superintendent of the school district on Measure Y.�

Councilman Jose Huizar, a Villaraigosa ally who left the school board in December, also backed Measure Y. But where Villaraigosa was an enthusiastic cheerleader, Huizar had been deeply ambivalent, saying he saw no urgency in pursuing another bond so quickly when the district still had money left over from the prior bonds. Huizar, who saw skyrocketing rents force his constituents to move to San Bernardino and Riverside, suggested without success that the district wait two years and then re-assess changing enrollment patterns. �[Measure Y] was focused primarily on elementary schools, and that�s where we have less and less students coming in,� said Huizar, whose district includes Boyle Heights and El Sereno.

Huizar said school-board members knew when they went for the bond that the district was losing students at a rate of at least 10,000 per year. Yet they pressed ahead, fearing that their window of opportunity would close with the voters after Romer steps down in September 2007. �They rushed it because they felt they had a superintendent who was good at passing bonds, and everyone knew he would not be around a long time and wanted to do it while he was here,� he said.

Former school-board member Caprice Young agreed, adding that Romer saw the bond program as �his baby� and wanted to make sure it was fully funded after he left. �I think the board rightly realized that without Roy Romer, that bond had no chance of getting passed,� she said.

Romer agreed that the money in Measure Y won�t be needed for another four or five years, since the district is still spending state matching funds and money left over from measures R and K, which passed in 2002 and 2004 and provided a combined $7.2 billion. But he said that the district fully assessed the decreasing-enrollment projections before proposing Measure Y, and concluded that the funds still could go toward the much-needed elimination of 200,000 aging classroom bungalows, expansion of full-day kindergarten, and new classrooms that will be needed once the high-school dropout rate is brought under control.

�I wanted to do it before I left,� Romer said. �It�s a skill set I have, and the kids needed it. The city needs it. When you look back on this 20 years from now, it�s going to be one of the greatest [periods] of redoing the face of Los Angeles.�

Romer dismissed warnings of overbuilding, saying the only places where schools might have to close because of a lack of students are the Westside and the west San Fernando Valley. And school-board member Marlene Canter said the board acted out of a sense of urgency, not out of a fear of Romer�s departure. �I�ll tell you one thing � we will not build schools if there�s not going to be children to be in them,� she said.

District officials blame the drop in enrollment on rising home prices and increasingly popular charter schools, the only places gaining students. With charter schools, enrollment is expected to drop from 746,610 in the 2003-�04 school year to 677,310 in 2009-�10; without charters, enrollment plummets from 727,133 to 625,141.

While district officials said that they have known for some time about the long-term enrollment decline, their own attorneys fought to keep the issue out of the Measure Y ballot pamphlet. Before the November 8 election, an L.A. Unified parent challenged the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association�s ballot argument, which stated that the district was losing students and had no immediate need for another measure.

The law firm representing the parent, Strumwasser and Woocher, helped the school district write the language for Measure Y. The firm failed to persuade a judge to strip language from the ballot argument stating, among other things, that the district expected a �long-term trend of declining enrollment.� The lawyers argued in its legal documents that the district had figures available only through 2008 � and that the data beyond that year suggested rising, not falling, enrollment.

�The assertion that LAUSD is expecting long-term declining enrollment is false and misleading,� the law firm wrote. �The projections to which the argument refers do not represent a long-term projection and are immaterial to Measure Y.�

Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the taxpayer association, said his group relied on the district�s 2005-�06 budget. �We were using their numbers. And it turns out, unfortunately, that we were correct,� he said.

The 79-page ballot language for Measure Y sent a conflicting message on just how many classrooms would be built. While it promised to fund the construction of 20,000 classroom seats, the ballot identified projects covering more than 126,000 seats. Some were already under way when voters decided the fate of Measure Y, and a few were already filled with students.

The two previous school-construction bond measures were focused on overcrowding at the high-school and middle-school levels, working to move children from a multitrack calendar back to a 180-day, two-semester school year. Under a legal settlement reached with the ACLU and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the district must eliminate the �Concept 6� calendar � which has 17 fewer days in the school year � by July 2012, a task that will require a total of 170,000 seats, said deputy chief facilities executive Guy Mehula.

The district expects that 70,000 classroom seats will have been finished by the end of 2006. Still, Mehula also said the drop in enrollment has put the district ahead of schedule in its effort to address overcrowding. In a single year, the number of schools that rely on involuntary busing dropped from 55 to 22 � ahead of the district�s projections by 23 schools. The number of schools operating on the Concept 6 calendar was reduced by roughly a third, from 130 to 85 � putting the district ahead of schedule by 41 schools.

Mehula predicted that enrollment will start increasing again in 2014 or 2015. But, he added, no one can be sure. �Demography is not a science. It�s art,� he said.

Young said that Measure Y will be needed even if enrollment drops. But she argued too little will go toward charter schools, which are part of the district but unburdened by state-education regulations.

The district expects enrollment in its independent charter schools to double, from 23,852 in the 2004-�05 school year to 52,169 in 2009-�10. Although $50 million is available in Measure Y for charter schools, few have tapped the money, because of the district�s bureaucracy, said Young, who heads the California Charter Schools Association.

�They�re sitting on $100 million at the same time that charter schools are having to find church basements and warmed-over warehouses,� she said.

► Like, ohmygawd � let's worry about what we should worry about if the news is too good! A couple of points:
� The District is under a court ordered mandate to end the Concept 6 Year Round Calendar by 2012.
� The District is under a voter, taxpayer, community and parent directed mandate to end all year around calendars ASAP, 2012 is the target.
� About 200,000 students are currently housed in infamous "temporary portable" bungalows; the consensus is we'd like to get rid of these and free up the space for playgrounds.
� Even if Prop 82 fails, Universal Preschool is inevitable. All those four-year-olds and that program will need to be housed somewhere.
� The fall off in attendance and availability of classrooms can lead to: (think about this; it's a visit from Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny after we have all been good girls and boys) CLASS SIZE REDUCTION!
� And, to bring in the Demographics Fairy for her guest appearance with The Facts of Life (best send the little ones from the room): This drop off in attendance is cyclical, the baby boom now in high school will graduate, marry and start families. Boomers have children/Boomers have Grandchildren. D�j� vu, redux. �smf

Q&A w/Carolyn Goossen and Daffodil Altan, New America Media| Pacific News Service]

Apr 05, 2006 | NAM Editor's Note: Antonio Villaraigosa took a few moments to talk with NAM about last week's massive student walkouts, the state of the Los Angeles Unified School District -- which he plans to take over -- and the future of the immigrant rights movement in Los Angeles.

Q: You've talked about holding teachers, administrators and parents accountable. What about students?

A: When those kids came [to city hall] on Monday -- -- I understood their fears and concerns. I walked out 30 years ago (in protests) and everyone knows that. I had a great deal of respect for their courage and conviction for walking out in opposition to immigration proposals that would make their parents felons. I also said, 'I expect you back in school now.'

Everyone has a responsibility here. What you have when no one is accountable is chaos. I think what we need in the school district is for everyone know their rights and their responsibilities; parents need to know their rights and their responsibilities. We've got to develop a culture with our kids where we say, 'This is your responsibility.'

On Saturday I was criticized by the right because I greeted 500,000 peaceably marching people at City Hall, and on Tuesday I was criticized by activists saying 'You walked out, why are you telling these kids to go to school?' I said, 'Your responsibility is to be in school.'

I met with seven student leaders [after the walkouts]. They told me why they walked out. They were phenomenal. They were the most articulate kids. One of them said, 'Are we going to get in trouble?' I said, 'What do you think? Probably.' I said I got in trouble too and they said, you're right, and I was really proud of that.

Q: Were the mass student walkouts part of a moment or the beginning of a movement?

A: I don't think the moment has passed. I think these young people are undergoing a transformation. I think they are realizing that in a great and good America founded on democratic principles, civic action is the key to change.

I told these kids, 'Now If you want to walk out after school, on Saturday and Sunday, you can do that. There's a right way and a wrong way. In a school district where half of us are failing, you can't miss five or six days. We can't allow that. We can't have you fail. We need you to be educated, so you can be great spokespeople for your community.'

I dropped out [of high school], but then I went back. I realized that education is an empowering process that will give you the skills you need to truly be more civic minded.

All the activists criticized me on Monday. I got on the radio and talked to the parents. Twenty-six thousand kids marched on Monday, 11,000 on Tuesday, and 75 on Wednesday. Parents want their kids in school. That's why they came here, for their kids to get an education.

Q: What about the allegations of racial tension among Black and Latino LAUSD students?

A: When I went to Jefferson High School (scene of fights between black and Latino students in April and May 2005), everyone was saying [the problem] was racial. It wasn't racial. These kids were packed in there like sardines. When I walked in, there were parents banging down doors and the principal wouldn't open the door, there were kids putting graffiti all over the walls. Kids were segregated and put into separate classrooms. Blacks were in one classroom, Latinos in another. Teachers were in shorts, thongs and T-shirts. I told the principal, you need to meet with the parents. I said to the teachers, I want to clean this place up. You know what I did? I took control.

I'm a progressive, make no mistake about it, but I'm not for chaos. I'm not for the culture of complacency that we've seen in these schools.

► 2 big 2 include/2 hot 2 ignore: POWER POLITICS 101
"Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has staked his future on taking control of L.A.�s troubled school system. If he succeeds in taking over the foundering LAUSD, he'll become the most powerful public education figure in the state. What he'll need: changes to the city charter, a victory over the teachers' union--and a plan.

POWER POLITICS 101 | from LA Magazine | April 2006 | by Kevin Roderick

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
By Joel Rubin and Duke Helfand, LA Times Staff Writers

April 8, 2006 � A national education group voiced strong opposition Friday to the idea of a mayor taking over a school district � something Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has vowed to do.

The 145-member assembly of the National School Boards Assn. unanimously passed a resolution calling on mayors to focus on non-education issues that affect students � such as housing and healthcare � instead of fighting for control of schools.

"There is important work for [mayors] to do. It is not as glamorous or headline-grabbing as taking over a school board or appointing the superintendent, but it is important," said Scott Plotkin, executive director of the California School Boards Assn., which sponsored the motion.

In making its case to the national body, the California contingent criticized Villaraigosa's campaign to take control of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Janelle Erickson, the mayor's spokeswoman, dismissed the vote's significance.

"This is akin to politicians coming out against term limits � it's not a surprise," she said. "Decisions about public schools should be made by local stakeholders � teachers, parents, students and the surrounding community.

"There is no single solution that will work for every city and state, and the National School Board Assn. shouldn't presume to dictate what makes sense for Los Angeles' schools," Erickson said.

Also on Friday, association members representing the country's largest urban school districts took a harsher stance against Villaraigosa. Brian Perkins, president of the New Haven, Conn., Board of Education, said the group passed a second resolution opposing the mayor.

"There is no reasoning whatsoever to justify what he is trying to do," Perkins said.

Perkins and other association members said a Villaraigosa takeover would do little to help L.A. Unified, which has made steady progress in student performance in recent years. It is a district, they added, that is in much better shape than others, such as Chicago, where a takeover helped prevent financial collapse.

� smf's 2�: Scott Plotkin is a member of the Joint Goverenace Commission. And re-quoting mayoral spokeswoman Erickson: "Decisions about public schools should be made by local stakeholders � teachers, parents, students and the surrounding community." Which one of those mantles does the Mayor of Los Angeles wear?

From Los Angeles Downtown News

The Los Angeles Unified School District Board (LAUSD) of Education voted last Tuesday to name Los Angeles Central High School No. 10 in City West after the late labor leader Miguel Contreras, longtime secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. After he died last May at 52, the labor group lobbied the LAUSD to name the new school at Third and Bixel streets after him. The $138 million facility, expected to open this fall, was constructed on the site of the former HERE Local 11 office, where Contreras began working in 1987. "It's all too fitting that this school, where he began the revitalization of the Los Angeles labor movement be named after him," said Carl Friedlander, president of the Los Angeles College Faculty Guild, in a statement. Other community groups had wanted to name the school after Edward Roybal, the former city councilman and congressman who died last year. The union has proposed naming a new East Los Angeles high school after Roybal.

from the National School Boards Association Blog BoardBuzz

As the American newspaper industry downsizes, it turns out that more and more experienced education reporters are taking buy-outs and retiring. The result is that readers and communities are losing important connections and information about their schools. This article from Columbia University reports that how this commonly plays out is that we all can expect fewer reporters at local school board meetings, and this is a bad thing.

"If this becomes the pattern, schools and students will be hurt because local education will tend to fade as a civic issue," says Ben Bagdikian, media critic and former dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. "So when school bond issues and similar education-related problems get to a public vote, there will be more uninterested or poorly informed voters, less well-educated kids and everyone will suffer."

THE COLUMBIA U. ARTICLE specifically addresses the decrease of educational reportage at the Hartford Courant, like the LA Times, a Tribune paper.

EVENTS: Coming up next week...

The FACILITIES DIVISION COMMUNITY OUTREACH DEPARTMENT is having three meetings next week during the break at three overcrowded year 'round schools. Hopefully, when the schools being discussed at the meetings are complete both the existing and new schools will be on a traditional two-semester calendar, complete with spring breaks, winter breaks and summer vacations and 180 (or more!) instructional days a year!

Have a Happy Easter or Happy Passover. Or both.

►Monday Apr 10, 2006
Join us at this meeting where we will:
� Introduce the Project Architect to the community
� Provide overview of the school facilities, including: number of classrooms, library, lunch area, etc.
� Review LAUSD design principles
� Receive community input on school design
6:00 p.m.
Russell Elementary School - Auditorium
1263 E. Firestone Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90001

►Monday Apr 10, 2006
Join us at this meeting where we will:
� Introduce the Project Architect to the community
� Provide overview of the school facilities, including: number of classrooms, library, lunch area, etc.
� Review LAUSD design principles
� Receive community input on school design
6:00 p.m.
Walnut Park Elementary School
2642 Olive Street
Walnut Park, CA 90255

►Wednesday Apr 12, 2006
Local District 6
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 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Gage Middle School - Multipurpose Room
2880 E. Gage Avenue
Huntington Park, CA 90255

*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
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 cacant] � 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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