Saturday, October 28, 2006

America's Next Top Model[ing] Behavior

4LAKids: Sunday, Oct 29, 2006 -
One Hour Backwards in Time
(did you set you clock back?)
In This Issue:
SCHOOL BOARD TARDINESS — The next time it starts on time might be the first.
NEXT LEADER OF L.A. SCHOOL DISTRICT VOWS TO REMOVE 'BAD TEACHERS': Brewer expects to be 'vilified' for doing so.
SCHOOLS VIOLATE TRANSLATION LAW: State audit reports lack of compliance on notices sent to pupils' parents
EVENTS: Coming up next week — ZOO MAGNET CAREER FAIRE ’06 + ONE NEW SCHOOL + Community Outreach Meetings
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 @!
4LAKidsNews: a compendium of recent items of interest - news stories, scurrilous rumors, links, academic papers, rants and amusing anecdotes, etc.
SCHOOL BOARD TARDINESS — The next time it starts on time might be the first.

October 28, 2006 - Los Angeles schools, as parents and students can tell you, can be strict in handing out tardy slips for late students. It's time they issue a few to the school board too. As with students, the tardy count should go on the board's permanent record. Then maybe board members would finally realize what teachers and kids already know: A proper education means everybody showing up promptly to get through the work of the day in the time allotted.

Instead, this last week, the week before and other times previously, the board has started its meeting a full hour late, while the couple of dozen people who had business to discuss fidgeted, checked their watches and asked the shrugging guards where the members were and when they might appear.

One of those waiting was a young woman who is studying to be a teacher. Her assignment for the day was to see how the school board operated. She learned an unwelcome lesson or two about how people in power don't always show the expected courtesy toward the public they are supposed to serve.

At the other end of the boardroom, a group of eight people who had come to make a presentation stirred restively. "We wolfed down our lunch to rush over here on time," one complained to a companion.

It's bad enough that, once started, the board drags through its business. Members seem to view many agenda items not as issues to resolve but opportunities to speechify — one by one, each speech pretty much repeating the one before. "Time certains" — agenda items that are supposed to occur at a specific time —should be renamed "time — we'll sees." Sometimes they happen, sometimes they don't.

At a minimum, the start of the meeting should not be a "time — we'll see."

When the meetings finally got under way, at least these last two weeks, no one offered an explanation or even an apology for the long wait. Manners, manners.

Not that the school board is the only government group guilty of discourteously wasting the time, and therefore the money, of the public and the people who come before them. Members of the City Council and the county Board of Supervisors are notoriously late to their own meetings.

It is, to quote a phrase used on many a wayward kindergartner, not OK. But especially not for the people whose job includes setting an example to the 700,000-plus students in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Maybe now that the board has selected an ex-military man, David L. Brewer, to head the district, the members will hear a new wake-up call.

4LAKids' editorialist/editor, accused by the tardiest school board member of being in love with my own voice, (moi?) is loath to surrender the first words – but the Times got it absolutely right here so they get to go first! In the early discussion of superintendent candidacies I supported Jackie Goldberg in part because she is the master of starting and ending meetings on time. I sat with Jackie at one of the mayor's town halls – and she seethed when she discovered that starting late had actually been scheduled into the agenda!

In 'Brewer takes on Bad Teachers' (below) we read that UTLA President AJ Duffy says the admiral has a lot to learn and that the fault is not with the teachers but with the principals – this message was echoed at the UTLA/Mayor meeting the same day. Or perhaps fault lies in the bloated bureaucracy. (We are on the cusp of that grammatical moment forecast by Stunk & White as "bureaucrat bloat" becomes "bureaucrat-bloat" – "bureaucratbloat" is the final stage.)

The fault, Dear Reader, is not in our principals, but in our principles. We have become too fixated on what the Ed Code, the Union Contract, Board Policy, the pundits and the media say…and on the blizzard of pink memos from downtown. We are absorbed with Finding Fault (Teachers/ Principals/ Parents/ Students/ Tardy Board Members/ Bureaucrats/ NCLB/ Unions/ Mayors/ Testing, etc.) ...and on Quick Fixes (pick 'n choose 'n bash the usual suspects from the previous list) and not upon asking and answering the one big hard question: "What's best for Kids?"

Still would be better if the meetings started on time! – smf

THE GREENING OF THE LAUSD from LA City Beat is too long to reprint here, but the news is too good to miss.


►VILLARAIGOSA, BREWER SAY THEY'RE IN SYNC ON LAUSD: L.A.'s mayor vows there will be no "schoolyard fight" with the school district's new superintendent.

by Dan Laidman, Copley News Service

Thursday, October 26, 2006 - After meeting Wednesday for the first time, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and incoming Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent David Brewer both said that they experienced a "mind meld."

If they did undergo the Vulcan psychic bonding first made famous on the television series "Star Trek," however, it seemed to create amnesia, too.

Little more than a week ago, Villaraigosa criticized the process that led to the school board's selection of Brewer in the latest salvo of a yearlong battle in which the mayor repeatedly tagged LAUSD as a "failing district." Along the way, board members charged that Villaraigosa's effort to gain some formal oversight over Los Angeles schools was an "experiment" with local children aimed at furthering his political career.

But standing together Wednesday in front of reporters after initially meeting in Villaraigosa's City Hall office, Brewer and the mayor proclaimed their affection for each other and vowed to work together closely. They made no mention of the pending lawsuit in which the district is trying to stop Villaraigosa's education plan from taking effect Jan. 1.

"I know you guys are all here because you like to see a schoolyard fight," Villaraigosa told the assembled news media. "But we're not going to see one here."

Brewer echoed the sentiment and denied that there is any lingering ill will.

"The mayor and I are joined at the hip," he said.

The school board selected Brewer, a retired Navy admiral with no background in education, to succeed retiring Superintendent Roy Romer. The panel announced its pick two weeks ago while Villaraigosa was out of the country on a trade mission to Asia. The mayor had publicly implored the school board to wait for his return and give him a formal say in the process.

The wrangling followed a year in which the mayor and the school district spent much of their time lobbying the public and the state Legislature over Villaraigosa's plan to take control of the schools. Ultimately, the Legislature and governor approved a partial takeover at the end of the summer, and now the district's court challenge is the last remaining hurdle.

The plan would shift much of the school board's authority to a newly powerful superintendent, whose hiring and contract renewal would be subject to the approval of a council of regional politicians.

The Los Angeles mayor would dominate the council through voting weighted by city population, and would also assume more direct control over a cluster of some of the district's lowest-performing schools.

The council of mayors does not have the power to fire a sitting superintendent, however, and so many saw the district's selection of Brewer before the legislation took effect as a move to one-up the mayor. Villaraigosa criticized the timing of the pick when it was made, but he made no such comments Wednesday.

"He's the right guy at the right time," Villaraigosa said of Brewer.

The legislation also gives the council of mayors some oversight over the district's multibillion-dollar budget, although the exact delineation of power is somewhat vague. Villaraigosa and Brewer did not delve into any of the specifics of the new management structure Wednesday but did say they plan to meet every week, the same schedule for the mayor's regular meetings with Police Chief William Bratton.

Since his appointment was announced, Brewer has been visiting various neighborhoods greeting officials and community members while continuing to negotiate his contract with the district in private.

The two parties are discussing a four-year contract, district sources said. Brewer is expected to sign a contract in the next few days and then formally take over for Romer in mid-November.

• Daily Breeze staff writer Paul Clinton contributed to this story.

by Bob Sipchen | School Me Column | LA Times

October 23, 2006 - Last week, the school board forced Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa into a shotgun marriage with a former vice admiral. The question now is, who'll wear the pants?

The mayor was traipsing about Asia gathering foreign affairs bona fides for his 2012 presidential bid, when, in a splendid flanking maneuver, Navy lifer David Brewer slipped into town, got himself appointed schools boss, and launched a photo-op counterattack so dazzling it looked suspiciously like the prelude to a 2009 mayoral candidacy.

The mayor lashed out. "I am deeply disappointed that the school board would move ahead with selecting a superintendent without the participation of the council of mayors, parents and the Los Angeles community," he said from China. Then, apparently recognizing that — whoops! — his ill-timed junket had left him helpless, he added that he looked forward to meeting Brewer and "working with him, parents and teachers to improve our schools."

Brewer initially portrayed himself as humble and eager to "partner" with Villaraigosa. As his PR-athon wore on, however, there were subtle signs that either:

1) Board President Marlene Canter's gutsy defiance of the mayor's pending power grab was rubbing off, or

2) The sizable ego-vacuum created by the mayor's absence was so tempting he figured he'd step right in.

Either way, by the time Brewer appeared on outgoing Supt. Roy Romer's vanity cable TV show Tuesday night, he was answering questions about such matters as raising additional dough for poor schools by casually tossing off ways that the mayor could "step up and help" him — a nuance that will not be lost on anyone in City Hall.

Forgive the city folks if they're insecure. The district Brewer is poised to run had a $6.8-billion budget last year — a few billion bucks more than the mayor had to spend — and its $19.3-billion building plan makes the city's construction efforts look like so much pothole repair.

Another thing: On Tuesday, the board will probably be asked to ratify a four-year contract with the man it secretly selected, agreeing to pay him a salary just under an informally agreed upon ceiling of, from what I've heard, about $300,000 and perks.

The mayor makes a mere $193,908 a year.

Brewer has yet to grant me an audience. From what I've seen, though, he would appear to be a surprisingly strong choice for the often-weak board — a tough, inspirational, Colin Powell-like leader who belies the board's notion that aspirants to this job are of an exceedingly delicate breed and must be shielded from the pain of public scrutiny.

That's important. This is a bellicose district, and Brewer's war college days may prove to be the most important schooling he got. As he and the mayor grapple for dominance, some old-school players will try to paint the tensions in stark black and brown.

Identity politics has had a nasty grip on this city for too long, though, and any leader's ability to save the schools depends on rising above the sort of adolescent Latino vs. African American mayhem currently plaguing many campuses. Brewer's time in the military — one of the most ethnically diverse institutions we've got — will help on that front. Even if his pep talks inspire racial harmony, though, it won't be the end of his woes. The moment his pledge to focus on disadvantaged kids and dropouts brings together blacks and browns, some white or Asian mom (or engineer dad who happens to be black) will blindside him with a complaint about a high-achieving school's lack of a robotics team.

L.A. Unified, after all, is anything but unified. It has some of the nation's best schools and some of its worst. And the district's rainbow-colored middle class represents not just the other side of the so-called achievement gap, but (remember Valley secession?) a genuine insurgent threat.

Outside one of the admiral's meet-and-greets, Franny Parrish, president of a Valley-area Parent Teacher Student Assn., offered a take on "inequality" that puts the issue of educational haves and have-nots in a different light. After awarding Brewer high marks as a motivator, she gave the district a tongue-lashing for shoveling Title I money into schools in poor neighborhoods while telling the high-achieving schools she represents to, say, fix their broken Xerox machines by holding bake sales.

No matter how much someone cares about "the children," he's not going to sacrifice his own child to the cause, and the men who would reform the schools need strategies for addressing that messy fact.

The mayor and the admiral are scheduled to meet for the first time Wednesday. Brewer talks about the tumultuous months leading up to his arrival as PB — Pre-Brewer — and almost seems to imagine that the mayor will notice the new kid's resolve and trot back to City Hall, never to utter the word "education" again.

Not likely. The mayor cares too much, has too much at stake.

There is, however, hope that the city can avoid several years of pointless squabbling.

Some observers, including attorney and veteran school-watcher Connie Rice, say that Villaraigosa's pragmatic ability to work with big-ego Police Chief Bill Bratton portends that he and Brewer, too, will eventually find marital equilibrium based on mutual respect.

Let's hope so. Divorce isn't an option. And the kids have suffered enough.

FAMILY BUSINESS (or) now we know where some of the not enough No Child left Behind money goes: BUSH FAMILY PROFITS FROM 'NO CHILD' ACT (LA Times)

NEXT LEADER OF L.A. SCHOOL DISTRICT VOWS TO REMOVE 'BAD TEACHERS': Brewer expects to be 'vilified' for doing so.

By Joel Rubin and Howard Blume, Times Staff Writers

October 27, 2006 ― Los Angeles' incoming schools chief vowed Thursday to make removing "bad teachers" a major focus of his plan to improve schools — and made clear he was willing to sacrifice his early popularity over the issue.

"I'm going to be unpopular," said David L. Brewer, who is expected to take over as schools superintendent by the middle of next month.

"It's called the right teacher in the right classroom in the right school…. Some people do not belong in the classroom, OK? They don't belong there. We're gonna get them out. The question is how is the system going to react to the way we get them out."

Brewer, 60, made the comments as part of a wide-ranging discussion with Times reporters and editors about his early impressions of the Los Angeles Unified School District and his plans to reform the nation's second-largest school system.

During the hourlong conversation, Brewer repeated his belief that dropouts remain one of the district's greatest problems.

He reiterated his intent to forge ties with city agencies that serve poor, at-risk children and said he would focus on a quick, dramatic overhaul of the district's long-overlooked middle schools. Brewer also indicated that he plans to streamline the mammoth district by slashing the size of its bureaucracy.

But in promising to take on poorly performing teachers, the retired Navy admiral steered headlong into perhaps the most volatile waters he will navigate as superintendent.

School principals and other administrators often bemoan the time and effort it takes to remove ineffective teachers, citing the extensive job protection granted in the union contract and under state law as a key barrier to reforming a school.

It is a frequently made charge that angers union leaders, who say teachers deserve and need the protection to defend against incompetent or vindictive principals.

When read a transcript of Brewer's comments, A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said the incoming superintendent has much to learn about the school district.

"He's also going to have to understand that a major cause of problems at schools are principals and assistant principals who are not team builders or team leaders," Duffy said.

"I hope he schools himself in the issue of administrators who are top-down, 'Do what I say' people rather than … team-building, collaborative people who regard and respect classroom teachers," Duffy said.

"We will continue to fight tooth and nail to protect our folks who are speaking out at school sites and representing teachers."

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa also focused Thursday on the role of teachers in the effort, but he emphasized reforming what he called an oversized bureaucracy that thwarts the best efforts of a mostly superlative teaching corps.

"The key to reform has to be a partnership with teachers," the mayor told a gathering of about 60 school union representatives and others in a Presbyterian church in the Wilshire district.

Under state law, school districts can dismiss teachers during their first two years on the job without providing a reason. After two years, administrators must meticulously document poor performance over time, formally declare the intention to dismiss the teacher and then give the instructor time to improve. It is an often-futile process, district officials say, that can take years to complete.

As of last year, Los Angeles Unified administrators had attempted to dismiss 112 permanent teachers — a small fraction of the district's roughly 37,000 instructors — over the last decade. Some were fired; most resigned or retired.

Brewer acknowledged the dangers and difficulties of trying to push burnt-out or ineffective teachers from the classroom.

"That's the third rail. That's Social Security, and I know it. And I'm just going to have to put my hand on it. And I know it's going to be tough. I'm going to be vilified. I'm going to get called all kinds of names."

He offered no details on how he would follow through, but indicated that after being given a chance to improve, some teachers would be transferred to nonclassroom assignments while others would be encouraged to retire.

"I'm not saying you need to be unfair. You need to go in there and coach and work and train and do all the professional development you can," he said. "But there's an old saying: There are two kinds of birds: chickens and eagles. If you throw an eagle up, eventually it's going to fly. If you throw a chicken up in the air, all it's going to do is poop on you. Eventually, you got to understand it's a chicken and leave 'em in the yard."

Brewer and Duffy are scheduled to meet for the first time next week over dinner. When they do, Duffy probably will have other concerns to raise.

On Thursday, Brewer praised the district's implementation of Open Court, a reading program that provides teachers with scripted lesson plans and is required in nearly all elementary schools. Union officials strongly oppose what they characterize as overreliance on centralized programs, saying they can stifle teachers and overemphasize standardized testing.

Villaraigosa indicated that he too has concerns about mandated teaching plans.

"The art of teaching is every bit as important as the science of teaching," Villaraigosa said.

Brewer, the mayor and Duffy seem to share a common view, however, on the school system's bureaucracy. Duffy and Villaraigosa have called for the district to make cuts to what they say are its bloated ranks.

"There are too many administrators in the district … and they know I intend to do something about that," the mayor said.

Brewer sounded a similar note Thursday, saying he had made it clear during his job interviews with the Board of Education that he intended to slim down the district's roster of roughly 36,000 administrators and support staff.

"I said: 'I hate bureaucracy. So I'm going to go after this piece, OK? I'm going to transform this organization. You want me? That's what you're going to get,' " Brewer recounted.

And after outgoing Supt. Roy Romer's focus on reforms in elementary and high schools, Brewer pledged to turn his attention to improving instruction in the middle schools.

With many students promoted each year to high school unprepared for the increased rigor and many middle- and upper-class parents opting to remove their children from the district after elementary school, Brewer said he expects "to go after the middle schools with reckless abandon."

"If the community works with me and gets me the support I need," he said, "I will fix the middle-school problem in the next two or three years — no problem."

by Bill Hetherman | City News Service

Tuesday, October 24, 2006 - LOS ANGELES - A judge said Monday she will decide on a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of legislation giving L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa partial control of the Los Angeles Unified School District before considering whether the state's Voting Rights Act was violated.

The lawsuit - filed Oct. 10 in Los Angeles Superior Court by a coalition of the LAUSD, parents, students, administrators and the League of Women Voters - maintains the legislation is unconstitutional and infringes on the rights of voters.

The plaintiffs want a judge to overturn Assembly Bill 1381, which was signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarz- enegger last month and gave the mayor the authority he wanted over the district.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs said that after a Dec. 15 non-jury trial on all other issues in the case, she will consider the plaintiffs' allegation that the legislation violates the Voting Rights Act.

Assistant Los Angeles City Attorney Valerie L. Flores said such a violation can only be determined based on actual election results. She also said the legislators were aware of the state's Voting Rights Act when they passed AB 1381.

California Deputy Attorney General Susan K. Leach, representing Gov. Arnold Schwarz- enegger, concurred. She said an election has to occur before allegations of Voting Rights Act violations can be proven, and that doesn't apply in this case. Leach described the district's argument as a contention that one state statute was in violation of another state law.

However, Frederic D. Woocher, an attorney for the LAUSD and most of the other plaintiffs, said the violations can be proven by examining voter patterns.

Meanwhile, Janavs set a Nov. 7 hearing on whether a group of parents of LAUSD students in support of AB 1381 can intervene as defendants in the lawsuit to try and help persuade the judge the law should go into effect as scheduled Jan. 1.

Paul J. Wotford, an attorney who represents the proposed intervenors, said he does not yet know how many parents are involved.

Woocher said he opposes the proposed intervention, and Janavs said she will have to be convinced it is warranted.

Janavs has set a timetable for the lawyers to submit briefs and a proposed statement of decision. She also put limits on the number of document pages because of the time she will need to review them.

Villaraigosa, the state, Schwarzenegger, state Controller Steve Westly and Los Angeles County schools Superintendent Darline Robles are all defendants in the case, which mayoral aide Matt Szabo has called a "frivolous lawsuit and a desperate attempt to preserve the failed status quo."

AB 1381 shifts most of the decision-making authority from the seven-member LAUSD board to the superintendent; creates a council of mayors, giving a significant role to Los Angeles' mayor in managing the nation's second-largest school district; and gives individual schools greater control over their budgets and curriculum during a six-year trial period.

The mayor also gets direct control over the district's three lowest-performing high schools and their feeder campuses.

Before the bill was signed, the school board voted 6-1 to challenge AB 1381's legality.

Unintended Consequences of AB1381: LAUSD RUSHING TO BEAT DEADLINE FOR GRANT FUNDS (Daily News)


Opinion by Marian Bergeson | The Argus/Inside Bay Area

10/26/2006 - For many parents, the last few weeks have meant the beginning of a new school year — taking kids to the bus stop, packing lunches and buying school supplies. For educators it has meant getting back to the classroom to set them up, plan lessons and meet a new group of students.

Those of us worried about the future of our schools should be concerned about one particular ballot question — Proposition 87 — which not only will impose an oil tax, but would hurt education too. According to California's independent Legislative Analyst, Proposition 87 would decrease state and local tax revenues available for schools and other vital services. In addition, the initiative skirts preexisting education funding requirements contained in the state Constitution, passed nearly two decades ago through Proposition 98.

The principal author of Proposition 98, who also served as California's secretary of education, estimates that the oil tax initiative could deny K-12 education up to $1.9 billion over the next 10 years. The lost revenue has caught the attention of Larry Reider, superintendent of education for Kern County, who is one of many education leaders to oppose Proposition 87.

"We are concerned about the cycle of statewide ballot initiatives which constitutionally lock away funding in protected accounts, keeping education's fair share out of reach."

Just as troubling is the impact on local revenues. A report by the Legislative Analyst Office also found that it would reduce local property tax revenues. The California State Association of Counties and organizations representing firefighters and police officers have come out against this measure because of the reductions in state and local revenue. Those revenue losses will be especially devastating for our schools.

On top of the revenue impact of this initiative, the higher fuel prices that come as a result of taxing California-produced oil will place an additional strain on school district transportation budgets.

While California's educators certainly do not deny the need for alternative energy research, we believe that Proposition 87 is simply the wrong means of doing so. Despite ads trying to convince us that we have an opportunity to stick it to the oil companies, we'll be sticking it to our kids. Ultimately this initiative will hurt California businesses, hurt our local governments, and our schools.

As we look around our classrooms and think about what we need to give our students the education they deserve, we need to give Proposition 87 a serious look. When the facts are in and we see the effects on our schools, teachers and parents will see that it is an ill-conceived measure on all fronts, with particularly grim consequences for California's pupils.

Proposition 87 gets a well-deserved F.

• Marian Bergeson is the past president of the California School Boards Association.

► NO ON PROPOSITION R: Extending City Council Term Limits is Fine, Circumventing the Ethics Commission is Not.

LA Times Endorsement

October 24, 2006 - Los Angeles' Proposition R would relax term limits for City Council members from two terms to three, allowing officeholders to serve a maximum of 12 years. Looked at in a vacuum, it would be a positive step — allowing members to focus more on the long-term good of the city, less on plotting the next stops of their political careers. Unfortunately, it comes with too big a price tag.

The problems start with the fact that Proposition R blends term limits with a mixed bag of changes to city ethics laws. Bundling the two might yet be declared illegal; if the measure passes, there will be a hearing Nov. 28.

The ethics provisions would tighten some rules for lobbyists and impose a host of other provisions. None of them are inherently bad, and some might even be good. The problem is that the reforms circumvent and in some cases contradict the city's Ethics Commission, which voters set up in 1990 to examine the minutiae of political fundraising, lobbying, contracting and so on. The commission has given the City Council dozens of recommendations, and members have passed some but notoriously sat on many others, especially those having to do with campaign finance.

Some of the provisions in Proposition R are directly contrary to the Ethics Commission's recommendations. Others are good steps that City Council members could (and should) take care of anytime by passing an ordinance, not by prettifying a ballot measure that protects their own jobs.

And make no mistake — that's exactly what's going on here. Campaign mailers are billing this as a housecleaning measure to reform corrupt city practices; term limits are only mentioned by way of implying, falsely, that no such limits currently exist.

Voters deserve a chance to extend elected officials' terms fairly. That's why we urge a "no" vote on Proposition R.

▲smf adds: There is additional history complicating this unfortunate amendment to the Los Angeles City Charter.
• Besides (and probably worse) than the end around of the Ethics Commission, charter amendments are supposed to be vetted through the Neighborhood Councils. That never happened with R.
• Complicating the ethics question, the Yes on R campaign has sent out mailers implying endorsement from officials who actually oppose the measure.
• A court has already opined that this proposition violates the amendment procedures for the city charter – with the City Attorney concurring – and ordered the proposition removed from the ballot. It is only on the ballot pending appeal – and is likely a waste of ballot paper, ink, the taxpayer's money and the voters' time.
• This wouldn't be an issue for 4LAKids – an admittedly single issue screed – except for this: There was an obvious quid-pro-quo between the city council and the mayor — with the mayor supporting Prop R in exchange for the council's support of AB 1381 – the mayor's similarly city-charter-and-state-constitutionally-challenged schools takeover.


by Harrison Sheppard, Sacramento Bureau, LA Daily News

10/24/2006 - SACRAMENTO - As they struggle to grab the public's attention in a crowded election season, the candidates for state controller have sparred over each other's experience and who can competently oversee the state's finances.

But one thing both candidates - former Assemblyman Tony Strickland and Board of Equalization Chairman John Chiang - agree on is the need for the controller to audit the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Strickland said he wants to do it because spending on education is the state's biggest expense, and LAUSD is the state's biggest district.

"Obviously the money's not getting in the classroom," he said. "This will send a loud message to all school districts that someone's overseeing the checkbook of the state of California and we need to be more efficient when we spend our tax dollars."

Other state agencies have already performed audits of the district. The Bureau of the State Auditor released a report last month that found several problems, including administrator salaries that were higher than in comparable districts, reorganizations that failed to reduce personnel and ineffective parent councils.

Chiang agrees on the need for an audit but would stick to more financial and spending issues rather than educational performance - a report that is beyond the controller's legal jurisdiction.

"I think frankly it would be disingenuous to taxpayers," he said. "It's a bad idea to put state employees in a position to do something that legally they can't do."

LAUSD board member David Tokofsky attributed the push for an audit to campaign politics, noting the district has been the subject of many audits over the years.

"Usually these kinds of campaign excesses are about the last days of a close race," Tokofsky said. "L.A. Unified and public schools too often in this country have become the punching bag of politicians. And that's unfortunate, because when we punch at our public schools, we're punching at our very nature of society."

Besides the LAUSD audit, Strickland said he would like to see the controller be more aggressive in collecting unpaid taxes and finding the rightful owners of unclaimed property. He would also examine state health-care expenses and fraud in the Medi-Cal program.

Chiang said he wants the controller to have more investigative and auditing personnel to help collect unpaid taxes. He would also like to go after abusive tax shelters.

Strickland is a former assemblyman from Ventura County who now heads a private conservative group that advocates for low taxes in California. Chiang is chairman of the state Board of Equalization. Both candidates have roots in and around the San Fernando Valley.

Strickland, 36, lives in Moorpark with his wife, Audra, who now holds his former Assembly seat, and their 1-year-old daughter.

Chiang, 44, lived in Northridge and Chatsworth for 18 years until moving earlier this year to Torrance so his wife could be closer to her job in El Segundo in the Wells Fargo marketing department.

Though the two candidates criticize each other's policies, the tone of the campaign has mostly remained positive, albeit low-profile because it is a down-ticket race.

Chiang has a slight edge in fundraising, $1.9 million to $1.3 million.

A Field Poll in August found most voters didn't know either candidate. More than 80 percent had no impression of either man.

SCHOOLS VIOLATE TRANSLATION LAW: State audit reports lack of compliance on notices sent to pupils' parents

By Michelle Maitre and Linh Tat, STAFF WRITERS, Inside Bay Area

10/28/2006 - A state audit released this week shows that California public schools are not always complying with a law requiring them to provide translated notices for parents whose primary language is not English.

In addition, some schools told auditors they did not think demand was high for translated materials. Local school districts also identified the lack of qualified translators as a challenge.

Last year, the Newark school district was unable to find a qualified Cantonese translator, and this year it is looking for Portuguese and Japanese translators, district employee Joan Carter said.

Although there are community members willing to serve as translators, Carter said they do not meet all the criteria set forth under federal guidelines for the district to hire them.

Additionally, some people only feel comfortable giving written translations, while others choose to provide only spoken translations, said Kathy Moniz, executive director of student services for the New Haven district, which has had problems finding Korean and Japanese translators.

"The difficulty that we have is that some of the languages have hundreds of dialects, so it's difficult sometimes to honor the specific dialect requested," she said.

While schools try to find interpreters for different languages, in the Tri-City area, Spanish is the only language other than English in which all three districts are required to send written materials home.

The New Haven district is starting to send materials home in Tagalog this year, after meeting the 15 percent threshold at Alvarado Elementary School, and the district plans to offer more translation services as part of its strategic plan, spokesman Rick La Plante said.

In the Fremont school district, many employees speak a variety of languages, including Farsi, Urdu and Mandarin, and can serve as interpreters, district spokesman Gary Leatherman said.

For schools not complying with the law, the state audit provided a number of recommendations, including a revised home language survey asking parents to indicate the language in which they would like to receive documents.

A new law that goes into effect Jan. 1 requires the state Department of Education to play a larger role in informing districts of the translation law.

Education Department spokeswoman Hilary McLean said the state already provides an online clearinghouse of documents that have been translated into dozens of languages that schools can use to meet the needs of their student body.

Schools often struggle to meet the needs of students and the "hundreds of languages that are spoken" throughout the state.

"There are students from all over the world that come to school in California," McLean said.

►CDE Clearinghouse for Multilingual Documents:


EVENTS: Coming up next week — ZOO MAGNET CAREER FAIRE ’06 + ONE NEW SCHOOL + Community Outreach Meetings
ZOO MAGNET CAREER FAIRE ’06: Become a Coroner or play one on T.V.? —students to explore career possibilities . . .

Friday, November 3, 2006
8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m
ZOO MAGNET CAMPUS in Griffith Park.
(North End of Zoo Parking Lot)

Students at North Hollywood High School’s Zoo Magnet will not have to wait until after college to begin learning what the job market has to offer. They will soon explore a broad spectrum of job options at the Zoo Magnet Career Faire ’06.

Prominent speakers from around the greater Los Angeles area will be making presentations, topics include:

Leonard Reder - Principal R&D Software Engineer and Jo Eliza Pitesky – Planet Hunter/Astrophysicist, will present an overview of JPL and discuss their involvement in a number of projects including a Rover analysis, and an Astronomical Interferometer that links two telescopes located on the summit of Mona Kea,

Zoo Education Curator, Michelle Mills, will discuss what exactly it takes to run a zoo and how one goes about training for a life in an animal-related field.

Deputy Medical Examiner, Dr. Pedro M. Ortiz-Colom, will talk about the advantages of a pathological career including a virtual tour of the Coroner’s office and a graphic presentation on case management; not for the faint of heart.

Who plants the trees, builds bridges, and maintains public works? Senior Civil Engineering Assistant, Alvin Cruz, and Senior Secretary IV, Tranette Sanders, will discuss exciting professions not often thought of, in the Department of Public Works.

Career Advisor and work experience teacher, Joe Lane, will discuss techniques for securing and holding onto a job, and laws that govern the workplace.

Talent agent Jamie Ferrar/Jamie Ferrar Agency and Talent Manager Olivia Allen/Little Red Door Management will lecture on the necessary tools needed for a career in acting - - everything from headshots to joining the unions.

Small animal veterinarian at McClave Veterinary Hospital, Dr. Nada Khalaf, will focus on the diverse career opportunities within veterinary medicine, including employment at the pre-veterinary level as a technician or an assistant.

Principal investigator of the Neural Stem Cell Program at the Neurosurgical Institute, Dr. Dwain Morris-Irvin, will talk about the potential use of stem cells, and novel therapeutic approaches to treating brain diseases and brain disorders.

A SIGNATURE AFFAIR: A Personal Chart for Career Success
Beverly Murray, Senior Employee Relations Consultant at Cedar Sinai Hospital will show students how to chart a career that will be unique to their own desires, goals, and skills.

• A unique learning environment established in 1981, THE ZOO MAGNET CENTER has been a model small learning community and a proud member of the North Hollywood High School family.

For further information about Career Faire ‘06 or the Zoo Magnet Center please contact Lee McManus at (323) 660-0165. You can find out more about Zoo Magnet at their web site:

Monday Oct 30, 2006
Presentation of Recommended Project Definitions
6:00 p.m.
Graham Elementary School
8407 S. Fir Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90001

Monday Oct 30, 2006
SOUTH REGION SPAN K-8 #1: CEQA Scoping Meeting
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Broad Avenue Elementary School Auditorium
24815 Broad Ave.
Wilmington, CA 90744

Wednesday Nov 01, 2006
Please join us to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of your new community school!
Ceremony will begin at 10 a.m.
Belmont New Elementary School #6
100 N. New Hampshire Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90004

Wednesday Nov 01, 2006
SOUTH REGION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL #6: Pre-Design Meeting-Meet the Architect
6:00 p.m.
61st Street Elementary School
6020 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90003

Wednesday Nov 01, 2006
HELEN BERNSTEIN HIGH SCHOOL (Central LA Area New HS #1/Metromedia)
Construction Update Meeting
6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Le Conte Middle School - Auditorium
1316 N. Bronson Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Wednesday Nov 01, 2006
6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Noble New Elementary School
8600 Kester Ave.
Panorama City, CA 91402

Thursday Nov 02, 2006
SOUTH LOS ANGELES HIGH SCHOOL #3: Recommended Preferred Site Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Budlong Elementary School
5940 S. Budlong Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90044

*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 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6383

...or your city councilperson, mayor, 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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