Sunday, June 03, 2007

One bird sings | Ten thousand stars dance

4LAKids: Sunday, June 3, 2007
In This Issue:
“This morning I opened my eyes at 4:00 a.m. and realized with deep despair that I am no longer a teacher of young children.”
DISABLED ACCESS IN SCHOOLS FAULTED: Random audit finds that 19 L.A. Unified schools have not made upgrades for the handicapped.
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:
4LAKids Anthology: All the Past Issues, solved, resolved and unsolved!
4LAKidsNews: a compendium of recent items of interest - news stories, scurrilous rumors, links, academic papers, rants and amusing anecdotes, etc.
“This morning I opened my eyes at 4:00 a.m. and realized with deep despair that I am no longer a teacher of young children.”
by Robin Atwood

Friday, May 25, 2007

"I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance."
e. e. cummings

Last week, after twenty years of introducing first graders to the power of words, I wrote words I never thought I’d write: Please accept this letter as formal notification that I am leaving my position. . . .I had put off writing the words simply because I couldn’t think of what to write. Suggestions from friends included such eloquent missives as "I quit" and "Take this job and shove it". But did I quit the system, or did the system quit me? And no, I do not want them to take the job and shove it. I want them to take the job and restore some dignity to it. Better yet, I want them not to take the job at all but to get their hands off it and let someone do it well and with passion.

While my co-workers spent the past four days attending meetings about next year, I worked in my classroom, packing away materials I hope to use again some day. While they looked over the schedule for testing every child in early August in order to get baseline data outlining the "basic skills" the children cannot perform, I packed away juggling scarves and pondered: What is basic? It seems to me that the term "basic" encompasses all those things human beings would do if there were no outside interference. "Basic" is organic. I imagine a conversation between Abraham and Sarah sitting under the stars in Mesopotamia. Isaac is sleeping in the tent behind them. Sarah says, "Is there anything you’d like to do before I douse the cookfire?" Abraham scratches his beard, thinks a moment, says "I know! Let’s segment some phonemes!" Sarah says, "Nah. We did that last night. Why don’t we do phoneme deletion tonight?" Basic. If left completely alone, people would work to find effective ways to communicate, discover artistic ways to explore beauty and truth, invent tools and machines to make their work easier. Basic. And, yes, woven into and throughout the basic there would be wordplay: bibbity bobbity boo, john jacob jingleheimer schmidt, flip flap flee I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree. I can’t imagine that there would be such inorganic permutations of letters as voj or fek.

I pack away the multi-cultural paint and remember the day we made an amazing discovery: Ain’t none of us black and ain’t none of us white. I think back to the day last November when the world began to crumble under my feet, the day I sat in a meeting and was told we would be administering DIBELS next year. "DIBELS?", I asked in disbelief. "Wait a minute. Back up, please. This district has purchased DIBELS? Without asking the teachers?" Oh, yes, I was told. The state is really cracking down on progress monitoring. We must have something in place to test the children three times a year for comparative data, and every two weeks for those who do not measure up. DIBELS is quick and easy. "But it only gives information that is not useful," I said, still struggling to make sense of the news. "The tasks it tests are not things I want my children to be able to do anyway." We have to have something. It’s quick and easy. Quick and easy. Quick and easy. Quick and easy.

Becoming literate is not quick and easy, I’ll have them know. It happens over a lifetime. It’s not something you do; it’s something you are. It’s the velveteen rabbit you love the fur off of until it becomes real. I cannot spend the first week of August asking children "What do you get if you take the /ch/ off chair?" Nothing you can sit on, that’s for sure. NCLB is taking more than the /ch/. They’re taking the rest of it, too. The very air is being sucked right out of our classrooms. If I don’t spend the first week of August, all of August, all of the entire year, asking "What do you love? What are you afraid of? What do you think? What do you feel? What do you dream?", then I can’t teach the children. If I don’t observe them while they’re building their Play-doh sculptures, performing their puppet plays, playing with the parachute in the yard, then I can’t know as much as I need to know about their oral language patterns, their work habits, their thought processes. I don’t want to give them busywork to do while I test children individually. I want to sit on the rug with them and read aloud Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and laugh and giggle at her reverse psychology methods. I can’t teach them if I don’t do these things and they can’t learn from me if I don’t tell them all about my fear of dogs when I was in first grade, the morning I went to get in the car for Daddy to take us to school and saw the neighbor’s house was on fire, the time I spent with my aunt while Mama and Daddy were on a business trip and the only thing I would eat was grits three times a day, and that I cried every single day of first grade–every single day–because I wanted to stay home and play on my swing set and read Nancy Drew instead of Dick and Jane. The reason I became a first grade teacher is that I hated first grade so very much because the teacher put us all through the same program of "basic skills" even though some of the children didn’t know the alphabet and I could already read the newspaper. I was determined never to do that to children. Never to standardize; always to individualize. That was 36 years ago, and we know too much to do that to children now, don’t we? Apparently not.

I roll up the rug, and I am overcome with remembering all the time I spent on rugs with children over the last 20 years. I remember the day we were sharing our fears and Maddie spoke very slowly, cautiously choosing the words through which she would bare her soul: "I still watch Barney. I’ve been scared to tell anybody that. That’s what I’ve been scared of. That somebody would find out." A tense moment followed the cathartic confession she’d made on the safe territory of the rug. Then, gradually, one by one, others began confessing that they, too, watched Barney or Teletubbies. Connections were made, bonds were forged, sighs of release and relief issued forth. After that, when we used Maddie’s "Barney" word card for word sorts, it was so much more than an r-controlled vowel and a proper noun and a capitalization rule, though it was all of that. It had feelings and emotions and new concepts attached to it.

I have wondered often since November if I am doing the right thing by leaving. Shouldn’t I stand in the gap? Shouldn’t I try to be an Esther in the palace saving her people? I don’t truly know. I think maybe the only life I can save is my own. As I packed the jump ropes and the handbells and Mac Davis’s "I Believe in Music" CD, I wondered if they’d ever be used again. At least I could’ve tried to work in some good things around all the testing, right? I really don’t think so. The struggle of going to work every day and having to choose between being a good employee or a good teacher, a choice none of us should have to make, became too much for me. The changing of definitions became too much. A good assessment is quick and easy? Being "professional" is implementing the plan handed down without asking any questions? I had reached the point where I could hardly look the children in the eye; I knew I’d let them down, but I didn’t know how to get around all the paperwork and testing. How could I teach them when I was so busy doing paperwork and testing them so I could prove I’d taught them?

People need to realize this is far more than that swinging pendulum you hear so much about in education. Good teachers never swung with that thing anyway. Good teachers don’t go back and forth, only forward. When good teachers can’t go forward because someone has thrown such a heavy weight on them that they can’t even pick up their feet, where can they go but home, I ask you? I ask you, because I truly do not know. . I cannot stand in the gap anymore. I tried to, and they knocked me down and walked right over me. I think of Mac Davis’s song, and I want to be "young and rich and free". I think of my favorite line in Charlotte’s Web: An hour of freedom is worth more than a barrel of slops. So I run free.

"Nor all your tears wash out a word of it. . ."

►Robin Atwood is/was a first grade teacher in Seminary, Miss.

SEM•I•NARY Pronunciation: 'se-m&-"ner-E
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -nar•ies
Etymology: Middle English, seedbed, nursery, from Latin seminarium, from semin-, semen seed
1 : an environment in which something originates and from which it is propagated [a seminary of vice and crime]
2 a : an institution of secondary or higher education
— from Webster Online

Mrs. Atwood writes/wrote a blog, Robin Atwood’s First Grade News at that begins each entry with “Good Morning Boys and Girls” She also writes an adult blog at


EDITORIAL from the Los Angeles Times

June 3, 2007 — THE LAWSUIT has been dropped, the board is about to morph and almost everyone is impatient for change. So the question of the moment is: What next for L.A.'s schools? Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and his new majority of allies on the board have plenty of work ahead. They must revisit lost ambitions and set new priorities for making the schools more transparent, accountable and, above all, effective centers of learning:

DON'T FORGET THE AUDIT. For well over a year, the mayor and City Controller Laura Chick have called for Chick's office to conduct an independent financial audit of the Los Angeles Unified School District, whose $11-billion budget is a murky affair to even the most erudite outsiders. The board and former Supt. Roy Romer resisted. The new board and Supt. David L. Brewer should welcome the scrutiny.

THE SPIDER-MAN RULE. The flavor of the year is "local control" — allocating more money and decision-making to schools rather than centralizing it at district headquarters. This approach is popular with parents, who want more say, and United Teachers Los Angeles, whose member teachers crave a return to what they see as the more creative and fulfilling old days. But the district has changed; a quarter of LAUSD's roughly 700,000 students move every year. A consistent curriculum and instructional approach minimize the disruption to their education.

There's nothing inherently wrong with empowering campuses, which is the case at many charter schools. But history offers a lesson here: The district didn't centralize power without reason. In the old days, teachers might have enjoyed their creativity, but many students weren't learning how to read or do math.

Uncle Ben's line from "Spider-Man" is as apt for L.A. schools as it was for Peter Parker: With great power comes great responsibility. Charter teachers have more authority because they put their jobs on the line; they can be fired for poor performance and charter schools can be closed for failing to raise test scores. The district should hand more control to schools only with strict accountability.

It's about teaching. Redirecting power, making schools smaller — these might help, but they shouldn't be confused with real reform, which is about instruction, not structure: fine teachers, strong curriculum (that means keeping LAUSD's highly successful Open Court reading program), excellent textbooks.

The district needs more coherent, accountable teacher training and the authority to fire ineffective teachers and reward star staff. Principals need relief from rigid contract rules that keep them from assigning teachers where needed and asking them to do what it takes to raise achievement. The board and Villaraigosa — who has longtime UTLA ties — must push hard against the union's intransigence, insisting on a contract that works best for students.

LEARN FROM CHARTERS. Rather than continue to be defensive about charter schools, the new board must invite charters with innovative programs to take over where the district's own schools have failed. Charter schools offer safe, disciplined alternatives to LAUSD's more chaotic campuses, and higher academic ambitions. That's a choice all L.A. families should have.

THE OUTSIDERS. Villaraigosa and the school board's four newest members — Yolie Flores Aguilar, Tamar Galatzan, Monica Garcia and Richard Vladovic — have played valuable roles as high-profile critics of the district's status quo. Once inside the system, the natural temptation will be to turn cheerleader. That would be a mistake.

There must be firm benchmarks in place to measure progress. (See the Spider-Man rule.) Within two years, the dropout rate should fall by at least five percentage points, and the vast majority of middle and high schools should meet their growth targets under the state's testing program. Within that timeline, new charter schools should be flourishing in district-provided facilities in neighborhoods where LAUSD schools have fallen short. The teachers contract should include more realistic work rules, and the student discipline policy should be toughened and fully implemented.

►The LA Times is quite right, this is a tipping point; a paradigm shift. The weatherman we don’t need to know which way the wind blows forecasts a perfect storm brewing.

The Times in its history has been wrong and right and progressive and reactionary – read the New Yorker profile on Mayor Villaraigosa cited in the May 20th 4LAKids [link below] to see how wrong and right The Times had it on mayoral takeover of schools and how instrumental it was in all that happened. The Times in its aspiration to be “a national newspaper” may or may not even be relevant in Los Angles anymore …owned from afar, cutting back on newsroom staff, employee morale plummeting, being sold or selling out, no longer carrying a education column.

It’s too soon to call for last rites but time will tell if The Times doesn’t. —smf

The New Yorker profile on Mayor Villaraigosa

►DISTRICT BLOCKS LOCKE HIGH'S DEPARTURE: Saying most tenured teachers no longer back a takeover, L.A. Unified tosses out Green Dot's charter plan. The firm's founder cries foul.

by Joel Rubin, LA Times Staff Writer

June 2, 2007 — In the high-stakes struggle for control over one of the city's most troubled public schools, Los Angeles school district officials have rejected plans by a leading charter group to take over the campus.

Last month, Green Dot Public Schools announced that it had collected "signatures of interest" from a majority of the tenured teachers at Locke High School — clearing the major legal hurdle toward converting the campus into a series of charter schools.

But on Friday, Los Angeles Unified School District officials threw out the formal takeover plan submitted by Green Dot on grounds that the group no longer has the support of a majority of the teachers. Many faculty members rescinded their signatures, district officials said, because of confusion over the proposed takeover.

The district's decision drew a quick and angry response from Green Dot leaders, who accused district leaders of deliberately trying to undermine their efforts. They vowed to push ahead with plans to convert Locke by 2008.

Charters are publicly funded but run independently, outside of many of the regulations imposed by school districts. In exchange for the freedom to innovate in the classroom, charters must improve student performance.

Unlike the handful of other schools that converted to charters in L.A. Unified, Green Dot's gambit, if successful, would mark the first time an outside charter group organized a break from the district. Since Locke teachers indicated a willingness to leave the district, teachers at two other high schools have met with Green Dot founder Steve Barr to discuss possible partnerships.

The prospect of a teacher revolt at Locke, as well as losing control of a campus and its millions in state funds, had sent district and teacher union officials scrambling to counter Green Dot.

Within days of Green Dot's announcement, district officials had Locke Principal Frank Wells escorted off campus and relieved of his duties pending the outcome of a district investigation into allegations that he allowed teachers to leave their classrooms to collect and sign the petitions.

In hurried, closed-door faculty meetings, district officials tried to assuage frustrated teachers with sudden offers of increased authority and reforms. Officials also emphasized that, if the takeover went through, teachers would have to reapply to Green Dot for a job at the newly reconfigured Locke or transfer to another district school, and that Green Dot does not offer lifetime benefits provided by the district. And, because of strict state law, teachers were told their signatures would leave the district's Board of Education little choice but to approve Green Dot's takeover if it reached them for a vote.

After the meetings, 17 of the 41 teachers who had signed the petitions asked to remove their signatures, saying they had not fully understood the implications, district officials said.

"This is not a technicality of whether teachers signed the right form or not," said Kevin Reed, the district's general counsel. "This is a question of whether they had a true understanding of what they were signing."

Indeed, confusion seems to have pervaded every aspect of this power struggle between Green Dot and the district. Some teachers interviewed by The Times said that Wells and others who gathered signatures had not been clear on Green Dot's plan. Other teachers said they withdrew their signatures after district officials indicated they had put their district employment at risk.

One of those teachers, history instructor Frank Wiley, said that, like most faculty at Locke, he was desperate to see some improvements at the school, which has languished for years as one of the district's worst, where half of the 2,800 students drop out and others post dismally low scores in state testing.

Wiley signed the petition in hopes it would bring changes but had no intention of joining the Green Dot staff. District officials, he said, led him to believe that his signature was tantamount to resigning from the district and applying to Green Dot.

The petitions, copies of which were obtained by The Times, used language commonly included in charter conversions, in which signatures "indicate that [teachers] are meaningfully interested in teaching at this charter school."

Reed, senior district official Kathi Littmann and district Supt. David L. Brewer have said repeatedly in interviews that teachers were not coerced or pressured to change their minds.

Regardless, Barr accused district leaders of deliberately misleading teachers about Green Dot's takeover plan.

Barr expressed confidence that Green Dot would win back teachers — and regain the 13 signatures they need for a majority — after the faculty learns more about Green Dot's model, which places high demands on teachers but offers them higher pay and more autonomy over resources and curriculum.

Charter authorities in the state Department of Education said it was unclear whether Los Angeles Unified officials were allowed to summarily reject Green Dot's takeover proposal, or whether the Board of Education is required to vote on it. Without a formal rejection by the board, they said, Green Dot is unable to appeal to county and state officials.

If he is unsuccessful in wresting control of Locke from the district, Barr said he plans to use eight charters already approved by the school board to open schools in the neighborhoods around Locke.

At a meeting with parents and other community members scheduled for Wednesday at the school, district officials plan to further refine their own plans for changes at Locke, as well as the middle and elementary schools that feed it.

A.J. Duffy, president of the teachers union, said he was pleased Green Dot had "lit a fire" under district officials but criticized the way signatures had been collected.

"The problem here is there is no process that allows teachers to choose the particular reforms they want."

Another Viewpoint: TOO LITTLE TOO LATE FOR L.A.’S URBAN HIGH SCHOOLS by Areva D. Martin

DISABLED ACCESS IN SCHOOLS FAULTED: Random audit finds that 19 L.A. Unified schools have not made upgrades for the handicapped.

By Evelyn Larrubia, LA Times Staff Writer

May 31, 2007 — An audit of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s progress in building and remodeling schools to make them accessible to the disabled found chronic problems in the design of parking, restrooms, ramps and drinking water fountains, as well as a troubling lack of documentation and misstatements of accomplishments.

“We find this to be really offensive and frankly kind of squandering limited tax resources that are designed to build schools for everyone,” said Catherine Blakemore, a lawyer with the public interest law firm Protection and Advocacy.

Her firm was one of three that sued the school system in 1993 on behalf of disabled students, principally alleging that the district had failed to provide adequate special education.

The suit resulted in two consent decrees, known as the Chanda Smith decrees, in which the district agreed to make future schools accessible to the disabled and spend at least $87.5 million to upgrade existing campuses to provide access, in compliance with state and federal laws. An independent monitor was appointed by the court to review the district’s performance.

“The progress report raises serious issues,” school district general counsel Kevin Reed said in a written statement Wednesday. The school system is reviewing the report and will come up with an “action plan” within 60 days, he said. He did not address specific problems.

The audit, performed by Disability Access Consultants, found ramps with handrails that stopped short, new bleachers without wheelchair seating and outdoor lunch tables without wheelchair access. Bathrooms or stalls marked for use by the disabled did not provide proper clearance or the appropriate height for wheelchair users.

Auditors found numerous problems in each of the 19 schools selected randomly for compliance, including four new campuses.

It was the latest audit in a series commissioned by the monitor, but the first to tackle disabled access. In a scathing letter to the school board and superintendent, monitor Frederick Weintraub said the district had failed so dismally that it “appears indicative of a systemic problem in the management and oversight of the district’s facilities program.”

Weintraub directed the school system to hire an accessibility expert to oversee the upgrades.

Weintraub said it is impossible to know how much the district has spent on projects to improve access, because after nearly a year of meetings, telephone calls and broken promises, the district had acted in “bad faith” by failing to provide backup documentation for a majority of projects that had been chosen for the audit.

District staff acknowledged that three projects reported as completed had never been started, and a site visit of one school found that work that was shown to be finished was not.

The district kept a log intended to outline the renovations completed for disabled access, but the audit showed it to be “considerably inaccurate in many areas and a misrepresentation of funds expended. These inaccuracies extend beyond what may be characterized as reporting errors,” Weintraub wrote.

He questioned the district’s decision to include as disability access improvements $66 million in fire alarm strobe light upgrades, when the reduction of barriers should have been given higher priority. The log also included projects labeled class-size reduction and earthquake repair.

• “Franklyly kind of squandering?”, “‘Appears indicative’ of a systemic problem in the management and oversight of the district’s facilities program”. Really?

Kind of…? Appears to indicate…? This is about as mealy-mouthed and pussy-footy as the English language goes; how many maybes can one string together without getting a laugh? Is this a hard hitting accusation or an appeal for another audit contract?

Rumor has it that part of 'bad faith' shown was in failing to admit the surprise auditors when they showed up unannounced an unexpected at facilities that were not open. And that some of the non-compliance cited was in cases where waivers had been granted by the State Architect and/or State Board of Education. And perhaps a little ‘Goldilocks gotcha’ was played when access signs, etc., were found to be non-compliant if they were an inch or so too-high or too-low on doors, etc.

That being said, as someone with oversight over the district’s expenditures (…and presumably part of apparently indicated failure of oversight) I look forward to the official rather than the water cooler response to the audit report.

If it is true that projects reported as completed have never been started that is an egregious failure; heads should roll, etc.

I do no mean to question Mr. Weintraub’s lifelong commitment-to and expertise-on the educational needs of exceptional children but I do question his quoted assertion that fire alarm upgrades somehow have lower priority than access ramps. Fire alarm systems are outside the scope, mission and purview of the audit and I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb – or even into the realm of political incorrectness – in saying that the safety of all children and every child is-and-must-always-be the most important mission of the whole enterprise of public education. —smf


by Carla Rivera, Times Staff Writer

May 31, 2007 — The Los Angeles Unified School District on Wednesday announced the creation of a special fund to rebuild the historic auditorium at Garfield High School, gutted recently in a suspicious fire that caused an estimated $30 million in damage.

"We suffered a great tragedy when this magnificent and historical building was destroyed by fire," said Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. David L. Brewer, who was joined at a morning news conference in front of the East Los Angeles school by several lawmakers and business and community leaders. "We're looking forward to working with the community to rebuild this great auditorium. It's an opportunity in Los Angeles to do something good for all schools."

Arturo Sneider, founding partner of Primestor, a real estate development firm with ties in the Latino community, inaugurated fundraising by presenting school officials with a $25,000 check. In addition, Brewer said the school would soon receive an initial $2.5 million in insurance money for remediation, environmental testing and rebuilding.

Outgoing school board member David Tokofsky presented Brewer with a $500,000 check from his district discretionary fund to pay the insurance deductible. The building is fully insured for replacement, including code upgrades, said Steven La Shier, the district's deputy director of risk management. The policy also includes an antique historical building restoration clause. It is uncertain, however, how high rebuilding costs will climb.

Officials hope not only to rebuild the 1925 auditorium but also to reconstruct original architectural details such as the ornate plaster molding, handcrafted wooden seating, murals and paneled ceiling. One source of encouragement is the existence of the building's original plans and blueprints from 1924, which are vital to accurately replicate the design.

Tokofsky also invited school graduates with pictures or memories of the auditorium's earliest years to help fill in anthropological puzzle pieces, which will also be crucial for insurance claims.

"We're lucky enough to have the drawings, but that's not enough," Tokofsky said. "But in talking with historical architects, we need the texture of what those walls and ceilings looked like."

Still, some distinctive features such as the Depression-era glass chandeliers may be difficult or impossible to replace.

Assemblyman Charles M. Calderon (D-Montebello), who grew up a block from Garfield High, has asked the Legislature's budget conference committee to provide an initial $1 million in education facilities bond money for reconstruction and up to $5 million total, depending on rebuilding costs.

"Garfield High School is not merely an educational landmark; it is a beacon in East Los Angeles" that has lighted "the way to economic, artistic and academic achievements for generations of students."

The May 20 blaze that gutted the auditorium is being investigated as an arson fire by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's and Fire departments and Los Angeles school police. No suspects have been identified, said school Police Chief Lawrence E. Manion, but he encouraged anyone with information to contact the sheriff's arson hotline at (323) 881-7530.

On Wednesday, as students were immersed in state tests on the campus, the school's main building, which is attached to the auditorium and contains key offices and classrooms, was being heated to 140 degrees to inhibit the growth of mold. Air samples so far have tested below regulatory levels for asbestos and school officials said they hoped to reopen the building by June 11.


Donations to the Fund to Rebuild Garfield Auditorium can be made at any Bank of America branch, officials said. [BofA Account # 21296-51293]

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources

LA County Health Dept Press Release from Medical News Today

30 May 2007 — Students and school staff are one of the largest populations vulnerable to serious complications from the seasonal flu. Today the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) today announced a new partnership to help prevent students and staff from catching seasonal flu, and to collaborate on pandemic flu preparedness. By joining forces, county health officials and schools will be able to implement important preventative measures to keep children healthy during flu season.

"Children are especially vulnerable to catching the flu, but there are ways to help them stay healthy," said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Public Health Director and County Health Officer. "Our collaboration with LAUSD is a partnership to encourage seasonal and pandemic flu preparedness with simple steps to prevent the spread of flu with washing your hands, covering your cough and sneezes, not touching your hands to your face, nose, or mouth, and getting a seasonal flu shot."

As part of its seasonal and pandemic flu preparedness plan, LAUSD produced and distributed an instructional DVD and supporting materials to more than 800 schools in collaboration with the Department of Public Health's Clean Hands campaign to help students stay healthy all year long.

"Helping our children and staff stay healthy ensures that learning and achievement are not interrupted," said LAUSD Superintendent David L. Brewer III. "By making this DVD available to all schools so that students learn how to stay healthy, we are taking proactive, preventative steps to minimize the impact of flu or pandemic on our students and staff. I am pleased to partner with LA County Department of Public Health to inform families about staying healthy."

The partnership with the LAUSD is part of Public Health's "Clean Hands" campaign, a multicultural and multi-language grassroots program focusing on the importance of hand washing as a means to avoid influenza [or the flu].

The "Clean Hands" campaign illustrates just how easy it is to transmit germs during one's daily routine. The campaign shows how simple steps like hand washing, covering your cough, and getting a flu shot can not only keeps one healthy but also reduces the risk of foodborne illness.

Due to Los Angeles County's diverse population, the "Clean Hands" campaign was launched in 12 different languages and targets 13 markets, including Hispanic, Asian, Russian, Armenian, Arabic, African American, and people with disabilities. "Clean Hands" focuses on reaching children, businesses, faith- based and other community-based organizations, individuals, and families.

The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 4,000 employees and an annual budget exceeding $700 million. For more information on Public Health, please visit

LAUSD has taken a number of steps to prepare for a pandemic, including delivery of "cough and sneeze etiquette" materials to schools that stress the importance of frequent hand washing, development of a pandemic flu response plan and establishment of clear lines of communication between the District and governing health agencies.

LAUSD has also established a pandemic flu website at http://www.lausd.oehs/pandemicflu.asp.



• smf note: some friends recently gave up on LA and LAUSD and went up to Portland because the grass is greener where it rains the most and the schools seemed better. Some teacher types in Portland disagree; they have a rad/lib/free range libertarian / anti-establishment / anti-union / ain’t-gonna-take-it-anymore website called The following is from there.

• smf note2: more recently the Portland friends are back in LA.

A long time ago, the federal government decided that our schools were not doing a very good job of turning out German rocket scientists. They knew this for a fact because the commies had managed to accelerate a 183lb. lump of metal named Sputnik up to 17,900mph with THEIR German rocket scientists. The U.S. meanwhile, had spent over 4 billion dollars and had been unable to make a rice crispy move much faster than 9.8m/sec2. The feds knew they needed some more smart people and they needed them pronto! Thus was born the National Defense Education Act of 1958, which allowed our Prez to throw money at schools like french fries towards pelicans. Now, instead of training young minds in all aspects of adulthood and citizenship, the job of the schools would be to create scientists, mathematicians, engineers and other assorted dweebs. Because, as we all know, Science and Math are "important" subjects that are actually useful in life as opposed to those "unimportant" subjects such as Art, Music and Philosophy which can only be used by sensitive undergrads to get the bra off an impressionable freshman Psychology major. This new paradigm of education did little to create German rocket scientists but much to create a lot of free time for beatniks and their hippie children which led to protesting the Vietnam war, joining the Weather Underground and kidnapping Patty Hearst.

The public schools were happy for the new source of revenue because now they could buy new ashtrays for the teacher’s lounge and get those really nice rulers with the metal in the edge which didn’t break the first time you smacked a kid’s ear with it. And they knew they’d be doing a lot of smacking if they were going to produce enough quality German rocket scientists to get an American to the Moon by 1969 by gum!

Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell them that it is unconstitutional for the federal government to get involved in education or maybe somebody did tell them but that person didn’t have tenure so it probably wasn’t true. Either way, the money started rolling in and it hasn’t stopped since even though, to the best of our knowledge, very few German rocket scientists were created. Then again, maybe they were but no one would have sex with them so they died off eventually. What did everyone outside of education learn from the Defense Education Act of 1958? Lots of money thrown at a problem does not necessarily produce results.

Time marched on but our schools still rode in the horseless carriage. Hippies got into teaching because it was "groovy, man" and you got the summers off. Students were told to question everybody else’s authority and "call me Dave". These yarnheads forced the old and sick onto the ice flows of early retirement. Latin teachers were the first to go followed by administrators who knew someone who knew someone who had actually known John Dewey. Next came Mrs. Zamanigian who failed you if you only got one wrong on your multiplication tables. Gradually, spelling bees and dodgeball were outlawed as "negatively reinforcing self-esteem activities" and replaced with more "at task" activities such as "share bear" and sitting on a hard chair for six hours at a time listening to Ms. Freerainbowhug wax poetic about something called the underground railroad which, you are shocked to find out, has no Morlocks and even fewer horsepower. We should have all marched into their classrooms right then and put an end to that nonsense but we didn’t and their demon seed would come back to haunt us in the 1990�s. What did everyone outside of education learn from this new pedagogy? Demanding and knowledgeable teachers are often the best teachers.

Next came the Age of Theories. Whole language vs. phonics, Classical Education vs. Frisbee Golf and who can ever forget the monumental brouhaha which was Didactically Oriented Systems of Axioms for Elementary Geometry vs. Look, A Square! As teachers began losing the respect of their students because, let’s face it, they were not the brightest people in the village anymore; they felt the need to create the illusion that learning was somehow akin to alchemy and only THEY knew how to work the lodestone. Thus, schools of education bloomed. Now, one no longer needed to acquire mastery of a subject in order to become a teacher. You could walk right down to your local state college and major in education even if you were as dumb as a sack of hammers. You would be taught the latest theories of cognitive development, learn how to create lesson plans and sit at the feet of master teachers who, while not ever having actually taught in a real school, had many friends who were teachers. You would graduate with a degree, which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, to anyone who cared to notice that you had paid your tuition. Now it was time to get into teaching, snag tenure, coast for 10-15 years, become a principal and retire from a job well done. What did everyone outside of education learn from this? Schools of education can’t make silk purses out of sow’s ears. What makes a good teacher? Knowledge of the subject at hand and high scores on verbal aptitude tests. Simple as that.

The field was now plowed and the seeds of our present situation could be planted. Television failed from its early promise and became a mugwump wasteland which would undermine parental authority and lobotomize our children. In the good ol' days we had secrets which we kept from the young until they had earned that particular right of passage. Now with television, everything was out there: from sex to murder and cannibalism. Unfortunately, seeing something is not quite the same thing as understanding something, and our kids grew up thinking that they knew everything but they lacked the maturity and wisdom which would only come with age, booze and a divorce. Parents also should share some of the blame for the sorry state of our society by remaining children themselves. They refused to grow up and accept the responsibilities of adulthood and parenthood whilst livin' in the 'hood. Even the "good" parents were culpable by refusing to set limits, instill civility and manners and wanting to be a best bud to their child instead of a parent. Finally, the schools themselves and especially the teachers are the biggest reason for most of the problems we face as a society today. Quite simply, they have not done the job we paid for. Somewhere along the line, they forgot that their purpose was to create a life-long learner not produce fodder for the cannons of industry. The schools have followed the whims and orders of Business and assumed that the goal of education was to provide the local widget factory with entry level widget technicians. Business, much like the Army doesn’t want free-thinkers and poets, they want you to have that report on their desk by 4:00pm or else.

Schools stopped asking "why" a long time ago and they've spent the last twenty years chasing their tails and digging themselves in deeper. It’s time for a revolution in education. You know it and I know it. What are you gonna do about it?

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
► Saturday June 9th – 4PM
King Middle School Poetry and English Teacher Steve Abee leads a reading of his students’ work at Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027

►Wednesday Jun 06, 2007
East Los Angeles High School #2 | ESTEBAN TORRES HIGH SCHOOL GROUNDBREAKING CEREMONY: Please join us to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new community school!
Ceremony will begin at 3:30 p.m.
Hammel Elementary School
438 N. Brannick Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90063

►Thursday Jun 07, 2007
Please join us to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new gymnasium at San Pedro High School!
Ceremony will begin at 10 a.m.
San Pedro High School
1001 W 15th Street
San Pedro, CA 90731

►Thursday Jun 07, 2007
EAST LOS ANGELES NEW HIGH SCHOOL #1: Pre-Construction Meeting
6:00 p.m.
Utah Elementary School - Auditorium
255 Gabriel García Márquez
Los Angeles 90033

*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-893-6800


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! • There are 26 mayors and five county supervisors representing jurisdictions within LAUSD, the mayor of LA can be reached at • 213.978.0600
• 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.
• Register.
• 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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