Saturday, July 14, 2007

Goodbye Mr. Jensen

4LAKids: Sunday, July 15, 2007
In This Issue:
STUDENTS TO GET LAPTOPS IN HIGH-TECH PUSH: Hacienda La Puente school district will supply computers to those in 5th, 7th and 9th grades.
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.
When our daughter Alana was in third grade she took up the clarinet.

After a year of lessons at the elementary school she (and her parents) felt she was quite the promising young musician. She decided to take private lessons ("You have to promise to practice!") – but her first encounter with the private teacher did not go well. Her music teacher at school annotated every note in the lesson book with the letter (♪=A) And Mr. Jensen – the private teacher - told her about five minutes into the first lesson (free with the purchase of an instrument!) that that was NOT "reading" music! There were tears, denial, anger - all the steps or cycles. Her father - and as I remember her mother – were outraged by the lack of sensitivity!

We quickly resolved to never see him again!

Pretty much on her own Alana went back to Mr. Jensen. She learned from him how to read music; she learned the intricate fingering and much about music and certainly more about her instrument than I could ever understand. Alana became quite an accomplished musician – our selection of the middle school she would attend was as much based upon the music program as the academics. And every week Alana went to Mr. Jensen – a seventy-ish professional jazz musician with a whimsical smile who found himself late in life giving lessons to other peoples' children in the basements and back rooms of music stores.

I would like to write here how Mr. Jensen motivated Alana to practice, practice, practice all the way to Carnegie Hall; but once her middle school orchestra was behind her and the high school orchestra not a possibility (it's on another track) practice became a memory.

But every week the two of them would go into that basement room and they would play.

Through the door you'd hear them play duets; on good days one couldn't tell student from teacher. Oft times they would talk about the affairs of the day and or problems of the world and hardly play music at all. The door was thin and an eavesdropper could hear talk of modern music ("The Shins", "The Fray") ...and The Beatles and Dixieland greats; politics, comparative literature, whacko math teachers and the schoolyard gossip. They talked about life. From other rooms in the basement there was the cacophony of drums and guitars, vocal exercises and the Barcarolle on the trumpet – over and over 'until you get it right' …but you never did.

Five years ago Mt. Jensen was diagnosed with lung cancer and it was touch and go. He had been a jazz musician – living that life in smoky barrooms for most of his life – how could he have not been a smoker? He played and taught woodwinds; how do you come back from losing a lung and still do that? But he did.

And the two of them would play every week and every week they sounded a little better.

I have a speech I make at the dedication of new schools about the magic that takes place in the classroom. An educator explained to me just yesterday that teachers don't teach subject matter – whether English, Math, Social Studies or Music. Teachers teach Students. In the moments of real magic the magic flows both ways and the line between student and teacher vanishes. Magic and music happened in that small windowless room almost every week.

This story doesn't have a happy ending, just a positive one. That's the best we get in life.

Ken Jensen died last week quite unexpectedly.

I am unsure as to whether being a Teacher is an art, a skill or a science — I know it is a calling just as I know Ken Jensen was an artist. I'm only her father, I don't get to pick who Alana's favorite, most important or most meaningful teacher in her life is or was – she is young, the nominations are still open and she gets to pick.

But I have my candidate and I wish him Godspeed. - smf

►L.A. UNIFIED OKS REFORM PACKAGE: The New L.A. Unified School Board, Now Led by Villaraigosa Allies, Pushes Through Measures that Bear a Distinct Mayoral Stamp (…if not a smoking gun!)

by Howard Blume, LA Times Staff Writer

July 11, 2007 — The city's new school board majority Tuesday pushed through its first wave of reform measures — and fast.

As a result, the Los Angeles Unified School District has new initiatives aimed at measuring student performance, paying employees on time, decreasing the dropout rate, helping English learners, building smaller schools, recruiting new employees, training principals and increasing parent involvement.

For new board President Monica Garcia and her three allies — who are backed by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — the meeting was nothing less than change on the march.

For some holdover board members, the proceedings were more like a forced drill, which combined welcome initiatives with redundant, repackaged ones. And they worried that parts of the agenda could tie the hands of top administrators or entail uncertain financial and legal ramifications.

"I'm feeling the pressure," holdover board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte said during the meeting. "Someone used the word 'jamming.' It's not a very comfortable feeling."

She voted against the "District Accountability" motion. LaMotte had no issue with its intent but found the language and deadlines too restrictive on Supt. David L. Brewer. That resolution alone listed more than 30 performance measures, including graduation rates, employee satisfaction surveys, student and teacher attendance and the number and rate of student suspensions. Under the motion, such data must be studied and addressed in short order.

Brewer has said he intends to use data to drive decisions; it remains to be seen how well the imposed requirements coincide with his own priorities.

LaMotte voted "no" just once, and that was the only nay. In essence, the entire board sanctioned the lofty goals of motions with such titles as "Diplomas for All," "Hope on the Horizon" and "Leaders of Leaders."

Two of the most extended discussions pertained to matters not yet up for a vote: the future of Locke High School and, separately, proposed health benefits for part-time cafeteria workers.

The Locke faculty is divided over a proposal to become an independent charter school. Newly elected board member Richard Vladovic introduced a motion requiring an up-or-down vote in August on the charter petition.

On new benefits for cafeteria workers, Brewer said, "I am not prepared to take a $43-million cut this year," referring to the cost.

One motion that passed had been pushed behind the scenes by organized labor, board and union sources said. It requires the district to fix its new, malfunctioning payroll system; officials insist they already are trying to do so.

The school district scored a victory related to the payroll debacle this week. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge on Monday threw out a lawsuit by the teachers union over the payroll system. But the system itself still confuses, overpays and underpays employees — spurring a Tuesday rally outside district headquarters organized by United Teachers Los Angeles.

That was the day's most contentious note. In fact, at 3:25 p.m., Garcia ran out of things to do, so the board adjourned until it was time for an item scheduled for 4 p.m. It was a striking departure from meetings that frequently have kept parents, employees and community members waiting hours.

"We need a little discipline," Garcia said during a break. "We need a little focus. We need expectations. I liked the conversation and sharing and exchange — and that we started on time."

Garcia drove not only the meeting but also the blitzkrieg of reform motions. In that endeavor she had assistance from the mayor's office — help that became obvious when mid-level district officials discovered that Villaraigosa's office was listed as the author on the computerized draft files of her motions.

The mayor's staff offered input and "help in terms of research and support and feedback," Garcia said.

A spokesman for Villaraigosa characterized the effort similarly. "These documents are a result of a collaborative effort led by school board President Garcia," Matt Szabo said. "At her request, the office provided the board president with drafts she used as a launching point."

The mayor had sought substantial control over L.A. Unified through legislation that was thrown out by the courts. He succeeded, however, in efforts to raise millions that helped elect board members allied to him.

▲smf's 2¢: The mayors office's bully-pulpit and political-checkbook influence on the school board is one thing, the electronic DNA left on the reform agenda proposals is quite another – showing disrespect if not contempt for the court's opinions in the case that overturned AB1381 and held that the mayor and the City of LA could have no role in the governance of LAUSD. The mayor had an opportunity to challenge those opinions in the Supreme Court and chose not to — that was his opportunity to question the courts' opinions.

If City employees working on city time on city computers spending the city taxpayer's money worked on school district governance issues that would certainly have the appearance of a violation of the spirit if not the letter of the Villaraigosa v. LAUSD, et al. decision.



By Howard Blume, Times Staff Writer

July 10, 2007 - Two members of the new Los Angeles school board majority have introduced a proposal to give health benefits to all cafeteria workers, a top labor priority that could cost the school system as much as $45 million a year.

The prominence of the issue signals the newly elected Board of Education's eagerness to cement ties with organized labor. These board members were elected this year with substantial support from business leaders who have complained about previous members' ties to employee unions.

The Los Angeles Unified School District currently employs about 5,000 cafeteria workers. About 2,400 have health benefits; the rest work less than four hours a day and therefore do not qualify. The proposal, to be introduced at a board meeting today, would shift all cafeteria workers to four hours or more per day. The total number of jobs probably would drop, but all workers would have benefits.

"This is a social justice issue, and I also think it's good for kids," said Richard Vladovic, who took office last week. He cosponsored the motion with board President Monica Garcia, who took office last year and leads a bloc closely allied with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

All parties acknowledge serious shortcomings in food service in the nation's second-largest school system. Only 35% of middle and high students eat cafeteria food, even though, districtwide, 78% of students qualify for free or reduced price lunches.

The reasons are myriad, including out-of-date, undersized lunch areas. District policy requires that the last student in line have at least 20 minutes to eat, but the policy mostly is not enforced.

Nationwide, the most successful school systems feed about 60% of secondary students. Districts have better lunch rates when children aren't stigmatized for being poor. At L.A. Unified, subsidized students must present tickets to a cafeteria worker. In newer programs, all students use swipe cards, with the more prosperous families paying for food ahead of time or after the fact.

Backers hope the proposed measure would pay for itself because more students would be willing and able to eat lunch if served by a more stable and better-trained workforce. Currently, the school system gets $220 million in food aid and takes in $20 million from students who pay for their own food.

The proposal also might lower costs of work-related injuries among cafeteria employees who, backers says, file such claims as their only way of gaining access to medical services.

But in a recent presentation, senior staff classified these offsets as speculative: "The cafeteria fund cannot absorb a $40-million increase in costs, even with greater participation and more efficiencies." And, "raising hours of just one class of employees for other than operational reasons would appear to be singling out this group for favored treatment…. This step would open the door to all other unions demanding to increase hours in order to receive benefits (and on what basis would we say "no"?)."

Officials already have trimmed $95 million from the district's $6.2-billion budget, largely to make up for increased salary and benefit expenses.

The administration's own food service remedy is being put in place at a cost of about $4.5 million a year. This plan envisions increasing hours and granting benefits to only 269 additional employees. It also includes a faster, improved hiring process; having multiple lunch periods; improving lunchroom layouts; and installing a card-swipe system.

"By giving people longer hours based on serving kids, we had crafted a thoughtful basis for extending health benefits," said former board member David Tokofsky, an original sponsor of the extended benefits. At this point, he said, the board's alternative "seems to be solving another issue of social concern: people in California not having health insurance."

So much the better, said Luis Sanchez, chief of staff for board president Garcia: "We need to be committed as a public entity to make sure everyone has insurance.

"Most of these workers have kids in the district. We're insuring that families have insurance…. The money is found when it needs to get found."

The idea of extending health benefits emerged in board discussions a year ago, but the previous board never acted, waiting for incoming Supt. David L. Brewer and staff to develop their own approach.

The teachers union supports the benefits proposal, as does Villaraigosa.

A local business leader was less enthusiastic. "This doesn't seem consistent with the efforts the board has made to balance the budget unless it results in additional revenue," said Gary Toebben, chief executive of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

"The school board should be able to assure the public that this is the highest and best use for an additional $45-million expenditure."

The Eight Resolutions

STUDENTS TO GET LAPTOPS IN HIGH-TECH PUSH: Hacienda La Puente school district will supply computers to those in 5th, 7th and 9th grades.
by Adrian G. Uribarri, LA Times Staff Writer

July 9, 2007 - Some days, eighth-grader Luis Antonio Bonola skips lunch to type his assignments in the school's computer lab. Other days, he asks permission to skip class to use the lab.

Luis, 14, must use the computers at Sierra Vista Middle School because his parents can't afford to buy one, he said.

"It's hard because I can't do the reports," Luis said. "Sometimes my teachers won't let me go to the computer lab because I might miss the lessons."

Soon, he won't need to ask. In August, Hacienda La Puente Unified School District will supply its fifth-, seventh- and ninth-graders with new Dell laptops. It's part of a plan to give computers to more than 17,000 district students by 2013. The program will cost the district about $1,000 for each computer.

"We're trying to prepare our students for this world of global competition and online socialization," said Michael Droe, the district's chief technology officer. "But how do you do that if they don't have access to the technology? The intuitive thing is, you need to provide it."

The initiative is one of hundreds of so-called one-to-one programs across the country in which the goal is to establish a ratio of one student to one computer. They usually involve partnerships between school districts and technology companies. In this case, Dell Inc. will provide service and technical support for the laptops for up to four years.

"It's been an evolutionary conversation about how they can better prepare their students for the 21st century," said Karen Bruett, director of Dell's public-sector education and community initiatives. "We try to play the role of an integrator."

Teachers, too, will play that role because the program pushes them to integrate curricula with technology. Hacienda La Puente is giving its teachers, who also will receive laptops, 80 hours of training.

"Our conventional way of teaching has to change," said Mark Shin, a science teacher at Wilson High School. "That's a hard thing for some teachers to swallow because we try very hard to plan."

The laptop programs around the country have had mixed results. As some school districts adopt them, others are dropping theirs because students abuse the computers or become distracted with them during class. Also, some educators are unconvinced that more computer access equates to higher academic achievement.

Past efforts have raised concerns about equal access. In 2006, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California pressed the Fullerton School District to adopt a borrowing policy for parents who couldn't afford to buy computers under its Laptops for Learning program.

At Hacienda La Puente, the laptops will be available free to all students. Those who attend class 95% of the time and whose parents sign an agreement also will be able to take them home, keep them over summer vacations and sign up for high-speed Internet access, also paid by the district. After four years of use, students can take ownership of the computers if a parent attends a $35 training course.

Shin, whose ninth-graders will be among those receiving laptops, said the program will help students who don't have computers at home and are forced to go elsewhere for access.

"They have to struggle so much harder to complete an assignment than anyone else," he said. "I'm not saying it's impossible, but maybe they're feeling, well, other people can do it at home. Why can't I?"

▲THE YOUNGSTERS IN THE CURRENT EIGHTH GRADE IN LAUSD – The Class of 2012, 56,365 of them at last count – are the poster children for reform in LAUSD.
• They will be first class subject to the new A-G " College Prepared/Career Ready/" graduation requirements.
• They will have spent their entire K-12 career in post-Prop BB LAUSD.
• Because of the BB, K, R & Y Building and Modernization Program and the Williams Settlement they have the opportunity to graduate from their uncrowded local high school, un-bused, taught by well qualified teachers in clean well-maintained facilities with guaranteed adequate textbooks.

Using the math above it would cost $56 million to give each and every one of them a laptop computer on day one of their high school career high school when they enter the ninth grade. And if Hacienda La Puente Unified pays $1k each for 17,000 computers over six years, what kind of deal could LAUSD drive for 50,000+ a year? $56 million is not chump change – but it's awfully close to the amount proposed Tuesday to pay increased cafeteria staff health benefits …or the amount recently fudged, stashed away and miraculously recovered in disputed CDE accounting! I'm not quoting that amount as an either-or option – I'm putting it out there to put the number in perspective.

This is eminently doable. Let's do it. —smf

In this week's News that Doesn't Fit, Times Reporter Joel Rubin gives a real in depth survey of the dilemmas and challenges faced by a teacher at Locke High School in LAUSD HAS A LOT RIDING ON LOCKE'S CHARTER CHOICE – it doesn't take all that much reading between the lines to imagine the dilemmas and challenges faced by students and parents.

And the Sacramento Bee picked up an AP story: REPORT - TEEN BIRTH RATE HITS RECORD LOW by Jennifer Kerr about a study by a consortium of federal agencies AMERICA'S CHILDREN: KEY NATIONAL INDICATORS OF WELL-BEING, 2007 that isn't all gloom and doom; maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel! More highlights and a few gloomy/doomy lowlights are included in the link – plus a further link to the full study.

The News That Doesn't fit for 7/15


By Evelyn Larrubia and Howard Blume, LA Times Staff Writers

July 8, 2007 - The Belmont Learning Complex was envisioned as one of a kind. It would combine the city's first new high school in nearly 30 years with housing and retail development — extras that could raise money to help cap construction costs at about $45 million.

When the school opens in 2008, at least nine years behind schedule, it will indeed make history — with its cost. The final tab will top $400 million, almost certainly claiming the title of America's most expensive high school, and there will be no retail or housing.

The school, now called Vista Hermosa, was conceived in a school district that at the time lacked the expertise to build schools. The Los Angeles Unified School District has since put together the nation's largest school construction program, but the hemorrhaging continues at Belmont. Recent work expected to cost about $111 million will reach nearly $200 million instead.

For all the money spent, "they probably could have built three more high schools, maybe four," said City Councilman Ed Reyes, who represents the area. "That's a very painful reality. I think 70% of the cost was not necessary."

Even so, Reyes strongly supports the effort, partly because the latest version of the project adds badly needed open space, including a soccer field and nature park, funded by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

Just-retired school board member David Tokofsky, on the other hand, opposed Belmont for most of his 12 years in office.

"The town wants this to be finished," Tokofsky said. "But there hasn't been a forthright presentation of the costs."

The first phase of the project ended in January 2000 when the school board decided to stop building the half-finished school over safety concerns. The school sits atop an oil field, and a full environmental study hadn't been made before the start of construction. More than that, Belmont had come to symbolize school-district impotence and failure, making it a political liability.

Enter Roy Romer, the former Colorado governor who became district superintendent later that year.

"I felt that school was salvageable," said Romer, who left the district last fall. "And it was important to get rid of that scar on the community's surface. It was a reminder of the school system's failure to work. My attitude was: You got to cure it, as long as it's feasible economically and safe."

And everyone agreed the school was needed. At the time, about 77,000 students in the area went to school on a year-round schedule. About 15,000 others were bused to less-crowded campuses outside of their neighborhood. Down the street from the shell of the abandoned complex, old, undersized Belmont High enrolled more than 5,300 students.

Romer told a wary school board that finishing Belmont would show that the much-maligned school system could fulfill its promise of building and modernizing hundreds of schools.

He brought in an outside panel that concluded the school could be built to be safe if a fan and venting system were installed to prevent hazardous oil-field gases from accumulating inside buildings. Buildings all over Los Angeles, including some schools, face similar problems in this oil-rich basin. Romer also argued that it would be cheaper to finish Belmont — for no more than $80 million — than to sell the land and start anew elsewhere.

He got approval from the school board in March 2002 to hire a nascent nonprofit that would finish the project for $87 million.

The restart stalled, however, with the discovery of an earthquake fault on the site. After months of study, analysts determined students would be safe as long as buildings did not straddle the fault.

In 2003, the board again approved the project.

But the delay had added costs — for starters, the chosen developers were paid about $2 million for their efforts, which ultimately came to naught when the project was redesigned and put out to bid again. Then there was the expense of more than a mile of trenches, which were needed to analyze the seismic risk.

The recalculated price rose to $111 million of which $78 million would be hard construction expenses, which include construction materials and manual labor. Officials had determined this estimate by multiplying the square footage by the going rate the school system was paying to build and modernize other schools, plus a few million dollars for demolition, surveys and other small contracts.

When the project went out to bid two years later, the results were nowhere near the estimated amounts. Hard construction costs alone swelled by $66 million over 2003 numbers. Officials said the difference was caused in part by their decision to add more square footage, but mostly by a wild run-up in material and labor costs during that time.

The board accepted the explanation and again gave the green light.

But nationwide, construction costs rose only 13% between November 2003, when the board approved the first Vista Hermosa budget, and September 2005, when the project went out to bid, according to a standard inflation index produced by the construction-trade magazine Engineering News-Record.

When pressed for details recently, district officials said that local inflation was about 20% over that period, which still doesn't begin to account for the huge price hike.

"The project had a history," Jim Cowell, the head of the district's new-construction division, explained in an interview. "There may have been a premium associated with working on this job."

The winning bidder, Hensel Phelps Construction Co., also won the only other high school project put out to bid in 2005. It agreed to build a 2,400-seat campus, known informally as the Eller Media school, for $99 million. The developer set the price for the 2,600-seat Vista Hermosa at tens of millions of dollars more.

And still that wasn't enough. Even though contractors were free to poke and pry at the construction site at will before placing bids, a string of problems emerged.

In January, for example, the district agreed to pay an additional $1.4 million to replace the fire sprinkler system, which had been left to rust in the years that the buildings were abandoned. Officials had planned to simply remove the corrosion, but later learned that this repair would have left the pipes too thin to meet code.

In addition, district officials said some of the work overseen by the previous developer, the Kajima Corp., and its lead contractor, the Turner construction company, was faulty.

When crews opened walls to deal with a mold problem, for instance, instead of seeing long continuous support beams, they found shorter ones spliced together and others that had been drilled into, weakening the structure. The beams had to be reinforced with straps or replaced.

In other places, a roughing process to level out uneven floors revealed cracks, some in the foundation, that had to be filled with epoxy.

The district said it didn't anticipate such problems; the previous builders were allowed to inspect much of their own work as a cost-saving measure.

In past legal jousts with the school system, members of the first development team denied any wrongdoing. In a 2001 dispute over billing, an arbitrator sided with the developers and their subcontractors.

Cowell said the district has settled with the Kajima/Turner team, meaning the newly discovered defects will have to be paid for by L.A. Unified.

The district expects to shell out $8.7 million more than anticipated simply to correct defective work and deteriorated systems that district officials said were discovered after Hensel Phelps began construction.

Turner has remained a district contractor, building 11 elementary and primary schools, and a high school, still under construction, in the San Fernando Valley. The total cost of these schools is about $400 million.

In addition to the costs of fixing past problems at Vista Hermosa, the district said it will pay $3.2 million above the contract amount to bring up the existing 216,000 square feet to the district's current design standards and updated building codes.

Among the work: adding bathroom floor drains, water shut-off valves and cleanouts for urinals. Cowell said some of the standards were being developed while the school was being designed, but that other things were simply missed in the original design.

Also, state regulators required the district to adapt safety measures to protect construction workers from the site's naturally occurring methane gas, adding an additional $3.4 million.

The district said it also underestimated how much staffing it would need to oversee the project, and has had to tack on an extra $7 million for increased fees for more architects, engineers, project managers, inspectors and other related costs.

The job has presented so many challenges that the district paid $80,000 to install a second trailer on-site to house additional architects to keep the school on track for its fall 2008 opening.

The result is that even the 2005 figures for how much Belmont would cost were, again, low. The current estimated hard construction costs are $162 million, part of a grand total for the restart of $197 million.

So how good a deal is Belmont for taxpayers?

"I can't speculate on whether they think … it was a good deal or not a good deal," Cowell said. "The point was that we owned the property and we promised the school and we delivered that school.

"What happened to Belmont happened," he added, "and that's history."

smf's 2¢: FIRST an apology to the students and alumni at Belmont High School – the name of your proud school and its traditions has been dragged through the mud from the very onset of this debacle. And you still don't have the school you were promised!

SECOND, the limitation of 1600 words in this article means that the sad convoluted history of this project cannot be touched on. To wit: "The restart stalled, however, with the discovery of an earthquake fault on the site. After months of study, analysts determined students would be safe as long as buildings did not straddle the fault." The Times fails to mention in this retelling of the tale that BUILDINGS ALREADY BUILT DID STRADDLE THE FAULT …these needed to demolished and replaced!

AND THIRD (but not finally, the last word on BLC/VH is years away!): In reaction to a lawsuit brought early on, the LAUSD Board of Education elected to exclude the Belmont Learning Complex from bond funding and public oversight by the Bond Oversight Committee. Of all school construction projects begun, completed or underway this is the only one where the Committee does not have oversight, say or review.

by Bill Ring from the LAUSDParents yahoo newsgroup

As the search for new local district superintendent goes on in Local District 3 (Westside), Interim Superintendent Susan Allen has agreed at parent's request to re-constitute the Parent Community Advisory Council as originally intended and approved by the LAUSD Board of Ed in 2000.

With the appointment of Susan Allen as interim local district superintendent, there have been six superintendents in Local Dist D/3 in seven years - and Ms. Allen's replacement will be number seven.

It is no wonder that our middle and high schools are in the shape they're in! We've been a farm team here. This is akin to a pattern that keeps schools from developing successful working teams.


"A thirteen-member parent/community advisory council comprised of no fewer than eight parents with the remaining members divided between community and business leaders. In addition, each district superintendent may appoint up to six ex-officio members to the council consisting of teachers, classified employees and administrators. Every three months, the chairpersons from the eleven (now 8) district councils will meet with Board Members in a special session to discuss the successes and challenges of the...districts. The advisory councils will play a role in the performance reviews of the district superintendents. These reviews are to be made available to the public and posted on the LAUSD website."

"District superintendents report directly to the General Superintendent of Schools and develop plans for their districts collaboratively with stakeholder groups...each district superintendent will respond to the needs of students, parents and the local area community and have the authority to take the appropriate action."

That sounds like local district autonomy to me. That was part of the plan from the outset in 2000. So what happened?

For one, Roy Romer took over from Cortines in 2000 and he did not believe in Cortines' plan of local district autonomy. The central district took more control of budgets and made more and more decisions for and on behalf of local districts while simultaneously pushing responsibility for the real work to the local districts.

RESPONSIBILITY WITHOUT AUTHORITY: In our local district, we chewed through superintendents. The result: No shared vision. No real leadership. No building of community. No consistency in execution of a plan...and in a system like LAUSD with a history of no accountability, no measures or mechanism to continuously examine ourselves and no consequences for failure. When our Council was disbanded, it was reorganizing into a "council of council" model: representatives from each elementary, middle and high school would meet regularly and from that council, parent representatives would be chosen for the Parent Community Advisory Council. This is the model that has been most effective and is being used in the two local districts with functioning Councils.

At the outset, although progress was slow, our Parent Community Advisory Council was productive. We not only advised the local district superintendent on budget, safety, facilities, curriculum and parent involvement, we worked alongside the local district superintendent in shared decision-making which affected our schools. With Supt. Brewer now in place and a new majority on the Board of Ed claiming it will push Supt. Brewer, I would argue that when we have the right leader in the critical position of local district superintendent (and I won't be happy with anything less than an OUTSTANDING candidate), we will once again feel ownership in our greater Westside public school community - and the right leader will recognize that his or her commitment and responsibility is to our children and to US.

I do not anticipate that Ms. Allen will be in her position more than a few months but I am grateful for her support in addressing this long-ignored need now so that a revived Council can be assembled by September.

If you are a parent of a currently enrolled student in an LD 3 public school (including charters), a business owner and/or community member and you have an interest in serving on a council of representatives from your school and/or local district to help create the future of public schools here, please let me know.

Please feel free to circulate this notice to parents, community members, neighborhood councils, chambers of commerce, online communities and organizations within Local District 3.


Bill Ring
Council District 11 Education Committee
Moderator, LAUSDParents Yahoogroup
Past Chairperson, LAUSD Parent Collaborative

►Bill Ring can be e-mailed at


EVENTS: Coming up next week...
LA ROUNDTABLE ON LA CITYVIEW: "Where Might the New Board Majority be Headed?"

KCAL’s Dave Bryan interviewed new members of the LAUSD Board of Education to discuss the district’s future and get an idea where the new board majority might be headed.

LA Cityview is seen on every cable system within the city limits of Los Angeles on Channel 35.

NEW SCHOOL BOARD (repeat airings)
Monday, 7/23 @ 1:30 pm & 8 pm
Monday, 8/06 @ 1:30 pm & 8 pm

• Thursday Jul 19, 2007
South Region Elementary School #5: Schematic Design Meeting
At this meeting we will:

* Present schematic design drawings
* Receive community input on the design of the project

6:30 p.m.

Miles Avenue Elementary School
6720 Miles Ave.
Huntington Park, CA 90255

*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: • 213-241-6383 • 213-241-6387 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6385

...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 immediate past President of Los Angeles 10th District PTSA and represents PTA as Vice-chair the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He serves on various school district advisory and policy committees and is a PTA officer and/or governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is also the elected Youth & Education boardmember on the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council.
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