Saturday, February 02, 2008

suf•frage (n) 1: a short intercessory prayer usually in a series

4LAKids: Sunday, Feb 3, 2008 Super Bowl Sunday
In This Issue:
A TOUGH CHOICE FOR L.A. TEACHERS: How should United Teachers Los Angeles move on after A.J. Duffy's gimmicky and confrontational leadership?
GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT: The payroll debacle rehashed
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.
In a message dated 1/30/2008 9:23:21 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, James Carville wrote me:

Dear Scott,

The worst job at the circus is cleaning up after the elephants. The same goes for politics.

The Ragin' Cajun wanted money but instead I'm stealing the line. You should steal it too. Not because the mess we find ourselves is laughable but because speaking truth to power is fun.

'And these words shall then become
Like Oppression's thundered doom
Ringing through each heart and brain,
Heard again - again - again -

'Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth, like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many; they are few!

- P.B. Shelley "The Masque of Anarchy"

Shelley was rabblerousing about an outrage of the nineteenth century British Government upon its citizenry - in this sprit of insurrection let me share my thinking on Tuesday's primary election.

I am of the "throw the rascals out" temperament - and as none of the rascals contesting the presidency in the primary are "in" I leave that contest for you to decide. My heart, as Chief Dan George said 'soars like the eagle' that that the Democratic choice is between a Black Man and a Woman …though I'm grumpy that the most qualified candidate, a sitting governor, former congressman, cabinet officer, UN ambassador, businessman and Harvard professor - and incidentally Hispanic - is no longer in the race. We have come a long way but we have a way to go until we select the best and don’t give a fig about gender, race, religion or international origin. The Republicans offer other choices …but their own choices about the war, education and - calling it what it is - abortion - leave little choice. I'm voting for Barack Obama, but unlike the LA Times I'm not endorsing him. I want to hear more about education.

But there are other issues:

▼NO on PROPOSITION S: The City of LA's tax measure plays so fast and loose with the semantics of taxation as to boggle the mind. It "reduces" a 10% tax on telephone calls to 9% -- but applies it to Internet Service Providers, VoiceOver Internet Protocol, leased lines, text messaging, Wireless Services, Cable Companies and the kitchen sink of communications technology. (Telemarketers only pay 5% - some special interests are so special!)

• The courts are poised to rule the existing tax illegal
• Voter approval is never needed to REDUCE taxes, only INCREASE them!
• The advertising campaign ("'S' for Safety") implies the money will go to police and fire - that is NOT what the actual language says.
• Prop S - which Councilman Alarcón voted to put on the ballot violates his own SB 165 - Local Agency Special Tax and Bond Accountability Act - which requires local officials to identify the “specific purposes” of their special taxes and spend the resulting revenues only on those specific purposes (Government Code §50075.1, as added by SB 165, Alarcón, 2000).

▲If you live in Santa Monica/Malibu you should vote YES on MEASURE R - renewing the parcel tax for schools. Yes, there is a poorly-timed kafuffle between Santa Monica and Malibu and the Bond Oversight Committee and the Board of Education - but the voters and taxpayers need to insist that the adults stop squabbling over adult differences and do what's right for kids. "If students are the first priority then everyone else can't have everything else they want."

On the statewide issues:

▼NO on MEASURE 91: Transportation Tax. This shouldn't even be on the ballot, we voted on this and settled it in the last election. It's a waste of ink on the ballot.

▼NO on MEASURE 92: Community Colleges. This is the most troubling to me. I'm a community college product (If that alone is your reason to vote No OK by me!) but 92 is a poorly crafted attempt at funding a critical and critically challenged piece of the California Public Education program at the expense of Pre-K–12 and the UC/CSU systems. Perfection IS the enemy of good enough, but this is neither. The Legislature needs to do their job and bring back a proposal we can all feel better about.

▼NO on 93: Term limits reduction/extension/whatever. The placement on this early primary ballot was part of an insider deal between the Governor and the Lege that fell apart. Health care reform and the water projects - keystones of last year's legislative session - are dead. Finito. No more. Ceased to be. Shuffled off this mortal coil and gone on to meet their maker: Ex-parrots. I am no fan of term limits but I am really no fan of wheeler-dealing Mickey Mouseification of term limits leveraged against safe districts to keep the designated current rascals in. If we can't vote 'em out fair and square lets toss 'em out like the constitution says we should!

▼NO on 94, 95, 96 & 97: The Four Little Indian Compacts. We are collateral damage in an ad war between the Big Business Indian Gaming Special Interests and the Big Business Nevada Gamers & Race Track Owners Interests. We are not talking poor Indians living on reservations pulling themselves up by the bootstraps - this is Las Vegas baby! The Indian gaming money is neither Golden Goose nor Silver Bullet and will no more balance the California budget than the lottery saved education. Everyone needs to go back and try again.

◄►There actually IS an important election underway at UTLA … the future of the world as we know it and all that. (see: A TOUGH CHOICE FOR L.A. TEACHERS) 4LAKids has no (official) opinion other than to kvetch about the historical low participation by teachers in UTLA elections. Let's model some behavior here!

That being said, say the prayer: VOTE! Early and often.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! - smf

NOTE: The Jan 20 (College Bound|MLK Day) issue of 4LAKids was unevenly circulated; if you missed it and still care click HERE.

A TOUGH CHOICE FOR L.A. TEACHERS: How should United Teachers Los Angeles move on after A.J. Duffy's gimmicky and confrontational leadership?
by Alan Warhaftig | LA Times Opinion

January 29, 2008 - As an urban high school teacher, I'm ceded the moral high ground in most encounters with people in more highly compensated fields; invariably, they tell me how much they admire what I do. Although they rarely say so explicitly, they regard my work -- the students -- as difficult and cannot imagine themselves in my shoes, just as I can't imagine rushing into burning buildings as a firefighter.

These same people frequently characterize my employer, the Los Angeles Unified School District, as an unmanageable failure. There's some truth in that, but our schools' mission is far more difficult than critics understand. If it were easy to educate children raised near or below the poverty line, most from homes in which English is not spoken, then L.A.'s public schools would produce better results.

Still, despite its shortcomings, I feel a deep affinity with the district, in whose schools I was educated. I feel far less connection to United Teachers Los Angeles, which represented my father before me and to which I pay nearly $700 a year in dues. Cynics say UTLA is the union that the LAUSD deserves -- ineffective and one-dimensional -- and they're not wrong.

The teachers and children of Los Angeles deserve better, and an opportunity to change direction is imminent. On Thursday -- the day ballots are mailed to 43,000 teachers, counselors and nurses -- members start voting on union leaders for the next three-year term.

This is a crucial time for the district. Debates rage over the mandates of No Child Left Behind and how much testing and teaching-to-tests we should do. Charter schools -- some good, some bad -- are siphoning off students and resources. High schools are subdividing into Small Learning Communities, a model that's produced mixed results elsewhere, without adequate planning or funding. Most students don't pass Algebra I the first time, yet Algebra II will become a graduation requirement in a few years, likely increasing the already abysmal dropout rate.

As the district grapples with these issues, its teachers have important contributions to make to the policy discussions. Unfortunately, for the last three years, UTLA President A.J. Duffy has used his bully pulpit to talk mostly about money and governance.

In the 1970s, UTLA saw itself as an education advocate to counter bureaucrats "on the hill." Under Duffy, the union has devolved into a purely political operation -- and a mediocre one at that. Duffy, for example, endorsed Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's hostile schools takeover before the legislation was even written, frittering away the union's power to shape reform. It apparently didn't matter to Duffy that the initiative was an end-run around voters, destined to be struck down because it violated the state Constitution. UTLA members did care: Twice they voted to repudiate Duffy's support for the power play.

Likewise, after a poorly reported story on KCBS-TV, Duffy screeched about abuse of credit cards by administrators; he expressed surprise that $4 million a month was being charged. Had he done research, he would have discovered that using credit cards was saving the district far more than the cost of questionable purchases. Duffy would not be inconvenienced by facts, however, not when he sensed an opportunity to bash the district.

Last year's payroll debacle -- in which a new system issued tens of thousands of error-filled checks -- provided more opportunities for confrontation and theatrics. Duffy filed a lawsuit and camped out at district headquarters in gas-guzzling RVs. He railed about members who'd been underpaid or not paid at all, even though five times as many had been overpaid. Duffy didn't see that the crisis required the district and its employees to pull together, not apart. He also said little about the district's efforts to re-collect overpayments. Thus teachers -- with little guidance from their union -- had to accept the school district's questionable accounting or face messy tax consequences.

While the media focus on the California presidential primary, the UTLA election -- which lasts through Feb. 21 -- is arguably of equal consequence to the school district's students, employees and their families, perhaps 2 million people in all. Unless interest surges beyond that of past elections, the electorate will be about 10,000 -- a quarter of the union's membership.

Teachers must decide whether they are satisfied with Duffy's predilection for sound and fury over substance -- or whether they want the union to return to its roots as a constructive advocate for teachers and children. I urge my colleagues to take this election seriously and consider all the candidates; Duffy's three challengers include one current and one former union vice president.

Teachers must never forget that the moral high ground isn't ours by default -- it must be earned.

• Alan Warhaftig is coordinator of Learning in the Real World, a nonprofit organization that examines the pros and cons of computers and the Internet in K-12 education and childhood. A graduate of Stanford University and a National Board Certified Teacher, he also teaches English and co-coordinates the Fairfax Magnet Center for Visual Arts in Los Angeles.

by Daniel Miller | Los Angeles Business Journal Staff

Monday, January 28, 2008 — It's bigger than Boston’s $14.6 billion Big Dig and dwarfs the potential $5 billion westward expansion of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s subway down Wilshire Boulevard.

It’s the Los Angeles Unified School District’s $20 billion school building program – by some measures the most expensive municipal project in the country’s history. The district is constructing 132 schools, renovating hundreds more and adding a total of 180,000 classroom seats.

Funded by four bond measures, the seven-year-old construction project is in full tilt. And it’s pumping money and business into the local economy at a time when the area needs it, with construction not expected to wrap up until 2012.

“This was really a chance for L.A. to deal with its most important infrastructure need, which was quality education facilities,” said Ron Bagel, the facilities services division’s director of real estate.

When the program is complete, the district will have grown from 878 schools to 1,010, and hundreds of thousands of students will be out of bungalows and returned to traditional two-semester schedules, no longer having to take classes in the summer.

Most importantly, the district’s worst and most overcrowded schools will have first-class facilities, something educators believe is critical to the district’s long-term efforts to improve student performance.

But the plan is not without hiccups.

Some critics contend the district has moved too fast with its construction program, creating giant warehouse schools in a headlong rush to complete projects.

More threatening, a staggering rise in construction costs has forced LAUSD to curtail the program from three years ago, when 160 new schools were envisioned. It turns out $20 billion may not be enough when demand for steel and other raw materials from emerging economies such as China has run construction costs up 150 percent to $500 per foot.

In recent months, the district has “unfunded” 18 schools, cancelled expansions at some existing sites and decided to downsize others across the city. Just last week five more planned schools were downsized. One potential saving grace: The district has seen an unexpected 7 percent decline in enrollment since 2003 that might lessen some of the need.

“We are still concerned about funding,” said Edwin Van Ginkel, senior development manager of new construction for the district. “We don’t know if we’ve seen the peak in the marketplace. We don’t know if we’ve stabilized.”


Despite the growing pains, the landmark project likely couldn’t come at a better time: The average school in the district, the nation’s largest behind New York City, is about 50 years old. Many of the buildings are not only outdated but downright shabby.

“When those bathrooms are in bad shape and when there is no grass and the lights don’t work and it’s cold, the message is: ‘We don’t care about you,’” said Steve Soboroff, president of Playa Vista Capital Co., which is developing the Playa Vista community where the district is building a K-8 school.

But while the primary goals of the building program are obviously academic, the project could provide a boost to the flailing real estate economy, which has been hit hard on the residential side amid signs the slowdown is moving into the commercial sector.

The district is spending $12.6 billion on new construction and $7.7 billion on renovating existing buildings. So far, 9 million square feet of new school space has been delivered and when the project is completed, there will be over 20 million square feet of new space.

“A lot of the building during the boom happened in the Inland Empire and this is building in L.A. It could be that some of the people that were working out there and lost their jobs are now working on these projects,” said Gary Painter, director of research at the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate.

Painter added that studies indicate that new or substantially rehabilitated schools in distressed neighborhoods can change the character of those places.

“Schools can certainly be part of the fabric of the community. The sites can be used for other services. If you look at it with a 20-year time horizon it makes sense,” he said.

The plan has already had a notable impact on small businesses that take on work with the school district. While larger companies like Turner Construction Co. and architects like Johnson Fain Partners get big contracts, the impact on small businesses may be more significant.

According to the district’s facilities services division, 16,575 projects of varying degrees in size and scope have been completed at existing schools, with about 3,500 more projects planned. And since many of the renovations to existing schools have required a variety of small repairs and upgrades, it often makes sense to go to small businesses to get the job done.

Since the 2003-04 fiscal year, $1.46 billion in construction contracts have been awarded to small businesses.

“These smaller projects are a way to encourage smaller contractors,” said Guy Mehula, chief facilities executive for the district.

Kevin Ramsey, owner of Compton-based Alameda Construction Services Inc., does concrete work for LAUSD and has worked on about 10 schools over three years. For Ramsey, the average job has a $150,000 price tag.

“There are local businesses up to the task so they should be sought out,” said Ramsey, who added that work with the district has constituted about 50 percent of his business.

Bill Yang of construction management firm Yang Management of Burbank said that his company has worked on over 200 schools since 1997. He said that work with the district constitutes 70 percent of his business.


But getting all this work done has not been easy. Since the program is so large, it requires intensive and extensive management. Everything from purchasing land for development to awarding contracts requires a significant amount of oversight.

“We are bound by constrictions within the public contracting code, which make things a bit more difficult,” said James O’Reilly, director of construction for the facilities services division.

The code requires that the district give contracts to low bidders who meet the project criteria. But since 2002, LAUSD has implemented a “best value procurement” program when it takes complex and more expensive projects to bid.

This program allows the district to choose contractors based on the “quality of materials, small business enterprise participation and previous successful school construction experience.” The program is allowed for under a longstanding part of the education code.

The district maintains that big companies like Hensel Phelps Construction Co. and PCL Constructors Inc. wouldn’t work with the district without the best value procurement program. “Five years ago people didn’t want to work for LAUSD because it had a reputation as a poor owner,” O’Reilly said. “We’ve worked really hard to change that.”

Still, some of the real estate professionals that have worked with the district believe that the district still presents a lot of red tape. “They have levels of bureaucracy and checks and balances that they have to go through, and it takes just a little bit longer because of the t’s to cross and i’s to dot,” said Bob Safai of Madison Partners, a commercial real estate broker who handled the $22.5 million bankruptcy sale of the Granada Hills Community Hospital development site to the district in 2004.

And every delay costs money. A lethal combination of heavy global demand for materials and several natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina, has made construction considerably more costly.

These days, it costs around $500 per foot to build a school, and sometimes more. Van Ginkel said projects that were put out to bid in 2002 and 2003 cost about $200 per square foot to build.

Ramsey said that costs for concrete, for example, are up from about $70 per yard to $100 per yard – and those increases are being passed along to the district.

While a 150 percent increase in construction costs is nothing to sniff at, a decline in enrollment could lessen the blow. The district serves about 695,000 students, which is down from an all-time high of about 750,000 five years ago.

Enrollment declines have been chalked up to a variety of factors, including lower birth rates and the subprime boom, which allowed some lower-income families that had been renters to pursue homeownership by moving out of state or to areas like the Inland Empire.

But the birthrate decline is over, according to Van Ginkel, and anecdotal information suggests that some of the families that left the area with subprime loans in tow have now lost their homes in the ensuing meltdown and are moving back.


Still, there is a concern in some circles that the district has mismanaged the program on a larger level. Detractors chiefly cite fund allocation and the design of new schools as flaws in the massive program.

“They took a very limited definition of the task, which was build more seats and get the kids off the buses,” said David Abel, chairman of New Schools Better Neighborhoods, a non-profit organization that advocates for schools as community centers. “They missed out on things that could’ve been done with that $20 billion – making schools the anchor in the inner-city neighborhood.”

Abel contends the large schools the district is building create “anonymity,” so that there aren’t “cultural connections and we don’t get the results we want.” And because communities are starving for new classrooms, they often are willing to accept flawed schools, though community groups have sued to stop some of the new schools.

“(The district) waits until the very end and they present the solution and you get to pick the color and you can’t change a damn thing or you’ll blow another three years,” Abel said. “Faced with those choices, you go with them.”

Meanwhile, some critics are seizing on the decline in enrollment to hold up some construction. In Echo Park, a long legal battle has been waged over a proposed $59 million elementary school. The opponents say enrollment declines at nearby Rosemont Elementary School make it unnecessary.

For his part, Mehula said that detractors of the building program should take another look at the size of the schools and the way they work within communities, noting they are open beyond school hours.

“The buildings that we are building are smaller than the existing schools,” he said. “All the secondary schools are breaking the schools into small learning centers. We are able to get that personalized learning experience.”

Soboroff, who was on a committee that oversaw spending on the first $2.4 billion bond measure in 1997, said he believes the district has come a long way in its management of the program – and is delivering real results to communities.

“It’s like an Olympic dive – it’s not just your dive, it’s the degree of difficulty. The degree of difficultly here is off the charts,” Soboroff said. “Based on the realities of everybody wants schools but nobody wants a school across the street, the degree of difficulty is huge and the product they are turning out is world class.”

By Paul Clinton, Daily Breeze Staff Writer

1/30/2008 - High school students in the Los Angeles Unified School District can look forward to more college-level courses, alternative programs and assessment tests under a new collaboration to link them to community colleges.

In a rare joint meeting last week, the boards of Los Angeles Unified and the Los Angeles Community College District agreed to develop the plan and work out the details by July.

The partnership is expected to bring more vocational training for high school students and produce graduates better prepared for college course work.

Entry tests given by Los Angeles Harbor College show almost 90 percent of students need improvement in basic reading skills, President Linda Spink said.

"The basic objective working with (Los Angeles) Unified would be to get these numbers lowered," Spink said.

One out of every four students entering the two-year college comes directly from high school. The others enroll after a pregnancy or other event that interrupted their studies, Spink said.

The two school districts are forging new ties almost 40 years after they split ways. The state Legislature allowed the nine city college campuses to leave LAUSD in July 1969.

"We want to rejoin ourselves at the hip," said LAUSD board member Richard Vladovic. "Why not expose our kids to these courses earlier?"

Harbor College instructors already teach four to five classes at each of the public high schools in Carson, Gardena, Harbor City, San Pedro, Wilmington and the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

High school students can sign up for courses in psychology, criminal justice, English and other subjects. Those offerings would likely be expanded, Vladovic said.

Students could be offered vocational programs in homeland security, fire training or nursing.

Vladovic said he would seek to start programs similar to the Harbor Teacher Prep Academy, a 318-student higher-achieving LAUSD high school nestled on the Harbor College campus in Wilmington.

Building basic skills in reading, writing and mathematics requires offering courses that engage students, Vladovic said.

"I know what the problem is, it's a lack of skill acquisition," Vladovic said. "Many of our kids aren't interested in high school. It's called engagement. It's about getting the kids involved."


smf's 2¢: The Community Colleges split off from LAUSD in 1969? That means when I went to LACC back before the earth cooled it was an LAUSD school? That explains why it seemed like high school with ashtrays. Things have improved …the ashtrays are gone!

Students going directly from high school to community college misses an sizable group: many LAUSD students currently enrolled in high school attend community college campuses now, for enrichment and to make up for deficiencies in their graduation requirements and/or in the high school's schedule of offerings. We need to support and encourage these students - and understand that many are sixteen and seventeen years old attending classes with adults.

Superintendent Brewer speaks of the "Golden Crown" - "college academy" programs where graduating high school seniors can earn their diploma and their AA degree concurrently (with two full years of college credit) in partnership with the school district and the community colleges.

In our preoccupation with Reform let us acknowledge Progress!

The Joint Resolution of the Two Boards

GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT: The payroll debacle rehashed
►4LAKids 2¢: The following Groundhog Day LA Times Editorial reminds us of the Bill Murray movie "Groundhog Day" -- where the terribly flawed hero is forced to relive the same day over and over until he gets it right. LAUSD's error wasn't in deciding to automate its payroll - it was a 1950's era archaic system with clerks in green eyeshades hand-entering information -- and was fraught with error and checks that needed redoing. But it was a human system and the clerks to blame, whether at the schoolsite or in a cubicle "somewhere in payroll" were always accessible; the corrections do-able - one at a time. LAUSD's error may not even have been going with the SAP system. The fatal error was made in not doing trial small-scale "shadow runs" and rolling out the system in phases - instead opting to save time and money with a universal rollout. The exact same thinking as brought us The Belmont Learning Center Fiasco..

The digital clock radio rolls from 6:59 to 7:00, The Sonny & Cher song plays "They say we're young and we don't know…" and the announcer announces that it's a snowy day in Punxsutawney, PA …again and again and again; at infinitum. Until we get it right.


LA Times Editorial

February 2, 2008 - At an IBM team-building exercise, executives were instructed to tell three things about themselves, one of them a lie. One participant said:

"I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.

"I pitched the first ball at a Padres game.

"I oversaw the smooth implementation of SAP software."

His colleagues laughed; they knew right away which was untrue. Most big new software programs cause big headaches at first. But software by the German company SAP is known as a particularly balky, if useful, tool for payroll, billing and other financial matters.

The Irish Health Service spent eight years and 12 times more money than budgeted before calling a halt to its attempt to install SAP software customized by Deloitte Consulting. That was in 2005, just as the Los Angeles Unified School District was moving ahead on SAP, also customized by Deloitte.

The contract was just the first of the district's mistakes.

One year ago this month, the new software began generating thousands of wildly inaccurate paychecks -- 32,000 in June alone -- especially to teachers. Some received a fraction of what they were owed; others were grossly overpaid. Teachers camped out for entire days at district headquarters while a special office tried to solve their problems. Money and many thousands of hours of instructional time were lost.

At least that part is over. Almost all teachers are receiving the right amounts now, although it still takes an army of district employees to backstop the software.

The payroll debacle was a textbook case of the inefficiencies that perennially plague the L.A. school district -- a paucity of talented managers, a lack of responsiveness and a stultifying bureaucracy. Turnover among the top ranks meant the district lacked the expertise to oversee the $95-million contract. Lower-level tech people were undertrained, and many were underqualified but could not be replaced because of union contracts. The district's pay system is impossibly byzantine, with each of nine unions having its own pay structure. Employees might be paid by the hour, the week, the task or even in six-minute increments. And in the beginning, bureaucrats in the central office were remarkably indifferent to teachers who faced financial calamity, transferring them, disconnecting them, failing to return their calls.

Given the rocky history of the SAP/Deloitte combo in Ireland and elsewhere, it's unconscionable that Deloitte consultants and L.A. Unified managers turned on the SAP switch overnight without a full-scale test run, even after the school board had expressed doubts. That was nothing short of arrogance.

Supt. David L. Brewer was left to clean up the mess created by his predecessor, Roy Romer. But before Brewer got his arms around the problem, L.A. Unified fumbled through a series of misguided responses. First, it blamed school clerks rather than the software. Then, in a perfect microcosm of district ineptitude, it considered paying Deloitte an extra $9 million to fix the mayhem it had created. Then it spent yet more money to hire a public relations team to burnish its image.

Today, L.A. Unified is stuck with a hugely expensive software system that still needs tweaking. The district will have to streamline its pay system while demanding maximum compensation from Deloitte. Brewer understands this. At long last, he also has wisely hired the top technology official from the Los Angeles Community College District, which experienced similar problems with SAP but took more steps to forestall pay disasters.

Prodding Deloitte toward cooperation is Assemblyman Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), whose AB 730 would prevent a company from getting a state contract for five years if it's found in court to have failed on a large public technology contract. The bill needs modifications -- it's too narrowly drawn, and lawsuits commonly take years to resolve, giving a company plenty of time to do more damage -- but its intent is right and it should go forward.

The lessons of this past year are only tangentially about SAP software; it can and does work for some companies. The lasting blame for this debacle lies with Deloitte for bad programming and worse advice, but also with L.A. Unified for the series of foul-ups that followed. If our school district cannot even pay its teachers, how can we trust that it is doing right by our children?

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
In Lars and the Real Girl, Bianca - the inanimate sex toy (but not sex object) heroine of the movie becomes so popular in the small Minnesota town she lives in that she is elected to the school board. Anyone who has spent any time with me in a room with a microphone with me has heard the quote from Mark Twain: "First God created idiots; that was for practice. Then He created school boards."

In his Atlantic article Matt Miller goes all Shakespearian on us, paraphrasing Dick the Butcher in Henry VI to advocate for nationalizing public education. Matt plays a centrist on the radio but this is radical thinking …though I'm sure the right and the left will immediately send him to the other side of the room! It is a discussion worth having however (Barack?... Hillary?... John?... Mitt?... Roy Romer and ED in '08?... [note the alphabetical order]) —though I contend the way to begin is create a Constitutional Guarantee of Public Education: A Child's Right to Learn. And build from there.

►FIRST, KILL ALL THE SCHOOL BOARDS: A Modest Proposal to Fix the Schools
by Matt Miller | January/February 2008 Atlantic Monthly

Horace Mann, the Father of American Public Education was on the unpopular side of America’s tradition of radical localism when it came to schools. His efforts in the 1840's made Massachusetts a model for taxpayer-funded schools and state-sponsored teacher training, yet the national obsession with local control—not incidentally, an almost uniquely American obsession—still dominates U.S. education to this day. For much of the 150 or so years between Mann’s era and now, the system served us adequately: during that time, we extended more schooling to more people than any nation had before and rose to superpower status. But let’s look at what local control gives us today, in the “flat” world in which our students will have to compete.
The United States spends more than nearly every other nation on schools, but out of 29 developed countries in a 2003 assessment, we ranked 24th in math and in problem-solving, 18th in science, and 15th in reading. Half of all black and Latino students in the U.S. don’t graduate on time (or ever) from high school. As of 2005, about 70 percent of eighth-graders were not proficient in reading. By the end of eighth grade, what passes for a math curriculum in America is two years behind that of other countries.
Dismal fact after dismal fact; by now, they are hardly news. But in the 25 years since the landmark report A Nation at Risk sounded the alarm about our educational mediocrity, America’s response has been scattershot and ineffective, orchestrated mainly by some 15,000 school districts acting alone, with help more recently from the states. When you look at what local control of education has wrought, the conclusion is inescapable: we must carry Mann’s insights to their logical end and nationalize our schools, to some degree. [more]

Sick animals were abused to get them to stand up to pass inspection, undercover video shows + STATE URGES SCHOOLS BAN SUSPECT BEEF: L.A. Unified will offer substitute items after discovering that a supplier butchered weak and ill cattle

The San Fernando Valley Business Journal reports that the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education has decided to adopt a more stringent standard than required by California law for building new schools near sources of airborne pollution.

► STEREOTYPES, SILENCE, AND SPEAKING OUT: Asian American Students in Education
from Rethinking Schools Online: Volume 22 No. 2 - Winter 2007/2008

There's no so such thing as a positive stereotype. Yet, when it comes to Asian Americans and education, labeling these students as quiet, industrious, and obedient, hinders student achievement. Reinforcing these stereotypes disassociates Asian American students from their peers in other minority groups, as well as eliminates the need to discuss societal obstacles such as racism and poverty.

• In "YOU'RE ASIAN, HOW COULD YOU FAIL MATH?" educators Wayne Au and Benji Chang show the negative effects surrounding the racist myth of the "Model Minority".

• With her essay "TAKING A CHANCE WITH WORDS", Carol A. Tateishi, director of the Bay Area Writing Project, looks at the consequences of a significant number of Asian American students do not participate or participate minimally in the everyday classroom discourse.

► MARNESBA TILLMON TACKETT, 99; civil rights activist helped desegregate L.A. schools

In the 1950s, black and brown students in Los Angeles were forced to learn in segregated public schools so overcrowded they offered only half-day sessions, while white classrooms had empty chairs.

Mrs. Tackett, a civil rights activist who worked to eliminate inequities in education and played a key role in the battle over desegregation in Los Angeles public schools died Dec. 17 at her home in Los Angeles.

The news that didn't fit from Feb 3rd!

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
► Wednesday Feb 6, 2008
Ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m.
Belmont High School
1575 W. 2nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90026

► Wednesday Feb 6, 2008
6:00 p.m.
Main Street Elementary School
129 East 53rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90011

► Thursday Feb 7, 2008
LAUSD and the Department of Toxic and Substance Control (DTSC) invite you to attend an open house meeting to share information and answer questions about the environmental investigations regarding the South Region High School #9 and South Region Middle School #4 projects.
Immediately following the open house, LAUSD will host a Pre-Design meeting to provide a project overview of South Region High School #9, introduce the Project Architect, and collect community input on the design.
Time: 5pm - 6pm DTSC Open House
6pm - 7pm Pre-Design Meeting
Bryson Elementary School - Auditorium
4470 Missouri Ave.
South Gate, CA 90280

► Thursday Feb 7, 2008
6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Bellingham Primary Center
Multi-Purpose Room
6728 Bellingham Ave.
North Hollywood, CA 91606

*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 • 213-241-6382 • 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.
• 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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