Sunday, December 28, 2008


4LAKids: Sunday, Dec 28, 2008
In This Issue:
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:
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: an investment we can't afford to cut! - The Education Coalition Website
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.
The Daily News ran the inevitable/unenviable retrospective today replaying the Highlight/Lowlight Reel of 2008 in LA, here are two-of-the-above / one-and-the-same:


Los Angeles Unified ended a costly and tumultuous year with the buyout of its superintendent and the settlement of a lawsuit over problems with its faulty payroll system.

The cash-strapped district voted in early December to pay $500,000 to buy out the contract of David Brewer III, the retired Navy admiral hired two years ago as superintendent although he had no experience as an educator.

He'll be succeeded Jan. 1 by Ramon Cortines, a retired LAUSD superintendent who returned to the district in April as Brewer's No. 2.

The board voted unanimously on Dec. 16 to promote Cortines to the top spot under a three-year contract.

Also in December, the district announced it had settled a lawsuit against Deloitte Consulting over the firm's implementation of a $95 million payroll system that overpaid and underpaid thousands of employees and continues to issue erroneous checks.

Although LAUSD sought to be reimbursed for the $37 million it spent to fix the system, it settled for just $8.25 million, plus the forgiveness of more than $7million in invoices. The district has yet to recover some $19 million from employees who were overpaid because of the problems.

A phase of the computerized system that would handle district purchasing was set to be implemented in January, although that launch is uncertain.


California appears headed into the new year with its largest-ever budget deficit - a shortfall that is projected to grow to $42 billion by mid-2010.

Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature are locked in a stalemate over how to solve the crisis, which has threatened hundreds of capital improvement projects and prompted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to order furloughs for tens of thousands of state workers.

Democrats pushed through an $18 billion stopgap plan on a simple majority vote, saying their complex mix of revenue cuts and tax increases avoided the need for a two-thirds majority vote.

The Republican governor has promised to veto the plan, which is staunchly opposed by GOP lawmakers. They oppose raising taxes, and want deeper spending cuts than Democrats are willing to support.

State Controller John Chiang has said the state will have to defer billions of dollars in payments or issue IOUs to contractors if an updated budget is not approved.


If indeed life is that simple, there it is - all simplified and dumbed-down for the readership. Just be sure to leave your magic glasses on and ignore the man behind the curtain.

THE STATE BUDGET CRISIS and THE REAL CRISIS AT LAUSD have been in 2008 – and will continue to be in 2009 – about the money.

Not the overpayment/underpayment of the Deloitte/BTS debacle or the payoff of Superintendent Brewer - it will be about the either $200 million plus or the $400 million plus midyear budget cuts to the District: MIDYEAR • THIS YEAR • IN THE NEXT SIX MONTHS • WITH MORE CUTS TO COME NEXT YEAR! And the either/or part is totally at the whim of the not-so-whimsical lawmakers in Sacramento - the principal one of whom promised a solution on his desk by Christmas.

California is a State Without a Budget. If the state were a corporation those responsible wouldn't be being bailed out - they would be doing a 'perp walk'! At the very least failure to come up with a budget that reflects both the realities of the economy and the will of the people is an abuse of power by the legislature and the governor. If our children are our future and if their education and welfare is important it may well be child abuse. Maybe not with a capital "C" and a capital "A" sense …but zero tolerance is the rule.

And that, gentle readers, is a high crime and a misdemeanor.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! - smf

by Dick Price & Sharon Kyle – LA Progessive e-newsletter & blog

December 28, 2008 -- In his first public appearance since his contract was bought out by the Los Angeles Board of Education, Superintendent David Brewer said his ouster will only make a bad situation worse. “This district has eaten up five superintendents in 14 years,” he said in speaking to the Urban Issues Forum a week ago last Friday. “You’re not going to make progress with that kind of instability.”

Hosted by Anthony Asadullah Samad at the California African-American Museum, the monthly breakfast event attracts a mostly African-American audience although the doors are open to all. Samad brings speakers who address social and political issues relevant to urban Los Angeles and its surrounding communities. Past speakers have included Barack Obama, Cornel West, Tavis Smiley, and Antonio Villaraigosa.

This particular forum was scheduled months before Brewer was ousted, according to Samad, who intended to bring Superintendent Brewer to the community to discuss the progress he has made after just two years on the job. News of his buyout came just weeks before the event.

“In districts where superintendents have turned situations around, in Chicago and New York City, for example, they’ve had time and space to make progress—six to 10 years,” Brewer said, comparing the challenges in Los Angeles with other cities. “In two years? You can’t get anything done that fast, especially when you’re where Los Angeles is. LA is behind; it will take time to catch up.”

In recent reports, LAUSD School Board president Monica Garcia made it clear that she was seeking to replace Brewer. All but two school board members approved a buyout of Brewer’s contract of $517,500. Mayor Villaraigosa reportedly said he favored a change in leadership.

Replacing Brewer, at least in the interim, will be Ramon Cortines, a retired superintendent who was brought in by Brewer to serve as senior deputy superintendent. Cortines has been running day-to-day operations since he came onboard eight months ago.


Citing his philosophy that “data will set you free,” the retired Navy vice admiral pointed to the progress LA’s schools have made in the short time he’s been at the helm as nothing short of phenomenal. “We’ve had a 21-point growth in API scores this year, to 683,” he said in his upbeat presentation to the forum. “That’s better than the state as a whole and the highest gain of any major school district in California.”

“Our 12th grade enrollment is also up, to 34,763—the highest it’s been since 1997,” he continued.

Brewer has attempted to run the district according to, what he calls, five “guiding principles:”

* We will be a data-driven organization; we will use research and analysis to make decisions.
* All of our employees will be lifelong learners.
* We will actively encourage change and innovation within the District
* We will empower and engage parents and partner with the community.
* We will ensure the physical and emotional safety of our students.

As part of his efforts to take LA’s schools to the next level, Brewer was planning to unveil the “school report card” this January, a system that grades schools much like students are graded. He intended to use this tool to promote school visibility with parents, teachers, and the general public. He also planned to implement a Web-based application that allows teachers to look at each student’s education background, modeled on the SchoolNet program developed in the Inglewood School District.

Brewer was also developing plans for more boarding schools, modeled on successful pilots undertaken in Washington D.C. and Atlanta as well as single-gender academies in New York City.

“The Seed boarding school in Washington serves grades 6 to 12. It’s a good example for us,” Brewer said. “Los Angeles needs 10 similar boarding schools, especially for our foster kids. We have 14,000 foster children in this district and another 10,000 who are homeless.” He also wanted to implement a teacher-mentoring program, based on the “sailor-to-admiral” program from his Navy days, designed to improve development of new teachers.

While praising him for working with the Legislature on the education budget—Los Angeles school’s budget will need to cut another $200 million, according to Brewer—his critics claim that the gains in scores and enrollment aren’t really the result of Brewer’s action and also slight his lack of educational background and the slow pace of accomplishment, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.


Brewer, who is a black man, did not think his ouster was race-based. However, he does see a racial and gender connection to the problems with LA’s schools.

“Middle class blacks and Latinos score below poor whites and poor Asians,” he said in returning to his beloved statistics. “So LA’s low scores aren’t just an economic problem.” He also emphasized the performance gap when gender was considered. The bottom line is that black and brown boys are not being educated in Los Angeles schools.

He attributed this education gap partly to what he called an “expectation bias,” both for Latino students and especially for black students, who fulfill a prophesy by performing poorly on tests and in school generally, in part because they’re not expected to perform as well as white and Asian students.

“But that expectation bias goes throughout our schools, through the community, and into our black homes,” he said. “We’ve got a generational issue coming out of slavery. Blacks don’t read the way whites do.”

“Whenever I take a flight, I walk down the aisle and see who’s reading,” he said in speaking to a nearly all-black audience. “It’s not us.”

“What I wanted to do, when I came here, was to change the culture in the schools,” Brewer said. “But we also have to change the culture in the community. We’ve got to get to parents, get them educated, get them stabilized. If you want your child to love reading, you’ve got to read yourself.”


“Well, politics is a contact sport. The only thing I could have done was to delay the inevitable,” Brewer said when asked what he might have done differently. “I could have spent more time working politically—former Superintendent Ray Romer was a master politician. But I thought that if I spent that much time in politics, what would give? Working with the kids—that would have had to give.”

After seeing the strong evidence suggesting Brewer was making significant progress with the LAUSD, we asked why he thought he was asked to leave.

In a way that seemed to skirt the question, Brewer talked about politics. He said he believed the elective nature of the LAUSD board might be part of the problem, for him and for other superintendents past and future. “What you have in the country, you have political boards whose members have their own agendas,” Brewer said. “It doesn’t matter what progress you’re making.”

“Philly and Chicago have gone to appointed boards—three appointed by the governor, three by the mayor, I believe,” he continued. “Somehow you’ve got to give superintendents time and space to make changes.”

After Brewer spent a couple of minutes giving his answer, Moderator Samad jumped in and put the issue in balder terms:

“Sharon, the deal is about the money,” Samad said. “The budget for LAUSD is four times the LA City budget. Most of that budget goes toward building projects. Every board member has a favorite contractor to build buildings. Antonio has some guys who want to get at that pot of money.”

Samad speculated that Brewer’s removal may have a lot to do with a potential Villaraigosa run for the governorship, in this case aided by the school board members he helped to get elected.


The forum concluded with Brewer being surrounded by a supportive audience looking for ways to continue to support his agenda after he is gone and Cortines takes the helm. With the passage of Measure Q—the $7 billion school bond—there will be resources to achieve some, if not all, of Brewers initiatives.

Let’s hope the kid’s needs don’t get lost in all of the politics.

Dick Price and Sharon Kyle are Editor and Publisher of LA Progressive

by Dan Walters | Sacramento Bee Columnist

Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008 -- This pattern has become all too common in California's school districts, large and small: An election changes the balance of power, and the newly constituted board tells the district superintendent to take a hike so it can bring in someone more to its liking.

These abrupt changes don't come cheap. Take, for instance, what happened in Southern California's Rialto Unified School District. School unions won a majority on the board, and Superintendent Edna Davis-Herring soon departed, receiving a $300,000 severance package.

The immense Los Angeles Unified School District also saw a political sea change, with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's allies achieving a majority on a board that had earlier resisted his efforts to gain administrative control of the district on the promise to fix its low academic scores and high dropout rates.

The district stubbornly opposed legislation granting Villaraigosa the authority he sought, and he had to settle for a half-a-loaf that gave him control of a few schools. And during the political battle, the board figuratively thumbed its nose at the mayor by hiring a new superintendent, retired Navy Vice Adm. David Brewer.

Like every other aspect of Los Angeles politics, the conflict had racial overtones. Brewer is African American, and Villaraigosa is Latino. As a sop to Villaraigosa, the board hired a veteran Latino educator, Ramon Cortines, as a kind of co-superintendent.

Eventually, however, the mayor's acolytes won a board majority. This month, after several days of maneuvering and speculation, Brewer departed with a $517,500 severance package. Cortines, as expected, became his successor.

What happened in Rialto and Los Angeles demonstrates anew how local school politics in California, even in its smaller districts, have become totally politicized arenas in which politicians, unions, parent groups and others play their power games while insisting that they're really interested in the welfare of children.

It may be only a coincidence, but the rising politicization of education in California over the past three decades has matched precisely the deterioration of the state's academic performance – we're very near the bottom in most categories – as well as the endless battles over money both locally and in Sacramento.

Villaraigosa got what he wanted, but now that he has de facto control of Los Angeles schools, he will be the one held responsible for how they educate nearly 700,000 kids, amassing a record that will either enhance his ambition to become governor or provide his rivals with deadly ammunition.

Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez said it well, writing, "Now is the time for Villaraigosa to come out from behind the curtain and show us what he had in mind when he insisted three years ago that he could do a better job running the schools … (and) he's running out of people to blame for anything less than dramatic reforms and improvements."

►4LAKids Fun with Math:

Rialto Unified School District with 29,000 students paid $300,000 in their superintendent's buy out; that’s $10.34 per student.

LAUSD with 700,000 students paid $517,500 in their superintendent's buy out; that’s $1.35 per student.

Q: Who got a better deal?
A: Nobody. Certainly not the kids.



By Howard Blume | Opinion from the Los Angeles Times

December 21, 2008 -- Retirement doesn't seem to agree with Ramon C. Cortines, the 76-year-old educator who was named superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District last week.

He first tried to step out of the saddle in 1992, when he was schools chief in San Francisco. But he quickly returned to full-time employment, serving in the Clinton administration before going on to head the nation's largest school system in New York City. After another attempt at retirement, Cortines stepped in for six months in 2000 to serve as interim superintendent in Los Angeles. After trying retirement once again, he was drafted in 2006 to be a deputy mayor and chief education advisor to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

In April of this year, Cortines became top lieutenant to Los Angeles schools Supt. David L. Brewer, and in January, he will replace his former boss at the helm of the nation's second-largest school district.

Cortines, who still wears the same-sized clothes he donned as a military draftee in 1953, rises at 4 a.m. daily to exercise, works six days a week and takes his first appointment at 6 a.m.

But does he really need the hassle of leading an academically beleaguered school system amid a crippling budget crisis?

Times staff writer Howard Blume interviewed Cortines last week. What follows is an edited transcript of their discussion.

BLUME: The budget numbers are daunting, $200 million to $400 million in immediate cuts and similar cuts in each of the next two years. How will the district cope?

CORTINES: Unless there is some miracle from Sacramento -- and that means a tax increase or a gift of money from out of the sky -- I think this means employee layoffs. Administrative services will be among the first to go. I think that school principals are going to have to take more responsibility, and local districts are going to have to take more responsibility. It's very difficult, and it is very demoralizing.

Q: Could that mean having to move students to different classes midyear so that all classes are fuller?

I hope not. Remember, that was on the table recently. I listened to the principals. And I took it off the table, and it's still off the table.

Q: Last year's budget, which you didn't handle, included unpaid furlough days for employees. The unions have challenged that plan, and early on, you sided with the unions.

I had taken the furlough days off the table, but now they are back on.

Q: How do you improve schools in this financial environment?

I look at this as an opportunity to do things differently, to deliver services differently, to manage differently.

Q: Fifteen years ago, you retired as superintendent in San Francisco, a much smaller school district -- where you were quite popular -- partly because of stress that left you with an ulcer. And you want this job?

I think my work ethic is better now. I know how to manage my time better. I work one day every weekend, and I take one complete day off. That's my day. I never used to do that. I think I know how to smell the flowers better. I don't let my work consume me.

Q: Does that make you more effective?


Q: What have you learned in your other jobs that you can apply here?

For too long, we have focused on the needs of adults and not the needs of students. I've been to more than 40 schools in seven months, and I find a wonderful teaching force. I find leadership. But I also find some mediocrity, and when I see it, I call it out. I'm going to continue to put people on notice when I see they're not living up to what I believe students deserve.

When I look at the test scores, yes, we've made gains. Many children are at the proficient level, but many are not. Proficiency has got to be the goal. Not moving from below-basic to basic.

Q: You served as interim superintendent in Los Angeles for six months in 2000. During that time, you developed a decentralization plan that never really went into effect. What happened?

Where I was naive, and where the board was naive, is that when you decentralize -- and the board has approved it and all the unions have bought into it -- you think it will happen. And it didn't happen.

Q: Did you make a mistake leaving after only six months.

Yes. I should have at least stayed a couple of years to implement what everybody said they wanted, and to iron out the bugs and make modifications where necessary. I thought I was doing the right thing because I said I'd come in and do four or five things: cut the budget, balance the budget, cut the bureaucracy, decentralize and help the board find a superintendent.

Generally, I do everything I'm asked to do and more, but I've learned that it's not enough just to design and bring a plan to fruition. It's important to effect that plan.

Q: What if the school board doesn't really know what it's doing? Or if its members can neither reach consensus nor offer a consistent, driving philosophy?

When I came to L.A. in 2000, I think the board was just as you have described. And when I left L.A., there was a consensus and there was a focus. A lot of people like to rag on boards, but I think the superintendent has a responsibility to help a board and provide leadership as it relates to working together.

Q: Your contract has no buyout provision, just 30 days' notice.

I serve at the day-to-day pleasure of the board and my own pleasure. I have told them I will be here for three years.

Q: Years ago, you were quoted in an article as saying that you were not necessarily opposed to vouchers (public funds that parents could use to pay for private schools).

I don't believe students should be held captive. If we're not doing the job, we have a responsibility to make sure that better opportunities are available. Children are the future.

Q: Supt. Brewer and the school board never agreed on how he should be evaluated, which eventually made his dismissal more controversial. What would be reasonable, specific goals for you?

I've already agreed with the board that there will be an evaluation process of the superintendent, and it's my hope that it will be public.

I want to continue the trajectory of academic achievement that has begun. I want to see parent involvement increase. I want to see out-of-school suspensions decrease. I want to see [good] behavior increasing. I want to see teachers valued. I want to see leadership valued. But I want people to take responsibility.

I'll give you an example of what I see. When I look at the 34 high-priority schools, all but a very few have made great progress in almost every area. But I think we have a problem, and Supt. Brewer put his finger on it. Many of our African American students, especially boys, and some of our Latino students, especially boys, have not made the progress that they should. They have just as much potential, but I believe we have to address some of the social issues.

Q: In earlier interviews, you mentioned focusing on dropouts. Is that still high on the agenda?

Hell yes. I don't care if it takes five years or six years for kids to finish high school. I understand that students are different now. They have family responsibilities. They have their own families. They're emancipated minors. I just want students to finish school. One of the best schools I visited in South Central was the pregnant-minor program. It's unbelievable the care that these young ladies were getting, the education they were getting from the dedicated teachers at that school. I don't believe you have to be in a regular classroom. I do believe that instruction has to happen, and we all need to be held accountable.

Q: Is this the last greatest challenge of your professional life?

I would think so. I would never have been here if Supt. Brewer hadn't asked me. He sincerely felt that I could help him. Because questions weren't getting answered. Schools were not getting responded to. Some of the people, not all of the people, were just spinning their wheels for each other and had no connection to schools. I remember saying to some instructional people: "You should be in schools and visiting." And they said, "We don't visit schools." Well, they are today, I'll tell you that.

I certainly never intended to be a superintendent ever in my life again. I've had a wonderful career. But at this moment, this needs to be done. As long as I'm here, I'll give it my full and best dedication. And I will make mistakes. And I will stub my toe. And I won't cover those up. I'll get up, dust myself off, apologize, and we'll move on.

• The campus has long been intended as a local school, mostly serving students from surrounding neighborhoods.
• Critics say the district's best resources shouldn't be restricted geographically.

By Mitchell Landsberg | LA Times

December 22, 2008 -- With just nine months left before it opens, a new arts high school in downtown Los Angeles still lacks a principal, a staff, a curriculum, a permanent name and a clearly articulated plan for how students will be selected -- critical details for a school that aims to be one of the foremost arts education institutions in the United States.

Central High School No. 9 does have a completed campus, believed to be the second most expensive public high school ever built in the United States. But the very fact that it offers what may be the finest such facilities in the region has fueled a debate over the district's plan to operate it primarily as a neighborhood school, with fewer than one-quarter of its slots allotted to students citywide.

"This school is built to build the potential that exists within this community, in which we have thousands of very talented students but who lack the social capital and the access to quality arts training," said Richard Alonzo, a former art teacher who now has authority over the school as a local district superintendent. By "community," he was referring primarily to the Pico-Union area that lies just west of the school. Alonzo said the school might intentionally discourage the most talented students from outside the surrounding neighborhoods from applying, lest they hog the spotlight.

That has led some people to question whether it's fair to the wider community -- and if it makes sense from an educational standpoint -- to lavish resources on a flagship arts school that is designed primarily for one section of the city.

"I just think that L.A. Unified rushes to mediocrity," said former school board member Caprice Young, who said she thought the goal should be the highest level of performance, regardless of geography. "As a school district, we need to be honoring excellence."

Few will question whether the campus itself is capable of fostering excellence. At a cost of $232 million, it is one of the crown jewels of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

That's clear from the moment you pull into the multilevel, 300-car garage. Up a broad flight of stairs, the campus' main buildings offer three dance studios with sprung maple flooring.

A professional-quality, 950-seat theater. Music classrooms with acoustic tiling and special whiteboards designed for musical notation.

Floor-to-ceiling windows with motorized blackout shades. Ceiling-mounted projectors in every classroom, allowing teachers to display lessons from computers.

Track lighting in the hallways to illuminate student art. An outdoor atrium for firing Japanese raku pottery. And the school's centerpiece, a conical library whose dazzling interior swirls upward to an off-center skylight.

All that, and a tower that looms over the 101 Freeway like a severed limb of the Iron Giant.

But while the school is physically ready to open in the fall, key operational details remain undetermined. An executive director was hired but quit, and now the school is interviewing candidates for principal.

"I'm concerned -- I will use that word," said Ramon C. Cortines, the district's incoming superintendent. Any school needs at least a year of preparation to open successfully, he said, and a specialty arts school may need more.

Alonzo, who has a passionate vision for the school, remains upbeat and insists that any obstacles will be surmounted.

He said he is close to selecting a principal from among three finalists -- two from the East Coast and one from Southern California. And he has apparently beaten back efforts to wrest the campus from district control and turn it into a charter, a public school largely free of district supervision.

He also believes he has settled the debate over whether the campus will be a neighborhood school or one that attracts the most talented students citywide -- an issue that will define the school's identity.

In its early years, at least, 1,200 of the school's 1,700 seats will be reserved for students from the surrounding neighborhoods, primarily the low-income enclaves of Pico-Union and Chinatown, Alonzo said.

The school, whose name is up for sale for $25 million, has a complicated history that speaks to the ethnic and geographic schisms that run through L.A.'s educational politics. It sits at 450 N. Grand Ave., directly across the freeway from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The site long served as the school district's headquarters and stands at the northern terminus of the Grand Avenue Project, a multibillion-dollar redevelopment of the city's civic and cultural hub.

The campus was initially conceived as a regular comprehensive high school that would relieve overcrowding at nearby Belmont High, whose partially completed replacement campus was temporarily abandoned because the site was deemed an environmental minefield.

Partly at the urging of philanthropist Eli Broad, the district later decided to turn its old headquarters into a flagship arts school that would anchor Broad's Grand Avenue Project and embrace the major arts institutions within walking distance: the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the L.A. Opera, the Center Theatre Group, the Colburn School of Music and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

The cost of the building, paid largely through school construction bonds, soared once the district decided to make it "world class," district facilities chief Guy Mehula said. Only one other public school in the United States cost more to build -- the Edward Roybal Learning Center. Roybal, about six blocks away, was finished on the abandoned Belmont site after the school board decided it could manage the environmental problems.

The cost of the arts school dwarfs even Roybal if the $190-million cost of moving the district's headquarters and renovating new offices on Beaudry Avenue is included.

No other part of the city is so richly endowed with new schools. Besides Roybal, there is the nearby Miguel Contreras Learning Complex, and the area will eventually be served by the new schools being built on the site of the Ambassador Hotel -- which, at a projected $570 million for an elementary, middle and high school, will be the costliest yet.

Former school board member David Tokofsky said he believed the overcrowding problem had been solved, leaving no need for the school to focus on the neighborhood. He said the school should reach out for "talent from Banning [High], from Pacoima, from Huntington Park."

While on the school board, Tokofsky pushed through a compromise that calls for the arts school to be "open to all District students, beginning with a minimum of 500 students from outside the residential area to grow as space permits."

But Alonzo and others insist that the district has, in effect, a social obligation to make up for decades of neglect in the areas just west of downtown.

"For 27, almost 30 years, these kids have had a 65% dropout rate, a very limited outlook for their future," said Maria Casillas, president of a nonprofit foundation that promotes parental involvement in schools and a member of an advisory board established to support the arts high school. "And I don't know that the cost of these buildings actually pays for the pain and suffering that we have created . . . for these kids."

Alonzo said students at the school may not have the most experience in the arts, but they will not suffer for it. For instance, usually in the case of a school play, "The part's going to go to the kid who shows the greatest talent, and that's not the kind of school that this is going to be," Alonzo said. "This is really looking at building potential in communities that have been underserved, for kids that really haven't had the chance."

While the school might tell star performers that they would likely be happier elsewhere, it won't refuse to accept them if they really want to attend, he said.

In part, Alonzo frames the argument for a neighborhood school in economic terms. Los Angeles, he said, offers well-paying jobs to people in the arts, not just as artists and performers but in back-office and blue-collar roles. The new school will help give disadvantaged students entree to those jobs, he said.

Another key issue is how the students are selected.

Los Angeles Unified already has performing-arts programs as part of its magnet system, and those schools are required to take students without regard to talent. The L.A. County High School for the Arts, on the other hand, requires auditions or portfolios of student work.

Alonzo said the new school will steer a middle course, with students required to get a recommendation from a teacher and to demonstrate their interest in attending. They will not, however, be required to demonstrate artistic ability, since many students in the neighborhood never had the opportunity to study an art form.

The students from outside the neighborhood -- 350 the first year, then 500 -- will be selected in the same way, he said.

He said all students will be expected to attend Saturday classes or summer classes at the school "to give us the opportunity to talk to the parents, to talk to the child, to find out is this really the place where you should be coming to school." He said the classes would start next month.

Ariceli Ruano, chief executive of a foundation that helps Latin American children and an active member of the arts school advisory board, said the selection process isn't clear.

"Is it first-come, first-served?" she asked. "I don't know. And with the local students, there's no application that's been developed that I've seen. . . . I don't really understand, and if I don't understand, I don't think it will be very clear to parents."

Directors of some of the district's magnet arts programs have been watching the progress on Grand Avenue with interest, perhaps a bit of jealousy, and some frustration.

David Way, head of the Academy of Music at Hamilton High School, said there was some "institutional concern" about the new school. Given his druthers, he said, he would rather have seen the district put the resources into its existing arts programs.

Still, he said, "I've never worried, lost sleep, over not getting talented kids. There's three-quarters of a million kids in the Los Angeles Unified School District."

Alan Warhaftig, co-director of the visual arts magnet at Fairfax High, said he wished the new school well but would not be "real happy" if it began siphoning off his best students. But he said the school's new campus wouldn't be enough to attract talent, or ensure a successful program.

"It doesn't matter how large and well-equipped your studios are," Warhaftig said. "The education of artists is not about training their hands. It's about training the mind, it's about training the eye."

He added: "To build something that has coherence takes time, and it doesn't matter if it's an arts program or one that's focused on international affairs or medicine. . . . As much as people would like to reduce it to a formula, it's ultimately an art form."

►YOUR NAME HERE: Name for sale -or- “Tag sale philanthropy”

December 22, 2008 -- There are no signs saying "Your Name Here," but there might as well be. For the right price, Los Angeles Unified will sell naming rights to its new arts high school on Grand Avenue.

Such fundraising is common at private schools but rare for a public institution.

It's all part of an acknowledgment that running a flagship arts high school is far more expensive than running a traditional school, and the additional money will have to come from nontraditional sources.

The school also has plans to rent out its theater, music studios, dance studios, gym and other facilities.

Does that mean we may end up with an ExxonMobil High? In-N-Out Burger High? There's probably little danger of that.

The district has made clear that it wants philanthropists, not corporations, to bid for the naming rights.

Here are the buildings available for naming, and the amount the school hopes to receive for each:

• SCHOOL: $25 million
• THEATER: $5 million
• DANCE PROGRAM: $2 million
• DRAMA PROGRAM: $2 million
• MUSIC PROGRAM: $2 million
• LIBRARY: $3 million
• AMPHITHEATER: $1 million
• BLACK BOX THEATER: $1 million

●●smf – Accountability+Oversight: Would these $45 million be invested in the Educational Programs at the school - or used to defray the increased capital costs of construction mandated by the design? Arguments could be made both ways. And if invested in Arts Education programs at the school how can we and/or the philanthropists be assured they won't be 're-purposed' to general operations, maintenance and upkeep, salaries and paper towels rather than arts programs? Could they be endowments with only the return on investment being spent?

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

Los Angeles (Dec. 19, 2008) - Sacramento is betraying the children of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) by freezing state funds that have already been approved for projects ranging from construction of new schools to upgrades of the oldest campuses.

The District had planned to get $833 million in state funds for projects that have already been approved and construction started. Without the promised funds, the District could be required to stop work on projects currently
underway and the ability to go forward with the $1.5 billion in construction contracts planned for 2009 would be in jeopardy.

"We absolutely need these funds, because turning off the spigot would paralyze the District's ability to complete these urgent projects," said Superintendent David L. Brewer III.

Based on the dire nature of this threat, the District is being pro-active and making plans to try to sell more local bonds earlier than expected to avoid these catastrophic issues. This will only work if there are buyers, given
the nation's financial crisis. The District will not know the answer to this until late January.

"Delaying our children's ability to get back the education they deserve in two semester neighborhood schools is unacceptable and we need to take action," said Guy Mehula, head of the District's facilities program.

"These economic times are not the time to eliminate jobs," said LAUSD Superintendent-elect Ray Cortines. "We should be encouraging our legislature to find other solutions for the students of the Los Angeles Unified School District and continue to infuse the local economy with jobs."

In ‘The once and future supe’ (12/21) 4LAKids wrote:
“There was an announcement that Cortines would stay in his lower floor office - avoiding the 24th floor at Beaudry - the power center of the puzzle palace - altogether. But by Friday it was conceded that he would occupy the superintendent's corner suite with its (2001) controversial private rest room and panoramic view of Belmont/Vista Hermosa/Roybal, Dodger Stadium, City Hall, and the "skate board ramp" at the High School for the Arts. Sometimes the cost of symbolic change exceeds the cost benefit analysis.”
In a message dated 12/21/2008 8:05:21 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, district staff wrote:
FYI, Mr. Cortines will move to the 24th floor because it is the most economical and efficient use of the space in the building. He has not agreed to use the Superintendent's office as his workspace. The Superintedent's Office will be used as a conference room and Mr. Cortines will occupy another office on the 24th floor.

smf writes: Thank you - correction noted and apologies for any misunderstanding, under-or-over interpretation. Sometimes the tea leaves are just leftover from making tea - other times they require dressing as Indians and dumping into the Harbour.

4LAKids certainly concurs with Mr. Cortines’ decision to be on the 24th floor as the most economical and efficient use of use of space, assets and resources: capital and human. And it will probably solve wear and tear on the elevators.

I always figured that the panoramic view of Belmont LC was a constant galling reminder to Superintendent Romer of human folly. Roy is such a lookie-loo - the static view of nothing happening was probably the greatest impetus possible for onward momentum!



• SCHOOL GROUPS HOPE K-12 GETS SHARE OF STIMULUS: Some hope education programs—not just school construction projects—will snare funding to help boost the economy.
As President-elect Barack Obama and Congress begin laying the groundwork for a massive economic stimulus package, education groups are hoping for a major infusion of cash—beyond just construction projects—to help put financially struggling school districts on firmer fiscal footing.

• A Christmas Surprise: OFFICIAL FILES PROPOSAL FOR EXPO LINE CROSSINGS IN SOUTH L.A. - The plan from a PUC member makes a pedestrian bridge across the tracks next to Dorsey High School more likely.

San Fernando Mayor Nury Martinez, who is seeking a Los Angeles Unified school board seat, is facing a court challenge over her decision to describe herself as an "educator" on the ballot.

Los Angeles schoolchildren learning drama from a professional actor or ballet from a skilled dancer might lose their teachers next semester if the Los Angeles Unified School District continues to freeze funding for programs employing outside contractors.

• NAMING OF CARSON SCHOOL HITS A ROADBLOCK: Council wanted slain L.A. SWAT officer honored, but Latinos back Cesar Chavez designation.

• CALIFORNIA PRIVATE SCHOOLS RETHINK TUITION PRACTICES IN ECONOMIC DOWNTURN: One West Hills school is lowering tuition; others look at freezing fees or basing them on ability to pay.

The news that didn't fit from Dec 28th

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
*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 leader in LAUSD. He is immediate past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represents PTA as Vice-chair on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He is a Community Concerns Commissioner, Legislation Team member and a member of the Board of Managers of the California State PTA. He serves on various school district advisory and policy committees and has served a PTA officer and governance council member at three LAUSD schools.
• 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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