Sunday, October 03, 2010

An embarrassment of politicians

Onward! smf SchoolBoard!
4LAKids: Sunday 3•Oct•2010
In This Issue:
TRAGIC, TEACHABLE MOMENT: What will Rigoberto Ruelas' students learn from his suicide?
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:
4 LAKids on Twitter
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 old Knight shook his white head doubtfully. "There is so much to be learned that there is no one who can be said to know all," said he. "For example, Nigel, it is sooth that for every collection of beasts of the forest, and for every gathering of birds of the air, there is their own private name so that none may be confused with another."

"I know it, fair sir."

"You know it, Nigel, but you do not know each separate name​?

Answer me now, lad, how would you say if you saw ten badgers together in the forest?"

"A cete of badgers, fair sir."

"Good, Nigel—good, by my faith! And if you walk in Woolmer Forest and see a swarm of foxes, how would you call it?"

"A skulk of foxes."

"And if they be lions?"

"Nay, fair sir, I am not like to meet several lions in Woolmer Forest."

"Aye, lad, but there are other forests besides Woolmer, and other lands besides England, and who can tell how far afield such a knight errant as Nigel of Tilford may go, when he sees worship to be won? We will say that you were in the deserts of Nubia, and that afterward at the court of the great Sultan you wished to say that you had seen several lions, which is the first beast of the chase, being the king of all animals. How then would you say it?"

Nigel scratched his head. "Surely, fair sir, I would be content to say that I had seen a number of lions, if indeed I could say aught after so wondrous an adventure."

"Nay, Nigel, a huntsman would have said that he had seen a pride of lions, and so proved that he knew the language of the chase. Now had it been boars instead of lions?"

"One says a singular of boars."
- from "Sir Nigel", by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1906) P.D.


In Iraq they had an election 210 ago, and they still have not decided who won. This may be an embarrassment, but I’m not embarrassed - representative democracy takes some learning.

In California the legislature passed the deadline for coming up with a budget 95 days ago; a deadline is where you're figuratively (if not actually) dead if you pass it by. This IS an embarrassment - but neither our legislators nor the governor - red, blue or metaphorically shrouded in white - seem embarrassed.

Friday afternoon - for the second Friday afternoon a row/deja vu redux -- the Big Five (a government body neither created nor mentioned anywhere in the state constitution, Roberts' Rules , the standing rules or bylaws - came out of a Secret Meeting and announced a Secret Solution the state budget.

(For the sake of redundancy 4LAKids invites the readership to compare last week's breathless announcement [ ] with this week's. [].

And The Secret Solution? If we knew what it was it wouldn't be much of a secret ...would it?

This whole state budget process is about as transparent as what that great democratic idealist Napoleon described as "a silk stocking filled with merde".

And the promises from the Democrats and the Governator that there would be "No more cuts to education"? And the Proposition 98 constitutional guarantee of a minimal level K-12 funding (heretofore and forever established as the maximum) would be held to?

Read this leak: "But there will be cuts to schools, including a suspension of voter-approved formulas guaranteeing a set amount of revenue for K-12 education. Reductions in other social and health services are also expected, though the depth of those was not immediately clear. " LA Times Oct 2 |

Merde dans un bas de soie.

I don't know about you, but I'm embarrassed. And our children? Screwed again.


Locally we had an embarrassment of Cross Country coaches who simultaneously (or perhaps serially) forgot how to interpret a policy bulletin, read a thermometer and the definition of the word 'must'.. Ten kids went the hospital [bitley] Maybe ten kids falls within acceptable risk or margin of error during these trying times; maybe that's the price we and they must pay. I hope not.


Tempering our if not their embarrassment: politicians neither misbehave nor perform well all the time. They are our representatives and represent both our better angels and our follies.

There was an excellent debate Wednesday night between the two candidates for State Superintendent for Public Instruction. Please go see it here: [video not yet posted on]

....and The Governator actually signed important legislation protecting and guaranteeing the rights of foster children and the right os schoolchildren to drink fresh water with their meals - while using the same pen to veto legislation to addres sthe shenanigans in Bell. WWT?


"Go hence to have more talk of these sad things...."

Sharpening our focus and our perspective on reality: Suicide - the third largest cause of death in youth - - is our radar screen, triggered by unforeseen consequences and sad events; singular happenings indicative of darker trends in the Angeles Forest and the teacher evaluations by the LA Times; Rutgers University and Facebook. [] Vital Statistics and the obit pages always trump the mundane. Always have, always will - death is that final.

Not unlike old the blues song about 'being down so long it all looks like up to me' - there is no way but Onward.

¡Adelante! - smf

TRAGIC, TEACHABLE MOMENT: What will Rigoberto Ruelas' students learn from his suicide?
By Sandy Banks LA Times Columnist |

October 2, 2010 – Maybe it seems pointless to say now what a dedicated teacher Rigoberto Ruelas was.

He tutored his students after class, visited their homes and met their families, steered them away from gangs and toward college. He arrived early for work every morning at Miramonte Elementary, and had near perfect attendance for 14 years, right up until last week, when he disappeared.

Ruelas' body was discovered on Sunday in a ravine beneath a Big Tujunga Canyon bridge. He left no note, but the Los Angeles County coroner has ruled his death a suicide. Family members have said he had been upset over his score in a teacher-rating database our newspaper created and posted online, which ranked him slightly below average.

Get breaking news alerts delivered to your mobile phone. Text BREAKING to 52669.

It's easy to blame The Times for his death, and many have. Ruelas was a passionate teacher, and some say he was wounded by his "less effective" rating.

It's also tempting to conclude, as some have, that a good teacher wouldn't have taken his own life and left his students wrestling with the baggage of his shocking suicide.

But just as good teaching can't be divined solely from a set of test scores, suicide can't be understood as a single act.

We can't know what was on Ruelas' mind when he ordered a substitute for his fifth-grade class and headed into the Angeles National Forest.

We can turn his death into a teachable moment.


Psychologist Kita Curry understands the public speculation over Ruelas' death, the need to "explain it, to blame something, so it's less frightening." But suicide among adults, she said, is rarely the result of a single issue.

Curry heads Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services in Los Angeles. Its suicide prevention program has been around for more than 50 years, with a 24-hour crisis hotline that is one of the nation's busiest.

"There's almost always an underlying illness associated with suicide," Curry said. "Depression, anxiety, substance abuse … issues we don't like to talk about.

"People are uncomfortable getting help. Their suffering increases, they feel hopeless, they have trouble coping with life's stresses .… They reach a point where they're not thinking clearly, and they don't see any other way out," she said.

Sometimes there is a tipping point. "People take their lives because suddenly they're going to lose their house or they've been arrested or their wife has left them," Curry said. "But if not for that, it would have been something else. Because the real problem is that they don't have the emotional resources to deal with it. There are others dealing with those same problems and they don't take their lives."

There are special issues to consider when a teacher takes his life, Curry said. Years down the road, his students may wonder how they can make it through life's dark moments, if someone they admired so much couldn't cope.

"They need to be told 'This person was in terrible pain,' just as if he was in pain from cancer or some other illness. And that we can get through really hard times, whether it's losing someone we love or losing face in public, if we reach out for help when we're having problems."


At Ruelas' memorial service on Wednesday, there was a sense of disbelief among the grim-faced teachers exchanging hugs, the families gathered on the church plaza and the students lined up in the sanctuary to share their memories at the microphone.

They struggled through sobs to say goodbye, recounting a teacher who was like a father. "He made me think about college," one young girl said, her voice shifting from grief to anger. "He was a cool teacher and I don't know why the L.A. Times had to write that. They should have met him first."

I learned something myself in that moment. The Times' database was just that, a collection of scores, ratings used in service of a worthy goal: making the LAUSD accountable. But to his community, Ruelas was muy estimado, a well-respected teacher.

On my drive to work that morning, I listened to callers on KPCC's AirTalk, many of them parents like David, who applauded The Times for naming names, raising a ruckus, sparking a national debate that might hurry the pace of local reform.

"We need that .… Teachers can't hide," David said, his voice breaking as he talked about moving his daughter from school to school in Los Angeles. "She lost two years," he said, because she got stuck with teachers who were inadequate.

But I got a different message in the church that night, from the burly man who broke down at the mike and the mothers wearing sunglasses to hide their swollen eyes. They told stories in Spanish that I didn't quite understand, about bicycles and shared sandwiches and music lessons, but there was no mistaking the love in the air.

To them, some things might matter more than a 10-point jump on a math exam. Ruelas earned their gratitude and their confidence; he reminded them of all their children could accomplish.

But the danger now is that his example could carry another message.

"When the person who dies is made into a hero," Curry warned, "for other people who are vulnerable and don't have good coping skills, [suicide] becomes an option that seems logical. At the same time we mourn this teacher, we have to think about teaching kids that there are alternatives."

What happens when that fifth-grader crying at the microphone hits 14 and her boyfriend dumps her, her algebra teacher fails her, her friends turn catty on their Facebook pages. What will she remember of Mr. Ruelas then?

That depends not so much on why her teacher killed himself, but on what the survivors make of his life and legacy.

The Los Angeles Suicide Prevention crisis hotline can be reached 24 hours a day at (800) 273-TALK (8255).


October 3, 2010 - TYLER CLEMENTI may have died from exposure in cyberspace. His roommate and another student, according to police, viewed Mr. Clementi’s intimate encounter with another man on a Webcam and streamed it onto the Internet. Mr. Clementi, an 18-year-old violinist in his freshman year at Rutgers University, jumped off of the George Washington Bridge, and now the two face serious criminal charges, including invasion of privacy.

The prosecutor in the case has also said that he will investigate bringing bias charges, based on Mr. Clementi’s sexual orientation, which could raise the punishment to 10 years in prison from 5.

But the case has stirred passionate anger, and many have called for tougher charges, like manslaughter — just as outrage led to similar calls against the six students accused of bullying Phoebe Prince, a student in South Hadley, Mass., who also committed suicide earlier this year.

What should the punishment be for acts like cyberbullying and online humiliation?

That question is as difficult to answer as how to integrate our values with all the things in our lives made of bits, balancing a right to privacy with the urge to text, tweet, stream and post.

And the outcry over proper punishment is also part of the continuing debate about how to handle personal responsibility and freedom. Just how culpable is an online bully in someone’s decision to end a life?

It is not the first time cruel acts and online distribution have combined tragically. In 2008, Jessica Logan, 18, hung herself after an ex-boyfriend circulated the nude cellphone snapshots she had “sexted” to him.

Public humiliation and sexual orientation can be an especially deadly blend. In recent weeks, several students have committed suicide after instances that have been described as cyberbullying over sexual orientation, including Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old in Tehachapi, Calif., who hanged himself from a tree in his backyard last month and died after more than a week on life support.

A survey of more than 5,000 college students, faculty members and staff members who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender published last month by the advocacy group Campus Pride found that nearly one in four reported harassment, almost all related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Warren J. Blumenfeld, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction at Iowa State University and an author of the Campus Pride study, also conducted a smaller survey of 350 nonheterosexual students between the ages of 11 and 22 and found that about half of the respondents reported being cyberbullied in the 30 days before the survey, and that more than a quarter had suicidal thoughts.

“Those students who are face-to-face bullied, and/or cyberbullied, face increased risk for depression, PTSD, and suicidal attempts and ideation,” Professor Blumenfeld said.

But punishment for people who do such a thing is still up for debate. In the Rutgers case, New Jersey prosecutors initially charged the two students, Dharum Ravi and Molly W. Wei, with two counts each of invasion of privacy for using the camera on Sept. 19. Mr. Ravi faces two additional counts for a second, unsuccessful attempt to view and transmit another image of Mr. Clementi two days later.

If Mr. Ravi’s actions constituted a bias crime, that could raise the charges from third-degree invasion of privacy to second degree, and double the possible punishment to 10 years.

Still, for all the talk of cyberbullying, the state statute regarding that particular crime seems ill suited to Mr. Clementi’s suicide.

Like most states with a cyberbullying statute, New Jersey’s focuses on primary and high school education, found in the part of the legal code devoted to education, not criminal acts. The privacy law in this case is used more often in high-tech peeping Tom cases involving hidden cameras in dressing rooms and bathrooms. State Senator Barbara Buono sponsored both pieces of legislation, and said the law had to adapt to new technologies. “No law is perfect,” she said. “No law can deter every and any instance of this kind of behavior. We’re going to try to do a better job.”

Still, the punishment must fit the crime, not the sense of outrage over it. While some have called for manslaughter charges in the Rutgers case, those are difficult to make stick. Reaching a guilty verdict would require that the suicide be viewed by a jury as foreseeable — a high hurdle in an age when most children report some degree of bullying.

Besides, finding the toughest possible charges isn’t the way the law is supposed to work, said Orin S. Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University who specializes in cybercrime. “There’s an understandable wish by prosecutors to respond to the moral outrage of society,” he said, “but the important thing is for the prosecution to follow the law.”

The fact that a case of bullying ends in suicide should not bend the judgment of prosecutors, he said. Society should be concerned, he said, when it appears that the government is “prosecuting people not for what they did, but for what the victim did in response.”

Finding the right level of prosecution, then, can be a challenge. On the one hand, he said, “it’s college — everybody is playing pranks on everybody else.” On the other, “invading somebody’s privacy can inflict such great distress that invasions of privacy should be punished, and punished significantly.”

There is also the question of society’s role. Students are encouraged by Facebook and Twitter to put their every thought and moment online, and as they sacrifice their own privacy to the altar of connectedness, they worry less about the privacy of others.

Teenagers “think that because they can do it, that makes it right,” said Nancy E. Willard, a lawyer and founder of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use.

Impulsiveness, immaturity and immense publishing power can be a dangerous mix, she said. “With increased power to do things comes increased responsibility to make sure that what you’re doing is O.K.,” she said.

That is why Daniel J. Solove, author of “The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor and Privacy on the Internet,” said society needed to work on education.

“We teach people a lot of the consequences” of things like unsafe driving, he said, “but not that what we do online could have serious consequences.”

That sounds good, of course, but adults still drive recklessly after all that time in driver’s ed. And it is easy and cheap to say that “kids can be so cruel at that age,” but failures of judgment can be found almost anywhere you look.

After all, what are we to make of Andrew Shirvell, an assistant attorney general in Michigan who devoted his off hours to a blog denouncing the openly gay student body president at his alma mater, the University of Michigan? His posts include accusations that the student, Chris Armstrong, is a “radical homosexual activist” and a photo of Mr. Armstrong doctored with a rainbow flag and swastika. He told Anderson Cooper that he is “a Christian American exercising my First Amendment rights.”

On Friday, the attorney general’s office announced that Mr. Shirvell was taking personal leave pending a disciplinary hearing.

By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | LA Newspaper Group [Daily News/Daily Breeze] |

10/03/2010 04:53:22 PM -- Los Angeles Unified officials hope a new plan allowing students to purchase school meals with a simple press of a finger will save money, speed up long cafeteria lines and reduce the headaches caused by forgotten lunch money.

But the controversial finger scan ID system, already tested and dropped by at least one school district in California and banned in some states, has faced opposition from parents and civil liberties groups worried about student privacy.

"Making school children submit to fingerprinting, and risking the misuse of biometric information before they are old enough to drive a car seems like an absurdly risky and invasive way to get slightly faster lunch lines," said Peter Bibring, a lawyer with the Southern California American Civil Liberties Union.

LAUSD officials said the fingerprint program will be one of several options given to all schools, which over the next 18 months will switch to cashless food sale systems.

District officials stressed that the finger scanners pose no security or privacy risks to children or their families and would help bring district cafeterias into the 21st century.

"We carefully vetted this process... No one would be able to generate a fingerprint from this database," said Dennis Barrett, LAUSD's director of food services.

The practice of scanning students' fingerprints to identify them quickly in crowded lunch rooms and libraries has grown in popularity over the last decade. It is being used by school districts in a number of states, including West Virginia, New Jersey and California.

The technology proposed for LAUSD schools is similar to what has been used at other campuses, but different from the fingerprinting done by government law enforcement agencies. Rather than collecting a detailed image of all 10 fingers, this system would only require the scanning of one finger. The computer then captures a partial image of the fingerprint, just enough to measure the distances between 21 different points on a student's finger.

The fingerprint image is then discarded and replaced by a numeric code that is used to identify each student for their entire school career.

Barrett said the scan system will not only speed up lunch lines by eliminating the need to exchange money, but also end the use of meal tickets given to children who qualify for free and reduced meals.

Printing the tiny yellow tickets costs LAUSD some $1million a year, Barrett said, and it overtly identifies low-income students, which is against federal regulations for the meal program.

The finger scanners have been piloted by LAUSD at Foshay Learning Center for over a year and students at the K-12 campus South Los Angeles campus like the system.

"Before, if I lost my card I would have to wait in line to get a new one or I wouldn't be able to eat," said Eva Perez, a junior at Foshay. "But I can't lose my finger."

Principal Yvonne Edwards said not having to deal with students losing anything is a blessing at a school with more than 2,000 students.

"It gives me more time to worry about other things," Edwards said.

"I also like having this state-of-the-art technology here for our students... It feels like we're in Mission Impossible or something. The kids think that's cool."

While some parents at Foshay raised concerns when the plan was first introduced, Edwards said only 5 percent of parents have kept their kids out of the program.

But being enticed by technology, without understanding privacy and safety, is a growing problem for young people, said ACLU attorney Bibring.

"A program like this gives kids the wrong impression that it is OK to provide sensitive personal information in order to gain any minor convenience," Bibring said.

"With identity theft a huge and growing problem, schools should be teaching them just the opposite."

Rebecca Jeschke, a spokeswoman for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for the rights of digital consumers, said parents and students need to at least study the dangers posed by even a fraction of their fingerprints being stored on a database of this size.

"Sometimes technology solutions can be seen as a panacea, but often they don't make things easier and it creates these massive collections of data that might be at risk from a hacker or someone else," Jeschke said.

"If I had a child at LAUSD, I would have them opt out."

For some, a major concern with fingerprinting children is about law enforcement agencies gaining access to a database that they can then use to identify juvenile suspects.

Jennifer Mnookin, a UCLA law professor and fingerprinting expert, said she thought it would be unlikely that LAUSD's database would be of much use to law enforcement.

When authorities find latent fingerprints at a crime scene, they usually need to compare them to full scans, which district officials said could not be reproduced with the technology they plan to use.

Still, privacy concerns have led some states, including Michigan and Iowa, to pass legislation essentially banning schools from taking electronic fingerprints of students. And Illinois enacted a law requiring schools to get parental consent before capturing an image of a child's finger.

While most school districts that have abandoned plans to implement biometric scanners have done so because they've faced opposition from the community, some have also dropped efforts because the systems didn't work.

For example, in 2007 the Turlock Unified School District, south of Modesto, had to discontinue its fingerprint scanning because it was slowing down lunch lines.

"I think our plan was too aggressive," said Scott Soiseth, director of child nutrition at Turlock Unified.

Still, Soiseth said he would give the technology another try at his schools, especially with updated software, because of the convenience the system provides.

L.A. Unified officials said the year-long pilot at Foshay should help work out the kinks in the finger scan program. For example, cafeteria manager Kathy Cropper has found problems when students scan sweaty or dirty fingertips.

"We have to scan the finger more than once and that can slow things down," Cropper said.

"But I think in time it will be faster," she added.

LAUSD has invested $500,000 on the software for the new biometric technology, and will have to purchase individual finger scanners, that run about $185, for all schools.

However, Barrett said no school or student will be forced to use the finger scan system. All schools will also be equipped with a pin pad where students can punch in a 7-digit code.

And at elementary schools the technology will only be brought to campus if a principal specifically requests it.

"We are going to make sure that this system works before we take it to schools and if people don't want it then we won't use it," Barrett said.

Many parents have yet to hear about the plan.

"This just seems to me like another decision being made by folks who are not really connected to the schools," said longtime LAUSD parent advocate Bill Ring, adding more discussion needed to take place.

"People may be very opinionated about this."

Jessica Esparza, a mother of a first grader at Bassett Elementary in Van Nuys, said she would opt out of the finger scan program if it was offered at her son's school.

"Even though the district is saying that the prints are discarded, you just never know," Esparza said,

"It just seems too personal and too risky."

District officials said they have hosted some meetings with parent groups and plan to do more outreach to individual campuses as they roll out the plan over the next 18 months.

They also stress that the response at Foshay has been generally positive - although the state-of-the-art gadgetry can't seem to fix one longstanding concern for students.

"The new system is easier than carrying around a card or tickets and the lines moves a little faster," said 10-year-old Foshay student Joy Flourney.

"But it doesn't make the food taste any better."


By Catherine Gewertz - EdWeek |

1 October 2010 -- What began as a swashbuckling move by the mayor of Newark, N.J., the state's governor, and a newly minted billionaire to reshape the beleaguered Newark school system has turned into a tangle of blowback and counterpunches as skeptics contend their plan would violate state law.

The hubbub centers on a bet by Mark Zuckerberg, the 26-year-old founder of the Facebook social-networking site, that $100 million of his money—and brash new state and local leadership—could transform the Newark schools, which have been under state control for 15 years.

At issue is the power-sharing arrangement proposed by the three men. In a series of media appearances, including a kickoff announcement on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on Sept. 24, they said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would "partner" with Mayor Cory A. Booker over the next five years on a district turnaround, drawing on the millions Mr. Zuckerberg will provide, through a new foundation, from his own Facebook stock.

Mayor Booker must supply $100 million in matching funds. This week, he announced that he has already secured $40 million of it from high-profile sources including the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Just how much power Mr. Booker, a Democrat, would have over the schools isn't clear, though in a conference call with reporters, Mr. Christie, a Republican, said the mayor would be "the lead person on my behalf" in the school system, working with the governor to choose a new superintendent and remold education practice.

Mr. Booker said he would spend months soliciting advice from Newarkers to craft a plan.

The prospect that the mayor could wield decisionmaking power, however, has alarmed education law experts, who maintain that state law would prohibit such a power shift.

David G. Sciarra, the director of the Education Law Center, a Newark-based organization that represents poor urban schoolchildren in a lengthy equitable-funding lawsuit against the state, said that no New Jersey law permits a mayor to run schools, and that approval by the state legislature would be required for such a change. Nearly all the state's 600 school districts have elected school boards; a handful have boards appointed by mayors.

In addition, a 5-year-old law governing state intervention in struggling school districts vests authority over those districts in the governor's appointed state commissioner of education, not the governor or a mayor, say experts and current and former lawmakers.

"There is no provision for the mayor to have that kind of control. The [state] commissioner [of education] is really the one who is given that authority by the law," said Craig A. Stanley, a former Democratic state assemblyman who co-authored the 2005 law.

And the commissioner can't cede that power to the governor, said Sheila Y. Oliver, the speaker of the Democratic-controlled state Assembly. The district-intervention law "nowhere defines or uses interchangeably 'governor' and 'commissioner,'" she said. There would be 'no problem with the governor's seeking advice from a mayor," Mr. Sciarra said. "The problem would be if the mayor's advising power becomes decisionmaking power."
Scope of Intervention

The 2005 school-intervention law defines five areas in which the state can intervene in a troubled school district: personnel, governance, operations, fiscal management, and instructional programs. Districts can phase back to local control as they demonstrate benchmarks of improvement to the state. Newark, taken over in 1995, under an earlier law governing state intervention, is phasing back to local control in some areas of management, but remains under state control in others.

Paul L. Tractenberg, a Rutgers University law professor who is an expert on education law, called the Christie-Booker proposal "an effort to totally blur the lines" of authority over Newark schools.

"It's a basic, established principle of law that you can only delegate the authority you actually have, and I don't think the governor has the authority to operate the Newark schools," he said.

Fans of the new partnership celebrated the possibility that it could improve the 40,000-student school system. Noting that special high-poverty funding enables Newark to spend $22,000 per pupil each year, but that half its students fail the state's regular graduation exam, supporters of the proposed arrangement said those questioning its legality are simply blocking change.

"These people are punks," said Derrell J. Bradford, the executive director of Excellent Education for Everyone, a Newark group co-founded by Mayor Booker that advocates tuition vouchers and charter schools. "The people who have controlled public education in Newark for the last 30 years don't even know what the plan is. They just know that if they don't come up with it, it isn't acceptable to them."

Gov. Christie, already famous for his take-no-prisoners style of pushing for school improvement, responded in characteristic style to questions about the plan's legality. In a speech, he warned that he is "coming" after those who oppose his efforts to improve schools in his hometown, including "politicians who have decided that their careers are more important than our children" and "lawyers who have made a lifetime out of suing us into failure."

Critics have questioned the motives of all three men involved in the plan.

They note that Mr. Booker, who recently fought for re-election, has long been seen as an aspirant for higher office. He now says he's likely to seek a third term as mayor so he can oversee the district overhaul.

Mr. Christie, who took office in January, is burnishing his reputation as a pugnacious school reformer. This week, he released a statewide education agenda that places a premium on opening more charter schools and basing teacher evaluations in part on student test scores. In interviews, he said that "there is nothing" he and Mr. Booker would be afraid to do as they planned ways to improve Newark's schools.

Meanwhile, the timing of the announcement by Mr. Zuckerberg—on the same day as the New York City premiere of the movie "The Social Network," which depicts him as having stolen the idea for Facebook—prompted some to accuse him of spin control. He dismissed those assertions and said that he had hoped to make his $100 million contribution anonymously.
Answers Awaited

Key questions remain about the Newark plan, and the answers are likely to inform judgments about its legality as well as opinions of those in the community.

In addition to the question of how much direct authority over schools can be vested in the mayor or the governor, there is the matter of what policymaking role Mr. Zuckerberg might have. Some wonder whether the entrepreneur could turn off the funding spigot if the reforms don't meet with his approval. But he told reporters shortly before the announcement that he had not "earmarked" the money for any specific reforms.

Then there is the question of what changes the three have in mind. Gov. Christie, like Mayor Booker, is an outspoken supporter of school choice and charter schools. But Mr. Booker said in a conference call with reporters that the plan for Newark would have "no bias" toward charter schools. He also said that none of the money would be spent on private schools, an apparent reference to fears in some quarters that it could be used for a voucher system that would use public school money to enable poor children to attend private schools.

Although Mr. Zuckerberg said that he doesn't have an agenda in mind, he told the TechCrunch technology-startup blog that he advocates closing failing schools, opening new charter schools, and getting new teacher contracts as school improvement strategies.

Some activists who have pushed for years to help Newark regain control of its own schools question whether the Booker-Christie plan represents an extension of state control. But Shavar D. Jeffries, the president of Newark's elected advisory school board, said he doesn't see the arrangement as antithetical to a phasing-back to local control.

"The mayor is stepping up in a leading, but advising, capacity to work with the board and the community to develop a reform agenda we can all support," said Mr. Jeffries, an associate professor at Seton Hall University School of Law, in Newark. Mr. Jeffries said that state officials have assured him that they will phase back control to the district as it proves itself capable, as outlined in the 2005 intervention law. If that doesn't happen, Mr. Jeffries warned, "it could be a problem."
Community's Stake

The deep community engagement promised by the mayor in developing the school reform plan will be crucial, Mr. Jeffries said, because of the way the $100 million arrangement was created and unveiled: without any civic involvement.

"People are excited about the investment, but at the same time, they are concerned about the lack of democratic engagement in this process," he said. "It's the notion that you need to watch 'Oprah' at 4 p.m. on Friday to get a feel for important judgments being made about the future of our district."

Junius Williams, the director of the Abbott Leadership Institute, which focuses on community involvement in Newark's schools, said he sees it as ironic that Gov. Christie is touting systemic reform for the district when it was his state-level budget cutbacks that caused the Newark schools to lose 500 teaching jobs this year.

"What role will this $100 million play in alleviating those shortages?" Mr. Williams said.

In crafting an effective plan, Mr. Booker and Mr. Christie will have to make sure they draw on the advice of seasoned, effective educators in Newark, said the Rev. Bill Howard, who is the pastor of the city's Bethany Baptist Church and who led Mr. Booker's transition team.

"It's fraught with a lot of potentially disastrous pitfalls, but if managed very, very carefully, it could have a positive effect," Mr. Howard said.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
● "Waiting for Superman": EVEN HEROES NEED MONEY: Themes in the News for the week of Sept. 27-Oct. 1, 2010 By UCLA I...

● EDUCATED GUESS: New Kinder start date, Green Jobs Academies vetoed, Ruelas got good district review, ‘Texas texts...


● ISLAM IN THE CLASSROOM: Teachers and parents alike are unsure about the topic, but it’s never been more important:...

● THE LAUSD EXCESSIVE HEAT POLICY - BULLETIN 963: What part of “must” is so hard to understand?: by smf for 4LAKidsN...

● TRACK MEET HELD IN TRIPLE-DIGIT HEAT UNDER REVIEW: LA Newspaper Group/Daily News, Daily Breeze -From wire service ...


● CELEBRITIES AND CANDIDATES COME TOGETHER FOR ARTS EDCATION: Jack Black, Ben McKenzie, Malcolm Jamal Warner, Taylor... Thursday, September 30, 2010 5:42:59 PM via twitterfeed

● FROM CHINATOWN TO CHINA: Learning world languages in L.A. schools: By Jacquie Levy | The South Los Angeles Repo...



● RHEE NEEDS TO TAKE A LOOK IN THE MIRROR + NPR STORY: By Courtland Milloy - Washington Post Staff Writer | http://w...


● No news is th’ same ol’ news: SCHWARZENEGGER, LAWMAKERS CANCEL BUDGET MEETING: from Google News |

● PHILANTROPISTS MOVE TO RESCUE ICEF CHARTER SCHOOLS: Broad, Riordan and Baxter donate $700,000 to help stabilize th...

● A.J. DUFFY SHOULD RESIGN IN WAKE OF RUELAS SUICIDE: UTLA chief, not the L.A. Times, is the rot in Southern Califor...

● TEACHER’S SUICIDE SHOCKS STUDENTS, TEACHERS & PARENTS: Rigoberto Ruelas, a fifth-grade teacher at Miramonte Elemen...

● Obama on Today Show: LONGER SCHOOL YEAR + WORST PERFORMING TEACHERS HAVE “GOT TO GO” -- 'Money without reform' wo...

● PRINCIPAL OF NEW CARSON HIGH SCHOOL HAS NO STUDENTS - YET: By Melissa Pamer - Staff Writer – Daily Breeze | http:/...



EVENTS: Coming up next week...
*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-241.8700


What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6383 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6387
...or your city councilperson, mayor, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think! • Find your state legislator based on your home address. Just go to: • 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.
• If you are eligible to become a citizen, BECOME ONE.
• If you a a citizen, REGISTER TO VOTE.
• If you are registered, VOTE LIKE THE FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT.

Who are your elected federal & state representatives? How do you contact them?

Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD and is Parent/Volunteer of the Year for 2010-11 for Los Angeles County. • He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represents PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He is a Health Commissioner, Legislation Team member and a member of the Board of Managers of the California State PTA. He serves on numerous school district advisory and policy committees and has served as a PTA officer and governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is the recipient of the UTLA/AFT 2009 "WHO" Gold Award for his support of education and public schools - an honor he hopes to someday deserve. • 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.
• FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. 4LAKids makes such material available in an effort to advance understanding of education issues vital to parents, teachers, students and community members in a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.