Saturday, January 01, 2011

Resolved: 2011

4LAKids: Saturday 1•Jan•2011 Happy New Year
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?

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WHEREAS: The LAUSD Board of Education has been big on governing by resolution over the past three and a half years.

First there was the series of resolutions that established this new "reform" board's mandate - the sheaf of resolutions written on City Hall computers of July 2007 that established to current rhetorical tone and guaranteed the failure of Superintendent Brewer.

We had the Public School Choice Resolution that imposed top-down choice and called it bottom-up.

Most recently we have the Parental and Family Engagement Resolution.

(Every newly elected board majority in every school district in the nation is a "reform board". The adjective is without meaning as to whether it means progressive or conservative, good or bad, improved or reactionary, here or there, forward-thinking or looking-back.. It is merely "reformed" - as in the chessmen are "reformed" after the last game, the deck chairs are "reformed" on the deck every morning.

(smf notes, wandering off-course into uncharted-but-shallow parenthetical waters:[Danger: Here be Metaphors!]: After 13 days at sea my transatlantic cruise makes landfall in the Bahamas today. It's a good thing too, the supply of caviar is running low and unfortunately the backup food supply [the "all-the-ice-cream-you-can-eat bar"] is located on the kid's side of the "No children beyond this point" sign on the pool deck! What were they thinking?)

"Reform" [we're back!] in this context means the same as the words "new" or "spring-fresh"do in advertising jargon: Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero.

In recent history we have had Mayor Riordan's Reform Board, a UTLA Reform Board, and this: Mayor Tony's Reform Board. - All with "ta-da" trumpeted fanfares of meaningful reform driven by urgency+challenge ...and all have produced urgent rhetoric and incremental improvements - driven by outside forces beyond the school board's (or the mayors') control:- NCLB, the Sacramento budget quagmire,visionary myopia, economic malaise, political wishy-washery and the not-so Great Recession. The adult issues of the moment have overwhelmed the students' long-term interests: standardized testing, phonics v. whole language, Clear Expectations, Merit Pay, A-through-G. It's the argument over New Math (...or spoons v. sporks) all over again, ad infinitum.

The current School Board is driven by a goal of 100% Graduation: lofty, laudable and ultimately unachievable. Some kids will not graduate because they don't want to. Because they are needed at home, at the family business or as bread winners. Because they simply don't want to. Because 50% of students ( and adults, politicians, teachers, bloggers and laboratory test subjects) are below average and Algebra 2 is a bridge too far.. Because some kids at 18 aren't mature enough to take responsibility for themselves. Because we have set the graduation requirements at the exact same threshold as the entry requirement of CSU and UC.

(OK - we have pretended to to this!)

The Parental and Family Involvement Resolution is interesting, coming from a mutually agreed upon premise that there isn't enough parent involvement on urban public eduacation - and I too mutually agree. The Board seems agreeed that the current model of parent involvemnt in LAUSD [a partnership between the District (through its Parent Community Services Branch) and the Parent Collaborative, Title One District Advisory Councils, English Language Learner Advisory Councils, Special Education Advisory Councils, etc ].is not working. And it ain't. So it it seeking new (i.e.: different) partners: Families in Schools, the Boyle Heights Learning Collaborative, Alliance for a Better Community, etc.- single focus agenda+issue-driven rather than member-driven organizations. The current partners are parent advisory groups mandated through state and federal legislation; the proposed "new and improved" partners are non-profits with political+ funding ties to the mayor and current school board majority - often funded by the magnanimous foundations Diane Ravitch (The Life and Death of the Great American School System, 2010) calls the "Billionaire Boys Club" (Gates, WalMart, Broad, Silicon Valley, etc.) -with pro-charter-school 'privatize public education' agendae.

Authentically involving and engaging parents in their children's education would make a difference. Changing the alphabet soup acronym-designation of who represents which parents will not. Perhaps the fault lies not in our partners, dear Cassius, but in our selves.

The truth is this increased effort is being done on-the-cheap -- the board and the supe have made it clear they will not increase (and undoubtedly will decrease) funding to parent programs going forward. If anything, LAUSD will divert federal funding promoting parent engagement somewhere else.

"What we have here," Strother Martin said to Paul Newman,(Cool Hand Luke, 1967) " a Failure to Communicate".

The truth is that LAUSD doesn't know how to communicate with Parents; it's so big it doesn't know how to communicate with its own employees or its far flung network of schools.

● I'm not sure the District even knows what its Message/Mission/Goal is ...unless it's: "100% Graduation/100% College Ready/Career Prepared. ...with 20% across the board budget cuts and staff reductions every year!" ("Data Driven" and "Accountable and Transparent" is supposedly in there somewhere ...along with "A 21st Century Education".) This isn't a Mission Statement ; these are slogans strung together and run up a flagpole in the hope someone/somewhere will salute.
● To be honest I haven't heard a definition of who the LAUSD's Customer is. Students? Taxpayers? Parents? Voters?
● Is the Governing Document the Ed Code? The City Charter? The Board Rules? The UTLA Contract?
● Q: If LAUSD is committed to Accountability and Transparency, who would they being transparent and accountable to?
● A: Rhetorically: all of the above. In actuality: unaccountable and murky.

Read the article below LAUSD's LEADERSHIP ELECTED BY TOO FEW. We can begin here as voters and parents and teachers and taxpayers (...and students: over 18 - LAUSD has 300,000+ in Adult Ed) by engaging in the elections at hand on March 8th, by forcing the debate by asking the hard questions, demanding the hard answers , becoming more educated (Not that!) and voting early and often! 128,601 folks out of something like 3 million registered voters decided who the last and who the next superintendent will be, the school district budgets, who gets laid off and hired, what schools will be operated by whom, what books will be purchased, how much teachers/janitors/lunch ladies will be paid, how many days in the school year, whether or not your school gets a librarian, arts teacher, PE coach and whether your child will get an inadequate, merely adequate, good or excellent education - all the while spending your money do do so! (Whether it's from the local property tax, the state or the feds - it's your money!)

Cavanaugh's "In some races, just 4 percent of registered voters bother to fill out a ballot for the winning candidate" is disingenuous. Bothering to vote for the winning candidate' isn't the issue - voting as opposed to not voting at all ("The Meg Whitman Paradox") is the issue!

NOW THEREFORE, LET US BE HEREBY RESOLVED THIS NEW YEAR: that Parent, Family and Community Engagement and Involvement begins and ends at the ballot box. This isn't about signing a petition to make our school a charter, its about exercising our franchise to make quality, excellent public education our mission in every school for every student in every classroom - not an agenda item in a corporate boardroom or an "everything's-on-the table" item on-the-table for future discussion and budget cuts.

The future is ours to see ...and feed and clothe and educate, to keep safe and healthy; to nurture - today, tomorrow, everyday. That is the goal/message/mission of parents, of the board of education and of society.

¡Onward/Adelante from somewhere in the North Atlantic ....and Happy New Year/Feliz Año Nuevo 2011! - smf

By Kerry Cavanaugh, Columnist - LA Daily News

12/23/2010 - On Tuesday, I wrote about the pathetically low turnout in Los Angeles City Council races. Someone can be elected to the council, earn $179,000 a year and manage a staff of 20 with fewer than 5,000 votes.

But the picture is much worse when it comes to the Los Angeles Unified District Board of Education elections. In some races, just 4 percent of registered voters bother to fill out a ballot for the winning candidate.

These are the people who oversee the nation's second-largest school district and make the policy and financial decisions that affect the education of some 678,000 children and teenagers. Yet, the vast majority of parents of the children enrolled in Los Angeles public schools don't vote for board members.

On March 8, four of the seven seats on the Board of Ed are up for grabs. Here is my Christmas wish. May you vote in the March election – especially if you are an LAUSD parent, but even if you're not.

All elections are important, but this one is particularly critical. With the state funding for education likely to be cut again this coming year, the LAUSD board will face difficult choices about what programs get funded and what jobs get cut.

Likewise, there's a strong reform movement in L.A., and the LAUSD board will make key decisions, such as whether student test scores should affect teacher evaluations and who should run local schools – the district or charter organizations.

These decisions could dramatically change public schools in L.A. in a matter of years, and if you have children or care about children, then you have a stake LAUSD governance.

But so few people vote in school board races – it's almost as if Angelenos have already written off the LAUSD, which would be a terrible mistake.

Here are the winning results from the 2007 and 2009 elections – odd number seats were elected in 2007 and even numbered seats in 2009.:

● District 1/Central L.A. – Marguerite Poindexter Lamotte: 18,167 votes, or 6 percent of registered voters

● District 2/Downtown and East L.A. – Monica Garcia: 22,123 votes, or 13 percent of registered voters

● District 3/West and south San Fernando Valley – Tamar Galatzan: 23,406 votes, or 7 percent of registered voters

● District 4/West L.A. and Hollywood – Steve Zimmer: 31,281 votes, or 8 percent of registered voters

● District 5/East L.A. to South Gate – Yolie Flores Aguilar: 9,674, or 4 percent of registered voters

● District 6/east San Fernando Valley – Nury Martinez: 14,584 votes, or 7 percent of registered voters

● District 7/South L.A. to the Harbor area – Richard Vladovic: 9,366 votes, or 4 percent of registered voters

Kerry Cavanaugh is an editorial writer and columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News.

●●smf: Cavanaugh has it exactly right. And in addition to the budget challenges the next Board of Ed must address the selection and/or ratification of the next superintendent and the redistricting of board districts. This last is especially important as the current board seems to be taking a more and more politically territorial approach to "their" board districts, looking at them less as electoral constituent parts of the bigger district and more as as politico-educational fiefdoms.("My schools")

By JT Long | Engineering News Record

12/28/2010 - Los Angeles Unified School District is once again wrestling with its construction contracting and project delivery procedures. LAUSD canceled a pair of contracts in its $19.2-billion construction program in November when the LAUSD board cited violation of a no-subcontractor rule.

One contract was for $3.7 million to Consilia LLC for construction planning and the other for $90,000 to Kathi Littmann, former LAUSD chief of school construction for education specifications work. Littmann says staff told her that the contract had been awarded, canceled and put back in place before LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines stopped it for good. Littmann is now president of City Prep Education consulting and charter management in Los Angeles. She won Engineering News-Record’s 2003 ENR Award of Excellence for her work at LAUSD before she left in 2002. She sees the controversy as a bad sign for the school’s contracting environment.

“It’s just like 1999 [when Littmann started in the midst of a scandal over an $87-million high school being built on a toxic site]. There is no trust; the [school] board doesn’t understand the process and is interfering in contracting,” Littmann said. “It’s amazing how quickly it all unraveled.”

Littmann also expressed concerns that the board is attempting to shift risk to outside contractors. “That requires a sophisticated facilities manager, but too many of the experienced people are now gone,” Littmann said.

LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines saw the confusion over the contracts as a miscommunication during a transition in the construction process. He explained that as the construction process is slowing down and the district is dealing with budget issues. The board wanted to emphasize using employees rather than contractors, he says, and made a no-subcontractors rule. “We didn’t do a very good job communicating board policy about not allowing subcontractors so the people who let the contracts were not aware of it,” Cortines said. “The contracts weren’t illegal, but they didn’t follow policy.”

Cortines emphasized that LAUSD still needs experienced contractors. “We just need to do it the right way,” he said.

The subcontractor debate was not the first time in 2010 that LAUSD came under scrutiny for contracting practices. In October, Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel released the first-ever audit of LAUSD’s construction program at the request of Cortines. The auditors’ report found that from 2002 to 2005, LAUSD’s policies and oversight for how contractors was selected were “weak.” The program led to potential conflicts of interest, including 225 instances where a regional director sat on a panel that selected the person’s employer as a contractor. However, it noted that from 2006 on, the district had “undergone a dramatic improvement and has done a good job ensuring the integrity of the selection process.”

●● smf: Why should We Care?

This article is from a building trades and engineering publication with admittedly, a small and issue-specific audience – neither educators nor parents. However the message is clear and resonant to it’s audience – building and construction management firms that operate by contract building and modernizing public and private infrastructure – in this case our children's schools.

The message is this: LAUSD and its board of education unilaterally revokes legal contracts because of District contracting staff ‘s failures to adhere to internal guidelines and policy.

No allegations have been made that the contractors in these two contracts (Consilla and Dr. Littman) misbehaved or acted unethically – the misbehavior was by internal folk who cut corners, miscalculated or misperformed.

Yet it is the outside contractors who have been punished and had their contracts terminated and their good names dragged through the press.

Cortines: “We didn’t do a very good job communicating board policy ….” We’ve heard that line before … it’s from an old familiar score. [Jules Styne/Sammy Cahn] And so it goes, the refrain that haunts LAUSD: - 'been there, done that', - deja vu, redux - repeats itself again. Coda :|

Contractors rely on the good faith of their contract partners – and their own good hard-earned reputations to engender future work ...and LAUSD has violated that faith and trust. The District has almost $6 billion in building and modernization contracts yet to award under Measure Q – and it has compromised its own good name as a ‘partner-of-choice’ through this unilateral action. This ultimately will cost the district dearly as some contractors will not bid on future LAUSD projects – and those that do will factor-in contingencies against this sort of thing.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
Here is a limited selection of goings on - I will update in greater depth in the next 4LAKids when internet connectivity isn't 75¢ a minute at dial-up speed - when -and-if it works at all! (it's amazing Columbus got anything accomplished!)



FORGET THE IDEAL, LAUSD, AND GIVE THE KIDS A BREAK: Daily Breeze Editorial 12.29.2010 - In an ideal world, the ...

THE CORTINES FACTOR: The departure of the superintendent, who has boosted test scores even amid budget cuts, cou...


LAUSD'S LEADERSHIP IS ELECTED BY TOO FEW: By Kerry Cavanaugh, Columnist - LA Daily News 12/23/2010 - On Tuesda...

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.
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