Sunday, June 09, 2013

Congraduations ...and be afraid

Onward! 4LAKids
4LAKids: Sunday 9•June•2013
In This Issue:
 •  L.A. TIMES WISHY-WASHES CHILD WELFARE SCANDAL: There must be zero-tolerance for tragic child deaths from DCFS, the Board of Supes ...and The Times!
 •  HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
 •  EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 •  What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
 •  Follow 4 LAKids on Twitter - or get instant updates via text message by texting
 •  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.
FIRST: Congratulations to all the graduates out there who did the work, completed the assignments, passed the tests and amassed the credits. You have the diploma and hopefully you are college ready and career prepared. Or college ready or career prepared – that debate continues. The world is your oyster – but never lose track of the fate of young oysters as recounted by Lewis Carroll in the Walrus and The Carpenter. The wingedness of pigs is questionable …but the sea is indubitably boiling hot.

Kudos to the parents and family and community of educators and staff: librarians and custodians and office clerks and administrators and nurses and social workers and lunch ladies and Beaudry bureaucrats. Thank you to all the wonderful little people out there in the dark - who saw these youngsters thus far along against the odds of underfunding and rightsizing and furloughs and RIFs; despite the hazards of sanctimonious do-gooders and downright wrongdoers. You are the Villagers it takes.

Congrats also to the students who culminated from pre-K to K; from elementary to middle school, from middle to high school. Hooray for the ones who matriculated from this grade to the next; to every student who mastered a skill - whether shaping a letter or declining a verb or the seven-times-table or the periodic table. Good job on every A, B or C – or gold star/happy face earned. Good job. Thank you to those who helped, assisted, pushed, cajoled and drove the car pool. Who came to the meeting. Who bought at the bake sale. Who voted.

You have lit candles and this is the Festival of Light.

SECOND: Our right wing friends – and we all have them – have worried since its founding that the United Nations would become some sort of World Government, meddling in our liberties, reading our mail and regulating our freedom. Now we have PRISM – the NSA and FBI are collecting and storing emails, sorting contacts, parsing web searches and looking at browser histories. They know if you’ve been bad or good, so be good … or else. “Don’t worry,” the president says, “it’s only metadata.” We aren’t actually reading your mail – we are only storing it in the unlikely event we need it later. And for the most part, it only happens to foreigners.

As time goes by the “we” who are doing the storing changes. And later becomes sooner - and eventually becomes now. The distant possibility becomes the inevitable.

My public radio station is in a pledge drive. (Yes, I am a subscriber – they have my money and support but that doesn’t protect me from the frantic begging!) So I’m listening to the BBC and they – the foreigners – are worried because it is their mail we are collecting and storing and sorting and parsing; their web-searches being secretly data mined. The Dursley family of 4 Privet Drive,
Little Whinging, Surrey, should watch those web searches about wizardry and the occult – and Vernon’s visits to naughty websites. Gosh forbid young Dudley takes an interest in pressure cookers. Or bombs. Or both.

A headline about the controversial new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM5 – the definitive reference work for mental health diagnosticians) asks: “Is Crazy the New Normal?”

Apropos of that, read carefully as our menu has changed. Please select from the following options:

● “First they came for the Socialists”, Rev. Niemöller reminds us, “and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists….”

● Excellent advice from my favorite mental health professional: “Don’t be so paranoid that it shows.”

● Wisdom from Pogo Possum: “We have met the enemy …and he is us.”


A BIT OF LIGHT at the end of the tunnel as the Board of Ed opened up and let a ray of sunshine in on Tuesday. The transparency about the Local Control Funding Formula was a bit opaque. The only speakers allowed supported the governor’s plan – no other voices need be heard. Supt. Deasy’s proposed LAUSD budget is totally dependent upon the LCFF passing exactly as proposed; LAUSD has counted those LCFF eggs as chickens. There is no Plan B. As to comments upon LAUSD’s budget priorities going forward, many voices were heard from – and certainly the consensus among the speakers was to restore cut programs. The superintendent instead dangles a pay raise; the outgoing board president proposes extending the school year. The Board of Ed appears to listen but doesn’t respond. Ms. Galatzan is absent for the whole thing. Ms. Garcia leaves early. For the unique evening session the superintendent and five board members are absent. And then there was one.

NOW WE KNOW HOW TO USE THE MULTIPLE CHOICE BUBBLING SKILLS learned in standardized testing: Ms. Galatzan (who missed the discussion Tuesday) is circulating an online poll with multiple choices and bubbled-in answers on how LAUSD should set its budget priorities: BASELINE FUNDING SURVEY FOR LAUSD SCHOOLS. (Link follows) Far better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick …but better no stick at all. And bear in mind what LAUSD Chief Financial Officer Megan Reilly said at Tuesday’s meeting about baseline funding: The funding "base" is the "bare minimum" ...barely adequate if that.

The choices are not: Do you want an A: Elementary Librarian or a B; School Nurse and C: How many hours are adequate for each? Schools need a librarian there when the library is open so kids can study and read check out books. We need a nurse at the school when students need a nurse. We don’t decide these things in an online poll or a popularity contest at the schoolsite. The Board of Ed needs to decide, as former boardmember Warren Furutani said, that a school without a staffed library does not fit the definition of a school. (See MAKING DEMANDS, following, on enlightened priority setting. Also see: FUNDING REFORM WORRIES POTENTIAL ‘LOSER’ SCHOOLS WITHIN ‘WINNING’ DISTRICTS – which addresses Ms. Galatzan’s concerns far more succinctly than she.)

The board will set priorities and pass a budget on June 18th, three days after the statutory deadline for the state’s budget on June 15th …which may or may not be met. Actually, it won’t be an actual state budget even then – it will be a budget delivered to the governor’s desk where he will veto and blue pencil items before he sends it back to be tweaked and trailer-billed into implementing legislation. The state budget won’t be said-and-done until after July 1st – when a new Board of Ed takes office. And a new school year, 2013-14 - ripe with promise and anticipated fiscal windfalls - begins.

AND THE LAST YEAR? It turned out better than it might have, not as bad as it could’ve been. Twenty-six students and educators died at Sandy Hook; the rest of us are survivors. Not Reality TV survivors but survivors of the reality. Positive things happened last year. Prop 30. The elections for the most part. Furloughs rescinded; the school year restored. LAUSD’s 1-2-3 nationally in Aca Deca. New schools and many School-based Community Wellness Clinics opened. Maybe the most positive outcome is that it’s over. I went to a luncheon on Friday where the ground troops (as opposed to the powers-that-be) of ®eform regrouped+recharged, confronted their setbacks and addressed their challenges. [NEW COALITION LAUNCHES WITH HIGH HOPES, FEW SPECIFICS] They are, for the most part, good people with good hearts -- trying to do what they think is best for kids. They are passionate- as are we all - because our children are something to be passionate about. The conversation continues.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

Boardmember Galatzan’s BASELINE FUNDING SURVEY FOR LAUSD SCHOOLS - Take it anyway

by John Merrow in Taking Note/ Learning Matters |

5. Jun, 2013 :: If you were regional sales manager for, say, washing machines, auto parts or lawn fertilizer, you might insist on performance guarantees from your sales reps, perhaps with the promise of bonuses for superior performance. But suppose you were a school superintendent? What guarantees would be appropriate to demand from your principals?

I pose the question because some former principals in Washington, DC, recently shared their correspondence with former Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. Here are two examples, one of which uses ‘safe harbor’–a gain of at least ten percentile points–as the target.

On September 27, 2007, Chancellor Rhee wrote Carol Barbour, principal of Rudolph Elementary School, “You are guaranteeing me that you will see a bump in test scores from 29.2% in English and 26.9% in math (proficient and advanced) to ‘safe harbor’ in the coming year. I plan to hold you accountable to these goals.”[1]

One day later the Chancellor wrote Lucia Vega, principal of Powell Elementary School, “You are guaranteeing me that you will see a bump in test scores from 22.7% to 27.7% in English and 22.0% to 37.0% in math of students who are proficient and advanced. This is a substantial amount of progress to make in one year, and I plan to hold you accountable to meeting this goal.” [2]

Those one-on-one meetings were tense affairs, according to former Associate Superintendent Francisco Millet, who sat in on many of them.[3] “In that 15-minute period she would ask each one of the principals, ‘When it comes to your test scores, what can you guarantee me?’ And she would write it down. And you could cut through the air with a knife, there was so much tension.”

As I read those emails, I found myself wondering what I would want school principals to guarantee in writing if I were their superintendent. Here’s my thinking: Because what we choose to measure reveals what we value, I would use performance guarantees to send a clear message to my principals about what matters:

Dear Principal Smith,

In our meeting we established the following eight goals for your school. Please understand that I am going to hold you accountable for achieving them, just as I expect you to hold me accountable for providing you with the resources you need to achieve them.

1. Daily recess of at least 30 minutes for every child;

2. Art and/or music at least three times a week for every student;

3. Detailed records of pupil and teacher absenteeism, including patterns and your strategies for dealing with problems;

4. At least one opportunity per week for every teacher to observe a colleague’s teaching;

5. At least four evening events involving parents and interested community members, such as a student talent show;

6. A maximum of one week of ‘test prep’ activities;

7. Evidence of ‘project-based learning’ and other group projects using technology to involve others schools, either in-district or out;

8. Reliable evidence of academic improvement, including student performance on our district’s standardized test.


John Merrow, Superintendent

Every one of these goals is measurable. Perhaps some should be more specific. Perhaps I have omitted goals that you would insist upon. Feel free to edit them.

I leave you with two big questions: “Is it reasonable for superintendents to enter into this bargain with their principals?” And “Could setting multiple and varied goals, such as the ones I chose, be a healthy giant step away from our current obsession with test scores?”

Your thoughts?



1. Principal Barbour ‘resigned under duress,’ according to a grievance she filed in August, 2008. Rudolph did not achieve the ‘safe harbor’ gains. It improved from 29.23% to 36.45% in reading but declined in math from 26.92% proficient to 16.82%.↵
2. Principal Vega made both goals. Her students went from 21.97% to 48.94% in math and from 22.7% to 34.04% in reading. However, she resigned under pressure in the spring of 2008–before the test results were announced. According to sources, about two dozen principals, including Ms. Vega, were offered a choice between resigning or being fired. Ms. Vega wrote in her undated letter to the Chancellor, “It is with great sorrow that I am hereby tendering my resignation to you effective July 15, 2008. Although there is much to say, I believe the reasons leading to this decision are known by you, and I will therefore leave them unsaid at this time.”↵
3. For more, see “Michelle Rhee’s Reign of Error” [4LAKids]

● This blog is written by John Merrow, veteran education reporter for PBS, NPR, and dozens of national publications. He is President of Learning Matters, a 501(c)(3) media production company based in New York and focused on education. He is also the author of The Influence of Teachers.

●● smf: There are extensive comments and responses to this article on Merrow’s website [] as well as clarifications by Merrow himself. There is an interesting debate of education theory and management theory among+between education theorists and management theorists: Campbell’s Law: “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor” in invoked – as well as Policy Based Evidence Making – which is quite the opposite of Evidence Based Policy Making.

The only reasons I have not posted the comments and responses here. is they are extensive and ongoing.

I’m not sure I’m proposing Merrow as the next LAUSD supe – but I do want him on the selection committee!

Extra Credit: NEW DATA SHOWS ‘®EFORMERS’ ARE GETING IT WRONG: by David Sirota | Perspectives at Moyers and Co.


From UTLA.Net | United Teachers Los Angeles

UTLA applauds the push by LAUSD School Board members Bennett Kayser, Richard Vladovic and Steve Zimmer for smaller class sizes and full staffing. The trio is calling on the Superintendent to “develop strategies to return LAUSD to 2007-2008 school staffing levels and ratios.” The motion, drafted by Mr. Kayser, comes before the School Board at a special meeting, Tuesday, June 4th at 9am.

In November California voters passed Proposition 30, fully expecting those increased tax dollars would go directly to classrooms. Months later the District has yet to keep the promise to voters. UTLA enthusiastically supports the Kayser motion and calls on the School Board to pass it in a timely manner.

UTLA President Warren Fletcher said, “LAUSD needs a repair budget, not a status quo one. Budgetary decisions made now will profoundly affect what kind of educational opportunities L.A. students have for several years to come. We cannot allow the current degraded levels of funding and staffing; and the ballooning class sizes to become the new normal.”

Parents expect their children will get a quality education at clean, safe schools, and Mr. Kayser’s motion addresses that. It calls not only for schools fully staffed with teachers and Health and Human Services professionals, but also full staffing of classified employees — including custodians and safety personnel.


From the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles Weekly Update Week of June 10, 2013 |

June 6, 2013 :: On June 4, 2013, the Board of Education held a special meeting to discuss Governor Brown’s proposed budget in depth. Several presenters explained the Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and legislators’ responses. As mentioned in last week’s Update, a resolution sponsored by Bennett Kayser, Dr. Richard Vladovic and Steve Zimmer received its initial announcement during the meeting. Entitled Creating Equitable and Enriching Learning Environments for All Los Angeles Unified School District Students, the resolution will be considered at the Board meeting of June 18, 2013. Following are comments made at the meeting by AALA President, Dr. Judith Perez, regarding the budget and the resolution:

Good morning, Mr. Superintendent and Board members. My name is Judith Perez; I am President of Associated Administrators of Los Angeles. AALA fully supports the Governor’s LCFF and signed a letter with you and other members of the L. A. Compact endorsing it. To us, it’s a matter of justice for our students. We have encouraged our members to communicate with their legislators and support it, as well .

I am here today to urge you to develop a long-term, strategic plan to address staffing in LAUSD .
Eight months ago I stood at this podium and informed you that our administrators are overwhelmed by their current workload. Every day I continue to receive phone calls and e-mails from our members reminding me that their commitment to maintaining the safety of students and staff, the numerous initiatives they must implement, the multitude of interruptions and dearth of administrative support make it extremely difficult to focus on instruction. They worry about properly implementing the new teacher evaluation system, the A-G requirements, Common Core and restorative justice programs .
They are concerned about the supervision of instruction, extracurricular activities and after-school programs. They want to work closely with parents and community members. They can’t do it alone .

California is now the 49th state in the United States in funding for public education. AALA members are fully aware that the worst recession since the Great Depression has forced our District to hang on in survival mode. In fact, austerity has become the norm. Because Los Angeles County voters made sure Proposition 30 passed in the November election, we finally can look beyond mere survival. No child should be shortchanged because a principal is forced to choose between school safety and highquality instruction. No administrator should be expected to routinely work 60-70 hour weeks, at the risk of his/her health and well-being. These are the reasons we urge the District to increase the number of assistant principals at all levels .

Finally, let me repeat what I said last October: You simply cannot run a school, visit classrooms, engage parents and handle the multiple issues that occur on an hourly basis without a greater level of staffing. We strongly support a strategic plan to reduce class size, restore office staff, custodians, human service professionals, library aides and increase the number of assistant principals throughout the District. Our goal is for students, parents and the larger community to be well served .

*To access a summary of the Governor’s funding proposal prepared by the California Department of Finance, visit Overview of the Local Control Funding Formula Proposal

*To access a summary of the Governor’s funding proposal prepared by the California Department of Finance, visit Overview of the LCFF Proposal

By John Fensterwald | EdSource Today

June 7th, 2013 :: Until now, the greatest tension over Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed school finance reform has been largely among districts: a political tussle between unhappy suburban and optimistic urban school factions over how new education dollars should be divvied up. But signs of discord in Los Angeles Unified indicate that the same battles over money may eventually play out among “winner” and “loser” schools within large diverse districts – like Oakland, San Diego and San Jose – that have both high- and low-income schools.

While Los Angeles Unified as a whole will significantly benefit from Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula, which steers extra dollars to districts with lots of poor children and English learners, schools in Sherman Oaks and other relatively prosperous neighborhoods in LAUSD may not. Parents there are worried that their schools may be left behind, unable to afford essential programs and services, from summer school to physical education teachers, that other schools in the district will have.

In large part, the issue is over the difference between the base funding per student and the supplementary dollars for high-needs students that Brown has proposed; suburban districts without English learners and low-income students – the targeted groups – say that the base is too low, that it will not completely restore districts to the funding they had before the recession in 2007. Both the Senate and the Assembly have passed alternative versions of LCFF with a higher base, though they take different approaches.

But also at play is the extent to which districts will have flexibility in deciding how the extra dollars for high-needs students can be used – whether that money will have to be spent exclusively on high-needs students at their schools (one way of preventing money from disappearing at the district office) or whether schools and districts can use some of the money for summer school, counselors, assistant principals or computers to benefit other students and all schools as well.

The direction should become clearer soon. Staff and legislative leaders from the Senate and Assembly are negotiating with Brown’s staff on the details of the formula and the restrictions on how money can be used. They want to cut a deal within days so that a final bill can be voted on next week.
Where the money goes

Under the LCFF, Brown is proposing three funding elements: base funding for all students, based on most but not all of what the average district got in 2007-08, plus cost-of-living adjustments; a supplemental amount equaling 35 percent of the base for every English learner, low-income student and foster child in the school; and a bonus amount, called a concentration grant, up to 17 percent of the base, for districts in which at least half of the students are high-needs.

Los Angeles Unified, with 70 percent of students classified as low-income and 28 percent English learners, would get a lot of extra dollars overall: nearly $12,000 per student, among the highest allocations in the state, once the system is fully implemented in an estimated seven years. Most of the 784 schools in the district would qualify for supplementary and concentration dollars, but in about 77 schools, serving about 8 percent of students, 40 percent or fewer of the students are low-income, qualifying them for no concentration dollars and fewer supplementary dollars. In San Diego Unified, it’s 41 out of 222 schools. In Los Angeles Unified, schools with less than 50 percent of students in poverty also don’t qualify for federal Title I dollars for low-income students.

A lot is at stake. Among those awaiting word from Sacramento is Tamar Galatzan, an LAUSD board member who represents much of the racially and economically diverse San Fernando Valley. Parents from her district attended a presentation at the Valley Schools Task Force on the proposed funding formula last month that she organized to “start the discussion,” she said.

Parents in her area are particularly anxious, because their schools lost resources when the district raised the threshold for receiving federal Title I money from 40 percent low-income children attending the school to 50 percent. They suspect the district may steer LCFF money away from them, too. “This spring our PTA was asked to fund a long list of basic salaried positions and equipment (among these, part-time classroom aides and a librarian, arts educators, technology for students and staff),” Janet Borrus, a parent at Dahlia Heights Elementary School, with just under 50 percent low-income children in the Eagle Rock area of the city, wrote in an email. “Try though we might, we cannot afford to. We should not have to. Nor should our low-income students be asked to peddle cookie dough to raise money for their own academic intervention.”

This week, Galatzan introduced one of two board resolutions, which will be voted on later this month, providing guidance to Superintendent John Deasy on using the district’s LCFF funding. Galatzan’s resolution would require that LCFF dollars for high-needs students “follow the child to the school site” and asks Deasy to prepare “different allocation models” showing how the money would follow students. Yet the resolution also would require that the allocation models “take into consideration the base level of funding every school needs to survive and thrive – regardless of zip code, size or composition” and asks Deasy to determine what that base should be.

Galatzan acknowledged in an interview the tension of two potentially conflicting goals of directing dollars to high-needs students who generated them under the formula and setting a level of spending for all students exceeding what Brown has defined as base funding under the LCFF.

“There must be a funding floor below which we are not going to go,” Galatzan said. “We as a district must be committed to providing access to a certain level of services that every child deserves.”

The other competing resolution, proposed by three board members, makes the same assumption, calling for a three-year district-wide plan to restore class sizes and provide an expanded school year, enrichment programs, counselors, librarians and teacher raises. This option doesn’t distinguish the specific needs of high-needs students.
Senate, Assembly approaches

Much of the anxiety among suburban districts and middle-class schools within poor districts would dissipate if the base funding per student in the LCFF were raised. Brown proposes, at full implementation, between $6,437 per student in grades 4-6 to $7,680 per student for high school. The Senate’s budget raised this by about 9 percent – between $568 and $688 per student, depending on the grade. But the Senate assumed $4 billion more in state revenue by 2019-20 than the Department of Finance and raised the base in part by eliminating the concentration factor – a move Brown has rejected. Without extra revenue, raising the base would require stretching out the implementation period or reducing dollars for high-needs students – one option on the table that advocates for these students would fight and Brown hasn’t indicated he’d support, said Rick Simpson, deputy chief of staff to Assembly Speaker John Pérez, D-Los Angeles.

The Assembly took a different tack, offering districts an alternative to the LCFF that fully restores their funds to pre-recession levels but does not provide extra money for targeted students. Districts would choose whichever option is better. It’s not clear how much money this new option would divert from the LCFF.

The LCFF’s final fiscal accountability language will be critical. Brown’s overall view is to give school boards flexibility to make decisions while making sure that the spending plan is transparent and dollars for high-needs students are spent on them. The May budget revision says that supplementary dollars “should be proportional to the enrollment at each school site” of the targeted students. It also says the concentration grants should “primarily benefit” high-needs students. The Senate’s version would impose a stricter legal condition, that the extra dollars “supplement not supplant” dollars spent on high-needs students; they must provide extra services and staff.

It’s a balancing act. On the one hand, schools should avoid spending that creates segregated programs that should be better put toward a schoolwide benefit, said Arun Ramanathan, executive director of Oakland-based Education Trust-West, which advocates for underserved students. But at what threshold of disadvantaged students is there enough money generated to spread around, to shift from tutoring for disadvantaged students to an extra counselor for all students?

Districts should have flexibility to use supplementary dollars to create common strategies, say, for all English learners, Ramanathan said. But base funding, not supplementary dollars, should pay for teachers’ raises, he said.

Districts are anxious to restore programs and staff positions that were cut over the past five years. The danger is that money will end up committed long-term, at the expense of poor students for whom the new funding system was intended, Ramanathan said.

L.A. TIMES WISHY-WASHES CHILD WELFARE SCANDAL: There must be zero-tolerance for tragic child deaths from DCFS, the Board of Supes ...and The Times!

LA Times Editorial |

June 4, 2013 :: There is nothing more outrageous than the death of a child at the hands of an abusive parent who was under the watch of child welfare workers who, in the end, didn't step in and stop the abuse. Such appears to be the case with the death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez. All the elements are there for a high-pitched emotional public response: Politicians. Government bureaucrats. Bad parents. And an innocent child, now dead.

But if the public and the county supervisors leave their setting on outrage, experience shows that the result is too often a cycle of invective, firings, discipline and policy changes that may satisfy a hunger for action, but only of the wheel-spinning sort. Los Angeles County has been through this countless times, reacting with unfocused anger to the cruel death of a child, with the result that the Department of Children and Family Services has run through 17 permanent directors or temporary leaders over the last 25 years, and that it has added and then eliminated layers of supervision and reporting. The churn of leadership and the changes of policy and procedure are to no avail, and in fact are counterproductive, if they fail to move the child welfare system any closer to improvement. If it is to have any chance of being useful, the outrage must in the end yield to a more mundane, clinical analysis of what went wrong. And then the difficult, slogging work of adjusting, supervising, overseeing, improving.

Let's be clear that outrage, in the case of Gabriel Fernandez, is warranted. The details of his abuse and death, as set forth in internal county documents and reported by Times staff writer Garrett Therolf on May 30, are gruesome and depressing. There had been numerous investigations into allegations of neglect and emotional and physical abuse against him and his siblings dating back to 2003. Hospital reports tell of head injuries, BB gun wounds, fractures and bruises. Pellets were found in his groin and his lung.

Gabriel's teacher told of bruising on his face and hands, scratches on his head, a swollen face. The child reportedly told authorities he had been sexually abused and shot in the face with a BB gun. A suicide note was discovered.

Repeated referrals to the Department of Children and Family Services resulted in investigations, followed by determinations that allegations of abuse were unfounded. One referral was still open, two months after the state's legal deadline for completing an investigation, at the time of the child's death on May 24.

The reports point to repeated and apparently unheeded warnings to county authorities whose purpose is to ensure the safety of children.

The job of a child social worker is exceedingly difficult, perhaps nowhere more so than in Los Angeles County. When tragedies (or "critical incidents," as they are called in county reports) occur, frontline workers who chose the profession out of a sense of dedication to child welfare and spent years in training are often branded in the public

as incompetent or lazy. Caseloads are large. Managers, hoping to respond to or avoid a tongue-lashing or worse from the Board of Supervisors, respond to each incident with a new policy or practice, a new form to complete, a new layer of oversight, resulting in an ever-expanding policy manual that is now about 6,000 pages long — impossible for a child social worker to read, let alone follow.

Frontline workers often feel under assault, and they quickly learn to hunker down and keep their heads low. Even that isn't easy. The majority of children who die due to abuse or neglect do so in their parents' home, so there is an obvious incentive for social workers wanting to avoid scrutiny — wanting to avoid responsibility for the next Gabriel Fernandez — to recommend removing children from their homes even when it isn't clear how serious the threat is. But evidence also shows that children taken from their parents and referred to foster care suffer psychologically, generally perform more poorly in school, are more likely to become involved in the delinquency system and have trouble coping with life once they become adults — so there is an incentive too to keep families united or, at least, to be able to produce numbers that show fewer children being removed from their homes. Judgment is needed above all, but judgment means choice, choices can be wrong, and consequences for the worker can be serious.

A succession of confidential internal county reports to the Board of Supervisors advise that failures begin on the front end, with workers who have been improperly trained, don't perform investigations properly, don't use assessment tools correctly and don't communicate well. That implies continuing failures up and down the line — with hiring, training, supervising.

The bucks stops with the Board of Supervisors. Its task is to walk the very narrow line between outrage — the fury that can result in a round of recriminations, purges and policy swings, without any actual improvement in department culture and practice — and the fatalistic notion that in a county the size of Los Angeles, improvement is beyond reach. It's not. There may always be tragic child deaths. But we can do better.

●● smf: The headline editor wrote; “There always will be deaths…”. The editorial board wrote “There may always be tragic child deaths”. Neither is anywhere near acceptable!

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
GOODBYE MR. DUFFY: Still-feisty former teachers union chief retires: A.J. Duffy’s career in education ends aft...

NEARLY 50 YEARS UNDER A SCHOOL’S SPELL: Violin teacher Mickey Fruchter has been teaching at the Neighborhood Music School...


WHERE SCHOOL AND COMMUNITY JOIN: Themes in the News A weekly commentary written by UCLA IDEA on the important ...


WHATEVER HAPPENED TO MARSHALL TUCK? - Partnership Head “Exploring” Run for Public Office

C.L.A.S.S.: New Coalition Launches with High Hopes, Few Specifics + smf’s 2¢: Posted to LA Schools Report by B...

NEW DATA SHOWS ‘®EFORMERS’ ARE GETING IT WRONG: by David Sirota | Perspectives at Moyers and Co. | http://bit....




Op-Ed: LAUSD SHOULD HAVE MORE PUBLIC MEETINGS: By Bennett Kayser Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Daily News | http://...

SPI Torlakson: “I ask your support for the $1.5B the Assembly included for CCSS implementation in the budget proposal it passed last week."

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD ON THE NEW SCHOOL FUNDING FORMULA: California has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ...

“More graduates, fewer inmates”: ENDING OUR PUNISHMENT CULTURE: Marqueece Harris-Dawson, President and CEO, Co...

LAUSD BOARD MEETS (TWICE) TO HEAR BUDGET PRIORTIES: LAUSD board hears pleas to boost campus hiring, academic p...

Megan Reilly: the funding "base" is the "bare minimum"

L.A. TIMES WISHY WASHES CHILD WELFARE SCANDAL: There must be zero-tolerance for tragic child deaths from DCFS,...

L.A. STUDENTS TACKLE SOCIAL PROBLEMS FOR ASPEN IDEAS FESTIVAL: The high school teams' projects include growing...

This just in: YOUNG PEOPLE HAVE SEX …and get STD test results by text message....


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: • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-5555 • 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 Brown: 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. THEY DO!.

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 represented PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee for ten years. 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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