Sunday, November 09, 2014

Step away from the CriSiS

4LAKids: Sunday 9•Nov•2014    The Berlin Wall ...25 bricks on
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Every once in a while, though not often enough, we get out of LA and LAUSD and are exposed to the real world.

On Tuesday there was an election – and we were reminded that there is a whole other world out there.

Outside California there are Republicans.
Who knew?

I am of course being glib; we’ve had Republicans in California. Action Hero Republicans who became governor after staging their own election. Song-and-Dance-Man Republicans who became US Senators. Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian Republicans: birds so unlike the feather to become their own sub-species. Richard Nixon was a lot of things and California Republican was one of them. And the jurist who defines ‘Activist Judge’ in the conservative lexicon - Earl Warren - was Republican Governor of California before he led the Warren Court to the liberal Promised Land and/or tea party Wrack+Ruin. (I’m looking into it …but I’m told the Iranian Republican Guard has no connection to the California Republican Party.)

We had our election in California; the Westside L.A. Liberals picked their champion, no Republicans were elected to statewide office and the governor was reelected while ignoring his own reelection. Our most hotly contested race in CA was between two registered Democrats for the non-partisan and fairly powerless job of Superintendent of Public Instruction. I confess that had Marshall Tuck won I would have added “meaningless” to the “powerless” description ….but had the School Reform Billionaires and Teachers Unions Political Action Committee invested their millions in paying teachers or buying library books instead of ads+air-buys I’d feel warmer+fuzzier about the democratic process. That Tuck got 48% of the vote worries me …once again the Billionaire Boys Club almost got what they paid for!

• There are national elections every two years.
• Republicans and geezers tend to vote very two years,
• Democrats and youth, every four.
• In L.A. we have elections fairly continuously …more on that later.

I’ve said this before, but repetition is key in education. When Mayor Tony tried to take over LAUSD his opponents (me among them) had yellow t-shirts that said “Parents. Not Politics.” The other side had blue T shirts that said “Parent Power”. When two diametrically opposed positions claim to be for the same thing you need to put on your hip-waders and/or Ebola suits. Both sides are full of it, the effluvia is going to be noxious and the debate is going to be spun+framed by the PR firm of Balderdash, Twaddle, Claptrap and Malarkey.

Parents need to get involved in school politics as part of getting involved in their kid’s education. This is especially true in the brave new world of the Local Control Funding Formula – as decision-making allegedly is pushed down to the school level.

I bring this up now precisely because:
1. The ‘Local’ in Local control is still solidly ensconced s at 333 S. Beaudry, not at the school site, and
2. Yesterday was the deadline to file to run for school board. Just as your voicemail and snail mail boxes empty of robocalls and political fliers a majority of the board is up for election and the competition has been joined for the election in March. (see XXXX, following)

I have, in my life, worked as a consultant. Consultants are disinterested third parties hired to write a report on something; the words “disinterested” and “hired” being mutually exclusive.

Most consultants are technical writers, not creative writers. When a consultant is hired by someone to deliver a report on something and in their research and expert opinion finds that the party who hired them is incompetent and doing a really crummy job of doing their job, the consultant’s creative writing skills are sorely challenged.

Such is the case in the Oversight Report on the My Integrated Student Information System generated by Arnold Viramontes. ( )

(A Parent leader– who clings to anonymity but wishes to be identified here as ‘Tall Dark and Handsome from San Diego' translates the MiSiS acronym as “The Student MiSinformation System.” That’s far kinder than describing the LAUSD Information Technology Team as “The Three Blind Mices” …though that under-enumerates the vision-challenged rodent infestation.)

Viramontes was hired by Superintendent Deasy to generate an independent third party report on MiSiS implementation and to report directly to him. Unless it was delivered very early in the AM by the time the report was delivered on October 16th Deasy was no longer superintendent – and it takes neither rocket science nor tealeaf reading nor the Alameda County Superior Court to determine that part of the reason Deasy was gone was The Office of Superintendent’s mishandling of MiSiS.

The Office of Superintendent being architecture and furniture – no actual humanity was involved. The Viramontes Report names no names and points no fingers – but it describes cluelessness, incompetence and rank misunderstanding on a grand scale – albeit between the lines. And despite all the previous “We got the program for free from Fresno” – and the “We own the code” – it spells it out quite clearly: “MiSiS application development involves a partnership between Microsoft and LAUSD.”

The report is a seven-page snapshot in twelve-point Arial of a deer frozen in the headlights. The report is dated Oct 16th – the day Deasy resigned …though the version released is dated Oct 22nd – which suggests this is a revised draft. LA School Report reports it didn’t go to the Board of Ed until Nov. 6th.

The report conclusion almost says “Don’t blame yourselves, you didn’t know what you were doing, you didn’t know what to expect and you didn’t understand what was expected of you …or why. And even when you knew what you were doing and the team down the hall knew what they were doing ….neither team knew what the other was doing.”

But that’s a report I’ve been writing and delivering every Sunday for ten years.

In my getting out of town and LAUSD last week I spent a few days with other California PTA leaders, Yes, we talked about LAUSD – how could we not? – but we also discussed the triumphs and travails of other school districts. The entire Sweetwater USD Bd of Ed has been indicted. (…one of them ran for reelection on the “I wasn’t as guilty as the rest of ‘em” platform). The voters passed and funded Universal Preschool in San Francisco for the next 24 years. Most school bonds and parcel taxes up-and-down the state passed – but some did not. The UC’s and CSU’s may raise tuition. Children succeeded. There is not enough Art and Music and PE and Health Ed and Civics – or nurses, counselors and mental health professionals in our schools today, And PTA and parent fundraising is paying for too much of it where it is.

There simply aren’t enough of those things – or dark chocolate – in our lives.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf



By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News |

11/06/14, 7:43 PM PST | A tech expert hired to evaluate Los Angeles Unified’s now notorious record-keeping system, MiSiS, issued a scathing report Thursday, faulting everything from the decision to model the system after one used by a far smaller school district to insufficient efforts to fix data problems that led to erroneous student records.

Arnold Viramontes, a former high-level tech expert for two school districts in Texas, said the problems that have plagued MiSiS from the get-go continue to pose issues. He was hired by LAUSD in September at a cost of up to $73,500.

“There are many reasons why the current project plan is not feasible unless it is modified to reflect the dynamics of the implementation,” his report states.

The system is still hampering educators, failing for a second time this week on Thursday. It was shut down for work from 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. because educators were “unable to log in, take attendance, enter grades and perform other critical school functions,” according to an email the district sent to employees Thursday afternoon.

Thursday’s failure came on the heels of Tuesday’s meltdown, which forced LAUSD to push back elementary school report cards by one week to Nov. 14. The delay caused problems for parents and teachers who planned to have report cards in hand for conferences next week.

Former Superintendent John Deasy plowed ahead with launching the all-purpose record-keeping software at the start of the school year, ignoring the repeated warnings of teachers, principals and counselors who said it was not ready, as reported first by this news organization.

Board member Bennett Kayser warned Deasy in a July 21 letter that the system was causing numerous problems at Bell High School, which operates on a year-round schedule.

After reviewing Viramontes’ report, Kayser expressed outrage at Deasy’s disregard for problems the system was causing and repeated efforts to deceive the public and his elected bosses on the school board.

“From ignoring multiple warnings, including my own, to deceiving board members and the public with misinformation about the severity of the crisis, Deasy left us with a big, expensive mess to clean-up,” Kayser said in a written statement. “I am, along with the students, parents and district employees who have been adversely affected, furious.”

After repeated requests by this news organization about the scope of problems caused by MiSiS, LAUSD released an Aug. 15 statement claiming “less than 1 percent of students overall were affected” by system glitches. It remains unclear how such a claim could be made considering the system could not accurately track students. Deasy abruptly resigned last month under scrutiny for his handling of MiSiS and another tech fiasco involving efforts to put iPads in classrooms.

While Deasy made the final decision to launch MiSiS, Viramontes notes leadership of the project ignored “red” conditions in recommending to move forward.

The report notes that building such software from scratch requires coordination, but the decision to modify software used by a far smaller school district, Fresno Unified School District, added a “different layer of complexity.” According to the report, LAUSD is about 10 times larger than Fresno.

LAUSD spokeswoman Lydia Ramos stated Oct. 23 that using Fresno’s system provided two “key advantages” — the program can be modified because it’s owned by the district, and “it provides a solution that has already been deployed and used successfully in a large urban California school district.”

Educators who spoke on the condition of anonymity have said a key problem with MiSiS is that it searches across all of LAUSD’s 650,000 students each time a counselor tries to do something as simple as bring up a transcript. The previous system would confine searches to a single school. After a lengthy wait time, MiSiS manages to locate student records. But even if the name and identification number displayed are accurate, course schedules for a different student can appear.

The integrity of data and student records continues to pose a problem for the educators of LAUSD, but the report found “there was no evidence suggesting a detailed plan for data integrity.”

Other issues included a lack of clear management responsibility. As noted by an earlier report from a court-appointed monitor tasked with reporting on the district’s effort to build the system and fulfill a 1993 lawsuit that required it to identify and educate special education students, the project manager didn’t have control over important aspects of the project, including quality assurance to test the system and training to ensure educators could use it.

Ron Chandler abruptly resigned his post atop the district’s technology department last week because of the program’s problems. Also last week, MiSiS project manager Bria Jones had her contract terminated.

LAUDS’s efforts to help educators overwhelmed by the faulty system and returning students were also inadequate, according to the report, which notes more calls were “abandoned” by employees working a hotline than answered. Additionally, the help-desk employees never reported back to educators who needed assistance, according to the report.

The partnership with Microsoft that developed MiSiS — “mired with software bugs and missed functionality” — needs an “effective communications model.” According to the report, Microsoft used both “off shore” and on-site resources as a contractor working on the project.

LAUSD decided to hasten MiSiS’s deployment, which was originally set for 2015-16, leaving just one year to develop the software.

Out of a $29-million budget that was supposed to be spent over two years, only $10 million was used by the end of year one. Additionally a $1.5-million contingency fund sat untapped.

“There is little evidence that timelines and expectations were modified and communicated,” according to the report’s review of communication efforts between LAUSD and Microsoft.

In starting to clean up the mess, new Superintendent Ramon Cortines this week called on Microsoft’s top executives to send help. It is one of a number of measures Cortines has undertaken to fix the problem since stepping in to replace Deasy.

“I want you to know that we have already made some changes to address the issues in this first report by Arnold Viramontes, and will continue to work to resolve the problems until we have a fully functioning student information system to serve the students, parents and employees of the Los Angeles Unified School District,” Cortines stated.



By Adolfo Guzman-Lopez | KPCC 89.3 |

November 06 2014 :: Los Angeles Unified administrators, charged with ensuring a new district data system for 650,000 students worked as it should, ignored warnings that the system wasn’t ready to launch, an independent consultant group concluded in a report released Thursday.

The consultants also expressed doubts that the current district team working to fix the problems will be able to repair the troubled data system known as MiSiS.

A copy of the seven-page report was obtained by KPCC before a scheduled Thursday afternoon release.

Although several documents indicated early problems with the data system, the district's project team leadership gave the go-ahead for its launch nonetheless, the report prepared by The Viramontes Group Inc. said.

“There were not any indicators from project team signifying a 'No Go' decision," the report states.

The system's problems have led to a litany of issues, including problems with class scheduling and student attendance.

In the latest of the troubles, Superintendent Ramon Cortines told principals and teachers in a letter Wednesday that the district has delayed issuing elementary school report cards for a week, to Nov. 14. He attributed the problem to continuing challenges with MiSiS and an unexpected outage.

Cortines notified parents in a Wednesday letter. "I apologize for the delay of your student's grades right before parent-teacher conferences. Be assured that your teachers and principals are doing everything possible to meet student needs despite the technology challenges they have recently encountered."

The district said in a news release that the data system has required "fine-tuning, as with any new program." The "glitches have affected less than 1 percent of students overall," the district said.

Officials acknowledged continuing problems with scheduling and said the system has been "slower than expected." Because of continuing snags, teachers have been asked to take attendance offline for now.

The consultant group's report does not name the L.A. Unified officials who failed to heed the warnings of trouble with the new data system. But the top technology officer overseeing the project, Ron Chandler, resigned last week after four years with the district.

The same week, the district fired an outside consultant in charge of the project, Bria Jones, who was compensated at $135 an hour and was overpaid, according to the district's inspector general.

Both Chandler and Jones reported ultimately to former Superintendent John Deasy, who resigned in early October after mounting issues with the data system, known as MiSiS, a botched rollout of a program to place iPads in the hands of all L.A. Unified students, and strained relations with the school board that hired him.

School board member Tamar Galatzan said Deasy’s role in the green lighting of the flawed system should be laid out in a more thorough report from the district's inspector general due out later this month.

"The board and the superintendent want to hold people responsible who messed this up," Galatzan said. "But also, we have to understand that we’re in the middle of dealing with this crisis and we also need to move forward and focus attention on that."

Board member Monica Ratliff agreed that those responsible should be held to account, but she suggested the problem may run deeper.

"My takeaway from this report is that we need to change the culture around here so that when people realize that something is not working, they say something, really loud, and they make sure it doesn’t go forward," she said. "Because there’s absolutely no reason why this project should have gone forward in light of how many problems were apparent during its production."

In expressing skepticism that the district has the ability to fix MiSiS, the consultant group said: “The current project management structure and staffing models are not adequate for project completion.”

“There is lack of evidence that a data conversion and integrity plan exists,” according to the consultant group.

L.A. Unified has managed student data with multiple systems over the years. An inadequate transfer of student data from old computer systems to the new MiSiS system contributed to the issues that include students assigned to wrong classes and courses they had already taken.

The data system is also producing incorrect student transcripts, causing problems for 12th-graders who need accurate transcripts for college applications, many of them due at the end of November.

“The MiSiS implementation has several occurrences of duplicate students, missing students, scheduling inconsistencies, and coding irregularities,” the report said, and that “could be catastrophic to the future of a student in the form of scholarships, college entrance and grade progression.”

School personnel such as clerks and teachers who would ultimately be responsible for entering data and using the system weren’t consulted in its development, the report said.

“There appeared to be significant lack of input from the community of personnel that would eventually use the applications. Without dedicated stakeholder involvement, the requirements specifications lack clarity and specification for development.”

The report was discussed in a closed-door meeting Thursday between L.A. Unified’s board and Superintendent Cortines.

The cost of fixing the broken data system has been mounting.

Last month, L.A. Unified’s school board approved $3.6 million for the purchase of 3,340 computers to be sent to schools to use MiSiS. Old desktop computers would not run the data system.

At the same meeting, board members approved $1.1 million to fix scheduling problems caused by the data system at Jefferson High School after a judge said the issues there were particularly serious.

The board also approved spending $15,000 to $25,000 a day to hire retired educators who are checking student transcripts one by one for accuracy.

Schools began reporting problems with the data system in July, and the issues proved widespread. An independent study found that 80 percent of district campuses had problems with MiSiS properly tracking special education data.

The report praised the dedication and time spent by current employees to fix the data system’s problems.

“The status room has been turned into a situation/war room to reflect current schedules, issue resolution and system status. The Help Desk has been augmented with additional resources and tiered to handle traffic."

As of Thursday, the district's website listed over 200 "known issues" with the MiSiS system.



By Howard Blume | LA Times |

Nov 9, 2014 :: A majority of the Los Angeles Board of Education is up for reelection this spring, and all four are likely to face challengers based on the election filing period that closed Saturday.

The four incumbents — Richard Vladovic, Tamar Galatzan, Bennett Kayser and George McKenna — are seeking to remain on the board that oversees the nation's second-largest school system.
Related story: Consultant's report details problems with LAUSD student record system
Related story: Consultant's report details problems with LAUSD student record system
Howard Blume

Aside from the familiar challenges, including budgets, union negotiations and student performance, the incoming board also is expected to choose a permanent successor to Supt. John Deasy, who resigned under pressure in October. Ramon Cortines returned from retirement to replace him, but at 82 is not expected to stay indefinitely.

A search process for the next superintendent could begin soon, with the final choice almost certain to fall to the board majority that prevails at the ballot box in either the March primary or the May general election.

The next board also will have to decide how to proceed with a troubled $1.3-billion effort to provide a computer to every student, teacher and campus administrator. The project began by distributing iPads at an initial set of schools last fall, but the iPad contract was recently suspended.

Candidates had until noon Saturday to declare their intent to run for a seat on the seven-member board. To get on the March ballot, they'll still have to collect signatures from at least 500 registered voters in their district by Dec. 3.

District 1 is represented by McKenna and stretches across south and southwest L.A. McKenna was elected in August to replace the late Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, but had to run again immediately. His potential challenger is Daymond R. Johnson, who heads the union for non-teaching employee at a group of local charter schools. McKenna's opponent in August chose not to run again.

District 3, represented by two-term incumbent Galatzan, is in the west San Fernando Valley. Six potential challengers signed up to face her: Elizabeth Badger Bartels, who describes herself as a children's advocate/businesswoman; Carl J. Peterson (businessman/activist parent), Filiberto Gonzalez (school parent/professor), Ankur Patel (teacher/scientist/entrepreneur), Scott Mark Schmerelson (administrator/retired teacher) and Mario Burrell (teacher).

In District 5, four challengers have signed up to run against one-term incumbent Kayser. They are Andrew Thomas, who describes himself as an educator/parent; Ref Rodriguez, the co-founder of the PUC charter school group; James C. O'Gabhann III (public school teacher), and Benjamin Luis Jimenez (city of L.A. senior storekeep).

District 5 cuts a tortuous path from northeast of downtown to the small cities of southeast L.A. County.

School board President Vladovic, the two-term incumbent, will be defending his seat in District 7, which stretches from South L.A. to San Pedro. His potential challengers are Euna Anderson (principal/adjunct professor) and Lydia A. Gutierrez, an elementary teacher who twice ran unsuccessfully for state superintendent of public instruction.

Candidates also filed for the L.A. Community College District board. Unlike the board of L.A. Unified, the college district seats are not assigned to specific geographic areas within the district.

For Seat 1, incumbent Mona Field could face Francesa Vega, Maria "Sokie" Quintero, Mervin Evans, Angra Hoffman and Mark Isler.

Signed up to run for the open Seat 3 are: Kevin M. Collins, Sydney Kamlager, Yolanda Toure, Glenn Bailey, Sam Kbushyan and Jozef "Joe" Thomas Essavi.

Those hoping to win Seat 5 are: incumbent and Board President Scott Svonkin, James "Jimmy" Johnston, Justin Kim, Sukhsimran "Sammy" Sandhu and Steve Schulte.

Seat 7 also is open. Those signed up are: John Jose Noyola, Rodney D. Robinson, Mike Fong, Akifa Khan, Joyce Burrell Garcia and John C. Burke.



by Craig Clough | LA School Report |

Posted on November 7, 2014 3:03 pm :: With tomorrow’s noon deadline approaching to file for next year’s LA Unified school board elections, the races are coming into view.

Seats in four of the board’s seven districts — 1, 3, 5 and 7 — are up for grabs, making the elections hugely influential on future district policies.

All four of the incumbents are running again and facing challengers, with the primary scheduled for March 3 and the general election on May 19. Here is a district-by-district breakdown of the school board races:


District 1 includes South Los Angeles, Palms and Baldwin Hills.

For the moment, this is the only race with a head-to-head contest. The incumbent, George McKenna, is the newest board member, having won a special election in August to fill the seat vacated by the death of Marguerite LaMotte last year.

McKenna’s victory was key in determining the current balance of power on the board, as his election shifted it to a 4-3 majority owing their seats, in large part, to financial support by United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). McKenna ran against a reform-backed candidate, Alex Johnson, and his victory was the latest in a string of pro-union wins against pro-charter, reformists in LA Unified school board elections.

McKenna holds a doctorate of education degree from Xavier University. He is a former LAUSD teacher and principal at George Washington Preparatory High School, where the academic turnaround he oversaw at the school was the subject of a 1986 TV movie starring Denzel Washington.

McKenna’s challenger is Daymond R., Johnson, president of the Amino Classified Employees Association, which represents the employees at Green Dot Public Schools.


District 3 includes Studio City, Sherman Oaks and the most of the West San Fernando Valley.

The District 3 race is the most crowded, with five challengers to incumbent Tamar Galatzan, who first won her seat in 2007. She is also a prosecutor with the city of Los Angeles and is viewed as a reform-backed candidate.

Her challengers are: Elizabeth Badger Bartels, a children’s advocate and businesswoman; Filiberto Gonzalez, a school parent and professor; Ankur Patel, a teacher, scientist and entrepreneur; Scott Mark Schmerelson, an administrator and retired teacher; and Carl J. Peterson, a businessman and activist parent.


District 5 includes the Northeast neighborhoods of Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Echo Park, Los Feliz and Atwater Village, as well as the cities of Bell and South Gate.

The incumbent Bennett Kayser will face at least two challengers. Kayser, a former teacher and community activist, was elected to the board in 2011 and is seen as one of the strongest pro-union members.

The challengers are Ref Rodriguez, a co-founder of PUC Schools, which operates a number of LA Unified charter schools; and Andrew Thomas, a professor of education at the online Walden University and operator of a research company that consults with school districts, including LA Unified.


District 7 includes the South Bay communities of San Pedro, Lomita and Carson.

The race here will feature at least two challengers to current board President Richard Vladovic, who was first elected to the board in 2007. Originally a reform-backed candidate, Vladovic is seen by many to have more to a more neutral position since last year.

Vladovic has one of the fullest education resumes on the board. With a doctorate in education from USC, he is a former teacher, principal and school administrator, as well as a former superintendent of the West Covina School District.

His challengers are Euna Anderson, principal of the Vine Early Education Center and the Alexandria Early Education Center; and Lydia A. Guitierrez, an educator and member of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council.


by Deepa Fernandes | 89;3 KPCC |

November 07 2014 :: When San Francisco voters overwhelmingly reauthorized the city's universal preschool program on Tuesday, ensuring an annual $27 million for the next 24 years, other California cities may well have sat up.

The Obama administration's call for universal preschool has cities nationwide thinking about how to implement such programs. New York's mayor swept in a pilot project this year that offers preschool to four-year-olds and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia wants to do the same.

But a model for funding and implementing a global program for preschool may be just up the I-5.

A group of community organizers in San Francisco began discussing the idea of a public fund dedicated to small children’s needs in 1987. It was the precursor to the city's passage of universal preschool and decades ahead of what today is a national movement.

The city has gone about its Preschool For All program quietly, largely overlooked in the national discussion about how cities are developing universal programs for early learners.

Over 10 years, San Francisco has funded preschool education for 25,000 children. It has implemented high quality standards in all preschool classrooms, and funds additional services like play therapists and teacher support services.

This year, 4,000 preschoolers across 150 school sites are beneficiaries. There are about 400 four-year-olds still on the city's waiting list.

Importantly, the children served have been from all socio-economic groups, according to Ingrid Mezquita, Preschool For All program director at First 5 San Francisco, the organization charged with administering the program.

“In the [higher] grades, we don’t segregate children by income. In preschool, we do,” Mezquita said. “In a universal system, that opens up all families to be under one roof.”

San Francisco's not a pure universal system. While the funding covers 100 percent of the tuition for low-income children, middle and upper-income families can receive up to 25 percent of their costs from the city’s general fund. They are able to apply to any of the city’s Preschool For All-approved preschools.

Mezquita says her office has plenty of anecdotal evidence that the program has stopped "family flight" — families with small children leaving the expensive Bay Area because they can’t afford childcare.

“San Francisco has the highest rents,” she said, forcing some families to choose between paying rent or sending their children to preschool. For some middle-income families, Mezquita said, they make too much for free preschool, but not enough to afford privates rates.

“San Francisco has been able to help a lot of moderate-income families not have to make that choice so [they] can stay in the city,” Mezquita said.

Jennifer Delos Reyes knows that dilemma well. Her husband grew up in San Francisco and they wanted to raise their young daughter there, too. Both have good jobs, she said, but with the high cost of San Francisco living, preschool seemed out of reach.

“One of the ways that we are able to afford to stay is though Preschool For All. We get 25 percent off at her school, and it really is a big break for us,” she said.

On average, private preschool costs about $1,350 per month in the city, according to First 5 San Francisco. The savings of up to 25 percent can help bring the cost down to under $1,000 per month. There are also half-day options open to all families, regardless of income, that are offered for free.

Delos Reyes runs programs for another San Francisco preschool, Holy Family Day Home. She said she sees closeup the benefits of having children of mixed incomes in the same classrooms. One example: children learn empathy through the school's monthly collective birthday celebrations. Instead of some children bringing in expensive cakes to celebrate, kids bake cupcakes at school once a month to celebrate all the birthdays for the month.

Holy Family has been providing childcare for 100 years. In the 10 years since the city’s universal preschool began, the school has increased slots for children by 50 percent and serves 154 kids. A majority of the children are low-income and fully subsidized, but the preschool ensures at least a quarter of all students are from higher-income homes.

“Just because a family of four is making $100,000 a year doesn’t mean they aren’t in need of assistance and don’t deserve a quality preschool program,” Delos Reyes said.

“If we didn’t have Preschool For All, we would be serving the very poor and the very rich,” she added. “PFA gives access to everyone.”

The Preschool For All program also funded Holy Family to hire a play-therapist to help children exhibiting behavioral issues, as well as a “therapeutic shadow teacher” who could be at the school 30 hours a week to help teachers in the classroom.

These extra services get to the heart of “quality” early education, said Carla Bryant, chief of early education for the San Francisco Unified School District.

“When Preschool For All started they were very clear that they were looking for very high quality preschools,” Bryant said. Even though the school district remains the largest provider of preschool in San Francisco, Bryant said Preschool for All helped lift quality in the district's classrooms.

“Preschool For All was able to look at some of the work that was being done nationally and borrow some of it, and actually move it quite quickly,” Bryant said. “So they absolutely set a bar and ensured that anyone who was PFA met that bar.”
A long struggle to get there

As other cities attempt to push through universal preschool, knowing the path that organizers took in San Francisco might prove useful, said Mezquita of First 5 San Francisco.

“It took a lot of training to get even people in the field to understand how outrageous it was that it wasn’t just automatic that our children had the best possible beginning in life,” said Margaret Brodkin, a community organizer and former head of the city Department of Children, Youth and Their Families.

“People are not used to thinking of it as a social justice issue and that’s what I think we’ve done so remarkably in San Francisco.”

She said it took years of grassroots organizing to convince people of the need to fund services and preschool for all children.

“It doesn’t come naturally to people who work in preschool who are gentle people to get involved in politics and learn to play political hardball,” Brodkin said. “But that is what you have to do if you want to have a universal preschool measure pass in your community.”

They didn’t start out demanding universal preschool. Instead the organizers took on smaller battles with targeted demands.

“We had baby brigades at City Hall year after year where hundreds and hundreds of kids from child care centers would invade City Hall and extract promises from elected officials,” she said.

“We were at every budget hearing, we had the parents of people in childcare centers send 10,000 postcards to the mayor when we needed to get salaries raised for childcare workers.”

From 1987 to 1991 children’s advocates, led by Brodkin, pushed for a “children’s budget.” That work culminated in the passage of a children’s fund in 1991 with a $6 million pot of money.

In 2004, San Francisco voters approved 10 years' of funding to start a universal preschool program, and in the recent election, voters approved the 24-year reauthorization.

That makes Brodkin smile. But she’s not pausing too long to enjoy the victory. She’s busy traveling up and down the state advising advocates in small cities on how to bring about similar preschool funding streams to their own towns.


Letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal |
Nov. 7, 2014 5:50 p.m. ET :: I’m a classroom teacher with two master’s degrees, and I’m working toward a doctorate. I appreciate Joel Klein ’s call for greater credentialing and certification in the profession (“A Lesson Plan for A+ Teachers,” But his proposal to remake American teachers in the mold of their Finnish counterparts overlooks the most essential goal of education: to produce better human beings.

The best educators I know teach students, not subjects, and they actively nurture life-enhancing qualities like grit, teamwork and generosity. These virtues and others like them comprise the “total education” of a child and should be prized by any teacher entering the field. They certainly won’t show up on one of Mr. Klein’s bar exams but are just as indicative of a teacher’s professional readiness as his or her mastery of material. Schools that are staffed by highly trained but morally ambivalent teachers will simply become grading factories, not goodness incubators. To be truly effective practitioners, teachers need standards that have soul.

Joe Hirsch

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources

Letters: Great Teachers Teach Students, Not Subjects via @WSJ

MiSiS CRISIS: L.A. school district reports more problems with student records |

Enrollment Numbers Increase! | Baby rattlesnakes found at Van Nuys elementary school

The MiSiS REPORT: L.A. TIME'S HOWARD BLUME TWEETS IT ALL FOR YOU @howardblume: Excerpts of MISIS report: There i…

*U*P*D*A*T*E*D* :: MiSiS SYSTEM GOES DOWN, DATA LOST - With additional info from Superintendent Cortines |

'Remember, remember the the 5th of November!" HAPPY GUY FAWKES DAY

Rhee’s Husband Loses Power Grab in Sacramento, as Voters Say No

MiSiS GOES DOWN, DATA LOST. Cortines apologizes + offers most important lesson-learned. “Back up and save your work!”



CORTINES ON DEASY'S 2014-15 LAUSD BUDGET: "I think somebody drank the Kool-Aid and we didn’t look down the road...”



BIG OUTSIDE MONEY IN SCHOOL BOARD ELECTIONS: Not just here, it's (Cue The Beatles) Here, There & Everywhere |

"If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal." - Emma Goldman


RIP (...but laugh on) #TomMagliozzi #EndAlz The rest of us need to get in our Dodge Darts + MGAs and GO VOTE!

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Budget, Facilities, and Audit Committee - November 13, 2014

Start: 11/13/2014 1:00 pm
*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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