Sunday, March 13, 2016

Spring onward

4LAKids: Sunday 13•March•2016
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Last Tuesday the board of education, in their infinite wisdom, made a big deal over your poor author.

Board President Steve Zimmer and past Bond Oversight Committee Chairman Steve English and Superintendent Michelle King said nice things – and Boardmember George McKenna added kindnesses.

I am of a self-deprecating nature (it's one of my infuriatingly endearing qualities) and my first inclination is to deny recognition+honor: It was nothing.

But instead I say thank you for noticing and listening and reading.

The Grateful Dead said “What a long strange trip it’s been.”

It’s been a trip we have traveled together, and as Robert Earl Keen wrote: “The road goes on forever and the party never ends”.

Thank you, all of you, for everything you do for kids, every day.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

by Barbara Jones | LAUSD Daily |

Mar 8, 2016 :: Parent volunteer Scott Folsom, who has dedicated more than a quarter-century of advocacy and leadership to L.A. Unified, was honored today with the first-ever Board President’s Award for Service to the District for his work on behalf of families and students.

Folsom is the longest-serving member of the Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee, one of the more than two dozen panels on which he’s served. He has also been a champion of the program that created school-based health clinics that serve District families, and social-emotional learning programs that help students build lifelong skills for establishing and maintaining positive relationships.

“Mr. Folsom’s service to this District is unparalleled,” Board President Steve Zimmer said, after the audience honored Folsom with the first of two standing ovations he received during the brief ceremony. “He has been able to create change that we did not think was possible … We have literally transformed the landscape of LAUSD.”

Steven English, the recent past president of the BOC, described Folsom as a “committed idealist … who sees things as they should be and ceaselessly drives himself, and us, to arrive at that goal.”

Combined with Folsom’s pragmatism, wicked sense of humor and “huge heart,” English said, “it’s really quite a package.”

Folsom also received kudos from Superintendent Michelle King, who listed some of his many accomplishments, including his service as vice president of health for the California State PTA and president of the Los Angeles 10th District PTSA; his recognition as Parent Volunteer of the Year from the Los Angeles County Office of Education; and the two times he has won the California State PTA Golden Oaks Award.

“Mr. Folsom,” King said, “how lucky we are that you never followed through on your famous phrase, ‘Stop me before I volunteer again!’”

Dr. George J. McKenna III, who represents District 1 on the school board, spoke movingly about Folsom as a “a man for all seasons,” one known for his honesty, integrity and wit.

“All that you can say that is good about a human being you can say about Scott,” McKenna said.

Folsom himself briefly took the microphone, thanking Zimmer for the award and his L.A. Unified family for their support.

“This is the work of all of us,” he said. “This work that we all do is the most important work in the whole world – the education of our children. Thank you so much. I can’t say enough about everybody’s work here.

He started to turn away from the microphone, then turned back for a final comment – something for which he’s well-known.

“One more thing,” he said. “Mr. Folsom is my dad. I’m Scott. Thank you.”

Click Here for the YouTube Moment - begins at 01:23:45

by Sonali Kohli | LA Times |

March 8, 2016 :: The L.A. Unified school board approved a new charter high school, despite the district charter school division’s recommendation that the board deny the application.

Charter schools are publicly funded but can be privately operated, and Westside Innovative School House Inc. (WISH) runs two of them in Westchester — an elementary and a middle school.

In a 4-2 vote Tuesday (board President Steve Zimmer abstained), the school board decided to let the group open Wish Academy High School under a three-year charter.

The move comes one month after 21 organizations that run charter schools in Los Angeles sent a letter to the board accusing the district of unfair treatment in its approval process. The school district is battling declining enrollment in the face of well-funded plans to dramatically increase charter presence in Los Angeles.

Supt. Michelle King wants to take a collaborative approach with charters to improve students’ school experiences, she said in a town hall last week in Pacoima.

Thirty charter operators sent the district another letter on Sunday to support WISH, citing the school’s ethnic diversity, its concentration of students with disabilities and its test scores, which were higher than the district average. WISH parents, staff and supporters wearing red T-shirts filled the front half of the board meeting room Tuesday afternoon.

The board has approved eight out of 15 new charter petitions this academic year. That's just over half, compared with a 76.9% approval rate in 2014-15 and 89.5% the year before that, according to the California Charter School Assn.

WISH has had dwindling funds since 2011-12 and is financially unprepared to open a high school, the district’s charter division denial recommendation to the school board states.

Shawna Draxton, WISH's executive director, disputed that in a letter to the board and superintendent. “Since submitting our Petition, WISH has received written confirmation from California Department of Education (CDE) that our application for a $575,000 Public Charter Schools Grant Program start-up grant has qualified for funding, pending charter approval and CDE staff approval of the grant application budget,” the letter reads.

WISH asserts that the L.A. Unified Charter Schools Division said it would recommend a denial of its high school petition if it was not withdrawn. Last month, four charter operators withdrew their petitions rather than have them denied.

The board report also accuses one of the WISH schools — both share campuses with district schools — of taking up space for its 6th graders where it wasn't supposed to. The letter from Draxton calls this claim “preposterous.”

During the Tuesday meeting the board also approved two charter renewals and one charter amendment that allows KIPP Comienza Community Preparatory to add middle school grades to its Huntington Park dual-language school.

• LA Times Editor’s Note: The Times receives funding for its Education Matters digital initiative from one or more of the groups mentioned in this article. The California Community Foundation and United Way of Greater Los Angeles administer grants from the Baxter Family Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the California Endowment and the Wasserman Foundation to support this effort. Under terms of the grants, The Times retains complete control over editorial content.

By Motoko Rich, New York Times |

OAKLAND, Calif. — The 70 teachers who showed up to a school board meeting here recently in matching green and black T-shirts paraded in a circle, chanting, “Charter schools are not public schools!” and accusing the superintendent of doing the bidding of “a corporate oligarchy.”

The superintendent, Antwan Wilson, who is an imposing 6-foot-4, favors crisp suits and Kangol caps and peers intensely through wire-rimmed glasses, has become accustomed to confrontation since he arrived in this activist community from Denver two years ago. One board meeting last fall reached such a fever pitch that police officers moved in to control the crowd.

Mr. Wilson is facing a rebellion by teachers and some parents against his plan to allow families to use a single form to apply to any of the city’s 86 district-run schools or 44 charter campuses, all of which are competing for a shrinking number of students.

How he fares may say a great deal not only about Oakland, but also about this moment in the drive to transform urban school districts. Many of them have become rivalrous amalgams of traditional public schools and charters, which are publicly funded but privately operated and have been promoted by education philanthropists.

Mr. Wilson is trying to bring the traditional schools into closer coordination with the charters. “If he gets it right, it’s a model for moving past the polarized sense of reform that we have right now,” said Robert C. Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia.

But Mr. Wilson has emerged as a lightning rod partly because he is one of a cadre of superintendents who have been trained in an academy financed by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. Like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, Mr. Broad, a Los Angeles billionaire who made his fortune in real estate and insurance, is one of a group of businessmen with grand ambitions to remake public education.
His foundation has pumped $144 million into charter schools across the country, is embroiled in a battle to expand the number of charters in his home city, and has issued a handbook on how to close troubled public schools.

Unique among the education philanthropists, his foundation has also contributed more than $60 million over 15 years to a nonprofit that trains superintendents and administrators, convinced that they are key to transforming urban school systems.

When Mr. Broad first announced the initiative in 2001, he noted that the average urban schools leader lasted just over two years and had little preparation in finances or management.

The new academy, he said, would “dramatically change this equation“ by seeking candidates in educational circles as well as recruiting from corporate backgrounds and the military, introducing management concepts borrowed from business. Those chosen embark on a two-year fellowship, trained and mentored while working in their districts.

The fellows meet with speakers from think tanks, other school districts, charter networks and the business world. During one session last fall in New York, administrators from large districts shared a conference room with charter leaders and discussed challenges they have in common: how to recruit racial minorities to teaching, how to staff executive teams, and how to change punitive disciplinary cultures.

Regardless of training, any leader of a large school district faces daunting challenges. Superintendents “deal with a very unusual stew of people who are often divided by race and language and income and religion,” said Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of Great City Schools, a coalition of urban districts where the average chief now lasts just over three years. Those diverse groups, he said, are “all fighting over the one thing that they care most passionately about: their children.”

Broad-trained superintendents currently run districts in two dozen communities, including Boston, Broward County, Fla., and Philadelphia. They have lasted an average of four and three-quarter years, delivering incremental academic progress at best. Like others in the field, they have run up against the complexities of trying to improve schools bedeviled by poverty, racial disparities, unequal funding and contentious local politics.

Some prominent academy alumni have resigned after tumultuous terms. Mike Miles, the Dallas schools superintendent, quit last June after just three years, during which he battled teachers over new evaluation criteria and performance-based pay.

In Los Angeles, John Deasy stepped down as superintendent in the fall of 2014 after a turbulent tenure in which he testified against teachers’ unions during a landmark trial involving tenure and job protections, and presided over a botched rollout of a $1.3 billion plan to give all students iPads. That same year, John Covington abruptly resigned as chancellor of a state-operated district for the lowest performing schools in Detroit. Two years earlier, Jean-Claude Brizard resigned from the Chicago Public Schools after 17 months on the job and a bruising teachers’ strike.

Still, Mr. Broad said his money is well spent. “When I look at how many students are educated in public school systems where our alumni are and have worked,” he wrote in an email, “there is no question that this has been a worthwhile investment.”

Oakland is the kind of place where philanthropists hope to make a difference. Here, across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco, close to three-quarters of the 37,000 students in district-run schools come from low-income families. About 30 percent of the students are African-Americans, and more than 40 percent are Latino.


A little over a decade ago, the district was in financial chaos. The state put the district into receivership and extended a $100 million loan just to cover payroll.
In 2003, the state appointed the first of a string of Broad-trained administrators to run the district, free of local school board authority. Randolph Ward, who was then a state administrator of a troubled district in Compton, near Los Angeles, arrived as Oakland was embarking on an initiative to open a series of small public schools of 250 to 600 students apiece, depending on grade levels — several hundred fewer than at typical campuses.

During his time here, Mr. Ward opened two dozen small schools but also closed 14 schools. New charter schools were also opening, cutting into enrollment at district schools.

Mr. Ward was succeeded briefly by two other Broad alumni, Kimberly Statham and Vincent Matthews. All three declined to comment for this article. Meanwhile, the district is still paying back its debt.

The Broad-trained superintendents — along with other non-Broad state-appointed administrators — had modest success in raising student achievement. Between 2004 and 2010, scores on standardized reading and math tests grew more than in any other California district with population similar in size.
Still, less than a quarter of students met standards on tests last spring, below state averages. At the charter schools, by contrast, about a third met math standards and close to 40 percent met reading standards — although the charters educate fewer students with disabilities, an element that can depress test score averages.

Mr. Wilson arrived as the first Broad-trained superintendent to be hired by a re-empowered and elected school board. It voted for him unanimously, attracted by his record in Denver. There, he had been an assistant superintendent and worked with several struggling schools.
During Mr. Wilson’s tenure, Denver — also led by a Broad-trained superintendent — combined charters and more traditional schools in one enrollment system, as Mr. Wilson now proposes in Oakland.

Mr. Wilson, who is African-American, describes growing up poor and being raised by a single mother and said he entered education because of a commitment to social justice. He said he had a “visceral reaction” when he heard arguments about children in poverty “and how we need to fix that first before we can educate them. I am thinking that it’s actually educating them that gives them a chance to fix some poverty.”

By the time he arrived in Oakland, residents were frustrated by a history of financial mismanagement and persistently low test scores and graduation rates. Many educators in district schools felt as if they were fighting for their professional lives as charters took more and more students — and public funding — away.

Today, charters account for about a quarter of public school enrollment in the city, while the combined population of students in Oakland’s district and charter schools has declined by about 13 percent since 2000.

While the teachers’ union and some parent groups worry that district-run public schools will ultimately be eviscerated by competition from charters, other parents are voting with their feet, sending their children to the newer schools.

Kenetta Jackson, a housing administrator and a mother of two, decided the local school in her East Oakland neighborhood was “not up to my personal standards.” Her daughter, now 16, and son, 13, have attended charter schools in the Aspire Public Schools network since they were in kindergarten.

Ms. Jackson said she did not understand the debates about the merits of charter schools. “It’s a lot of politics beyond my reach,” she said. “I’m more concerned about my children’s education. I personally think that Aspire came and saved Oakland public schools because if they didn’t come, I would be paying an arm and a leg for my kids to go to some private school somewhere, and who can afford that?”

For his part, Mr. Wilson says he is neither for nor against charters. “I want effective schools,” he said in an interview in his offices in downtown Oakland.

Since he arrived, Mr. Wilson has focused on sending more tax dollars away from the central office and directly to schools, and he negotiated a contract giving teachers a 14 percent raise, their largest in 15 years, although Oakland teachers are still paid less on average than educators in surrounding counties. Mr. Wilson is also overhauling five of the city’s most troubled campuses, moving principals and introducing new academic and enrichment programs.

He is working with both district schools and charter leaders to negotiate an agreement to meet the same standards for academics, discipline and enrollment criteria.

Although he retains a solid bloc of support on the board, some members question whether he is pushing too hard and overriding community input. “You can’t change overnight,” said Roseann Torres, a board member. “Does he understand that? I hope so. I know he feels a deep sense of urgency.”

Teachers, parents and other activists regularly turn out at board meetings to attack him. Take the furor over a plan he introduced last fall to help more students with disabilities enter mainstream classrooms.


At a meeting in October, teachers, students and parents lined up before a microphone, warning that the proposals did not provide enough funds for teachers’ aides and would lead to oversize classes, prompting an exodus of more students into charters.

At one point, the anger at Mr. Wilson boiled over and police officers helped quell the unrest. Yvette Felarca, a local activist, denounced Mr. Wilson, saying he was undermining special education “to make the charter schools more competitive with a degraded public school system.”

“When Eli Broad trained Antwan Wilson,” she shouted, “he trained him to come in here and privatize the schools!”

A few weeks ago, at another board meeting, teachers protested the proposal to unify district schools and charters under one enrollment process.

Mr. Wilson says that a single application form, where parents rank their choices among all schools and students are assigned through a computer algorithm, will reduce the ability of well-connected parents to place their children in the most desirable schools and force charters to be more open about how they admit students. Similar systems have been put in place in Washington and New Orleans and are being considered in Boston.

Opponents fear the proposal would simply hasten an exit of more students from district schools to charters. On a recent Sunday, Kim Davis, co-founder of a new parent group, explained her concerns to 19 people crowded into the living room of a fellow parent. If district schools are diminished, “teachers will be laid off, students displaced, and schools will close,” Ms. Davis warned, “which just adds to the downward spiral of the district as a whole.”

The school board is to vote on the common enrollment plan in June, while the special education plan is already going ahead.

Mr. Wilson said he sympathized with some of the anger directed at him. “It’s ‘you’re the superintendent of Oakland schools and a power structure that has not served us well, in many cases, for decades,’” he said.

But he scoffed at allegations that he is a puppet of the Broad Foundation. “People can connect all kinds of dots,” he said, adding that “no Broad agenda has ever been shared with me.”

The foundation has given to the school district in other ways: it has granted about $6 million for staff development and other programs over the last decade. The Broad Center, which runs the superintendents’ academy, has subsidized the salaries of at least 10 ex-business managers who moved into administrative jobs at the district office.

But it is the leadership turnover that has left teachers wary. “It’s just a different face at the top,” said Leona Kwon, who teaches ethnic studies at Castlemont High School. “I have not personally experienced a significant increase of support or resources at our school, so I’m skeptical that that’s ever going to happen.”

Some educators give their schools chief high marks for his attention to detail. At Frick Middle, one of five previously struggling schools that the district is trying to overhaul, Ruby Detie, the administrator appointed to lead the changes, recalled that after she told Mr. Wilson that a mouse had run over the foot of a teacher interviewing for a job, an exterminator appeared the next day.

After observing several classrooms at Acorn Woodland Elementary recently, Mr. Wilson pulled aside the principal, Leroy Gaines, to praise two fourth-grade teachers for how often they invited students to hash out problems aloud. But in bilingual kindergarten and first-grade classes, Mr. Wilson told the principal he was concerned that the teachers were speaking too much during lessons.

“I was struggling to really see the degree to which the students were really doing the thinking,” Mr. Wilson said.

At other schools, some teachers point to missteps. At Fremont High, another school being revamped, some teachers complain that Mr. Wilson replaced a bilingual principal with a leader who does not speak Spanish, though close to 60 percent of the students are Hispanic. The school redevelopment “feels almost like a takeover,” said Jasmene Miranda, a graduate of the high school who is now a media teacher there.

Mr. Wilson said that he has appointed “the best possible leaders.”

He said he understood some of the community criticism. “I think that is just, ‘Hey we’re really concerned this guy might really want to sell the farm,’ “ he said.

“Well, I don’t,” he added. “I do want to improve it, though.”

• Sarah Cohen contributed reporting from New York. Kitty Bennett contributed research.
• A version of this article appears in print on March 5, 2016, on page A1 of the New York edition


By Garrett Therolf | LA Times |

March 7, 2016 :: A new county report on Los Angeles County's Central Juvenile Hall depicts it as a leaderless operation with "unacceptable" and "deplorable" conditions similar to a "Third World country prison."

Some walls were covered in gang graffiti and filth that no one made an effort to wash away. Morale among staffers was at "dungeon lows from a workforce that claims to be victims."

And young detainees were sent into isolation for reasons outside of department policy — in one case for exchanging food with another detainee, the report alleges.

The report was written by Azael "Sal" Martinez, a volunteer probation department monitor who spent time incarcerated at juvenile hall as a teenager.

Martinez has since become a well-regarded Boyle Heights community leader. Supervisor Hilda Solis appointed him to the 15-member Probation Commission and asked him to report on the county's aging network of three juvenile halls and 18 camps.

His assessment of Central Juvenile Hall in Boyle Heights is the most withering by far.

Interim Probation Chief Cal Remington said he is investigating the report's findings and will have a public response on how to correct the problems soon. "Clearly there are issues that I need to deal with," he said.

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich's spokesman, Tony Bell, said, "We are investigating the serious allegations concerning staff accountability, condition of the facilities and the misuse of solitary confinement."

Supervisors voted in November to begin studying how to replace the more than century-old facility with a modern infrastructure.

In the meantime, the 200 young people housed at Central Juvenile Hall are sometimes placed in units with no running water except in staff bathrooms, Martinez wrote.

"What can't be shaken is the stench emitting from the unit and rooms due to urinals broken, backed up, not cleaned and unsanitary," Martinez said. "When the minors use the urinals ... the urine.. . splashed back on their shoes and pants."

"It appears that no one cares. Staff does not know who is in charge and are quick to push the blame elsewhere," Martinez wrote.

The findings come at a time when the department is under increased scrutiny for the quality of its services. A county audit recently found that the average cost of incarcerating a youth has soared to $233,600 a year, significantly higher than other comparable jurisdictions across the country. Experts are struggling to understand the reasons behind the high cost.

Martinez's findings challenge the department's assertion that it is making progress in the halls.

As recently as last year, former Probation Chief Jerry Powers celebrated when the county finally emerged from oversight by the U.S. Department of Justice for mistreatment of youths.

But Martinez wrote in his report that staffers "are complacent and feel that there will be no accountability and everything went back to the way it has operated for years."

Cyn Yamashiro, a former Loyola law professor and member of the Probation Commission, said Martinez's report is being taken seriously.

Yamashiro said he could not speak for the commission, but he noted that Martinez's scrutiny of the department's use of solitary confinement extended out of a broader concern among juvenile justice advocates that the department has poorly documented when and how isolation is used.

In recent years, 19 states and the District of Columbia have ended the practice of isolating detainees younger than 18. New York City went one step further and banned solitary confinement for Rikers Island inmates up to age 21.

Remington said he expects Los Angeles County to follow suit within a year because of the public pressure to ban the practice.

"It is obvious that no child should ever be put in solitary confinement for a minor infraction, and that the children in our custody have a right to humane treatment and basic sanitary conditions. I am troubled by the allegations in this report" Solis said in a statement.

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...
Monday is Pi (π) Day: 3.14

Tuesday is The Ides of March (Beware!)



Thursday is Saint Patrick's Day.

Friday is the last day of school before Spring Break.

*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: • 213-241-8333 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-5555 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6387
...or the Superintendent: • 213-241-7000
...or your city councilperson, mayor, county supervisor, state legislator, 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. Volunteer in the classroom. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child - and ultimately: For all children.
• If you are eligible to become a citizen, BECOME ONE.
• If you a a citizen, REGISTER TO VOTE at

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

Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD and was Parent/Volunteer of the Year for 2010-11 for Los Angeles County. • He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and has represented PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee for over 13 years. He currently serves as Vice President for Health, is a Legislation Action Committee member and a member of the Board of Directors 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 "WHO" Gold Award and the ACSA Regional Ferd Kiesel Memorial Distinguished Service Award - honors 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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