Friday, April 23, 2004

The Budget, the School Reformer and Columbine - Five Years On


smf note: OK, it’s not film, it’s videotape.
And it won’t be at eleven, it will be “sometime Sunday” after 10AM, whenever KLCS replays Thursday’s special Board of Ed Meeting!

(The full text of my inflammatory remarks follows this
article from Friday’s Daily News).

By Jennifer Radcliffe
Daily News Staff Writer

Thursday, April 22, 2004 -
After having its financial health questioned again by
the county, the L.A. Unified school board voted
Thursday to cut $44.3 million more from its 2004-05
budget -- still $23 million short of eliminating the
district's half-billion-dollar deficit.

The cuts came during a three-hour budget workshop
that generated emotional outbursts calling for the firing
of the board's $2,500-a-day, part-time budget
consultant and the elimination of the Los Angeles
Unified School District's 11 local districts, which were
spared in the latest round of cuts proposed by
Superintendent Roy Romer.

Parent-teacher association leader Scott Folsom told
the board: "The 11 local districts simply cannot be
saved ... Your choice is to do away with them,
collapse them or simply pat them on their pointy little
heads and say: There, there. Here's some more money
try to do better next year."

Romer, who has consistently defended the local
districts and protected them from tough cuts, said he
was appalled by suggestions that the local districts
could simply be shut down.

If the board can't respect their importance, Romer said,
"You ought to fire us all at this moment. I didn't come
here to be victimized by that kind of language."

The $44.3 million in cuts the board approved Thursday
included making savings in the general fund by using
recent bond money to purchase equipment for schools,
and pay for leased office space and the March bond
election. The board also cut 10 positions, including
clerical jobs in information technology and business

The board postponed until Tuesday the remaining $23
million in cuts, which include reductions to human
resources, the district police department, the ethics
office and health and human services.

Board members will also decide whether to support a
motion by board member Jon Lauritzen to give Romer
a May 11 deadline to save costs by streamlining the
district, including reducing or eliminating the local

Romer said the 11 district offices are needed to handle
the LAUSD's massive workload. Too many
departments are already down to bare bones, he said.
But more cuts are needed to close the $550 million
budget gap and to address a potential $250 million
shortfall next year.

Adding further pressure, an April 15 letter from the
Los Angeles County Office of Education said: "The
district will be unable to meet its financial obligations
for the two subsequent years without additional
specific budget reductions and a revision of its fiscal
recovery plan."

It followed a similar letter in January calling for steep
budget cuts.

The LAUSD has until June 1 to show the county that
it can make ends meet. If it fails, the county could opt
to lower the district's financial rating, which could lead
to higher borrowing rates or even county sanctions.
Board member Mike Lansing said he's worried about
the board's ability to keep the district afloat. "If you
can't make these cuts, good luck on the next 200
(million) to $250 million," he said.

Lansing also suggested that the board fire consultant
John Mockler, who had recommended that the board
sign off on all of Romer's latest suggestions to cut $67
million from the budget.

"We pay him $2,500 a day and we're going against his
recommendations. Why do we need him?"

Lansing's proposal to fire the consultant, which was
withdrawn, might also be discussed Tuesday.

Text of My Remarks to the Board of Education on the Budget
Good afternoon. I am Scott Folsom and I am Vice
President for Education of Los Angeles Tenth District

Budget cutting is a truly thankless job, thankless to the
Superintendent and thankless to the Board. And if you
think I’m going to thank you for your efforts so far,
guess again! I appreciate the superintendent’s candor
at the Oversight Committee meeting yesterday.
However – speaking for PTA and parents — the
candor and the dialog is late, three minutes of public
comment is not communication! Not with parents, not
with teachers. Not when the futures of 750,000 kids
are at stake.

Today is an instance where PTA is truly a parent
teacher association, speaking for all children with one
voice. We are here officially united with UTLA to say
almost all the cuts proposed don’t just come too close
to the classroom – they are there – in the room!

• Kids will feel the cutback in nursing services,
• Parents are concerned about the little things like
radio communication with school buses.
• Eliminating an Early Education Center to save money
while we are building 34 of them sends a chilling

• In School Year ‘02-03 the Board approved a one
time $40 per student reduction in funding to schools.
• In ‘03-04 that reduction was restored to the budget
allocations – but then a permanent $50 reduction was
approved by this Board.
• Now for ‘04-05 you have already approved an
additional $50 reduction.

(smf note: Here I misspoke, the $50 for ‘04-05 is not
an ‘additional’ reduction, it is a ‘continuing reduction’
— $40 for ‘02-03, $50 for ‘03-’04, $50 for ‘04-05.
The Board never voted to take $50 for next year - the
deduction carried over from last year’s action.)

Those reductions amount to a tax on children, paid by
children at the school site – paid because the District
cannot control its administrative costs.

Yesterday I was asked by a mom: “Where do all those
fity dollars go?” You need to answer that question for her two boys; you need to answer that question for every parent in this district.

The School District is eliminating clerks when it
should be cutting programs. I saw a Learning Walk
work once, but then the local district misused the
information to justify it’s own commitment to Open
Court. I have since witnessed the “Parade-of-Suits”
laerning walks that intimidate teachers, administrators
and disrupt instruction. This is a program we cannot
afford to keep. Likewise the “Red Team” visits with
their shape-up-or-ship-out mandate; with apologies to
(education guru/LAUSD consultant) Lauren Resnick:
“Learning Walks from Hell”.

This is a crisis. You are the crisis intervention team.
This room is the triage center. With apologies to my
friends who are Local District Superintendents: The
eleven local districts simply cannot be saved. The
eleven represent eleven varying degrees of
performance ranging from C plus success to outright
failure in their stated mission of local control and
accountability. Your choice is do away with them,
collapse them, or pat them on their pointed little heads
and say “There there, here’s some more money ...and
try to do better next year”.

Cutting them will not save all the money you need to
save this year. But it will be a start; and it will continue
on next years’ budget, and the years after that.

My time is running out, but we parents are out there,
beyond this room, with ideas and opinions and
750,000 children in your schools. These schools. Our
schools. This week at a leadership conference I heard
a little maxim that you should take to heart: “With
effective dialog, solutions become obvious.”

Mr. Superintendent and members of the Board:

• Cooperation is not parents and teachers working
with the District only when there’s a bond to pass.
• Dialog is not the exclusive province of Hollywood
• And this is not the French Resistance: Collaboration is a good thing!

Thank you, and good luck to you.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

When I completed my remarks Board President Huisar
corrected by misunderstanding that the ‘04-55
reduction was an additional reduction, it is instead a
continuation of the pervious reduction! Mea culpa.

And Superintendent angrily defended his Local
Superintendents, misinterpreting and taking offense at
my characterization of them as “pointed headed.”
Romer claims my attack “victimized” him and them.
My characterization was obviously unwise. The
“pointed headed” adjective modified the noun
“districts” – though I suppose the sensitive or faint of
heart could still be offended. It was certainly not
intended to be personal to any local superintendent
present or absent from the room and I personally
apologized to the two local sups there ....and to the
one former local sup for good measure!

• Etymological note for language freaks (we know
who we are!): I learned after my remarks that the
“Pointed headed/Pointy headed” descriptor was first
popularized by segregationist George Wallace (“Pointy
headed Washington bureaucrats”).

Anyone who knows me knows I am horrified to have been caught quoting Gov. Wallace! I believe in letting former governors speak for themselves.

OUCHI I: Big Man on Campus Reform
LA TIMES: William Ouchi, friend and advisor to state education chief Richard Riordan, is determined to bring
entrepreneurial methods to schools.
By Duke Helfand
Times Staff Writer

April 19, 2004

He has never been elected to public office and he holds
no official title in state government.

But UCLA management professor William G. Ouchi is
emerging as a pivotal figure in the future of California
public education.

Ouchi has teamed up with his golfing buddy and
former City Hall boss, state Education Secretary
Richard Riordan, in a quest to reinvent the state's
8,000 schools.

Riordan is the official face of this two-man offensive,
the connection to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Ouchi, the author of popular books about teamwork in
corporate America, is the behind-the-scenes idea man
who argues for turning principals into entrepreneurs,
giving campuses new control over their budgets and
prodding schools to compete for students.

"No one should have the power to tell people at a
school how they are going to run their school. It
doesn't make sense," said the Hawaii-born Ouchi, 60,
who comes from a family of teachers who felt stifled
by out-of-touch bureaucrats.

That kind of talk is radical in a state where the
governor and Legislature have kept an iron grip on
education policies and funding, and where school
boards and teachers unions jealously guard their

Critics call Ouchi's approach simplistic and misguided.
They remember how Ouchi, Riordan and other civic
leaders sponsored a similar reform plan for Los
Angeles schools a decade ago that fizzled as public
support waned and campuses bickered.

That experience left many embittered about the
prospects for change statewide. But Riordan and
Ouchi never lost the belief that better management was
the key to improving schools.

Ouchi wound up writing a book about empowering
principals and their campuses, "Making Schools
Work," which was published in September. Perhaps as
a symbol of how far Ouchi's star has risen in
California, Schwarzenegger gave copies of the book as
Christmas presents last year.

Schwarzenegger, who as a candidate championed the
idea of local school control, tapped Ouchi to write an
initial draft of his education platform during his
gubernatorial campaign. Ouchi also co-chaired a
Schwarzenegger education summit with Riordan last

"Bill's research and insight were invaluable to me
during the campaign and transition," Schwarzenegger
said in a statement provided by his staff. "He has been
a tremendous asset to the education community."

It remains to be seen whether Schwarzenegger will
push the Ouchi-Riordan reforms through the
Legislature this year, as the two hope. The governor is
concerned about pressing ahead too quickly without
enough support from school districts, teachers and the
public, say those familiar with his thinking.

But that hasn't stopped Ouchi and Riordan from
applying a full-court press on lawmakers, school
superintendents, union leaders and anyone else who
will listen.

"It's going to be interesting to watch how these two
guys impact the education system of California," said
Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who
as a member of the Los Angeles City Council in the
1990s dealt closely with Riordan when he was mayor
and Ouchi was his chief of staff.

"As usual with Riordan and Ouchi, their agenda
appears to be overly ambitious," Yaroslavsky said.
"But I wouldn't underestimate either one of them."

Once known in the corporate world for management
books with titles like "Theory Z" and "The M-Form
Society," the plain-spoken and impeccably polite
Ouchi is now immersed in a universe of teachers,
textbooks and test scores.

Among other things, he is serving as an unpaid
education consultant to the governor of Hawaii, where
he grew up surfing at Waikiki Beach and attended a
prestigious private school in Honolulu.

Ouchi's father was a dentist. His mother taught high
school English and journalism. His older sister taught
elementary school.

Ouchi remembers his mother and sister venting about
their jobs. That sparked his thinking that public schools
could perform better if they had freedom from
centralized control.

"They were so unhappy when they were victimized by
this gigantic bureaucracy that just rolled reforms down
on them at will," Ouchi recalled of his mother and

"If only they had an organization and a management
above them that lived to motivate them, to help them,
to thank them and enable them to be successful, then
we wouldn't have any problems at our schools."

Ouchi delivers that same message to audiences around
the country and to school districts — including those
in Oakland and San Diego — that are studying his
ideas and adopting some aspects of them.

On a recent day, Ouchi gave a lunchtime talk about
school reform to a group of philanthropists from the
California Community Foundation in downtown Los
Angeles. Dressed in a sharp blue suit and burgundy tie,
he spoke without notes for nearly an hour, effortlessly
ticking off statistics about school spending in Los
Angeles and other districts.

Afterward, several members of the audience eagerly
approached him, some handing him their business
cards or asking him to autograph copies of his book.

"Dr. Ouchi, I just want to shake your hand," one
woman said. "I'm going to buy your book."

To research the book, Ouchi and a team of researchers
visited 223 schools in six cities, comparing large
bureaucratic school districts in Los Angeles, New
York and Chicago with others in Houston, Seattle and
Edmonton, Canada, that give schools more

Ouchi said the decentralized districts performed best,
offering, in his eyes, a lesson for California.

"We're going to have a real genuine basis on which to
hold principals accountable, and nobody is going to
argue with that," said Ouchi, whose three grown
children attended public elementary school in Santa
Monica before moving to private schools for junior
high and high school.

Ouchi has no bigger fan than Riordan, who sounds as
if he is cribbing from "Making Schools Work" when he
gives speeches to education groups.

The two have been friends for a quarter century and
sponsored each other's memberships at the Los
Angeles Country Club, where they play golf together a
couple of times a month.

"Bill has had a monumental effect on my thinking,"
Riordan said. "There is no one in the country who
understands these concepts better."

But critics dismiss Ouchi as an ivory tower theorist
whose ideas are better suited to the boardroom than
the classroom.

Although well intended, they say, he is naive about the
fractious nature of public schools — places where
unions and management collide on a daily basis, where
parents and teachers feud, where virtually everyone
faces pressure to improve test scores amid the
anxieties of budget cuts.

"He's smart, very well read, but he has a very
superficial understanding of what goes on in the real
lives of kids in schools. I think that's where this is
going to break down," said one influential education
analyst in Sacramento who, like others, agreed to
speak candidly about Ouchi only on condition that he
not be named.

Many principals say they do not have the time, training
or inclination to oversee multimillion-dollar budgets on
top of other responsibilities. Teachers object to ceding
seniority rights and other privileges they have won at
the negotiating table.

"We have to take this with a great deal of skepticism,"
said John Perez, president of the Los Angeles teachers
union. "We have principals who have very poor
personnel skills. What makes you think that they'll be
able to better run the schools after you give them the

But even Perez and other skeptics say they admire
Ouchi's energy and what they believe is his sincere
interest in improving public education. Ouchi makes
his case with a blend of intellect and wit, a style that
many find engaging, but others sometimes perceive as

"He's very unassuming and very low-key. But I think
he's much shrewder and smarter than he presents," said
Angus McBeath, superintendent of the public schools
in Alberta's capital, Edmonton, which provided the
model for decentralized power that Ouchi advocates.

And Ouchi is winning converts in unexpected places.

"There is widespread agreement among those of us
who focus on education that he's on the right track,"
said Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los
Angeles), the liberal chairwoman of the Assembly
Education Committee who is a former schoolteacher
and is close to the teachers unions.

Educated at Williams College in Massachusetts, Ouchi
found his calling only after he had enrolled at
Stanford's graduate business school. "I fell in love with
a course in organizational behavior," he recalled.

Propelled by the idea of making huge organizations
"human and effective," he later earned a doctorate in
business administration from the University of
Chicago. He taught there and at Stanford before
moving to UCLA's Anderson Graduate School of
Management as a 35-year-old tenured professor.

Ouchi worked in relative obscurity until his 1981
book, "Theory Z: How American Business Can Meet
the Japanese Challenge," transformed him into a
sought-after speaker and corporate consultant.

Offering a supportive view of Japanese management
techniques such as consensus-style decision making,
"Theory Z" became a bestseller and was published in
14 foreign editions, including Chinese, Japanese,
Italian and Hebrew.

During that time, Ouchi settled with his wife and
children in a Santa Monica neighborhood where one of
his neighbors was Riordan's law partner, Carl

Ouchi and Riordan, then a venture capitalist and
philanthropist, got to know each other. Eventually,
Ouchi persuaded Riordan to contribute to UCLA; the
two men agreed to launch a program to teach minority
high school students about business.

After Riordan was elected Los Angeles mayor in 1993,
Ouchi worked for a year as an off-the-books
consultant to him, then spent another year as Riordan's
chief of staff. Ouchi played a key role in developing a
plan to expand the city's police force, and he brought
together a group of business executives who proposed
ways of improving city bill collection.

At the same time, Ouchi and Riordan were part of a
movement to reform the Los Angeles public schools
by giving principals, teachers and parents more control
over budgets and hiring. The effort was known as
LEARN — Los Angeles Educational Alliance for
Restructuring Now — and for a time Ouchi served as

Hundreds of schools embraced the philosophy,
hanging LEARN banners outside their front doors.

But the L.A. Unified Board of Education never made
good on the promise to give schools budget control.
Some of the initial advocates retired or drifted away;
teachers union President Helen Bernstein, one of
LEARN's leading proponents, was killed by a car while
crossing a street. Meanwhile, teachers, parents and
principals bickered over control.

"As an organizational reform, LEARN failed in the
conventional sense," said Charles Kerchner, an
education professor at Claremont Graduate University
who is writing a history of school reform in Los
Angeles. "They never could move money or power to
the schools."

Ouchi and Riordan acknowledge the failure, and both
blame the school district. Both also believe the new
statewide effort stands a far better chance of success.

This time, they say, schools would have real autonomy
because of a proposed new statewide funding system
in which dollars would follow students to schools,
rather than being allocated by districts' central

At Riordan's request, Ouchi assembled a group of
educators last fall to develop the plan. Ouchi called the
think tank IC/3 — Independent Citizens for
California's Children — and filled the roster with a
who's who of education heavyweights, including
billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, Occidental College
President Theodore Mitchell, San Diego schools Supt.
Alan Bersin and California Teachers Assn. President
Barbara Kerr.

The group hammered out a set of ideas for revamping
school funding and empowering principals. But turning
ambitious proposals into education policies is another
matter in the meat grinder of the Legislature.

Ouchi has no interest in talking about roadblocks as he
barrels ahead, crisscrossing the state with his message
of school empowerment — a message he is promoting
with equal fervor at UCLA, where he is teaching a
course about reforming public school systems.

"I've always felt that every major new turn in ideas
begins with one person," he said. "The thought of
participating in something that can change the world in
some significant way just thrills me."

Check out "MAKING SCHOOLS WORK" from the Los Angeles Public Libarary @, buy it from your local book store, or CLICK HERE to order it online.

OUCHI II & III: Two papers by William Ouchi

• The Impact of Organization on the Performance of
Nine School Systems: Lessons for California
William G. Ouchi, Bruce S. Cooper, and Lydia G.
Segal — Published in California Policy Options 2003

This policy-oriented article was published in January,
2003 in a volume issued by the UCLA School of
Publicy Policy. It presents some of the data from the
Making Schools Work study in a format intended for
non-experts and describes the policy issues that
emerge, with an emphasis on the State of California.

• Organizational Configuration and Performance: The
Case of Primary and Secondary School Systems

William G. Ouchi, Bruce S. Cooper, Lydia G. Segal,
Tim DeRoche, Carolyn Brown, and Elizabeth Galvin
— May 30, 2003

Business and management theorist Oliver E.
Williamson has argued that in large organizations,
decentralization of a particular type, known as the
M-Form, outperforms more centralized types. We ask
whether the effect applies to large school systems, as is
does to businesses. Our research team investigated
nine school systems, including the three largest
districts in the United States; three (in Canada and the
U.S.) that use an innovative budgeting system to
achieve a radically decentralized M-Form structure;
and the three largest Catholic Archdiocesan systems in
the U.S. Our data generally support the view that
decentralized public school districts outperform more
centralized districts on student performance outcomes,
administrative efficiency, and incidence of corruption.

[download the papers free from this site]

smf notes: Five years after Columbine we in LAUSD are cutting back on school counsellors and psychologists.

Are we putting test scores ahead of the health and well being of our students?

By Margaret A. McKenna
Washington Post: Tuesday, April 20, 2004; Page A19

Five years ago, automatic weapons fire echoed
through the halls of Columbine High School in
Littleton, Colo., shattering not only lives but the
complacency of that high-achieving suburban school.
The attack focused national attention on issues of
school safety, school climate, student isolation,
bullying and the victimization that depersonalized
school environments seem to foster. There was
widespread acknowledgment that teachers and
administrators needed to find ways to know kids better
and create real communities in our schools. It was a
brief moment of national soul-searching, reminding us
that education is not only about teaching content but
also about supporting and developing human beings.

Since then, much attention has been given to beefing
up school security and safety. Sales of school metal
detectors have flourished. New school crisis response
plans are in place. Halls are being monitored more
carefully. Law enforcement agencies are cooperating
more closely with school officials, and schools, of
necessity, are being run in more regimented ways.
Teachers and administrators are more likely to at least
know where their students are during the day, if not
who they are as individuals.

But some of the most important lessons of Columbine
have been all but forgotten -- left behind, so to speak,
in no small measure because of another educational
development of recent years: the No Child Left Behind

The law's narrow focus on yearly improvement in test
scores has forced many schools to narrow their goals
for students in ways that comply with the law's intent
but that may well have unintended consequences. As
class time becomes more regimented and tight budgets
create larger class sizes, schools are becoming
environments even less conducive to teachers' knowing
their students well. The NCLB forces communities to
focus more on raising test scores than on raising kids.

While it is true that statistics on school violence have
shown a continuing decline since 1995, incidents of
bullying and victimization are on the rise. In 2001, 8
percent of students ages 12 through 18 reported being
bullied at school, up from 5 percent in 1999. A recent
report from the American Medical Association on
students from sixth through 10th grades estimated that
more than 3.2 million young people are victims of
moderate or serious bullying each year.

In its post-Columbine report on the causes of school
violence, the Secret Service indicated that nearly
three-fourths of perpetrators of deadly school violence
reported a history of having been bullied. A growing
number of states have instituted laws to combat
bullying, and there is even money in the NCLB that
districts can use to fund such programs. But piecemeal
programmatic responses are not going to have much
effect, especially in the face of the NCLB's
overwhelming focus on student achievement on annual
standardized tests.

Raising student achievement is important, but history
has taught some hard lessons about what happens
when a single-minded focus on test scores replaces a
more comprehensive set of indicators of what
constitutes a successful school. Across the country,
schools are reporting that the pressures of
NCLB-required testing regimes are crowding out
teacher time and forcing cutbacks in such "frills" as art,
music, physical education and recess. In their place:
more test prep and drills and increasing levels of
regimentation, student alienation and teacher stress.

The growing belief that rising test scores alone equate
to successful schools is false, and it can breed a deadly
complacency. The test scores at Columbine High were
among the highest in Colorado. The tragic incidents
there and in Conyers, Ga.; Santana, Calif.; and
elsewhere were in part the result of such complacency.

Teachers and administrators may fail to see the
warning signs when they focus exclusively on
measures of school performance that can easily be
counted, such as test scores, and not on the ones most
likely to signal problems that can lead to a tragedy.
Student creativity and problem-solving skills, respect
for differences, excitement about learning, self-esteem,
civic engagement and school climate are barometers of
school and student success for which test scores are, at
best, a weak proxy.

Performing well on math and literacy tests is not the
only predictor of how one will perform as a member of
the society. The likelihood that a large proportion of
the nation's schools will be labeled "underperforming"
by the NCLB's narrow measures will raise the stakes
even more. Teachers will be pressured to concentrate
still more of their efforts on drills and tests rather than
on developing broadly educated students who will
become responsible and engaged citizens.

The danger is not just that the lessons of Columbine
are being lost because of No Child Left Behind but
that they may have to be taught to us again -- at
painful cost.

The writer is president of Lesley University in
Cambridge, Mass.

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Monday, April 26th: The Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council will debate, among other things, the future of the Ambassador Hotel as a school site.
7PM - ASNC Meeting
Ramona Hall and Community Center
4580 North Figueroa Street
Sycamore Grove/Highland Park

Tuesday Apr 27, 2004

1PM - 6PM Regular Meeting of the Board of Education
Board Room - 333 S. Beaudry - Visitor parking is available at either 333 South Boylston  Soho Rooftop Parking (enter on 4th Street) OR 1219 West Fourth Street  Surface Lot. Individuals who wish to speak before the Board must call the Board Secretariat office before 10 a.m. on the day of the meeting at (213) 241-7002 to add their name to the list. Speakers are placed on a list on a space-available basis as prescribed by Board Rules.

South Region Middle School #2
Phase II Site Selection Update
Local District J

Your participation is important! Please join at this meeting where we will review:

* Criteria used to select potential sites
* Sites suggested by community and by LAUSD, and
* We will present and discuss the most suitable site(s) for this new school project

6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Nimitz Middle School
6021 Carmelita Ave.
Huntington Park, CA 90255

Wednesday Apr 28, 2004
South Region Span School 6-12 #3
Phase II Site Selection Update
Local District J

Your participation is important! Please join at this meeting where we will review:

* Criteria used to select potential sites
* Sites suggested by community and by LAUSD, and
* We will present and discuss the most suitable site(s) for this new school project

6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Middleton Elementary School
6537 Malabar Street
Huntington Park, CA 90255

Valley Region Elementary School #7
Phase II Site Selection Update
Local District B

Your participation is important! Please join at this meeting where we will review:

* Criteria used to select potential sites
* Sites suggested by community and by LAUSD, and
* We will present and discuss the most suitable site(s) for this new school project

6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Strathern Elementary School
7939 St. Clair Ave.
North Hollywood, CA 91605

* Dates and times subject to change
Phone: 212.241.4700
Phone: 213.633.7616


4LAKids Book Club for April & May – LETTERS TO THE NEXT PRESIDENT: What We Can do about the Real Crisis in Public Education
Carl Glickman, Editor, Prologue by Bill Cosby,
Epilogue by The Late U. S. Senator Paul Wellstone (Teachers College Press, 2004 Paperback: 272 pages)

- from the prologue by Bill Cosby

Dear President-to-Be,

I'm looking at the junkiest room I've ever seen. It is a classroom in an American public school; it is public education in America today. A child did not make the room junky; generations of litterers — legislators, school board members, superintendents, principals, taxpayers, teachers and presidents did.

Given the mess, it is a wonder that our children are able to do even as well as they do. We must be grateful that there always have been talented and determined teachers who find their way through the maze of rules and special interests and do what they became teachers
to do: help their students shine.

Our neighborhood schools are cluttered and
crumbling. Of course, I'm assuming that anyone
applying to be president probably never went to a poor and neglected public school where books have missing pages, walls have peeling paint and children have nothing to write with. Wealthy people comfort themselves that money is not the issue. But nothing dear to America was ever maintained without it. We need money to secure great teachers, money to update
teaching methods, money for technology and supplies, and money for time.

Time is a precious commodity and teachers need it to plan lessons and meet with students, parents and administrators.

When the junk is cleaned out of that junky room, its structure is sound: Public education is a good foundation on which to build a better life for each of us. And if we want to prove to these children who never made the mess in the first place that education is worth the trouble, our schools have to inspire them so they can do what they ought to do.

A young teacher, returning to college to hone her
skills, asks herself why she wants to teach children who do not have a safe environment to learn in and who lack resources and support from administrators and family. Besides her intrinsic love for teaching, we need to give her a reason to stay.

We must make firm commitments to educators who can show us the way, and learn from the many clear examples of their success. The media constantly focus our attention on the very worst schools when we should really have before us, like shining examples, these school success stories. Why do we accept failure as an example when we can demand that the successes be made visible?

School leaders have to be seen to be heard and to be supported. And we ought to pay them livable salaries, at least enough to afford the chalk and crayons and countless other supplies they buy out of their own pockets. I invite you to look into this room. You can say to our nation, "We must begin — we cannot wait
for someone else to clear out the mess."

• This stellar collection of more than 30 letters speaks to the heart of public education, the future of American students, and the need for an educated and engaged citizenry. Contributors include students, parents, teachers, prominent educators, and public
leaders who write to our next president, and to all fellow citizens, in an honest and direct way about the dangerous shortcomings of current state and federal policies. The letters provide provocative answers to
critical questions such as:

• What kind of education do we want for all of our children?
• What changes must we make to achieve that goal?
• How do we ensure that the voices of parents,
teachers, students, and citizens who care deeply about public education are heard at local, state, and national levels?

This timely volume provides a strong response to government intrusions that have resulted in thousands of pages of simplistic directives and under-funded requirements for local schools and districts. It offers practical and just solutions for guaranteeing higher standards with comprehensive assessments, allocating
equitable resources with responsible local control; attracting and retaining good teachers; improving school choice and the promise of small schools; providing for universal high quality early childhood education, and ensuring a rich, academically sound and engaging curriculum-both inside and outside of school—for all students.

Get LETTERS TO THE NEXT PRESIDENT from your local library, bookstore - or order it by clicking here.

What can YOU do? • E-mail, call or write your school board member. Or your city councilperson, mayor, assemblyperson, state senator, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think.
• 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.
• Vote.

Contact your school board member