Saturday, December 01, 2007

The news about the news.

4LAKids: Sunday, Dec. 2, 2007
In This Issue:
WAS $4.3 MILLION WASTED ON WILMINGTON SCHOOL? After multiple studies, LAUSD may consider building a smaller campus at another location.
STATE OWES SCHOOLS, SUIT SAYS: Districts join advocates in seeking $1 billion for mandated programs
LAUSD SUPERINTENDENT SURVIVES VICA ENGAGEMENT: No District Break-up on the Horizon, Trade Programs and Small Learning Academies are Priorities
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
What can YOU do?

Featured Links:
4LAKids Anthology: All the Past Issues, solved, resolved and unsolved!
4LAKidsNews: a compendium of recent items of interest - news stories, scurrilous rumors, links, academic papers, rants and amusing anecdotes, etc.
Unless it's about the Pulitzer Prize it's never good news when the news about the news is the news; this was that kinda week.

The LA Times led with a story about a letter from State Superintendent O'Connell to LAUSD Superintendent Brewer labeling LAUSD and many other California districts as failures under NCLB. The letter was dated September 17th and had been public information and common knowledge since then - but the Times published it as news and the AP and state media picked up the drumbeat. The sky is falling.

US News and World Report published its list of the Best 100 High Schools in America. The list, the article, the data and the methodology of analyzing the data were all generated by Standard & Poors/School Evaluation Services/ – a for-profit data collection and marketing company. The criteria and methodology is subject to question as is the data itself - cursory examination finds considerable error. The schools, educators and students themselves are not at fault - the hundred schools and their runners up are doing God's work pretty up-and-walkin' well …and no one can blame a data company for trying to sell their product. But "GIGO": "Garbage In, Garbage Out" is Absolute Revealed Truth in the field of statistical analysis - and the error compounds logarithmically when flawed data compares apples and oranges.

Times reporter Mitchell Landsberg in his reporting of the story "California Schools Move to the Head of the Class" congratulates us. "U.S. News & World Report, in its first ranking of high schools, includes 23 campuses in the state in its list of the top 100"; but concludes "U.S. News also publishes annual college rankings, which have been criticized for pushing colleges to skew their admissions policies to boost their rankings." Therein lays the rub: The cream of the cream of the nation's high schools have "admissions policies". Whether programs for high achievers, magnet programs or charter schools - these schools do not or cannot accept every neighborhood Johnny or Jane, Juan or Juanita that wants in. Whether by IQ test, entrance exam, grades or test scores, portfolio evaluation, Orwellian "Open Enrollment" or lottery there is a "selection process". Darwin observed through selection and isolation you can grow some really big tortoises and iguanas that swim …and student achievement that is off any chart you choose to invent!

LAUSD announced a Brave New PR Effort and so mishandled the announcement that it will be studied for years to come as how not to do such a thing - alongside 'How Not to Rollout a New Payroll System'. LATimes reporter Howard Blume summed it up succinctly on KPCC's Patt Morrison show: He couldn't get anyone in the LAUSD Communications Department to return his calls about the LAUSD Communications Department! To say that the LAUSD communications effort - which miscommunicates with parents, the press and political leadership with equal dysfunction - is flawed is to waste pixels, to invest in PR when no one understands what the message is foolishness, to spend money in the Communications Capital of the World to get a publicist a degree in PR - from the University of Phoenix no less - challenges the imagination. Isn't there a Spin Doctoring for Dummies® title?

The board of education correctly shot down the mid-year renorming proposal - and overrode the cuts to the elementary and middle-school orchestra program …though the 'don't worry: there's plenty of money' attitude from the board president is frightening. The Governor is requesting ten-percent across the board cuts in everything; education is funded by the state primarily with property taxes, home values are going down. Ergo: the tax base is going down. I attended this school district in the Golden Age - there never has been 'plenty of money'!

SB 1133, the Quality Education Investment Act - is about reducing class size and improving programs at challenged schools, not about paying teachers to teach in classrooms where a kid or two has dropped out …or shoring up the budget shortfall and the status-quo elsewhere.

And Thursday LAUSD broke ground on the 90th new project in the building program: THE WILLIAM R. ANTON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL in City Terrace. Bill Anton grew up in Barrio Belvedere* two blocks from the school site, attended city schools, was a patient in the PTA Dental Clinics, and taught in the district for forty-two years - rising to be the first Latino Superintendent in a century. A fierce advocate for kids and parents he resigned in a dispute with the Board of Ed and the teachers union - leaving under a cloud of smoke from the bridges he burned behind him. In the fullness of time and the warm glow of retrospect he returned Thursday to the barrio and helped break the ground for a school that will continue his legacy as a teacher who never lost track of his roots and his dreams — and shared the wealth of both with generations of schoolchildren.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! -smf

* bel•ve•dere [bel-və-'dir ]
n. Italian, literally, beautiful view: a structure (as a cupola or a summerhouse) designed to command a view
The school will provide a beautiful view to the west, on a clear day the children on the playground should be able to see Catalina.



►L.A. UNIFIED WARNED THAT IT FALLS SHORT OF STATE STANDARDS Along with 98 other districts, it faces penalties under No Child Left Behind.

US News & World Report's Best High Schools in America

▲The USN&WR RANKINGS: California schools move to the head of the class

►Worth a Listen: from Patt Morrison on KPCC
LA SCHOOL DISTRICT WOES: Patt brings LAUSD officials in for some in-studio detention.
• Howard Blume, LA Times reporter
• Tamar Galatzan, member of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, District 3
• A.J. Duffy, President of United Teachers Los Angeles


• From the New Yorker: HUCKABEE: Funny, improbable, ascendant.


By Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

November 28, 2007 - Hammered by a barrage of negative publicity in recent months, Los Angeles Unified School District officials have quietly hired two consultants to help improve their public image.

The school district also hired the public relations firm Rogers Group to focus exclusively on dealing with fallout from an electronic payroll system that has left thousands of employees underpaid or overpaid since February.

The recent hirings come in addition to a six-person communications staff with a nearly $1.4 million budget, an overall $10 million communications budget, and a separate consulting contract with Darry Sragow, who helps LAUSD develop communications strategies and policy issues.

But LAUSD officials on Tuesday defended the public relations moves, saying that even with the additions, their communications budget pales in comparison to those of other large school districts.

"We don't do as good a job of communicating with all the audiences we need to talk to - our teachers, students, parents, and the general public," Superintendent David Brewer III said.

"That kind of communications `overhaul' requires ... full-time attention given our size and the scope of our plans."

One of the district's recent hires is Victor Abalos, a communications consultant for Superintendent David Brewer III who has been signed to a one-year, $178,000 contract to develop communication strategies including restructuring LAUSD's communications department.

He said his position is necessary because the daily newspapers in Los Angeles "love to focus on all the negative going on in the district."

"There are several other organizations, foundations and companies that have to rely on people who know and understand communications because the two largest daily newspapers in this town would rather focus on what's wrong rather than what's working," Abalos said.

Abalos said it's too early to say how he might restructure the district's communications department or whether more people would be hired.

Currently, LAUSD's $10 million communications budget includes about $4 million for its public access channel, $3.5 million for a translation unit and $1.4 million for the office of communications.

LAUSD also has hired consultant Michael Bustamante under a six-month, $90,000 contract to deal with communications strictly related to the district's electronic payroll system.

Officials did not give the amount of the Rogers Group contract.

LASUD officials said the payroll debacle revealed communication problems - particularly internally - that left teachers frustrated and unable to get answers to questions and updates on progress in fixing problems.

Since Bustamante started Sept. 4, the political consultant who helped oversee the communications office of former Gov. Gray Davis has spearheaded an aggressive push to reach out to teachers and keep them apprised of the payroll situation through the district Web site, television station, e-mail blasts, newsletters and direct letters to staff, Brewer said.

"Over these last several months, we've been far more proactive in getting information out to teachers, employees and the public about the status of the payroll," Bustamante said.

Meanwhile, the district has been contracting for years with consultant Darry Sragow for $5,000 a month. Glenn Gritzner, former senior staff member at LAUSD who now works for Sragow, said the government affairs contract includes communications strategy and advising the district on issues including payroll problems, the union and facilities.

But critics say LAUSD should be focusing on improving its service so it won't have to worry about its image.

"The district needs to understand, if you want to fix your image, then do things right," said United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy.

"Don't spend $10 million for spin doctors to weave their webs that try to show the world that they're really good guys. Actually do it right."

Board member Tamar Galatzan said board approval of contracts is only needed if they exceed $250,000. But she said "lack of communication - both internal and external - has been a great source of frustration."

Still, she questioned whether the consultants will be able to present a unified front.

"We have so many messengers that I'm worried that we are not going to have a single message," Galatzan said. "If the job description for all of the new communication folks is just to find happy stories and convince the newspapers to print them, then I question if that's a good use of funds."

The superintendent began searching for a director of external affairs this spring and interviewed several candidates, including Abalos.

Because Abalos does not have a college degree, he was ineligible to be hired as a district employee. A few months later, Brewer brought him in as a consultant on the condition he completes his degree. He's currently enrolled at the University of Phoenix.




Abalos said his experience makes him uniquely qualified for the job. Over 34 years, he's worked in newspapers and has served as news director, executive producer and field producer for television news.

About a year ago, Abalos left his job as director of public affairs for the nonprofit First 5 L.A., the child-advocacy organization created by California voters to invest tobacco tax revenues in programs for children.

"I'm here to put into a framework what the vision is for the superintendent and the board so that all three are working in unison so our effort is coordinated in terms of all of our outreach with the emphasis being on the civic engagement piece because we are eager to connect with parents and the community," Abalos said.

"In a district this size, that's a huge undertaking to want to try to be able to make sure that every part of the district knows what everybody else is doing."

by Sandy Banks - LA Times Columnist

December 1, 2007 — It's too bad Los Angeles Unified School District officials didn't make the first assignment for their new spin doctors spinning the news that they've hired spin doctors.

The district's fledgling public relations effort stumbled this week, when news leaked out that Supt. David Brewer handed out contracts worth more than $350,000 a year to a team of consultants charged with improving the district's public image.

Team leader and former Telemundo news director Victor Abalos says he's a not PR man, but a broker of "communication strategies" for "target audiences" that will help the district get its good news to a disenchanted public.

I'm not going to pile on here. It's almost too easy to bash a district that graduates barely half of its students, can't pay its teachers properly and on time, yet seems to think its biggest problem is its poor public image.

I actually think it's a good idea for a complex organization the size of L.A. Unified to have a solid, intelligent and honest communication strategy -- one that aims to illuminate, not manipulate.

I'm sure we'd all like to see more good news stories, like the choir performing at Disney Hall, the winning Academic Decathlon team, the former engineer with two graduate degrees just named state Teacher of the Year.

But I imagine Mr. Abalos' target audience will also expect answers to questions like these: Why is it taking so long to fix the payroll system? Why do half the students at some high schools drop out? Whatever happened to the district's big plans for reform? And where is my tax money going?

Six months ago, Abalos said, he saw the district "like everybody else: this huge bloated bureaucracy that's failing students." Now that he's part of that huge, bloated bureaucracy, his assessment is less harsh.

The district "doesn't work as well as it should," he said. "The problem is the kids need to get a better education. . . . But success breeds success. If everybody thinks you're a failure, why would you want to fight hard for a team that sucks?"

A frenetic fast-talker who peppered his interview with me using street slang and marketing terms, Abalos spent the bulk of his career in newsrooms, leaving the business several years ago to do "social marketing" for nonprofit groups.

He said he applied for the job earlier this year, didn't hear back for months, then was summoned for an interview. He met Brewer, they "bonded," and the next morning Abalos was saying yes to his one-year, $178,000 contract.

Abalos said his pitch to Brewer was simple: The district's marketing efforts have been textbook bad. Its website is outdated, its television station underused. There's too much circling the wagons and too many say-nothing newsletters. "You've got 50 parent groups out there, and nobody knows about each other."

He imagines Los Angeles following the lead of New York City, which is trying to partner with a cellphone company to get free phones, with paid minutes, for high school kids. The phones are considered educational tools; they can be used to download homework assignments. They're also classroom incentives; the better the students' grades, the more free minutes they get.

Los Angeles is way behind the curve, he said, in partnering with big companies that have something to sell, money to spend and a willingness to support the district's educational vision -- once Abalos can tell them what that vision is.

I'm not sure I want a bunch of downloading cellphones in my daughter's high school class. And I'm hoping Abalos' vision extends way beyond that.

But I'm also not going to ding the district -- yet -- for trying. I know the bad news is not going to stop. My colleagues on the education beat are not going to gloss over the payroll debacle, stop calculating dropout statistics or soft-peddle the controversy over impending school reform just because Victor Abalos and his team devise a communications strategy.

I just hope that every now and then Abalos will stop talking and listen, put down his research and head out to one of the 700 campuses.

That's where he'll find the teachers and students who can put into perspective this district's struggles, humiliations and successes. That's where I met a principal who spends his own money to charter a bus to take housing project kids on a college tour. That's where I heard about a middle school teacher who spends three nights each week training students to run the marathon. That's where I watched math-challenged fourth-graders learn to play chess well enough to win a tournament.

In Abalos' world that ought to be worth a little corporate love, if not some good publicity.


By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

November 28, 2007 - Los Angeles school board members voted Tuesday to spend up to $18 million to retain current teacher staffing at schools with declining enrollment, a move that Supt. David L. Brewer said could help thrust the district into financial trouble.

The vote came amid pressure from the teachers union and community groups, which have long argued that a midyear reshuffling of classrooms and teachers unacceptably disrupts thousands of students.

The looming teacher reduction was among several budget-balancing measures adopted earlier this year at Brewer's recommendation.

That budget was approved by the previous school board. But a new majority, endorsed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, took control in July.

Since then, the board has added expenses and tried to undo key cuts in the $6.2-billion budget. Those expenses include more than $30 million in benefits for part-time cafeteria workers and $37 million that Brewer said was needed to fix the malfunctioning payroll system.

Brewer warned Tuesday against further spending increases, advising board members to wait two weeks until the district's budget picture was clearer. He warned that a pending analysis could show that the district was running a deficit.

Board of Education President Monica Garcia commended Brewer and Chief Financial Officer Joseph Zeronian for their prudence but dismissed their concerns. Financially, she said, "We are strong. I want our academic record to look as strong as our financial one. . . . My job as a board member is to put resources where they best serve students."

Tuesday's debate became entangled with a brewing conflict over a huge influx of state funds through the Quality Education Investment Act. It is meant to pay for class-size reduction and counselors at many of the state's lowest achieving schools, including dozens in L.A. Unified.

The use of that money, along with the pending teacher reassignments, were rallying points at an afternoon demonstration outside district headquarters that drew about 75 participants from community groups allied with United Teachers Los Angeles, the teachers union.

The activists asserted that the new state money already was being mishandled because it was being spent to maintain teaching staffs rather than add to them.

At the meeting, Brewer said the district had long planned to use some of that money to pay the salaries of teachers who otherwise would be displaced at midyear. That money, and other funding meant to benefit the poor and English learners, would have decreased the number of displaced teachers to only 10 districtwide, Brewer said. Without that strategy, 447 teachers were at risk.

But the union and its allies insisted that using the new funds that way was improper. And when a board majority agreed by a 6-1 vote, the effect was not the cost of 10 teachers, but the cost of 447, which the district pegged at $18 million. The union estimates the costs at $8.5 million.

After a two-hour discussion, the measure was supported by new and old board members alike.

Only Marlene Canter dissented, saying that it was irresponsible to add expenses piecemeal, especially with a possible impending deficit and without knowing the effect of necessary offsetting cuts.

The board's vote staved off the reintroduction of an unpopular practice, dropped years ago, of reducing staff at midyear in response to declining enrollment.

The enrollment slippage during the school year is part of the district's ongoing dropout crisis -- about 50% of the district's students don't graduate on time. When enough students leave, the district can displace teachers, dissolve their classes and distribute remaining students elsewhere.

A version of this staff adjustment plays out every October when schools file official student head counts. This fall, Los Angeles High School, for example, lost two science teachers when enrollment came in about 300 students fewer than anticipated.

A month and a half into the semester, the school had to release Eva Becker and Mary Eckel -- young, energetic and talented science teachers, said Felicia Perez, the school's union co-chairperson.

"As a teacher, you're starting to make connections with students," Perez said. "This is our first year of having small learning communities throughout the school, and, poof, these teachers are gone. It hurts students in terms of the trust they develop and the learning relationship."

Perez said her school typically loses another 300 students over the fall semester.

Making such adjustments midyear is worse, critics said.

Brewer agreed, but focused on finances.

"The issue is: I look at my checkbook; can I pay for it?" he said. "At some point you can't get any more blood from this turnip."

Board members insisted that they were not being irresponsible. Rather, they said, their concern was to establish priorities.

"I know this is fraught with danger," said board member Richard Vladovic, "but I believe, as an educator, we have to do what's right for kids. . . . I have to represent my constituents."

In other moves Tuesday with financial implications, the school board unanimously restored the popular honors orchestra program -- a comparatively small budget item at $150,000 -- and voted to consider adding $2.77 million to the district's translation unit, more than offsetting an earlier cut.



By Paul Clinton, Staff Writer, Daily Breeze

The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday dumped a cost-savings move by Superintendent David Brewer that would have triggered a loss of as many as six teachers from every district high school.

With only Westchester-area representative Marlene Canter opposed, the 6-1 vote eliminates a planned enrollment recount in January and limits the district's share of state school improvement funds for overhead.

High schools would lose teachers under a recount because the district calculates the number of instructors based on ratios of students. Typically, about 200 students leave each school from September to January.

Brewer had proposed the move to save $14million to $18 million by relying less on substitutes.

The measure met resistance from United Teachers Los Angeles and several board members, who said it would damage achievement and thwart class-size reduction.

UTLA hosted a rally with parent groups at the district's downtown headquarters Tuesday to support the move.

"We are one of the greatest financial institutions in the country," President Monica Garcia said, referring to the district's high bond rating. "I want our academic record to look as good as our economic one."

The move also limits Brewer from allocating more than 3 percent of revenue toward overhead from the Quality Education Investment Act of 2006 (QEIA or SB 1133) , which is designed to raise achievement by reducing crowded classrooms.

That bill provides Banning High in Wilmington with $3.5 million a year through the 2013-14 school year.

"I'm real concerned about schools who were so elated about getting that money to lower class size and it would be used to maintain class size," said Richard Vladovic, who represents the San Pedro-to-Watts district.

WAS $4.3 MILLION WASTED ON WILMINGTON SCHOOL? After multiple studies, LAUSD may consider building a smaller campus at another location.
By Paul Clinton. Staff Writer The Daily Breeze

Monday, November 26, 2007 - The Los Angeles Unified School District already has spent $4.3 million on a Wilmington school project that will never materialize in its current form.

Board member Richard Vladovic, who represents the area, has proposed shrinking the project from a K-8 campus to an elementary school and shifting its proposed location.

If that happens, a good chunk of the $4.3million - spent on environmental studies, designs and vetting the site to the community - will have been for naught.

"You don't really lose the money," Vladovic said. "Everybody's going to characterize it as wasting money. It's part of the process."

So far, district spending falls within the construction industry standard of no more than 15 percent of a project budget for planning and studies, said Wayne Kalayjian, a director with LECG, a global services firm that provides consulting to LAUSD on the cost of construction projects.

The $4.3 million could be viewed as insurance against a costly environmental cleanup, he said.

"If you know you're working in an urban area, you need to make an investment to understand what your potential liability is," Kalayjian said. "Once you put the shovel in the ground, you own that environmental liability."

According to records provided by the district, the $4.3 million was spent on site selection, environmental, design, management and community outreach.

The district spent the largest chunk, $1.55 million, on design-related planning.

The bulk of that amount, $1.4 million, paid for an architect's schematic and partial construction documents.

Consultants prepared geological hazard reports for 13 potential sites to identify any seismic issues or soils prone to liquefaction.

The district also commissioned a more in-depth geological investigation of the chosen site, a commercial block bounded by Avalon Boulevard, L Street, Broad Avenue and M Street.

Environmental costs have hit $1.26 million so far. The district ordered up a preliminary study for $350,000 that led to a full-blown environmental analysis for $215,000, which is mandated by state law. Hired firms took soil samples at the sites. Six sites received a health risk assessment, which analyzes any air pollution sources within a quarter-mile radius of each site. Those reports cost $300,000.

Funds were also used to research historical records on at least nine sites to determine if industrial chemicals were used in prior decades.

Two reports mapped pipelines in eastern and western Wilmington. Further detail about the location of lines and what substances they carry came in reports on 16 sites.

The district also received reports on the locations of oil wells on six sites. The Avalon site has seven inactive wells that would need to be recapped, said Rod Hamilton, a regional development manager.

A magnetic field management plan examined a high voltage electrical line under Broad Avenue to "find out if there were emanations from underground," Hamilton said.

Project management costs came in at $740,000, which paid for the time district staff members have spent working on the school.

For $621,000, the district bought appraisal and title reports of the 20 parcels that make up the Avalon site. That basket of funds also paid for a relocation plan for the seven residences and nine shops or restaurants.

Legal fees to obtain access to properties were also counted.

Lastly, the district spent $115,000 to advertise and host 18 community meetings. Funds were spent on advertising in the Daily Breeze and La Opinion.

Grand total: $4.28 million.

If Vladovic succeeds in shifting the school to one of the two new alternative locations, it would mean much of the work would need to be redone.

David Kooper, Vladovic's chief of staff, defends the decision, saying the almost $4.3 million would not have been wasted.

"It's a lot of money," Kooper acknowledged. "It's not money that's wasted. It's given us the information today that allowed us to make the decision."

The district had been planning a 1,278-seat K-8 school to relieve Fries, Gulf and Hawaiian Avenue elementary schools, as well as Wilmington Middle School.

Since hosting an initial community meeting in August of 2003, the district's real estate division has spent resources investigating more than a dozen sites - from an initial list of 40 candidates - and homing in on the Avalon site.

Vladovic, who replaced Mike Lansing as the school board representative in June, halted work in September in the face of community resistance to the site and asked for an almost three-month window to investigate other possible locations.

While Vladovic argues there hasn't been enough community input, Lansing says Wilmington has had more than enough opportunities to speak up about the site.

LAUSD hosted 18 community meetings about the project from 2003 to May 2007, Lansing said.

"We went back to the community repeatedly," Lansing said. "We were overly cautious to make sure we looked at this from all angles. If they think they have something better now, good luck to them. We had 18 public meetings. If that's not overkill, I don't know what is."

Be that as it may, the current site is fading from view.

Vladovic's office has submitted a proposal for the Dec. 11 school board meeting to scale down the project and move it.

The district's Bond Oversight Committee would consider the move, which could imperil $37million in bond funds from the $95 million budget.

The change would also cause a minimum of an 18-month delay in the project.

Picking one of two alternative sites - a vacant lot near Sanford and Dominguez avenues or a strip mall at Pacific Coast Highway and Island Avenue - would require a new round of environmental reports, design work and management costs.

Vladovic's office believes a Latino market and a Wells Fargo bank on the Avalon site are too vital to the town to remove.

"I fully believe that we might be tearing apart an economic backbone of this community," Kooper said. "At the time this project was originally assigned, the shopping center was not as important as it is today."

The bank is the only one in Wilmington that allows undocumented workers to open accounts. And the market's blend of prepared food caters to the working-class town.

Hamilton and the planners have often been at odds with the community and board member, which is not uncommon when public agencies plan such projects, Kalayjian said.

"You're dealing with the realities of political constituencies versus the rational site selection process," Kalayjian said. "Sometimes they're in sync and other times they need to be fine-tuned."

• smf's 2¢ - This is shaping up to be a very political tug of war where everyone will lose: the community, the school district and mostly the kids.

A lose-lose-lose situation.

The reader comments on the Daily Breeze website (link below) run the gamut from pro to con; they decry the waste, recall the fiscal and environmental mismanagement of the Belmont Learning Complex, wave the ugly flag of race and immigration and even suggest that the boardmember is in cahoots with contractors. The overwhelming united voice of the community that showed up at the two most recent community meetings - different from the ones who showed up at the eighteen previous - has been in opposition to the identified and approved preferred site. The recent opposition has been driven by the new boardmember and the city councilperson (Did I hear the councilperson's field deputy suggest that the oil companies might actually move some pipelines for free?) turned out and T-shirted in a well orchestrated and funded PR effort.

However, beneath the surface of the local politics there is real danger of a few things.

1. Part of the process? The $4.3 million will be lost - plus the other $37 million. That's $41.3 million for nothing.

2. Children will continue to attend year-round schools in Wilmington well after all other communities and schools have returned to a traditional two semester calendar - violating a promise made to the voters and taxpayers in Wilmington and across LAUSD to end year round multi-track education by 2012 in two bond elections - Measures R and Y.

Even if the community sentiment in Wilmington accepts this turn of events - and that is by no means clear - to not build the school as the voters and the school board previously approved might invite a lawsuit - paid for by classroom money - the school district cannot afford.

3. There is a very real possibility that the delay will result in the money being spent elsewhere and no school being built - or having to be built with Operating (classroom) rather than Capital (construction bond) Funds - ...just like the Belmont Learning Complex!

It must be remembered that courts do not decide as the majority wants, they decide as the law says. And usually the will of the voters trumps the electeds.

This will be discussed at length at a special Bond Oversight Committee Meeting on Monday December 3rd at 10AM in the boardroom. Stay tuned.

READER COMMENTS from the Daily Breeze

STATE OWES SCHOOLS, SUIT SAYS: Districts join advocates in seeking $1 billion for mandated programs
By Judy Lin - Sacramento Bee

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 -- Education advocates are expected to file suit today against the state of California for shortchanging school districts $1 billion – a move they say has left districts feeling used like "credit cards."

The California School Boards Association, joined by a handful of school districts, wants the state to reimburse K-12 districts for programs they say the state required and should have paid for.

"The state expects schools to foot the bill for millions of dollars in mandated costs that they do not fund and rarely pay back," Kathy Kinley, president of the California School Boards Association, said in a statement.

Richard L. Hamilton, director of the Educational Legal Alliance, said the state owes school districts $415 million for programs it underfunded and $475 million for programs it never funded. The current budget contains $160 million in unfunded programs, he said.

"These are claims filed by school districts over the years," Hamilton said.

Kinley argued that the state paid only a fraction of what it owed this year, appropriating just $38,000.

Finance Department spokesman H.D. Palmer said the Schwarzenegger administration has not seen the lawsuit, which is expected to be filed in Sacramento Superior Court.

"We will have further comment once we have reviewed the particulars of this lawsuit," Palmer said. "Regardless of the suit, K-12 has been and will be receiving the lion's share of budget dollars even in a challenging fiscal environment."

Under a change in the state constitution instituted in the wake of property-tax-cutting Proposition 13, the state is required to reimburse local agencies when it mandates new programs or a higher level of service.

In the past, state finance officials have said school districts became increasingly demanding in requesting payment over the years.

Education advocates say Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature have avoided paying for a wide range of additional responsibilities given to schools.

The anticipated lawsuit is expected to seek reimbursement of "new programs and higher levels of service" the state demanded of school districts. School districts involved in the suit argue they never got paid.

Besides the school boards association, plaintiffs include the San Diego County Office of Education, Riverside Unified School District, San Jose Unified School District and Clovis Unified School District.


Why isn't LAUSD - the largest school district in the state - with the most at stake - a party to this case? Why for that matter isn't the LA County Office of Education? - the largest County Board of Education in the nation. - smf

View the lawsuit as filed with the San Diego County Superior Court HERE

LAUSD SUPERINTENDENT SURVIVES VICA ENGAGEMENT: No District Break-up on the Horizon, Trade Programs and Small Learning Academies are Priorities
by Nadra Kareem, Staff Writer, San Fernando Valley Business Journal

November 26, 2007- Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent David Brewer III visited the offices of the Valley Industry & Commerce Association Nov. 14 as part of the group’s Newsmaker Connection series.

Brewer discussed whether LAUSD needs to be downsized, his areas of focus, how his first year has gone and the major challenges the district faces.

With numerous industries that require trade skills facing shortages as Baby Boomers age out —be it automotive, cosmetics, aviation and so forth—Brewer said that “career tech [education] is hot on my list.” LAUSD now has an agreement with L.A. Trade Tech, the goal of which is to facilitate putting district students on a career track early on.

Brewer also cited the development of small learning communities at certain schools, such as Monroe High School in Van Nuys, as a way in which students can embark on a career path while still learning. At Monroe, students are grouped into academies that focus on engineering and design; arts, media and entertainment; hospitality, tourism and recreation; education; and public service. In addition, Brewer said that he is investigating forming alliances between the city’s community colleges and all of the district’s high schools.

A question that persisted throughout Brewer’s appearance at VICA is whether the sprawling LAUSD should be broken into smaller districts.

The superintendent acknowledged that the district is “clearly too fat.” He added that his office has responded to the issue by cutting 500 positions and reducing the budget by $95 million.

But Brewer said that new small districts would be at a disadvantage economically, as the amount of resources available to them would be dramatically reduced. Moreover, he added, “You will have created redundancy in all of those districts. You will have duplicated [policies] X-number of times.”

Ross Hopkins, a DeVry professor and entrepreneur who attended the meeting said of Brewer, “I really like him, and I think he has a lot of the right ideas.”

That being said, Hopkins said he believes the superintendent could be more effective if LAUSD were downsized. A study that Hopkins worked on in the early 1980s with Pomona and Occidental colleges found that the ideal school district should be composed of no more than 50,000 students.

It’s a finding with which Brewer disagreed. “Some of the best school districts in the country are more than 50,000,” he said, citing one Virginia school district that has 80,000 students.

In comparison, the LAUSD has 750,000 students and covers more than 700 square miles.

Brewer also took issue with an L.A. Times editorial that suggested he had failed to deliver on promises, allowed himself to be bullied by the teachers’ union and was focused on too many issues.

“My focus is curriculum and instruction,” he stressed. As to the myriad of challenges the district faces—bureaucracy, low test scores, high dropout and transient rates, etc.—Brewer said, “No urban district in the country has solved this problem. I have a holistic and systemic approach.”

He said this is a must when dealing with children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or children who know only television and popular culture and have never left their neighborhoods.

Brewer added, however, that if LAUSD “gets it right,” the drop-out rate will decline. “We have to meet children where they are,” Brewer said. In that vein, LAUSD has hired an actual former dropout to head its anti-dropout program.

“We’ve got some of the best students in the country here,” Brewer said. “All they need is a chance.”

While he took issue with the L.A. Times editorial, Brewer admitted that he alone will likely not solve all of the district’s problems. “I’ve got mud on my face, but I’m still fighting,” he said. “I don’t give a damn about my success—36 years in the military—that’s documented.”

Brewer also said that the performance of teachers was an issue larger than he. “You have to get teachers to hold themselves accountable, so a part of that process goes beyond me.” He said that teachers must be given opportunities to correct their behavior, which differs from the manner in which the private sector manages employees.

“In the public sector, you just can’t fire teachers like you can in the private sector,” he said.

VICA head Brendan Huffman had no critique to offer of Brewer. “I think this was a unique opportunity,” Huffman said. “How many times has a superintendent come to the Valley for a small meeting where there weren’t a lot of softballs? I’m glad he’s come to the Valley to learn some of the needs of Valley parents and entrepreneurs.”

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
Monday Dec 3, 2007
Alta Loma Elementary School Addition: Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony
Please join us to celebrate the completion of your new classroom building!
Ceremony will begin at 1:00 p.m.
Alta Loma Elementary School
1745 Vineyard Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90019

Monday Dec 3, 2007
South Region Elementary School #11: Presentation of Recommended Preferred Site
At this meeting we will present and discuss the site that will be recommended to the LAUSD Board of education for this new school project.
6:00 p.m.
Miller Elementary School
830 W. 77th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90044

Monday Dec 3, 2007
Valley Region Bellingham Elementary School Addition: Presentation of Recommended Preferred Site
At this meeting we will present and discuss the site that will be recommended to the LAUSD Board of education for this new school project.
6:30 p.m.
Bellingham Primary Center
Multi-purpose Room
6728 Bellingham Ave.
North Hollywood, CA 91606

Wednesday Dec 5, 2007
Central LA Learning Center #1 (Ambassador): Holiday Extravaganza/Unveiling of the Fun Fence
Event will begin at 9:30 a.m.
Future Site of Central Los Angeles Learning Center#1 | RFK-12
701 S. Catalina St.
Los Angeles, CA 90005

Wednesday Dec 5, 2007
South Region Elementary School #12: Presentation of Recommended Preferred Site
At this meeting we will present and discuss the site that will be recommended to the LAUSD Board of education for this new school project.
6:00 p.m.
Miramonte Elementary School
1400 E. 68th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90001

*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
• SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION BOND OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: SPECIAL MEETING MON. DEC 3 10AM @ The Boardroom l LAUSD HQ | 333 S. Beaudry Ave. (see "Was $4.3 Million Wasted?"/above)
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-893-6800


What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6383 • 213-241-6387 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6385

...or your city councilperson, mayor, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think! • There are 26 mayors and five county supervisors representing jurisdictions within LAUSD, the mayor of LA can be reached at • 213.978.0600
• Call or e-mail Governor Schwarzenegger: 213-897-0322 e-mail:
• Open the dialogue. Write a letter to the editor. Circulate these thoughts. Talk to the principal and teachers at your local school.
• Speak with your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Stay on top of education issues. Don't take my word for it!
• Get involved at your neighborhood school. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child.
• Register.
• Vote.

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

Scott Folsom is a parent and parent leader in LAUSD. He is immediate past President of Los Angeles 10th District PTSA and represents PTA as Vice-chair the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. He serves on various school district advisory and policy committees and is a PTA officer and/or governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is also the elected Youth & Education boardmember on the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council.
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