Saturday, May 10, 2008

Field tripped up

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ON WEDNESDAY LA Times columnist Steve Lopez — usually a witty and insightful observer of the LA scene — took Superintendent Brewer to task for doing his job: attending a scheduled day-long investigation of exemplary practices in San Diego Unified with four members of the LAUSD Board of Ed, LA civic leaders,, senior LAUSD staff, the San Diego Superintendent and San Diego Board of Ed President (and, in the interest of full disclosure: me) …instead of being available for interviews with the LA Times.

The horror! One can almost hear the admonition: "This wouldn't've happened in Harry Chandler's day!"

The Daily News joined the chorus, "Now that we have Cortines, why do we need Brewer?

Lopez is absolutely right that when it comes to the management of the LAUSD there has been a rich buffet of material lately. The Rooney matter. The architecture of the High School for the Performing and Vssual Arts. Bad water in drinking fountains. Students rioting at Locke High School. Charter school seat allotments at traditional schools. Almost all of these have been caused by adult misbehavior, error or hubris – and one can place at least some of the blame for the Locke matter to adults in both the LAUSD and charter communities who set a bad example fighting over Locke themselves.

THE HIGH SCHOOL FOR THE ARTS ISSUE is a resurrection of an earlier Times story when the tower was designed, documented in the Times five years ago on June 8, 2003. Lopez seems amazed that the school district has built what the architect designed …if they hadn't THAT would be a story!

ON THE ROONEY MATTER: The District Attorney decided not to pursue charges against Rooney, yet in the past week we have seen allegations that Rooney was living in his downtown loft with one underage student who may have become pregnant by him — and two other girls have come forward with similar allegations. District Attorney Steve Cooley is keeping a very low profile in this case. An exceptionally low profile seeing that he's on the ballot for reelection in 23 days.

Mistakes have been made, bad egregious horrible shameful potentially career ending mistakes. The superintendent going down to San Diego to see how two high priority inner city schools turned their programs around is not one of them.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante!- smf

LA TIMES 6/8/03 - THE BOLD SCHOOL TRY: The proposed design for the LAUSD's new arts academy is a boisterous vision for downtown's cultural landscape.


by Steve Lopez | from the Los Angeles Times

May 7, 2008 — When it comes to the management of the Los Angeles Unified School District, there is such a rich buffet of material lately, I hardly know where to begin.

My original intent today -- before the revelation that district officials allowed a vice principal back into a school despite allegations that he was having sex with an underage girl -- was to write more about the $232 million arts-focused high school now under construction in downtown Los Angeles. Among the school's frills, as I reported on Sunday, is a 140-foot spiral tower that resembles a log ride but has no practical purpose.

But let's make the jump here from log rides to logrolling, which is perhaps one way to describe the district's footwork in the case of the assistant principal, who faces criminal sex charges involving three students. He has denied wrongdoing.

To set up the story of former Assistant Principal Stephen Thomas Rooney, let me just play back the first paragraph of Tuesday's story by my colleagues Richard Winton and Howard Blume.

"Senior Los Angeles school officials, including the district's police chief and its former chief operating officer, knew of sex allegations against a school administrator months before he was transferred to a Watts middle school, where he allegedly molested two students, officials said Monday."

You read that and you can't help but wonder if Supt. David L. Brewer, the former Navy admiral who loves hiring consultants, has brought Cardinal Roger M. Mahony in as a senior advisor.

Police say they told the school district in early 2007 that Rooney was suspected of having sex with a Foshay Learning Center student from the time she was 15, and that he had been arrested for waving a gun at the girl's father.

On Tuesday, district officials released a memo dated Feb. 8, 2007, in which Chief Operating Officer Dan Isaacs (who has since retired) alerted colleagues that Rooney had been arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.

"LAPD is also investigating allegations that he had an unlawful sexual relationship with a minor," said the Isaacs memo, which was addressed to Brewer and the members of the Board of Education, and other district officials.

Rooney was temporarily assigned to a non-school site. But then, inexplicably, he was transferred to Markham Middle School. There, he allegedly molested two students and is now looking at criminal charges involving all three students, including one charge of lewd acts involving a 13-year-old.

Did your jaw just drop, dear reader? Are you sitting there wondering how district officials could be so head-slappingly feckless?

You know, I often find myself defending the district against critics who think all problems are attributable to a bloated, entrenched bureaucracy. That's a simplification, I argue.

But I'm starting to wonder what all those wizards over at district headquarters do all day. They're the ones, let's remember, who paid $95 million for a new payroll system that overpaid district employees some $53 million even as it was underpaying others. And then we get a superintendent who never worked in education and doesn't appear to be on the command bridge as the ship drifts toward the rocks.

As I see it, Brewer's got big problems on the Rooney case. If he saw the Isaacs memo and didn't act on it, that's bad enough. If he didn't see the Isaacs memo, that may be worse. I know I called him Admiral Aloof on Sunday, but I didn't realize how accurate that was until I called the district Tuesday to see if he could explain himself.

Oh, sorry, I was told by a spokesperson, but he's out of town.

He's out of town? Yep, he's in San Diego, I was told.

Three under-age kids have allegedly been molested by an assistant principal, and the district's handling of it redefines the word "negligence." And the man in charge is unavailable?

Ramon C. Cortines, who seems to have become the de facto superintendent of late, sent out the district's statement on this sad affair late Tuesday. You'd think the matter was important enough for Brewer himself to get involved, but as the Cortines memo said, "Brewer was out of town to assess school practices in another city."

So let's get this straight. One of the biggest disasters of his administration is unfolding, and he is on a field trip to see how other school districts function?

But let's get back to Cortines, a good man who had the unenviable task of explaining the absent admiral's mess. He didn't quite clear things up to my satisfaction, despite two full pages of flow charts.

Flow charts. I kid you not.

Although the district has reassigned two administrators for their role in this fiasco, Cortines laid some blame on the LAPD for allegedly not communicating all the relevant details of the Rooney case to all the right district officials.

Silly me. I would have thought that notifying the district's chief of police and its chief operating officer would have covered the bases.

Cortines' statement also claimed that district officials sent Rooney to Markham Middle School "without knowing that he had engaged in sexual misconduct with a student."


I quote again from the Isaacs memo, which predates the transfer by several months:

"LAPD is also investigating allegations that he had an unlawful sexual relationship with a minor."

Is anything in that sentence unclear?

At the risk of distracting Brewer in the middle of his big important field trip to San Diego, I'd like to suggest the following:

No need to hurry back, admiral. Lots of ships down there in San Diego, so why not go back to your first love? A career change by you might be good for everyone, especially the 700,000 students of L.A. Unified.



by Howard Blume and Mitchell Landsberg | Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

May 10, 2008 - A fight between rival groups of black and Latino students at Locke High School quickly escalated into a campus-wide melee Friday, with as many as 600 students brawling until police restored calm with billy clubs.

The troubled campus in South Los Angeles was locked down after the fight broke out at 12:55 p.m., as students returned from lunch to their fifth-period classes. Overwhelmed school officials called Los Angeles police for help, but students and faculty said it took about half an hour before dozens of officers, many in riot gear, restored order.

"The kids were crazy, running from place to place, jumping on other kids," said Reggie Smith, the school's band director, who said he ran to pull his students from the melee. "Some of my kids were crying because they were walking to class with friends and they got jumped."

Los Angeles Unified School District police said that there are only two officers assigned to Locke but that the school police force brought in about 60 officers after receiving word of the brawl. The Los Angeles Police Department also dispatched more than a dozen patrol cars and about 50 officers.

Susan Cox, an LAUSD spokeswoman, said police arrested four people -- three students for fighting and one non-student for illegal possession of a knife. Four students were treated in the school nurse's office for minor injuries.

The campus at 111th and San Pedro streets has long been one of the city's most troubled. This school year has been particularly difficult, with near-daily fights -- albeit on a much smaller scale -- during much of the fall and winter. Locke is about to be reorganized as a cluster of charter schools run by Green Dot Public Schools, which will take over in July, and some faculty and staff have accused the district of letting the campus drift in its final year as a traditional public school.

"Morale has really dropped because they don't feel like they have everybody behind them," cheerleading coach Marlo Jenkins said recently. "There are just fights upon fights upon fights now."

Faculty members and Green Dot complained that L.A. Unified nearly halved its funding for non-police security aides at the start of the year. The school has been especially plagued by tagging crews -- the school employs two full-time workers just to paint over graffiti, said Green Dot's Kelly Hurley, who is managing the transition.

Faculty members also complained repeatedly about in-school ditching and a massive tardiness problem. Finally, the district restored some of the trimmed security, faculty said, and also dispatched an additional administrator to help restore order. Until then, the district had relied on Principal Travis Kiel, who'd been brought back from retirement. In recent weeks, students and teachers have reported improved conditions -- less ditching, a little less graffiti.

But then came Friday's melee, which students and teachers said was by far the worst of the year, perhaps the worst in years.

Joseph Sherlock, a senior, 17, who has been at Locke for four years, called it "my first actual encounter with a riot." He added: "I've seen fights, and I've seen fights between black and brown, but I've never seen anything like this."

Sherlock, who said he saw police use pepper spray during the melee, said tensions between African American and Latino students have not been a serious problem at the school. With an enrollment of 2,600, Locke is 65% Latino and 35% African American.

"It's not the way it's portrayed in the media; that's not what it's like at all," said Sherlock, who is black. Another black student, Ronald White, said African American and Latino students commonly divide along ethnic lines but aren't necessarily hostile. "Everybody usually just sticks to themselves," he said.

White, a 17-year-old senior, said he had just stepped from a main building into the school's grassy quad when he was met with a scene of chaos.

Hundreds of students were outside, and from what he could see, "Most people was fighting." Eventually, police began to swarm onto the campus, and White said the students began fighting the officers, who responded with their batons.

"I was in the corner, just watching," he said. "I saw a girl get hit by the police and she went down."

Senior Victor Wong, 18, said the brawl grew out of a fight two days earlier between a Latino student and an African American student. Wong said Latino students who are friends of his asked him to participate in a fight planned for Friday that was to pit 10 Latino students against 10 African American students.

"It was a crew-on-crew thing," he said, referring to graffiti gangs. "They asked for my help, but I'm graduating," he said. "I'm done with all that."

Wong said the two groups of instigators met as planned at the school's handball courts, and "all of them started going at it." Within seconds, he said, the fight escalated beyond the original two groups, and people began running throughout the campus fighting.

"They would finish one place and run to another corner and fight," he said.

"Security didn't know where to go," Wong added. "They'd concentrate in one spot and something would happen somewhere else. This is the worst I've seen."

Minor injuries at the scene were treated by the school nurse and L.A. Fire Department personnel. No one required hospitalization, the school district said. There were, however, some descriptions of students being badly beaten.

Wong said he saw one student beaten unconscious on a handball court. Sherlock said he saw one Latino student walking along Saint Street, the road that bisects the campus, when he was surrounded by a large group of black students who began hitting and kicking him. "He was bleeding real bad," Sherlock said. "When they stood him up, he kind of collapsed back down."

Sherlock, who is a member of the Black Student Union and the school's new House of Representatives, which was formed to help guide the transition from traditional school to charter, added that he had tried to stop the fighting, but to little effect. After securing order, authorities rounded up the students who hadn't returned to class and segregated them by race, holding Latinos in the boys gym and African American students in Hobbs Hall, the school's multipurpose room.

Beginning at 2 p.m., school officials began releasing students in small groups to go home. The school remained on lockdown until the last group had left about 3:15 p.m.

LAUSD's Cox said that there would be an enhanced police presence at Locke during school hours next week and that the district would send human relations staff to the school to talk to students.

In recent years, melees have broken out periodically at many campuses with a black and Latino presence, including in Los Angeles, Lynwood and Compton. There have been fights between Latinos and Armenians in other areas that led to campus lockdowns.

In nearly all cases, no serious injuries have resulted, but the incidents have frightened students and parents, marred the reputation of schools and hindered the learning of students who frequently already face substantial academic challenges.

"How do you build anything here when something happens and adds to the negativity?" asked band leader Smith.

Times staff writer Jessica Garrison contributed to this report.



LOS ANGELES - 8 May - The Los Angeles Unified School District has unveiled a plan to boost water quality on its campuses. It includes a review of daily flushing requirements for drinking fountains, more testing of the water from fountains and taps, and random water-sampling at district schools.

A report a couple of weeks ago showed high levels of lead at dozens of schools. Superintendent David L. Brewer says the district's current standards have already sharply reduced the amount of lead in school water. Brewer says the new moves will make campus water even safer.

By Brandon Lowrey, Staff Writer | LA Daily News

9 May 2008 - Los Angeles Unified school officials Thursday tried to convince parents of Woodlake Elementary School students that they had little to fear from high lead levels in campus drinking fountains, but parents remained skeptical.

The tough crowd at the evening forum underscored community distrust of school district officials, whom parents say dragged their feet in announcing and addressing a long-term problem of lead levels testing higher than the federal government allows.

And as a county toxicologist cited studies from Seattle and Washington, D.C., saying Woodlake's lead levels were still far below harmful, one parent hijacked the meeting, loudly questioning the expert.

"I'm not talking about Washington, D.C.," said Steve Thoma, vice president of the school's Parent Teacher Association. "I'm talking about this school, with my kids."

Woodlake parents are particularly concerned because tests of drinking water revealed seven times the maximum amount of the heavy metal allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

When a Los Angeles Unified School District health official said she'd let her kids drink the leaded water at Woodlake, parents at a town hall meeting responded with a hiss.

Dr. Cyrus Rangan, director of the toxics and epidemiology program for Los Angeles County, tried to ease parent concerns, saying the federal limit is set far below levels that would cause health problems. That is done, Rangan said, to give officials time to react before it becomes a problem.

"If you eat one brussel sprout, you'll get far more lead than you'll get from weeks of drinking water here," Rangan said. "We're talking about an environmental issue, not a health issue."

The toxicologist said he remains concerned that the lead levels are unacceptably high, but told parents that unless their kids are eating lead paint chips, they probably have nothing to worry about.

The district's policy since 1988 has been to run each water fountain in all its schools for 30 seconds every morning to flush out any potential traces of lead that can accumulate in older, galvanized pipes that haven't been replaced.

But officials have failed to properly record how often - if at all - the fountains were flushed out.

Woodlake kindergarten teacher Shawn Buckingham said she's heard the district might start requiring the teachers to flush out the fountains - a job normally done by custodial staff.

She said a request like that could lead to problems with the teachers' union.

And even though district officials said Woodlake's biggest problems have been fixed, the 15-year veteran said she's not convinced.

"They're saying it's safe," Buckingham said. "We'll see."

The schools at-risk for lead problems are those built before 1993, when lead-laden, galvanized pipes and lead solder were banned. But to replace the plumbing at those schools could cost $300 million.

So far, the district has spent about $93 million on 600 plumbing projects.

Lead can cause developmental and learning disabilities, among other ailments.

Thoma grilled Rangan for several minutes before backing off, at one point brandishing a brochure the district provided reading "Lead can harm a child's brain" in bold print.

But even after Rangan's best attempts to explain the issue, Thoma told the doctor he wanted a second opinion.

"I'm not convinced."

by Scott Folsom — The following is the prepared text for my remarks to the Education Issues segment of the
LA County Democratic Party Spring Issues Forum
Saturday, May 10, 2006.

Good morning - First off, I'm delighted to be here in Burbank, they normally don't let me practice my parent rant outside LAUSD except for appearances in Sacramento, a place similarly removed from reality.

The background info in your agenda saya I am a PTA leader; I am not here representing PTA today. That's because PTA is non partisan and the last time I noticed we Democrats are a dangerously partisan bunch.

My T shirt says I support ED in '08, a group that advocates that the level of debate in this year's presidential election on the subject of Education needs to ratchet up exponentially. Ed in '08 is run by the former heads of the DNC and the RNC, they are spending Rockefeller, Gates and Broad grant money, but as long as they're for raising the level of debate and spending billionaire's money where it does no damage I'm for them.

Jess Unruh said "if you can't take their money and then vote against 'em you have no business being in politics". He said it far more colorfully than that, but I am a PTA guy.

IN 1946 CALIFORNIA PUBLIC EDUCATION WAS IN CRISIS. In the preceding six years two million people had moved to the state and another million babies had been born - and the baby boom hadn't even really begun. Unprecedented numbers of teachers were retiring. A ballot measure was put on the ballot to begin to address this: Proposition 3 - promoted by an odd alliance of the America Legion and PTA - endorsed by organized labor and both political parties - Prop. 3 created a constitutional guarantee for a quality free public education in the state, with the state assuring a living wage for teachers and supplementing school funding on a per pupil basis - and establishing local control of education by Independent Boards of Education.

In 1946 Mendez v. Westminster School Board was in court and Earl Warren was Governor; California Schools would be desegregated within a year; the die was cast for Chief Justice Warren and Brown v. Topeka School Board.

California was poised on the brink of educational greatness, our schools were emerging the best in the nation; The GI Bill sent returning servicemen to college (and delayed their reentry into the labor pool); The California Master Plan for Education tying K-12 to the colleges and universities - and guaranteeing access to low cost higher Ed for all deserving students was a decade away, ready for the baby boom. It was the California Education Miracle, the golden age.

Wait! Stop! I was in those schools, and if that was a golden age to get all misty eyed about I must not have been paying attention. And that is what it said on my report cards.

What did happen in the fifties, sixties and seventies is we paid what it cost to educate our children in California. I was just reading the 1946 ballot arguments - "We must invest in our children's future" it says.

And the argument against says we can't afford to - especially in untried programs and reforms. Bureaucrats, the agreement warns, will bureaucratize.

The voters tried it, the investment was made and the gamble paid off - Education in the Golden State set the Gold Standard. K-12, community colleges, state colleges, the University of California. This state invested and the investment paid off big time. And yes, bureaucrats - as they will, bureaucratized.

Pendulums swing as pendulums do, Mendez and Brown were not universally loved, Serrano v. Priest mandated equity; equality is one thing - but equity is equality you have to pay for. We are happy to spend money on our kids for our schools …but those kids in those schools?

The taxes kept growing and Prop 13 hit us Pat Brown progressives like a ton of bricks.

So we rearranged some deckchairs - politicians in Sacramento took over school funding and revenue collection, and Reagan and Jerry and Duke showed us we could think small, tighten the purse strings and live in the moment - as long as infrastructure held out and we didn't invest in the future.

The baby boom was over, we had enough schools. Nobody figured on the continued migration from other states, on the wars and immigration from South and Central America - and Southeast Asia.

• In our shortsightedness we short changed kids.
• We put up temporary portable bungalows on school playgrounds. We went to year round calendars. We increased class size.
• We started to raise tuition at UC, CSU and Community Colleges - we will do it again - next week.
• In times of boom we boomed, in times of bust we were busted; we went from budget cycle to budget cycle in good times, from budget cut to May revise to budget cut to May revise in bad.
• School funding grew to match inflation in good times, and was cut to match the downturn in bad.
• Local School Boards decided where to cut budgets and Sacramento politicians decided where to put it back.
• Prop 98, which guaranteed a floor for education funding was looked at as the ceiling in Sacramento.
• California has two First Priorities enshrined constitutionally, Public safety and Education.
o Everyone consumes Public Safety,
o The primary consumers of public education for the most part can't vote.
• The state builds prisons but only matches local funds when building schools, they say fifty-fifty, but it's closer to forty-sixty.
• Prison Guards make more money than teachers. Incarceration is a growth industry, it faces 4.5% cuts in the current "10% across the board" budget cuts - and gets an added off-budget $7 Billion infusion - $600,000 per prisoner - for prison healthcare.
• K-12 Education faces 10.5 % cuts in the Governors' proposed budget, Higher Ed 9.5%.
• Only Environmental Protection at 11% takes a bigger hit than K-12 Education …if you can hug it, whether a tree or a child, it's cut deepest!

A study that came out yesterday in Maryland tells us that the first indicator of a trip into criminality is poor education - and Maryland spends $2184 or 26% more per student than California - before the cuts the governor has proposed.

In our downfall from first to worst we currently rank between 29th and 48th in state spending per student, depending on whether and how one adjusts for cost of living - again: before this round of cuts.

You don't need me to spout the statistics, You just need to be able to read the paper and possess the basic ability to make a critical decision to realize that it costs a whole lot more to incarcerate someone than it does to educate them properly in the first place.

Repeating myself for emphasis, and maybe you need to repeat after me: You just need to be able to read the paper and possess the basic ability to make a critical decision.

So we have a governor who was a not very good actor playing the part of a populist, a populist who sends his kids to very expensive private schools. We've been there and done that before. This is his self declared Year of Education. He brought his own panel of experts together and they suggested a ten billion dollar infusion of money into public education - but the economy is in freefall and the state budget is in a tailspin, so he proposes to cut education funding $4.8 billion - and that's based on rosy numbers that will be revised downward next week. I've got to say that if that's how we observe the Year of Education I hope I never get my own year!

We need to recognize that the economy is in the dumps and the budget situation is bleak. We also need to realize that the Vehicle License Fee - the car tax - that the governor eliminated brought in over $6 billion dollars a year to the state treasury, the VLF wasn't as subject to the ups and downs of the economy as are sales, business and property taxes - and was deductible on our federal income tax. It was a federal subsidy to California.

Here's my math question, most of us went to public school, not all of us in the golden age, so I'll keep it basic: The VLF brought in over $6 Billion a year. How long has he been governor? The budget is roughly $20 billion out of whack. Do the math!

I have been up in Sacramento having the dialog, advocating for PTA's position that there must be No Cuts to Education and No Cuts to Children's Programs like healthcare, social services and foster care. I'm a parent, my organization is mostly parents, we call our Campaign Flunk the Budget, Not our Children and we look the politicos in the eye and say "No Cuts" - and when they quibble about Categoricals we say "What part of NO is it you don't understand?"

"How do you propose to do this?" they ask, and I can say I'm a citizen and you are the policy maker enjoying my full faith and support - do the job you were elected to do. The Chief Legislative Analyst Office has a proposal that will see the state through this crisis without suspending Prop 98 and with the only Ed cuts to COLA's. Start there.

We are starting to hear talk about revenue enhancements and that's a beginning. I was writing one of my rants about this the other day and I misspelled "enhancements" and my spell checker suggested "Enchantments" - and that's exactly what we're asking for: "Revenue Enchantments."

Ladies and gentlemen, we need to raise taxes. We start at the VLF and we need to look at splitting the rolls on Prop 13. Business and industry are getting a free ride when oil refineries haven't had their property reappraised since 1978. Or chain retail stores. Kroger Companies - which used to be Ralphs' - is paying the same property tax on its stores as when they were Market Baskets and Alpha Betas!

That's the quick fix. Really we need to completely redesign California School Finance from the ground up, eliminate the boom and bust budgeting and allow for some long term planning - like we did in 1946. What I'm talking about is real constitutional reform, with no supermajority in the legislature required to pass a budget - because what we have now is a not-so- superminority controlling the budget.

And, if were going to do constitutional reform, maybe we need to take a look at the Ed Code too.

This year nothing is happening in Sacramento except the budget, there will be no earthshaking/time's are a' changing legislation because there is no money and no consensus. It is even worse in Washington DC.

The Good News and the Bad News is that No Child Left Behind will not be reauthorized this term.

NCLB with its high stakes test and data-driven, all-stick-and-no-carrot, and certainly underfunded mandates will fade into memory, for the most part unlamented. There are lessons to be learned from NCLB; we cannot and must not return to my favorite turn of phrase from Bush and Company: "the soft bigotry of low expectations" (who knew there are poets among them?) we must set high expectations for all of our children, all of our teachers and administrators, all of our schools and every one of ourselves.

When it is reauthorized next term and the next administration it will probably go back to being the Elementary and Secondary Education Act -- hopefully with some real expectations, true two-way accountability and real and realizable benchmarks and goals …difficult, rigorous but achievable.

Last week President Bush was bemoaning the sorry state of education and how federal, state and local government - as well as the private sector - has a role to play. Unfortunately he was talking about parochial and faith based education. He was talking about vouchers. George Bush is a walking-talking ad for private education; apparently he was left behind in his civics class at Phillips Andover Academy when they were discussing the First Amendment.

There are other issues of course in Education, I hail from LAUSD as does my colleague Joel Jordan, but this is Burbank and let's not go there! Let me just say that Los Angeles is a huge urban school district with all the problems one could imagine, 900 schools, 700,000 kids, poverty, overcrowding, newly arrived immigrants, non English speakers; a district - like the California Educational model - designed in the 1950's and '60 that did an extraordinary job of meeting the needs of the Los Angeles of that time - an L.A. and a California we no longer live in.

The problems of LA are not unlike the challenges of any other school district, they are just more so. LA is a macrocosm of public education. For the most part, despite what you hear, LA is doing a pretty good job - just like your school district. Most kids graduate, but not enough. Most kids are safe at school and going to and from school, but we as parents have zero tolerance for any lack of safety. Kids at schools in LAUSD are safer than they are anywhere else in their lives — just as they are at your schools. But we do have problems — and our problems are not unique to Los Angeles and LAUSD.

Those of you who are parents you will be shocked to hear this, but we have kids who misbehave. As adults you will be shocked to hear that we have adults who misbehave too. When adults misbehave intolerably we cannot tolerate it - and we cannot tolerate those who would tolerate it.

This is the Education part of this critical issues discussion. I'm not the first to say this - people I disagree with on a lot of things - we are democrats and we disagree joyfully and passionately - have said that Public Education is the Civil Rights Issue of Today. We all need to agree with that passionately and joyfully.

Thank you.


by Scott Banks | Special to The LA Times

May 12, 2008 — THE SKY above Hyperion Bridge at 6:45 in the morning can be an aimless gray, a luminescent peach or an adolescent blue. I have cycled across this bridge for five years and in every season, yet it was only recently that I glanced west at just the right moment and spotted Griffith Observatory.

Each workday, I disembark from the Metrolink train in Glendale wearing a yellow visibility vest and carrying my Trek road bike. Soon, I'm pedaling south through downtown Atwater Village. The little stretch of businesses there could be Andy Griffith's town -- if Mayberry boasted a yoga studio, a giant store selling birds and an ATM offering transactions in Hmong.

Getting from Atwater Village to the Hyperion Bridge is the tricky part: Two full lanes of vehicles peel off to the right to duck back under the bridge and join the 5 Freeway. Instead of dangerously merging across these two lanes, I've learned to position myself in the lane I need well in advance, at the traffic light. Even though this means wading deeply into the traffic, I haven't had trouble with motorists. I keep a cautious eye on vehicles behind me using the rearview mirror clipped to my sunglasses.

And most of the drivers are daily commuters, like me. I think they have learned to expect me.

Beyond the bridge, I take a right and power up a short round hill, bounce down an uneven side street and land in the parking lot at John Marshall High, where I teach.

Many mornings, I wish my ride were longer. As my colleagues struggle out of cars with their coffee and book bags, I ease off the handlebars and ride with no hands. I breathe the invigorating morning air. I feel superior.

When my students see me rolling by they don't conceal their mirth. For a high school student, it is a special joy to catch your teacher looking like a fool.

"Don't you have a car?" they'll ask me later, in class. Their voices sound concerned, even alarmed. When I tell them I own a car but commute on my bicycle by choice, they eye me skeptically.

My students, rich or poor, from a dozen ethnicities, are true Angelenos. They are united by faith in the automobile. For them -- for us -- cars are more than mere transportation. My students view automobiles as Romans once regarded the toga: as coveted markers of adulthood and full citizenship in the polis.

But I can forgo that for the time to read and write on the Metrolink leg of my commute, the exercise, the sense of adventure and the environmental benefit. And, to be honest, I enjoy pedaling past my students in my yellow vest, sporting my rearview mirror.

No earthly force could have compelled my teenage self to appear on my own high school campus looking like that. I bicycle to work because being an adult means living the way I want to live.

• Scott Banks is a high school teacher and writer who lives in Claremont.


EVENTS: Coming up next week...
*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
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.
• 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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