Sunday, October 04, 2009

A crisis of competence

4LAKids: Sunday 4•October•09 Ten-Four
In This Issue:
AN EDUCATION PROBLEM LOOMS: In a time of layoffs, the state hopes to inspire a new generation of educators
STUDY CRITIQUES SCHOOLS OVER SUBJECTIVE GRADING: An education expert calls for greater consistency in evaluating students' work.
HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
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LAST MONDAY'S ANNOUNCEMENT THAT GUY MEHULA, the LAUSD Chief Facilities Executive, had unexpectedly resigned is extremely bad news for the building and modernization program and for the entirety of LAUSD. Contrary to widely held opinion, the building program isn't the only thing that LAUSD does well. But it is the most visible - especially among those that only involve adults!

Connie Rice's Op-Ed on Tuesday - and the LA Times Wednesday editorial follow up (both following) say it all. This is a news story of which I am a part as a member of the Bond Oversight Committee (BOC) - and I am going to not go off and speculate about what really went on and who-and-what precipitated this crisis …but a crisis it is.

Ms Rice at Wednesday's extraordinary meeting of the oversight committee reminded us all that the previous regimes at LAUSD "Couldn't build an outhouse out of Legos" …and inferred that the current iteration at Beaudry could-and-would do no better. That's a conclusion to which I am fully prepared to make the two-inch leap -- my ability and willingness to jump magnified exponentially by current goings-on by the Board of Education and City Hall The BOC representatives of the Building and Contracting Community and the Building Trades expressed a similar lack of confidence in this change of direction.

Today's Times has an editorial on the economy "Take stock - then buy bonds" - maintaining that the most prudent investment strategy in this uncertain market is bonds. Since the reinvention of the LAUSD Facilities Service Division (FSD) as a quasi-independent agency under Mehula and his predecessor Jim McConnell LAUSD bonds have been highly rated and considered among the safest.

LAUSD bonds - series BB, K, R and Y - based on the confidence of the market makers and the competence of the FSD leadership - and supported by an incredible track record of success - are the gild-edged standard, sought after by investors.

Mehula and McConnell before him were the program's best salesmen. Now with Mehula gone and the program seemingly driven by different priorities future sales may be negatively impacted. Gentle readers - I am not saying this to warn investors off of LAUSD bonds - I am saying this to ask the powers-that-be to be, whomever and wherever they are (or think they are) - to be very, very careful.

(And of course, it says in the tiny type, this message is neither investment advice, nor a solicitation to buy or sell securities.)

● "Take stock - then buy bonds" by Joe Queenan | LA Times (published online as "401(k) Reality Check"),0,7087143.story

WEDNESDAY EVENING'S "HEARING" OF THE SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON URBAN SCHOOL GOVERNANCE (“Power to the Parents: The role of parents as agents of change in California’s public schools,”) was more about Senator Romero and her Bill (SB 742) to force the Superintendent of Public Instruction (who's job she's a candidate for) to publish a list of the ten worst schools in the state.

• Senator Romero's committee hearing had exactly one senator in attendance wonders if the committee rules state that a quorum shall be 100% of the senators present?
• The database of all test scores is published at The California Dept of Ed and EdData: The info can be downloaded to an Excel spreadsheet or database program; any column can be sorted by any criteria one wishes. (It doesn't much more transparent than that)

Senator Romeo's shock+horror that this information - that apparently parents and/or the senator needs - is being 'hidden' seems a little theatrical. Or political.

Plus we don't need to know what the worst schools are doing and punish the failure. We need to know what the best ones are doing … and not as much reward the wonderfulness as replicate it.

On that note, the parents who testified from PTA's. the Migrant Schools Program, special ed, charter schools and independent parent education, empowerment and advocacy groups - including the LA Parent Union - described their best practices and their lessons learned.

And those best practices are:
• Engaging and Involving Parents in their Children's Education.
• Creating a Welcoming Environment for Parents at the School.
• And Training and Educating Parents and Educators to Work Together to Improve Student Achievement …rather than raise money.

That won't come from Sacramento or Washington or 333 South Beaudry or the eight minidistrict offices. That will come when the iron gates are unlocked and the signs stop saying "Register with the Principal" and threatening fines and imprisonment …and start saying "Welcome Parents".

And mean it.

¡Onward/Hasta adelante! - smf

CDE Data Downloads: Research File Instructions, Formats, Layouts, and Usage


By Seema Mehta | LA Times

September 29, 2009 - Guy Mehula, the highly regarded head of the Los Angeles Unified School District's massive school construction program, has resigned after an apparent power struggle with district leadership.

In a brief letter to subordinates Monday, Mehula gave no hint of discord, painting his departure as an opportunity to search for new challenges. "The work that we have done together and the investments we have made in our schools, community, and economy are significant," he wrote.

But critics say Mehula's resignation is fallout from a growing rift between his facilities services division and district headquarters, prompted by policy changes made by Supt. Ramon C. Cortines that threaten to dismantle the award-winning division.

"There's an old saying: 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it,' " said Thomas A. Rubin, a consultant to the district's bond oversight committee, which is overseeing expenditure of more than $20 billion in voter-approved school construction and modernization funds. "This ain't broke. It's not perfect, but it is almost without any doubt whatsoever the best thing the district has done in decades."

For many years, the facilities division had been at the center of significant turmoil, cost overruns and other problems, most notably the construction of the Belmont Learning Complex atop an oil field. The project ended up taking 15 years and costing more than $400 million. About a decade ago, after the Belmont furor, there was a push to create a quasi-independent facilities division that was insulated from district politics and composed of professional construction managers instead of district insiders.

Mehula, 56, joined the district in 2002 after a long career in construction, including 25 years in the Navy, where he oversaw construction projects throughout the Pacific. As chief facilities executive, he earned $244,201 annually. Attempts to reach him Monday were unsuccessful.

Cortines praised Mehula's tenure at the district, during which 80 new schools were built. The superintendent named James Sohn as interim chief facilities executive.

"Because of Guy Mehula's leadership, thousands of our students attend new schools. As a result, most LAUSD students go to school during the traditional September-June academic year while a declining number remain on the year-round calendar," Cortines said.

Cortines noted that Mehula had tried to resign twice in the last month but said he had refused to accept. The superintendent said he did so after finding the latest resignation letter in his mailbox Saturday, but said the two men had worked well together and he had hoped Mehula would stay.

But critics said that several policy changes by Cortines contributed to Mehula's departure, including no longer allowing the division to act as a quasi-independent agency with its own in-house attorneys and procurement department. They also said recent moves, such as a resistance to offering salaries competitive with the private sector, would jeopardize the department's ability to attract qualified professionals.

"The history of the construction program . . . mandated that any successful school construction program would have to be independent of the district's inefficient, notoriously torpid bureaucracy," Connie Rice, a civil rights attorney who serves on the bond oversight committee, said Monday. "If you go back to the days of allowing an amateur board to micromanage in the professional management of the construction program, you're going back to the kind of mistakes that produced the Belmont fiasco."

Cortines said that such charges were false and that he has a duty as the district's leader to ensure that voter-approved bonds are spent carefully.

"Voters gave [the bond money] to us, and people in L.A. are struggling economically," he said. "I have a responsibility to see we use the money wisely."



Opinion by Constance L. Rice
• Constance L. Rice is a civil rights attorney and a member of the School Construction Bond Oversight Committee.

September 29, 2009 - The construction unit of the Los Angeles Unified School District has successfully and cost-effectively built 80 new schools and won scores of awards. So how has Supt. Ray Cortines rewarded this efficient unit? By driving out its superb leadership.

Guy Mehula, the talented head of the construction division, resigned Monday after LAUSD leaders made clear their intention of dragging Mehula's quasi-independent team back under the tight control of the district.

Taking away the unit's autonomy would be a huge mistake. The district has tried micromanaging the construction of schools, and it failed miserably. If you need convincing, just think about the disastrous cost overruns and construction errors of the Belmont Learning Complex.

For those who don't remember the horrific details, the district began construction at Belmont (or the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center, as it was finally called) without required environmental reviews or professional managers, ultimately building a $160-million high school that the state declared unusable for children. A scathing audit of the debacle concluded that the project had violated environmental and public safety laws, and that the uninformed district had "tolerated a culture remarkably indifferent" to standards or accountability. The audit referred several of its findings to the district attorney for criminal investigation.

With a pressing need for new schools, then-Supt. Roy Romer and a newly elected board of education were determined to avoid more Belmonts, so they established a facilities division that was independent, expertly run and free of the district's torpid bureaucracy. The new unit was staffed by construc- tion professionals and experienced Navy engineers who were insulated from political and union pressures. Schools were built by carefully selected contractors who were closely monitored by an expert staff of auditors and managers.

The new division, charged with managing a $20-billion construction effort, quickly established a system of value-based contracting that permitted necessary -- but not political -- changes to contracts. And Romer was true to his word: The school board set policy and acquired land for schools, but otherwise stayed out of the way.

Now Cortines has rescinded key provisions that helped shield the facilities division from unwarranted interference. He announced the removal of the unit's specially assigned and quasi-independent lawyers and limited many new employees to 10 months of work and pay per year-- something few competent construction professionals would agree to. Cortines and the board also want to set salary limits that are not competitive. Mehula resigned because these and other proposals would end the independence that has made the school construction unit a success.

Cortines' actions come as the construction program is also facing other threats.

Some school board members, in actions reminiscent of the group that brought us Belmont, have started pushing for expensive and wasteful changes to building contracts. They have tried to use bond funds for things that are prohibited by the bond measure. And they have increasingly questioned contract awards and dismissed the judgment of facilities professionals. Most discouraging, I have heard two school board members suggest that the facilities division needs to "look more like Los Angeles." Although diversity is important, it cannot be allowed to trump the expertise needed to manage a massive school construction program.

With Mehula's resignation, bondholders, taxpayers and contractors should be very worried. If his expert management team leaves, the successful phase of school construction is almost certain to end -- and bond money will once again be wasted.

It is time to consider creating an independent construction authority for building schools. Doctors don't build hospitals, and lawyers don't build courthouses. Why should educators who can barely manage the mission of education build schools?



LA Times Editorial

September 30, 2009 -- The Los Angeles Unified School District does few things efficiently and competently. The big exception has been its construction effort of the last several years, guided by Guy Mehula. The facilities unit has built 80 schools and done most of the jobs well, on time and within budget. It's not a coincidence that Mehula's division has operated with an unusual amount of independence and freedom from school board politics and central office bureaucracy. Mehula's resignation on Monday, and the loss of a measure of that independence, are discouraging signs not only for the future of school construction but for the district as a whole.

Supt. Ramon C. Cortines may have felt compelled to act after a 2008 audit revealed that many of the consultants working for the facilities division were paid much more than district staff. Some of these consultants were also found to be underqualified for their jobs and had overstepped their authority by making decisions about the hiring and pay of district workers.

These are serious concerns, though the audit also said that some of the problems already had been addressed. But Cortines must make sure that he isn't being penny-wise and pound-foolish if he restricts consultant pay and moves more of that work under the district, as he reportedly intends to do. There is no money to be gained for classrooms this way; bond funding can be used only for construction, refurbishment and certain equipment. What's more, it proved worthwhile, under Mehula, to pay for top people who get the job done. History has shown that botched construction projects can cost hundreds of millions of dollars and deprive students in crowded schools of badly needed new campuses. The bungled Belmont Learning Complex, which helped lead to the creation of the more independent construction team, was the subject of a scathing audit that found the district had shown little regard for safety, law or accountability. It's not reassuring to think of a return to district oversight.

It is unclear how Cortines will shield the $20-billion construction effort from the political pressures that already plague other parts of the district. This page has criticized the district for handing the new Mendez Learning Center in East L.A. to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's Partnership for Los Angeles Schools without community input or public airing. Cortines told The Times that he was pressured into doing so by school board President Monica Garcia, a close ally of the mayor. What else will board members demand in the way of special favors on facilities?

L.A. Unified is seldom at its best when it micromanages -- a lesson worth remembering.


by Howard Blume - LA Times

October 1, 2009 | 11:05 am -- The panel that oversees school construction in Los Angeles is poised to pass a resolution asking for the return of the official who heads the nation’s largest school building effort and for a reversal of decisions that apparently led to his departure.

The Bond Oversight Committee reached its decision by consensus at a Wednesday special session and will formally vote on the resolution at its regular October meeting, said chair David Crippens.

The hastily called special meeting was in response to the weekend resignation of Guy Mehula, chief facilities executive of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Mehula has managed the $20-billion construction and modernization program that is paid for by local and state voter-approved bonds.

The construction program was set up to be independent of the school system bureaucracy, both to professionalize its operation and to insulate its work from both internal and external political pressure. Mehula and members of the appointed oversight committee were concerned that this independence has been threatened by recent decisions by L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines.

These decisions include a consolidation of legal services and communications under more direct district control. Cortines also had resisted paying higher wages to senior managers in a time of economic crisis; Mehula and his supporters believed the higher salaries, which are funded by bond dollars, are needed to attract the most qualified professionals.

“We want Guy back and to reverse the decisions that have been made,” Crippens said in an interview. “We have major challenges ahead. There has to be confidence in the program. We want this program to have continuity, not ups and down. This is not anti the superintendent; this is pro the program.”

Cortines, who answered questions from committee members on Wednesday, pledged that the program would continue to be as independent as necessary. In a later interview he added that he knew it was vital to insulate the construction effort from political interference. He said he worked consistently to do just that. And he said he believed that he and Mehula had been working amicably to resolve disagreements.

Cortines added that he, too, wanted Mehula to remain, but had concluded that Mehula wanted to take advantage of a district-wide early-retirement incentive that was offered as part of a package of budget-cutting strategies.

Oversight committee member Connie Rice strongly contested that interpretation, attributing Mehula’s departure solely to concerns about the program’s future.

Mehula has declined comment.

AN EDUCATION PROBLEM LOOMS: In a time of layoffs, the state hopes to inspire a new generation of educators
An education problem looms
In a time of layoffs, the state hopes to inspire a new generation of educators

By Seema Mehta | LA Times
Part of "The California Fix" series

October 4, 2009

As thousands of laid off California teachers sit out the school year, educators are worried about the long-term effect of losing so many teachers. Some instructors are considering leaving the state or even the profession, and if history is any indication, fewer young people will pursue careers in teaching.

"The pipeline issue is one of the most significant challenges that we're dealing with, with the layoff situation or the pink-slipping," said Margaret Gaston, executive director of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, a Santa Cruz-based nonprofit focused on strengthening California's teacher workforce.

Faced with severe budget cuts, school districts last spring issued more than 27,000 pink slips. Although many of those teachers were eventually rehired by school districts, thousands are still out of work, existing on a combination of unemployment benefits, their savings, spouses' wages and substitute teaching income when possible.

Heather Hottinger was one day shy of becoming a permanent teacher when she was laid off from her job at Vintage Magnet Elementary in North Hills in July. Since then, the new mother has applied for every teaching position she hears of, only to find herself in competition with scores of others.

To make ends meet, the 32-year-old is seeking substitute teaching assignments in Los Angeles and Temple City schools but has only worked three days this school year. She and her husband are considering a move to Texas, which has more teaching openings and where other relatives moved after earning credentials in California.

"All I want is my classroom. This is what I wanted to do my whole life, and I keep getting pushed away," said Hottinger, who is among 2,143 Los Angeles Unified School District teachers, counselors and administrators who are no longer employed full-time. "Did I go into the wrong field? I definitely have second thoughts."

The state is facing a looming teacher shortage as baby boomers reach retirement age and fewer young people are expected to enter the field. Nearly 55,000 teachers could retire over the next seven years, according to WestEd, a San Francisco-based nonprofit research and education agency.

In addition, the layoffs are having a ripple effect on the next generation of teachers: Past economic downturns in California have produced fewer teachers. In the years after the dot-com bust, the number of students enrolled in teacher preparation programs declined 13% and the number of new teaching credentials dropped 17%, according to the Santa Cruz teachers center.

"We are confident that California once again will recover out of this economic slump, and it will be reflected in the hiring practices of schools and districts," Gaston said. "We want to make sure there is, one, an adequate pool of teachers from which principals can choose candidates that match the job openings, and, two, in that pool we have teachers who are training or prepared to take those challenging assignments in shortage areas."

Concerns about the next generation of teachers have prompted statewide and national recruitment efforts.

The Obama administration has requested $30 million for a national campaign that focuses on young adults and mid-career professionals and on such high-need areas as science and math. In addition to reaching out to potential teachers, the U.S. Department of Education hopes to improve training programs. President Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan plan to hold events in the fall highlighting the importance of teaching to the nation's future.

"It's a noble profession. In many other countries, children do aspire to be teachers, and they are regarded as some of the most important people in society," said John White, the education department spokesman. "That's what we need to do, so that we not only replace the teachers who are retiring but bring the most talented people to the field. . . . We need them to aspire to be the next generation of teachers."

The California Teacher Corps was formed earlier this year, with the goal of placing 100,000 new teachers into classrooms over the next decade. The organization focuses on recruiting professionals who are changing careers.

"There are people who had considered teaching who now are a little bit frightened off by it," said Catherine Kearney, president of the nonprofit. "One of things we can do is be proactive and talk more and plan more for what's in our future. The future is really here now."

Kate Robertson, 24, thought she was the future. Then she was laid off after her first year.

"After I finished the credential program, I started to hear that it's really hard to find a job. Why didn't anyone tell me this?" she said.

She was considering a combination of substitute teaching and working as a waitress to get by until she got a new job at Larchmont Charter in August. The school will find out later this month if it needs to cut more positions. "I don't think I would have chosen another route. I might have, had I known it would have been such a struggle."

Many teachers said they will weather this storm because they cannot imagine any other career.

Jennifer Galvin, 45, decided she wanted to be a teacher in second grade. Her father had just died, and her teacher helped her deal with her grief and uncertainty.

"She was just so warm and open. I was very, very, very shy," she said. "She would give me hugs, she was patient with me, she let me be myself and she let me know that I was safe."

Galvin taught in the Bay Area for 15 years, but moved to Folsom to be closer to her family. She made the four-hour commute to her old district for two years, but it was exhausting, so she found a job closer to home. As a new teacher with little seniority, she has been pink-slipped each of her three years in the Folsom-Cordova Unified School District. The first two times, she got a phone call asking her to return days before schools were to open.

So in August, as Galvin has done every summer for the last 18 years, she bought supplies -- folders, pencils, hand sanitizer, crayons -- for every child in her classroom.

The phone never rang, and the supplies are boxed in her garage.

"I thought I would be a teacher forever. I don't know what I'm going to do if I don't get called back soon," she said. "I don't wake up not thinking about it, and I don't go to bed not thinking about it."

STUDY CRITIQUES SCHOOLS OVER SUBJECTIVE GRADING: An education expert calls for greater consistency in evaluating students' work.
By Valerie Strauss from The Washington Post | republished in the LA Times Oct 4, 2009

September 16, 2009 --Washington -- If you have ever rolled your eyes when your child says a teacher's grade was unfair, you might want to think again. Your child might be right.

Douglas Reeves, an expert on grading systems, conducted an experiment with more than 10,000 educators that he says proves just how subjective grades can be.

Reeves asked teachers and administrators in the United States, Australia, Canada and South America to determine a final semester grade for a student who received the following grades for assignments, in this order:

C, C, MA (Missing Assignment), D, C, B, MA, MA, B, A.

The educators gave the student final semester grades from A to F, Reeves said.

Why? Because, he said, teachers use different criteria for grading.

Some average letter grades. Others consider effort (which in this case seemed to be picking up toward the end) and attendance.

"If you went to a Redskins game -- the thing society takes really, really seriously -- and one official says a goal was scored and another official says no goal and a third official scratches his head, there would be hell to pay," said Reeves, founder of the Leadership and Learning Center, a Colorado company that provides professional development services, research and solutions to educators and others.

"But for some reason, we let grades be all over the map."

The consequences, say Reeves and other experts on grading systems, are more than just a few unhappy students. Reeves said ineffective grading can lead to widespread student failure.

Grading regimes that work, he said, offer accurate, precise and timely feedback that is aimed at helping students improve -- not penalizing them -- and is only one type of response.

"You don't give grades to adjudicate a result. You give it to kids . . . to help them get better," he said.

Grades have long been a source of controversy in school systems across the country.

Most use a system in which 90% and above is an A, 80% is a B, and so on. Reeves supports wholesale change, such as the overhaul undertaken in the past few years in the Grand Island public schools in Nebraska.

These schools changed the grading system in part to make sure that students taking the same classes got the same scores.

Some of the changes:

* Setting learning targets and linking grades to the achievement of those targets.

* Giving grades based solely on achievement and separately reporting attendance, effort and participation.

* Grading only individual achievement, not group work.

* Giving scores only to certain assignments and choosing carefully which scores should be included in the final grade.

* Making sure students understand how their grades are being determined.

The first step toward change, Reeves said, is eliminating "dumb errors."

Giving kids no credit for not turning in work or flunking them in some other way defeats the purpose, he said. A better result would be to force them to do the work, before school, during recess or after school.

By Diana L. Chapman from CityWatch- An Insider's Look at City Hall

The Los Angeles school district last week placed San Pedro High School – my son’s campus -- on the list of 12 campuses that can now be taken over by outside operators for failure to improve.

Since Ryan goes there, I quickly assessed the real meaning, and as usual, it comes down to this: “It’s all politics ma’ dear.”

Putting that into perspective, I don’t believe for a second that San Pedro High School is one of the worst in the district. It’s not the best either and has definite issues, not all caused by the school. For example, it’s overcrowded (a problem the district created) and has more than ten percent of its students drop out (a problem society created.)

Some of the staff, however, have become entrenched and are not engaging their students. We are on the third principal in less than six years. An enthusiastic Jeanette Stevens – the new principal who accepted the post in August – had little idea that the school would be placed on the nicely-named: “focus list,” along with Gardena, Garfield, Maywood, Lincoln and Jefferson high schools.

The LAUSD school board, this fall, opened the door to allow non-profits to go after 12 underperforming schools – and 24 brand new schools – while competing against Los Angeles Unified’s own staff, a competition the board believes will prompt improvement amid its most ailing campuses.

Without using the words, the focus list seems like a hit list of campuses that failed its students with low test scores and more than 21 percent of its students unable to cope proficiently with English or math. That district’s action can possibly trigger a bidding process – so to speak -- for outside operators – charters and non-profits – to take a shot at running any of the schools on the list.

Stevens and her crews can also compete which is exactly what the principal plans to do – and win.

I have a theory about why this has happened to our school of 3,375 students. But first, let me start with Richard Wagoner, a caring, San Pedro High math teacher, who charges the district’s mathematical equation remains incorrect and that he was demoralized when his phone rang off the hook with friends “wanting to know how I could work at such a lousy school.”

He disputes, for instance, that while the API (Academic Performance Index) went down last year, the school has increased by 40 points the year prior and maintains overall one of the highest math scores in the district that can compete with other nearby district high schools, including Torrance.

“Yet in interviews you continue to give the impression that we are a failure,” Wagoner wrote LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines. “Whether this is by design, statements out of context, or accident, the facts are so easily obtained and so obviously opposed to this impression. Unfortunately, perception is reality, and you are hurting us by continuing to spread this perception.”

Here’s what I think in a nutshell and I know not everyone will agree: San Pedro was classified this way to force the staff to work closer with the new principal – as relations between the staff and top executive year’s past were: frozen, locked up, stale-mated, going nowhere, burned up, lambasted.

The former principal, on his way out, left a scathing letter behind that the staff refused change. That may be so, and now the ball is in the hands of our new principal, who should I say has her hands full.

Whatever plan offered by outside agencies, Stevens and her crew will have to beat out other proposals that come forward – if any.

Cortines and the school board have the final say on who will run the school.

Stevens, known for remarkable team-building skills, nurturing of students, and bringing her staff together, crusades that she already has an excellent staff in place and that they are teaching. The students are willing to learn and what the school needs to discover is a fresh approach in the “the art of teaching.”

“Clearly, we’ve got to make it better for the kids and keep their interest,” she explained adding that “we are going to win that contract or whatever it is.”

Many things piled on top of each other making it difficult to manage San Pedro High. For example, it has about 1,375 students more than it was built to handle. The leadership became a revolving door and then came the real slam: the school received about a D rating during the accreditation process.

But Teresa Feldman, whose child attends Hollywood High School, said she sees the most recent action as a way for the district to transfer the blame.

“I love how SP High School's administration is being put on notice to clean up their act, when the real problem stems from the District's policies that lead to serious overcrowding,” Feldman emailed.

“You can't cram all of these students onto campuses and expect anything but warehousing to take place. No adult would be able to function in the working world under these conditions, but the District assumes these children will not only function, but thrive. I hold out hope for the new principal in her endeavors, but overcrowding is a tough obstacle to overcome.”

She added that as soon as the district opened Bernstein High School near to Hollywood High – and 1,000 students transferred to the new school – Hollywood had the highest “jump in API scores in the district this year.”

I also had three emails – at least two anonymous -- suggesting San Pedro High dump the district and become a charter.

That did surprise me. Starting up a charter means a process. Teachers have to be re-interviewed to keep their jobs and the outside operator has to decide whether it wants to become an independent charter – one that operates under its own policies with its own school board – or a dependent charter.

A dependent charter keeps LAUSD as its school board and also continues the staff benefits.

When my husband heard the news about San Pedro, let’s say he wasn’t thrilled. I, on the other hand, have faith in the new principal and still believe this most recent action was done for one reason -- to give the district a way to break the ongoing stalemate.

Only time will tell us who gets to say checkmate.

●Diana L. Chapman was a journalist for 15 years with the Daily Breeze and the San Diego Union. She can be reached at or visit her blog

●●smf's 2¢: It must have something to do with Mayor Tony's hint-hint/nudge-nudge/say-no-more unconstitutional takeover of the School District, but CityWatch - An Insider's Look at City Hall never used to cover LAUSD …and now they do!

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The news that didn't fit from October 4th

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 • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6387
...or your city councilperson, mayor, the governor, member of congress, senator - or the president. Tell them what you really think! • 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.
• If you are eligible to become a citizen, BECOME ONE.
• If you a a citizen, REGISTER TO VOTE.
• If you are registered, VOTE LIKE THE FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT.

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

Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD. He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represents PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee and the BOC on the Board of Education Facilities Committee. He is an elected repreprentative on his neighborhood council. He is a Health Commissioner, Legislation Team member and a member of the Board of Managers of the California State PTA. He serves on numerous school district advisory and policy committees and has served a PTA officer and governance council member at three LAUSD schools. He is the recipient of the UTLA/AFT 2009 "WHO" Gold Award for his support of education and public schools - an honor he hopes to someday deserve. • In this forum his opinions are his own and your opinions and feedback are invited. Quoted and/or cited content copyright © the original author and/or publisher. All other material copyright © 4LAKids.
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