Sunday, February 06, 2011

Is there sorrow greater than this?

Onward! smf SchoolBoard!
4LAKids:Sunday 6•Feb•2011 Packers 31 Steelers 25
In This Issue:
REMEMBERING ONE OF MOUNT WASHINGTON'S FAVORITE SONS: The author remembers a young artist, gone too soon.
EIGHT SEEK PRESIDENCY OF UTLA: Candidates have much in common, but one appears to be strongly favored by outgoing boss A.J. Duffy
HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources
EVENTS: Coming up next week...
What can YOU do?

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Mount Washington is community that holds dear and cherishes our children; it is no different in this than any other place, anywhere else in the world. . But we are insular on our hill-not-a-mountain We are not elitist, we are egalitarian - and we are full of ourselves. We have artists and small "B" bohemians - not the kind from Czech Republic. We are multicultural and cosmopolitan and politically connected. We are quirky .Jack Smith wrote about us so well and we believed and we persist in our quirkiness still. Our elementary school is one of the best in the District - we like to think that we are the village it takes to raise a child.

Last week we lost one of them - one of those best-and brightest, a young man who could've written his own ticket. The brightest light in any room. Gone in the blink of eye.

Jack Rohman was 21 years old - read Proust at eleven, Ulysses twice. A friend said Jack always wanted to go to Iceland because the myths were so powerful and the language so hard to learn ...but he went to Sarah Lawrence instead.

We gathered as a community Friday and the rabbi stood in the sunlit sanctuary and asked: "Is there sorrow greater than this?"

And we were asked to mourn and weep and cherish our lives.

Onward/Adelante - smf

REMEMBERING ONE OF MOUNT WASHINGTON'S FAVORITE SONS: The author remembers a young artist, gone too soon.
Opinion By Kim Axelrod Ohanneson | from the Highland Park-Mt Washington Patch |

February 4, 2011 | Here are some things you should know about Jack Rohman:

He was tall and thin

His hair was messy.

If there was a pen nearby, he took it apart.

He was brilliant, always the smartest kid in the room.

He was quirky and creative, making drawings and paintings and sculptures as well as wonderfully idiosyncratic videos with his friends Zoe, Katie and Frankie.

He was fiercely independent. He broke his arm at college one summer and didn’t think to tell his family for weeks.

He loved Mount Washington passionately. He went to Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY, on a generous partial scholarship but always intended to come back to Los Angeles, and to Mount Washington specifically, where he planned to spend the rest of his life.

It was at Mount Washington Elementary that he recited the Gettysburg Address at talent shows in the first and second grade.

It was in Mount Washington that, starting in fifth grade, he and his friends Alec, Ben, Rob and Zack dug a hole that was so big it was visible, they proudly told everyone, on Google Earth.

It was in Mount Washington that he and his friends created an enormous tree house one summer, adding touches like potpourri in the faux “bathroom.”

It was in Mount Washington, in the summer of 2010, that Jack and an anonymous group of fellow artists created huge, 10-foot-tall paintings that they attached with wheat paste in the middle of the night to the concrete hill reinforcements along Mount Washington Drive. Most of the neighbors loved the colorful “guerrilla” art, which received a special mention in the L.A. Eastsider, but someone complained about the paintings, which mysteriously disappeared.

Here are two more things about Jack:

He suffered from schizophrenia.

On Monday, Jan. 31, he took his own life.

Jack had been having hallucinations since middle school but told no one. He endured the visions through high school--he was on the North Hollywood High School Academic Decathlon team--and through three years of college at Sarah Lawrence. Despite his condition, Jack continued to create. He contributed to and helped edit the Visual Art Review at Sarah Lawrence. His work appeared in Taffy Hips Magazine. His video Embrace the Moment was accepted to the Sarah Lawrence Film Festival. He secured an impressive internship with a prominent New York artist in the summer of 2010.

Jack’s condition worsened, and he was unable to complete the internship. He came home to Mount Washington and finally told his family what he was going through. Jack was determined to graduate from Sarah Lawrence and tried to go back to school in the fall of 2010, but his mental illness made it impossible.

Schizophrenia is a terrible and pernicious disease. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), medication can alleviate the hallucinations but often does not address the “negative aspects” of schizophrenia such as depression, lethargy and suicidal tendencies, all of which Jack continued to suffer from.

Cognitive ability is also significantly impaired as a result of the disease.

Jack was still determinedly independent but unable to accurately assess what he was and was not capable of doing.

Before the schizophrenic episodes became too severe, Jack had been teaching himself Russian so he could read Chekhov in the author’s native language. Now, he was unable to read for more than five minutes.

After the guerrilla paintings were torn down, Jack told his parents Keith and Connie that he wasn’t going to do art anymore. It was too hard.

According to Jack’s psychiatrist, one third of those suffering from schizophrenia do not get better. For those who do, it often takes years to find the optimum mix of meds for each individual and requires the kind of long-term view that is particularly hard for teenagers and young adults to hold on to.

On Monday, Jack took his life. He was 21 years old.

There is a view in some psychiatric circles that for those suffering from mental illness, suicide is sometimes a brave, desperate attempt while in a rare moment of clarity to preserve the core of who they are aside from the illness.

Jack told his family that he would never again be the person he once was.

Jack loved Mount Washington, the generous, easygoing community, his loyal and supportive friends. His spirit will remain here in the canyons he walked, the trees he climbed, the hole that he dug, and in the hearts of those who love him.

We mourn our beautiful boy who has come home to Mount Washington to stay.

●● smf: I accept my friend Kim's assertion that sometimes suicide comes from a moment of clarity in the minds of those with profound mental illness - maybe suicide is a natural outcome from true schizophrenia. But I worry that suicide is epidemic - the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 14 and 25 in the United States.

We left the temple Friday with a homework assignment in Jack's name:: Learn about schizophrenia. And talk about it.

NAMI - National Alliance on Mental Illness: What is schizophrenia?

By Catherine Gewertz | EdWeek |

February 2, 2011 | By concentrating too much on classroom-based academics with four-year college as a goal, the nation’s education system has failed vast numbers of students, who instead need solid preparation for careers requiring less than a bachelor’s degree, Harvard scholars say in a report issued todayRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Leaders of the “Pathways to Prosperity” project at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education argue for an education system that clearly articulates students’ career options as early as middle school and defines the coursework and training required, so young people can chart an informed course toward work, whether as an electrician or a college professor.

Their report arrives as experts are trying to define what skills are necessary for work and for higher learning.

The proposal from an esteemed school of education sparked immediate concern—including what one activist called “a major case of heartburn”—for raising the specter of tracking, in which disadvantaged students would be channeled unquestioningly into watered-down programs that curtail their prospects.

The Harvard study also drew notice because it was driven in part by the concerns of one of its co-authors, Robert B. Schwartz, a prominent champion of higher academic expectations for all students, who said he began to doubt the wisdom of a “college for all” approach to education. Another co-author, Ronald Ferguson, the director of Harvard’s Achievement Gap Initiative, is a national expert on improving learning opportunities for disadvantaged children.

The authors contend that their vision would expand opportunity for all students, especially those who face the dimmest prospects now because their education stops at high school. Rather than derailing some students from higher learning, their system would actually open more of those pathways, they say, by offering sound college preparation and rigorous career-focused, real-world learning, and by defining clear routes from secondary school into certificate or college programs.

“Every high school graduate should find viable ways of pursuing both a career and a meaningful postsecondary degree or credential,” the report says. “For too many of our youth, we have treated preparing for college versus preparing for a career as mutually exclusive options.”

Appearing at an event to discuss the report on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urged educators and policymakers to embrace a vision of career and technical education that prepares students simultaneously for college and good-paying jobs by imparting the blend of academic and workplace skills needed in both. He acknowledged that too many CTE programs have been “dumping grounds for students tracked with weaker academic skills,” but asserted that re-envisioned programs will be “viable and rigorous pathways” to college and career success.

Job Demands

The Harvard report echoes concerns captured in a stream of papers since the late 1980s that young people not bound for college face a daunting employment landscape. It draws on employment data that show more jobs demand some postsecondary training. Such figures have led President Barack Obama to urge all Americans to obtain at least one year of training or higher education after high school.

In 1973, seven in 10 jobs in the United States were held by those with only a high school education, but by 2007, that figure dropped to four in 10, the report says. Half the jobs created in the next decade will be well matched to those with associate’s degrees or vocational or technical training, including “middle skills” jobs such as construction manager or dental hygienist, it says. Many of those jobs pay more than jobs typically held by workers with only high school diplomas, and some even pay more than the average job held by a four-year college graduate, according to the study.

Six in 10 Americans don’t complete associate’s or bachelor’s degrees by their mid-20s, the report notes, and only one in 10 earns an occupational certificate. Those figures, combined with the job forecasts, suggest that education must be fundamentally reworked to ensure sound options for non-college-bound students, the authors say.

Drawing on European systems of vocational education, they argue for an American version of a “more holistic” education that would involve employers in defining the skills necessary for work and providing internships, apprenticeships, and other opportunities linked tightly to students’ courses of study. Pivotal to such a system would be career counseling embedded in schools from early in students’ education.

A focus on better preparing students for middle-skills jobs is long overdue, said Anthony P. Carnevale, one of the job-market experts whose research is cited in the study.

“If there is one thing in education that I would tell the president to do, this is it,” said Mr. Carnevale, the director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “Since 1983 and A Nation at Risk, we’ve been very single-minded about kids going to college. It’s good, but it’s too narrow.”

But creating varied pathways is fraught with political peril because of the risk that some students will be held to lower expectations, Mr. Carnevale said.

In apparent anticipation of such concerns, the authors say that in their system, students would “not be locked into one career at an early age.” But they also say in the report that “the coursetaking requirements for entry into the most demanding four-year colleges should not be imposed on students seeking careers with fewer academic requirements.”
Premature Shift?

Some education advocates reacted with alarm to the recommendations, especially given the virtual absence of career counseling in the K-12 or community college system to help level the playing field between disadvantaged students and more-fortunate ones.

“They’re arguing for different standards and separate tracks,” said Kati Haycock, the president of the Education Trust, a Washington-based group that focuses on policies to improve education for low-income students. “Every single time we create multiple tracks, we always send disproportionate numbers of poor kids and kids of color down the lesser one. Until we can find a way not to do that, then people like me will object.”

Mr. Schwartz of Harvard acknowledged that the report wades into “tricky terrain.” But he said that tracking is “when schools make decisions about what kids are capable of and what their futures are. It’s pervasive in our schools, and it’s a huge problem.

“But I wouldn’t confuse that form of tracking,” he said, “with trying to create a system in which by the time kids hit 16, they and their families have some real choices to make.”

Michael Cohen, who succeeded Mr. Schwartz as the president of Achieve, a Washington-based organization that works with states to raise their academic expectations, took issue with the report’s depiction of the college-readiness agenda as having failed. Only recently, he said, have states adopted course requirements that reflect the skills and knowledge needed for college and good jobs.

“To say we’ve tried this and it failed seems a bit premature, like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” he said.

In addition, he speculated, shorthand rhetoric might be confusing what people mean by “college for all.”

“No one is talking about preparing everyone for four-year colleges, or even two-year colleges,” said Mr. Cohen. “It’s a straw man. Everyone from the president on down is saying, ‘Some form of training after high school.’ ”

Some states and districts are moving toward highly rigorous versions of career and technical education. The report cites examples such as California’s Linked Learning initiative, which combines work-based learning with counseling supports, and Massachusetts’ network of regional vocational-technical schools.

Construction Technology Academy at Kearny High School in San Diego, one of the 50-plus campuses in California’s Linked Learning network, could illustrate some of what the report’s authors have in mind, said Gary Hoachlander, the president of ConnectEd, a Berkeley, Calif.-based nonprofit group that supports Linked Learning schools.

Students who choose the academy study architecture, engineering, and construction as well as the typical core curriculum, he said. Some go on to apprenticeship programs in the construction trades, some go to community colleges, and some enroll in universities, but all students take courses in the principles of engineering, computer-assisted design, carpentry, and electricity, Mr. Hoachlander said.

“There are no traditional separations between the students headed to one place and those headed to another,” he said. “They all study the same things. And those connections are what’s so powerful.”

Coverage of "deeper learning" that will prepare students with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in a rapidly changing world is supported in part by a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, at


EIGHT SEEK PRESIDENCY OF UTLA: Candidates have much in common, but one appears to be strongly favored by outgoing boss A.J. Duffy
By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times |

February 6, 2011 | The eight candidates vying to be president of the powerful Los Angeles teachers union share a general belief that public education is endangered by malevolent forces outside and corrupt incompetency inside.

From their perspective, corporations seek to bleed dollars from schools and collude with powerful nonprofits, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; a top-heavy, punitive school district bureaucracy stifles innovation while squandering or squirreling away millions; charter schools abuse teachers, drain public resources and take only the best students; and traditional schools need a lot more money.

The best weapon against these forces, the candidates assert, is the strongest possible, most combative union to serve as a last bastion against those who seek to do harm to students and teachers.

It's a traditional union outlook — especially in Los Angeles — but it's a harder sell outside United Teachers Los Angeles. Some critics contend that teacher unions are hindering educational progress. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a former UTLA organizer, has called the union "one unwavering roadblock to reform."

Labor relations expert Charles Kerchner said the union's habitual rhetoric undermines some legitimate substance. Teacher unions do face grave threats, including efforts to end collective bargaining rights, and union leaders have contributions to make on school reform, said Kerchner, a professor at Claremont Graduate University.

The mail-in balloting for union officers, which ends Feb. 17, coincides with multiple, serious challenges for the Los Angeles Unified School District and the union. A financial crisis could lead to more layoffs and pay cuts. Community leaders and public officials are demanding more and faster reforms. The district leadership is in flux, with a new superintendent taking charge in April. And the mayor and union are battling for control of the school board in the March elections, when four seats on the seven-member Board of Education are on the ballot.

Ongoing contract talks include a controversial district proposal to revamp teacher evaluations. The proposed evaluation would use a "value-added" measure to link teachers to their students' year-to-year growth on standardized tests.

Julie Washington, a UTLA vice president and a heavy favorite to win the union presidency, strongly decries unions across the country that have agreed to measure teachers, in part, by student progress on standardized tests.

"All of these unions have caved in," Washington said at a recent candidates forum at Taft High School in Woodland Hills. "We are the last-standing major union in this country that does not have the value-added model shoved down their throat.... UTLA has stood strong."

Among teachers, there's evidence of discontent with local union orthodoxy as well as a long history of widespread apathy to union participation. About one in five members voted in the last election for union president. Members of a recently formed splinter group, NewTLA, call for more openness to new ideas and more collaboration with other interest groups.

Still, the forum at Taft, in which seven candidates took part, suggests that there will be no sharp turn of philosophy at the top.

The real problem, said candidates, is that allegiance to traditional union approaches has lapsed. Except for Washington, who is part of the union leadership, candidates insisted that UTLA has become too weak, too compliant, too ineffectual, too willing to compromise under president A.J. Duffy, who is finishing his second and final three-year term.

"There is no more giving anything away," Matthew Ross, a teacher who works with underachieving students in several schools, said at the forum. "We're going to take every inch back.... I am going to fight like a tiger."

Said substitute teacher Linda Everhart: "The word is strike. Yes, strike. Have you been waiting to hear that powerful word?"

The candidates uniformly castigated the spread of charter schools and the district's policy of allowing them to bid for control of low-performing schools and new campuses. Charters are publicly funded, independently run campuses that are mostly nonunion and free of many district regulations.

"The district is being torn into shreds, cut into pieces, being sold off," said Warren Fletcher, a teacher at the City of Angels alternative school. He called for unionizing charter schools, as did other candidates.

Mat Taylor, the lead union representative for much of South Los Angeles, wants to rally against outside interests: "We need to make it clear we don't subscribe to the Bill Gates agenda on education and make it clear we're not for a superintendent who does."

He was referring to incoming L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy, who previously worked for the Gates Foundation, heading a research effort to improve teacher evaluations.

Despite similar world views, some internal divisions have percolated into the election.

Two substitute teachers joined the field in part over anger at Duffy for limiting their seniority protections. One of them, Leonard Segal, strayed somewhat from union dogma by asserting that the best minds, inside and outside the union, should come together to address problems.

Art teacher David Garcia called for internal accountability and belt-tightening, including a reduction in dues for non-tenured teachers — who lack full union protection — and a reduction in salaries for union officers. Duffy makes $99,385 per year.

Duffy hasn't endorsed a successor but has let Washington preside at recent press conferences and rallies, raising her profile inside and outside the union. Duffy also has barred the media from attending candidate forums — a ban not always enforced — and has refused to supply contact information for candidates to reporters, leaving only Washington easily accessible.

Internally, the process is more evenhanded, with the union paying for a one-time distribution of fliers, if candidates provide them, and publishing candidate statements online and in the union newspaper. Candidate videos also are online, including one from Franklin High instructional coach Ronald B. Conover, who did not attend three official forums.

Marshall High teacher Teri Klass, who is not a candidate, said she formerly paid little attention to union politics, trusting her representatives as she focused on teaching. She experienced an eye-opener last year, she said, when the union's House of Representatives resisted for months allowing teachers to compete with charter schools for control of struggling and new campuses. She said many of the activists who dominate the House are ideologically unyielding and out of touch.

Just as crucially, she said, the public is beginning to see the teachers union in a similar light. Klass, a member of NewTLA, recently won election to the House.

The candidates for president haven't given up on the old UTLA. They say that too much is at stake, for teachers and for students.

"We're going to have to redefine us in the media," said Washington, reflecting the views of other candidates. "Right now we're the big, greedy teachers.... We are not the villains in education; we are the saviors."

by Carol J. Williams l LA Times/LA Now |

February 5, 2011 | In tight contests for bragging rights in the 2011 Academic Decathlon's crowning event, the Super Quiz, Granada Hills Charter High School and Marshall High School tied for first place Saturday night with 57 points each in the Los Angeles Unified School District competition.

Two teams finished at the top in the Los Angeles County Office of Education event as well, with Alhambra and Burbank tied at 49 points.

The 30-question Super Quiz, held before cheering crowds of family and classmates, is usually a good indicator of which school will prevail in the 10-test regional round of the competition. But this year the winner won't be known until all events are scored and announced at awards ceremonies on Thursday for L.A. County schools and Friday for L.A. Unified.

The county schools' Super Quiz was particularly close, with just one point separating three more schools--Arcadia, El Rancho and West High of Torrance--from the lead.

For L.A. Unified, San Fernando finished second with 49 points, and Canoga Park and Franklin tied for third with 48 in the quiz. The maximum score is 60.

Geology was this year's Super Quiz subject for the nine-member teams in three grade-point groupings.

The winners from each of the two districts will advance to the state competition in Sacramento. The national final, which L.A. Unified schools have won 11 times since 1987, takes place in Charlotte, N.C., in April.

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest of the Stories from Other Sources

S-C-O-T-T - F-O-L-S-O-M - Spelling Counts!




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FACTOID ON REALITY: : A Google news search with LAUSD + JAMIE OLIVER produces 503 hits

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
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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! • Find your state legislator based on your home address. Just go to: • There are 26 mayors and five county supervisors representing jurisdictions within LAUSD, the mayor of LA can be reached at • 213.978.0600
• Call or e-mail Governor 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.
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• 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 and is Parent/Volunteer of the Year for 2010-11 for Los Angeles County. • He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and represents PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. 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 as 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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