Sunday, May 11, 2014

You take it, friend

Onward! 4LAKids4LAKids: Sunday•11•May•2014 Mothers' Day
In This Issue:
 • “Achievement gaps among ethnic groups have not narrowed.” NATIONAL REPORT CARD FOR HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS SHOWS STAGNATION IN MATH+READING + smf’s 2¢
 • L.A. UNIFIED OVERTURNS CHANGES AT CARTHAY CENTER ELEMENTARY: Rather than the principal removing half the staff; she is removed
 • HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources
 • EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 • What can YOU do?

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Raymond Chandler would not like L.A. Live.

This past week the California State PTA held their 115th annual convention at the L.A. Convention Center – a sad white elephant boondoggle that hemorrhages tax dollars and disproves the Field of Dreams tagline that if you build it they will come. 

Maybe if we build a sports arena …then they will come?

Except that the ‘we’ who built the convention center are not the ‘they’ who built Staples. And we gave them tax incentives which do nothing to relieve the Convention Center debt. ‘They’ need more hotel space – ‘we’ give them more tax incentives, they build the most expensive hotel space in L.A. …and we wonder why the sad+dated convention center doesn’t draw more conventions? AEG, the ‘they’ of the above have built L.A. Live with our tax subsidy – a “destination theme park”. The expensive hotel has built its own convention center that draws the smaller and far more lucrative corporate conventions. The old L.A. Convention Center is next door and as disconnected as any L.A. next door neighbor.

Some will say it proves that the private sector can always do better than the public sector. This is particular true of the private sector can leverage the public sector with some subsidies and special legislation and tax relief …and if they can keep the profit.

…but if AEG can just tear down some of the convention center and build a football stadium…

It’s a familiar L.A. story. Los Angeles has always been about developers exploiting the public trust. Phineas Banning and the Southern Pacific and Henry Huntington and Harry Chandler+William Mulholland and Ed Doheny – we name boulevards after them. Novels aren’t true but they ring true; Raymond Chandler didn’t have to stretch to far to create General Sternwood and Eddie Mars, his unseen+untouchable hands on the levers of power. Search+Replace-in Philip Anschlus and Eli Broad and Ron Burkle and Rick Caruso – the stories still ring true.

Chandler’s written tough-love affair with Los Angeles was rooted in a reality when+where reality was far more real. His City of Angels was made up of shadowy places where second-chancers did chancy things in the gloom between the streetlights; where petty crooks grew up to be medium-sized crooks or died failing. Where “meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks”.

“On the wide cool front porches, reaching their cracked shoes into the sun, and staring at nothing, sit the old men with faces like lost battles.

“Out of the apartment houses come women who should be young but have faces like stale beer; men with pulled-down hats and quick eyes that look the street over behind the cupped hand that shields the match flame; worn intellectuals with cigarette coughs and no money in the bank; fly cops with granite faces and unwavering eyes; cokies and coke peddlers; people who look like nothing in particular and know it, and once in a while even men that actually go to work. But they come out early, when the wide cracked sidewalks are empty and still have dew on them."

Chandler’s L.A. is lived-in, the streets mean, the sidewalks cracked – even when it’s uncomfortable it’s familiar. You know that the good will be led into temptation and that some of them will be delivered into evil.

Chandler’s L.A. women are rounded and have curves. In L.A. Live the women are angular and have bone structure in knockoff Armani black. The men are much the same: spectator sportsmen wearing wannabe team jerseys in a theme park where the even the Starbucks and burger joints are sports bars. The soundtrack is the electronic pulse of the drum machine and subwoofer bass; sequenced+programmed – untouched by human creativity. There are no shadows because the LCD’s and neon light every square inch in all the colors of the Pantone rainbow. It’s like Disney’s made over Hollywood or Las Vegas but left out the sin and gambling. Chandler didn’t like Hollywood; he thought it had all the personality of a paper cup. His Vegas was where Reno divorcées went to get married again. What L.A. Live needs a good peep show or a crooked cop; I can’t even imagine that Chandler would make of the bicycle patrolmen in their spandex shorts and bike helmets.

In my stay in L.A. Live for the PTA Convention I breakfasted at The Pantry, a block and a half-century-plus away in Chandler’s Los Angeles; too-much food fried on grill for a fair price. The spoons aren’t greasy but the napkins are paper and the coffee is only 50¢. One evening I ate dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s in L.A. Live and tried to channel Chandler by ordering meatloaf. It was good – but the presentation was architectural, the mashed potatoes a “potato puree” and the gravy a port wine reduction. Through the windows the lights pulsed to the beat with wattage to make the Vegas strip jealous, the pretty people posed and took selfies and inside Staples the Clippers lost.

“You take it, friend. I'll take the big sordid dirty crooked city.” – Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye

THE PTA STARTED OUT AT A CONVENTION IN 1897 AS THE CONGRESS OF MOTHERS, so motherhood and conventions loom large in our legend. The California State PTA Convention is the biggest PTA confab every year, larger even than the national convention. This one featured both the national and state Teachers of the Year, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, and State Superintendent Tom Torlakson – who appeared once as a speaker and once in a candidates’ forum with his electoral opponents …and a number of policy discussions with policy makers, politicians and pundits over the state of public education in California. There were a large numbers of workshops training+informing parents on all manner of issues from running a PTA to legislative policy to the nuances of the Local Control Funding Formula and student nutrition and Arts+Music Ed and student mental health.

I am still unpacking my actual and metaphorical bag, but here are my first thoughts:

• Despite the wonderfulness of Prop 30 and the LCFF California has fallen lower in per-pupil school funding, all the way to 50th.
• Prop 30 was NOT a temporary tax increase to increase funding for education, it was just sold that way. It was a general tax increase that benefited all state programs – Public Education got only its guaranteed minimum share of the funding and not one cent more.
• The Local Control Funding Formula’s guarantee was to bring Education funding back to 2007-8 levels (before the recession) in the next seven years. If you liked 2007 you’re going to like 2021; if that minimum level of Ed funding was your cup of tea wait patiently for the cup to be refilled again. I hope you like that tea cold.
• Adequacy ain’t. If we want more – like Universal Transitional Kindergarten or Class Size Reduction or Salary Increases or a move up that per-pupil-funding scale – if we don’t want to wait until this year’s kindergarteners get to middle school - we are going to need more funding!
• (In 2007 20:1 Class Size Reduction in K-3 was in place, that program is no longer funded so don’t expect it back in 2021!)
• And the way the Local Control Funding Formula and Local Control Accountability Plan is being approached in LAUSD is far far removed from both the governor+legislature’s intent …and the way it’s being done in most other school districts. The role of the local parent committees, both at school sites and the District Parent Advisory Committee is to inform the policy makers and budgeteers …not be informed BY them. The ‘Advice’ in ‘Advisory Committee’ should flow from the committees out, not in. The 3000 parents and community members I heard from – representing nearly a million card carrying California PTA members - was that we want clean and safe and healthy schools, more arts and music education, smaller class size, – we want books and librarians in libraries; we want nurses offices with nurses in them, we want counselors and PE teachers - and we want those things for all kids, including foster children and English language learners and the economically deprived.

The test scores and the data prove School Reform isn’t working. Transforming Schools and Charter Schools and the Parent Trigger aren’t working. Calling it a magnet school (which were working) and firing half the teachers isn’t working. Drill+kill testing isn’t working. Cutting programs and bashing teachers isn’t working. The alphabet soup NCLB and RttT and the other 7,295 acronyms and abbreviations related to Education aren’t working. Throwing open the window and shouting “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” isn’t working.

Seeing as how the window is open anyway maybe throwing the elected rascals out is the only option.

And Happy Mother’s Day.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf


May 8th, 2014, 5:00am :: L..A. Unified parents were elected by their peers to make recommendations on Superintendent John Deasy's spending plans, but found important details missing.

The first in a series of stories on how Southern California schools are being affected by new state laws giving parents and others more say in classroom spending.

In a Sammy Lee Elementary's auditorium in Koreatown, 50 parents are combing through the Los Angeles Unified School District's proposed budget for next year, a 33-page draft of a document called the Local Control Accountability Plan.

Inside, bullet points a swath of complex policy outlining the district's goals, how its spending plans will meet those goals, and how success will be measured.

"I haven't seen this kind of language since I left law school," said Brent Anderson the parent of a 4th grader at Van Deene Elementary school.

This is L.A. Unified's attempt to meet new state requirements that school districts meaningfully engage parents in the budgeting process. Every district in the state is trying to do the same thing right now, with a looming July 1st deadline to submit spending plans to Sacramento.

But as the largest district in California - and the second-largest in the country - the task is particularly tricky at L.A. Unified.

"It's not an impossible task. However, we are never going to convince 600,000 people, said Alvaro Alvarenga, an administrator for parent engagement at L.A. Unified. "But we can get a sampling."


In the end, 100 parents were either appointed to serve or elected at school sites and then regionally. They are grouped in two committees: one representing parents of all of the district's 650,000 students and another for only English language learners.

“It was a little hectic for two or three weeks," Alvarenga said.

Once selected, parents were offered a crash course on Superintendent John Deasy's spending and accountability plans.

Under the new spending formula, L.A. Unified calculates it's receiving $837 million next year to target high needs students — an increase of $332 million over the current year.

It's supposed to use the money to help foster students, English learners and students from low-income families. At L.A. Unified, that's well over 80 percent of the school population.

The meeting at Sammy Lee Elementary on May 1st was one of the last of a series of gatherings for the parent groups. They were tasked with going over the district's spending plan - and making their own recommendations.


But even the most sophisticated parents struggled to get a clear picture of where money was going.

"I can’t comment meaningfully on this category without understanding what $59.3 million means compared to last year," Rachel Green told her group as they dug into a section of the outlining services for high need students.

The group's facilitator couldn't help, leaving Green to scramble through her binder of materials, including a several-page budget analysis she had prepared on her own before the meeting,

"We are supposed to be consulted, and consultation means that we are providing meaningful information," Green said. "That’s really difficult to do when we are provided information that is completely non-contextual.”

As participants sped through Deasy's plan, L.A. Unified facilitators summarized parents' thoughts - usually questions - into recommendations.

District staff will pare those down to the most popular ideas, which Deasy will respond to in writing next week, when the school board takes up Deasy's proposed budget in public comment.

Neither Deasy or the board - which approves the budget - are under any legal obligation to follow parents' recommendations.

Still, parents took their task seriously.

[●●smf: The law created the advisory panels in every school district and at every charter school in the state. And the board is legally obligated to consider the panels’ recommendations. There are elections coming up in a year with a majority of the board on the ballot. They ignore their constituents at their peril.]


"Can someone explain this to me?" asked Evelyn Aleman, a parent at Lawrence Middle School in Chatsworth. "These are the goals here - and they are all student oriented - what does custodial have to do with this?”

The facilitators couldn't tell her why some of the targeted funds were slated for maintenance.

Aleman's recommendation: maintenance and custodial costs should be covered by the much larger general funding stream. The district's entire budget is over $6 billion.

Connie Boukids had another question: "What criteria is being used to define the campuses of highest need?”

Her eighth grader attends the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies near Culver City. At about 50 percent low-income, the school's population qualifies as low-income for federal poverty programs, but is still more affluent than over 80 percent of schools in L.A. Unified.

The facilitator pressed her to rephrase her question into a statement. Boukids replied that she's worried the money isn't being divided up equally, that some high needs students are getting a lot more money than others, depending on which school they attend.

Under Deasy's plan, 37 schools are getting more counselors, instructional specialists and training for teachers and principals. The investment settles a lawsuit the district has fought for nearly five years.

“That’s thousands of students that are being used to qualify for the money, but aren’t getting the benefit of it," said Boukids.

Boukids thinks the extra state money should "follow the child" to the school site, which would redistribute cash from central programs to bolster budgets of schools like hers.

Green isn't happy with spending on centrally-run English language learner services either.

Deasy's proposal calls for that category to stay the same as last year. Why, then is so much more money being spent on foster youth, she wonders.


“Let me get this right, EL is only getting three times the money for 10 times the students?" Green asked.

District officials told KPCC principals have some leeway with spending and could chose to invest more of their money on English learner services.

Even after several meetings with district staff, most parents on the English learners committee weren't aware Deasy isn't planning on growing their programs next year. Less than half of the committee even turned up to its meeting to issue recommendations April 29. The district has scheduled a make-up session for Thursday.

Diana Guillen sits on both parent committees and said district officials told her at one committee session there would be more money for her Spanish-speaking kids.

She's left wondering whether the parent engagement effort is just a dog and pony show.

"There’s something wrong with the system," Guillen said in Spanish. "The parents know but they don’t listen to us. We’ve gone to the board, to Sacramento and nothing has changed."

“Achievement gaps among ethnic groups have not narrowed.” NATIONAL REPORT CARD FOR HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS SHOWS STAGNATION IN MATH+READING + smf’s 2¢


May 7, 2014 :: American high school seniors showed no improvement in their math and reading abilities in four years, according to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often known as the nation’s "report card."

Adding to the discouraging news, achievement gaps between demographic groups have not lessened. And while the 12th-grade math scores are at least slightly higher than they were in 2005 (the earliest scores available for math, due to changes in the test), the reading scores are actually lower than they were in 1992, when the reading score trend line begins.

The news is not all that surprising: While scores have been (mostly) inching up for younger students over the past few decades, gains for high-schoolers – and even for eighth-graders – have been much more elusive.

“Despite the highest high school graduation rate in our history, and despite growth in student achievement over time in elementary school and middle school, student achievement at the high school level has been flat in recent years. Just as troubling, achievement gaps among ethnic groups have not narrowed,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a statement, responding to the NAEP scores.

“We must reject educational stagnation in our high schools, and as nation, we must do better for all students, especially for African-American and Latino students,” he said.

In 2013, 26 percent of America’s 12th-graders scored at or above “proficient” in the math assessment, meaning they can do things like determine the measure of an angle in a three-dimensional figure and evaluate an expression with a fractional exponent. This was a slight improvement from the 24 percent who scored at or above proficient in 2005, but no different from the scores in 2009. Just 3 percent scored at the advanced level.

While most subgroups improved their scores from 2005, there was no change in the achievement gaps between white and black students, white and Hispanic students, or male and female students.

Not surprisingly, NAEP found that students’ performance on the exam was heavily correlated with other factors, such as their parents’ education level and, most notably, the highest-level math course they had taken.

Half of those students who scored in the top quartile had taken calculus, and another 34 percent had taken pre-calculus. Just 3 percent of students scoring in the bottom quartile had taken calculus, and for 58 percent of them, Algebra II or trigonometry was the highest math course they had taken.

While this doesn’t mean that high school seniors should automatically be placed into calculus, it does suggest schools should think about how, starting at a young age, they can provide students with access and opportunity to get into more challenging courses, Dale Nowlin, a 12th-grade math teacher and member of the National Assessment Governing Board, said in a statement.

Mr. Nowlin outlined how his school was able to move from having fewer than 10 percent of its seniors in calculus to having 31 percent take calculus – with impressive scores on the Advanced Placement exams – after a concerted effort that involved introducing 7th-grade algebra and opportunities to take Algebra II and geometry in the same year.

“We need to continue to encourage students to take higher level mathematics classes, and provide access to those classes,” Nowlin said.

In many ways, the 2013 reading scores for 12th-graders were even more discouraging. While the average score of 288 was unchanged from 2009 – and two points higher than in 2005, which represented a nadir for the reading score – it was lower than the average of 292 back in 1992.

A full 25 percent of 12th-graders in 2013 scored below basic, compared with 20 percent in 1992, and just 37 percent scored at or above proficient, compared with 40 percent in 1992. Those scoring at the proficient level could answer questions requiring them to recognize the paraphrase of an idea from a historical speech and the interpretation of a paragraph in such a speech.

Moreover, the achievement gap between white and black students actually widened by five points between 1992 and 2013, to a 30-point gap.

The score for English language learners (ELL) has also fallen significantly since 2005 (they weren’t separated as a group in 1992).

“A very worrisome trend is providing students with a steady dose of low-level texts and not nearly enough reading and talking about texts,” particularly for African-American and special education students, said Susan Pimentel, an education consultant and vice chair of the National Assessment Governing Board, in a statement on the results.

She also expressed concern about low-level “mush” for ELL students to read, and making ELL students learn English before they can attend other classes.

Scoring well on NAEP was strongly correlated with students who reported that reading is “enjoyable,” said they “learn a lot” when they read, and said they regularly discuss what they read in class.

“While the picture presented in this report is troubling, a path forward is in sight,” said Ms. Pimentel, emphasizing the need for teachers to regularly ask students to write and talk about what they read and to cite evidence.

One change that probably has influenced the 12th-grade scores somewhat is the demographic changes of America’s seniors since testing began in 1992, as well as an upward trend in graduation numbers.

The percentage of students who are Hispanic has risen from 7 to 20 percent in that time, and the percentage of students with a disability has doubled, from 5 to 11 percent, while the portion of students who are white has dropped from 74 percent to 58 percent.

At the same time, the average freshman graduation rate has risen from 74 percent to 81 percent, meaning more students who might have dropped out in the past are now included in the sample that are tested.

These figures provide the best representation of the senior class population, says John Easton, director of the Institute of Education Sciences and acting commissioner for the National Center for Education Statistics, and should still be compared against one another.

“We don’t explain away test scores based on demographics,” he says. “But it is also useful to keep in mind that we are seeing increases in some subgroups that have traditionally performed lower than some other subgroups. It increases the challenge on us to reach out to these student groups.”

NAEP is most known for its regular assessments of 4th- and 8th-graders, which have provided a regular benchmark of achievement. Its testing of 12th-graders is somewhat different in that it is voluntary, as is participation by individual states for state assessments. Participation by 12th-graders has climbed in recent years, though, and for the 2013 assessment, 75 percent of all students selected for NAEP took the exam.

Just 11 states opted to participate in NAEP’s state pilot program that began in 2009, with two more states – Michigan and Tennessee – joining the program in 2013. Of the original 11 states, two – Connecticut and Arkansas – showed statistically significant improvement in both their reading and math scores from 2009. West Virginia and Idaho also improved in math.

●●smf’s 2¢ - MSNBC Reports: “The NAEP report card, administered by the federal government every four years to high school students and every two years to 4th and 8th graders, is a key barometer the government uses to gauge student academic achievement.” |

What this means is that this is the first test that shows results of the Duncan’s ”Race to the Top” program, with the previous test in 2009 being a benchmark for the Obama administration. This is not incremental progress, this is standing still while failing a new year of students every year for four years.

Excuse me for grading on a tough curve, but School ®eform has failed, No Child Left Behind has failed. Race to the Top has failed. Waiting for Superman has failed. Duncan has failed. To continue down this sad course is to keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. And you don’t have to be Einstein to know that that is insanity, defined.

L.A. UNIFIED OVERTURNS CHANGES AT CARTHAY CENTER ELEMENTARY: Rather than the principal removing half the staff; she is removed

May 7, 2014 11:42AM :: LAUSD overturned a principal's decision to replace half of the teachers at Carthay Center Elementary

Any teacher who applied to stay at the Carthay Elementary when it converts to a magnet school can do so.

The Los Angeles Unified School District on Wednesday overturned a principal’s decision to replace half of the teachers at Carthay Center Elementary when it converts to a magnet school next year, allowing any teacher who applied to stay at the campus to do so.

The decision is a victory for a group of vocal parents at the school, who have rallied against the decision and demanded the district reinstate the teachers and remove the school’s first-year principal.

On Tuesday, the district announced Principal Crystal Campbell-Shirley would not return to the school. L.A. Unified soon will begin the interview process for a new principal, officials said.

The school system last year decided to convert the campus into an environmental magnet school — a move that required teachers to reapply for their jobs.

Last week, seven of the school’s 14 teachers were informed by Campbell-Shirley that they were not selected to return.

The decision sparked protests from a group of parents that had clashed with the principal throughout the school year.

The relationship between parents and Campbell-Shirley, which had been rocky since she took over as principal at the beginning of the school year, deteriorated further after parents alerted district officials to what they saw as a lack of collaboration during planning for the conversion into a magnet school.



May 7, 2014 | 8:50PM :: Los Angeles Unified has paid about $30 million to 63 students and their families to settle civil lawsuits

The case involving teacher Mark Berndt was the largest misconduct episode in L.A. Unified history

The Los Angeles school district has quietly shut down a high-profile special investigative panel intended to review the Miramonte Elementary child-abuse case, citing its cost.

The school system had pledged to form the commission in 2012 as a measure of its commitment to protect students after the arrest of veteran elementary teacher Mark Berndt, who was charged with lewd conduct.

I don't care about the lawsuits. I care about the kids.- Connie Rice, civil rights attorney

Civil rights attorney Connie Rice, who was asked to lead the commission, said she believes that L.A. Unified feared increasing its liability if the panel found fault with the school system. The district has paid about $30 million to 63 students and their families to settle civil lawsuits, along with millions more in legal fees and other costs. Other litigation is proceeding to trial.

"Their legal counsel didn't want me or the commission anywhere near this," Rice said. "But I don't care about the lawsuits. I care about the kids."

Supt. John Deasy had announced a series of efforts two years ago aimed at rebuilding the confidence of parents and others. These included the investigative commission to be headed by Rice and retired state Supreme Court Justice Carlos R. Moreno. Deasy also ordered the entire Miramonte staff to be replaced and directed administrators to scour old records to turn up potential problem employees. Deasy also formed an internal investigative team and strengthened record keeping.

As recently as November 2013, the district touted the commission. But the panel had been shelved a year earlier, as indicated in an email obtained by The Times.

"As you will recall, in a July 24 e-mail, I confirmed the Superintendent's commitment to fund the work of the commission," said Greg McNair, a senior L.A. Unified attorney, in the Nov. 5, 2012, message. "Since then, however, the financial outlook for the District weakened. The Superintendent now finds himself in the unfortunate position of being unable to finance the commission's work unless either Proposition 30 or Proposition 38 passes."

Explosive New Allegations in Miramonte School Molestation Case

<< Previously undisclosed accusations against former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt reveal a more widespread pattern of alleged abuse, with more than 100 possible victims, including some children who said Berndt molested them

Prop. 30 passed — raising new tax revenue for schools across the state. But there was no additional communication with Rice.

McNair said Tuesday that the superintendent has made efforts behind the scenes to seek outside funding, but without success. He did not provide evidence of this outreach; nor was there any public acknowledgment.

"We haven't yet found anyone who is willing to fund the commission and it would be awkward to mention the names of the people who said no," McNair said.

The district has undergone one outside review from state auditors that resulted in changes in the way the system handles allegations of misconduct, he said. In addition, the district has provided counseling and other services to Miramonte families at its own expense, he said.

McNair added that he has apologized to Rice for "poor communication."

"We're not concerned about the liability impact," McNair said. "We're interested in the truth, in hearing all of it."

Lawyers representing Miramonte families in civil cases challenged this account.

"Mr. Deasy made a solemn promise to Miramonte parents to get to the bottom of what went wrong with the appointment of this commission," said attorney John Manly.

District officials "were afraid that the final report would lay the blame where it belongs" — with L.A. Unified, said attorney Luis Carrillo.

In the civil cases, the district is liable for harm caused to students if it knew or should have known about possible problems with Berndt.

Rice, who first disclosed the fate of the commission in a report on KPCC-FM (89.3), said she had assembled an "A-team," both for fact-finding and to develop the best protective measures. The group included prosecutors, former FBI agents, experts on pedophiles and former L.A. police Chief Bill Bratton, who currently heads the New York City police force.

The panel would have required financial resources, but would have been worth it, said Rice, who served without compensation.

"This district is not the picture of competence. They really do need an outside evaluation and they really need experts," she said.

The Berndt case was the largest misconduct episode in L.A. Unified history. The teacher pleaded no contest in November 2013 to 23 counts of lewd conduct and received a sentence of 25 years.

Investigators accused Berndt of spoon-feeding his semen to blind-folded students as part of what he is said to have called a tasting game, among other allegations. The evidence included photos of students apparently engaged in those acts.

A two-year Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department investigation, summarized in a court ruling last week, indicated that there could have been more than 100 victims and that the abuse was more extensive, including claims that Berndt touched students' genitalia and exposed himself

HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS & THE NEWS THAT DOESN'T FIT: The Rest (but not necessarily the best) of the Stories from Other Sources



Published on Wednesday, 07 May 2014 12:00 :: The special election for LAUSD School Board District 1 to fill the vacancy left by the death of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte is less than a month away. However, the battle lines for choosing her successor were clear within days of her death: They are, Big money versus what’s best for District 1’s students, parents and residents.

Reflective of the difference between opposing sides is the amount of money already raised by Alex Johnson, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ candidate, and George Mc Kenna a grassroots candidate. Johnson raised $113,000 in the first reporting period, many contributing $1100, the maximum allowed- and he will get a lot more from political action committees (PAC) and IEs (Independent Expenditures) that have no limit on the amount they contribute to a campaign. This was predictable given the Supervisor’s ties to big money in Los Angeles and beyond. McKenna raised half that amount.

Shortly after Ms. LaMotte died, the Supervisor began lobbying school board members and other elected officials, urging them to oppose an appointment and support a special election to fill La Motte’s seat. He did this knowing full well a special election would leave District 1 without representation for possibly up to nine months; it would have no vote in the upcoming months on crucial issues, including the $7 billion construction bond, the billion dollar iPad deal, Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and Common Core Curriculum. The board’s decisions on these issues could effect the way LAUSD is administered and funded.

The school board’s decision not to appoint someone was reprehensible because it automatically left District 1 without a voice at the board table. (Dr. Sylvia Rousseau is the board-appointed liaison for District 1. The position is no substitute for a board member, but Dr. Rousseau called together a broad cross-section of the community, including parents, educators and clergy that crafted recommendations to the board on key issues for District 1, including funding, curriculum and language acquisition.

Ridley Thomas’ strategy to prevent an appointment was clear. He proclaimed,” An appointment violated the people’s constitutional right to vote.” At first glance, that seemed plausible, but actually, it was disingenuous because he knew a special election, in this case, would leave District 1 without the Constitution’s fundamental right to representation. Apparently, getting his top education staff person elected was more important than the community’s right to representation. Could it be the Supervisor didn’t want to risk the likelihood of someone other than Alex Johnson being appointed, thus diminishing, if not killing Johnson’s chances of winning the seat in the next regular election in 2015? Unfortunately, many individuals and groups, including elected officials, bought the Supervisor’s contrived argument that an appointment would deprive them of their right to vote. Arguably, coupled with Ridley Thomas’s undue influence on a divided six-member school board that helped prevent an appointment. So, his man became a candidate in the District 1 special election. June 3rd, and the community’s right to representation be damned.

Dr. George McKenna’s superior qualifications for the District 1 seat have never been challenged, even by Ridley-Thomas, whose sole stated reason for choosing Alex Johnson is ‘youth.” Since Mr. Johnson’s supporters mirror the Supervisor’s chant, the question for them and the Supervisor is: Is youth always the best choice….even if the person is not qualified? Can anyone seriously argue that the board of education of the nation’s second largest school district is the place for on-the-job training?

Some years ago, as executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Ridley Thomas met periodically with then superintendent of the Inglewood School District, Dr. George McKenna and myself- a school board member in Inglewood at the time- to discuss ways to improve educational outcomes for all students, Black students in particular. Back then, the Supervisor was vehemently against self-serving, big money interests controlling schools, politics, or anything else.

Curiously, although education is its stated priority, the Supervisor’s annual Empowerment Congress conference has not had an education workshop in the past two years even though his candidate, Alex Johnson is also his top education person. What’s happening…. Could education be really more a rhetorical than actual priority for the Empowerment Congress and the Supervisor? (Money is the mother’s milk of politics but it also corrupts.)

As mentioned earlier, George McKenna’s qualifications to represent District 1 are outstanding and broadly acknowledged, even by his opponents. Unfortunately, politics and big money often trump the issues; McKenna is countering that with a strong community-based campaign. District 1 (like all others) cannot afford to have an election controlled by special interests. Effective moral and ethical leadership is what it needs more than anything else and George Mc Kenna has these qualities.

The special election (June 3rd) is a rare opportunity to elect a person who possesses the qualifications to meet the challenges of District 1’s exceptionally diverse but, systemically disenfranchised neighborhoods. Hopefully, voters will prevent big money- from any source- to dictate the outcome of this critically important election. Students’ best interests are best served by strong, effective and caring leadership. Money, big or small, is always a secondary consideration in the continuing struggle to properly educate our children.


CBS Los Angeles |

May 9, 2014 4:13 PM | LOS ANGELES ( — Two men are facing several charges after allegedly bilking the Los Angeles Unified School District out of millions of dollars.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office said in a news release that Karl Hauser and John Paul Chapman face charges of grand theft of personal property with special allegations of embezzlement of public funds, according to the complaint.

The statement says Hauser served as president of a company that had contracts with the district while Chapman served as office manager for one of the company’s branches.

The pair is accused of submitting more than 200 phony company invoices for irrigation clocks over a four-year period. About $5.4 million was allegedly taken in the scheme, authorities said.

The statement also said a person, who worked for the LAUSD, was allegedly involved in the scheme. That person has since died, authorities said.

Chapman has pleaded not guilty, according to the news release, while Hauser has yet to be arraigned.

The statement said both men could face more than 13 years in prison, if convicted.

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
• Regular Board of Ed Meeting - May 13, 2014 - 1 PM
Board President Richard Vladovic is planning to allow public comment speakers to
the Superintendent's Report on the Draft Budget and the Draft Local Control Accountability Plan. Each speaker will be able to make a 2 minute presentation and the Board is expected hear all present who would like to address the Board.
The Board is expected to take this item up at 4:30 p.m.,.
•• smf: Seeing as this everyone-will-be-heard-public-comment is on the agenda as a time-certain it will be interesting to see if all the board members and the superintendent remain present for the entirety of public comment.
Agenda+Meeting Materials:
*Dates and times subject to change. ________________________________________
Phone: 213-241-5183
Phone: 213-241.8700


What can YOU do?
• E-mail, call or write your school board member: • 213-241-6386 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-5555 • 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 Brown: 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. THEY DO!.

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 represented PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee for ten years. 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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