Sunday, May 08, 2016

4LAKids: Sunday 8•May•2016 Mother's Day
In This Issue:
 •  EVENTS: Coming up next week...
 •  What can YOU do?

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Before I go off on the inevitable tangent, this past week was National Teacher Appreciation Week. Thank you teachers and educators for all you do, every day.

We all know the stories. The unexpected comes from nowhere and performs the unforeseen. The Miracle on Ice Hockey Team defeats the Soviets. The Miracle Mets. The Milan High School Team from ‘Hoosiers’.

Only three things of note happened in the nearly thousand year history of Leicester, England:

• King Richard III was defeated+killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field just outside of town in 1485, ending the Wars of the Roses and the Plantagenet Dynasty. Richard’s body was unceremoniously buried after it was paraded through town naked …and its location lost.
• In 2012 Richard’s body was dug up after being found under a municipal parking lot in downtown Leicester. There was a bit of a kerfuffle about where it was to be re-entombed – York claiming to R3’s hometown (Shakespeare has R3 modestly introducing himself: “Now is the winter of our discontent. Made glorious summer by this son of York”). Leicester won in the end; possession being 9/10ths of anything – including deceased monarchs.
• And after R3’s reinternment in Leicester Cathedral in 2015 the Leicester City Football Club, The Foxes – hapless in 132 years – began winning soccer games.

British bookmakers are not ones to fool around, betting on sports in Britain is big+serious business. At the outset of this season nine months ago they set the odds of Leicester City winning the Premier League Football Championship at 5000-to-one. (The odds of Kim Kardashian becoming president or Elvis discovered alive were 2000-to-one.)

Needless to say Leicester City wouldn’t be mentioned in this issue of 4LAKids if they hadn’t won the Premier League Championship with a team of unknowns and a team payroll of a quarter of that of the competition. What they had was a lot of heart and an Italian coach nobody thought could do the job – and a strategy to not control the ball but to strike quickly – from nowhere – and score.

Saturday afternoon they collected their trophy and Andrea Bocelli sang Puccini’s ultimate aria of triumph and hope:
Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma!
Tu pure, o, Principessa,
nella tua fredda stanza,
guardi le stelle
che tremano d'amore
e di speranza.
Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me,
il nome mio nessun saprà!
No, no, sulla tua bocca lo dirò
quando la luce splenderà!
Ed il mio bacio scioglierà il silenzio
che ti fa mia!
(Il nome suo nessun saprà!...
e noi dovrem, ahime, morir!)
Dilegua, o notte!
Tramontate, stelle!
Tramontate, stelle!
All'alba vincerò!
vincerò, vincerò!

Nobody shall sleep!...
Nobody shall sleep!
Even you, o Princess,
in your cold room,
watch the stars,
that tremble with love and with hope.
But my secret is hidden within me,
my name no one shall know...
On your mouth I will tell it when the light shines.
And my kiss will dissolve the silence that makes you mine!...
(No one will know his name and we must, alas, die.)
Vanish, o night!
Set, stars! Set, stars!
At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!

NOBODY SET ANY ODDS on Donald Trump winning the Republican presidential nomination – that was too preposterous to contemplate (the Reality Show casting for Commander-in-Chief was obviously Kim Kardashian’s). And last week, when The Donald sewed it up and the Rolling Stones introduced the victor with a recording of “Start Me Up” …
You can start me up
You can start me up I'll never stop
I've been running hot
You got me just about to blow my top
You can start me up, you can start me up,
I'll never stop, never stop, never stop, never stop.

…the Stones responded with a threatened lawsuit. And many many Republicans headed for the exits.

This essay has now introduced the characters of Richard the Third and Donald Trump to the conversation about surprise victors. R3 is Britain’s most unpopular monarch – primarily due to bad press from the Bard of Avon. Trump is the most unfavorable candidate in American political history – primarily due to the press not knowing whether to cringe-or-cry while they gave the “Campaign of our discontent, made glorious by this billionaire son-of-the-Bronx” a free ride. Trump calls for America to be made great again by building walls and blocking Muslims and deporting millions and secret plans to end wars and discounting treasury bonds. On the eve of his greatest victory he named his opponent’s father a conspirator in the Kennedy assassination. The Republican New York Times columnist David Brooks says Trump “appeals to those longing for an ideal that’s never coming back”. That would be paternalistic thirties/forties/fifties-era America First jingoism and a return to the good old days …that, like all good old days, never were.

[Any number of Tom Lehrer songs fit here, here’s one ‘em:]
When someone makes a move
Of which we don't approve,
Who is it that always intervenes?
U.N. and O.A.S.,
They have their place, I guess,
But first: Send The Marines!

We'll send them all we've got,
John Wayne and Randolph Scott,
Remember those exciting fighting scenes?
To the shores of Tripoli,
But not to Mississippoli,

What do we do? We Send The Marines!
For might makes right,
And till they've seen the light,
They've got to be protected,
All their rights respected,
'till somebody we like can be elected.

We had a presidential candidate who got himself elected with a secret plan to end another unpopular war – that plan was escalation and that war dragged on past his spectacularly failed presidency.

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

Trump has been called, on multiple occasions, a School Yard Bully …and I think that puts schoolyards and their bullies in a bad light. And that (un)fortunately is the only mention of education in this blogpost – except to recall the history of another American bully and his undoing:

Mr. Welch: “And if I did, I beg your pardon. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator.”

Senator McCarthy: “Let's, let's –“

Mr. Welch: “You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

I leave further comparison to you, gentle reader. Lincoln called upon the Better Angels of our Nature. They have not been in play this electoral cycle; but if the London bookmakers will set the odds I’ll put a tenor on ‘em!

Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma!

¡Happy Mother’s Day!

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

by Alan Singer in the Huffington Post Education Blog |

05/05/2016 06:22 am ET | Updated 9 hours ago :: Advocates for charters schools like to talk about their unwavering commitment to student success, parental choice and the benefits of privatization, but their main argument for charter schools is that with their “no excuses“ approach they can do a better job than public schools educating inner-city minority youth.

In 2009, the Board of Education of the Los Angeles Unified School District passed a Public School Choice Motion that expanded the number of charter schools in the district.

While in my Huffington Post blogs I frequently complain about both charter schools and the way high-stakes testing is perverting education in the United States, sometimes the data the tests produce can be useful.

So to answer the question “Do Charter Schools Really Do Better?” let’s look at some test score numbers from Los Angeles.

On SAT exams administered to high school juniors 2400 is the maximum possible score. A score of 1500 is considered the minimum threshold signifying college readiness. Top colleges demand much more. In 2013, 2052 was the average SAT grade for freshmen accepted into UCLA.

The Los Angeles Times published a list of the average SAT scores at the 100 lowest performing high schools in Los Angeles County. Eight of the ten worst performing schools, including one that has already been closed, are charter schools. This includes the Animo Locke Charter High School #1 operated by the Green Dot Corporate Charter Schools chain whose founder, Steve Barr wants to run for mayor of Los Angeles in 2017 based on his record of educational “success.” Green Dot also operates four other charter high schools among the bottom twenty SAT performers and a total of nine schools in the bottom fifty.

Critics have long charged that the SAT primarily measures the socio-economic status of students, a charge the College Board, which operates the SAT refutes. However Los Angles high school SAT test scores seem to confirm what critics are saying. In each of the ten worst performing schools, the student population is more than 90% Latino and Black and in some cases it is 100%. The number of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch at these schools, a major indicator of poverty level, ranges from 84% to 99%. In some of the schools the number of English Language Learners approaches 50% of the student population.

Despite bad performance, Los Angeles charter schools also seem to be free to ignore the rights of parents and children. The Granada Hills Charter High School has been reprimanded by the Los Angeles Unified School District Charter Schools Division for improperly charging students $60 cap and gown fees for graduation ceremonies and violating parent rights to opt children out of standardized testing by making the tests a requirement for participation in extra-curricular activities including athletic teams. The school’s Parent-Student Handbook states “All students must participate fully in California CAASPP and Granada Testing in their 9th, 10th and 11th grade year to be eligible to participate in optional activities such as senior activities, school extracurricular activities and school athletics. Students who clearly disregard the test as determined by the testing coordinator or test proctor will be regarded as having refused to comply with the testing requirement and will be subject to loss of senior activities, school extracurricular activities and school athletics.

Granada Hills Charter is one of the largest and highest performing charter schools in California and the United States. It is also a school with a White or Asian student majority, relatively fewer economically disadvantaged students, and almost no English Language Learners.

The reality is that despite their claims, charter schools cannot perform educational miracles. At least in Los Angeles, it is not even clear they serve inner-city minority youth as well as public schools do.


Also in California: The Tri-Valley Learning Corporation operates four California charter schools, two in Livermore and two in Stockton. Livermore and Stockton are both east of San Francisco. Tri-Valley claims to “use innovation in education research, to design, create and operate world-class, exemplary charter schools that encourage and enable every student to reach his or her full potential as a scholar, a citizen and a life-long learner.” But the New Jerusalem Elementary School district serving Livermore is not that happy with the way it operates its schools. In April 2016, the District’s governing board sent Tri-Valley official notification that unless it corrected the way it operated its tow charter schools in Livermore, the District would revoke its charter. In the letter to Tri-Valley, New Jerusalem charged, “TVLC has failed to meet generally accepted accounting principles, engaged in fiscal mismanagement, and violated provisions of law.” It gave Tri-Valley until May 8 to respond.

The District also suspects Tri-Valley of a conflict of interest because it shares one of its public facilities with a private charter school with ties to its former CEO. The chain of charter schools also faces accusations of charging illegal tuition fees to foreign students and of owing $208,000 to a local community college for a “teacher fee” and $90,000 to the city of Livermore in back taxes.

Meanwhile in North Carolina: On April 26, the Attorney General of North Carolina filed a suit against the now defunct Kinston Charter Academy. The suit charges the company and its officers with financial mismanagement and requests that the assets of the principal officers be frozen. Legal officials also demanded the charter company repay North Carolina $600,000 in misappropriated state funds plus damages and civil penalties. According to the papers filed with the court, charter school management used public funds for themselves, inflated the number of students enrolled in order to receive additional tax dollars, misled prospective students, and failed to disclose information to parents.

●Alan Singer – whose opinions are his own – is a social studies educator in the Department of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York and the editor of Social Science Docket (a joint publication of the New York and New Jersey Councils for Social Studies). He taught at a number of secondary schools in New York City, including Franklin K. Lane High School and Edward R. Murrow High School. He is the author of Education Flashpoints: Fighting for America's Schools (Routledge, 2014) which is based on his award winning Huffington Post blogs, Teaching to Learn, Learning to Teach: A Handbook for Secondary School Teachers (Routledge, 2013), Social Studies For Secondary Schools, 4th Edition (Routledge, 2014), New York and Slavery, Time to Teach the Truth (SUNY, 2008), and Teaching Global History (Routledge, 2011).

By Colleen Schwab, UTLA Secondary Vice President, from United Teacher |

April 22, 2016 :: It’s no surprise that the public often thinks our jobs start at 8 a.m. and end at 3 p.m., with months of vacation time during the summer and winter seasons, breaks that are often misunderstood. I remember being completely exhausted the first weeks after school ended in June only to hear from friends who were not teachers that I was “lucky” to have so much vacation time.

Yes, lucky indeed, but is this time earned! What educators do during the school year is beyond understanding if one has never been in a classroom or school site working with students—lots of students, that is, on a daily basis. At a recent social event, a somewhat know-it-all about education who has never been an educator asked me a rhetorical question to the effect of, “How hard is it to teach U.S. History to 20 to 30 eighth-graders?”

Please just imagine how I responded, having taught middle school for 31 years!

That brings me to the thought that we not only teach, we care for students in so many ways: counseling needs, health concerns, psychological issues, and the list goes on, and it includes addressing the varied learning differences in the classroom.

A few years ago, former UTLA lobbyist Bill Lambert brought an exciting new service to my school to help students read better. Bill became involved in the Gemstone Foundation, which researched eye development in young students and found a largely undetected eye alignment problem that causes poor reading development. This alignment problem is easy to test for and easy to correct.

The treatment is a computer-based eye program that students can complete in a relatively short time.

Several Los Angeles Unified schools have already been through the program and have seen success in affected students’ reading skills and their progress in school.

The problem is funding the treatment, even though it is very low cost (approximately $250 per student). Gemstone Foundation Senior Scientist and Director of Research Dr. Maureen Powers and Bill are working to raise funds for our Los Angeles students.

If you would like to contribute, any amount would be greatly appreciated. You can make checks payable to Gemstone Foundation and mail them to UTLA at 3303 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90010; attention Colleen Schwab.
Stay tuned to hear more about this exciting support for our students!

●●smf’s 2¢: Caveat:
I am on the board of Directors of the 501(c)(3) non-profit Gemstone Foundation and am working with Bill and Colleen and Maureen and others will be bringing the Gemstone Program to schools in LA thanks to a generous grant from County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas.

First we learn to read, then we read to learn.

Learning to read is an exquisitely complicated process that literally requires rewiring and reprogramming of the brain; it also requires phenomenal eye-brain coordination. Educators learned long ago that poor vision effects reading ability; we are now learning that binocular vision – important in depth perception and eye-brain coordination – is also critical in reading ability.

Over the past several years, Gemstone has been testing children in LA and elsewhere for eye coordination ability. We find that many who pass the mandatory school vision screening exams complain that their eyes hurt while reading; they skip lines, they see double sometimes, and they even see words wiggle or jump. Most of these children are “20/20” - yet clearly they have some sort of vision problem that can interfere with reading.

School vision screening does not detect this problem, which we call EYES IN CONFLICT. Technically this is recognized as a weakness in visual skills or as binocular vision impairment.

In Los Angeles schools alone, we have tested over 5000 students in grades 3 and higher. At Ann Street Elementary School, our first tested school, we found that 62 percent of the students in grades 3 through 6 had Eyes in Conflict. Two years ago 32 of 56 third graders (57%) at Robert Hill Lane Elementary and 47 out of 90 (52%) of third graders at Trinity Street Elementary were identified.

We also tested 200 boys incarcerated at the Gonzales Probation Camp. Sixty-four percent (64%) of the boys had Eyes in Conflict!

We find that, on average, more than 30% of children have some level of Eyes in Conflict—and that the percentage is more like 50% in low income schools and juvenile offender facilities.

In classroom interventions we routinely find that two-thirds or more of participating students improve vision skills to target levels for reading. In half of students an immediate improvement is seen in oral fluency scores. These results are lasting. Once a student learns to coordinate their eyes reading and learning improves dramatically - and stays improved.

EYES IN CONFLICT is not a problem that can be solved by eyeglasses or surgery. It is a problem that can be solved through practice and training. This problem does not go away without intervention. Visual skills will not improve without training, no more than eyesight can improve on its own without glasses.

…as it says above, stay tuned!

About Gemstone Foundation


Opinion By Dan Walters | Sacramento Bee |

May 5, 2016 :: More than 6 million youngsters are enrolled in California’s K-12 schools, a number higher than the populations of 33 states.

The diversity of those kids – in ethnicity, economic situation, intelligence and innate capacity for learning – is probably wider than any of those states.

If we have 6 million-plus unique individuals, why then do we try to stuff them into a one-size-fits-all educational system? Shouldn’t we, to the extent possible, tailor their educations to their individual circumstances and traits?

In addition to the vital basics, shouldn’t we offer challenging academic studies to the gifted and college-bound, extra instructional help to those with learning disabilities, and solid technical classes for those suited by interest and aptitude for skilled trades?

Yes, we should. But for reasons that defy common sense, many of our larger school districts assume that all students are bound for four-year colleges, even though a relatively small number of those who make it through high school will, in fact, earn bachelor degrees.

Therefore, they insist that before graduation, all of their students complete the 30 semesterlong courses known as “a-g” to meet basic admission requirements for state universities or the University of California.

It’s simplistic, it’s illogical and, a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California suggests, it’s ultimately irresponsible and destructive.

PPIC looked at the college-for-everyone policies of several big school systems, concentrating on San Diego Unified School District.

It found that SDUSD has increased students enrolled in the college prep classes, but it’s also increased the number of kids who won’t make it through graduation.

“In sum, roughly 10 percent more San Diego students may become eligible to apply to the CSU and UC university systems,” PPIC concluded, “but 16 percent more may fail to graduate. For the class of 2016, the new graduation policy is likely to produce many students who will win, and many who will lose.”

The college prep mandates in San Diego, Los Angeles Unified, San Francisco Unified and other big systems, moreover, fly in the face of state education policy, which has gradually moved toward more individualism, including a long-overdue re-emphasis of what used to be called vocational education but now is “career technical education.”

Furthermore, college-for-everyone ignores the real world. Yes, we need more college graduates, particularly to replace the baby boomers who are retiring out of the workforce. In fact, it’s already created a shortage of teachers.

But everyone knows of college graduates struggling with large student debts and poor employment prospects, and we also need more blue-collar workers to perform society’s work – to build houses, to install or repair wiring, plumbing, to make and fix our cars and computers, and so forth. There are already shortages in those high-paying fields that also are hit by baby boomer retirements.

For K-12 students and society as a whole, college-for-everyone policies are counterproductive.

PPIC REPORT: College Prep for All: Will San Diego Students Meet Challenging New Graduation Requirements?

By Jeremy Hay | EdSource Today |

May 5, 2016 :: A $15 million state program to reimburse transitional kindergarten teachers for required professional development classes is struggling because too few teachers have signed up, and nearly a third of California’s 58 counties face the unwelcome prospect of having to return unused funds by the end of the coming school year.

Although the counties have until July 2017 to distribute the funds, many have already calculated that they will have to return a portion of the money because their efforts to recruit teachers to participate in the program have fallen short.

The Legislature created transitional kindergarten in 2010 for children who had not yet turned 5 by September — the cutoff date to enter regular kindergarten — and whose birthdays fell between Sept. 1 and Dec. 2. In 2014, legislators passed a law requiring teachers assigned to transitional kindergarten classes after July 2015 to get 24 units of early childhood education or child development classes by 2020. The California Transitional Kindergarten Stipend program was set up to reimburse teachers for those costs — but they have only until July 2017 to collect those funds.

The stipend program will receive a total of $15 million in state funding. So far, $11.2 million has gone to planning councils in each of the state’s 58 counties to distribute to teachers, with the remainder to be given out later. To date, counties have paid out only $928,000, though that amount is expected to rise as the school year ends.

Statewide, out of 3,379 new transitional kindergarten teachers identified by the California Department of Education, 300 have received stipends. About 150 teachers in the California State Preschool Program for low-income children have also participated. Although transitional kindergarten teachers are the first priority, state preschool teachers can receive stipends for any early childhood education or child development classes.

“We’ve done a huge amount of advertising and promotion this year, and we’re just not seeing a lot more people come forward,” said Missy Danneberg, interim coordinator of Sonoma County’s Child Care Planning Council, which plans to return $65,000 of its $185,000 grant.

Last January, the California Department of Education began allocating funds to the planning councils, and each county was given flexibility to design systems to recruit teachers and help arrange classes for them. But the counties had a short window of time to set up those programs and spend the funds.

Many teachers appear unaware of the requirements for additional education, officials in some counties said, and as result have not signed up for classes they will need. And with a 2020 deadline for teachers to fulfill those requirements, there appears to be little sense of urgency, other officials said.

“We didn’t even find out about the program until January, then every local county had to deal with its own program; so you basically lost a year by the time you got things going,” said Tara Ryan, former coordinator of San Diego County’s Child Care and Development Planning Council and now coordinator of the county’s preschool quality program. “That’s kind of typical of how CDE (California Department of Education) does things.”

But Cecelia Fisher-Dahms, administrator of the California Department of Education’s Quality Improvement Office, said the initial allocations were delayed because her office was waiting for more information from the Legislature, which created the program. “The first year was moot because we were late getting clarification,” she said.

In a department survey of the 58 local planning councils, 17 said they may return money by July 2017; 31 counties said they will not; and 10 have not responded, said spokesman Peter Tira. He declined to reveal which counties said they may return funds.

Judi Andersen, coordinator of the Humboldt County Local Child Care and Development Planning Council, said her office has spent just $706 of its $52,863 allocation. She said the way the program is structured has been a barrier. Teachers have to pay for their classes up front and wait until they have verified transcripts before getting reimbursed.

“It kills me to send money back that could go to early educators,” Andersen said.

Alameda County’s General Services Agency received $550,661 for stipends for an estimated 125 new transitional kindergarten teachers. As of April 20, it had distributed $11,000 to 13 teachers, eight of them preschool teachers who are also eligible, said Kim Hazard, Alameda’s special projects coordinator for the Early Care and Education Program at the General Services Agency.

Hazard said one challenge has been locating transitional kindergarten teachers to let them know about both the new requirements and funding that is available to meet them.

“Half of the battle is figuring out who the TK teachers are in our community and trying to establish some sort of relationship with them,” Hazard said.

She said she hopes a summer transitional kindergarten institute will attract more teachers, but the county has decided it will return $137,000 of its allocation, calculating that in the time remaining it will not be able to reach enough teachers.

“We want to get as much money out as possible to a community (of early childhood educators) that is underfunded – it’s heartbreaking to send money back,” Hazard said.

“It is sort of surprising,” CDE’s Fisher-Dahms said of Alameda County’s situation. “They’re a go-getter.”

“The challenge may be the outreach (on the local level) to the transitional kindergarten community,” Fisher-Dahms said of the problems some counties are facing. The department plans to redistribute returned money to counties that still need it, she said.

In Riverside County, the program has flourished, with the first stipends delivered in June 2015, said Deborah Clark-Crews, executive director of the county’s Child Care Consortium. Teachers have since been given $70,250 in stipends, and 120 more are currently enrolled in classes for which they will be reimbursed. Clark-Crews projects spending all of the $973,586 the county received from the stipend program.

“We are not going to leave any money on the table,” she said. “It comes so infrequently.”

In Ventura County, Carrie Murphy, director of early childhood programs at the county office of education, said $180,000 of the county’s $334,802 will be spent by July, and the remainder in the next year. She said her office worked with school districts, CSU Channel Islands and community colleges to design a curriculum blending online instruction with class time to create an easy “one-stop shop” for teachers to participate.

In Santa Clara County, however, the Local Early Education Planning Council has distributed just $1,500 of the $669,603 it has received. Michael Garcia, staff coordinator, says the council, too, will return funds: $290,000.

“Unfortunately, it’s been slow to take off,” Garcia said.

As time runs out, even officials who still foresee success say the program needs more time to reach its goals.

“To try and gain 24 units in a two-year period, that’s not doable,” said Ellin Chariton, executive director of school and community service at the Orange County Department of Education, which received $1.1 million. She recommended extending the deadline to at least 2018.

She said her department worked with school districts and local community colleges, as well as CSU Fullerton, to design curricula and offer necessary classes. So far, 69 transitional kindergarten teachers are expected to receive stipends ranging from $200 to $2,500, Chariton said. Ian Hanigan, a spokesman for the Orange County Department of Education, said a “very conservative” estimate of first-year distributions is $300,000.

Roseann Andrus, project consultant for Orange County’s Child Care and Development Planning Council, said, “We really have to do some hard-core marketing that we really didn’t get to do effectively because we were rushed in the beginning” to design the program.

Los Angeles County received $3.6 million. By July it expects to have more than 100 teachers receiving stipends, said Harvey Kawasaki, acting CEO of Los Angeles County’s Service Integration Branch. He said he expects his office will distribute 70 percent of what it had aimed to disburse by July, but more would have been distributed if the program had started earlier. It’s not clear whether his office will be able to distribute all the funds in the program’s remaining 14 months, Kawasaki said.

“Most of us are probably going to leave some dollars on the table,” he said. “If we are allowed to roll over our unspent dollars, that means many more teachers we could reach out to.”

by Barbara Jones | LAUSD Daily |

May 6, 2016 | Clarence Johnson has lived in South LA for more than a half-century, but his real home is on the baseball field at Fremont High School.

That’s where Johnson has spent the last 50 years grooming the diamond, offering players tips that he learned as a pro and running a weekend baseball league for the neighborhood. Most importantly, the field is where he has mentored generations of Fremont students.

“I love all the kids. I tell the all the young kids, make sure that you stay in school,” Johnson said. “Go to school. There’s no way out. You must go to school every day.”

In recognition of Johnson’s 50-plus-year commitment to the Fremont community – not to mention the thousands of hours he has spent as a volunteer – school leaders this week renamed the baseball field in Johnson’s honor.

“He’s given us so much over the years – baseballs, uniforms – we don’t even have to ask,” said Fremont Pathfinders Coach Curtis Johnson, who is not related to Clarence. “If I mention that a kid needs a new glove, he’ll show up the next day with a new glove. And he loves to talk baseball with the kids. He’s the backbone of our team in a lot of ways.”

During the dedication ceremony for the Clarence Johnson Baseball Field, its namesake recalled the path that eventually led him to Fremont.

After graduating from high school in the early 1950s, Johnson went straight to the Kansas City Monarchs as a catcher for the Negro Leagues’ franchise. He later played for the Brooklyn Dodgers farm team, and moved with them to Los Angeles in 1958; however, he never moved up to the Major League.

Going to work for Amtrak, Johnson never lost his love of baseball. In March 1966, he walked from his house to nearby Fremont, where he took it upon himself to start taking care of the ball field. That was also the beginning what has become a lifelong affiliation with the school. He spends weekdays with the Fremont kids and weekends overseeing teams of teens and young men from his South LA neighborhood. Even Lois, Johnson’s wife of 43 years, concedes that Fremont is “his first home.”

And on Johnson’s well-manicured fields, Fremont has produced 25 professional ballplayers – the most of any school in the country.

“He tells us to respect the field because that means respecting the game and that means respecting ourselves,” said Daniel Russell, who coaches Fremont’s junior varsity team.

Traschon Harris, a senior who plays center field for the Pathfinders, said Johnson is a role model for the team.

“He’s just a great guy and really helpful,” Harris said. “Even when we’re messing up, he’ll just come up and correct us. He’s never rude or pushy. He’s really amazing.”

Principal Pedro Avalos was behind the idea to name the field, describing Johnson as a mainstay of the community.

“He is not only the person who is the maintenance worker for the field, but he is the maintenance worker for growing up,” Avalos said. “He has fixed a lot of us.”

With the ball field now bearing Johnson’s name, “students, parents, teachers and the community will know your legacy and the difference that you made,” said Christopher Downing, the superintendent of Local District South.

Johnson said he was thankful for the recognition of his 50-plus years, but that he doesn’t plan to end of his volunteer service anytime soon. Asked where he was planning to be this weekend, Johnson said simply, “I’m going to be here.”

EVENTS: Coming up next week...
• Tues. May 10, 2016 - 9:30 a.m. SPECIAL BOARD MEETING - - INCLUDING CLOSED SESSION ITEMS – Revised Agenda:
• Tues. May 10, 2016 - 1:00 p.m. REGULAR BOARD MEETING – Agenda:

*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: • 213-241-8333 • 213-241-6180 • 213-241-5555 • 213-241-6382 • 213-241-6388 • 213-241-6385 • 213-241-6387
...or the Superintendent: • 213-241-7000
...or your city councilperson, mayor, county supervisor, state legislator, 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. Volunteer in the classroom. Join your PTA. Serve on a School Site Council. Be there for a child - and ultimately: For all children.
• If you are eligible to become a citizen, BECOME ONE.
• If you a a citizen, REGISTER TO VOTE at

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

Scott Folsom is a parent leader in LAUSD and was Parent/Volunteer of the Year for 2010-11 for Los Angeles County. • He is Past President of Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA and has represented PTA on the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee for over 13 years. He currently serves as Vice President for Health, is a Legislation Action Committee member and a member of the Board of Directors 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 "WHO" Gold Award and the ACSA Regional Ferd Kiesel Memorial Distinguished Service Award - honors 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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