Archives for category: Los Angeles

Parents at the Julian Nava Academy in South Los Angeles loved their middle school. They worried about their children moving on to a high school where they might get less attention, where the education would not be as good as it had been at Nava Academy. So the parents organized, met with the principal, met with the district administrator, and won permission to open a new high school, called Nava College Preparatory Academy.

 

The school opened this fall, and the parents remain engaged with it. Its first class has 300 students, and it will eventually grow to 1100 students. Note there was no parent trigger, no confrontation between parents and educators. The parents loved the school they had, they wanted more of it, they made their case, and they won.

Karin Klein of the Los Angeles Times wrote an excellent editorial about the disastrous decision to spend $1.3 billion on iPads for every student and staff member of the LA schools. It should be a cautionary tale for every school district that is about to invest hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in new technology.

 

The District’s Inspector General investigated the purchase and found nothing wrong. But he never looked at the emails that passed between district officials and the winning vendors (Apple and Pearson). The school board never released the results of that investigation. Now a federal grand jury has been impaneled to look at the evidence of possible wrong-doing, and that is a very good thing. The grand jury will also examined the botched computer system that cost millions of dollars and never performed as it was supposed to.

 

She writes:

 

When the school board reached a severance agreement with Deasy in October, it issued a statement that board members do “not believe that the superintendent engaged in any ethical violations or unlawful acts” in regard to the emails. That statement was completely inappropriate considering that Bramlett’s investigation into the emails was still underway—as it is now. The board has no authority to direct the inspector general’s investigations—but it can hire and fire the person heading the staff office, and controls his office’s budget. (In fact, just a week or so before the board made its statement, Bramlett’s office pleaded for more funding, according to a KPCC report.) The statement could be seen as pressuring the inspector general not to find wrongdoing; in any case, board members are in no position to prejudge the matter.

 

For that matter, none of us are in that position. The emails could be perfectly legal and appropriate—or not. It’s unknown whether even a federal grand jury will be able to ferret out the full picture, since many earlier emails were apparently deleted and aren’t available. And if it uncovers ethical rather than legal problems, the public might never know; the grand jury is looking for evidence of crime. Federal crime at that. This might not be the best mechanism for examining the iPad purchase. But the investigation at least ensures that an independent authority is examining the matter, unimpeded by internal politics or pressures.

 

Yes, the public has a right to know and a right to expect that public officials will act in the best interests of students. As for the huge purchases for technology, we in New York have learned that even the sharpest and most ethical city officials have trouble monitoring the technology purchases. The largest financial scandal in the city’s history occurred recently, when a company called Citytime won an IT contract for $63 million in 1998 which ballooned into a $600 million payout; the principals went to jail. The school system’s ARIS project, launched in 2007, was supposed to aggregate data on the city’s 1.1 million students; it was recently dumped because so few teachers or parents used it, at a loss of $95 million. There were other instances where consultants bilked the city, in large part because no one supervised what they were doing.

 

Is there a moral to the story? Choose your own. Mine is that these multimillion dollar technology purchases must be carefully monitored, from beginning to end, to be sure that the public interest is protected and served. The problem is that many school districts lack the expertise to know whether they are getting what they paid for, or getting a pig in a poke. When even New York City and Los Angeles can be misled, think how much easier it will be to pick the pockets of mid-size and smaller districts.

Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times has written column after column that make sense about the accumulating disasters at the Los Angeles Unified School District.

 

In this one, he describes the latest series of embarrassments for the districts. So the FBI carted off 20 boxes of documents connected to the plan to spend $1.3 billion of bond money dedicated to school construction and repairs to buy iPads.

 

What about the other huge wastes of money in a district that has none to spare?

 

I’m wondering why the feds didn’t kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. While they were rummaging around at district headquarters, they could have grabbed another 20 boxes of documents related to the disastrous multimillion-dollar electronic student tracking system that created chaos in August and still hasn’t been fixed.

 

And speaking of the FBI, district officials were oddly complacent about the storm troopers, if you ask me. You’d think someone would have enough self-respect, even if it was just for show, to put up a fuss or demand an explanation for the raid. But I watched a district lawyer tell a TV reporter, with a smile, “I have no idea what it’s about.”

 

I’ll tell you what it’s about.

 

It’s about a disastrous year for the nation’s second-largest school district, which has managed — thanks to bungling, sloth and political squabbling — to let down more than 600,000 students.

 

And the iPad and MISIS (My Integrated Student Information System) failures were not the only things that went wrong. The district paid out a staggering $139 million last month to settle claims against a teacher who fed his own semen to elementary school students, among other monstrous behavior, some three decades after the district received its first complaint about him.

 

 

And he adds:

 

The challenges in school districts like LAUSD are largely about socioeconomic issues, and that’s the purview of county officials. So why is it that L.A. County supervisors, whose constituents fill L.A. schools, act as if LAUSD is somebody else’s problem rather than everybody’s responsibility?

 

We don’t need a politician to hijack the district, as former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa tried to do, or to stock the board with lackeys. But there’s middle ground between Villaraigosa’s hostile takeover bid and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s unapologetic invisibility.

 

Where’s the leadership and collaboration in one of the richest cities in the world, home to some of the greatest universities on the planet, as well as some of the largest nonprofits devoted to lifting up communities?

 

I’m not a fan of blue-ribbon panels that have no authority and produce voluminous reports nobody reads. But I’d be willing to temporarily waive my bias if a team of good people got together to help the district find a new superintendent and map out a plan to turn things around in 2015, especially if no one on the school board is going to lead or get out of the way.

 

There’s too much at stake to plod along, business as usual, as a horrible year ends with the FBI at the door.

Thanks to the reader who reminded me of this curious incident just two months ago. The Los Angeles school board voted to shred all internal emails more than one year old, then, after a public backlash, voted to reconsider that decision. I am not sure whether they decided to start shredding emails or not. Clearly, those emails would have a direct bearing on the problematic $1.3 billion iPad deal. Were any of them shredded or were they preserved? I don’t know.

 

More breaking news: A federal grand jury is investigating the iPad deal. KPCC staff, especially Annie Gilbertson, is all over this story.

 

 

This is a shocker. FBI agents raided LAUSD offices and carted off 20 boxes of documents related to former Superintendent John Deasy’s controversial $1.3 billion iPad deal.

Andrea Gabor, professor of journalism at Baruch College in New York City, recently interviewed Stuart Maguder, an architect in Los Angeles who serves on the Bond Oversight Committee of the school district. He was unusually outspoken in his criticism of John Deasy’s deal to spend construction bond money on IPads for all. For his criticism, he was briefly ousted from his unpaid position, then restored after a public outcry. He is critical of both Deasy and the teachers’ union, finding them both intransigent.

Gabor, an expert on the work of W. Edwards Deming, observed:

“As Magruder spoke of Deasy defeat and the union’s intransigence, I was struck by an irony: My principle purpose in traveling to Los Angeles was to attend the annual conference of the Deming Institute, which was founded in order to continue to work of W. Edwards Deming, the management guru whose ideas about systems thinking and collaborative improvement–informed by statistical theory–helped turn around struggling American industries in the 1980s.

“The unraveling in Los Angeles is just the latest example of education reformers who have yet to absorb the most valuable management lessons of the last half century–achieving lasting institutional change and improvement involves teamwork, collaboration among all the constituencies in an organization, and systems thinking. None of which have been on display in Los Angeles.”

Millions on millions have been spent by billionaires to push through their agenda of privatization and to disrupt entire school districts, on the assumption that disruption is “creative.” No doubt, they are getting ready for the next elections, opening their wallets to anyone who promises to open more nonunion charters and to attack due process for teachers. In this statement, Steve Zimmer–who overcame a billionaire-funded candidate in his last election for the Los Angeles school board–calls for a truce. He asks the billionaires to work together with school leaders to make schools better for children, instead of squandering more millions to “win.” Win or lose, the problems for the kids remains the same. Why not collaborate and do what is best for them, which is not political but consists of meeting their needs for smaller class size, medical care, the arts, librarians, social workers, and the same kind of education that the millionaires want for their own children.

 

He writes:

 

The results of yesterday’s election once again confirm that public education is
not for sale. Against a gale storm of unprecedented funding, Tom Torlakson,
State Superintendent of Instruction narrowly won re-election. This was the most
expensive State Superintendent race in U. S. History. I congratulate
Superintendent Torlakson and urge him to continue his collaborative approach to
transforming outcomes for all students in California. I look forward to
continuing our close working relationship so that the Department of Education
expands the resources available to classrooms in support of student learning
throughout our District.

I also offer my best wishes to Marshall Tuck whom I have known well for many
years. I know that Marshall will continue to be a passionate advocate for
schools serving students in the most peril.

While it is tempting to feel exhilarated in the wake of this important victory,
I mostly feel exhausted. I am sick and tired of dodging bullets from corporate
education reform billionaires who have an endless magazine of resources to shoot
at folks trying to solve the problems facing our schools.

There must be another way we can have this important conversation. Instead of
reflecting on how the millions we spend distorting truths, attacking and
bullying one another could help real kids in real classrooms today, the
California Charter Schools Association is simply reloading their guns for the
Spring School Board elections. I am sure CTA and our other labor partners will
gear up their defense systems again in response. I have a long list of programs
we could fund in LAUSD with the close to $20 million dollars that went into this
latest battle. More and more it seems like a zero sum game in which kids lose
every time.

The solutions to the problems facing our kids are never simple. They require us
to roll up our sleeves and work together to find the difficult answers in
policy, in pedagogy and in practice. Finding solutions starts with listening.
Teachers listening to parents, parents listening to teachers, school leaders
listening to the community and everyone listening to our students. The last half
dozen election cycles have had a ton of screaming. Close to $50 million dollars
worth. And barely an ounce of listening.

I still believe that collaboration trumps conflict and that we can find common
ground. I still have hope that we can transcend the power struggles in the name
of the promise that public education still holds for families who dream of a
better life for their children. If we remember that we hold those dreams in our
hands, maybe we can do more than dust ourselves off and prepare for the next
battle.

This article from Bond Buyer is behind a paywall. The gist of it is in the headline and summary. The expansion of charters “is a credit negative” and causes districts to pay a higher rate for their bonds, thus leaving the district less money to support public schools. If anyone has a subscription, please send the rest of the article.

http://www.bondbuyer.com/news/regionalnews/moodys-charter-school-expansion-credit-negative-for-lausd-1067623-1.html

 

Moody’s: Charter School Expansion Credit Negative for LAUSD
BY KEELEY WEBSTER
NOV 3, 2014 10:05pm 
Charter school giant KIPP School’s announcement that it would more than double its Los Angeles enrolment by 2020 is a credit negative for Los Angeles Unified School District, according to Moody’s Investors Service.
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Philadelphia was warned about its bond rating by Moody’s.

 

 

With San Antonio ISD anticipating school closures, Austin ISD enrollment down, how soon will Moody’s downrate their bond ratings?

 

Aside from directly sapping funds from public education, now we see another cost of charter schools to taxpayers.

Steve Zimmer is a member of the Los Angeles Unified School Board. He began his career in education with Teach for America, then stayed as a classroom teacher in Los Angeles for 17 years. When he ran for re-election, corporate reformers amassed a huge campaign chest to defeat him. He was outspent 4-1, but he won.

Zimmer is known as a thoughtful board member who cares about children, class size, and the quality of education for all children.

He posted the following on his Facebook page:

Friends,

It is less than 24 hours until Election Day.

I never imagined the right wing billionaires that tried to take me out of my school board seat in 2013 could donate more and distort the truth greater than they did against me. But that time has come. In tomorrow’s election for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the billionaires have outdone themselves, pouring over 11 million dollars into Charter School Operator Marshall Tuck’s campaign to unseat former teacher Tom Torlakson. This incredible cast of characters represents a who’s who of the corporate school privatization movement. Just take a look at who is on Marshall Tuck’s 500,000+ donor list. Each and every one of these donors has supported Republican campaigns, efforts to deregulate almost every major industry, gut workers rights and fight every sensible Obama initiative. And now several of the​m​ are among the largest donors to the Republican effort to take the U.S. Senate. Here are just a few:

Julian Robertson 1,000,000
Eli Broad $1,000,000
Michael Bloomberg $1,000,000
Bill Bloomfield $1,000,000
AliceWalton $1,000,000
Carrie Penner Walton $500,000
John Douglas Arnold $500,000

The billionaires have distorted Tom Torlakson’s moderate, successful record during his first term. They ignore the substantial improvements in all measurable areas throughout the state that have culminated in our first ever 80% statewide graduation rate. Because they mostly opposed Proposition 30, they want us forget that Tom Torlakson led they way towards rescuing our and fighting for all forms of local control. And in Marshall Tuck they have found the perfect private sector candidate. I’ve worked directly with Marshall. He is not a bad person and he is not trying to ruin our schools. But he fundamentally believes schools should be run as a business. He slashed classified jobs and promoted cut throat competition between schools as a charter school leader. As a candidate he has raised the ugly flag of demonizing teachers and has promised to drop t​he appeal of the Vergara lawsuit. He has also promised to force all California districts to have teacher evaluation systems directly linked to student’s standardized test scores.

We can’t let this happen. Tomorrow we have to show that public education in California is not for sale. Tomorrow we have to show that we can transform outcomes for students by working together not blaming those who have dedicated their lives to our schools. We can’t let these modern day​ robber​ barons steal this crucial election.

I ask you to do everything you can in the next 24 hours to turn out every progressive, every democrat, every person who care​s​ about our schools and every person who cares about democracy to vote for Tom Torlakson. The ultra rich controlling our democracy is not a new story. But the consequences if they are successful tomorrow will be unprecedented. I still believe we are more powerful than money. Let us all​,​ in California and throughout our nation, show the power of the people. Thank you for doing all you can.

Steve

Ron Chandler, head of technology for LAUSD, abruptly resigned.

The Los Angeles Times said that Chandler oversaw two of the disrict’s most controversial and troubled programs: the $1.3 billion iPad purchase, which was former Superintendent John Deasy’s signature initiative, and the botched MISIS computer system.

“Chandler, 52, became associated with two major troubled projects. The first was a $1.3-billion effort to provide every student, teacher and campus administrator with an iPad, a flagship initiative of former Supt. John Deasy.

“Chandler was responsible for some of the problems that accompanied the iPad rollout at 47 schools last year. For example, immediately after receiving iPads last year, students at three high schools figured out how to delete the security filter and freely browse the Internet.

“Officials immediately took back the devices and some schools made little use of them for the remainder of the year….

“But Chandler’s position apparently became untenable in the wake of a second technology project called My Integrated Student Information System, or MISIS. The system eventually is expected to integrate all student records, keeping parents informed, allowing educators to tailor instruction and helping students stay on track with graduation and college requirements. But the system wasn’t ready and caused chaos across the sprawling district of about 600,000 students.

“As if to underscore the link between Chandler’s departure and MISIS, new Supt. Ramon C. Cortines tersely announced the resignation at the beginning of an update on the records system.

“There will be a change of leadership … Mr. Ron Chandler, Chief Information Officer, has resigned,” Cortines said. “We thank him for his service.”

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