Archives for category: Los Angeles

In District 1 in Los Angeles, a well-funded, politically-connected candidate–Alex Johnson– squares off against an underfunded, highly qualified educator–George McKenna.

McKenna won 44% of the vote in the primary to Johnson’s 26%. The run-off is August 12.

But Johnson has raised almost eight times as much as McKenna in individual contributions ($48,000) to less than $6,500 for McKenna. In addition, Johnson has received more than $140,000 from Super Pacs, compared to $110,000 for McKenna.

Johnson, a senior aide to the county supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, received the endorsement of SEIU 99, the union of school-related employees, including bus drivers, teachers’ aides, and cafeteria workers. Johnson supports Superintendent John Deasy and has received aid from charter school groups. The teachers’ unions are divided. The local UTLA supports McKenna; the state CTA endorsed Johnson.

But McKenna got a big boost when board member Monica Ratliff endorsed him. Ratliff was elected last year despite vast expenditures against her by the corporate reform crowd. In endorsing McKenna, Ratliff said:

“It is with the utmost respect for his long history of success and dedication to students that I wholeheartedly endorse George McKenna for School Board,” Ratliff said in the announcement. “His many years of experience as a dedicated and successful teacher, principal, and administrator will continue to serve the students and parents of District 1 well.”

Keep a close watch on this race to see which direction the nation’s second largest district will take.

Will voters prefer an experienced educator or a political novice for the school board?

Remember that the Los Angeles Times released the value-added ratings (made up by their own consultant) with the names of teachers in 2010?


Recently, the paper sued to get the ratings for three years-=-2009-2012. The LAUSD said it would release the ratings but not the names attached to them.


Yesterday a three-judge panel said the district did not need to release the names of the teachers with their ratings.


The public has no right to know the names of Los Angeles Unified School District teachers in connection with their job performance ratings, according to a court ruling issued Wednesday. In denying a request for disclosure by The Times, a three-judge state appellate court panel found that keeping the names confidential served a stronger public interest than releasing them. The panel overturned a lower court ruling ordering disclosure and rejected The Times’ assertion that the public interest of parents and others in knowing the ratings of identifiable teachers outweighed the interest in confidentiality.


Instead, the panel accepted L.A. school Supt. John Deasy’s contention that releasing the names would lead to resentment and jealousy among teachers, spur “unhealthy” comparisons among staff, cause some instructors to leave the nation’s second-largest school system, and interfere with teacher recruitment.


The judges said the specter of parents battling to place their children with the highest-performing teachers was of “particular concern.”


Is the rating based on test scores? Is it valid? Has anyone asked for the ratings of police or firefighters or other public employees?


Jim Ewert, general counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Assn., said the ruling was “unbelievable” and that accepting “conjecture” as evidence to deny public disclosure was “without precedent.”

“How a speculative declaration can rise to the level of clearly outweighing the public interest in disclosure is a mystery to me,” he said.

The Times sought three years of district data, from 2009 through 2012, that show whether individual teachers helped or hurt students’ academic achievement, as measured by state standardized test scores. L.A. Unified has provided the data but without the teacher names or their schools.

Using a complex mathematical formula, the district aims to isolate a teacher’s effect on student growth by controlling for such outside factors as poverty and prior test scores. The district sought to use the analysis in teacher evaluations but was resisted by the teachers union, which called it unreliable.

The court did not rule on the validity of the analysis, known in L.A. Unified as Academic Growth Over Time.

The judges did find that the public might have a right to know the schools where the anonymous teachers worked. They sent that issue back to the lower court for consideration.


Think about it. The LA Times published the names and ratings of individual teachers in 2010. Can anyone honestly assert that this data release improved the schools? Did it mean that the schools hired better teachers or that parents chose better teachers?


This is a thicket into which Race to the Top has led us, as districts and states across the nation use “value-added assessment” to measure the unmeasurable. No one has figured out how to make it work, but people continue to believe in it as if it were a magic talisman.







This story by Annie Gilbertson of the Los Angeles NPR station KPCC reported a serious problem for the Gulen-related Magnolia charter chain.

“The Los Angeles Unified school district is investigating a network of eight charter schools for misuse of public school funds.

“An audit showed Magnolia Public Schools used classroom cash to help six non-employees with immigration costs. The schools had trouble justifying another $3 million expense.

“These are taxpayer dollars, and we want to make sure they are spent correctly,” said José Cole-Gutiérrez, director of L.A. Unified’s charter school division.”

“For years, the Magnolia’s books and bank account didn’t match.

An audit in 2012 based on a sampling of transactions found $43,600 missing from accounts: school records showed double payments made to vendors with duplicate invoices attached.

“There was an increased risk of inappropriate or unauthorized expenditures to remain undetected and a potential risk of fraud, abuse and misuse of public funds,” read the 2012 report.

“L.A. Unified officials have refused to release the follow-up audit concluded in June 2014….

“The letter, published by local education blog L.A. School Report, said Magnolia spent $3 million over four years to outsource governance tasks such as curriculum development, professional training and human resources – duplicate services that Magnolia had reported doing itself.

“Cole-Gutiérrez, the director of L.A. Unified’s charter school division, said the inspector general is reviewing whether to refer the case for criminal prosecution.

“You need to know where the public dollars are going – and they are supposed to be going to students,” he said.

“Magnolia administration is planning to fight the closures with the help of the California Charter School Association, which said in a statement the schools did not receive due process.

“It is troubling that more than 400 families, the majority of whom live in poverty, have very little information about why they have lost their high-performing schools,” California Charter School Association spokesman Jason Mandell wrote in a statement. He complained that L.A. Unified has not released the 2014 audit.

“State law also does not allow the district to conditionally renew a charter, let alone rescind that renewal without presenting its findings or providing the school with the opportunity to correct any issues,” he added.

“Last fall, the group stood behind San Fernando Valley charter school administers facing trial for embezzlement and money laundering. Yevgency “Eugene” Selivanov, founder of Ivy Academia Charter School, was then convicted and sentenced to almost five years in prison.”

The Charter Schools Division of the Los Angeles Unified School District informed two charter schools that they would be closed for reasons of fiscal insolvency, despite the fact that the schools have high scores.


The schools, Magnolia Science Academy 6 and Magnolia Science Academy, are part of the extensive Turkish Gulen charter network.


This letter from the district explains why the charters were not renewed. They are appealing the district’s decision.


In addition to insolvency, the district found numerous other reasons to close down the charters.



This comment was posted by Karin Klein, who writes editorials for the Los Angeles Times:

“As a member of the Times editorial board, I continue to try to correct the inaccurate information that is continually put out in public about the Times’ position on education issues. The editorial board is generally a supporter of keeping Deasy, that is true. But it does not stand behind him “no matter what.” In fact, the Times editorial board has been questioning and criticizing the iPad purchase since 2012.

“I blogged last month about the importance of keeping Magruder on the bond oversight committee.

“And the editorial board followed that up with an editorial Tuesday that called for him to be reinstated.

“Debate about the education issues of the day is constructive, but the spreading of mistruths and the carelessness about accurate information does not serve that purpose.”

Karin Klein
Editorial Writer
Los Angeles Times

Tonight the Los Angeles school board voted 4-2 to reappoint architect Stuart Magruder to the Bond Oversight Committee. He had previously been kicked off the committee by the board because he was too critical of Superintendent Deasy’s decision to borrow nearly $1 billion for iPads from a bond fund dedicated to construction and repairs. The iPads were to be used for Common Core testing. Magruder thought it was a bad idea, and the LAUSD board did not renew his appointment.

After a loud public outcry, including this editorial in the Los Angeles Times, the board took another vote and reappointed Magruder. The title of the editorial: “LAUSD Has Enough Yes-Men; It Needs Stuart Magruder.”

A victory for common sense and decency.

Columnist Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times explains why the school board did not reappoint Stuart Magruder to the “independent” Bond Oversight Committee: He asked too many questions about why Superintendent Deasy was tapping the school bond fund to buy iPads instead of spending the money as voters intended, for construction and repairs.

Magruder “just had to speak up. The arrogance, the temerity, the insolence. How dare he challenge the leadership of the Los Angeles Unified School District?”

What did he ask that got him bounced?

“There’s not enough space here to itemize all the issues raised at various times by Magruder and other committee members, along with members of the media.

But to name several:

Why iPads versus other, possibly less expensive tablets or laptops?

Why did the need for detached keyboards, at a cost of millions, seem to be such an afterthought?

Why did the district buy software sight unseen and only partially developed?

Why had there been so little teacher training and preparation?

Why so little consideration of who would be responsible for lost and damaged tablets?

And how useful could the tablets be if, by one legal interpretation, students wouldn’t be allowed to take them home each night?

“I’m invested in this,” said Magruder, who has two kids in L.A. Unified and got a first-hand look at the problems when his daughter’s school was included in an early phase of the iPad rollout.

Magruder didn’t find the programming engaging, compelling or linked to a larger curriculum strategy in a way that had been explained to teachers, parents or students.

“Technology doesn’t solve problems unless humans and teachers use it well,” said Magruder, who noted that the software company did manage to neatly promote itself to students with a logo on its programs.

“Not an ‘M’ for math or an ‘E’ for English, but a big ‘P’ for Pearson,” he said.”

The board will reconsider his ouster at its meeting on Tuesday. Here is hoping they restore this watchdog to his role as watchdog.

Please sign this petition calling on the LAUSD school board to re-appoint Stuart Magruder.

The Los Angeles school board has thus far refused to reappoint Stuart Magruder to the Bond Oversight Committee. Magruder, who was appointed to the committee by the American Institute of Architects, was booted largely by the opposition of board member Tamar Galatzan, a close ally of Superintendent John Deasy. She accused Magruder of interfering wit instructional authorities when he criticized the iPad deal. In fact, Magruder was doing his job as a member of an independent oversight committee. If the committee can be removed by those it oversees, then it cannot be independent or provide oversight.

The AIA has renominated Magruder to the committee.

The Los Angeles school board failed to reappoint Stuart Magruder, the appointee of the American Institute of Architects, to its 15-member. Bond Oversight Committee. Magruder was an outspoken critic of Superintendent John Deasy’s decision to use funds from a 25-year bond dedicated to construction and repairs to pay for his purchase of iPads for every student and staff member in the district. The failure to reappoint Magruder set off a firestorm, as he was doing his job, overseeing the use of bond funds. The entire membership of the Bond Oversight Committee signed a letter of protest to the board. Here is a description from Scott Folsom’s blog. He is a member of the Bond Oversight Committee.

ALSO ON THURSDAY, at the Beaudry Boardroom there was bit of dissent about that well-run/voter+taxpayer supported program. The expenditure of those bond funds and all the transperant+accountable oversight was being questioned by the very Oversight Committee the Voters of California and Los Angeles placed to watchdog the process in a Constitutional Amendment, state law, five school bond packages and a Memorandum of Understanding between LAUSD, The Board of Ed and the Oversight Committee. As you read here last week the Board of Ed refused to reappoint a very vocal critic of the superintendent’s iPads effort. A critic, mind you, who had not been successful in quashing the program (and the successful effort to slow the program down was not his alone) – but who had only asked questions about it. Stuart Magruder is one vote and one voice in fifteen – and the Board refuses to re-appoint him.

Magruder’s fiercest critic says that that’s not the reason she led the charge against him – she continues to claim that Magruder’s hidden agenda is to employ architects!

I am just as guilty. I represent an association of parents, teachers and students …and I am big on putting them to work!

NONE OF ANY OF THAT “He Said/She Said” MATTERS. What matters is that a three vote minority of Boardmembers wishes to create a more agreeable Bond Oversight Committee …as in “agrees with them”. When an elected body appoints the folks in charge of overseeing their actions we can toss out any concept of Independent Oversight. We become the LAUSD School Construction Bond Citizen’s Lapdog Committee. We become Monica+ Tamar+ Dr. V+C’s poodles. I don’t think so.

►LETTER: May 29, 2014

Los Angeles Unified School District
333 South Beaudry Avenue, 24th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90017

Dear Board Members:

We, the undersigned members of the LAUSD School Construction Bond Citizens’ Oversight Committee (BOC), urge you to reappoint Stuart Magruder as the representative of the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA/LA) on the BOC.

Mr. Magruder has been properly nominated by the AIA/LA for reappointment and, under the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding (§3.1.8) between the District and the BOC, the Board should reappoint him without hesitation.

Independence of the Bond Oversight Committee is vital to its proper function.

Disagreement with the comments, questions, and votes of a duly appointed member is NOT a valid justification for the Board to refuse to re-appoint that member when they have been properly re-nominated by a designated stakeholder organization. Stated simply, Stuart Magruder should be reappointed as the AIA/LA representative on the BOC as soon as possible.

[This was signed unanimously by the Oversight Committee at Thursday’s meeting.]

Did/will the Wall Street Bankers and Credit Raters note any of this?

What do you think?

LAUSD is sitting on the potential of selling $7+ billion in bonds in the future. We+the market-makers also know LAUSD has $30 billion in identified infrastructure+repair need. Eventually the District will need to go back to the voters …and the grassroots groundswell seems increasingly opposed. In 2012 this regime didn’t dare place a $255 million parcel tax on the November ballot …not just out of fear of defeat – but out of fear it would taint everything else on the ballot.

The Network for Public Education is pleased to endorse Sherlett Hendy Newbill for LAUSD District 1.

Sherlett is a teacher, a coach and a parent. She grew up in the district as the daughter of immigrants who struggled to put food on the table. She went to elementary, middle and high school in the district.

After graduating from Susan Miller Dorsey High School, she received a scholarship to attend Xavier University in New Orleans. She returned 16 years ago to raise a family in the neighborhood she grew up in and teach in the school she attended.

She says, “I have worked with teachers, parents and community members for 16 years in this community to improve schools, stop budget cuts, stop school closures and reconstitutions.”

Sherlett Hendy Newbill adds, “Our public school system is under attack. I am the only candidate who is not a politician and not tied in with the corporate reform movement.”

She will fight to protect and build up public schools. She would like to create a “Family Center” network which would provide wraparound services for the community.

When asked about school closures, she answered, “When the school I teach at was threatened with being closed or reconstituted, I organized with teachers, parents, alumni and the community to stop this at my school and to put a moratorium on school closures in LA because closing schools is horrible for students and communities. Don’t shut down schools. Give them what they need.”

On testing, “Students are more than a test score. Testing should be one of many components used to evaluate students. As a teacher in the trenches of our schools, I know first hand that when teachers focus only on raising test scores, they narrow the curriculum, focus too much on test prep and the students suffer. We need a school board member that gets this.”

When NPE decided to endorse candidates we promised we would support candidates who support public education. We don’t have the money to compete with the billionaires. But we hope our support will persuade parents, students and teachers to get out and vote. This election will be a low turnout and your vote will really make a difference.

We urge everyone to get out and vote for Sherlett Hendy Newbill on June 3rd.

Her website is


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