Archives for category: Los Angeles

Annie Gilbertson of KPCC in Los Angeles reports that internal emails show that district officials met and emailed Apple and Pearson a year before the bidding process for new technology and software began.

“Emails obtained by KPCC show Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy personally began meeting with Pearson and Apple to discuss the eventual purchase of their products starting nearly a year before the contract went out to public bid.

“Detailed in dozens of emails, the early private talks included everything from prices – about $160 million over five years – to tech support.

“On behalf of those involved in Pearson Common Core System of Courses, I want you to know how much we are looking forward to our partnership with LAUSD,” Pearson staffer Sherry King wrote the head of curriculum for L.A. Unified at the time, Jaime Aquino, in November 2013. “We have begun to work closely with your leadership to help make the transition to the common core smooth for everyone.”

“Emails show Deasy met with CEO of Pearson in May 2012 and later told her it led him to have “excited” conversations with his staff upon his return.”

Deasy also met with Apple officials in 2012.

School officials declined to comment.

“Michael Josephson, of the Josephson Institute of Ethics in Los Angeles, said it’s possible Pearson was the best choice and school officials didn’t mean to play to favorites – but it doesn’t look good.

“You absolutely don’t want a situation where contracts are being steered to favorites,” he said. “It invites kickbacks. It invites skimming. It invites bribery. That’s totally unacceptable.”

Howard Blume of the Los Angeles Times reported today the leaked results of an investigation of the district’s plan to purchase $1 billion of iPads loaded with Pearson curriculum.

It begins:

“The groundbreaking effort to provide an iPad to every Los Angeles student, teacher and school administrator was beset by inadequate planning, a lack of transparency and a flawed bidding process, according to the draft of an internal school district report obtained by The Times.

“The bidding process — and events leading up to it — were singled out for particular criticism. The report concludes that the district needlessly limited its options on price and product, and raises questions about whether the process was fair.

“The much-anticipated analysis is drawn from public and closed meetings held over 10 months by a committee chaired by school board member Monica Ratliff. That panel, composed of parents, employee representatives and district officials, heard presentations, posed questions and gathered documents from experts and officials. Ratliff directed that the report remain confidential until committee members could provide input.

“The Times obtained it from sources who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to release it.

“The committee review stops short of accusing anyone of wrongdoing, but offers a carefully worded rebuke of the $1-billion-plus technology effort in the nation’s second-largest school system.

“While the report applauds the goals and potential benefits of the technology push, it details major problems in how the effort was carried out.

“Among the findings:

“•The initial rules for winning the contract appeared to be tailored to the products of the eventual winners — Apple and Pearson — rather than to demonstrated district needs.

“•Key changes to the bidding rules were made after most of the competition had been eliminated under the original specifications.

“•Past comments or associations with vendors, including by L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy, created an appearance of conflict even if no ethics rules were violated.

“Last year’s iPad rollout at 47 schools suffered a series of setbacks. In one, students at three campuses deleted security filters so they could browse the Internet — prompting officials to prohibit the iPads’ use outside of school.

“Still, many students and teachers expressed excitement about using the $768 devices and the opportunities they might offer.

“Both the devices and the curriculum on them have been paid for with voter-approved school construction bonds.

“While the report is wide-ranging, it focuses heavily on the bidding that resulted in a $30-million initial contract for Apple in June 2013. That work was expected to expand districtwide by the end of 2014, but officials changed the plan after the rollout, pushing the timetable back and testing to see if laptops might be better for older students.

“The report suggests that from the beginning district officials, including Deasy, made decisions that created an appearance of impropriety, clouding good intentions.”

“The superintendent recused himself from the bidding process because he owned Apple stock, which he has since sold. But he seemed to signal where his preferences lay in a promotional video filmed for Apple in December 2011, as a school pilot program using only iPads was set to start.”

The story points out that the instructional leader of the district, Jaime Aquino, previously worked for Pearson, and that Pearson’s foundation underwrote the cost of a conference for 50 district employees in Palm Desert, where each received a gift iPad for “district use.”

In a close election, veteran educator George McKenna won a seat on the Los Angeles school board. His opponent, Alex Johnson, outspent him. McKenna supporters bit their nails for hours, waiting for the final tally, which was 53-47 in McKenna’s favor. It was a special election to fill the seat of the late Marguerite LaMotte. McKenna had 50 years experience in education. Johnson was a favorite of the charter industry.

According to the Los Angeles Times,

“The winner is likely to cast pivotal votes on such issues as how teachers are evaluated and how large a pay raise they will receive, and whether L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy has the board support to pursue his vision of reform on these and other matters.

“McKenna, 73, entered the contest with strong and generally positive name recognition based on five decades of experience in local school systems.

“He achieved national acclaim for his decade-long tenure as principal at Washington Preparatory High School in South L.A. before becoming superintendent of the nearby Inglewood Unified School District for six years. He then held senior posts in Compton Unified, Pasadena Unified and L.A. Unified. These districts made incremental progress, but nothing like the success he’d had as a school principal.

“Over the last four years, Johnson, 34, has been an aide to L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, focusing on education and safety.

“Before that, the L.A. native worked as an attorney in the New York public school system for two years. He also served as an entry-level prosecutor for three years in the Bronx.

“To offset McKenna’s advantage of experience and personal connections, Johnson forged key alliances.

“Several major political action committees backed Johnson, including one for charter schools; a second with ties to Ridley-Thomas; a third that drew on connections with civic leaders in support of Deasy; and a fourth funded by Local 99 of Services Employees International, which represents most low-wage, non-teaching district employees. Johnson had pledged unequivocal support of their salary demands in contract negotiations.”





The election for the Los Angeles School Board seat in District 1 is Tuesday August 12.

If you live in Board District 1, be sure to vote.

Monica Ratliff endorsed veteran educator George McKenna. So did Steve Zimmer.

Here is Steve Zimmer’s statement:

I am posting this on Facebook in the hopes that each of my friends who lives in LAUSD Board District 1, works in Board District 1 or knows folks who live in Board District 1 will urge people to vote in Tuesday’s Special Election. This special election, to fulfill the unexpired term of my friend and colleague Ms. La Motte, is expected to have an incredibly low voter turnout. I ask you first and foremost to vote on Tuesday. We must show that public education is important for every student in every community.

As many of you know, I have endorsed Dr. George McKenna in this race. I do not make endorsements lightly. I respect the rights of voters, especially when it is not my district, to make their own decisions. When I saw the attacks against Dr. McKenna, however, I decided I could not stand by and watch. As I saw the same organizations that spent over $4 million to take me out, now raising over $1 million to spread lies and cast doubts about Dr. McKenna’s career, I could not look away. TheLAUSD school board is not for sale. It is immoral to seek victory by any means necessary. It is unconscionable to use the injuries of children as a political weapon. In some of the same ways as in my election, our core democratic values hang in the balance as ballots are cast on Tuesday.

These were the reasons I endorsedDr. McKenna two weeks ago. Since that time, I have come to know George McKenna in a different way than I had working with him over the last 20 years. I have seen the man behind the Superintendent. I have seen the values and reasoning behind his decisions. I had always respected Dr. McKenna. From the moment I met him in 1992 as a first year teacher, I knew that Dr. McKenna was a consummate educator in an ongoing struggle for civil rights and education rights for all students.It is a very hard thing to do that from within public school systems, so I had always respected his skills and tenacity. But now that respect has grown into trust. I trust that Dr. McKenna is running for all the right reasons, and It rust that his understanding of the needs of children in district one and throughout LAUSD will make Dr. McKenna an outstanding board member.


· I trust Dr. McKenna will put the needs of students and their families first in every decision he makes as a Board Member

· I trust Dr. McKenna has absolute urgency to transform our schools so they meet needs of students and families for whom the promise of public education has yet to be realized

· I trust Dr. McKenna understands the complexity and diversity of District One and that he will serve all areas of the district; balancing the charge to concentrate resources in areas of greatest need with ensuring that all schools are well supported

· I trust Dr. McKenna is truly independent. He will not be beholden to any interest group or endorser and has shown this over and over again during the campaign. He is honest and transparent because he is an educator not a politician.

· I trust that Dr. McKenna will not blame teachers for the problems facing public education. He knows that our challenges do not have simple answers and that we all must work together. He will hold every employee to the highest expectations while respecting their dignity and honoring their service.

These are the qualities and values we need in our next school board member. Dr. McKenna has both the moral compass and the experiential direction to lead LAUSD towards a new day for children and their schools. It has been an honor to get to know a man I have admired for so long. I ask you to spread the word about this election and aboutDr. McKenna. I encourage you to visit his website and listen to one of McKenna’s speeches.

If you should have questions, feel free to email me at

Please feel free to share this note and thank you for reading and caring about public education.

Ellen Lubic of Los Angeles sent the following roundup of editorials and news stories endorsing George McKenna for the school board race in Los Angeles. Control of the board hinges on the outcome of this election. The vote takes place August 12.

Ellen Lubic writes:

Forgive this very long comment below. It is the latest blog post of Scott Folsom, the well known advocate for public schools and their students. His blog site is 4lakids.

Herein, Scott covers just about all there is to date on this lopsided District 1 BoE race between the verified and highly qualified educator, McKenna vs. the empty suit being created by the big bucks of the privatizers, Johnson.

At the bottom of this long exposition, Scott offers the ways we can all help get McKenna elected.

“On August 12th there will be an election to determine who gets to fill the final 10½ months of the late Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte’s seat on the LAUSD Board of Education. August 12th is also the first day of school for the new school year. And as the kids head back to the classroom the adults are behaving badly.

“There’s a theme here; you will read below differing accounts of the goings on/shenanigans/dirty politics in District One. • The L.A. Times re-endorsement of Dr. McKenna– and that of AALA, the administrator’s union. •Sandy Bank’s attempt to be fair+even-handed …though in telling the truth she cannot help but side with the truth. •The Red Queen’s intellectual outrage. • The L.A. Sentinel’s grassroots outrage – tempered with pure political intimidation, fearful in naming the name of the Powerbroker-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. (Does the name Lord Valdemort ring a bell?) • And the angry censored Soulvine columns of Betty Pleasant; the editor pulled the plug on her L.A. Wave op-eds the past two weeks – lest He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Offended/The Outside-Operator-in-Chief take offense.

4LAKids has already declared our support for Dr. McKenna. In attempted equal-time/fair-play I have yet to find an article supporting Dr. McKenna’s opponent that doesn’t reek of framing, spin and paid political wordcraft. Or just plain lies.

That said opponent has a name, it is Alex Johnson. And he has qualifications: 1. He is the Assistant Senior Deputy for Education and Public Safety to County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas – the overlord of this intrigue. And 2: He has a lot of money backing his candidacy. That money translates into a lot of campaign posters and election mailers and robocalls. He has been promoted, packaged, branded and sold by MRT, the charter school promoters, the Gates and Broads and Waltons and Deasys – the forces of $chool ®eform, Inc. – the very “outside operators” who have been given more schools in District One than anywhere else. Community activist Betty Pleasant says only the Johnson supporters are “preachers who tow [Mark Ridley Thomas’] line because they have charter school and preschool contracts with L.A. County which they believe would be jeopardized if they didn’t back Johnson.”

A special Political Action Committee has been formed to promote Johnson behind the scenes. [“NEW POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE FORMS IN L.A. BD OF ED RACE: PAC is run by Dan Chang, who headed Deasy’s nonprofit”| At the end of the day Johnson is an attractive empty package, new and shiny and sparkly, who shows some promise. Get some today!

Alex Johnson has no record, as Larry Aubry said in his L.A. Sentinel Op-Ed “Alex Johnson is just carrying his boss’ water.” His experience in education has been that of a student. Not to downplay students – this is all about students – we all have been students and the best of us work at it every day. But as George McKenna says: “I have been a patient in a hospital; that doesn’t qualify me as a nurse or doctor or surgeon or a hospital administrator. Or for a seat on the Board of Directors at the hospital”

If you can’t run on your own record you run against your opponent’s.

Mostly Mark+Alex’s spending of millionaire-donor’s money translates into a lot of very ugly negative campaigning against Dr. McKenna – who has the audacity to be an educator with fifty years of experience holding every job from classroom teacher to superintendent of schools in three school districts – and beaucoup experience in LAUSD as an administrator from principal to local district superintendent. George McKenna has talked-the talk, walked-the-walk; taught-the-class, got-the-degree; been there, done that and got the whole drawer of t-shirts. (This is hyperbolic – I have never seen McKenna in a t-shirt!)

McKenna bristles at being called a called a hero, or at his work being called heroic by Hollywood or others. It may not be good TV movie fare but the heroism practiced in the schools everyday by teachers and administrators and students is what needs to motivate us. Education is not easy, it’s hard. Teaching children to read – and learning to read are the hardest things imaginable – especially for a six-year-old who doesn’t have a book at home, who doesn’t speak English at home – who may not get enough food or sleep – who may not feel safe in his own neighborhood.

There is no hidden agenda here. George McKenna’s heart is on his sleeve – his entire career has been spent preparing young people for successful lives. In so doing he has been preparing for the days after August 12th when he can continue that life’s work on the Board of Education. This election is about children’s promising futures ….not his own.

School starts on August 12th, part of our superintendent’s (just-in-time-for-global-warming) Early Start Calendar. If you live in District One you can outflank the supe and the powers-that-be – the folks who insist on turning over your schools to outside operators. You can start The New School Year and the future of LAUSD even earlier – and better prepared for success – by completing and mailing-in your ballot before Aug 5th.”


►GEORGE MCKENNA FOR L.A. UNIFIED SCHOOL BOARD: “McKenna continues to come across as someone whose first consideration is helping kids learn.”

By The Times Editorial Board |

“July 21, 2014, 5:10 PM :: Two candidates with different styles and viewpoints are vying to join the Los Angeles Unified school board, replacing longtime board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who died in December. Both of the candidates also hold different beliefs than did LaMotte, who was a fiery opponent of most school reform.

“This is an opportunity for voters in District 1, which includes South Los Angeles and sections of West Los Angeles, to make themselves heard. That’s especially true, sad to say, because voter turnout on this one-race election day, Aug. 12, is expected to be below 10%. The only good thing that can be said about such low participation is that those who do turn out to vote will be making their ballots count.

“When they do, a strong choice for the job is retired L.A. schools administrator George McKenna, who won national attention and praise for reforms he instituted during the 1980s as principal of one of L.A. Unified’s high schools, George Washington Preparatory High in Westmont. Thirty years later, McKenna continues to come across as someone whose first consideration is helping kids learn, especially socioeconomically disadvantaged students who for too long have been shorted on classroom space and qualified teachers.

“McKenna hasn’t always been a successful administrator — his tenure as superintendent of the Inglewood schools was marked by fiscal and other problems that were addressed too slowly — but we think his well-thought-out positions will serve him well as a school board member.

“McKenna’s opponent, Alex Johnson, also talks about putting students first. But Johnson, an avid reform candidate and education aide to L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, lacks the depth of educational understanding that McKenna would bring to the board. Johnson tends to phrase his concerns in generic political terms rather than thinking through his positions and backing up his assertions with facts.

“It’s encouraging to see that both candidates support the continued leadership of Supt. John Deasy, who has been a positive force for the school district. McKenna is more likely to question Deasy’s proposals when he feels the superintendent is heading in the wrong direction, but he made it clear to the editorial board that he hopes Deasy will continue in the job through the expiration of his contract in 2016. Given Deasy’s occasional tendency to make bold moves too hastily — including his original proposal to purchase more than 600,000 iPads — it’s a good thing if board members are willing to challenge him when necessary.

“Ideology holds little interest for McKenna. As a board member, he is likely to consider each issue on its individual merits rather than follow pre-set allegiances. We trust him to ask serious questions and vote for common-sense solutions.

“On Aug. 12 — which is also the first day of school — voters should remember that this year, there’s another important part of the day. They should show up at their polling places to help shape the district’s future.”


From the AALA Update week of July 28, 2014 |

“July 24, 2014 : As the race for the District 1 seat on the LAUSD Board of Education enters its final days, AALA-endorsed candidate Dr. George McKenna is continuing to garner more endorsements (Mónica Ratliff, CSEA Chapter 500, California Title 1 Parent Union, LA School Police Association) while his opponent has resorted to a smear campaign. On the day that the Los Angeles Times printed another editorial supporting Dr. McKenna, in a show of desperation, the opposing side sent out a distorted letter misrepresenting Dr. McKenna’s character and leadership. While the McKenna campaign has focused on his experience, strengths, leadership and knowledge, the opponent can only respond with attacks and negativity.

“The Times also reported that a new political action committee has formed to influence the outcome of the election. It is called the Great Public Schools Los Angeles Political Action Committee and is headed by Dan Chang who was the executive director of LA Fund, the nonprofit created by Superintendent Deasy to support LAUSD, as well as an executive with Green Dot and L.A.’s Promise. Clearly, this is another attempt by outside interests and charter schools to get an even stronger foothold into the District.

“CSEA Chapter 500 recently endorsed Dr. McKenna and its president, Linda Perez, sent an appeal to her members and leaders of other organizations saying:

“…I must also tell you that I was Dr. McKenna’s secretary for a couple of years and I got to know him very well! In my humble opinion, Dr. McKenna is the only candidate worth fighting for…Dr. McKenna is a man of integrity, honesty, passion for our students and fairness for LAUSD employees, particularly CSEA Classified Professionals. I know! I was there with him, 5 days a week. I witnessed closely his dedication and love for his profession. I saw how students from decades reached out to him to thank him for “forcing” them to become professional and honest citizens. Now I’m reaching out to you to ask you to please support Dr. McKenna so he can continue supporting our students and staff, not only in District 1 but across the District, because his contributions to the Board of Education will not only affect District 1 but the entire LAUSD.”

“Dr. McKenna is clearly the most qualified candidate; one on whom we can depend to make independent decisions that are in the best interests of students and employees of the District. He is not interested in furthering his political career, just continuing to pursue his passion for children and public education. If you live in District 1, it is incumbent upon you to vote. If you do not, please support the campaign by participating in the next fundraising event on July 27, 2014

“(see flyer:, or joining with CSEA to walk the precincts on July 26 and August 2 (see flyer:”

An appeal for support from Dr. McKenna


By The Red Queen in L.A. in her blog |

“Thursday, 24 Jul 2014 :: Did you know there’s an election in three weeks?

“If you do not live in LAUSD’s first district, you might be excused from awareness of it, though not if you drive anywhere within that district. You’d have to be blind (inadvisable if driving) to have overlooked the gigantic – and unethical, according to the COLA elections commission – political propaganda polluting public property in proclaiming the primacy of their favorite son, hand-ordained staff-member of Mark Ridley-Thomas, Alex Johnson.

“Ginormous and ubiquitous, these signs represent the might of the political machinery backing Mr Johnson, rather than, say, the size of his public support or job qualifications.

“At the age of 33, Mr Johnson has accrued basically zero track record in issues educational, either politically or pedagogically or theoretically or practically. He does, however, nicely reflect his bosses’ readiness to assert opinions educational a propos of no experience or background in the matter at all, as this account of County Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, his aide Alex Johnson and chief-of staff, attests. All three politicos cheerfully admit to having never read the thoughtfully crafted 29-page opinion regarding a Culver City charter school – before rejecting outright the school board’s denial of this petition. Without permitting the deliberations of local elected political leaders or education experts to derail their well-buttressed pre-conceived convictions, nary a whiff of public education advocacy was permitted sway. These three officials asserted their right to an unreflective, uninformed support for the rejected petition because of “a philosophical difference [with the Culver City Unified School District board president] about charter schools”.

“Just so, this episode accurately encapsulates the arcane board race in LAUSD1 too. It’s about charter schools.

“This is a race that has been recapitulated with its underlying distinction over and over and over again all across this nation of ours. In our local school board elections, the body politic has weighed in cumulatively not once, not twice but in the three successive school board elections against the candidates allied with the political – that is not pedagogical but political – ideology of privatizing public education.

“The first of these recent elections was won by Bennett Kayser over Luis Sanchez, candidate of privatizing champion, former-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of the moribund Coalition For School Reform. The second of these wins pitted LAUSD board incumbent Steve Zimmer against millions of dollars corralled from across this nation, foremost among them from Mike Bloomberg, school privatizing, billionaire mayor of New York City. And most recent in the LAUSD series was Mónica Ratliff vanquishing challenger Antonio Sanchez, backed by a breathtaking constellation of corporate reformers.

“Now we meet yet the latest iteration of this Borg-like incursion of corporatizers intent on subsuming our children’s schooling. Alex Johnson, having shallow education bona fides but deep political patronage roots, must be understood in that context so charmingly articulated by his padrone, as The Candidate From Charter Land. Alex Johnson may not be an educator or parent or theoretician, but his political placement enables those who seek public monies to underwrite essentially private schooling enterprises. That is, Alex Johnson derives utility by enabling charter schools and those who would champion them.

“And who is it that champions charter schools in Los Angeles? Apart from the LAUSD board which has approved school charters numbering in the hundreds, rendering the westside of Los Angeles ground zero for the charter school movement? We have more charter schools here in our little ‘hood than in any other spot on the planet.

“Superintendent Deasy can be thought of as Enabler Extraordinaire of the charter school movement, graduate of Eli Broad’s “academy”, installed by Antonio Villaraigosa and possibly salaried by his one-time employer the Gates Foundation, sustained by the last leg of the educational reform triumvirate, the Walton Family Foundation.

“Note well and carefully: these charter schools are every bit as much a political phenomenon of the 1% as an educational one. In obeisance to neoliberalism, they are tearing apart the very edifice — literally and figuratively — of our democratic public education system.

“And that is what, and really only what, this election is about. What flavor of school champion do you favor? Are you inveigled by the corporatizing reformer lining private pockets with money and expertise from the public coffer? Or do you support and extend the oft-reiterated preference of our electorate for the professional educator, one in the mold of Kayser, Zimmer, Ratliff and Marguerite LaMotte herself, represented this time around by former school superintendent George McKenna?

“Who holds the intellectual needs of our young citizenry at heart? Teacher or Politician? Who protects their education as a basic human civil right rather than a monetized commodity? Who expresses the voice that we have elected time after time in recent years, the educator’s voice of concern for pedagogy?

George McKenna.

“Vote for George McKenna on the first day back at school:
Tuesday, August 12, 2014.”


By Sandy Banks in the L.A. Times |

“July 26, 2014 :: It was one line from a column of mine about the response of Los Angeles Unified officials to revelations of child abuse by a teacher at Miramonte Elementary.

“I’d quoted senior administrator George McKenna telling a community meeting that Miramonte’s principal was not to blame and parents “ought to be grateful” for the principal’s leadership.

“Two years later that “ought to be grateful” phrase wound up on a campaign mailer, suggesting that McKenna — who is running for school board — doesn’t care about the safety of students.

“The flier is the product of McKenna’s opponent, Alex Johnson, who has spent four years working on education issues for Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“Nobody’s questioning [McKenna's] personality or his motives. We’re simply raising questions about his performance. – Roy Behr, campaign consultant for Alex Johnson, McKenna’s rival

“Johnson’s campaign says the mailer is aimed at debunking “the myth of McKenna,” who drew national acclaim almost 30 years ago, when his tough-love reform of troubled Washington Prep High was made into a TV movie, with Denzel Washington playing McKenna.

“If he’s going to take credit for that, then everybody ought to take a look at what he’s done since then,” said Johnson campaign consultant Roy Behr. The mailer blames McKenna for “FAILED SCHOOLS. FALSE CLAIMS. FISCAL MISMANAGEMENT. FAILURE TO PROTECT KIDS.”

“I understand that politics is war, and a candidate’s words and record are fair targets.

“But McKenna wasn’t excusing child molesters in that comment from my column. He was defending Miramonte’s staff — which was about to be replaced by Supt. John Deasy in a wholesale housecleaning aimed at clearing the taint of child abuse from the South Los Angeles campus.

“McKenna didn’t agree with that move, but was tasked with carrying it out. He spent hours each week helping teachers-in-exile cope with shock, frustration and grief, and cheered — along with parents and students — when they were allowed to return to Miramonte six months later.

“Is McKenna old-school? Yes. He can also be blunt, impatient, demanding and unyielding.

“But I have never seen or heard anything that makes me doubt his commitment to students.”


“The race between Johnson and McKenna is for a South Los Angeles school board seat that’s been empty since the death seven months ago of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. The special election is Aug. 12; less than 10% of the area’s voters are expected to turn out.

“Low turnouts tend to favor the candidate with the most enthusiastic supporters. That would probably be McKenna, who began his career as a teacher in Watts and spent half a century in local school districts loaded with low-income kids. He won 44% of the vote in a crowded June primary, and has adopted the campaign slogan “The community’s choice.”

“But Johnson stands to benefit from his association with Ridley-Thomas, who’s considered a kingmaker by politicians in black Los Angeles. He has spent twice as much money as McKenna and relies on savvy political pros for campaign advice.

“Johnson’s campaign consultant calls McKenna “a status quo guy” who has failed to deliver relief to troubled schools. Behr defended the mailers that portray McKenna as lax on student safety and indifferent to parents’ concerns.

“Nobody’s questioning his personality or his motives,” Behr said. “We’re simply raising questions about his performance.”

“The campaign is relying on a political staple in trashing the front-runner. There’s certainly plenty to question in McKenna’s 50-year career, which includes mixed reviews of his stints in Inglewood, Compton and Pasadena.

“But branding McKenna a “failure” suggests naivete about what it takes to significantly improve perpetually struggling schools. It’s painstaking work, marked by huge obstacles and small victories — and problems so deep they can’t be fixed by iPads or side-stepped by charter schools.

“By the logic of Johnson’s campaign, McKenna is suspect because he hasn’t always had the kind of success his Hollywood movie projects.

“Even Johnson’s boss might recognize that perspective has its problems.

“Twenty years ago, Ridley-Thomas rose to McKenna’s defense when a politically divided Inglewood school board voted not to renew his contract as superintendent.

“Board members blamed McKenna for the district’s budget problems; they’d granted bigger pay raises than he’d advised and wound up in a hole.

“That’s what Johnson’s mailers now call McKenna’s “fiscal mismanagement.”

“But back then, Ridley-Thomas — then a Los Angeles city councilman described in The Times as McKenna’s “longtime friend and colleague” — called the Inglewood decision “just nonsensical.”


It’s easy to pluck a phrase from a newspaper story and make it say what you want.

So for a little context, here are other McKenna comments from my columns that might not make the Johnson campaign’s cut.

In 2000, I criticized McKenna for imposing such a strict staff dress code in South L.A. that a male teacher couldn’t wear an earring because McKenna considered that a hallmark of gang membership.

I thought that was demeaning to teachers and socially out of sync. McKenna lectured me about students who’d been shot for wearing the wrong thing: “I have an obligation to set standards that are wholesome and safe for students and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Two years later, McKenna was an assistant superintendent in Pasadena when a flap erupted over a white teacher’s contention that unruly black students were responsible for low test scores and poor teacher morale at Muir High School.

I wrote about a public forum on the comment and included this quote from McKenna: “If children are disruptive, let’s say that. Let’s not say they’re disruptive because they’re black.”

McKenna reminded the crowd that almost half of Muir’s students lived in poverty, one-third came from single-parent homes, and 1 in 10 lived in shelters or group homes. Teachers who couldn’t accept that the stress of students’ lives might spill onto the campus “ought to be teaching in Beverly Hills,” he said.

And two years ago when McKenna retired from L.A. Unified, I interviewed him for hours, retracing the steps and missteps of his long career.

“He wasn’t a miracle worker,” I wrote then. “But he was a wise and tireless advocate for underachieving, underprivileged kids.”

“GEORGE McKENNA CAMPAIGN UNDER ATTACK: Community Outraged over lies, innuendo and propaganda
by Danny J. Bakewell, Jr. – Executive Editor of the Los Angles Sentinel | this article also appears in the LA Watts Times of July 24 |

“Published on Thursday, 24 July 2014 19:24 :: Long time educator and child advocate George McKenna didn’t know his over 40 years of service on the front lines and in the trenches of education in some of California’s poorest and most underserved schools and school districts was a piece of cake compared to the political road that he would need to travel to the Los Angeles Unified School Board – District #1 seat. But not even McKenna or any of the community residents he has spent his life fighting for have could have imagined that the reputation and credibility of one of the nation’s leading educators would have come under attack in such a brutal and shameful way as it has in recent political mailings from his opponent Alex Johnson.

“The accusations levied by the Alex Johnson for School Board Campaign and his supporters through an independent expenditure campaign have released a scathing array of accusations against the longtime educator, from blaming him for the child molestation charges which have plagued all of LAUSD for several years, to the state take-over of Inglewood and Compton Unified School Districts (the truth is McKenna left Inglewood Unified in 1994 and the state took over Inglewood in 2013. The State took over Compton Unified in 1993 and the state administrator brought McKenna in to repair the troubled district).

“George McKenna’s track record speaks for itself; he is a man of unquestionable character and integrity who has always put children first,” Congresswoman Karen Bass.

“He has spent a lifetime fighting long and hard to make sure our kids have a level playing field. He has committed his life to insuring equal opportunities for Black and Brown kids and all underprivileged and underserved children in the field of education. His reputation is beyond reproach” stated Congresswoman Karen Bass.”

“Rev. Jewett L. Walker, Jr. manager for the Elect McKenna Campaign and who served for years as the campaign director for former LAUSD Representative Marguerite Poindexter- LaMotte who passed away in December 2013 stated, “there’s a word to describe this type of dirty campaigning: SHAMEFUL!” The Alex Johnson Campaign is engaging in the worst kind of politics a lie-and-smear campaign or “poli-tricks” – which we can only assume his chief endorsers and sponsors condone.”


“Our community has never witnessed an outrageous smear campaign against a candidate such as the Alex Johnson Campaign is waging against Dr. George McKenna. The community must reject these kinds of lies and distortions against Dr. George McKenna who is a nationally known, successful and respected educator. Furthermore Alex Johnson is neither knowledgeable or experienced or credible as an educator. THIS IS IT. He needs to quit it,” stated Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

“George McKenna almost won the June Primary Election outright with over 44% of the vote compared to Alex Johnson’s 24%. He has been engaged in a heated battle to the August 12 special election finish line since the June 3 primary ended. While Johnson has outraised McKenna 2 to 1 in money, mostly coming from large corporate donors and charter school advocate groups, the community and the residents of the district clearly appear to be supporting McKenna. McKenna has received the endorsement of almost all of his opponents from the District 1 primary election including Genethia Hudley-Hayes, LAUSD Board of Education(ret.), School Teacher Rachel Johnson – Gardena Councilmember & Hattie McFrazier-LAUSD Educator/Pupil Services and Attendance Counselor (ret.). McKenna has also been endorsed by former school board member and city council woman Rita Walters, UTLA, The Democratic Party just to name a few.

“The latest slate of mailers sent out last week by the Johnson Campaign and other organizations supporting Johnson don’t appear to be promoting Johnson or his qualifications. Instead they are attacking McKenna’s credibility and giving no credence to the years of leadership and service that he has provided to the children of our community. Bishop T. Larry Kirkland, Presiding Bishop of the 5th Episcopal District of the AME Church stated that “Dr. McKenna is a man of unquestionable, integrity, character and experience who has always put our children’s best interest first to question or try and taint his integrity is disgraceful.”

“As a veteran campaign manager I can tell you that when a candidate loses a primary by 20 points, like Alex Johnson did, there is no clear path to victory in the runoff,” said Walker.

“Over the last several days Mr. Johnson and his supporters have revealed his plan: smear the good name of George McKenna.”

His powerful boss/political sponsor, has cut deals with billionaires and special interests to raise a boatload of money to flood the district with mailers and doorknockers that seek to trash the reputation that McKenna spent decades building by honorably serving our community. The good news is the Johnson campaign has no defense for McKenna’s greatest weapon: THE TRUTH.”

McKenna’s reputation as an educator is unquestionable. Upon arriving in Southern California from his native New Orleans, he was assigned to Washington High School in Los Angeles in 1979 when the school was besieged with violence, drugs and gangs. When he was done nearly 80 percent of the students went on to college.

This track record of success inspired the award-winning CBS movie, The George McKenna Story, starring Denzel Washington. He is passionate about education and the many children who are trapped in despair. This is a man who has received more than 400 citations and awards from civic, legislative and professional organizations.

In 1989, McKenna received the Congressional Black Caucus’ Chairman’s Award and in 1997 was elected into the National Alliance of Black School Educators’ Hall of Fame. Last week even local advisories joined forces to unify in support of a man so desperately needed that August 12 could not come soon enough.

Some individuals are risking their reputations to tarnish that of McKenna’s. George McKenna when asked about the slanderous accusations stated, “I will not be deterred, I will continue to push forward offering an inspiring message of hope for our kids future. This is the message that is resonating with school age children their parents, teachers and community advocates who are willing to stand up for honesty and integrity. My campaign and the work I have done around here throughout my life stands on its own. I have always stood tallest for kids, for education and for this community and I am not going to let false accusations sway me now.”

Gwendolyn Landry a parent and community education advocate stated that “The trickery and lies being asserted by the Alex Johnson Campaign are terrible. We cannot trust a person who distorts the truth to lead the education of our kids.”

It appears the political wrangling and power politics are just heating up as the campaign enters the last few weeks. Award winning journalist Betty Pleasant had her weekly Soulvine column pulled at the last minute at another local weekly publication because of her support of McKenna and because of her outrage to the tactics being used by the Johnson Campaign to smear McKenna’s good name. However, in today’s world of social media the censured column has now gone viral and was emailed, blasted, tweeted, posted on Facebook and other local mediums by community members outraged by this type of blatant disregard for the truth. Betty has been in the business of community news for a long time and she was totally caught off guard and surprised that her editors refused to run her column. Reverend Joe B. Hardwick president, Western States Baptist Convention and Pastor of Praises of Zion Church in Watts said “people think they can buy this election, but the truth is, our children, our community, and our future are not for sale. George has built his reputation and dedicated his life to working for these kids and we are prepared to fight to insure that his legacy of service continues all the way to the school board.”

●● The L.A. Wave’s always outspoken “Soulvine” columnist Betty Pleasant has never been afraid of going one step too far, that is how the game of agent provocateur is played, no matter the ‘hood. Her last two columns for the Wave have not been published, withheld for reasons unstated. Maybe because they speak for Dr. George McKenna – or against Mark Ridley Thomas? Or both? Maybe.

By Betty Pleasant [published under John Walsh’s byline in the THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE]

7:00 AM July 18, 2014 :: This Is It! — For the past seven months, the people of Los Angeles County have been engaged in a great war against the politicians we elected to represent us. For the most part, our battles have been pity-pat encounters to make our local politicians respond to our needs — rather than to their own obsessions to reign over us as little kings doing everything they can to create and/or perpetuate rich dynasties for themselves, their kin and their sycophants.

Well, nuclear war was declared this week when residents of LAUSD’s District 1 received two sets of campaign mailings in support of the election of Alex Johnson, King Mark Ridley-Thomas’s chosen minion, to the district’s seat on the School Board. These mailings are the worst pieces of campaign literature I’ve ever seen in my lengthy career. They are full of baldfaced and boldfaced lies about the people’s candidate, George McKenna, and constitute the nastiest smear campaign money can buy. I did not believe King Mark could stoop that low.

Sentinel publisher Danny Bakewell and I have not agreed on a single thing in almost 50 years — until now. We both wholeheartedly support the election of McKenna — who last week received the overwhelming endorsement of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, and today was endorsed by LAUSD Board member Monica Ratliff, who, like everyone else, maintains that McKenna’s “years of experience as a dedicated and successful teacher, principal and administrator will continue to serve the students and parents of District 1 well.”

It’s time to fight nuclear bombs with nuclear bombs. The only people who support Johnson are preachers who tow King Mark’s line because they have charter school and preschool contracts with L.A. County which they believe would be jeopardized if they didn’t back Johnson. They told me that. They told others in the community as well. It’s now common knowledge, particularly in view of what reportedly happened in one of our largest black churches a couple of Sundays ago when the pastor refused to interrupt his service to allow Johnson and King Mark to speak to his congregation. The preachers are getting bold, as they come to realize that the election of the truly qualified candidate, McKenna, would set them free.

Smearing McKenna

The first batch of smear literature against McKenna sported the disclaimer that it was not sent by the candidate or his campaign committee. It did state, however, that it was sent by the African American Voter Registration, Education, Participation Project (AAVREP), which, as we all know, is King Mark’s pet organization. He founded it, and he is, therefore, responsible for viciously maligning McKenna’s stellar career. The offending document lists as supporters, King Mark, Rep. Diane Watson (ret.), Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke (ret.), Congresswoman Janice Hahn, L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson and SEIU #99, Education Workers United. Now, it really upsets me when people I like do something I hate. So I called them for an explanation. I called Hahn in Washington D.C. and Watson at her house and both women were appalled that their names appeared on such a raunchy piece of campaign literature. “You know I’ve never participated in anything like that!” Watson said. “Johnson came to my house and presented himself well and asked for my support if he ran for the School Board,” Watson explained. “This was early when the election was finally agreed upon and I wanted McKenna in the seat. But he said he did not want to run for it. So I agreed to support Johnson, not realizing that McKenna would change his mind,” Watson said. “Now that he’s in the race, I definitely support McKenna. I do not like having my name on campaign pieces that attack him. I’m going to get to the bottom of this,” Watson said.

Like Watson, Rep. Hahn said she made an early commitment to support Johnson when he took her to lunch, where he made a decent impression on her. “Politics can get really dirty sometimes and this looks like one of those times,” Hahn said. “I must call over there,” she added. The other supporters named are obvious, as Burke’s support of Johnson is quid pro quo for King Mark’s support of her daughter for the Assembly. Wesson’s support may have something to do with the rumors that Wesson has been anointed to replace King Mark on the Board of Supervisors when he terms out. We will speak of this, and related matters, some more.

The House Is Open — The McKenna campaign held an open house last Saturday at its Crenshaw area headquarters to which an overflow crowd attended. The people left the morning rally held in Leimert Park to protest the beating of Marlene Pinnock and headed straight to the McKenna party. In addition to good food and great camaraderie, we had the pleasure of hearing rousing speeches from Rep. Maxine Waters, former School Board member Rita Walters, venerable LAUSD teacher Owen Knox and Rep. Karen Bass’s deputy chief of staff, Solomon Rivera, who exclaimed to the enthusiastic crowd: “We will not be owned by anybody.”

► SOULVINE UNCHAINED (The 7/24/14 Soulvine column rejected by the Wave)

Received by 4LAKids by email from a secret source.
By Betty Pleasant | Journalist

MEAN MAILERS — As the Aug. 12 runoff election for the 1st District LAUSD school board seat draws near, potential voters are being inundated with campaign mailers, the overwhelming majority of which are sent by the Alex Johnson campaign and all of which malign education icon George McKenna and shed little light on Johnson.

One woman complained to the Soulvine that she had received nine mailings from Johnson that were nothing but smears against McKenna, and she’s angry about them and said she’s sorry she can only cast one vote for McKenna on Aug. 12.

Civil rights activist Pedro Baez of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, was so angry about the series of mailers Johnson has been sending to the people that Monday, Baez and his group filed a formal complaint with the Los Angeles Ethics Commission demanding “a probe into the false, misleading and slanderous mailers sent by the Alex Johnson campaign.”

While Baez has been upset by previous anti-McKenna mailings from Johnson, he said the mailer that arrived Monday was beyond the pale and was more than he could tolerate. “In it, Johnson verged on labeling McKenna a pedophile enabler as he alleged that McKenna covered up sexual abuses in the school district!” Baez shouted.

In his complaint to the Ethics Commission, Baez wrote: “I and other civil rights leaders formally call upon the Los Angeles Ethics Commission for a probe into the false and slanderous mailings from the Johnson campaign against McKenna. We are demanding that the commission issue a cease and desist order and impose the maximum fine against the Johnson campaign for the fraudulent attacks.”

At Tuesday’s press conference about the mailer, Baez blamed Johnson’s financial backers — Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Maria Elena Durazo of the L.A. County Federation of Labor — “for this despicable act” and he said he “also urged the Ethics Commission to charge Ridley-Thomas “with gross violations of ethics and human decency and order him to send out another mailer apologizing to the voters of the LAUSD District 1 — and for Alex Johnson to withdraw forthwith from the race for this seat.”

The people have given the Soulvine the two most recent Johnson mailers that have upset them so, and I must say they are really raw. Johnson has a one-note theme to his campaign mailings and it appears to be about child molestation as opposed to child education, and in that regard he has accused McKenna of some despicable stuff which I must investigate. And while I’m investigating Johnson’s sex-tinged accusations against McKenna, I will probe Johnson’s lack of delineated credibility in the field of education. In his mailers, Johnson prides himself on having been an assistant district attorney (in the Bronx, N.Y.) “who prosecuted domestic violence, standing up for children and families who were victims of violence and abuse.” If that’s true, then why isn’t Johnson running for Los Angeles County district attorney? Lord knows we need prosecutors in the DA’s office, not on the school board! “Our kids are being prosecuted enough!” declared a group of women Saturday when they found Johnson literature on the windshields of their cars. They’re right. We need experienced educators on the school board, but education is a subject Johnson does not broach in his mailings. After further study we’ll discuss these things about McKenna and Johnson during the next couple of weeks.

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.
• FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. 4LAKids makes such material available in an effort to advance understanding of education issues vital to parents, teachers, students and community members in a democracy. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Sara Roos is a biostatistician and the parents of two children in the public schools of Los Angeles.


In this post, she explains the difference between George McKenna and Alex Johnson, who are running against one another for the LAUSD seat in District 1.


Read the post for her numerous links to support her statements.


This is what Sara Roos says about Johnson, who works for County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas:


“At the age of 33, Mr Johnson has accrued basically zero track record in issues educational, either politically or pedagogically or theoretically or practically. He does, however, nicely reflect his bosses’ readiness to assert opinions educational a propos of no experience or background in the matter at all, as this account of County Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, his aide Alex Johnson and chief-of staff, attests. All three politicos cheerfully admit to having never read the thoughtfully crafted 29-page opinion regarding a Culver City charter school – before rejecting outright the school board’s denial of this petition. Without permitting the deliberations of local elected political leaders or education experts to derail their well-buttressed pre-conceived convictions, nary a whiff of public education advocacy was permitted sway. These three officials asserted their right to an unreflective, uninformed support for the rejected petition because of “a philosophical difference [with the Culver City Unified School District board president] about charter schools”.
“Just so, this episode accurately encapsulates the arcane board race in LAUSD1 too. It’s about charter schools.”


This is a race that has been recapitulated with its underlying distinction over and over and over again all across this nation of ours. In our local school board elections, the body politic has weighed in cumulatively not once, not twice but in the three successive school board elections against the candidates allied with the political – that is not pedagogical but political – ideology of privatizing public education.
The first of these recent elections was won by Bennett Kayser over Luis Sanchez, candidate of privatizing champion, former-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of the moribund Coalition For School Reform. The second of these wins pitted LAUSD board incumbent Steve Zimmer against millions of dollars corralled from across this nation, foremost among them from Mike Bloomberg, school privatizing, billionaire mayor of New York City. And most recent in the LAUSD series was Mónica Ratliff vanquishing challenger Antonio Sanchez, backed by a breathtaking constellation of corporate reformers.
Now we meet yet the latest iteration of this Borg-like incursion of corporatizers intent on subsuming our children’s schooling. Alex Johnson, having shallow education bona fides but deep political patronage roots, must be understood in that context so charmingly articulated by his padrone, as The Candidate From Charter Land. Alex Johnson may not be an educator or parent or theoretician, but his political placement enables those who seek public monies to underwrite essentially private schooling enterprises. That is, Alex Johnson derives utility by enabling charter schools and those who would champion them.


So, if you think LAUSD needs more charters, Johnson is your guy.


What does Sara Roos say about McKenna? He is a professional educator.


Sara Roos concludes:


Vote for George McKenna on the first day back at school:
Tuesday, August 12, 2014.



What do the voters want? We will find out on August 22.





A judge in Los Angeles halted school officials’ efforts to close two Gulen related schools despite claims of millions of dollars missing. The schools have high test scores. The investigation continues.

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.”


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