Archives for category: Los Angeles

Despite loud protests from the district’s teachers, the school board of Burbank, California, named Matt Hill as the next superintendent of schools.

Teachers were upset for two reasons:

1) Hill never was a teacher.

2) Hill is a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy, which is known for promoting school closings and privatization.

Hill persuaded the board that it should give him a chance. He said it was just as unfair to demonize his business background as it is unfair to demonize teachers.

Hill was responsible for the disastrous iPad program and MISIS program in the Los Angeles public schools. In addition to an ongoing FBI investigation of conflicts of interests in the district’s procurement agreement with Apple and Pearson, the SEC is now probing whether the use of bond funds to buy iPads was appropriate.

John Deasy’s ill-fated commitment to buy an iPad for every student and staff member (he called the program a civil rights issue) loaded with Pearson software for $1.3 billion is finished.

The district is canceling the program and demanding a multi-million dollar refund.

“Los Angeles Unified told Apple Inc. this week that it will not spend another dollar on the Pearson software installed on its iPads and is seeking a multimillion-dollar refund from the technology giant.

“If an agreement cannot be reached, the nation’s second-largest school district could take Apple to court.

“While Apple and Pearson promised a state-of-the-art technological solution for ITI implementation, they have yet to deliver it,” David Holmquist, the school district’s attorney, wrote in a letter to Apple’s general counsel. The ITI, or Instructional Technology Initiative, is the district’s name for its iPad program.

“Holmquist said the district is “extremely dissatisfied” with the work of Pearson on its technology initiative to get computers into the hands of each of the district’s 650,000 students.

“As we approach the end of the school year, the vast majority of students are still unable to access the Pearson curriculum on iPads,” he wrote.

“L.A. Unified’s $1.3 billion iPad program has been fraught with problems, from issues getting the technology to work in the classrooms to questions about how the tablets were procured.”

The procurement is being investigated by the FBI.

A court decision handed down in California found that charters in Los Angeles are entitled to more space.

The California Supreme Court unanimously decided Thursday that the Los Angeles school district’s method for allocating space to charter schools may shortchange them classrooms.

In a decisionhttp://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S208611.PDF written by Justice Goodwin Liu, the state’s highest court said the L.A. Unified School District’s formula may “undercount” the number of classrooms that charter schools are entitled to and should be replaced with a different method.

But whether the new method would lead to expansions for L.A. charter schools was unclear. The guidelines laid down by the court contained plenty of room for interpretation. Charter advocates predicted that at least some schools would get additional space. An attorney for LAUSD said no new charter school classrooms would be required.

The case was based on Proposition 39, which voters passed in 2000. It requires school districts to give charters facilities that are reasonably equivalent to those provided to students in traditional public schools. Charter schools are publicly funded and independently run. Most are nonunion.

The court said L.A. Unified violated a state regulation by allocating space to charters based on the number of classrooms staffed by teachers across the district. The law requires other space — including rooms used for study halls or libraries — to be part of the equation, the court said.

“Counting only those classrooms staffed by an assigned teacher would effectively impute to charter schools the same staffing decisions made by the District,” Liu wrote. “But there is no reason to think a charter school would necessarily use classrooms in the same way that the District does.”

David M. Huff, who represented LAUSD, said the district already shares libraries and other non-teaching rooms with on-site charters. Although the district must use a different formula in allotting space, “the math works out the same,” he said.

Laura Clawson at the Daily Kos reports that some teachers at a charter chain in Los Angeles want to organize a union. They have asked management to stay neutral. They thought management agreed, but it created an anti-union video.

Laura knows that the charter business model relies on low wages and teacher turnover; much of the money behind the charter industry (think Walton) is staunchly anti-union.

By the way, the incoming chair of the charter board previously led the Broad Foundation.

 

If you are anywhere near Los Angeles today, you have a chance to see and meet the great Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg. He is speaking at USC at 6 p.m. in the Grace Ford Salvatori Hall, Room 106. The topic is his book, “Finnish Lessons 2.0.” Of course, he will have much to say about our education system.

 

He will talk for about an hour, then take questions from the audience. See him if you possibly can. He gives a wonderful presentation.

 

The political action arm of the California Charter Schools Association spent heavily to elect charter-friendly candidates, but none of them won a majority. There will be three run-offs.

 

Bennett Kayser, the incumbent who was endorsed by the Network for Public Education, came in a close second to challenger and charter school leader Ref Rodriguez, who was leading by 38% to 35%. There will be a run-off.

 

Incumbent Tamar Galatzan, a strong supporter of charters and ex-superintendent John Deasy, got 39% of the vote, and the remainder was divided among several candidates. Veteran educator Scott Schmerelson (whom I endorsed) came in second with 20% of the vote. Galatzan outspent Schmerelson by 8-1 and will face him in a runoff.

 

Board chairman Dr. Richard Vladovic, also supported by charter advocates, did not receive a majority of the votes and will face a runoff against teacher Lydia Gutierrez. He led by 43% to 38%.

 

In all three critical races, the pro-charter candidate won a plurality, but the majority of those who turned out to vote did not vote for the pro-charter candidate.

Los Angeles school board member Steve Zimmer supports fellow board member Bennett Kayser, who has been the target of vicious attacks by the charter industry. Kayser has also been endorsed by Board chairman Dr. Richard Vladovic.

Here is Bennett’s website:

http://www.bennett2015.com/about.html

Here is how to volunteer to help:

http://www.bennett2015.com/events.html

By Steve Zimmer

Exactly two years ago, The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) sent out a series of campaign hit pieces blaming me for the budget cuts that hit LAUSD during the great recession. They attacked me on every front they could with over three million dollars raised from the likes of Michael Bloomberg, Michelle Rhee and Eli Broad. It was the ugliest, most expensive school board campaign in the history of the nation. We thought it couldn’t get any worse.

Then, last summer CCSA came after Dr. George McKenna with a vengeance. With lies, filth and distortion they tried to mar the career of one of the most beloved educators ever to teach and lead schools in South Los Angeles. The effort failed and McKenna won handily. We thought we had seen the worst.

We were wrong.

In the current School Board election campaign the Charter Schools Association has turned their sights on my colleague Bennett Kayser. In an onslaught of mail, radio and TV commercials, CCSA has gone completely off the rails in their effort to vilify Bennett Kayser. The first mailer attacks Kayser as a racist (http://bit.ly/racistattack) despite the fact that he has a 100% voting record on every major district transformation supported by civil rights groups. They claim he protected child molesters (http://bit.ly/distortingrecordsondismissals) when the entire Board has voted to dismiss every single teacher accused of crimes against children . The most disgusting TV advertisement (http://bit.ly/MockingDisability) directly mocks and mimics his public fight against Parkinson’s.

We have never, ever seen attacks like these in political campaigns.

Bennett Kayser is a good man. His entire adult life has been devoted to public service. And he is an outstanding policy maker. He has been a leading advocate on the Board in support of Early Childhood Education, Adult Education, Arts Education and Immigrant Rights. His courage in his fight against Parkinson’s has been a ray of hope to families fighting neurological diseases.

So why is the Charter Schools Association so hell bent on destroying this man?

One reason and one reason only: he votes against charter schools. Not all charter schools. But most. He has many explanations for this including that charter schools do not serve an equitable number of special education students.

It is fair to disagree with Kayser. In a tough campaign it is fair to attack him for voting against charters. But this is not what the Charter Schools Association is doing.

CCSA seeks to take over the Board of Education by any means necessary. The Association believes in a private sector, corporate model for privatizing our public schools. If CCSA’s candidate, Ref Rodriguez, wins on March 3rd, CCSA will gain control of the LAUSD Board. This will mean an even greater expansion of charter schools and a much greater number of colocations on district campuses, without concern for the financial stability of our district or its impact on district students.

But that’s not the most important reason we should stand against what CCSA is doing.

We should stand against this because it is morally and ethically wrong. By equating voting against a charter school to racism, CCSA cheapens the deep struggles that still face our city and our nation. The crimes against children in school districts are both heinous acts and moral outrages. But to use the suffering of children and families as a campaign issue is the lowest form of political exploitation I have ever seen.

The most shocking attack is the attack on Mr. Kayser’s disability. I have seen very closely how difficult Bennett’s struggle against Parkinson’s is. It is a disease that affects his mobility, physical stability and his speech. But Parkinson’s does not affect Bennett Kayser cognitively nor does it impair his conscience. Bennett Kayser is absolutely fit to serve a second term on the school board. Bennett talks openly about Parkinson’s and uses his profile to raise awareness and allay fears about his disease. His courage to face down illness and to battle publicly should be celebrated not derided.

Do not let the Charter School Association get away with this. They are not only destroying a man; they are degrading our entire electoral process. This is one of those moments when if you do not directly stand against this, you are complicit.

This is especially true for every charter school that is a member of CCSA. If you think it is wrong to dehumanize a person, call upon the leadership of the organization that represents your schools to take these ads down.

Do not let Ref Rodriguez get away with this.

The candidate will tell you he has nothing to do with this. But when a candidate directly or indirectly accepts the dehumanization of his or her opponent it raises serious questions about their character. The willingness to view those who disagree with you as less than human is what actually raises questions about one’s fitness to serve. I have grave concerns that the ethical recklessness that has driven this campaign will become the operational norm of the Board of Education if CCSA is successful in taking control.

Finally, it is a time to lead. We cannot let Bennett Kayser stand alone.

I call on all of our elected leadership and community leadership to stand against the moral low bar of this campaign. If we allow the public tar and feathering of those who follow their conscience to become an acceptable norm, we are endangering the very republic itself; we are rupturing the fibers of our social contract. Stand up and call on CCSA to take down its commercials and apologize for its mailers (jed@calcharters.org). Stand next to the courageous charters to withdraw their membership from CCSA.

And most importantly, let us all commit to re-focusing our attention on children, their families and their school communities. While we argue and hurt one another their dreams languish. It is these dreams, after all, to which we are all accountable.

I am happy to endorse Scott Schmerelson for the LAUSD school board. He is an experienced educator who worked for 35 years. He turned around a troubled middle school. He knows what schools and students need. He would make a great school board member.

“Scott SCHMERELSON FOR SCHOOL BOARD 2015

“I have been a school site teacher, counselor and administrator for the past 35 years. I chose to always remain at the school site to work with students, parents and staff on a personal basis. I began my teaching career as a Spanish teacher with the School District of Philadelphia for 5 years and came to the Los Angeles Unified School District to continue as a Spanish teacher, English as a Second Language teacher, Secondary School Counselor, Assistant Principal of Secondary Counseling Services, Assistant Principal and Principal.

“I began my LAUSD career with a 12 year stay at Virgil Middle School in the Mid City area as a teacher, school counselor and Assistant Principal of Secondary Counseling Services. I later became an Assistant Principal at Griffith Middle School in East Los Angeles for 5 years and then became Principal at Lawrence Middle School in Chatsworth for 5 years and retired as Principal of Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Middle School in South Los Angeles for 11 years.

“I have been treasurer of the Middle Schools Principals’ Association and currently I am treasurer of the Cuban-American Teachers’ Association. I am a member of the Association of California School Administrators. I served a two year term as President of Region 16 and I currently am the Executive Director of Region 16. Region 16 encompasses the entire Los Angeles Unified School District.

“I consider my most effective endeavor was in accepting the offer to transfer from Lawrence Middle School to Mount Vernon Middle School in order to try to prevent the school from a state take-over due to a history of poor test scores, low morale and a decaying physical plant. The school was successful in avoiding a state take-over. The test scores, the physical plant and teacher-student-parent morale continued to significantly improve.

“I was also elected as Secondary Director of the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles. My goal was to assure all members that their rights would be protected. I believed that the strength of AALA is in all members participating in organization meetings. Our organizational meetings enabled fellow administrators from across the district to meet and share best practices. Some Local Districts do not thoroughly share operational issues at Principals’ meetings which are vital to the smooth functioning of our schools. Organizational meetings, on the other hand, present a balance of instructional and operational issues.

“I consider myself to be fiscally conservative and socially liberal. I believe all students should receive the best education possible and that all school should have the necessary funding to make the students successful. The school is where all available funding should be directed. As employees of LAUSD we all work for the children of the District. Every employee from the Superintendent down should focus on the school site when making fiscal decisions; that is where every available dollar should be directed. As a board member, will absolutely only use bond funding for its intended purpose. The last bond issue was to repair and upgrade our schools. That was a sacred trust between the voters and the District. You may be assured that as Board member I would follow the will of the people and see that the money is used as it was intended

Scott Schmerelson
Age: 63
Eduction: Master of Science in education, school administration, Cal State L.A.
Political experience: first run for public office
Website: scott4lausd.com, also facebook.com/Scott4LAUSD

Candidate Scott Schmerelson worked in LAUSD schools for 33 years and carries the endorsements of LAUSD’s administrators union, Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, as well as the California School Employees Association, which represents clerical workers, teachers aids and other classified positions.

And he’s no stranger to troubled schools. When LAUSD wanted to prevent a state takeover of Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Middle School when it was Mount Vernon Middle School, Schmerelson was called in. During his five years as principal, he improved test scores, conditions and morale at the troubled Mid-City campus, according to his website.

Schmerelson wants to increase local control by sending more decision-making power to school site councils, which are campus-based bodies of administrators, teachers and parents. He also wants teachers to evaluate the performance of their peers, as opposed to administrators, and create mentoring systems to support underperforming educators.

“The average teacher has close to 10 years’ experience right now. Why in the world would we move to get rid of struggling teachers without doing everything we can to help them improve instruction,” Schmerelson states on his website.

The Network for Public Education has endorsed Bennett Kayser for re-election to the Los Angeles school board. Kayser is a retired educator. He is a strong supporter of public education. He has fought for reduced class sizes. He opposes efforts to deny due process to teachers. He opposes privatization of public education.

He is enemy number one to the California Charter Schools Association Advocates, the political action arm of the wealthy charter industry.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the charter lobby has far outspent Kayser in its effort to defeat him with a pro-charter candidate.

The charter association has distributed malicious flyers falsely implying that Kayser is a racist and anti-Latino. The flyers feature a picture of Governor Jerry Brown, falsely implying that the popular governor endorsed their candidate (he did not). Their TV ads have ridiculed Kayser’s disability (he has Parkinson’s). The anti-Kayser campaign has been scurrilous and shameful.

The LA Times says:

“Through Wednesday’s campaign filings, the charter group had spent $699,688 to support [its candidate] Rodriguez. UTLA had spent $384,109 for Kayser. Those totals far surpass donations directly to the candidates as well as the spending totals for the other contested board races.

“Since September, the donors to the charter PAC include Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings ($1.5 million), former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ($450,000), Jim Walton of the Wal-Mart founding family ($250,000) and local philanthropist Eli Broad ($155,000). All are longtime charter school backers with a broad interest in education.”

These billionaires have a specific interest in education: they want to replace public schools with charter schools, and in the case of Walton, with vouchers. They also believe in disruption as a strategy for change. Disruption is not good for children or education.

Billionaire Reed Hastings told the charter association that he looks forward to the day when local school boards are gone and almost all schools are charters.

Bennett Kayser wants to improve the public schools, not replace or destroy them. Every high-performing nation in the world has a public school system, not a system of privately managed schools.

That is why the Network for Public Education endorses Bennett Kayser for re-election to the Los Angeles school board.

Ramon Cortines, interim superintendent of schools in Los Angeles, said that the district can’t afford to buy iPads or computers for every student and staff member. This is a repudiation of his predecessor John Deasy’s signal initiative, which was couched as a civil rights issue.

“Los Angeles Unified School Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said Friday the district cannot afford to provide a computer to every student, signaling a major reversal for his predecessor’s ill-fated $1.3-billion effort to distribute iPads to all students, teachers and school administrators.

“Instead, Cortines said, the L.A. Unified School District will try to provide computers to students when needed for instruction and testing.

“I don’t believe we can afford a device for every student,” said Cortines, who added that the district never had a fleshed-out framework for how the devices would be used in the classroom and paid for over time.

“Education shouldn’t become the gimmick of the year,” Cortines said in a meeting Friday with several reporters.”

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