The Los Angeles school board removed architect Stuart Magruder from its Bond Oversight Committee. Magruder was outspoken and critical of Superintendent John Deasy’s decision to use money from a 25-year construction bond to buy iPads for every student and staff member of the district for Common Core testing. Voters approved the bond issue for construction and repair of facilities of schools. But Deasy used it to pay nearly $1 billion for the iPads. Magruder was the nominee of the American Istitute of Architects to the committee.

This outrage was reported by Howard Blume in the Los Angeles Times.

Blume writes:

“The Los Angeles Board of Education this week acted against a critic of its controversial iPad program by refusing to reappoint him to a key review panel, the latest of several actions that could limit scrutiny of the project.

On Tuesday, a board majority removed Stuart Magruder as a nominee for a second, two-year term on the Bond Oversight Committee, which analyzes and votes on spending from school-construction bonds. The L.A. Unified School District is using more than $1 billion from these bonds to pay for providing a computer to every student, teacher and school administrator.

Board member Tamar Galatzan said she opposed Magruder because he overstepped his role.

He’s an architect and . . . has made many forays into telling the instructional people how to do instruction. I think it’s inappropriate.
– Tamar Galatzan, LAUSD board member
“He’s an architect and … has made many forays into telling the instructional people how to do instruction,” Galatzan said at the Tuesday meeting. “I think it’s inappropriate. I don’t think that’s what his expertise is.”

Galatzan confirmed later that she was referring to some of Magruder’s challenges of the iPad project.

Nearly a year go, the board approved an iPad contract that was expected to expand districtwide. But the fall rollout at 47 schools was plagued by difficulties, such as inadequate wireless Internet and inconsistent policies on who was responsible for the costly devices. Early on, students at three high schools deleted security filters so they could browse the Web freely. Officials also have come under fire for misstating costs and terms of the contract with Apple, which makes the iPad.

In an interview, Magruder, 47, defended his inquiries, saying officials needed to justify the huge expenditure.

“They claim there’s good pedagogical support for having iPads everywhere for all grades but they haven’t been able to provide any support for that,” he said.”

Scott Folsom’s blog—4LAKids—offers another commentary. Folsom is also a member of the Bond Oversight Committee.

4LAKids: Sunday 25•May•2014 Memorial Day Weekend

Folsom writes:

The “receive+file” confirmation of the appointment of a parent volunteer to a District committee gone horribly wrong: The board overreaching/overreacting – the upstart volunteer publicly excoriated for daring to question the superintendent’s policy and the board’s infinite wisdom.

A bit of Machiavellian politics and just plain Schoolyard Bullying from the Boardroom played out by six boardmembers and their superintendent that proves Mark Twain’s edict: “First God created idiots; that was for practice. Then He created school boards.”

How dare he? He’s only an architect …he’s only a parent!

It’s a pattern played out before. Picking+choosing the ‘right’ volunteers to serve on advisory committees – compliant folk who take-rather-than-provide-advice, dispensing with the troublemakers+questioners – sometimes ignoring and/or dissolving the committees themselves. Does the Title I District Advisory Committee ring a bell? The Parent Collaborative? The late lamented Focus on Student Achievement Council? It’s going on now with the Local Control Funding Formula Parent Advisory Committee. “Thank you for your service, your three minutes of parent engagement are up.”

HENRY II: “What sluggards, what cowards have I brought up in my court, who care nothing for their allegiance to their lord? Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

Henry created a martyr; his attempt at reform was crushed – his place in history is stained with Becket’s blood.

THE BOARD MEETING STARTED AT 9AM. I was in Sacramento minding everybody else’s business at a PTA legislative confab. By 9:20 my phone was vibrating, the tweets were tweeting and text messages and emails abounded.

In quick succession:

1. After being moved by Ms. Garcia and seconded by Mr. Zimmer the board votes to reconfirm two Bond Oversight Committee members, as recommended by the superintendent. And moves to the next item, which is public comment. (The students who eventually get to address the board on hydration stations do a great job!)

2. Wait a minute! …what just happened? Ms. Galatzan changes her mind and changes her vote on the previous item – blaming the agenda paperwork – and proceeds to attack one of the BOC members she just voted to confirm – the architect – although she doesn’t know/remember his name.

3. Ms. Garcia agrees with Ms. Galatzan …she too was confused by the agenda, even though she moved the item:

_________
RESOLUTIONS REQUESTED BY THE SUPERINTENDENT

Item #7. Reappointment of Members to the School Construction Bond Oversight Committee (Sup Res4)
(Postponed from May 13, 2014 Board Meeting)

Resolved, That the Governing Board of the Los Angeles Unified School District ratifies the reappointment of Mr. Stuart Magruder, representing the American Institute of Architects, and Mr. Barry Waite, representing the California Tax Reform Association, as Members to the School Construction Bond Oversight Committee for two-year terms commencing on May 8, 2014. The Board determines that Mr. Magruder and Mr. Waite are not employees, officials, vendors, contractors, or consultants of the District
_
_______
(cont.)
4. Dr. Deasy helps Ms. Galatzan in identifying the name of the meddlesome architect: Stuart Magruder. Galatzan continues to complain about Magruder, alleging that he will only vote for projects that have “architectural services” attached to them – and further he questions issues of educational content upon which he is unqualified to opine. “We can find other people in our vast community who will be more open minded.”

5. Board president Vladovic leaves the chair and Mr. Zimmer takes over.

6. Mr. Zimmer attempts to clarify what is becoming a murky quagmire. Secretary Crain establishes that it is now a divided vote and the motion on the floor is to approve the second appointee, Barry Waite, only.

7. Mr. Kayser asks for more detail on the process of nomination and appointment.

8. Dr. Deasy begins to distance himself from the action – his recommendation was not an endorsement of the candidates.

9. Mr. Zimmer states that it is his belief that proposed the board action is a ratification of another agency’s appointment, not an approval.

10. Dr. Deasy is unsure of who the appointing authority is, echoing Ms. Galatzan’s language of “Architectural Services”.

11. Dr. V returns to chair and says he doesn’t know what the issue is – but thanks Ms. Galatzan for ‘doing her homework’ – admits he hasn’t done his – sides with Galatzan and Garcia …and enthusiastically endorses Mr. Waite.

12. The vote is taken: Galatzan, Garcia, Vladovic and Kayser vote Yes. Mr. Zimmer votes No – apparently in opposition to the divide+conquer. Ms Ratliff abstains – presumabaly reacting to the confusion. Mr. Waite is confirmed.

13. Mr. Crain says that Bond Oversight staff might be available at the end of the closed session to revisit the Magruder nomination. When the board returns from closed session BOC staff, their attorney and Stuart Magruder are present. They are not allowed to be heard.

14. A vote up or down on Mr. Magruder is never taken, his reappointment quashed – his term on the BOC ended.

• One can say that Ms. Galatzan and Dr. Deasy won on Tuesday. The most vocal critic of the ill-conceived Common Core Technology Project/iPad program has been effectively removed from the Oversight Committee. (Until this mischief played out I probably would have used the adjective “poorly-conceived” in the previous sentence; I now find myself inclined towards the metaphorical “bastard-stepchild”.

• One can also say that the concept of Independent Oversight lost on Tuesday. One can certainly say that the voters and taxpayers lost.

• Dr. Deasy told the press he is not taking sides.

The Bond Oversight Committee and the L.A. chapter of the American Institute of Architects are not going to accept this turn of events lying down; the Board of Ed has exceeded its authority under the law. This will not stand. The AIA/LA wrote in re-nominating Magruder: “When the passage of Proposition 39 in 2000 led to the provision of the Education Code that required that the Board of Education appoint all BOC members, we and the other stakeholders agreed to the Memorandum of Understanding between the District and the BOC that, while the formal appointment would be done by the Board as a receive and file, the Board would faithfully appoint the nominee of each stakeholder group. We trust that the Board of Education intends to execute its duties in a transparent and equitable manner.”

The vocabulary of conflict is unfortunately in play. Lines in the sand have been drawn. A battle between the Board of Education and the superintendent and the Bond Oversight Committee has been joined; unless cooler heads prevail this could escalate to war. If fought it will be over the future of the LAUSD building and modernization program and over the $7+ billion in school bonds remaining unspent. It will not be pretty.

IN THE INTEREST OF FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a member of the Bond Oversight Committee.

I am the longest serving and most senior member. I have been an appointee of Los Angeles Tenth District PTA on-and-off – serving for over a dozen years. I was there when the Memorandum of Understanding – the operative agreement establishing the BOC and governing the relationship between the BOC, the District and the Board of Education – was negotiated with LAUSD and the Board of Education. The MOU clearly states that the appointing authority is the appointing authority – and that the Board of Education shall accept the appointment if the appointee is qualified – and those qualifications are that the appointee is not an employee, official, contractor, vendor or consultant of the District.

The vote of the Board is to confirm the qualifications, not approve the appointment.

“3.1.8. The Board shall appoint one member nominated by the American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles Chapter.”

Much is ambiguous in contract law and in legal definition. But the meaning of “shall” is unchanged since Exodus. ‘Shall’ means you have to do it!

The independent appointing authorities are: The Mayor of Los Angeles, The City Controller, The County Auditor, PTA, a senior citizens group (AARP), a representative of a charter school group, a taxpayers organization, the Early Childhood Ed Coalition, the Chamber of Commerce, a representative from the general contractors, a representative from the building trade unions and a representative from the Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Additionally the Board of Education gets to select and appoint two parents of LAUSD students. Some of these appointing authorities – like PTA and the taxpayers group – are stipulated in the State Law that governs school bonds. Others were established by the Board of Ed when they passed the first BB Bond and created the first Bond Oversight Committee in 1997. The make-up of the committee has changed slightly over the years by mutual consent of the board and the committee.

The issue is that of Independent Oversight – and independence cannot/will not be maintained if the Board can approve or disapprove its overseers.

Independent Oversight was and continues to be the promise made to the voters and taxpayers and all the stakeholders from community members, teachers, district employees, parents and past, present and future students of the District – when we passed all the school facilities bonds from BB to K, R, Y and Q.

Ms. Galatzan says Stuart goes too far in opining on instructional issues – and in other times and circumstances I might agree. But in the Deasy administration bond funds are being used to purchase instructional materials and therefore Stuart’s and the Bond Oversight Committee’s opinions are entirely relevant.

I do not agree with Stuart Magruder on some issues; I don’t have to. He is the appointee of the AIA/LA and as long as he has their faith and confidence he is their representative.

THERE IS A LAY PREACHER WHO REGULARLY MAKES PUBLIC COMMENT AT BOC AND BOARD MEETINGS and preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ as he believes it – he forecasts everlasting damnation if we don’t change our ways. If he’s right, we’re toast. I’ve spoken with him, he’s a nice guy and he is genuinely concerned about my soul and Tamar’s and Dr Deasy’s and Stuart’s and all of us. We may not be listening and we may not be saved – but the National Cemeteries are filled – and battlefields around the globe are stained with the blood of those who gave their lives and/or sacrificed their youth so that he could say those things and the rest of us could ignore him.

“IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE CRITICISM, FIRE THE CRITIC!”
►SCHOOL BOARD BLOCKS APPOINTEE CRITICAL OF iPADS
Posted on LA School Report by Vanessa Romo | http://bit.ly/1sU4iVd

May 20, 2014 4:00 pm :: What is normally a routine, no-questions-asked formality for the LA Unified School Board hit a snag today.

Board Member Tamar Galatzan opposed the reappointment of Stuart Magruder, an outspoken critic of the use of bond money for iPads, from the School Construction Bond Oversight Committee (BOC).

The board effectively blocked Magruder’s reappointment by removing him from a resolution. That will leave the 15 member BOC, an independent body formed to oversee bond money used to build and repair schools, with an empty seat.

“It’s not unprecedented but this doesn’t usually happen,” Jefferson Crain, LA Unified Board Secretariat, said of the board’s move.

[●● smf: It IS unprecedented!]

An architect, Magruder has served one term as an appointee nominated by the American Institute of Architects Association. Throughout his tenure, he has strongly opposed the use of bond funds for buying instructional materials including the district’s controversial and expensive iPad program.

Speaking out against Magruder, Galatzan said, “I just don’t think he’s the right person for that role. I think he’s overstepped his bounds…I think he’s overstepped his expertise on the Bond Oversight Committee.”

She told the board, who had just minutes earlier approved the reappointment, that Magruder often used his time during BOC meetings to expound on curriculum and instruction matters, and she urged her colleagues to rescind their support.

“I’m not going to be supporting him and I think we can find other people in our vast community who are a little more open-minded,” Galatzan said.

At a BOC meeting in March Magruder said, “We are spending roughly a $100 million on software for the iPads, which I guess is supposed to be a text book, which is actually not really being used very much as far as I can tell with my daughter’s experience at Palms Middle School.”

“That to me is really problematic,” he continued. “We’re throwing away $100 million on something that is not being used and is certainly not something we’re supposed to be paying for with construction bond funds.” (see video here)

Magruder’s term expired on May 8. However, a lawyer for the group suggested they are seeking alternatives for resubmitting Magruder for consideration.

In a 4-1 vote, the board agreed to reappoint Barry Waite, of the California Tax Reform Association to the BOC. Board member Monica Ratliff abstained while Board member Steve Zimmer was the only dissenting vote.

The board did not take any other actions during the board meeting.

_____________

►OUSTED OPPONENT OF LA SCHOOLS iPAD FIGHTS TO REGAIN SEAT ON OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE

By Annie Gilbertson | Pass / Fail | 89.3 KPCC HTTP://BIT.LY/1JBGMXU

May 21st, 2014, 5:38pm :: The architect tossed off a Los Angeles Unified School District oversight committee Tuesday is fighting to be reinstated.

The school board voted to remove Stuart Magruder, an outspoken critic of the district’s iPad program, from a list of renewal appointments on the committee that oversees how bond funds are spent. Those voter-approved bonds have been the principal funding source for Superintendent John Deasy’s $1 billion one-to-one tablet initiative.

School officials have said bond funds can be spent on technology upgrades.

But Magruder said voters clearly meant for the $19 billion loans to be used to maintain and build schools, not to buy “the modern equivalent of pencils and paper.” He said his ouster was political retribution.

“It drastically calls into question the independence of the committee,” he said in an interview.

On Wednesday, the American Institute of Architects asked the school board — nicely — to reconsider his reappointment, given that the committee’s founding documents give the institute to a guaranteed seat on the committee.

“According to the charter memorandum of understanding, the school board shall appointment one member nominated by the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles chapter and our nominee is Stuart Magruder,” said Nicci Solomons, the Executive Director of the American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles chapter.

The lawyer for the Bond Oversight Committee said the school board has violated the contract. The Memorandum of understanding states the school board “shall” appointment the the institute’s nominee after confirming the person has no conflicts of interest.

L.A. Unified officials said Margruder does not benefit financially from school building projects.

At a mostly closed school board meeting Tuesday, member Tamar Galatzan moved to have Magruder name removed from the reappointment list, voicing concerns about his employment as an architect. Board member Steve Zimmer was the only dissenting vote, and Monica Ratliff abstained.

“I believe Stuart Magruder has overstepped his role as the American Institute of Architects representative to the BOC, and I cannot vote for his reappointment,” Galatzan said in a written statement emailed to KPCC Wednesday.

Zimmer did not return calls for comment.

In addition to his criticism of the iPad program, Magruder has called into question Galatzan’s discretionary use bond funds.

He raised issue with her request for $290,000 for computers at specific schools in her district. Since 2011, school board members have spent about $4.5 million of discretionary bond funds on computers not related to the iPad program. Tw0-thirds of that money went to Galatzan’s district, which represents the middle- and upper-class West San Fernando Valley.

Magruder argued the money would be better spent on building repairs, which officials estimate will cost $13 billion over the next fifteen years, much more than the remaining bond funds.

Magruder’s position won him some fans, including teachers who formed a Facebook group called “Repairs, not iPads.” They have protested the district’s spending choices when schools still have to deal with broken toilets and leaky facets.

Matthew Kogan, the L.A. Unified teacher who heads the group, called Magruder’s removal an exercise of “unchecked powers.”

“I think it shows a disregard for our democratic institutions,” Kogan said.

The group has taken to twitter to protest, posting a video documenting Magruder’s critique of the iPad program made earlier this year.

_____________

“WE TRUST THAT THE BOARD OF EDUCATION INTENDS TO EXECUTE ITS DUTIES IN A TRANSPARENT AND EQUITABLE MANNER” Letter of reappointment of Stuart Magruder

Opinion: L.A. UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT DOESN’T NEED MORE IPAD YES MEN
• THE L.A. SCHOOL BOARD SHOULD BE GRATEFUL FOR THE PEOPLE WHO ASK TOUGH QUESTIONS
• DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO USE LONG-TERM BONDS TO BUY EQUIPMENT THAT LASTS A FEW YEARS?

By Karin Klein, L.A. Times Editorialist in Opinion LA | http://lat.ms/1kAvp79

May 23, 2014, 1:02 PM :: The Los Angeles Unified School District needs more independent-minded people who question its initiatives, not fewer. The school board made a mistake with its refusal to reappoint a member of the Bond Oversight Committee who had opposed the use of bond funds to pay for iPads for every student.

There should be more people raising concerns about this sort of bond expenditure, though other school districts in the state have gotten away with doing the same thing. It’s completely justifiable to use bond money to upgrade schools for wi-fi capacity, which is where $500 million of the money would go. But there should be serious doubts in the public’s mind about using bonds to purchase computing devices that last a few years. Voters agreed to tax themselves on the understanding that the billions of dollars were to be used to build and repair schools, or make other capital expenditures that would last for at least a couple of decades, which is how long it takes to pay off the bonds.

Of course, as we all know now, the iPad program was so rushed, with too few of the important questions asked or answered, that it immediately ran into trouble. Some of those early problems have been fixed, or at least addressed. Among them was the higher-than-average price, and the district’s use of bond money to buy curriculum with its iPads, curriculum that hadn’t even been fully written when it was purchased. Bond funding is not supposed to be used for curriculum purchase. The price of the devices has since been reduced, with the curriculum no longer part of the package deal.

And the iPad purchase has been slowed, with a smaller buy-in at the start and a more purposeful build-up. That might involve a mix of devices instead of the original approach of an iPad for every student and teacher. High school students did not find the tablets as useful as laptops, for example.

These were the kinds of questions that Stuart Magruder, an architect on the Bond Oversight Committee, was raising when too many others were just going along. The board should have been glad to have a member of the committee doing exactly what the panel is supposed to do: carefully vet the use of bond money to ensure that it is properly and prudently spent.

Instead, the board refused a second term for Magruder, the first time it has refused to confirm a candidate from one of the outside groups that have been designated to nominate an oversight member. Magruder was the choice of the American Institute of Architects. In fact, it’s not entirely certain that the board was within its rights on the vote; some experts argue that the district signed a legally binding agreement to ratify these outside nominees. The district’s legal people say no.

But even if it wasn’t a legal mistake, it was a tactical one. Tamar Galatzan, who initiated the move to reject Magruder, has been the iPad program’s most enthusiastic supporter and has never asked the important questions about this planned expenditure of more than $1 billion. She and other board members should be glad that someone is asking. That’s not to say Magruder is always right, or that he has framed his concerns in the most politic ways. The important point is that the district doesn’t need more yes men. It should be grateful for the people who raise doubts; only by allaying those doubts with satisfying answers will it know that it’s on the right path.

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.
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