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iPad Watchdog Stuart Magruder’s Re-Appointment: Which Way Will LAUSD Go? http://k12newsnetwork.com/blog/2014/06/10/ipad-watchdog-stuart-magruders-re-appointment-which-way-will-lausd-go/ http://k12newsnetwork.com/blog/2014/06/10/ipad-watchdog-stuart-magruders-re-appointment-which-way-will-lausd-go/#comments Tue, 10 Jun 2014 07:51:01 +0000 http://k12newsnetwork.com/?p=11258 The question for many school districts around the country this spring was this: how are they supposed to give computer-based, end-of-year Common Core State Standards (CCSS) tests? For over a year in Los Angeles Unified, parents, students, teachers, and community members have wrestled with the details of Superintendent John Deasy’s 1:1 iPad program and its $1 billion price tag. The second-largest school district in the nation serves about 650,000 K-12 students. Disagreements over the iPad program are now culminating in a battle to re-appoint one of the most vocal watchdogs of the program, an architect and citizen volunteer named Stuart Magruder to the Bond Oversight Committee that is supposed to vet funds that pay for the iPad rollout. On Tuesday, June 10, 2014, we’ll find out if LAUSD school board member Tamar Galatzan is successful with her argument that the school board need not honor a 2002 Memorandum of Understanding between the American Institute of Architects (Los Angeles) as key appointer of an architect and the school board. (The MOU says that the AIA appoints and the LAUSD school board is simply the body that approves the AIA’s pick.) Now Bennett Kayser, a second LAUSD school board member, has joined the fray saying he opposes Galatzan and believes the AIA’s appointment should be approved by the LAUSD school board. Superintendent Deasy’s iPad rollout has been rife with problems since the fall of 2013, when reporters began questioning key terms of the district’s deal with Apple: was it ok to use $1 billion for iPads paid for out of facilities bond funds when voters thought they were voting to fix schools plagued by crumbling ceilings, leaky roofs, broken drinking fountains, and non-functioning toilets? Were tablets loaded with curriculum “textbooks” (able to leave the building to go home with students) or were they “fixtures” that stayed in the classroom minus any curriculum, and therefore a legitimate part of a facilities revamp? Stuart Magruder called attention to the fact that LAUSD had planned the effort poorly, did not sufficiently collaborate with teachers who have to integrate the devices into the classroom, and paid top dollar for an old, legacy version of the IPad. Due to his advocacy, the District renegotiated with Apple to get the current version, the IPad Air. Why was there no use agreement so families could understand what they would be liable for if the iPad was damaged, lost, stolen, or hacked? Did parents understand what students would be using tablets for? Were teachers ever consulted to see how and what they would use technology for in the classroom, or given any training to integrate with the iPad purchases? Debate rages on as to whether a computer is even needed for all classwork, or whether the ed tech gold rush to help school districts with upgrades is good for the bottom lines of hardware/software companies, or truly about teaching kids digital literacy. With a billion dollars at stake, this spring many Angelenos turned to the city’s Neighborhood Councils to voice their dismay at what many have termed a “bait and switch.” Almost a dozen Neighborhood Councils around the city have discussed resolutions urging the LAUSD school board to halt or rethink the iPad 1:1 program and focus bond funds on the $13 billion of needed repairs they were originally passed to address. At least four Neighborhood Councils have passed resolutions with more pending. Angry and frustrated Angelenos are petitioning the LAUSD school board to do its duty and approve the AIA’s re-appointment of Magruder. With many states still experiencing shortfalls in education budgets as a result of the five-year long Great Recession, the argument over whether tech upgrades associated with testing will continue to stir up school communities across the state and the nation, as parents and students press for the return of nurses, librarians, additional teachers and teachers’ aides — and districts tasked with giving computer-based CCSS tests are pulled in another direction.

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The question for many school districts around the country this spring was this: how are they supposed to give computer-based, end-of-year Common Core State Standards (CCSS) tests?

For over a year in Los Angeles Unified, parents, students, teachers, and community members have wrestled with the details of Superintendent John Deasy’s 1:1 iPad program and its $1 billion price tag. The second-largest school district in the nation serves about 650,000 K-12 students.

Disagreements over the iPad program are now culminating in a battle to re-appoint one of the most vocal watchdogs of the program, an architect and citizen volunteer named Stuart Magruder to the Bond Oversight Committee that is supposed to vet funds that pay for the iPad rollout.

On Tuesday, June 10, 2014, we’ll find out if LAUSD school board member Tamar Galatzan is successful with her argument that the school board need not honor a 2002 Memorandum of Understanding between the American Institute of Architects (Los Angeles) as key appointer of an architect and the school board. (The MOU says that the AIA appoints and the LAUSD school board is simply the body that approves the AIA’s pick.) Now Bennett Kayser, a second LAUSD school board member, has joined the fray saying he opposes Galatzan and believes the AIA’s appointment should be approved by the LAUSD school board.

Superintendent Deasy’s iPad rollout has been rife with problems since the fall of 2013, when reporters began questioning key terms of the district’s deal with Apple: was it ok to use $1 billion for iPads paid for out of facilities bond funds when voters thought they were voting to fix schools plagued by crumbling ceilings, leaky roofs, broken drinking fountains, and non-functioning toilets? Were tablets loaded with curriculum “textbooks” (able to leave the building to go home with students) or were they “fixtures” that stayed in the classroom minus any curriculum, and therefore a legitimate part of a facilities revamp?

Stuart Magruder called attention to the fact that LAUSD had planned the effort poorly, did not sufficiently collaborate with teachers who have to integrate the devices into the classroom, and paid top dollar for an old, legacy version of the IPad. Due to his advocacy, the District renegotiated with Apple to get the current version, the IPad Air.

Why was there no use agreement so families could understand what they would be liable for if the iPad was damaged, lost, stolen, or hacked? Did parents understand what students would be using tablets for? Were teachers ever consulted to see how and what they would use technology for in the classroom, or given any training to integrate with the iPad purchases?

Debate rages on as to whether a computer is even needed for all classwork, or whether the ed tech gold rush to help school districts with upgrades is good for the bottom lines of hardware/software companies, or truly about teaching kids digital literacy.

With a billion dollars at stake, this spring many Angelenos turned to the city’s Neighborhood Councils to voice their dismay at what many have termed a “bait and switch.” Almost a dozen Neighborhood Councils around the city have discussed resolutions urging the LAUSD school board to halt or rethink the iPad 1:1 program and focus bond funds on the $13 billion of needed repairs they were originally passed to address. At least four Neighborhood Councils have passed resolutions with more pending. Angry and frustrated Angelenos are petitioning the LAUSD school board to do its duty and approve the AIA’s re-appointment of Magruder.

With many states still experiencing shortfalls in education budgets as a result of the five-year long Great Recession, the argument over whether tech upgrades associated with testing will continue to stir up school communities across the state and the nation, as parents and students press for the return of nurses, librarians, additional teachers and teachers’ aides — and districts tasked with giving computer-based CCSS tests are pulled in another direction.

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Los Angeles Unified’s “Teacher Jail” http://k12newsnetwork.com/blog/2014/05/27/los-angeles-unifieds-teacher-jail/ Wed, 28 May 2014 06:53:57 +0000 http://k12newsnetwork.com/?p=11064 Brian Hayes is a veteran teacher in Southern California. His piece refers to how, after a child predator on staff was caught and removed from MIramonte Elementary School, hundreds of teachers who had no connection to the predator were also removed and kept in isolation. Many are still there or have lost their jobs. Read The Nation’s full investigative report, “Where Shame Is Policy: Inside LA’s ‘Teacher Jail.'” How many of us would protest vehemently if we were suspended from our job by our CEO and placed in a “company jail” without due process? That’s exactly what has happened to 450 teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District. When Mark Berndt, a third grade teacher at Miramonte Elementary, was removed from his classroom in January, 2011 amid suspicions of lewd conduct, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy removed all of the school’s 76 faculty along with administrators and staff. In addition to Berndt, who is now serving a 25-year sentence, second grade teacher Martin Springer was later charged with committing lewd acts. None of the other Miramonte teachers were found guilty of any wrongdoing. Instead they were placed in an empty high school close by, sitting in limbo in what is known as “teacher jail” for six months and collecting full salaries. In the fall, forty-six of the Miramonte teachers and a new principal returned to their original positions, while 30 educators either transferred to other schools or retired. At its April 16 meeting last year, the LA Board of Education approved a resolution from District 3 member Tamar Galatzan which provided support for the impending passage of California State Assembly Bill 375, legislation designed to speed up the investigation and prosecutorial process of teachers removed from their classrooms on suspicion of unprofessional and/or criminal activity. However, on October 10, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the bill citing limits on depositions and a school district’s ability to amend charges, even when new evidence had come to light. While sharing the bills’ authors’ “desire to streamline the teacher discipline process,” Brown viewed it as “an imperfect solution.” Consequently, LAUSD’s “teacher jail” has remained open for business despite Galatzan’s resolution. Today, approximately 450 teachers languish in various locations around the District, having been placed there without knowledge of the allegations against them; without the ability to confront the witnesses upon whose testimony those allegations were made; without the opportunity to consult with an attorney; without the strong, vocal support of their union, United Teachers of Los Angeles; and without a speedy resolution to their “cases.” Brown’s veto doesn’t restrict LAUSD from improving its discipline procedures and assuring that teachers are dealt with fairly and professionally. There is no good reason why its “jail” should be administered with such blatant disregard for the rights of the educators who vegetate there. One wonders if the Superintendent or any of his underlings is familiar with the 6th amendment to the Constitution: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” While LAUSD is not a local, state, or federal government, Deasy and his administration’s “teacher jail” violates more than just the spirit of the law. According to Alex Caputo-Pearl, newly elected leader of UTLA, a disproportionate number of the 450 teachers awaiting resolution of charges are over 40, black, and/or LGBT. An independent investigation into the precision of the percentages to which Caputo-Pearl refers should be undertaken to determine whether the District hierarchy has a hidden agenda facilitated by its “prison system.” The same rights given to individual citizens in the Sixth Amendment should be applied to teachers, or to any employees, public or private. Or have we now progressed so far in our mistrust of teachers that we’re willing to suspend those rights in the interests of protecting our children? While no one condones the behavior of Mark Berndt – or any other teacher who conducts himself in similar illegal fashion – and wants to see him permanently separated from any child, we can’t sacrifice the proper justice due innocent teachers like Iris Stevenson to achieve that end.    

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Brian Hayes is a veteran teacher in Southern California. His piece refers to how, after a child predator on staff was caught and removed from MIramonte Elementary School, hundreds of teachers who had no connection to the predator were also removed and kept in isolation. Many are still there or have lost their jobs. Read The Nation’s full investigative report, “Where Shame Is Policy: Inside LA’s ‘Teacher Jail.'”

How many of us would protest vehemently if we were suspended from our job by our CEO and placed in a “company jail” without due process? That’s exactly what has happened to 450 teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

When Mark Berndt, a third grade teacher at Miramonte Elementary, was removed from his classroom in January, 2011 amid suspicions of lewd conduct, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy removed all of the school’s 76 faculty along with administrators and staff. In addition to Berndt, who is now serving a 25-year sentence, second grade teacher Martin Springer was later charged with committing lewd acts. None of the other Miramonte teachers were found guilty of any wrongdoing. Instead they were placed in an empty high school close by, sitting in limbo in what is known as “teacher jail” for six months and collecting full salaries.

In the fall, forty-six of the Miramonte teachers and a new principal returned to their original positions, while 30 educators either transferred to other schools or retired.

At its April 16 meeting last year, the LA Board of Education approved a resolution from District 3 member Tamar Galatzan which provided support for the impending passage of California State Assembly Bill 375, legislation designed to speed up the investigation and prosecutorial process of teachers removed from their classrooms on suspicion of unprofessional and/or criminal activity. However, on October 10, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the bill citing limits on depositions and a school district’s ability to amend charges, even when new evidence had come to light. While sharing the bills’ authors’ “desire to streamline the teacher discipline process,” Brown viewed it as “an imperfect solution.”

Consequently, LAUSD’s “teacher jail” has remained open for business despite Galatzan’s resolution. Today, approximately 450 teachers languish in various locations around the District, having been placed there without knowledge of the allegations against them; without the ability to confront the witnesses upon whose testimony those allegations were made; without the opportunity to consult with an attorney; without the strong, vocal support of their union, United Teachers of Los Angeles; and without a speedy resolution to their “cases.”

Brown’s veto doesn’t restrict LAUSD from improving its discipline procedures and assuring that teachers are dealt with fairly and professionally. There is no good reason why its “jail” should be administered with such blatant disregard for the rights of the educators who vegetate there. One wonders if the Superintendent or any of his underlings is familiar with the 6th amendment to the Constitution:

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

While LAUSD is not a local, state, or federal government, Deasy and his administration’s “teacher jail” violates more than just the spirit of the law. According to Alex Caputo-Pearl, newly elected leader of UTLA, a disproportionate number of the 450 teachers awaiting resolution of charges are over 40, black, and/or LGBT. An independent investigation into the precision of the percentages to which Caputo-Pearl refers should be undertaken to determine whether the District hierarchy has a hidden agenda facilitated by its “prison system.”

The same rights given to individual citizens in the Sixth Amendment should be applied to teachers, or to any employees, public or private. Or have we now progressed so far in our mistrust of teachers that we’re willing to suspend those rights in the interests of protecting our children? While no one condones the behavior of Mark Berndt – or any other teacher who conducts himself in similar illegal fashion – and wants to see him permanently separated from any child, we can’t sacrifice the proper justice due innocent teachers like Iris Stevenson to achieve that end.

 

 

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BREAKING: American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles, Resubmits Stuart Magruder Appointment to LAUSD Bond Oversight Committee http://k12newsnetwork.com/blog/2014/05/23/breaking-american-institute-of-architects-los-angeles-resubmits-stuart-magruder-appointment-to-lausd-bond-oversight-committee/ http://k12newsnetwork.com/blog/2014/05/23/breaking-american-institute-of-architects-los-angeles-resubmits-stuart-magruder-appointment-to-lausd-bond-oversight-committee/#comments Fri, 23 May 2014 20:19:36 +0000 http://k12newsnetwork.com/?p=11069 This press release was issued by the American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles chapter just now. It calls for the re-appointment of Stuart Magruder to a second term on the Bond Oversight Committee that has been providing professional feedback on Los Angeles Unified use of bond funds for school facilities. AIA-LA Statement, LAUSD Citizens Oversight Committee, Stuart Magruder Term Two 052314  

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This press release was issued by the American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles chapter just now. It calls for the re-appointment of Stuart Magruder to a second term on the Bond Oversight Committee that has been providing professional feedback on Los Angeles Unified use of bond funds for school facilities.

AIA-LA Statement, LAUSD Citizens Oversight Committee, Stuart Magruder Term Two 052314

 

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LAUSD School Board Tries to Un-Appoint iPad Watchdog Stuart Magruder From Bond Oversight Committee http://k12newsnetwork.com/blog/2014/05/22/lausd-school-board-tries-to-un-appoint-ipad-watchdog-stewart-magruder-from-bond-oversight-committee/ http://k12newsnetwork.com/blog/2014/05/22/lausd-school-board-tries-to-un-appoint-ipad-watchdog-stewart-magruder-from-bond-oversight-committee/#comments Fri, 23 May 2014 06:46:34 +0000 http://k12newsnetwork.com/?p=11060 Karen Wolfe is an LAUSD parent activist and supporter of public schools with children who currently attend district schools. LAUSD Wants Rigor? Well, maybe… The LAUSD school board on Tuesday rejected the reappointment of one of its most rigorous overseers in what many see as retaliation for questioning the use of bond funds to purchase iPads. Stuart Magruder, AIA, LEED, is the appointee of the American Institute of Architects, one of the organizations charged with providing public oversight of the school district’s expenditure of billions of dollars in bond funds. How does the entity being overseen fire its overseer? This short video of the clumsy hearing answers that question: sloppily. Board President Richard Vladovic and Vice President Steve Zimmer took turns chairing the 15-minute discussion so many times, it was hard to keep track of who was in charge. Zimmer accepted an amendment by Tamar Galatzan to remove Magruder from consideration without bothering with a vote. Apart from procedural shenanigans, the substance is far more important. In what should have been a routine confirmation of the AIA’s representative, Galatzan declared Magruder unfit for the role. She did not explain that he had dared to question Superintendent John Deasy’s $1 billion iPad project. She said he had overstepped by evaluating projects based on their instructional value. (The Committee’s mission includes ensuring that bond expenditures are “educationally sound”). Anyone who has ever witnessed a Bond Oversight Committee hearing can describe the routine discussions about how projects support curriculum, as well there should be. Galatzan also erroneously claimed that Magruder had a policy not to approve bond projects unless they provided work to architects. Nevermind the two years worth of public record showing the opposite. In fact, the bulk of the projects before the Bond Oversight Committee during Magruder’s tenure have been repairs and maintenance, for which architects are rarely required to complete the job. But they do provide knowledgeable advice. That’s where things got dicey. It was much easier for the school district to push the iPad boondoggle through by claiming critics were simply adults who just didn’t understand computers like the kids do. But Magruder does understand the importance of technology in education—and he knows his way around a “Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment” budget. In fact, he had read the iPad contract word for word. Magruder is no slouch. He may look like a surfer dude or like he jumped off the cover of a romance novel, but he earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton and a Master’s degree from the Southern California Institute of Architecture. With professional experience in a heavily regulated and often litigious profession, he brings a depth of knowledge to rigorously evaluate projects. He worked on the $300 million San Jose Civic Center that covers two city blocks while working at Richard Meier & Partners, one of the most highly respected architecture offices in the world. Working with advanced technology in his own practice, both in the studio and in specifying equipment for building projects, Magruder has a pretty good sense of the role technology plays in preparing today’s students for college and career. He also knew firsthand how the iPad roll-out was—and wasn’t—working because he has children in LAUSD schools. Magruder effectively parsed details of the Common Core Technology Project and reviewed the complex contracts of this unprecedented $1 billion proposal. His ongoing analysis provided important information for school board members to evaluate this public project, slow it down and improve the remaining implementation phases. Along the way, he contributed to a national debate about school districts implementing astronomical technology purchases. A former president of the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, Magruder is no rabble rouser. Asking the right questions should not cost him his seat. Nor should it cost the school district the credibility architects bring in reviewing how construction bonds are spent in the nation’s second largest school district. If LAUSD wants the public’s support for billion dollar expenditures, it needs the trust that is earned through the kind of scrutiny that Magruder provides. His ouster will be yet another blow to public accountability in a school district that demands it from everyone but itself.          

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Karen Wolfe is an LAUSD parent activist and supporter of public schools with children who currently attend district schools.

LAUSD Wants Rigor? Well, maybe

The LAUSD school board on Tuesday rejected the reappointment of one of its most rigorous overseers in what many see as retaliation for questioning the use of bond funds to purchase iPads.

Stuart Magruder, AIA

Stuart Magruder, AIA

Stuart Magruder, AIA, LEED, is the appointee of the American Institute of Architects, one of the organizations charged with providing public oversight of the school district’s expenditure of billions of dollars in bond funds.

How does the entity being overseen fire its overseer? This short video of the clumsy hearing answers that question: sloppily.

Board President Richard Vladovic and Vice President Steve Zimmer took turns chairing the 15-minute discussion so many times, it was hard to keep track of who was in charge. Zimmer accepted an amendment by Tamar Galatzan to remove Magruder from consideration without bothering with a vote.

Apart from procedural shenanigans, the substance is far more important. In what should have been a routine confirmation of the AIA’s representative, Galatzan declared Magruder unfit for the role. She did not explain that he had dared to question Superintendent John Deasy’s $1 billion iPad project. She said he had overstepped by evaluating projects based on their instructional value. (The Committee’s mission includes ensuring that bond expenditures are “educationally sound”). Anyone who has ever witnessed a Bond Oversight Committee hearing can describe the routine discussions about how projects support curriculum, as well there should be.

Galatzan also erroneously claimed that Magruder had a policy not to approve bond projects unless they provided work to architects. Nevermind the two years worth of public record showing the opposite. In fact, the bulk of the projects before the Bond Oversight Committee during Magruder’s tenure have been repairs and maintenance, for which architects are rarely required to complete the job. But they do provide knowledgeable advice.

That’s where things got dicey.

It was much easier for the school district to push the iPad boondoggle through by claiming critics were simply adults who just didn’t understand computers like the kids do. But Magruder does understand the importance of technology in education—and he knows his way around a “Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment” budget. In fact, he had read the iPad contract word for word.

Magruder is no slouch. He may look like a surfer dude or like he jumped off the cover of a romance novel, but he earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton and a Master’s degree from the Southern California Institute of Architecture. With professional experience in a heavily regulated and often litigious profession, he brings a depth of knowledge to rigorously evaluate projects. He worked on the $300 million San Jose Civic Center that covers two city blocks while working at Richard Meier & Partners, one of the most highly respected architecture offices in the world.

Working with advanced technology in his own practice, both in the studio and in specifying equipment for building projects, Magruder has a pretty good sense of the role technology plays in preparing today’s students for college and career. He also knew firsthand how the iPad roll-out was—and wasn’t—working because he has children in LAUSD schools.

Magruder effectively parsed details of the Common Core Technology Project and reviewed the complex contracts of this unprecedented $1 billion proposal. His ongoing analysis provided important information for school board members to evaluate this public project, slow it down and improve the remaining implementation phases. Along the way, he contributed to a national debate about school districts implementing astronomical technology purchases.

A former president of the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, Magruder is no rabble rouser. Asking the right questions should not cost him his seat. Nor should it cost the school district the credibility architects bring in reviewing how construction bonds are spent in the nation’s second largest school district.

If LAUSD wants the public’s support for billion dollar expenditures, it needs the trust that is earned through the kind of scrutiny that Magruder provides. His ouster will be yet another blow to public accountability in a school district that demands it from everyone but itself.

 

 

 

 

 

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Markham MS Community to Protest PLAS Policies started under Marshall Tuck http://k12newsnetwork.com/blog/2014/05/20/markham-ms-community-to-protest-plas-policies-started-under-marshall-tuck/ Wed, 21 May 2014 05:30:49 +0000 http://k12newsnetwork.com/?p=11046 Former PLAS CEO Marshall Tuck’s school-to-prison-pipeline legacy for children of color lives on in the policies he established at Markham Middle School. However, the community is tired and fighting back! African-American and Latino parents/students to unite with Community groups and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) to speak out against discriminatory practices against African-American students, parents, and stakeholders at local middle school. Their primary message to the school principal, the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS) and to the Los Angeles Unified School District will be “Stop pushing us out!” The administration at Markham Middle School and the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools has been pushing out African-American students. These students are sent home on silent and unreported suspensions, and are asked to remain at home for the remainder of the school year without any access to an education. African-Americans are being deprived of their fundamental right to an education.

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Former PLAS CEO Marshall Tuck’s school-to-prison-pipeline legacy for children of color lives on in the policies he established at Markham Middle School. However, the community is tired and fighting back!

African-American and Latino parents/students to unite with Community groups and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) to speak out against discriminatory practices against African-American students, parents, and stakeholders at local middle school. Their primary message to the school principal, the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS) and to the Los Angeles Unified School District will be “Stop pushing us out!”

The administration at Markham Middle School and the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools has been pushing out African-American students. These students are sent home on silent and unreported suspensions, and are asked to remain at home for the remainder of the school year without any access to an education. African-Americans are being deprived of their fundamental right to an education.

Activists protest Marshall Tuck's racist push-out policies still in place at Markham MS Activists protest Marshall Tuck's racist push-out policies still in place at Markham MS Activists protest Marshall Tuck's racist push-out policies still in place at Markham MS Activists protest Marshall Tuck's racist push-out policies still in place at Markham MS Activists protest Marshall Tuck's racist push-out policies still in place at Markham MS

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Voters Wondering Who Can Fill Henry Waxman’s Shoes — Pound the Pavement http://k12newsnetwork.com/blog/2014/05/16/voters-wondering-who-can-fill-henry-waxmans-shoes-pound-the-pavement/ Fri, 16 May 2014 19:51:39 +0000 http://k12newsnetwork.com/?p=11009 by Karen Wolfe. Karen is an LAUSD parent leader and activist in support of public schools. It seems everyone is asking “Who can fill Henry Waxman’s shoes?” The Congressman sent to Washington in the post-Watergate wave became a legendary watchdog and one of the most influential liberals in Congress. Big shoes indeed. There is no shortage of candidates vying to replace him—and plenty of campaign issues. For public education advocates—those of us in a grassroots national movement to take back our schools—education trumps all. We have become one-issue voters. Because of our deep level of engagement and our reach, education voters are making a difference in elections across the country. New mayors in New York—and just this week, Newark—are thanking education voters for their victories. Those cities are showing that education can be a decisive issue. Education policy even made the Late Night TV circuit this month when comedian Louis C.K. joked that if the students don’t do well on high stakes tests, the school gets burned down. Indeed, it feels like an attack on our children, and on those charged with protecting them and instilling a lifelong love of learning. Those are just the kinds of things that motivate voters. Education voters have a detailed understanding of how policies are impacting schools, teachers, students and parents. Vague promises to “put kids first!” just aren’t trustworthy. Buzzwords like “accountability” and “outcomes” are recognized as code for privatization. Race to the Top, Arne Duncan’s ridiculous policy that tells the weakest among us to run faster in order to reach the gold ring of federal funding, provides more resources to successful schools rather than those in most need. Policies like these have left parents and teachers fearful and defensive. The national assault on public education has been an allied effort by both parties—from Arne Duncan to Chris Christie, from Rahm Emmanuel to Bobby Jindal. Gone are the days when a Democrat can be counted on for support. Candidates need to be analyzed beyond their party. We need to know their position on Race to the Top and Common Core. Do they condone the scandalous overuse of standardized testing which forces a narrowed curriculum that is neither rich nor deep? Candidates need to have given these issues considerable thought—and they need to be asked. At a recent progressive candidates’ forum in Venice, not a single question about education was asked. I was disappointed because I had helped organize it, sure that my issue would get its due. What was even more depressing was that none of the candidates even raised the topic of education with the exception of Matt Miller who boasted about his involvement with former Mayor Villaraigosa’s Partnership Schools. After the forum ended, I decided to make the rounds to press the candidates myself. I felt like I was in a relay, but instead of passing a baton, I carried it from one candidate to the next. Time was limited. No point wasting it with Matt Miller, the most dangerous candidate to public education. His opinions are solidly formed on every single issue, which seems to be what impresses people the most—including the LA Times editorial board. But his talking points read like a corporate privatizer’s playbook. That screeching of fingernails across the chalkboard is the sound of him helping to pull Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party to the right. Barbara Mulvaney brings a vast intelligence and serious accomplishment on the world stage, but what does she know about public education? Marianne Williamson is right that we need a systemic change in our politics, but her passing remark that she’s for neighborhood schools and charters betrays a woeful ignorance of the competitive landscape in which the winner takes all. I approached Wendy Greuel, who had a lot to say about “women’s issues.” I suppose Emily’s List represents some women’s single issue. The first red flag for education voters though is that she supports Race to the Top. Her prediction that Common Core will really improve the overemphasis on testing is seriously misguided. That misjudgment is typical of California policy makers and even many teachers in our state—who are only beginning to implement Common Core. They see it in theory and tout the oft-repeated promise of “more critical thinking”—isn’t everyone for that? To her credit, when I suggested that she talk with some teachers and parents in New York, which is a year ahead of California in rolling out Common Core, she agreed to do that. If she follows through, she will find that over 33,000 students opted out of the second year of testing this spring because parents and teachers have no confidence in the tests’ validity. No doubt about it, Wendy Greuel would certainly get things done in Congress. But education voters would need a firm commitment from her to reverse course on Race to the Top. We need elected officials with deeply thought out plans for supporting public schools. Senator Ted Lieu is such a candidate. I asked him if he had formed an opinion on Race to the Top, or on the overemphasis on standardized testing. “Yes, I have,” he said firmly. “I am against Race to the Top.” He said he is very concerned about the overuse of standardized tests, especially as the father of a third grader. I pressed on. Does he support the Network for Public Education’s call for Congressional hearings into the matter? He was not aware of it, and asked me to send him information. You bet I will. The biggest lesson of the day was that education advocates should make sure their questions get asked and answered. In an election with plenty of issues, we need to make sure education doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. With only three weeks left before the open primary, education voters might resist the call to analyze Howard Waxman’s shoes and, instead, lace up their own. This is when candidates are the most receptive and accessible. Engage them and get beyond the rhetoric. Let them know that education voters play a big part in how elections turn out. We cannot afford to sit this one out. Let’s hit the pavement!

The post Voters Wondering Who Can Fill Henry Waxman’s Shoes — Pound the Pavement appeared first on K-12 News Network.

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by Karen Wolfe. Karen is an LAUSD parent leader and activist in support of public schools.

It seems everyone is asking “Who can fill Henry Waxman’s shoes?” The Congressman sent to Washington in the post-Watergate wave became a legendary watchdog and one of the most influential liberals in Congress.

Big shoes indeed.

There is no shortage of candidates vying to replace him—and plenty of campaign issues.

For public education advocates—those of us in a grassroots national movement to take back our schools—education trumps all.

We have become one-issue voters. Because of our deep level of engagement and our reach, education voters are making a difference in elections across the country. New mayors in New York—and just this week, Newark—are thanking education voters for their victories. Those cities are showing that education can be a decisive issue.

Education policy even made the Late Night TV circuit this month when comedian Louis C.K. joked that if the students don’t do well on high stakes tests, the school gets burned down. Indeed, it feels like an attack on our children, and on those charged with protecting them and instilling a lifelong love of learning. Those are just the kinds of things that motivate voters.

Education voters have a detailed understanding of how policies are impacting schools, teachers, students and parents. Vague promises to “put kids first!” just aren’t trustworthy. Buzzwords like “accountability” and “outcomes” are recognized as code for privatization. Race to the Top, Arne Duncan’s ridiculous policy that tells the weakest among us to run faster in order to reach the gold ring of federal funding, provides more resources to successful schools rather than those in most need. Policies like these have left parents and teachers fearful and defensive.

The national assault on public education has been an allied effort by both parties—from Arne Duncan to Chris Christie, from Rahm Emmanuel to Bobby Jindal. Gone are the days when a Democrat can be counted on for support. Candidates need to be analyzed beyond their party. We need to know their position on Race to the Top and Common Core. Do they condone the scandalous overuse of standardized testing which forces a narrowed curriculum that is neither rich nor deep?

Candidates need to have given these issues considerable thought—and they need to be asked. At a recent progressive candidates’ forum in Venice, not a single question about education was asked. I was disappointed because I had helped organize it, sure that my issue would get its due. What was even more depressing was that none of the candidates even raised the topic of education with the exception of Matt Miller who boasted about his involvement with former Mayor Villaraigosa’s Partnership Schools.

After the forum ended, I decided to make the rounds to press the candidates myself. I felt like I was in a relay, but instead of passing a baton, I carried it from one candidate to the next.

Time was limited. No point wasting it with Matt Miller, the most dangerous candidate to public education. His opinions are solidly formed on every single issue, which seems to be what impresses people the most—including the LA Times editorial board. But his talking points read like a corporate privatizer’s playbook. That screeching of fingernails across the chalkboard is the sound of him helping to pull Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party to the right.

Barbara Mulvaney brings a vast intelligence and serious accomplishment on the world stage, but what does she know about public education? Marianne Williamson is right that we need a systemic change in our politics, but her passing remark that she’s for neighborhood schools and charters betrays a woeful ignorance of the competitive landscape in which the winner takes all.

I approached Wendy Greuel, who had a lot to say about “women’s issues.” I suppose Emily’s List represents some women’s single issue. The first red flag for education voters though is that she supports Race to the Top. Her prediction that Common Core will really improve the overemphasis on testing is seriously misguided. That misjudgment is typical of California policy makers and even many teachers in our state—who are only beginning to implement Common Core. They see it in theory and tout the oft-repeated promise of “more critical thinking”—isn’t everyone for that? To her credit, when I suggested that she talk with some teachers and parents in New York, which is a year ahead of California in rolling out Common Core, she agreed to do that. If she follows through, she will find that over 33,000 students opted out of the second year of testing this spring because parents and teachers have no confidence in the tests’ validity. No doubt about it, Wendy Greuel would certainly get things done in Congress. But education voters would need a firm commitment from her to reverse course on Race to the Top.

We need elected officials with deeply thought out plans for supporting public schools. Senator Ted Lieu is such a candidate. I asked him if he had formed an opinion on Race to the Top, or on the overemphasis on standardized testing. “Yes, I have,” he said firmly. “I am against Race to the Top.” He said he is very concerned about the overuse of standardized tests, especially as the father of a third grader. I pressed on. Does he support the Network for Public Education’s call for Congressional hearings into the matter? He was not aware of it, and asked me to send him information. You bet I will.

The biggest lesson of the day was that education advocates should make sure their questions get asked and answered. In an election with plenty of issues, we need to make sure education doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

With only three weeks left before the open primary, education voters might resist the call to analyze Howard Waxman’s shoes and, instead, lace up their own. This is when candidates are the most receptive and accessible. Engage them and get beyond the rhetoric. Let them know that education voters play a big part in how elections turn out. We cannot afford to sit this one out. Let’s hit the pavement!

The post Voters Wondering Who Can Fill Henry Waxman’s Shoes — Pound the Pavement appeared first on K-12 News Network.

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Photo Gallery: Schools Los Angeles Students Deserve Rally 8-May-2014 http://k12newsnetwork.com/blog/2014/05/08/photo-gallery-schools-los-angeles-students-deserve-rally-8-may-2014/ Fri, 09 May 2014 05:49:31 +0000 http://k12newsnetwork.com/?p=10841 The post Photo Gallery: Schools Los Angeles Students Deserve Rally 8-May-2014 appeared first on K-12 News Network.

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The post Photo Gallery: Schools Los Angeles Students Deserve Rally 8-May-2014 appeared first on K-12 News Network.

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May 4 Candidate Forum: LAUSD School Board District 1 Special Election http://k12newsnetwork.com/blog/2014/05/08/may-4-candidate-forum-lausd-school-board-district-1-special-election/ Thu, 08 May 2014 08:38:48 +0000 http://k12newsnetwork.com/?p=10786 I was asked to cover the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) School Board District 1 Special Election Candidate forum held on Saturday, May 4, 2014. The event took place at the University of Southern California (USC), and it was hosted by the Walton Family Foundation’s key neoliberal privatization organization—Parent Revolution. Parent Revolution, henceforth pRev—a nickname coined by families that successfully prevented pRev from privatizing McKinley Elementary School—is a well financed member of the Nonprofit Industrial Complex (NPIC), with inextricable ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and The Heartland Institute. The event began with a bombastic speech by pRev’s well heeled Executive Director, Ben Austin. A polished rhetorician, he mentioned that at his daughter’s school the parents had a voice, and they got everything they wanted. He didn’t mention that he lived in Beverly Hills, that parents at Warner Elementary School fundraise to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars to supplement their school budget, or that the parents work with the faculty instead of against them to educate their children. Nor did Austin mention that class and racial diversity are all but of unheard of at Warner ES, but that didn’t stop Austin from proclaiming that his organization somehow empowers parents in low income communities. Issues of race and class never come up in pRev’s diatribes, since their organization is funded by the Walton Family, Gates, and Broad Foundations to blame systemic issues like income inequality and urban poverty on working class schoolteachers rather than on plutocratic billionaires. The event covered two seats being contested on June 3, 2014. The first portion addressed the LAUSD School Board District 1 Special Election in order to replace my long-time friend and colleague, the late Marguerite P. LaMotte. The second part of the program was for the State Superintendent of Instruction seat. Five of the seven candidates for LAUSD were on hand, Donald Trump reality show participant Omarosa Manigault, and mother/teacher/coach Sherlett Hendy Newbill had other commitments. Professional educator Lydia Guitierez and business banker Marshall Tuck were the candidates on hand for State Superintendent of Instruction portion, incumbent Tom Torlakson was not present. Austin and pRev made no disclaimer about both pRev and Tuck having both been originally from the Green Dot Charter Corporation. I suppose that disclosure that they all worked for the same charter company just a few years ago would have shown too much bias. There were less than 140 people at the affair, including the organizers, press, and participants. It’s no surprise then that all the questions at the forum were pre-scripted, contrived, and biased, read by parents in a stilted, unsure fashion, since they didn’t write them themselves. Most of the questions dealt with topics the candidates weren’t prepared for. Billed as a “nonpartisan” event, the corporate partisanship behind most of the questions was palpable and transparent. Of course, pRev asked all of the candidates to swear fealty to the ALEC Parent Empowerment Act, also known by the callous name “Parent Trigger.” While the privatization legislation was passed under dubious circumstances, and pRev’s Ben Austin illegally tampered with its implementation, Parent Trigger is pRev’s raison d’être. The only candidates present with the courage to stand up to neoliberalism and privatization were Hattie McFrazier and Lydia Guitierez. Sherlett Hendy Newbill, while not present, is officially on record opposing Parent Trigger and all other forms of school privatization. With one exception, there were absolutely no surprises at the event. That one surprise was when Rachel Johnson expressed unequivocal support for the Parent Trigger law that hands our schools over to private corporations. Otherwise, the corporate reform candidates Marshall Tuck and Alex Johnson spouted off neoliberalism, meaningless platitudes, expressed hatred for teachers, and demonstrated their utter lack of understanding of pedagogical matters. The teachers and administrators fared better, but the questions were so biased that there wasn’t much meaningful discussion. I’ve written extensively on the LAUSD District one candidates in the LA Progressive, and also wrote an informative epilogue to that article. Weeks prior to this event I had endorsed Sherlett Hendy Newbill. At the fake candidates forum being run by the right-wing @parentrev event. #LAUSD pic.twitter.com/rhGd4J71Kd — Robert D. Skeels (@rdsathene) May 3, 2014 pREV event indicative of the huge Walton Family Foundation budget they have. #LAUSD pic.twitter.com/191DKicfKb — Robert D. Skeels (@rdsathene) May 3, 2014 Despite their huge budget and outreach, the @parentrev event is sparsely attended. Maybe 140 people at best? #LAUSD pic.twitter.com/u5SPRHyXnl — Robert D. Skeels (@rdsathene) May 3, 2014 .@JohnsonCampaign @USC will you finally address questions on charters discriminating against special needs kids? #LAUSD — Robert D. Skeels (@rdsathene) May 3, 2014 The distinguished Hattie McFrazier says we can't allow our schools be taken over by businesses. #LAUSD @parentrev pic.twitter.com/UQ8ne5RsSX — Robert D. Skeels (@rdsathene) May 3, 2014 All of the questions are contrived, scripted questions written by #NPIC staffers, and read by confused parents #LAUSD pic.twitter.com/FUTRkYP5wt — Robert D. Skeels (@rdsathene) May 3, 2014 #ALEC, er… Alex Johnson, said he would work with Deasy and Beaudry to force through his agenda. #LAUSD #prevforum pic.twitter.com/BokJnbVD0h — Robert D. Skeels (@rdsathene) May 3, 2014 No Walton Family Foundation sponsored event is complete without plugging vile #parenttrigger law to privatize schools pic.twitter.com/XFUQOpludY — Robert D. Skeels (@rdsathene) May 3, 2014 Rachel Johnson just lost my endorsement. McKenna said what I expected him to. #LAUSD — Robert D. Skeels (@rdsathene) May 3, 2014 Dr. McKenna tells the #NPIC that it is an administrator's job to evaluate teachers, not Ben Austin and his funder's job. #LAUSD — Robert D. Skeels (@rdsathene) May 3, 2014 #ALEC, I mean Alex Johnson's rhetoric is standard, right-wing @dfer rhetoric. His hatred for public schools palpable. #LAUSD — Robert D. Skeels (@rdsathene) May 3, 2014 Right-wing business banker Marshall Tuck debates professional educator Lydia Guitierez on Tuck's pRev turf. #LAUSD pic.twitter.com/clhVhDcjKJ — Robert D. Skeels (@rdsathene) May 3, 2014 Event MC mentions the Honorable Mónica Ratliff, and some of the pRev parents booed. Shame on them. #LAUSD pic.twitter.com/QCpi1N5HA7 — Robert D. Skeels (@rdsathene) May 3, 2014

The post May 4 Candidate Forum: LAUSD School Board District 1 Special Election appeared first on K-12 News Network.

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I was asked to cover the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) School Board District 1 Special Election Candidate forum held on Saturday, May 4, 2014. The event took place at the University of Southern California (USC), and it was hosted by the Walton Family Foundation’s key neoliberal privatization organization—Parent Revolution. Parent Revolution, henceforth pRev—a nickname coined by families that successfully prevented pRev from privatizing McKinley Elementary School—is a well financed member of the Nonprofit Industrial Complex (NPIC), with inextricable ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and The Heartland Institute.

Who funds the Parent Revolution?The event began with a bombastic speech by pRev’s well heeled Executive Director, Ben Austin. A polished rhetorician, he mentioned that at his daughter’s school the parents had a voice, and they got everything they wanted. He didn’t mention that he lived in Beverly Hills, that parents at Warner Elementary School fundraise to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars to supplement their school budget, or that the parents work with the faculty instead of against them to educate their children. Nor did Austin mention that class and racial diversity are all but of unheard of at Warner ES, but that didn’t stop Austin from proclaiming that his organization somehow empowers parents in low income communities. Issues of race and class never come up in pRev’s diatribes, since their organization is funded by the Walton Family, Gates, and Broad Foundations to blame systemic issues like income inequality and urban poverty on working class schoolteachers rather than on plutocratic billionaires.

The event covered two seats being contested on June 3, 2014. The first portion addressed the LAUSD School Board District 1 Special Election in order to replace my long-time friend and colleague, the late Marguerite P. LaMotte. The second part of the program was for the State Superintendent of Instruction seat. Five of the seven candidates for LAUSD were on hand, Donald Trump reality show participant Omarosa Manigault, and mother/teacher/coach Sherlett Hendy Newbill had other commitments. Professional educator Lydia Guitierez and business banker Marshall Tuck were the candidates on hand for State Superintendent of Instruction portion, incumbent Tom Torlakson was not present. Austin and pRev made no disclaimer about both pRev and Tuck having both been originally from the Green Dot Charter Corporation. I suppose that disclosure that they all worked for the same charter company just a few years ago would have shown too much bias. There were less than 140 people at the affair, including the organizers, press, and participants.

It’s no surprise then that all the questions at the forum were pre-scripted, contrived, and biased, read by parents in a stilted, unsure fashion, since they didn’t write them themselves. Most of the questions dealt with topics the candidates weren’t prepared for. Billed as a “nonpartisan” event, the corporate partisanship behind most of the questions was palpable and transparent. Of course, pRev asked all of the candidates to swear fealty to the ALEC Parent Empowerment Act, also known by the callous name “Parent Trigger.” While the privatization legislation was passed under dubious circumstances, and pRev’s Ben Austin illegally tampered with its implementation, Parent Trigger is pRev’s raison d’être. The only candidates present with the courage to stand up to neoliberalism and privatization were Hattie McFrazier and Lydia Guitierez. Sherlett Hendy Newbill, while not present, is officially on record opposing Parent Trigger and all other forms of school privatization.

With one exception, there were absolutely no surprises at the event. That one surprise was when Rachel Johnson expressed unequivocal support for the Parent Trigger law that hands our schools over to private corporations. Otherwise, the corporate reform candidates Marshall Tuck and Alex Johnson spouted off neoliberalism, meaningless platitudes, expressed hatred for teachers, and demonstrated their utter lack of understanding of pedagogical matters. The teachers and administrators fared better, but the questions were so biased that there wasn’t much meaningful discussion. I’ve written extensively on the LAUSD District one candidates in the LA Progressive, and also wrote an informative epilogue to that article. Weeks prior to this event I had endorsed Sherlett Hendy Newbill.

The post May 4 Candidate Forum: LAUSD School Board District 1 Special Election appeared first on K-12 News Network.

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May 1st Candidate Forum: LAUSD School Board District 1 Special Election http://k12newsnetwork.com/blog/2014/05/06/may-1st-candidate-forum-lausd-school-board-district-1-special-election/ Tue, 06 May 2014 18:27:08 +0000 http://k12newsnetwork.com/?p=10755 By Radhika, LAUSD community member. May 1st Candidate Forum: LAUSD School Board District 1 Special Election. I was a fan of the late Marguerite LaMotte, whose sudden death forced a Special Election. Of all LAUSD School Board Members, she was the most fearless in her advocacy for the children of District 1. I am a former Adult Education teacher in LAUSD. I am a Progressive. I am also a BAT. I wanted to learn more about the seven candidates vying to fill her seat. This event was sponsored by the South Robertson Neighborhood Council and the League of Women Voters. The Forum was well attended, 300 or so. Many were children, brought by their activist moms and teachers. They sat by school and stood and cheered when their school got a shout-out from the moderator. Castle Heights! LACES! Johnny Cochran! I sat, I listened, I even submitted a question for the panel. Here’s my take-away, FWIW. Media frames this as a 2-person race: Alex Johnson (former Prosecutor now senior aide to Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas) vs George McKenna, retired LAUSD Principal, community favorite. Both have organized bases, solid fundraising and high profile endorsements. But I heard so much that I liked from some other candidates, I hope some outliers can get the visibility and money they need to at least force a runoff and lay some groundwork for 2015. That’s when this seat AGAIN comes up for a vote. Yeah, efficiency. Alex Johnson is not an educator. He’s minted for a career in electoral politics, and has access to MRT’s powerful network. When asked how he’d expedite the removal of bad teachers, he urged the state Legislature to approve Assembly Bill AB215. He emphasized school safety and more mental health services. How would he deal with LAUSD’s turbulent Board? He gave examples from the courtroom. If he could persuade the jury, he could persuade other Board members. I wonder how he’ll persuade the powerful financial and cultural elites that pull strings behind the curtain. George McKenna surprised me. He came across as strategically folksy, almost wishy-washy. I sort of expected a stand-and-deliver type. That low-key no drama approach seems to be working for endorsements. He’s the middle way, the facilitator. When asked, McKenna noted no serious problems with the Superintendent Deasy beyond his handling of the Miramonte scandal. He considers teachers more important than technology. He suspects the new pricey tablets just keep kids occupied. He’s fine with charters, public, private or religious schools – whatever. Teacher raises are fine, assuming accounts are in order. Privatizers are free to exhale. Three candidates are endorsed by United Teachers of Los Angeles (Hattie McFrazier, Sherlett Hendy Newhill and Rachel Johnson). All were or are LAUSD teachers. Newhill and Johnson were the clearest and most direct when responding to questions about Superintendent Deasy and his costly, clumsy and questionably-funded i-Pad project. All were focused and knowledgeable about curricula, technology and showed some of the spunk I valued in LaMotte. Newhill forcefully noted that the current Board has failed in its oversight: It ‘bowed down’ to Deasy, even though he reports to the Board and should take direction from them. Johnson essentially made the same point: the current Board has not held Deasy accountable. Rachel Johnson is concerned by the glut of charters in District 1. She would not approve new charters unless and until every possible support and remedy was given to the neighborhood school. They all want more raises for teachers and more funding, including Title I enhancements to schools in need. McFrazier urged more arts and music. A fourth UTLA candidate, reality TV personality and substitute teacher Omaroso Manigault did not get an UTLA endorsement. Pause here. We have just witnessed a perfect example of the uselessness of UTLA . The union endorsed three candidates drawn from their own ranks: McFrazier, Newhill and Rachel Johnson. These candidates got nothing from that endorsement that I can see. They all languish near the bottom in fundraising. High profile politicos and non-profits aren’t endorsing any of them. I don’t know what’s happening on the ground in District 1, but buzz isn’t rising up for any of these candidates. With 45,000+ teachers in LAUSD, why such dismal fundraising results? UTLA has been MIA in LA’s power politics for years. Now that UTLA President Warren Fletcher is out and leadership transitioned to Alex Caputo-Pearl, let’s hope the union can start to show some clout. No one was willing to directly critique Common Core State Standards. It’s still a cloudy issue — with factions on the left and right pushing back from different sides. Comeback-seeking former Board member Genethia Hayes was a tad confusing here. She kept referring to the long-standing A-G Curriculum Requirement mandated to enter the UC System. That’s different. CCSS is a standards, testing and technology approach to education that begins in kindergarten and absorbs billions of public funds. It’s all tied up with corporations, software and mandated testing. Title I funding formula? Should teacher ratings be tied to student scores? Layoffs based on seniority? Class size? Not sure I heard anything dramatically different or cogent there, but to be fair only 90 seconds were allocated to reply. Who would I pick? I don’t live in District 1, so I don’t get a vote. I wouldn’t presume to tell the people of District 1 what they should or shouldn’t want for their community. Based on what I heard on May 1st at Hamilton HS, the candidates who seem most in line with MY preference for true public education are Sherlett Newhill and Rachel Johnson. Either long-shot candidate may be a lost vote strategically – let’s be honest – but YOLO. Good luck to the families of District 1.        

The post May 1st Candidate Forum: LAUSD School Board District 1 Special Election appeared first on K-12 News Network.

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By Radhika, LAUSD community member.

May 1st Candidate Forum: LAUSD School Board District 1 Special Election.

I was a fan of the late Marguerite LaMotte, whose sudden death forced a Special Election. Of all LAUSD School Board Members, she was the most fearless in her advocacy for the children of District 1. I am a former Adult Education teacher in LAUSD. I am a Progressive. I am also a BAT. I wanted to learn more about the seven candidates vying to fill her seat.

This event was sponsored by the South Robertson Neighborhood Council and the League of Women Voters. The Forum was well attended, 300 or so. Many were children, brought by their activist moms and teachers. They sat by school and stood and cheered when their school got a shout-out from the moderator. Castle Heights! LACES! Johnny Cochran!

I sat, I listened, I even submitted a question for the panel. Here’s my take-away, FWIW.

Media frames this as a 2-person race: Alex Johnson (former Prosecutor now senior aide to Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas) vs George McKenna, retired LAUSD Principal, community favorite. Both have organized bases, solid fundraising and high profile endorsements. But I heard so much that I liked from some other candidates, I hope some outliers can get the visibility and money they need to at least force a runoff and lay some groundwork for 2015. That’s when this seat AGAIN comes up for a vote. Yeah, efficiency.

Alex Johnson is not an educator. He’s minted for a career in electoral politics, and has access to MRT’s powerful network. When asked how he’d expedite the removal of bad teachers, he urged the state Legislature to approve Assembly Bill AB215. He emphasized school safety and more mental health services. How would he deal with LAUSD’s turbulent Board? He gave examples from the courtroom. If he could persuade the jury, he could persuade other Board members. I wonder how he’ll persuade the powerful financial and cultural elites that pull strings behind the curtain.

George McKenna surprised me. He came across as strategically folksy, almost wishy-washy. I sort of expected a stand-and-deliver type. That low-key no drama approach seems to be working for endorsements. He’s the middle way, the facilitator. When asked, McKenna noted no serious problems with the Superintendent Deasy beyond his handling of the Miramonte scandal. He considers teachers more important than technology. He suspects the new pricey tablets just keep kids occupied. He’s fine with charters, public, private or religious schools – whatever. Teacher raises are fine, assuming accounts are in order. Privatizers are free to exhale.

Three candidates are endorsed by United Teachers of Los Angeles (Hattie McFrazier, Sherlett Hendy Newhill and Rachel Johnson). All were or are LAUSD teachers. Newhill and Johnson were the clearest and most direct when responding to questions about Superintendent Deasy and his costly, clumsy and questionably-funded i-Pad project. All were focused and knowledgeable about curricula, technology and showed some of the spunk I valued in LaMotte. Newhill forcefully noted that the current Board has failed in its oversight: It ‘bowed down’ to Deasy, even though he reports to the Board and should take direction from them. Johnson essentially made the same point: the current Board has not held Deasy accountable. Rachel Johnson is concerned by the glut of charters in District 1. She would not approve new charters unless and until every possible support and remedy was given to the neighborhood school. They all want more raises for teachers and more funding, including Title I enhancements to schools in need. McFrazier urged more arts and music. A fourth UTLA candidate, reality TV personality and substitute teacher Omaroso Manigault did not get an UTLA endorsement.

Pause here.

We have just witnessed a perfect example of the uselessness of UTLA . The union endorsed three candidates drawn from their own ranks: McFrazier, Newhill and Rachel Johnson. These candidates got nothing from that endorsement that I can see. They all languish near the bottom in fundraising. High profile politicos and non-profits aren’t endorsing any of them. I don’t know what’s happening on the ground in District 1, but buzz isn’t rising up for any of these candidates. With 45,000+ teachers in LAUSD, why such dismal fundraising results? UTLA has been MIA in LA’s power politics for years. Now that UTLA President Warren Fletcher is out and leadership transitioned to Alex Caputo-Pearl, let’s hope the union can start to show some clout.

No one was willing to directly critique Common Core State Standards. It’s still a cloudy issue — with factions on the left and right pushing back from different sides. Comeback-seeking former Board member Genethia Hayes was a tad confusing here. She kept referring to the long-standing A-G Curriculum Requirement mandated to enter the UC System. That’s different. CCSS is a standards, testing and technology approach to education that begins in kindergarten and absorbs billions of public funds. It’s all tied up with corporations, software and mandated testing.

Title I funding formula? Should teacher ratings be tied to student scores? Layoffs based on seniority? Class size? Not sure I heard anything dramatically different or cogent there, but to be fair only 90 seconds were allocated to reply.

Who would I pick? I don’t live in District 1, so I don’t get a vote. I wouldn’t presume to tell the people of District 1 what they should or shouldn’t want for their community. Based on what I heard on May 1st at Hamilton HS, the candidates who seem most in line with MY preference for true public education are Sherlett Newhill and Rachel Johnson. Either long-shot candidate may be a lost vote strategically – let’s be honest – but YOLO. Good luck to the families of District 1.

 

 

 

 

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