Resolution: Board Meeting Accessibility to the Public

Whereas, it is a stated goal of the Los Angeles Unified School District to have “parent and community engagement”;

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A Letter to the LAUSD Charter School Division

This morning I sent this email to atatioss@lausd.net and Jose Cole-Gutierrez the LAUSD Charter School Division. El Camino Real Charter High School must act with transparency and publically release the report that they commissioned with public funds from Oracle Investigations Group.

Unfortunately, El Camino Real Charter High School continues to thumb its nose  at the Brown Act. As stated in a Los Angeles Daily News article published on Saturday, the Governing Board is scheduled to receive the report from Oracle Investigations Group at its September 21, meeting. Unfortunately, they are planning to retreat into closed session to do so.

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The Unrepresented

The_Unrepresented.jpgGerrymander: “manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favor one party or class.

-Oxford Dictionaries

If one wants to see a visual representation of “gerrymandered”, the map of LAUSD District 5 is a good place to start. In an effort to carve our Hunger Game like districts, the mapmakers at the Los Angeles City Council took two larger sections and connected them with a long, thin ribbon that is sandwiched between District 2 and the LAUSD boundary.  Unfortunately for the residents of this ribbon, this creative mapmaking can mean that they do not have a democratically elected representative for the schools that their children attend.

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Is My Confidentiality Agreement Confidential?

As of 2009, approximately 5.8 million students were receiving special education services in the United States. This population includes children with mental and physical challenges. They may be educated with their “typical” peers for a majority of the school day or segregated into specialized learning programs.

When children have special educational requirements, their education is governed by an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This is a document that outlines everything from the goals that are being set for the student to the exact services that will be provided by the school district. It also contains assessments about the child from the various educators and other specialists who work with the child, including the child’s progress in meeting the goals outlined in the previous IEP.

As advocates for their children, parents should have input into the contents of the IEP and indeed they do have an opportunity to meet with the school’s special education team after the document has been created. After this discussion, they can either sign off on the conclusion or request changes. Unfortunately, it has been my experience in raising two daughters with autism that unless these changes are minor or do not involve the allocation of resources, the school-level administrators will tell you that they are not empowered to alter the IEP.

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Blending a Family

This article was originally published in The Patch on April 28, 2013 


TheBackSideOfFamily.jpgThroughout the years, Disneyland has been the background for many happy memories and raising my family in Southern California has allowed us to claim our fair share. Donald fawning over my newborn daughter and then trying to get my Ex to stop yelling in excitement that he had talked. Cinderella declaring to my daughter on her sixth birthday that it was her two hand birthday as we entered the park. My son insisting on standing up to the height check sign to see if he had grown enough in the past couple of weeks to ride the rides his big sister could go on and he could not.

The Happiest Place on Earth took on more significance as the marriage started to fall apart. The kids and I took weekly pilgrimages to escape the turmoil at home and make new memories in our evolving family unit. We made friends with other visitors from an online community of fellow enthusiasts. The days where we would be blacked out from our annual passes were looked upon with dread. 

Once upon a time,

Somewhere online,

A man and a woman met,

And soon after they fell in love.

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Avoiding Our Inner Jack Walsh

This article was originally published in The Patch on April 7, 2013

Nicole_and_Carl2.jpg

In retrospect, the separation should not have been a surprise. However, at the time it came like a punch to the gut. After 16 years of marriage, I was now a single Dad.

As one would imagine, family and friends played a huge role in getting me through that difficult time, filling needs within my physical and emotional worlds. However, my spirit also needed healing. Since I am a man without a religion, I turned to music to soothe my soul.

REM took the first turn: “It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.” When doubt set in, I turned to Anthrax’s Finale: “Now I’m free, now I’m free, me me me, finally!” Then it was time to fight and Limp Bizkit’s Boiler took a turn: “But sometimes, some things turn into dumb things, And that’s when you put your foot down.” That agonizing series of “whys” at the end of the song let me know that Fred had also been there.

However, the biggest push from culture came from a movie that I had not seen in many years. Even before the separation was final there a little voice in my head acting like Jiminy Cricket who was constantly reminding me not to turn into the Dad from Pretty In Pink. For those unfamiliar with the movie, Jack Walsh’s wife left him and he never recovered. As a result, family roles have switched and as the movie begins his teenage daughter, Annie, is taking care of him.

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Setting Expectations

CMZ.jpgWhen you are a parent of a child with autism, you get used to being told what your child cannot do. I think people do this as a way to protect you. Your kid is different and the sooner you grow accustomed to this fact the less you will be disappointed when your child does not meet the same milestones of their peers.

When these lowered expectations are driven by professionals, we are more likely to take them to heart. As a society, we tend to give experts a lot of weight. We send self-help books to the top of the bestseller list. Some will avoid getting a second opinion for fear of offending our Doctor. If a teacher tells us that our child’s lack of progress is to be expected due to their diagnosis, we tend to trust their expert opinion.

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El Camino Digs In

Scientific method: “a method of research in which a problem is identified, relevant data are gathered, a hypothesis is formulated from these data, and the hypothesis is empirically tested.”

-Dictionary.com

Education “reformers” claim that charters were created “as testing grounds for new and alternative educational models”. However, if these publicly funded private schools were actually engaging in innovation, it would seem that a high percentage of them would fail. After all, playing it safe is rarely a recipe for successfully making radical changes. However, in the LAUSD, there has been only been one charter revocation in the past three years. This hardly seems to back up El Camino Real Charter High School’s (ECRCHS) assertion that “the district has become more hostile towards charter schools.”

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Individuals Not Widgets

There are currently more than 640,000 students enrolled in the LAUSD. These students are not widgets in a factory, they are individual people, each with unique needs. Every individual student has their own interests, most effective method of learning and challenges of achieving success. All are important and deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential - every single one of those 640,000 students.

For too long the education “reform” movement has been allowed to operate in the LAUSD in a way that ignores individuality. Instead of supporting students with special education needs, the District has forced them to mainstream with general education students, even when doing so is harmful to the student. When some parents objected to the closure of special education centers, the District fought them in court. As a School Board member, I will fight to end this litigation and keep these centers open as an option for parents.

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Mónica García on El Camino: Ignorance or Insincerity?

Oversight:

The job of checking that a process or system is working well

-Macmillan Dictionary

Before the LAUSD School Board began debate on the Issuance of Notice of Violations for El Camino Real Charter High School (ECRCHS) “requesting the charter school remedy violations by September 23, 2016”, the public had an opportunity to speak. Other than a three-minute time limit, there is little formal structure to this comment period and speakers are free to bring up anything that they feel is relevant to the subject at hand. During this time, ECRCHS’ case was presented by their lawyer, several teachers (who were at the Board meeting instead of teaching their students), a couple of parents and the charter’s Chief Business Officer, Marshall Mayotte. Notably absent was David Fehte, the “Executive Director” who has been at the center of the controversy surrounding the charter.

Ironically, one of the first speakers used the analogy of Charlie Brown’s repeated attempt to kick Lucy’s football to make her case against the resolution at hand. She was trying to make a case that the LAUSD Charter School Division (CSD) had been moving the goal post so that ECRCHS could not meet the terms of the Notice to Cure that was issued in October. However, it was the speakers who engaged in diversionary tactics as they tried to take the emphasis off of the “financial shenanigans” by focusing on the academic achievements of the charter, the incompetence of the CSD and wild conspiracy theories that the District is trying to “take down” ECR because they “are thriving too much.” Despite evidence that ECR has violated the law and “generally accepted accounting principles” compiled by both the CSD and the Los Angeles Daily News, the speakers each requested that the Board not issue a Notice of Violations.

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