It's In The Blood

NY.jpgBuddy you’re a young man hard man

Fighting’ in the street gonna take on the world some day

Blood on your face

You big disgrace

Kickin’ that banner all over the place

-Brian May

It was not easy being a young contrarian. I still remember clearly the day in the second grade when I broke the social rules and played with the girl who had “cooties” as it was my first experience with ostracization. If this was supposed to bring me into social compliance, it did not work. It was not long before punches were being thrown in my direction.

While fighting may get you in trouble in school, not returning a punch was not an option in my house. My dad had grown up on the rough streets of New York City and worked hard to move his family to the suburbs. The lessons that he had learned on those streets were important to him, especially the necessity of standing up for oneself. It was a value I saw him keep throughout his life. He also made sure to install it in his children.

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Exercising The Mandate

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Suckling at the Taxpayer's Teet

The point is ladies and gentlemen that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”

-Gordon Gekko, “Wall Street”

In 2014, the salary for the highest paid Secondary Principal in the LAUSD was $159,503.88. In fulfilling their “desire to make the GHCHS [Granada Hills Charter High School] Executive Director position one of the top compensated positions in Los Angeles”,  Brian Bauer was paid $211,188 that year for fulfilling the duties of Principal. This was up from $185,000 in 2013. His retirement and health costs added $33,187 in 2014 and $27,122 in 2013 to the school’s expenses. In 2014, this was almost three times the health and retirement cost for the school’s average employee.

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Looking For Solutions, Not To Be Placated

Placate: “to appease or pacify, especially by concessions or conciliatory gestures

Executive Director Brian Bauer’s response to my inquiry fit a pattern that has become distressingly familiar. During my inspection of documents requested under the California Public Records Act, Bauer’s assistant had told me that, under Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) policy, I was not allowed to take pictures of the documents and that only the school could make copies for me. Believing that this did not comply with the Act, I had sent Bauer an email asking if this was actually the school’s policy and, if it was, on what basis had it been decided. Unfortunately, instead of dealing with a problem that should have been easily resolved, Bauer ignored the question and simply pointed out “that GHCHS provided copies of the documents requested free of charge by waiving the duplication costs.” Implied in his response was a belief that by making an exception to the policy he did not have resolve the flaws that existed with this policy. As a result, the school is free to attempt to break the law when the next stakeholder requests information.

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Supporting your local LAUSD school

When I was a student in LAUSD the major fund raising effort was a newspaper drive. We’d collect them at the school and they were picked up.

Today, most public schools have booster clubs run by active parents. The fund raising activities include donations, gift wrap sales, candy sales, auctions, restaurant outings, and many other things.

The money raised goes to supplement the money provided by the District/State and to enrichment activities.  The funds buy computers, books, aides, music instruction, photocopiers, office clerks, librarians, and so much more.

Why? Other than enrichment activities, so many of the above including librarians and clerical help are an integral part of the schools and their programs.

Why do the booster organizations have to pay for so much? What if your school is not located in a community that can financially support the school? What if your school does not have low test scores and therefore is not entitled to federal funds?

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The Great and Powerful Executive Director

It is the Board’s desire to make the GHCHS Executive Director position one of the top compensated positions in Los Angeles.”

-Granada Hills Charter High School Governing Board

As a school receiving public funds, the first focus of its leaders is supposed to be the students that they serve. This was certainly the promise when Granada Hills High School converted from a public school to a charter. Instead of having to deal with the LAUSD bureaucracy, frustrated parents would have a school where “the increased autonomy and revenue that comes with being an independent charter school will inspire [the] creative spirit, allowing [the] students and staff to perform at higher levels and [the] community to be more actively involved in [the school’s] progress.” Unfortunately, the result of this experiment has been the replacement of one bureaucracy with another, a reduced amount of accountability and the elimination of democratic input. The creative spirit has certainly not thrived in an environment where a student who protests against a rule that prohibits the wearing of a hood in the rain is told that he can be removed from the school because it is a charter.

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Out of Smell, Out of Mind

“Witnesses cannot ask questions of the parties, lawyers or the Hearing Board”

-South Coast AQMD Hearing Board

A good way of determining how long someone has lived in my neighborhood is to ask them which “city” they live in. Long time residents will state that we are in Northridge, which, according to the City of Los Angeles, is the official designation of our area. However, newer residents are likely to refer to Porter Ranch. Since the two areas share the same zip code, their real estate agents simply used the designation that had the better reputation (and higher housing prices) and it stuck. With the months-long natural gas leak affixing itself to the Porter Ranch name, realtors will probably revert to using Northridge, at least for the near future.

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It's DIBELS time again in LAUSD, aren't you excited?

Three times each school year, LAUSD elementary teachers must give the DIBELS to every student.

The teacher must sit in the back of or on the side of the classroom with each student for 15 to 20 minutes. The students read to the teacher while the teacher follows on a computer. In Kindergarten the students identify letters.

While the teacher is working with each student individually the other students must work without teacher assistance. Some elementary classes have 35 students. Think about the time lost to the class while the teachers must give this superfluous test. Think about Kindergarteners needing their teachers.

The DIBELS like all the other tests costs money that could go to instructional materials, reducing class sizes, and repairs.

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Apologizer in Chief

Have we ever had a president who was so eager to address the world with an apology on his lips and doubt in his heart?

-Mitt Romney

No matter how genuine your intentions, it is impossible to negotiate with a party that refuses to talk. Still, faced with the colliding problems of Republicans in Congress who viewed “any government action [as] bad for the country” and an economy quickly descending into depression, President Obama tried to keep his campaign promise of changing the tone of Washington. Since the opposing party would not negotiate, he used their publicly stated policies and replaced infrastructure spending with tax cuts in his stimulus plan. To overcome an attempted filibuster he reduced the amount of spending. For his efforts he was rewarded with a package that passed without any Republican votes and an opposition party that gloated any time that a projection did not meet reality as America slowly recovered from near calamity.

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I wish that the new LAUSD Superintendent would:

  • Sell the Beaudry headquarters, clean house of the long-standing bureaucrats who haven’t been to schools in decades and of the administrators who have top degrees and have never taught.
  • Abolish all formal, standardized testing except for the end-of-the-year tests which would be a maximum of two hours per student. One hour of Math and one hour of Language Arts.
  • Halt all new construction and new land purchases, and use the remaining construction bond money to fix up the schools—they surely need it.
  • Sell KLCS Channel 58, land, building, license, and equipment.
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