Ground Zero at the Porter Ranch Gas Leak

“So far the leak seems to be a minor annoyance in the area, said Sean O’Rourke, a member of the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council Board of Directors.”

-Los Angeles Daily News


While the natural gas leak in Porter Ranch, California is now starting to get national news coverage, the problem existed long before the networks turned their cameras on the issue. In fact, an informational picket line staged by Save Porter Ranch was held in front of Castlebay Lane Charter School as the students arrived dressed in costumes for their Halloween festivities. At that time residents complained about a delay in an acknowledgment of the problem by the Southern California Gas Company and a lack of attentiveness by local politicians. For example, an affected stakeholder complained that a message left with Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich’s office was returned by a utility official. Another said that City Councilman Mitch Englander had blocked her from his Twitter feed after she had posted about the leak. As late as the November 18th meeting of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, Englander’s representative was reporting that the leak posed no significant health risks. Little did he know that this talking point would be wiped away the next day by Los Angeles County health officials.

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LAUSD: A tale of two cities

It was the best of schools, it was the worst of schools, it was the age of segregation, it was the age of separation. It was Los Angeles in the 50’s and early 60’s. Los Angeles was segregated. Los Angeles City Schools were segregated.

The schools in the Westside, the Valley, and other areas were excellent. The success of their students from Kindergarten through 12th grade led to college and professional careers.

Meanwhile, students in other parts of the city received a lesser education in many instances. 

In the beginning Los Angeles created the Los Angeles City Schools. 

As the population of Southern California grew, as cities incorporated, the Los Angeles City Schools became the Los Angeles Unified School District. The Los Angeles Community College District became a separate entity.

Today, in the 21st Century, LAUSD is a tale of three cities: three school districts in one: the haves and the have nots and those in between.

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Throwing Bricks at the Wall

Nothing changes on New Year’s Day


Wall.JPGFamiliarity is the enemy of a movement that operates under the moniker of Change The LAUSD, but that did not stop 2015 from ending in territory that was too familiar. The Office of the General Counsel had promised that “responsive documents [would] be provided on or before December 31, 2015”, but the last day of the year passed without the LAUSD providing all the complaints filed with the Charter Schools Division (CSD) about Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) during the last two school years. Never mind the fact that this request was almost two months old or that a reasonable person would expect that this information would be readily available, the District’s self-imposed deadline passed without even a request for an extension. If the LAUSD is ever going to meet its core goal of “parent and community engagement”, perhaps it should resolve in 2016 to be more open to the public that it is supposed to serve.

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The District's Deaf Ears


Shut up! Sit down!

-Ben Stern

Under Bennett Kayser’s leadership, the LAUSD’s Budget, Facilities, and Audit (BFA) Committee exposed details of John Deasy’s iPad program that helped lead to the former Superintendent’s resignation. Kayser was rewarded for his efforts with a campaign to unseat him that was heavily funded by the California Charters School Association (CSSA) and other corporate education “reformers.” After an election that included accusations that were not ethically sound, a $25,000 “Voteria” payout to one lucky voter and an attack based on Kayser’s Parkinson's diagnosis, Ref Rodriguez replaced Kayser on the Board. The effects of this change have already been felt in the District.

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LAUSD teachers: Are you there for the test scores or for the children?

The current generation of teachers is totally different from the generation that I trained and began with.

We were there for the students, not the test scores.

We had the freedom to plan our own lessons and to schedule them.

The lessons were designed to fit our personality and that of the class.  Lesson plans and pacing plans did not come from publishers, they came from teachers, experienced teachers who were there to prepare students for the next grade and for life, teachers who cared about educating the students and who were not forced to care only about test scores.

We had sufficient time to remediate. An early principal of mine used to say, “Bring the students up to grade level and introduce them to grade level skills.”

We had ample opportunities to challenge and to enrich the students.

We had time for teachable moments.

We had time for fun!

We were not forced to stay within the system. We went beyond to help the students.

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Truthiness and Trump's Presidential Campaign

[Donald Trump] is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter. They are going to people, showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.”

-Hillary Clinton

Donald Trump has a tenuous relationship with the truth. For example, four years ago he sent investigators to Hawaii to prove that the President was lying about his place of birth and reported that “they cannot believe what they’re finding.” While the results of that investigation were never released to the public, Trump still does not know if the President was born in the United States or “why he wouldn’t release his records.” In the real world, Obama had released his “certification of birth” during 1988, long before Trump had become the public face of the Birther movement.

During the speech before paid supporters announcing his entry into the current race for the presidency, he said “our gross domestic product...was below zero. Whoever heard of this? It’s never below zero.” The answer is “nobody” because in 2014 the United States had a GDP of positive US$ 17,419,000,000,000. Although it is a strange mistake for someone who is running as a successful businessman, he probably meant that the change in GDP had just been announced as below zero. However, this is a condition that has definitely happened before. In fact, “the technical indicator of a recession is two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth as measured by a country’s gross domestic product”.

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The Learning Curve of the LAUSD Shutdown

I as Superintendent am not going to take the chance with the life of a student.”

-Ramon C. Cortines

In hindsight, it is easy to look at the threat that was emailed to LAUSD Board members and say that the District overreacted by shutting down the schools for the day. Monday morning quarterbacks have the convenience of knowing that no bombs were found in a thorough search of facilities and that New York schools made it through their day without incident. Yes, the email does read like it was written by a terrorist’s fanboy and it is legitimate to ask why a person looking to kill as many people as possible would provide any type of warning, but Cortines had lives of 640,000 students in his hands. No matter how small the actual risk, I think that he can be excused for not wanting to take any chance with those lives. As long as they are willing to learn from the experience, the District should be given a pass.

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Controlling Information

Democracy must be built through open societies that share information. When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions. When there is no sharing of power, no rule of law, no accountability, there is abuse, corruption, subjugation and indignation.”

-Atifete Jahjaga

During the last Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee meeting the LAUSD Charter Schools Division (CSD) claimed that they provide “high-quality charter school oversight”, are “stewards of the public trust” and take “stakeholder questions, concerns and claims” seriously in their efforts to bring “transparency” and “accountability” to the publicly funded but privately run charter schools. There is no denying that these catchphrases look great in a Powerpoint presentation and hold great promise for the students, taxpayers and other stakeholders of the district. However, to have any real meaning these words need to be backed up with actions by an agency that itself has transparency to the public. Unfortunately, when tested the CSD’s actions do not conform with their stated mission.

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LAUSD whatever happened to textbooks with paper and pencil?

In LAUSD elementary classrooms they use workbooks, sheets from the publishers, and photocopies at a waste of millions while enriching the publishers. There is not enough practice on any skill for every student to attain mastery of that skill.

My students used five to six Math books with Math paper folded into 16 squares. The students got plenty of practice and practice equals mastery.

For Language Arts exercises, I used a textbook along with lined paper. I used lined paper for creative writing too. I supplemented the textbook with charts and transparencies and the students worked and there was sufficient practice for mastery.

Do they really learn how to punctuate quotations by putting in commas and quotation marks on a printed page?

My students wrote their own dialogue and put in the punctuation.

LAUSD: Your tax dollars at waste always!

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The LAUSD Board Strikes Out

Resolved, That the LAUSD Board of Education of the City of Los Angeles opposes the Broad Foundation plan and all initiatives that present a strategy designed to serve some students and not all students

-Scott Schmerelson

When a leaked copy of Eli Broad’s Great Public Schools Now Initiative was published by the Los Angeles Times, the public was given insight into what the Ed “Reform” movement’s plans look like before they have been cleaned up by the marketing department. While students should be the reason for any education system to exist, in this document they were reduced to “market share” and tools for creating a system that will become “a model for all large cities to follow.” While claiming that this new model would be better for students, the initiative’s metrics were not set up to measure student achievement. Instead, they measured how well the program performed at increasing the size of the publicly financed, private school system with three stated “objectives: (1) to create 260 new high-quality charter schools, (2) to generate 130,000 high-quality charter seats, and (3) to reach 50 percent charter market share.”

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