Parental Engagement

By Carl J. Petersen

Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.

Planting a Flag in LAUSD's District 2

To the Parents of District 2:

When was the last time you felt that you had a voice in how the LAUSD is run? None of the seven Board members currently has a student enrolled in the District and cannot empathize with parents fighting to get the best education possible for their children. Those of us with children who require special education services fare even worse as the LAUSD has struggled for twenty years to prove that it no longer needs court oversight to ensure that it provides these students the support that they need. Meanwhile, warnings of an impending bankruptcy have increased as the charter industry, represented by Monica Garcia, diverts education funds from public schools to those that have no public accountability and promote the segregation of the most severe special education students and English language learners.

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Redacted

“Following up to our email exchange of last week, attached for your reference is a redacted UCP complaint. As you can see, most of the information has been redacted due to confidentiality issues.”

-LAUSD, Office of the General Counsel

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After declaring that they had “no further documents to provide”, the LAUSD finally emailed one of the three Uniform Complaint Process (UCP) forms that were filed against Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) during the period of January 1, 2014, through November 2, 2015. Unfortunately, any hope that this represented a decision by the District to be more transparent was quickly dashed when the document was opened. Apparently, they hired an ex-CIA operative to handle the censoring of the document since almost the complete document was marked “redacted.”

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A Parasite In Search of a Host

The ASNC Board moves to send a letter to the LAUSD in opposition to current plan for a Celerity Charter School to move into the Bushnell School.

-Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council


The charter industry likes to argue that they are providing choices for parents. Unfortunately, this choice is sometimes made at the barrel of a gun as a well-functioning public school can find itself under invasion by a charter that seeks to set up shop, uninvited, on its campus. The LAUSD tells parents that these co-location arrangements are required by Proposition 39. As is often the case with the District’s relationship with charter schools, this explanation does not tell the whole story.

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Obstruction in the "Public Interest"?

At the present time, we have no further documents to provide you and you cannot request over and over that we search and search again and again.  You cannot continue to ask that we provide you with documents that are non-existent, confidential, exempt, or subject to the deliberative process.

-LAUSD, Office of the General Counsel

While students are expected to turn in their homework on time, the LAUSD bureaucracy does not operate under the same rules. Five weeks past the date they had originally promised, the District finally provided their response to my request for “any complaint filed with the LAUSD Charter Schools Division [CSD] about Granada Hills Charter High School along with” their response. To no one’s surprise, the bureaucrats had not used the extra time to make sure that they performed a thorough and complete search.

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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

-Dictionary.com

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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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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King Us

A former Montgomery County, Md., schools chief backed away, calling L.A. Unified ‘a total mess.’

-Los Angeles Times

After the LAUSD spent 15 months without a Superintendent that did not have “interim” in his title, the School Board finally did their job and hired a replacement for John Deasy. The fact that Michelle King is career player for the District and also attended its schools means that she has the breadth of institutional knowledge that will help her hit the ground running.  Hopefully, it also shows that she has loyalty to both the institution and the students that it serves. Reports that she began her career as a special education aid is reassuring to this parent of two daughters who require these services. The fact that she offered to step in for Deasy before he had been actually been pushed out the door also shows that she can have the hutzpah that the District needs. The shattering of the LAUSD’s glass ceiling is the crowning touch. Still, I cannot help but feel that her appointment could have been handled better.

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Throwing Bricks at the Wall

Nothing changes on New Year’s Day

-U2

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

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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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