Parental Engagement

By Carl J. Petersen

Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.

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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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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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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