Parental Engagement

By Carl J. Petersen

Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.

The LAUSD's Red Herring

We also take seriously our obligation to ensure that our employees behave ethically.”

-LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines

With Rafe Esquith’s attorney once again drawing attention to unethical use of Teacher Jail, the district turned to the propaganda arm of the ed “reform” movement to turn the tide. Last Friday, the LA School report ran an article entitled “Most in LAUSD ‘jail’ facing charges of sexual misconduct, violence.” While the District will often refuse to tell effected teachers why they have been removed from the classroom, they were willing to give the LAUSD’s version of FOX News a “comprehensive breakdown of misconduct allegations being investigated by the district’s Student Safety Investigative Team.” Of the 174 employees caught in the purgatory of Teacher Jail, 65 were being investigated for sexual abuse or harassment and 55 were  in the system for accusations involving violence. The remaining 54 employees were accused of infractions that did not involve the direct safety of the students of the district.

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Once Again, the Children Will Lose

We need to be prudent and not dig ourselves back into a bigger deficit.”

-LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines

When good teachers are put in Teacher Jail, students lose. Without a coach, they lose ability to compete. Weeks before their AP test they lose valuable study time with an experienced instructor. As their teacher sits at home, they lose access to an award winning music program. With an extracurricular coordinator denied access to school grounds, they lose a popular talent show. They lose a chance to fall in love with the Shakespeare and the ability to take potentially life changing trips.

Teacher Jail is also draining scarce resources from the classroom.  The program is a financial black hole that pays teachers not to teach while also paying substitutes to take their place in the classroom. The district does not even let the two coordinate to reduce the harm done to the students and their education. Now facing a pending lawsuit against Teacher Jail, the students will lose again when money that would be better spent on education is spent to defend the viability and legality of Teacher Jail. The district has already hired an outside law firm to mount a defense. Instead of shutting down Teacher Jail, they are conducting a costly investigation (perhaps “witch hunt” is a better description) in an attempt to find anything that could justify their removing an award-winning teacher from the classroom. Meanwhile the LAUSD is laying off teachers, has staff to student ratios that are too high and school libraries that remain closed.

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Have the Bullies Met Their Match?

Exploiting justified anger...to pursue a war on teachers

-Diane Ravitch

Too often, a teacher in the LAUSD’s Teacher Jail system is doomed to a career ending sentence if they cannot generate the publicity that will force the district’s hand. When district bullies removed Greg Schiller from the classroom because of a science project that they did not understand, students protested and the media noticed. Schiller’s suspension was ended after two months, but not before the fencing team he coached was forced to cancel their participation in a competition and AP students were deprived of study time. After leading class trips to France and the White House, choir teacher Iris Stevenson was placed in Teacher Jail. “Parents, students and community members rallied” and she was released back to the classroom, but only after students missed her instruction for an entire semester. Stuart Lutz was returned to the classroom with his only discipline being a “‘conference memo’, in which an administrator explained what Lutz did incorrectly and how to avoid such problems in the future.” Lutz was also the beneficiary of pressure on the district, including an online petition,  from people who did not believe that improprieties in field trip paperwork and fundraisers are adequate reasons to remove an art teacher from the classroom for eight months.

Until last month it appeared that Rafe Esquith was headed down the same path. After being placed in teacher jail in March for “telling a joke about nudity in Mark Twain’s ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,’” publicity was building about this teacher’s stay in purgatory. Several media outlets were covering the story and a well-attended protest was held before the School Board. He had also secured the services of a high powered law firm who “told the district to publicly apologize and let him return to work or be sued.”

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Diverting Attention

During the primary campaign, Ref Rodriguez’s supporters accused UTLA of “using ‘racial undertones’” because they used the candidate’s given name, Refugio, in a mailer. Fast forward five months and the new Board member himself referred to his full name several times in his swearing in ceremony on Tuesday. Nevermind what was said or done during the campaign, Rodriguez wants you to pay attention to the present and ignore the contradictions.

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Engaging Parents

You should not speak to any child, especially students not your own.”

-Derek Horowitz, LAUSD Principal


Now that Tamar Galatzan is a former member of the LAUSD School Board, there is not one Board Member who has children enrolled in the district. Granted, this change is only symbolic as Galatzan had a reputation for ignoring the concerns of other parents (there is a reason that three parents ran against her in the March primary) and focusing on the needs of the charter school advocates who financed her campaigns.  However, symbols are important and the new Board needs to take steps to show that it takes its goals of “parent and community engagement” seriously.

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Arrogance

 

Election season was clearly over on Tuesday afternoon as the LAUSD set about to fulfill the legal requirement of getting public input into the Local Control Funding Formula. Outgoing District 3 representative Tamar Galatzan did not even bother to show up to the meeting. District 2’s Monica Garcia left as public comment began. Even George McKenna’s seat was empty before the last speaker had a turn at the podium.

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Serving All Students

On Tuesday, the LAUSD Board will vote on reaffirming its commitment to “A-G Life Preparation for All.” Unfortunately, the title of this resolution is disingenuous as somehow, we have come to confuse “life preparation” with “preparation for college.” While I agree that any LAUSD student who wants access to college preparatory classes should be given the opportunity, we should not pretend that college is the only pathway to success. Any college graduate who is underemployed and struggling to pay off student debt will  certainly attest to the fact that college does not guarantee success. What the LAUSD really needs to do is recommit itself to serving all types of students

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The Unguarded Hen House

A district may not require students to purchase a cap and gown as a condition of participating in the graduation ceremony.”

-California Department of Education, 2013

 

“All students who participate in the ceremony must wear a cap and gown. After January 31,2015, caps and gowns are $60.00 (CASH ONLY) and are only available at Senior Clearance on June 3, 2015.”

-Granada Hills Charter High School


California taxpayers send more than $3 billion to privately operated charter schools every year. This money is supposed to be used to educate our children in a way that is consistent with the law, but there is little assurance that the money diverted from public schools is benefiting the students. Charter schools were supposed to bring more accountability to education, but local, county and state agencies lack either the tools or the will to provide the necessary oversight. This creates a situation where these schools are permitted to operate outside the boundaries of the law.

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Election Reform in the LAUSD

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

-Sir Winston Churchill

 

To date, candidates and outside committees have reported spending $1,649,613.26 on the 2015 LAUSD School Board race for District 3. These funds not only ensured that the voices of the charter schools and the unions were heard, it also guaranteed that students and parents could not be heard above the din. Instead of voters having access to a much-needed debate about education issues, they were left to make decisions based on character assassinations and outright lies. Is it any wonder that only 8.6% of registered voters took part in the election? Factor in those who do not even bother to register and citizen participation drops to below dismal.

As long as we have a Supreme Court that confuses corporations with citizenship and money with speech, there is little that can be done about the amount that is spent on our elections. However, before we give up counting votes in favor of just handing offices to those who can raise the most money, there are steps that we can take to reduce the influence of money in LAUSD elections. Some of these the new School Board can take care of by themselves while others will require the cooperation of the City Council. Any action will require pressure from an active citizenry:

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Failure to Report

Breakfast in the Classroom was in place for almost a week at Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies before the Los Angeles Daily News’ education reporter finally covered the controversy. Unfortunately, little reporting was done on the subject. The reporter simply quoted a district official without doing any research to find out if her statements were accurate.

Dina Lipton, a mother who was interviewed by the reporter found the article to be “disappointing.” In response she sent the following email to the reporter detailing her complaints:

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