Parental Engagement

By Carl J. Petersen

Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.

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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Our Turn

Like athletes, politicians are expected to declare victory in advance of their contest. The standard stump speech is expected to include the words “when I win this election, I will…” because the first job of the candidate is to get voters to contemplate them sitting in office. Using the words “if I win election” does not inspire that same confidence.

Tamar Galatzan takes things further and publicly ignores the fact that the election will even occur. As voters prepare to make their decision she has refused them every opportunity to compare her against other candidates by blowing off candidate forums. Instead of addressing the voters directly through the city’s free program to provide a video statement to the voters, she relies on the charter schools to spend over $900,000 trying to buy the seat for her. A student journalist and LAUSD graduate could not even get an interview with her. When addressing the concerns of parents, she promises them that she “will continue with my plan to ask the board and the superintendent to review the Breakfast in the Classroom program at the conclusion of the school year,” ignoring the fact that this will occur after the voters have spoken.

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Tamar Speaks

“We will not be making any changes to our procedures at this time.”

- Tamar Galatzan


After writing my last blog about the introduction of Breakfast in the Classroom at Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies (SOCES), Tamar Galatzan  replied to parents about their concerns. Unfortunately, instead of addressing the concerns raised by the 98% of families who signed opt-out forms, she relied on the advice of the District’s legal department. The same people who concluded to it was permissible to claim that a middle school student can consent to sex with a teacher, have now decided “that parents have no constitutional right to require the district to obtain signed permission slips for participation in Breakfast in the Classroom.” The email exchange is as follows:

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The Dog Ate My Homework

The_Dog_Ate_My_Homework.jpgWhen the iPad scandal and MiSiS crisis forced John Deasy to suddenly resign in October, the School Board was forced to scramble for a quick replacement. In their haste, they ignored the baggage that accompanied former Superintendent Ramon Cortines, including “claims of sexual harassment,” and reappointed him to the position. The public was assured that this was only being done on an interim basis and that his contract would expire June 30, 2015.

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Picking Cherries

The “LAUSD has been under federal court oversight since 1996 for systemic non-compliance of special education law...The Independent Monitor is responsible for determining whether LAUSD meets compliance with the Modified Consent Decree and special education law.” One of the ways that he gathers information is through public hearings where members of the LAUSD community are invited to provide comments.

Since Board members have stated their desire to remove the district from the oversight of the Consent Decree, the information presented in this hearing should have been of interest to them. Unfortunately, not one of them bothered to attend this mornings session.

The following is the statement that I provided at this hearing:

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This is Parent Engagement?

District Goals: 1) 100 percent graduation; 2) Proficiency for all; 3) 100 percent attendance; 4) Parent and community engagement; 5) School safety

- LAUSD Web Site


The parents of the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies (SOCES) did their homework. When they realized that their school was slated to be enrolled in the Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) program, they looked at how it had affected other schools in the district. This well-intentioned but poorly executed program had numerous problems including disruptions to the learning environment, bug infestations and a reliance on sugary, processed foods. When the school administration distributed opt-out forms to gauge how many students would not participate, a parent representative reports that 2,050 of the 2,100 students in the school filled them out. It was clear the school community did not want this program.

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Cascading Special Elections?

Mitchell Englander has not even been sworn into his second term as City Councilman for the 12th district and has already announced the search for his next job. After asking the voters to give him a five and a half year term last March, Englander announced his bid in April for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Fifth District. If successful, the resulting vacancy will force the city to hold a special election and the taxpayers to pay for the associated costs. So much for the “record as a leader in...fiscal responsibility.”

Rumors are already circulating that if the 12th Council District seat is left vacant, Tamar Galatzan will move into the area and make her second run for the Council. Her first came two years into her first term as a LAUSD Board Member, when Galatzan ran unsuccessfully in the special election to replace Wendy Greuel in the council’s 2nd District. This in turn could potentially trigger another costly special election to replace Galatzan on the School Board.

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The DINOsaur In The Room

DINOsaur.jpgI think that it is fitting that the School Board elections are nonpartisan as it reminds us that our votes should be about the children instead of party loyalties. Unfortunately, Tamar Galatzan’s supporters do not agree and sent out two mailings last week criticizing the party membership of her opponent, Scott Schmerelson. While they warned voters of the “elephant in the room,” they ignored the DINOsaur standing behind him; in many ways, Ms. Galatzan is a Democrat in name only.

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