Parental Engagement

By Carl J. Petersen

Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.

Character Assassination in the First Degree

 

“Pursuant to Gov. Code §6254(f), the records you have requested are exempt from disclosure.”

-LAUSD, Office of the General Counsel (OGC)

The LAUSD Inspector General’s (IG) office seemed confident in their audit of the Food Services division when they stated in their draft report “that the program is currently at a minimum being mismanaged and at worst being consistently abused.” The fact that this was a “confidential personnel matter” did not stop the District from releasing this report to the press, which then said that the Food Services Director David Binkle had been suspended with pay. Actually, like those in “Teacher Jail” Binkle was actually “re-assigned,” literally under house arrest. During work hours he was forbidden by the District to leave his house as he waited for inspectors. He reports that those inspectors never showed up to hear his side of the story. It was unclear why these investigators had not concluded their investigation before writing a report and publically dragging an honored employee’s name through the mud. In February, the IG said they expedited the audit “to be completed by early summer.” With this deadline long past, the District said on Thursday that it is still “ongoing.”

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A Chartered Data Breach

“At Granada Hills Charter High School, we are always looking to give our parents tools to advance their children’s education. That is why we are proud to partner with the California Charter Schools Association. CCSA is here to educate, engage, and empower parents of charter school students to stay informed on issues that affect their school and all charter schools in California. To help get that relationship started, we will be sharing our school directory with CCSA, so you can hear directly from them.”

-Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS)

The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) likes to argue that “charters [sic] schools are public schools." While it is true that these schools do receive public tax dollars, there is little else that qualifies them as a public entity. By their own accord they are “free from most rules and regulations governing conventional public schools,” even when that “red tape” was designed to protect students. While their website promises that “if a charter school cannot perform up to the established standards, it will be closed,” the LAUSD, Los Angeles County Office of Education and the office of California State Superintendent of Public Instruction have all displayed an unwillingness to hold these schools accountable to the laws governing public schools. Worst of all, charters have not proven to be any more successful at providing children with the education that they need. Despite their ability to cherry pick the easiest to educate students, recently released test scores showed that independent charters within the LAUSD were “below the state average” and “almost even with [the District’s] traditional [schools] and affiliated charters.”

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Ignoring a Problem Does Not Make It Go Away

“As required under California Government Code section 6253, the District will make a determination within 10 days as to whether or not a request is seeking records that are publicly disclosable and, if so, to provide the estimated date that the records will be made available."

-LAUSD, August 4, 2015

While running for a seat on the School Board I had the opportunity to give voice to the victims of bullying by the LAUSD. I listened to the stories of those in Teacher’s Jail and repeatedly heard about the abuses of power within the District. Every time I wrote an article a voice in the back of my head reminded me that this could be the time that a teacher was actually at fault, but that never happened. In retrospect, that makes sense; clear cut cases of wrongdoing do not require an extended stay of paid leave while the district conducts an “investigation.”

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Battle Scarred Schools

WhiteboardThe function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals."

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

It had been years since my sister and I had been back to the neighborhood where we grew up, but last month we had the chance. In New York for a family reunion, we took an afternoon to roam Rockland County for a trip back in time. We already knew that our childhood home had been bulldozed long ago as had the Nanuet Mall where we had spent many weekends as teenagers, so these would be visits to addresses rather than childhood shrines. However, the schools we attended are still standing, so these held the possibility of giving us physical connections to our youth. As we pulled up to Elmwood Elementary School, eagerness quickly turned to shock. My sister turned to my mother and asked, “How could you have sent us to such a shithole?”

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Shortchanging Summer

LA Kids Deserve Summertime - Start School After Labor Day and Fix LAUSD Calendar Now"

-Change.org petition

Last week, students were stuck in classrooms as county health officials declared a heat alert in parts of the district, including the San Fernando Valley. The District used to be on what one teacher called the “Oh my God, it’s hot in L.A. in August” calendar and started school after Labor Day, but not anymore. In an effort led by failed Board Member Tamar Galatzan, the calender was changed several years ago “as a way for high school students to complete the first semester before winter break.” Board President Steve Zimmer agreed saying that “instruction is best aligned when [students] do not have...that extended gap during the first semester.” What the District never answered is why the students even have that extended gap.

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The LAUSD Superintendent Search Continues Behind Closed Doors

Staff proposes that the Board of Education authorize staff to negotiate and enter into a professional service agreement or agreements to provide executive search services...for a maximum amount of $250,000."

-LAUSD

When I ran for the LAUSD District 3 seat in this year’s elections, one of the planks in my platform was to make Board meetings more accessible to the stakeholders. Since holding some of them on weekends was one suggestion that I put forward, it was very exciting when the District announced early this month its plans to hold a rare weekend meeting. However, any thought that this was done for the convenience of the parents was soon put to rest as the location of the meeting was not even announced until just a couple of days ago. To alleviate any doubt, the agenda released by the district indicated that the Board would adjourn into a closed session right after hearing public comments.

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Life is Short. Investigate Wisely.

...investigations should be completed in a timely matter, nothing and I mean nothing, will stand in the way of making sure our students and school communities are safe."

-Ramon Cortines, LAUSD Superintendent

The fifth grade students of Hobart Elementary School have started the school year without award winning teacher Rafe Esquith in the classroom. They are also deprived of access to his nonprofit, the Hobart Shakespeareans, and its proven record of allowing students to “move on to attend outstanding colleges.” Instead, Esquith continues to be confined to teacher jail as the five month investigation against him drags on. What started with a complaint about a joke told in the classroom has somehow expanded into “a complex investigation that requires painstaking, time-consuming work.”

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MiSiS Crisis II: The Educational Deprivations Continue?

Alameda County Judge George Hernandez Jr. ruled that students ‘have suffered and continue to suffer severe and pervasive educational deprivations’ as the ‘direct result of Jefferson's failure to provide the students with appropriate course schedules.’"

-LA Times, October 8, 2014

As the students of the LAUSD approach their first day of school, district officials have sought to reassure the public that last year’s MiSiS Crisis will not be repeated. While admitting that “the $133.6-million computer program still isn’t fully functional” they told the Los Angeles Daily News in July “that placing students in the proper classes won’t be a problem this year.” Included in the steps being taken to ensure that the nation’s second largest school district will not be plunged into “MiSiS caused chaos” again was an assurance that they would “stop updating the system’s software for nearly a week before and after campuses open” on August 18.

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Still Stuck In Food Services Director Jail, David Binkle Retires

“I felt bad collecting my salary while being forced to sit home without doing the work.”

-David Binkle

Last December, David Binkle’s paid suspension was announced with typical LAUSD double speak. At the same time the press office was stating that he had “been temporarily reassigned pending the conclusion of an internal investigation into a CONFIDENTIAL personnel matter,” (emphasis mine) a leaked copy of the Inspector General’s draft audit stated that they “found that the program is currently at a minimum being mismanaged and at worst being consistently abused.” While the district initially stated that the investigation was likely to “wrap up in late spring or early summer,” last month they stated “they could not estimate when the investigation might be concluded.” In the meantime, Binkle was being paid his $152,000 salary not to work, a situation that was unfair to both Binkle and the taxpayers.

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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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