Parental Engagement

By Carl J. Petersen

Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.

Graduation Scam

A district may not require students to purchase a cap and gown as a condition of participating in the graduation ceremony. The CDE recommends that a district that requires students to wear a cap and gown at the ceremony inform students that: (1) the district will provide caps and gowns for graduating seniors for use during the ceremony, and (2) students also have the option to purchase an appropriate cap and gown from a vendor. No student should be required to self-identify as indigent in order to receive a cap and gown from the district.

- California Department of Education, 2013


Seniors celebrate their final year of public school with a series of rituals that are sure to put a strain on the finances of many families. In fact, yearbooks, proms, grad night and senior portraits are not even accessible to some. However, the state of California has declared that the pomp and circumstance of the graduation ceremony should be open to all. It has declared that it “is an ‘educational activity’ [and] pursuant to EC Section 490109(a)...a pupil fee cannot be charged.

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Fox in Charge of the Hen House?

Based on conservative estimates, California stands to lose more than $100 million to charter school fraud in 2015.”

- Risking Public Money: California Charter School Fraud


Last year California’s charter schools received $3 billion in public funding. While these schools are designed to be “free from most regulations that apply to school districts,” the law does not provide them total free reign. School districts who approve charters are given the responsibility of ensuring that these schools are fiscally sound, adhere to academic standards and are equally accessible to all students. Unfortunately, the Board’s effectiveness as a regulatory agency is severely compromised by the fact that organizations representing charter schools are the biggest spenders in LAUSD elections.

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What About Your Own Backyard?

“The nurse is at the school three days a week, my daughter has diabetes five days a week.”

- LAUSD Parent

The warning letter is marked “2nd Notice,” but it is actually the fourth one that we have received. Our daughter has received all of her vaccinations and we have turned in her records to reflect this fact, but once again we are receiving notice that if she does not receive her second Varicella shot she will be “excluded from school attendance.” The new deadline that we have been given is May 4. These continued warnings expose serious flaws in our District’s health policies and calls into question their ability to protect our students in the event of an outbreak.

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A Charter School Runs Amok

One of the reasons given for approving charter schools is that they provide more choices for parents.  However, about 30% of these schools are converted from existing public schools, actually removing the choice of a neighborhood public school for those families who live in the area. Parents who feel that the neighborhood school  is the best option are left dealing with a school that  “is free from most regulations that apply to school districts,” resulting in the loss of important protections.

Our neighborhood school is Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS). Having this charter as a homeschool automatically disqualifies two of our daughters from attending a school with their neighbors as GHCHS does not serve special education students who cannot be mainstreamed. The school does not provide their own special day classes so both girls are transported to schools outside of our area. Our two other children are current students and my oldest daughter graduated from the school four years ago. My wife also graduated from the school before it broke from district control. My family has experienced the tradeoffs of giving a separate bureaucracy control over a school.

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We Don't Need No Arne Duncan

The best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina.”

-Arne Duncan


In a time when it is difficult to find common ground between our two ruling political parties, Common Core stands out as an exception. Both “conservatives and liberals increasingly are voicing similar concerns: that the standards take a one-size-fits-all approach, create a de facto national curriculum, put too much emphasis on standardized tests and undermine teacher autonomy.” Despite the fact “that we won’t know for probably a decade” if these new standards and other “education stuff” will work, we have pushed them, untested, on our students.

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Standing Up for Change in District 7

It can be argued that the middle is a voice that needs to be represented more in American politics. In an era of hyper-ideological division, we need people who can reach out to both sides of the political spectrum to find solutions. However, politicians who stake out the middle ground must do so with a sense of conviction. Without an adherence to principles, they run the risk of crossing the thin line between consensus building and pandering.

In many ways, Richard Vladovic is an example of the worst kind of moderate as he seems more interested in keeping the peace than taking a stand. For example, in last year’s special election in District 1 that pitted Dr. George McKenna against Alex Johnson, he was the only Board member not to make an endorsement. The LA School Report says that as the Board’s leader “he rarely attempts to sway opinion and almost never flashes any ‘passion’ for his position.” When asked during the first District 7 debate about John Deasy’s tenure with the district he would not take a stand stating that “he was respected and did a good job, and I don’t talk about people behind their back.” No mention was made of the former Superintendent’s iPad program or MiSiS - two issues that greatly affect the students of the district.

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AWOL

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 LAUSD expects its students to come to school every day “prepared to learn new skills and talents so you can use them to make a difference once you cross the graduation stage.” In return, these students should expect those elected to run the district to show the same commitment. Instead, the students of District 3 have a Board Member who prioritizes other obligations over attending Board meetings in their entirety.

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"Inappropriate Personal Relationship"

The LAUSD’s first responsibility should always be to protect the safety of the students that they serve, especially when these children are in their care. Unfortunately, the Miramonte sex abuse scandal, the failure to remove drinking fountains and pipes containing lead from our schools,  and the fact that special education students are sent to a school where there are allegations of physical abuse are examples where the district has failed at this task. However, administrators in the district have become adept at using the public’s concern to remove staffers from the classroom for reasons that do not appear to have anything to do with student safety. In the case of Nobel Charter Middle School, it appears the Principal, Derek Horowitz, is using this same method against a parent to silence her complaints.

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Campaigning on the Public Dime

In November, Superintendent Cortines relayed an “anecdote about not being able to get through the door of two separate classrooms...’ because they were so crowded’” and promised that class size reduction is a LAUSD priority. However, before Tamar Galatzan rushed out the door before the end of the last School Board meeting, she voted to send layoff warning notices to 609 teachers, counselors and social workers. She took this step because the Superintendent says that the district is facing a deficit of nearly $160 million dollars. Instead of balancing this budget by increasing class sizes that are already too large, the Board should consider other ways of saving money. One way is to decrease Ms. Galatzan’s printing budget.

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Youthanasia

Tom Torlakson:

The November election between you and Marshall Tuck was billed by many as one that pitted those who would privatize our public education system versus those who would defend it. Based on the belief that you were the candidate who would put student’s needs first, I chose to support you. With this in mind, I hope that you will rescind your support of the “One System: Reforming Education to Serve all Students” report. Some of these proposals will inflict harm on the most fragile members of our population and are already being used by the Los Angeles Unified School District to dismantle programs that are desperately needed.

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