Parental Engagement

By Carl J. Petersen

Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.

Reply to the LA School Report

Mr. Petersen,

I am growing really tired of your comments. You rarely add anything constructive to a conversation, and I'm about at the end of the line letting you use our site to bash us time and again.

I've indulged your comments more than any other reader, especially in your efforts to use LA School Report as an extension of whatever campaign you mounted for the school board.

If you want to trash me and LA School Report on your own blog or Twitter account or wherever, that's fine. I don't care. But I am no longer going to abide by your using my website as a repository for your slings and arrows.

And so it has come to this: If you want to offer an opposing argument to a subject, fine. But if your words are framed around accusations of bias or unfairness or belittlement, they will come down, and I will block all further comments from you.

- Michael Janofsky, LA School Report


To give credit where credit is due, the LA School Report (LASR) is the best source of news in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Unfortunately, their coverage is tainted by a subtle but distinct bias for those who would like to privatize our public education system. Their refusal to acknowledge this slant make them the district’s version of Fox News and their claim of being “fair and balanced.”

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Enforcing Compliance

“Pupils, school personnel, classroom, special programs or other activities, regardless of their funding source, are not subject to visitation observation or any other external attention without the school administrator’s endorsement.”

- Derek Horowitz, Principal, Nobel Charter Middle School


The problems that I had been hearing about Nobel Middle School were confirmed when I wrote The Administrator Who Stole Christmas. Shortly after I published this piece, the head of their charter board complained about the general accuracy of the piece - but despite being asked, he never offered a specific correction; he would only say that most parents were happy with the school. Instead, he seemed more interested in knowing which parent had provided me with the information. I was taken aback when his response to my refusal to name my source was to start listing parents who he thought were responsible. He referred to them as his few “disgruntled parents.” Interestingly, his list did not include the actual person.

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Tamar Galatzan Throws a Temper Tantrum

This is not how I want my representative on the LAUSD School Board to behave. Tamar Galatzan should be ashamed.

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Continuing the Fight

Results

Tamar Galatzan spent $24.51 per vote and is still facing a runoff. While not on the ballot, I’ll still be fighting for the LAUSD’s students.

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LAUSD's Scandal Du Jour

Last December, FBI agents “seized 20 boxes of documents related to LAUSD’s trouble iPad program.” Yesterday, an ethics complaint was filed against Board member Tamar Galatzan alleging that she used district resources in her campaign for re-election. Similar charges were leveled against her during her failed run for a seat on the City Council. Today the district and its interim Superintendent were named “in a new lawsuit that includes explosive new assertions sure to cause anger, embarrassment and disruptions at district headquarters.” The suit includes charges of “sexual harassment, retaliation, discrimination and failure to take all steps necessary to stop harassment and retaliation.” If Tamar Galatzan thinks that this is the direction  in which the LAUSD should be headed, I would hate to see what she considers failure.

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Mainstreaming vs. a Special Education.

Our job is to teach the student we have. Not the ones we would like to have. Not the ones we used to have. Those we have right now. All of them.”

–Dr. Kevin Maxwell

Children with special needs deserve the chance to be integrated into society. The days of hiding them away should be relegated to the past and every effort given to accommodate them. However, this should be done for their benefit, not ours. They should also be provided with the opportunity to retreat to a safe place when they become overwhelmed. In the LAUSD, these safe places are the special education centers. These are truly special schools where the most fragile of our students can have their unique needs addressed in a stimulating and accepting environment with trained professionals.

Unfortunately, the LAUSD has an unacknowledged, but readily apparent, plan to close down the special education centers. Parents are reporting that the district is depriving them of their final say in education decisions for their children by not making these schools available during the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) process and intimidating those who push for the choice. As a result, the populations of these schools are steadily decreasing. Instead, these students are being forced into mainstream schools that are ill-equipped to handle their needs. These are students that need intensive assistance and at some point one of them is going to get lost in the shuffle of a general education campus and this will result in a tragedy. The district needs to reverse course before this happens.

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Misplaced Priorities: LAUSD Students Face Threat of Unsafe Drinking Water

Seven years ago NBC4 reported that aging pipes and water fountains were leaching lead particles into the drinking water at LAUSD facilities. In response, the district instituted a water-wasting “flushing policy” that required schools to run “every fountain ‘a minimum of 30 seconds’ before school each day.’” This was supposed to be a “stop-gap measure” until the district could replace the lead fixtures or install filters. Despite assurances that “the health and safety of our students is a priority,” these repairs have only been made at one school.

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Parental Involvement Should Not Be This Hard

All students in grade 9 are expected to be present at school to take the exam. Absences on the testing day will be counted as a school absence and students will be responsible for making up the test.

- Granada Hills Charter High School


For two mornings this week my child will not be learning anything in school. She will not have class time with a teacher, benefit from a stimulating classroom discussion or prepare for her AP test in May. Instead, she will have to sit in front of a computer screen taking a test that which will help “prepare students for computer based standardized tests and other adaptive tests.” This is not exactly a task that will contribute to a “student-centered environment in which all students will develop academic skills, practical skills, and attitudes to enable them to be successful lifelong learners and productive, responsible citizens in a diverse society.” However, I do suspect that it is geared towards preparing students to get better grades on the state mandated tests so that the school can flout these scores in their public relations materials.

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The LAUSD Needs Community Input

I hated the community vote

- Tamar Galatzan

Bored of EducationIt is a stated goal of the Los Angeles Unified School District to have “parent and community engagement.” Unfortunately, putting those words on paper is as far as their commitment to the issue goes. For example, Board meetings start at 1:00 when most working parents, teachers and students can not attend. It is not even a good time for stay-at-home parents because it is too close to the end of the school day when they have to pick up their children. The Board did experiment with a 4:00 start time, but Tamar Galatzan led the effort to return it to the middle of the work day.

 

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The LAUSD Needs Real Fiscal Responsibility

The district’s $1.3 billion plan to provide an iPad to every “student, teacher and administrator” has now drawn the attention of the FBI, but moonlighting City Attorney Tamar Galatzan should have been the one to notice the problems. Instead, she was what KPCC’s Annie Gilbertson described as “a fierce supporter of the Superintendent’s iPad program.” Howard Blume of the Los Angeles Times said that she “was one of the staunchest supporters of the original iPad plan.” An opinion piece in the Los Angeles Register referred to “the iPad plan’s chief proponents, Tamar Galatzan and Monica Garcia.”

Ms. Galatzan’s support of the iPad program does not line up with her campaign’s position that “she has also been very judicious in how she spends voter-approved bond money earmarked for her schools.” Bond funds are paid back with interest over 25 years and are a school district’s equivalent of a household mortgage. Just like a mortgage is appropriate for buying a house, the LAUSD is justified in using these funds for construction, capital improvements and long-term maintenance. A consumer would be ill-advised to take on such a long-term obligation to buy a consumer item, like an iPad, that will only last a few years. Similarly, the district should not be using these funds to buy “hoops, ropes and soccer balls” if this is the type of “recreational equipment for school playgrounds” that she brags about on her campaign site.

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