Parental Engagement

By Carl J. Petersen

Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.

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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Falling Short on Graduation Rates

The LAUSD has set a goal of a 100% graduation rate. The students, parents and community should expect nothing less. Unfortunately, the results fall far short. In the 2013 - 14 school year, only 67% of students in the district graduated in four years and only 41% of students are “graduating and passing all A-G courses.” The fact that a Board Member would ask for re-election based on those “record numbers” is appalling.

This is another issue that calls out for new blood on the LAUSD Board of Education. As a member of the Board I will:

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Redefining Education

It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”

- George Orwell, 1984

1984Elementary schools exist to give students the building blocks that they will need later in their academic careers. Without knowing their times tables, basic history or grammar rules, they have little hope of successfully tackling classes when they enter middle and high schools. With this in mind, it seems rather Orwellian to describe Calahan Elementary School as “A School for Advanced Studies.” Does Big Brother have an office in the district’s headquarters on Beaudry?

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Is MiSiS Putting Our Students In Danger?

The letter that was mailed to our house was very stern. It stated that our daughter’s “immunization series is incomplete” and if she does not receive her second Varicella vaccine she will be “excluded from school attendance beginning: 1-12-15.” There is one small problem - she received her second chickenpox immunization in 2009. Apparently something caused the system to suddenly think that this never occurred.

The My Integrated Student Information System (MiSiS) was supposed eliminate problems like this one by replacing several disparate programs. Had it worked, the $13.5 million spent on its implementation would have made sense. Unfortunately, it was poorly designed because it did not take into account the age of the hardware that would be running it. Even worse, it was not adequately tested before “all legacy systems...were converted to read-only access, effective Monday, June 16th [2014].”  The resulting disruptions caused the district to take emergency actions which will result in an estimated $98 million in additional charges.

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Economic Engines Run on STEAM

You know the good ole days weren’t always good

And tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.”

- Billy Joel

Living Education eMagazineWe are in a national funk. A bright “Morning in America” has given way to a stormy afternoon as the headlines scream that America’s best days are behind us. It seems that when we lost our position as the largest manufacturing country in 2010, we also lost our can-do spirit. It has been replaced by a fatalism that proclaims that our greatness can never be reclaimed.

When discussing our alleged demise, China is the country that is mentioned most often. However, this ignores the facts behind their success. For example, it took a Chinese population of 1.34 billion to manufacture $1.92 trillion worth of goods in 2010.  While the United States only manufactured $1.86 trillion during this same period, we did so with a population that is 23% the size of China’s. Furthermore, in 2012 the average hourly wage for a Chinese worker was $1.36 - hardly something Americans should aspire to.

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Finding the Balance of Power in the LAUSD

The failure of the MiSiS implementation, which contributed to what Superior Court Judge George Hernandez Jr. ruled were “severe and pervasive educational deprivations,” is an example of how the established roles of the Board and the Superintendent are not being followed. The Board is supposed to set policy and hold the Superintendent accountable. In turn, the Superintendent is in charge of running the daily operations of the district based on the policies implemented by the Board. When a Board member openly admits, as in the case of the MiSiS disaster, that “we don’t supervise anyone who works for the superintendent”, the Superintendent is clearly not being held accountable.

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