Parental Engagement

By Carl J. Petersen

Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.

Breakfast in the Cla$$room

BICWe are taught from the time we are young that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and this is backed up by science. For example one study found that “the impact of breakfast was evidenced by the increase in positive mood and alertness, and a decrease in negative feelings.” Certainly the goal of making sure that every student has a nutritious breakfast every morning so that they “start the school day ready to learn” is a good one.

Unfortunately far too many children are growing up in poverty and may not have access to the nutritious breakfast that they require. Even in families where money is not an issue, mounting responsibilities outside the home have created a scarcity of time to prepare a nutritious breakfast. To compensate for both deficits, subsidized breakfast programs have been created to make sure that students have a chance to eat before they go to class. The LAUSD has decided that this is not enough and is rolling out a program to force all schools to serve breakfast in the classrooms.

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Admission Day?

With a national push to increase the amount of time that children spend in the classroom, it would have been understandable if the LAUSD had pushed back the start of the school year into August so that they could extend the school calendar. Unfortunately, the school year now also ends earlier. All they did was shift students into the classroom at a time of the year when temperatures are soaring and increased the costs for air conditioning.

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Willful Defiance

Students returned to school on August 12, under the promise of a new year. While summer vacation always seemed like it was ending too soon, I do remember the excitement of a fresh start afforded by new school supplies, new teachers and new classes. Unfortunately, parents were confronted by the same old district policies and the LAUSD’s habit of ignoring laws that they find inconvenient.

In 2012, Governor Brown signed AB 1575 which reinforced “the Free School Guarantee which has been in our California constitution since 1879.” This law specifically prohibits schools from selling “gym clothing with school logo, if the specific uniform with logo is required in order to be considered properly dressed for class.” Despite the straightforward wording of this law, both of the district supervised schools that my children attend are still trying to sell gym uniforms and are taking advantage of parents who are not aware of the rules under this legislation.

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Why Don't We Jump?

The Reason I JumpWhen I was in the Boy Scouts, the organization introduced a Handicap Awareness Merit Badge. To promote this new badge, they gave campers at the National Jamboree a chance to try sports that had been modified so that they could be played by people with physical challenges. This included playing wheelchair basketball and trying to catch a beeping baseball while blindfolded. Participating campers, by temporarily stepping into another’s shoes, were given the opportunity to gain some empathy for those who deal with these challenges on a full time basis.

Unfortunately for those on the autism spectrum, it is not as easy to replicate their experiences for those who are neurotypical. The communication difficulties that people on the spectrum experience often prevents the most severely affected from even describing how they experience the world. However, advances in technology and understanding are helping to close the gap. One result is The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida and translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell.

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Enabling The Jump

In The Reason I Jump, Naoki Higashida invites the reader to “a nice trip through our world.” However, the only reason that he was able to explain autism through his point of view is that he had a parent and an educator who had the perseverance to get him the tools that he needed to tell his story. Unfortunately, my experience with the LAUSD has shown that the district is not always willing to provide special education students or their teachers with the tools that they need to allow students to achieve their full potential.

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Education is the Great Equalizer

My father was given the opportunity of a free college education and used it to rise from some of the toughest neighborhoods in the South Bronx. He appreciated the ability to raise his family in the middle-class environment of the suburbs and made a point of donating to his public college throughout his life. “They helped me become who I am,” he would tell me in a very proud voice.

I am also appreciative of my public school background. As a member of the “baby bust” generation, my schools faced budgeting difficulties that came with a suddenly dwindling school-age population. Programs that were available to my older peers were cut but I still had access to enough AP and other college-level classes to skip almost a full year of college. Music and art were considered part of a well-rounded education as they encourage the creative thinking needed to be successful in business. Administrators were smart enough to recognize the upcoming computer revolution and found the funds to equip our schools with their first computer labs. This encouraged me to teach myself to code, study computer science in college and later take on the project of transferring an entire business from a manual based system to one that ran more efficiently with computers.

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Closed Door Session

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The Bully Pulpit

If children have a constitutional guarantee of high-quality teachers, why does the LAUSD allow institutionalized bullying to keep great teachers from the classroom?

The Vergara ruling has presented California schools with an opportunity to rectify a catastrophe. Now it will be my responsibility and privilege to ensure that L. A. Unified students have highly competent and effective teachers in their classrooms. This guarantee must be not to some students, or most students. It must be to every single student every single day.

- John Deasy

The LAUSD’s Policy Bulletin on Workplace Violence, Bullying and Threats (Adult-to-Adult) includes in its definition of bullying “severe...verbal act or conduct...committed by an individual...directed toward one or more adults that has or can be reasonably predicted to [have a] substantial interference with work performance.” Superintendent John Deasy was surely in violation of this policy on the morning of September 8, 2011, when he walked unannounced into a classroom at the Washington Prep High School, quickly decided that the work that had been assigned to the students was an “insult to their potential” and proceeded to engage in “a tirade of statements including that the assignment was ‘a total waste of instructional time.’” He then told the teacher, in front of her students, that she should have been “ashamed to have given them such an assignment.”

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Shutting Out The LAUSD Stakeholders

I would like to move that we move the remainding [sic] of board meetings that are tentatively scheduled for 4:00 PM Bored_of_Educationto 1:00 PM...Makes it easier for parents, certainly in my district, who might want to come speak to not be here at 11:00 at night when they have kids to put to bed and homework to supervise and it is impossible to get here during rush hour from most parts of the city to pull comment cards...A lot of us have other responsibilities that we need to take care of and I would really like to move the meetings back, like they are today with a 10:00 AM closed, 1:00 PM open so if we need to stay late we can but, otherwise, I think it works best, not perfect, there really is no time when it is convenient to everyone. But the 4:00 PM I thought would keep us here sometimes to 2:00 AM in the morning with nobody here to participate and that is not something that I support. So I would like to move all of them to 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM.

- Tamar Galatzan


According the the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 88.2% of married-couple families with children had at least one parent employed. Both parents are employed in 59.1% of these households. In single-parent households, 68.2% of women and 81.2% of men are employed. While not all of these parents are working nine to five jobs, the vast majority are not available to wait in line to get a chance to participate in a school board meeting at 1:00 in the afternoon. While a 4:00 PM start time does not move meetings away from the work day, it at least gives working parents a chance to join a meeting in progress.

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Fire Superintendent John Deasy

Find the petition HERE.

The students of the LAUSD have started this new school year amid chaos. First, the district ignored warning signs that it was not ready and pushed through the implementation of the MiSiS student management system. This resulted in the disruption of education for thousands of students. The district then showed an ignorance of the seriousness of the situation by continuously publicising the talking point that “only” 1% of the students were affected by this error. Even if this statistic had been accurate, and the facts show that it was not, this talking point created the impression that the education of 6,400 students was insignificant.

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