Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.
By Carl J. Petersen
- LAUSD Board Member Scott Schmerelson
When the East Area Progressive Democrats filed a complaint with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office regarding alleged violations of California’s Brown Act, LAUSD Board member Scott Schmerelson’s Public Statement was used as Exhibit A. In releasing this document, Schmerelson exposed that the Board had taken a vote in closed session on April 20, but had not reported this action to the public as required by law. This violation was further compounded by the fact that the Board’s Executive Officer had announced that there were “no actions to report”, “creating a deception that misled the public and confused any accurate understanding of the genuine status of decision-making by the Board.”
Schmerelson has now provided additional information about the LAUSD Board’s actions leading up to the appointment of Austin Beutner as the new Superintendent. In a presentation before the Northridge East Neighborhood Council last Wednesday, he confirmed that a vote was taken on April 20. Additionally, he divulged that “certain Board members had this planned months ago.” Originally, he was told that “Beutner [was] going to work for one dollar.” However, the other Board members ignored their fiduciary duty to the students of the LAUSD and taxpayers by voting for a contract that pays him $350,000 annually.Read more
- Former LAUSD Board Member, Jackie Goldberg
In 1953, the California legislature declared that “the people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know” and passed the Brown Act. As a result, the actions of all local agencies, including school boards, must “be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.” The public may be excluded from a meeting “to consider the appointment [or] employment...of a public employee”, but “the legislative body of any local agency shall publicly report any action taken in closed session and the vote or abstention on that action of every member present”.
When former LAUSD Board Member Jackie Goldberg spoke during the 9:00 AM meeting on May 1, there was an audible gasp from the gallery when she mentioned that the Board had already selected a Superintendent and “that he starts on the 15th of May.” This directly contradicted the Board’s Executive Officer, Jefferson Crain, who had announced at the end of the April 20th closed session that there were “no actions to report due to today’s discussion” and they were “going to recess until May 1...at 11:00”. During the ten days between these two meetings, community members had been lobbying the entire Board to appointment Acting Superintendent Vivian Ekchian. If they had known the results of a vote had already been taken, they could have focused their energies on urging specific Board Members to change their vote before the contract was finalized.Read more
- Candidate Delaine Eastin
It has been almost four years since John Deasy was forced to resign from the LAUSD after a failed $1.3 billion iPad program and spearheading the “disastrous” MiSiS computer system, which cost the district over $189 million. The LAUSD had promoted him to the role of Superintendent “without so much as a job interview” and ignored his “shady history of allegedly lying about his credentials and snatching up money wherever he [could] find it”. Among the remnants of his tenure is the District’s fractured relationship with its teachers whom he constantly bullied as he led the country’s second-largest school district.Read more
“I am especially addressing those who have been expressing their frustration with the lack of transparency during the last ten days, when every member of the Board knew that decision had already been made while pretending to be maintaining an open mind toward all the candidates who were deemed finalists.”
- LAUSD Board Member, Scott Schmerelson
On Tuesday, May 1st, I joined five former LAUSD Board members, teachers and other members of the public in urging the District not to hire Austin Beutner as the District’s new Superintendent. What none of the speakers knew was that on April 20, the Board had voted 4 - 3 to “to authorize negotiations for an employment contract with Mr. Austin Beutner as the General Superintendent of the District” but had not divulged the results to the public. This not only violated the rules of open governance but the public trust.
The District had bypassed public input for their decision with the excuse that the results of the input from the last search were only two years old and still valid. However, that search found that stakeholders “wanted an educator to be the leader of LAUSD.” As summarized by former Board member Monica Ratliff, “they wanted a teacher, a principal. They wanted someone who knew L.A.” Instead, the Board went behind closed doors and selected someone who had “no background leading a school or school district” to lead the country’s second-largest school district. Also, according to California Education Code Section 35029 Beutner had to be provided with a waiver because he does not hold “an administrative or teaching credential”.Read more
- LAUSD Board Member Dr. George McKenna
As the LAUSD School Board continues to ignore the fact that Granada Hills Charter High School is actively discouraging the enrollment of children with special education needs, District staff has taken note of the effect of these actions on surrounding neighborhood schools. In the “Single Plan for Student Achievement” for Northridge Academy Senior High, the school notes that “a larger percentage of the students from the Granada Hills Charter High School area are students with special needs and have active IEP’s as compared to the students coming from the other high schools.” Even worse, Kennedy is not the most heavily impacted school as 19.9% of the students at Valley Academy of Arts and Science have special education needs. With a student population that is less than half of Granada’s, John F. Kennedy High School has more students with special education needs than its larger neighbor.Read more
- LAUSD Board Member George McKenna
Under District rules, every charter that is submitted to the LAUSD for approval must contain District Required Language (DRL). Some of this language simply ensures that the charter conforms to the California Education Code. Other sections cover requirements specific to the LAUSD, like conforming to the Chanda Smith Modified Consent Decree. The most disputed sections require protections that have been successfully blocked in Sacramento by the California Charter School Association (CCSA). An example would be the requirement that the “charter school shall comply with the Brown Act and the Public Records Act.” Charter schools have also been critical of the language that gives the Office of the Inspector General “broad authority — including subpoena power — to sniff out ‘waste, fraud and abuse’".Read more
“I commit to working to increase the amount of funding that goes to public education and specifically to students at their school site.”
- Ankur Patel
When choosing which politicians to back, the California Charter School Association (CCSA) seems to care more about how they will help them to avoid regulation than the candidates’ ethical values. In the LAUSD, they helped Ref Rodriguez defeat Bennett Kaiser only to have Rodriguez step down from the Board’s presidency after being indicted on felony charges that included perjury. During the 2016 election cycle, the CCSA spent $30,282 to re-elect Matt Dababneh to the California State Assembly after he sponsored a bill that would have limited the ability of school districts to conduct independent investigations of charter schools. In December 2017, Dababneh was forced to resign from office “after three women accused him of sexual misconduct, including a lobbyist who said he followed her into a restroom and masturbated in front of her.”
On April 3, voters in Assembly District 45 will go to the polls to replace the disgraced Assemblyman. As an advocate for public education, I am endorsing Ankur Patel in this race. A win by the former School and Community Coordinator for LAUSD Board Member Scott Schmerelson would send a clear message to the CCSA that their days of purchasing politicians are over. Going forward, their schools will be held accountable for the public funds that they receive.Read more
My daughter is on the autism spectrum and spends a portion of her day in a special day class. However, due to the efforts of the teachers at LAUSD's Kennedy High School, she has several opportunities for mainstreaming including ROTC and choir. In this video, she had the opportunity to sing the National Anthem with a general education peer prior to a basketball game. This is what mainstreaming should look like.
I wrote about this program in this article.
- Scott Schmerelson, LAUSD Board Member
Under the current rules of the LAUSD, “a charter school [is] required to notify all parents, guardians and teachers in writing within 72 hours when the District issues a Notice of Violations...and that the notification include the District’s rationale for the action”. However, no such notification was made after a Notice of Violation was issued to Granada Hills Charter High School on March 3, 2017, detailing unapproved alterations to the District-owned campus that “were a risk to the health and safety of [the school’s] students, staff, and other individuals.” The Charter School Division staff did request “that they share that information with families because it was significant”, but the school’s administration refused to do so. To date parents and guardians have not been notified of the dangers existing in their children’s school and no formal action has been taken against Granada for breaking this rule.
On February 20, 2018, the LAUSD School Board put the proposed Holding GHCHS Accountable to Their Charter on the agenda of their Committee of the Whole meeting. The following is the written statement that I provided to the Board:
Honorable LAUSD Board Members:
This is Chanda Smith. She was an LAUSD student with special education needs who fell through cracks in the system. In 1993, lawyers from the ACLU filed a class action suit under her name. The result of that suit is a consent decree that the District is still struggling to comply with 22 years after it was signed.
Around the same time that Ms. Smith’s lawyers were filing their paperwork, California began its experiment with charter schools. Since charters claimed that this would give parents more choice, the LAUSD embraced these new types of schools and became the largest charter authorizer in the country. Did those in charge consider the effect on students like Chanda Smith? Were these students given more choices or were they left behind?Read more