Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.
By Carl J. Petersen
“BLACKWHITE...a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to BELIEVE that black is white, and more, to KNOW that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary.”
- George Orwell, 1984
Catherine Suitor, the Chief Development Officer of Alliance College-Ready Public [SIC] Schools is correct when she states that “encouraging parents to be involved should not be seen as a negative thing.” However, her response ignores the real issue raised by my testimony before the LAUSD School Board which is how far can a charter go before “encouragement” is actually “intimidation”? If volunteering “is not mandated,” then why does her organization keep track of the number of hours for each student? If publishing this data on the school’s website was truly meant to be “completely [the] opposite of shaming”, why are the number of hours included on the list? If the publication of this information “is a way to recognize and congratulate those who are involved”, why are the hours listed under the students’ names and not according to the people who actually “volunteered”? If the school’s “parents are eager and welcomed to be involved”, why are they not allowed to vote for their representation on the Governing Board? Instead, this Board, itself appointed by an outside organization, appoints two parents ensuring that dissension is not given a voice.
Our oversight is “proactive and responsive.”
- Jose Cole-Gutiérrez, LAUSD Charter School Division
The LAUSD is “the largest district charter school authorizer in the nation, with about 250 independent and affiliated charter schools serving over 130,000 students.” The Charter School Division is responsible for ensuring that these schools comply with the law and their charters. Unfortunately, this oversight is not as thorough as it needs to be. On Tuesday, June 20, 2017, I brought this issue to the attention of the LAUSD School Board with the following public comment:
Good Morning. My name is Carl Petersen and I am here to follow up on the public comment that I made last week regarding Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS). Specifically, I’d like to respond to José Cole-Gutiérrez’ statement that the Charter School Division is “proactive and responsive” in their oversight.
- Hilary Hammell, Public Advocates attorney
In return for their receipt of public funding, charter organizations are not allowed to charge parents and guardians any type of fees for their students to attend these schools. This includes forcing them to fulfill a minimum quota of “volunteer” hours. As stated by the California Charter School Association (CCSA): “it is not legal nor appropriate for a student to be excluded from a charter school or a school activity because a parent did not volunteer or make a financial contribution to their school.” Still, a 2014 report by Public Advocates “found that 168, or almost one-third of the 555 charter schools [they] surveyed, explicitly require unpaid parent or family ‘service hours.’” Included in the report’s examples were two charters authorized by the LAUSD.Read more
- Scott Schmerelson, LAUSD Board Member
As I have reported previously, Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) has items on the enrollment page of their website that appear to violate the law and clearly violate their charter. During the past six months, I have been unable to get anyone at the school, the LAUSD Charter School Division or the State Department of Education to take the appropriate action to bring the school into compliance. On Tuesday, June 13, 2017, I brought this issue to the attention of the LAUSD School Board with the following public comment:
Included in the information that I am giving to you is a page from the Granada Hills Charter High School charter which states:
“Granada Hills Charter shall not request or require submission of a student’s IEP, 504 Plan, or any other record or related information prior to admission, participation in any admissions or attendance lottery, or pre-enrollment event or process, or as a condition of admission or enrollment.”
- Bobbi Murray / Capital and Main
In the past five years, the LAUSD Board had denied nine charter renewals while renewing at least 162. The charter industry, therefore, considered the Board to be hostile towards charters and spent $9,695,351.00 on the last School Board election, purchasing seats for Board Members who will do their bidding. Now, with a majority secured, charters like Celerity (whose offices have been raided by the FBI) and Magnolia (which according to the California Charter School Association, operates academically inferior schools) can be assured that the pro-charter majority on the Board will see that these privately run schools are not held accountable at all for the public funds that they receive.
“A plan for ensuring best and fair practices for charter operators, including results that indicate positive impacts on the achievement gap, inclusion of all students, fair labor practices, and parent engagement practices.”
-Steve Zimmer, 11/13/12
Betsy Devos, Eli Broad, and Michael Bloomberg have spent millions of dollars pushing to privatize our public schools with disastrous effects for school districts like the LAUSD. Much of this spending is not used to benefit students in any way, but to influence elections. This spending has swelled to the point where once again Los Angeles has broken the record for “the priciest school board race in U.S. history.”Read more
-Alex Johnson, VP LA County Board of Education
- LA County Office of Education Staff
As the LAUSD prepared to take the unusual step of not renewing the charters of three Magnolia Science Academies last October, their chief executive claimed that “it would be wrong to punish kids [for poor management] by closing strong schools.” After the vote, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) released a statement complaining that charters were no longer “evaluated mostly on the degree to which they were helping students learn.” Ignored by both parties was the fact that the CCSA itself had ranked one of these schools as a one out of ten, which in no way can be considered “strong”. The other two were at best average with ranks of four and six.Read more
As a special education and parent advocate who has run twice in LAUSD elections under the rallying cry of “Change The LAUSD”, my first inclination is to recommend against a vote for the incumbent in the District 4 Board race. However, as the election of Trump has shown, voting with a “throw the bums out” mentality can be disastrous if the people who fill these voids are less interested in fixing what is broken than burning the whole thing down. Nick Melvoin and his supporters’ plans to push even more students into charters falls into the latter category and will only serve to bankrupt the District, taking away opportunities for those left behind.
In some ways, Melvoin represents the Status Quo for the District. After all, the LAUSD “already has the highest number of charters - more than 200 - of any school system in the country”. These privately run organizations are largely unregulated by a Charter School Division that is headed by a former employee of one of the groups pushing to elect Melvoin. While tagged as anti-charter by the CCSA, this Board has only rejected nine charter renewals during the last five years. This includes the several from Celerity charters, whose offices were raided by the FBI. This inadequate scrutiny of charters would be lessened even further by a Board with a pro-charter majority.Read more
Brian Bauer, GHCHS
This week, Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) will attempt to win its sixth national Academic Decathlon championship in seven years. If this were a high school sports team instead of an academic one, the improbability of this accomplishment would probably be more of a focus but instead, it is blindly celebrated. No one seems to ask how it possible for a school that is supposed to draw from surrounding neighborhoods to consistently dominate a competition in a way that can only be compared to the winning streaks of the Harlem Globetrotters or the USA’s Olympic basketball Dream Teams. There is no doubt that members of Granada’s team work hard to achieve their success, but does the demographic makeup of this school give their team an unfair advantage?Read more
“The LAUSD Board will be voting on whether they support a package of anti-charter laws that would threaten our schools’ funding, flexibility to implement the programs best for our students, and our ability to continue serving our families.”
-Granada Hills Charter High School
Real estate records show that on March 17, 2005, a “Bayer, Brian” whose address was “11141 Tampa Ave” purchased a property at 10600 Zelzah Ave., across the street from Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS). According to tax records, this house was still owned by “Bayer, Brian” on August 20, 2006. However, on December 11, 2008, a Grant Deed was filed stating that there was “an error in the name of the grantee in the original deed recorded on March 17, 2005.” At that point, GHCHS became the registered owner of the property.
If it is true that Brian Bauer, aka Brian Bayer, was accidentally recorded as the owner of the house on Zelzah, it is unclear why it took three and a half years to correct the mistake. The Governing Board is responsible for the $440,000 spent on the property and should have immediately noticed that the deed to the property had “accidentally” been given to their Executive Director. The charter is subject to a yearly “independent” audit, but these auditors also seemed to miss this major problem. As the authorizer for GHCHS, the LAUSD is responsible for oversight and conducts annual reviews. For three and a half years they also missed the problem.Read more