Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.
By Carl J. Petersen
The California Charter School Association (CCSA) paid millions to purchase the LAUSD School Board, but their narrow majority is in danger. Not only is Ref Rodriguez, one of their hand-selected Board members, facing criminal charges related to his campaign, but the charter school chain he founded has accused him of having a conflict of interest while he was their Treasurer. This, in turn, exposed the charter organization’s lax financial controls. All of this has caused a rare sense of unity across the education divide; both the Los Angeles Times and United Teachers Los Angeles have both called for Rodriguez’ resignation.
Having reintroduced the chaos back into the District that has been missing since the departure of Deasy, the charter industry played their next hand by blackmailing the District in an attempt to remove language that the LAUSD requires in each charter. If they did not get their way, 13 charters would move to the county or state where even less oversight is provided. Judging by the line of news trucks lined outside the Boardroom on Beaudry, the media was prepared for the November 7, special Board meeting to be full of drama.Read more
“As a school of CHOICE, you CHOOSE to be here and are expected to productively and respectfully resolve problems. You have options. Clearly, you are either a very satisfied customer who appreciates the roles you have as an employee, union steward, parent, and committee member, or….”
- Johnathan Williams, The Accelerated Schools
Like the “America, love it or leave it” crowd in national politics, charter supporters will venomously attack anyone who dares to criticize the operations of these schools. This was exemplified by Los Angeles County School Board President Alex Johnson who defended the academic failures of one of the Magnolia Charter Schools by accusing me of being “against high-quality education for black and brown students”. The same false claims of racism were also used against former LAUSD Board Member Bennett Kayser, along with attacks based on his medical condition. A parent who is a frequent critic of the Accelerated Charter Schools was told that she should start “looking at the glass, the kids, the School as half full, and appreciating the asset and building on it”. Instead of complaining, she should “see the light and begin to operate with in [sic] it.” Life is much easier if you join the cult.
- LAUSD Facilities Services Division
Within a period of one year, Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) was issued two Notices to Cure (NTC) and one Notice of Violation by LAUSD. These directed the charter’s administration to correct financial improprieties, enrollment policies that did not conform with the education code and construction projects that endangered the safety of students. Each specified deadlines that had to be met. While these deadlines have all passed, it does not appear that the corrective actions in any of these cases have been made.
While the LAUSD School Board was evaluating the performance of the District’s Superintendent, Michelle King, District 5’s Board Member was absent. Instead, Refugio (Ref) Rodriguez was in court answering to charges that included felony conspiracy and perjury. This left his constituents, the victims of Rodriguez’ alleged crimes, unrepresented in the Board’s discussion and any possible action. Clearly, the charges against Rodriguez are more than a distraction, they are an obstacle to his performing the duties required by the full-time job for which he receives $125,000 a year.Read more
- LAUSD Facilities Services Division
The information within the unsigned letter sent to the “Granada Hills Charter Community” seemed innocuous. Framing the situation as a tenant/landlord dispute, Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) said that during a routine inspection of the campus, the LAUSD’s Facilities Services Division had found “several violations concerning modifications to the campus” that “were not performed in compliance with [their] Sole Occupant Agreement (SOA)” with the District. The school had been given an “April 3, 2017, deadline to remedy or develop an action plan to address [these] concerns” [emphasis mine]. The only mention of the welfare of the students attending the charter was a seemingly random statement that they “always keep the health and safety of our students and staff as [their] primary focus.”
Notably missing from the letter was any indication that it was meant to fulfill a requirement that GHCHS notify parents that a formal Notice of Violation has had been issued by the LAUSD and that this could have resulted in a revocation of their charter. Nor was it mentioned that Executive Director Brian Bauer had been informed that the alterations in question “were a risk to the health and safety of your students, staff, and other individuals.” While it is true that GHCHS had been given 30 days “to deliver to District evidence of [their] compliance with the SOA or a plan to cure and timeline acceptable to District”, they had also been ordered to “immediately stop all use of the facilities identified in Exhibit A...for the health and safety of students staff and other individuals” [emphasis mine]. Finally, GHCHS neglected to inform the community that they were also accused of violating the law by “failing to obtain necessary review and approval of the plans for the identified alterations from the Division of State Architect.”
The following Letter to the Editor was sent yesterday in response to the Los Angeles Times’ article “L.A. school board member Ref Rodriguez faces conflict-of-interest complaint over $285,000 in payments”. Unsurprisingly, it was not published:
As the accusations against LAUSD Board member Ref Rodriguez mount, it is important to note that the charges are not new. In fact, they were meticulously researched by activists including Robert D. Skeels during the 2015 election and delivered to the Los Angeles Times. Failing their responsibility to the voters, the Times not only refused to cover these allegations, their editorial board endorsed Rodriguez. One can only wonder if this lack of coverage has anything to do with the Time’s own conflict of interest - the $800,000 it received from privatizers like Eli Broad to sponsor its education coverage.
According to your article, “PUC’s senior managers said they uncovered the transfers...while responding to questions and requests from The Times”. If the Times had done their job when the actual events were taking place the voters would have had this information when they made their choices at the voting booth.
- Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty
In the ten months since I first filed a complaint about Granada Hills Charter High School’s enrollment practices, there have been some incremental changes. Most importantly, while the original enrollment page had no provisions to compensate for the specific challenges that homeless students face, the school is now in compliance with the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act as its web page now includes a specific link for “Homeless and Foster Enrollment”.
Unfortunately, there are still areas where GHCHS is not in compliance. While the LAUSD’s Charter School Division (CSD) assured me, in a letter dated July 28, 2017, that the charter had “agreed to revise its enrollment form and website to provide further clarification regarding the distinction between admission and enrollment and what is requested after a student has been admitted to GHCHS”, the revisions released last week do not reflect these changes. On Tuesday, I provided this information to the School Board:
My name is Carl Petersen and I am a parent, including having two children who are on the autism spectrum. I realize how much money the charter school industry has spent to make sure that you do not regulate the charters, but you still have a responsibility to all of the children, including the most vulnerable, which is why it is very disappointing that I am here for the same issue on multiple occasions.Read more
- Monica Garcia
When the LAUSD School Board handed control of Locke High School to Green Dot Public [sic] Schools in 2007, the school ranked “among the lowest-performing schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District and in the state.” At that time, Green Dot’s Steve Barr said that if this public school was given to his unelected charter organization they would “work together [with parents and teachers] and make Locke a great school.“ He further promised that “people around the country are going to come to Watts and see what a great urban turnaround school looks like."
Ten years later nobody is calling on Green Dot to provide their key to success. In both 2015 and 2016, the California Charter School Association (CCSA) gave the school a Statewide Rank of one out of ten. The LAUSD Charter School Division ranks its Student Achievement and Educational Performance as “Developing”, or a two on a four-point scale. When compared to Resident and Similar Schools Medians, “Locke reclassified [English Learners] at a lower rate”, had “low graduation rates” during the past three years, and “has a high disproportionality suspension rate for African Americans and Students with Disabilities.”Read more
- Paraphrasing George Santayana
Just months after assuming a majority of the LAUSD School Board, the charter supporters already find themselves embroiled in controversy. Their first selection for President, Ref Rodriguez, is facing felony charges and was forced to resign from the position. As they prepared to select a replacement, I addressed the Board and asked for them to follow through with their promise to put “Kids First”:Read more