Parental Engagement

By Carl J. Petersen

Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.

Charter Principal Gets Caught Engaging in Financial Shenanigans and is Punished with a $215K Payout

Ex-charter school chief gets $215K after resigning in wake of spending controversy

- Los Angeles Daily News, 11/30/16

The administration at El Camino Real Charter High School (ECRCHS) admits that David Fehte charged “more than $6,000” in personal charges on his school-issued credit card. An investigation by the Los Angeles Daily News found that “over the two years, Fehte charged more than $100,000 to the card”, including “$15,500 at Monty’s” Prime Steaks & Seafood and “first-class airfare and luxury hotel rooms”. The LAUSD Charter School Division found that the school had “no policy for Credit Card use” and issued a Notice to Cure on October 28, 2015. Almost a year later the “CSD still had ongoing concerns regarding the capacity and accountability of the Charter School, the charter organization, and its governing board, to operate ECRCHS effectively and in compliance with applicable laws and the terms of its charter”. The LAUSD Board scheduled a hearing to discuss Notice of Intent to Revoke ECRCHS’ charter.

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LAUSD's Parent Jail

Disruptive Person Letters (DPL) are issued by principals within the LAUSD when someone interferes with the ability “to maintain a safe campus free of disruption.” There is concern among parents that in addition to protecting against “behavior that poses a danger to staff or students”, these letters are also being used to retaliate against those who question a school’s implementation of policy. For this reason, they are better known as Disruptive Parent Letters. On November 22, 2016, the LAUSD’s Early Childhood and Parent Engagement Committee held a hearing on improving the DPL policy. The following is a copy of my testimony before this committee:


I have heard it stated a couple of times today that these “Disruptive Person Letters” are rare. Truthfully, we have no way of knowing that. I issued a Public Records Act request in August of 2015, and I asked for any email, memo or letter containing the language that is found in these letters. In response, I was told that the District does not capture “specific data on disruptive parent letters.” On September 28, 2015, I was told that “this information is not captured at this time.”

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Is Mónica García Using LAUSD Students as Stepping Stones?

If Mónica García has grown weary of the LAUSD, then why doesn’t she step aside for someone who is willing to serve the students?

Monica_Garcia_for_Congress.jpg

In the months leading up to the March 7, 2017, LAUSD election, incumbent Mónica García has made some questionable comments about the children that she is supposed to represent. For example, in March she suggested that students requiring special education services are not “our own kids”, excluding 12.7% of the LAUSD’s population. Then in September she said that “our biggest problem is that most of our kids, all of our kids, can’t read.” If this statement is true, then García has little to show for the ten years that she has spent on the Board. More likely, this represents her disdain for the teachers of the District and their ability to succeed despite the obstacles that she has put in their way.

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Why We Need a Parent on the LAUSD School Board

The LAUSD’s goal of “parent and community engagement” is stated in black and white on the District’s website. Unfortunately, the District’s actions often speak louder than those words. As an example, when the parents of children with severe special education needs lost the first round of a court case against the District, a press release stated that it was “a civil rights victory for our students”, as if these children needed to be protected from their parents. A higher court overruled this decision, but last June Mónica García and the rest of the LAUSD School Board voted to continue the court fight. Sitting across from each other in a courtroom does not count as “engagement.”

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The LAUSD's Hostility Towards Special Education

On November 16, 2016, the Office of the Independent Monitor held its semi-annual public hearings about the services provided by the LAUSD to students with special education needs. The following is a copy of my testimony before Dr. Rostetter:

 

 

When I saw your reaction to Adam’s speech, it gave me something that I haven’t had in a long time at these meetings and that is hope. It showed that you really care about what happens to our children. But Adam shouldn’t be the exception to the rule. Instead, the LAUSD shows hostility towards special education.

Mónica García said in a Board meeting just a few months ago that “I’m not about defunding special ed, I just know that we have a serious issue to how can we serve our own kids.”

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Rejecting Education by Division

 

If we accept the notion that education is the great equalizer, then we must demand that all children have equal access to education. This does not mean that we should expect that every student will have the same results. However, we should expect as a society that all children are given the opportunity to reach their full potential. Unfortunately, all of my opponents do not share the view that every child is worthy of an education.

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The Fallacy of Charter School Oversight in L.A.

The October staff recommendations represent a fundamental and drastic departure from the Charter School Division’s expressed values of consistency and transparency, and the District’s historic focus on student outcomes as an authorizer.”

-California Charter Schools Association (CCSA)

Both El Camino Real Charter High School (ECRCHS) and Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) were originally LAUSD public schools. While charters are marketed as a way to offer alternatives to poorly performing schools, both of these schools had excellent reputations before their conversions. El Camino has won seven Academic Decathlon National Championships, both as a charter and a public school. GHCHS “had one of the best academic records in the district [prior to its conversion], but it was bothered by cuts in district funding and hampered by rules that limited its own fund-raising abilities.” Like LAUSD schools, the teachers at both schools continue to be represented by UTLA. It should be no surprise that both  of them continue to meet their academic benchmarks.

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The Absurdity of Charter School Oversight in L.A.

This is about the fact that they want to kill our charters and nothing more.

-Magnolia CEO Caprice Young

“The sky is falling.”

-Chicken Little

 

As usual, the LAUSD Board spent a significant portion of their time at Tuesday’s meeting ignoring the needs of students enrolled in District schools so they could focus on charter issues. At this meeting, held at a time set aside to ensure maximum convenience for the charters, one new charter “was approved, another was allowed to expand and three others were renewed.” However, most of the focus has been on Magnolia and Celerity for the rejection of their renewal petitions and El Camino Real Charter High School (ECRCHS) for narrowly avoiding advancement in the charter revocation process.

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Following Monica's Money

Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres”

Tell me with whom you walk, and I’ll tell you who you are.

- Mexican Proverb as quoted by Antonio Villaraigosa

As headlined in the L.A. School Report, “L.A. Unified school board member Monica Garcia dominates fundraising in re-election bid”. She has raised “nearly 150 times more money than her opponent”, giving her plenty of room to maneuver and make sure that her donations are as clean as possible. However, a review of her $119,858.40 haul suggests that not much of a review was performed. After all, the bar must have been pretty low to accept these donations:

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Why Was El Camino's Charter Renewed?

Since we are on a timeline and it seems that the other issues that would prevent a renewal just don’t exist here, that everything else is very, positive...we are on a timeline and I think that we should vote the renewal up or down.

- Steve Zimmer, LAUSD Board President

It is yet to be revealed just how long the “financial shenanigans” were going on at El Camino Charter High School (ECRCHS), but the records do show that a Notice to Cure (NTC) was issued to the charter’s Governing Board on October 28, 2015, that included the allegation that “there were charges on the credit card statement where it was indicated as ‘personal use’ which is inappropriate and does not align to the purpose for use of the public credit card.” In ECRCHS’ response dated November 3, 2015, they “request a December 17th deadline” to take corrective actions because of “the number of requests contained in the NTC”. However, just one week later, on a motion presented by Monica Garcia and seconded by Ref Rodriguez, the LAUSD Board ignored the existence of the uncorrected financial issues outlined in the NTC and unanimously voted to extend the charter by another five years.

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