Parental Engagement

By Carl J. Petersen

Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.

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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A Web of Deceit

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"The public interest in withholding those records clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure."

-Law Offices of Young, Minney & Corr, LLP

On behalf of El Camino Real Charter High School

Dear LAUSD Board Members:

I have previously shared with the Charter School Division (CSD) the responses that I have received from El Camino Real Charter School's (ECRCHS) law firm after attempting to gain access to the $20,000 report that the Governing Board commissioned from Oracle Investigations Group under the California Public Records Act (PRA). Unfortunately, I have not heard back from the CSD or received the report or a copy of the contract under which it was prepared. However, in reviewing the Response to Notice of Violation that was prepared on behalf of ECRCHS states on page two that "included among ECRA Board actions taken are...contracting with an independent investigator to investigate concerns raised by the LAUSD Charter Schools Division in a Notice to Cure in October of 2015". This is contradictory to responses that I received from the same law firm claiming that "as legal counsel for ECR our firm retained the services of Oracle Investigations Group, Inc." and "there are no documents responsive to your request in the possession of ECR" in response to my request for a copy of "the contract with Oracle Investigations Group that was approved by the Governing Board on June 22, 2016."

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Asleep at the Switch?

In response to this very unexpected action, the district has assembled a team to provide support to students and families as they transition during this difficult time, just one month after the start of the district’s traditional school year”.

-LAUSD

The charter industry has a propensity for manipulating data to meet their propaganda needs. For example, a recent press release stated that “more than 2,000 families [had] marched in support of charter schools”. However, the first sentence of the release told a completely different story. Instead of families showing support of these private schools operating with public funds, “more than 2,000 charter school teachers, students, families, supporters, and local representatives joined together” had participated in the march. Unless families had been prevented from sending more than one representative to the march, the headline was clearly misleading.

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What is the Opposite of Transparent?

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The records you have requested are exempt from disclosure pursuant to California Government Code §6254(f) as they are the subject of an on-going investigation.

-LAUSD Office of the General Counsel

It has been almost two years since David Binkle was removed from his position as LAUSD’s Food Services Director.  A draft audit by the Inspector General found that the food services department was “at a minimum being mismanaged and at worst being consistently abused.” While this draft was “expected to be completed by early summer” 2015, the District still maintains that the investigation is “on-going”.

It has been more than a year since Binkle grew weary of his stay in Food Services Director Jail and retired from the District. However, the facts of the case are still relevant. While the report accused him “of failing to report payments from vendors to attend school food conferences”, Binkle has stated that his “actions were approved and encouraged from senior district officials, general counsel or the ethics office”. These senior officials include John Deasy and Michelle King, who was later promoted to be the District’s Superintendent. If Binkle is, in fact, a fall guy and his actions were approved and encouraged by Deasy and King, why is it that he alone has paid the price?

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Who Does The LAUSD Board Serve?

Charter families have lined up at dawn in biting cold winds holding babies. They’ve sweated it out for hours standing around ice chests or taking turns under canopies. They’ve waited hours—sometimes nearly a full a day—to get into an LA Unified school board meeting. Then, they wait hours more just to be heard.”

-LA School Report

Despite the stated goal of the LAUSD to have “parent and community engagement”, it is clear that the public is the furthest thing from the Board’s mind when they schedule their meetings. Most are held during the day when working parents, teachers and students cannot participate. The Board Room only holds 155 people, often leaving many people waiting outside or attempting to hear the proceedings in Beaudry's employee cafeteria amidst the din of food service. The marathon meetings often last past 8:00 PM, leaving parents with cranky, hungry children as they wait for their turn to speak.

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A Letter to the LAUSD Charter School Division

This morning I sent this email to atatioss@lausd.net and Jose Cole-Gutierrez the LAUSD Charter School Division. El Camino Real Charter High School must act with transparency and publically release the report that they commissioned with public funds from Oracle Investigations Group.

Unfortunately, El Camino Real Charter High School continues to thumb its nose  at the Brown Act. As stated in a Los Angeles Daily News article published on Saturday, the Governing Board is scheduled to receive the report from Oracle Investigations Group at its September 21, meeting. Unfortunately, they are planning to retreat into closed session to do so.

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The Unrepresented

The_Unrepresented.jpgGerrymander: “manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favor one party or class.

-Oxford Dictionaries

If one wants to see a visual representation of “gerrymandered”, the map of LAUSD District 5 is a good place to start. In an effort to carve our Hunger Game like districts, the mapmakers at the Los Angeles City Council took two larger sections and connected them with a long, thin ribbon that is sandwiched between District 2 and the LAUSD boundary.  Unfortunately for the residents of this ribbon, this creative mapmaking can mean that they do not have a democratically elected representative for the schools that their children attend.

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Is My Confidentiality Agreement Confidential?

As of 2009, approximately 5.8 million students were receiving special education services in the United States. This population includes children with mental and physical challenges. They may be educated with their “typical” peers for a majority of the school day or segregated into specialized learning programs.

When children have special educational requirements, their education is governed by an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This is a document that outlines everything from the goals that are being set for the student to the exact services that will be provided by the school district. It also contains assessments about the child from the various educators and other specialists who work with the child, including the child’s progress in meeting the goals outlined in the previous IEP.

As advocates for their children, parents should have input into the contents of the IEP and indeed they do have an opportunity to meet with the school’s special education team after the document has been created. After this discussion, they can either sign off on the conclusion or request changes. Unfortunately, it has been my experience in raising two daughters with autism that unless these changes are minor or do not involve the allocation of resources, the school-level administrators will tell you that they are not empowered to alter the IEP.

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