Parental Engagement

By Carl J. Petersen

Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.

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?

John_Deasy__1000.JPG

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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Setting Expectations

CMZ.jpgWhen you are a parent of a child with autism, you get used to being told what your child cannot do. I think people do this as a way to protect you. Your kid is different and the sooner you grow accustomed to this fact the less you will be disappointed when your child does not meet the same milestones of their peers.

When these lowered expectations are driven by professionals, we are more likely to take them to heart. As a society, we tend to give experts a lot of weight. We send self-help books to the top of the bestseller list. Some will avoid getting a second opinion for fear of offending our Doctor. If a teacher tells us that our child’s lack of progress is to be expected due to their diagnosis, we tend to trust their expert opinion.

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El Camino Digs In

Scientific method: “a method of research in which a problem is identified, relevant data are gathered, a hypothesis is formulated from these data, and the hypothesis is empirically tested.”

-Dictionary.com

Education “reformers” claim that charters were created “as testing grounds for new and alternative educational models”. However, if these publicly funded private schools were actually engaging in innovation, it would seem that a high percentage of them would fail. After all, playing it safe is rarely a recipe for successfully making radical changes. However, in the LAUSD, there has been only been one charter revocation in the past three years. This hardly seems to back up El Camino Real Charter High School’s (ECRCHS) assertion that “the district has become more hostile towards charter schools.”

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Individuals Not Widgets

There are currently more than 640,000 students enrolled in the LAUSD. These students are not widgets in a factory, they are individual people, each with unique needs. Every individual student has their own interests, most effective method of learning and challenges of achieving success. All are important and deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential - every single one of those 640,000 students.

For too long the education “reform” movement has been allowed to operate in the LAUSD in a way that ignores individuality. Instead of supporting students with special education needs, the District has forced them to mainstream with general education students, even when doing so is harmful to the student. When some parents objected to the closure of special education centers, the District fought them in court. As a School Board member, I will fight to end this litigation and keep these centers open as an option for parents.

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Mónica García on El Camino: Ignorance or Insincerity?

Oversight:

The job of checking that a process or system is working well

-Macmillan Dictionary

Before the LAUSD School Board began debate on the Issuance of Notice of Violations for El Camino Real Charter High School (ECRCHS) “requesting the charter school remedy violations by September 23, 2016”, the public had an opportunity to speak. Other than a three-minute time limit, there is little formal structure to this comment period and speakers are free to bring up anything that they feel is relevant to the subject at hand. During this time, ECRCHS’ case was presented by their lawyer, several teachers (who were at the Board meeting instead of teaching their students), a couple of parents and the charter’s Chief Business Officer, Marshall Mayotte. Notably absent was David Fehte, the “Executive Director” who has been at the center of the controversy surrounding the charter.

Ironically, one of the first speakers used the analogy of Charlie Brown’s repeated attempt to kick Lucy’s football to make her case against the resolution at hand. She was trying to make a case that the LAUSD Charter School Division (CSD) had been moving the goal post so that ECRCHS could not meet the terms of the Notice to Cure that was issued in October. However, it was the speakers who engaged in diversionary tactics as they tried to take the emphasis off of the “financial shenanigans” by focusing on the academic achievements of the charter, the incompetence of the CSD and wild conspiracy theories that the District is trying to “take down” ECR because they “are thriving too much.” Despite evidence that ECR has violated the law and “generally accepted accounting principles” compiled by both the CSD and the Los Angeles Daily News, the speakers each requested that the Board not issue a Notice of Violations.

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