Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.
By Carl J. Petersen
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
I sent the following letter to the editor of the Los Angeles Times in response to the charter industry's op-ed diminishing the charges against Ref Rodriguez. It was not published.
If we are to believe Peter Cunningham’s September 21, Op-Ed, Ref Rodriguez’s alleged violations of the law should be ignored because they are a result of a “rookie mistake”. This reasoning ignores the fact that the defendant was employed by PUC charter schools as a treasurer, with a responsibility to understand financial rules. He was also asked by KPCC radio in 2015, about the actions that are now detailed in the felony complaint and denied that the donors were being reimbursed. This is a case of deception, not of ignorance.
Contrary to Cunningham’s assertion, perjury and money laundering are not “crime[s] with no victim”. The actions described deprived “the public of information about the true source of a candidate’s financial support” making every voter a victim. Furthermore, it demonstrates the character of a man who is supposed to set an example for the 640,000 children of the District.
- Attorney Mark Werksman
According to the Felony Complaint against Refugio (Ref) Rodriguez, he and his cousin allegedly conspired in a scheme that hid the source of almost $25,000 in campaign donations from the public. While a lawyer involved in the case maintains that this is “a small amount of money”, the amount donated by each of the listed donors has raised suspicion since the time of the original filing. As noted by KPCC in an article dated February 5, 2015, “Rodriguez collected $21,000 in campaign donations from employees of his charter school network, Partnerships to Uplift Communities” including “a handful of his workers – a janitor, maintenance worker, tutor — [who] are donating at or near the contribution limit, $1,100.” Rodriguez insisted at the time that “the employee contributions weren't coerced and will not be reimbursed”, but the District Attorney charged both the Board member and his cousin with “25 counts of ‘assumed name contribution’” for allegedly using Rodriguez's own funds to pay back the donors. While it is not illegal to lie to the press, lying on a campaign contribution report will subject you to a felony charge of perjury.Read more
On September 12, 2017, the LAUSD School Board was set to take a vote to approve several charters for five-year renewals, including ICEF Innovation. However, before doing so they needed to hear public comment. The following are my remarks before the Board:
We are told continuously that the purpose of charters is innovation and experimentation. Looking at this school’s website, it seems that their experiment is taking Gifted and Talented methods and applying that to the entire school population. This is interesting in itself because 0% of the student population is identified as Gifted and Talented. But that was their experiment.
I guess that we could have a debate about whether it is great to be experimenting with children, to begin with, but that is the law. However, part of experimenting is we have to recognize when the experiment has failed. When the California Charter School Association itself gives a statewide ranking of the school a three out of ten, in my book that is a fail. How can we continue with the same process? It failed, so why not stop it?Read more