Supporting our Teachers
In a recent op-ed, Gloria Molina attempted to absolve the L.A. School Board of responsibility for their refusal to fund the education our students deserve. In response, I sent the following letter to the editor of the Los Angeles Times. It was not published.
As the LAUSD tries to pit parents against teachers, it should be noted that the union’s proposed contract would reduce class sizes, ensure that there is a full-time nurse in every school and put full-time librarians back to our secondary schools.
The District says it would like to put “kids first” but cannot find the funds. There is no money left after spending $400 million to build (and rebuild) the Belmont Learning Complex atop a toxic site, $1 billion on the failed iPad project, $111.5 million for the botched MiSiS system and $139 million settling the Miramonte sex abuse cases.
Parents will ultimately decide who wins this fight as empty classrooms would force the District to look elsewhere in the bloated bureaucracy for the cuts needed to give students the education that they deserve. My two LAUSD students and I will be joining their teachers on the picket lines.
Losing the Sound-Bite War
Donald Trump is a master of branding. He took a “small loan of a million dollars”, bought some gold spray paint and turned the Trump name into something synonymous with how poor people think rich people live. Sure, you could not afford to live in the Trump Tower where the penthouse has “over over-the-top surroundings that might make Liberace blush” and the “upper-level residential floors are not equipped with fire sprinklers”, but what about some Trump Steaks? They were best when “cooked well-done and smothered in ketchup.” If these “dreadful pieces of meat for a high price” did not kill you and you still had room left on your credit card, you could have looked for a class at Trump University on how to inherit millions from your father and turn it into six bankruptcies.Read more
Second Largest School District Faces Teachers Strike
"There is currently an effort to call for a strike that pits adults versus adults when students and their families will bear the brunt of a strike action."
- LAUSD School Board
Having gladly accepted the title of “a gadfly at the school board meetings”, I have a natural tendency to be suspicious of the LAUSD’s marketing materials. This is particularly true when the document is titled with the very 1984 sounding “Just the Facts.” However, recognizing that the union’s first priority is to represent the best interests of the teachers, I realize that their contract demands are not going to automatically line up with the needs of families. With this in mind, I dove into the gap that divides the two sides. I have broken the issues down by what the District states the United Teacher Los Angeles (UTLA) claims are:Read more
How Can a Charter School Renew or Expand Without a Legitimate Governing Board?
"A material revision of the provisions of a charter petition may be made only with the approval of the authority that granted the charter."
Having already billed itself as the largest charter school in the country, Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) has submitted a charter renewal that would change the school to one that serves Transitional Kindergarten to 12th and add 1,425 students. Unfortunately, the Governing Board that approved this charter petition does not include the type of members outlined in its current charter. In my prepared testimony for the LAUSD School Board, I pointed out that this should invalidate the charter renewal petition:Read more
The Charter School Industry Puts Bigotry Front and Center
"Appointing a non-Latino candidate like Goldberg to the seat, even temporarily, ‘is definitely not in the spirit of the law. It would seem contrary to what LAUSD’s own commission did’ when it drew the district."
- Political Consultant Mike Trujillo
Speak Up is a pro-charter group that was formed in the Palisades on the west side to support Nick Melvoin’s candidacy for the LAUSD Board but was disguised as a way that “parents could join together and push for education that puts kids first.” However, the conduct of Speak Up members prior to and during Tuesday’s Board meeting was meant to cause division in a way that should never be tolerated in front of our children. In a missive released on August 20, they opposed the resolution by “Valley Republican Scott Schmerelson” (Schmerelson is not registered as a Republican) who sought to appoint former Board member Jackie Goldberg to the vacant Board District 5 seat until a special election could be held. Given Goldberg’s extensive record which would enable her to be an effective Board Member on day one, they lied to say that “she opposes school choice” when, in fact, she co-founded an organization that simply calls for “transparency, equity, and accountability” in these publicly funded schools. They then quoted a member of LAUSD’s redistricting commission to make the case that Board District 5 was a “majority-Latino seat” and that Goldberg was, therefore, unqualified because of her ethnicity.Read more
Special Education at GHCHS
By Sydney Thiroux, Whittier College
Letter to the LAUSD Board of Education:
Hello, my name is Sydney Thiroux. I recently graduated from Granada Hills Charter High School, and during my four years there I noticed that the students in the special education program were never properly integrated into the school community. Special education is an issue that is very important to me because my two sisters are on the autism spectrum, and it breaks my heart when people on the autism spectrum do not receive the respect and services they deserve. From my understanding, Granada's special day class was in a small classroom secluded from the rest of the school. They have their own set of lunch tables that are gated off. Many of my peers hardly knew that our school had a special education class! Because of their status as a charter school, Granada glorifies academic prestige to the point of neglecting the needs of special education students. I feel that there is more that needs to be done so that students on the autism spectrum (and students with other disabilities) are accepted for their differences and are well-prepared for life after high school.
Flushing Your Money Down the Toilet
"Team Granada: It was nice meeting with you yesterday to discuss possible solutions to the challenges you’ve gotten yourselves into with non-DSA approved improvements to your campus."
- Jim DiCamillo, Architect
Private businesses operate under a model that has built-in accountability. If a corporation does not generate profits, then the shareholders will demand a change in management. Therefore, when those running a corporation invest in capital improvements, they will make sure that the proper steps are taken to preserve shareholder value. Proper planning will occur, permits will be obtained and quotes will be acquired to make sure contractors offering the most value are utilized.
A charter school like Granada Hills Charter High School has no such accountability. Instead of a Governing Board approved by the investors, Granada’s administration selects the people who will oversee their operations. The state will divert education funds to their coffers regardless of how this money is misspent. As a result, the administration has ignored normal business practices and wasted money that was supposed to be used to educate students.Read more
The LAUSD's Failure of Leadership
"By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail."
- Benjamin Franklin
On Wednesday, August 15, the LAUSD School Board met for the first time since Ref Rodriguez resigned in disgrace on July 23, 2018. Neither a discussion about scheduling a special election to fill the seat nor Board Member Scott Schmerelson’s resolution to temporarily appoint Jackie Goldberg were included in the agenda. However, the public could make their voice heard as long as they could tie it to “any item that is described in [the public] notice” of the meeting.
Board President Monica Garcia did not make it easy for the public to speak. The “Order of Business” showed that public comment would be the third item of the meeting, right after the Roll Call of Members and Pledge of Allegiance, and specified that it was to be “on Items to be discussed at This Meeting”. However, Garcia opened the meeting by pushing the comment period until the end of the meeting that was scheduled to last three hours. Undeterred, I delivered the following statement:Read more
Proposed LAUSD Board Resolution Would Give Board District 5 Representation
"The constituents of Board District 5 endured a tainted election in 2015 and have suffered the absence of a legitimate office holder since July 1, 2015, and therefore immediately deserve a respected and experienced voice and representation on the Governing Board of the Los Angeles Unified School District"
- LAUSD Board Member Scott Schmerelson
Ref Rodriguez resigned in disgrace from his LAUSD Board seat on July 23, 2018. Despite the fact that this left the stakeholders of District 5 without any representation on the School Board, Board President Monica Garcia has not found any urgency in scheduling a special meeting of the School Board. To make matters worse, the issue has not even been included in the Board’s next meeting. Instead, she and Nick Melvoin have announced that they will wait until the regularly scheduled board meeting on August 21, 2018, to place “a Resolution that calls for a March 5, 2019, Special Election” on the agenda. Their announcement did not mention anything about a placeholder for the seat, but the fact that Garcia chose Melvoin to co-sponsor her resolution instead of reaching across the aisle seems to indicate that the issue will not rise above the Board’s usual divisions.Read more