“You should not speak to any child, especially students not your own.”
-Derek Horowitz, LAUSD Principal
Now that Tamar Galatzan is a former member of the LAUSD School Board, there is not one Board Member who has children enrolled in the district. Granted, this change is only symbolic as Galatzan had a reputation for ignoring the concerns of other parents (there is a reason that three parents ran against her in the March primary) and focusing on the needs of the charter school advocates who financed her campaigns. However, symbols are important and the new Board needs to take steps to show that it takes its goals of “parent and community engagement” seriously.
Whoever is elected Board President can begin this process by instituting rules that hold the Board Members to the same standards as the students in their classrooms. The members of the community deserve to be heard when they address the Board and should not have to compete with smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices. If students can be expected to limit their bathroom breaks, then Board members should also. The district’s goal of 100% attendance should also apply to our elected representatives.
Next, the Board needs to revisit some of the controversial issues of the last term and either reverse course or get parental buy-in. Moving the start of the school year to August remains an unpopular decision for many. The Breakfast in the Classroom program was implemented in a way that alienated many parents. Teachers should not be punished for letting parents know that they can legally opt their students out of standardized testing. Even better, the district should move to an opt-in system for these tests.
Parents who push for reform at the school level should be protected by the district, not treated as “disgruntled” and told that they should transfer their children to another school. Under the last Board, the district expanded their program of intimidating teachers through the use of Teacher Jail to intimidating parents by increasing the issuance of disruptive parent letters, which ban these parents from participating in their children’s school. These letters should not be issued purely at the discretion of a principal and a formal district policy should be instituted at the district level for parents to appeal their issuance.
Dramatic change is also needed in the way parents of those with special needs are treated. Year after year parents bring their complaints to the Office of the Independent Monitor of the Modified Consent Decree, but little seems to change. Many rejoiced when it was announced that Sharyn Howell was retiring, but suddenly the last Board announced an extension of her contract. The new Board needs to revisit this decision as this department needs to be led by someone who understands that parents and teachers, not Beaudry bureaucrats, know what services are needed by these students. The current system requiring the use of lawyers to get any meaningful services wastes district resources and delays the implementation of needed intervention for the students.
July 1 is the LAUSD’s New Year’s Day. As a parent, I look forward to a new beginning. Instituting these reforms would go a long way towards keeping this optimism alive.