Google flash funds LAUSD teacher projects with $1 million

donorschoose logoLA Unified has received a generous surprise gift from Google, as the tech company announced it has funded all classroom teacher projects in the district on the crowdfunding site

The nearly $1 million donation will go to 769 teachers, who submitted proposals for projects and materials. The donation included pencils, books, laptops, musical instruments and other supplies.

“There’s something magical about the idea of a single moment when every teacher’s dream can come true,” said Charles Best, founder of He says Google’s offer to “flash fund” also provides a “singular opportunity to tell people about the site, and creates more teachers participation as well as more citizen giving.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti helped make the surprise announcement yesterday at Marina Del Rey Middle School.

“Our school teachers give their all every day to ensure that Los Angeles students reach their full potential,” said Garcetti, according to a press release. “We’re grateful for their ongoing dedication and passion that’s inspiring the next generation of Angelenos – and I’m thrilled that the help of Google and will help every student reach their dreams a little faster.”

Teachers at the school expressed gratitude at the generosity of the donation.

“Anything from pencils to technology, it’s going to help the kids in the classroom. Any professional with a well-supplied toolbox will be more effective,” history teacher David George told ABC7. “I’m blown away by the generosity. It’s super cool.”

Google has enacted similar “flash funding” campaigns over the last few months in San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Austin, and Kansas City. On Tuesday, Seattle area schools became the latest to benefit from the campaign. is a non-profit founded in 2000 to help classrooms in need. Teachers at half of all the public schools in America have created project requests, resulting in more than a million people donating $260 million to different projects.

Garfield High teacher selected for Yale Educator Award

Kevin Murchie

Garfield Senior High School teacher Kevin Murchie is a recipient of the 2014 Yale Educator Award.

A veteran teacher at Garfield Senior High School has been selected for a prestigious award from Yale University thanks to one of his former students.

The Yale Office of Undergraduate Admissions has honored Kevin Murchie, an English teacher at Garfield, as a recipient of the 2014 Yale Educator Award.

Murchie was nominated by former Garfield student, Janet Juarez, according to a press release from LA Unified. Juaraz is now a freshman at Yale and credited Murchie with shaping her as a student. Murchie was an Advanced Placement English Language teacher for Juaraz and also the faculty sponsor of the school newspaper, The Scuttlebutt, while she was the editor, according to the release.

Murchie has been working for LA Unified for 11 years, all of them at Garfield High teaching Honors English 9, AP English Language, Speech and Debate and Academic Decathlon, according to Garfield’s principal, Jose Huerta.

“The Garfield High School community is very proud that Mr. Murchie was recognized with this prestigious award,” Huerta told LA School Report. “It is well known around here that he is an outstanding teacher who has that gift of reaching all of his students regardless of their background. He does this by treating them with respect, holding them to a higher standard and instilling in them the value of a good education. Garfield High School is truly fortunate to have him as a member of our faculty.”

Garfield High in East Los Angeles has seen big improvements in its performance over the last few years, with steady increases in API scores, but is still struggling to meet targets.

The Yale Educator Recognition Program recognizes outstanding educators from around the world who are nominated by current students. This year, 53 teachers and 30 counselors were recognized, according to the school’s website.

“The entire Yale Admissions Office credits the excellent quality of the Yale student body to educators like these, who shape their students long before they attend Yale, and would like to thank these and all educators for their ongoing efforts in motivating and supporting their students,” said a statement on Yale’s website.

Teachers union changes tactics, urges board to fire Deasy

UTLA wants to fire deasy

Superintendent John Deasy

The Los Angeles teachers union has given up one of its oldest and loudest refrains, calling on LA Unified chief John Deasy to resign. Instead, UTLA appears to be changing tactics; it is urging the school board to fire the superintendent.

In a press statement, UTLA says it wants the board to downgrade Deasy’s performance to “unsatisfactory” at his annual evaluation, scheduled to take place behind closed doors on October 21. That would effectively spell the end to the superintendent’s contract which – at his own insistence – stipulates he meet performance targets set by the board.

“Deasy must be held accountable for the iPad fiasco and MiSiS crisis……[he] holds teachers accountable for their classroom programs, yet he cries foul when serious questions are raised by his supervisors,” UTLA said in a statement yesterday.

But amidst a fast-moving saga that features a fractured seven-member school board and a superintendent increasingly under fire, the landscape without Deasy may not be a silver bullet for the union.

Not only could firing the superintendent become a campaign issue for the four school board members up for election next March, but it could have an impact on negotiations between the union and the district, currently at the bargaining table over a contract on behalf of 31,000 employees.

“It’s likely to have a disruptive effect on the negotiations,” cautions Chris Tilly, Director of UCLA’s Institute for Research and Labor Employment.


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LA Unified cancels all outdoor activities due to heat wave

LAUSD students outside activities heat waveAs a result of the massive heat wave striking the Los Angeles area, LA Unified officials on Tuesday decided to cancel all outdoor activities or move them indoors until Wednesday.

Triple-digit temperatures are hitting parts of Los Angeles with unusually high temps expected to last several days.  Los Angeles County Health officials extended a heat alert issued on Monday to last through Wednesday.

The move to cancel outdoor actives comes as LA Unified has been struggling to keep some students cool indoors as well. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reported record high power demand Monday and is expecting to break the record on Tuesday as well, according to NBCLA. Multiple LA Unified schools are having problems with air conditioning units working properly, according to KPCC.

The problems prompted the district on Tuesday to issue the following statement: “L.A. Unified is aware of the problems with the air conditioning units affecting many of our schools. We take these issues very seriously. Nearly 500 air conditioning service calls have been received since yesterday. When possible, students and staff have been relocated to other classrooms or multipurpose rooms with air conditioning to continue instruction. A crew of workers have been evaluating and fixing every issue.”


Editorial: LA Unified schools won’t get better if leaders fight

Logo_LATimesVia LA Times | Editorial Board

This would be a difficult period for Supt. John Deasy and the Los Angeles Unified School District even if he and the school board were intent on working together for the benefit of students. But these aren’t the most cooperative of times, to put it mildly. The questions surrounding the superintendent’s 2012 emails with Apple and Pearson, well before the companies were picked as the winners of the contract to provide thousands of iPads for the district’s students, have further damaged the already tenuous relations between Deasy and the board. Nothing is likely to get better until the matter is resolved by further investigation.

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Morning Read: LAUSD wins waiver extension from federal gov

NCLB waiver extended for seven districts
Seven California school districts, including LA Unified, have received a one-year extension of the waivers from the federal government exempting them from key provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act in return for meeting a slew of new requirements mandated by the Obama administration. Edsource

Some LA Unified students wilting in heat waiting for air-conditioning repairs
L.A. Unified says it has air conditioning in all 32,000 school district classrooms, but 2,000 pending service calls have turned the current heat wave into a repair crisis. KPCC

State, districts struggle to support foster youth
California’s bold initiative to provide extra support for foster youth in school is proving difficult for most districts to implement, advocates say. Edsource

Recovery for autism service costs pending
Despite an announcement from federal officials in July that comprehensive autism services for children are covered under Medicaid, special education administrators and school business officers shouldn’t expect to be reimbursed for providing those services just yet. S&I Cabinet Report

David Boies, eyeing education through a civil rights lens
David Boies, the superlawyer who chairs a group that is trying to overturn teacher tenure laws in New York and elsewhere, said Monday that his organization is not looking to take the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court — at least not in the short run. Washington Post

New deal could mean millions for LA Unified’s TV station

KCLS Money LAUSDAfter suffering years of harsh budget cuts, LA Unified-owned public TV station KLCS could see a financial windfall next year should its recently announced plan to auction off bandwidth to the FCC go forward.

The potential value of the deal has been estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars. The money would likely go directly to the station, not the district, and could be used to fund the station in perpetuity through the creation of a foundation, according to LA Unified spokesman Thomas Waldman.

“It is possible, given some of the numbers we are hearing about, is that just the interest alone could keep the station operating,” Waldman told LA School Report.

The deal would involve KLCS and independent public TV station KCETLink sharing a single over-the-air-broadcast channel while auctioning off 6 megahertz of spectrum to the FCC in June of 2015. The deal would have no direct impact to viewers, as the stations will maintain separate channels on the dial because it is essentially a behind-the-scenes technical move.

Aside from regular PBS-affiliated children’s and adult programs, KLCS broadcasts LA Unified school board and County Board of Supervisors meetings, and provides over-80,000 hours of annual instructional/informational content and 700 hours of original content, according to its website.

The school board approved a memorandum of understanding to move forward with the agreement at its meeting on Sept. 9. The memorandum stated that a recommendation regarding disposition of revenues from the auction will be subject to school board action in the spring of 2015. In the meantime, Waldman said district officials and others involved with KLCS are excited with the news. Continue reading

Compare: LAUSD teacher salary competitive with other CA cities

Teacher salary LAUSDThe Los Angeles Unified school district offers competitive teacher salaries compared to other large districts in the state of California. That’s according to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a nonprofit which complies data from across the country.

Despite a recent press report indicating LAUSD was below the average, it turns out on many measures, when compared with other urban districts in California, the district appears competitive.

Of course, how to measure (average salaries versus starting salaries) or which districts to include (size versus region) can change the numbers. But here are a few of the findings using the pool surveyed by NCTQ. Click here for a full comparison.

What is the annual salary for a fully certified first year teacher with a bachelor’s degree?


What is the annual salary for a teacher with a master’s degree on the highest step of the salary schedule?
Teacher Pay highest stepQUESTION:
What is the maximum portion of the employee’s health insurance premium paid by the employer?
Teachers fringe benefits



‘Email delete’ policy is misunderstood according to LAUSD

buried under paperA policy intended to delete unnecessary emails on LA Unified district computers has caused a media storm and much confusion, but ultimately is misunderstood, according to officials who spoke to LA School Report.

“It could be this is much ado about nothing” said school board member, Steve Zimmer.

The bottom line: the ‘delete’ program does not apply if employees are following policy, that is, properly archiving emails from their inbox.

“Those are absolutely safe,” said Lydia Ramos, district communications director. “If it’s on your hard drive then it stays.”

Last week the school board voted to approve software by Microsoft that would routinely destroy emails left in the “inbox” of LA Unified employees after a calendar year, in compliance with a policy from 2012 called the Record’s Retention and Instruction Policy – that has not yet taken affect.

But, Ramos confirmed, emails properly archived by employees on department servers or on individual computers are not affected – and at least for now, the district says, it will not delete any emails at all.

Ramos also added that a controversial batch of iPad-related emails that were recently released would not have been slated for deletion, had the policy been fully in place. Continue reading

Morning Read: LAUSD owns grenade launchers and M16 rifles

What LAUSD is doing with its military-surplus grenade launchers and assault rifles
Opinion: So how about the curious finding that the Los Angeles Unified School District has taken possession of Pentagon military surplus that included 61 M16 assault rifles, three grenade launchers and a mine-resistant protective vehicle? LA Times

Strained ties cloud future of Deasy, LAUSD
The controversy engulfing Los Angeles Unified’s $1.3-billion technology project has inflamed long-held tensions between the Board of Education and Supt. John Deasy, who is questioning whether he should step down. LA Times

LAUSD’s students need better libraries, not iPads
Op-Ed: While the iPad-for-every-student controversy has gotten much media coverage lately, a long-term problem has gotten very little attention: the lack of equal access to a quality school library. LA Times

Frank Gehry designing new social service campus in Watts
It’s a small coup for the institute, which began working in Watts in 2007 and is best known for the 10 preschool sites it runs in the community. Yet it offers more than just free preschool. KPCC

With Tech Taking Over in Schools, Worries Rise
California is poised to become the first state to comprehensively restrict how such information is exploited by the growing education technology industry. New York Times

Next election season opens for 2015 primary

election deadlines lausdWith more than a month left before November’s election, the Los Angeles City Clerk is already looking toward the next election season. It announced today that candidates intending to run for office in the primary, slated for March 2015, must live in their respective districts by October 3.

According to the City Charter, failure to meet the residency requirement will disqualify candidates from running for office. Candidates must also be registered voters.

So far 13 candidates have indicated they are running for LA Unified school board seats according to the City Ethics web site. But there are still some hurdles: the official date to file a Declaration of Intent isn’t until November 3, and then there is the matter of getting thousands of valid signatures before a candidate can actually appear on the ballot.

Kamala Harris: absenteeism interferes with ‘students’ rights’

Attorney General Kamala Harris

Attorney General Kamala Harris (photo by KNX)

California Attorney General Kamala Harris appeared at LA Unfiied’s Malabar Elementary School today to highlight a report on truancy released by her office this week that shows a high correlation between attendance problems and both income and race.

But the argument she’s using to bring attention to the issue is curious: the report notes the high rates of absenteeism “interfere with students’ right to an education under the California Constitution.”

Sound familiar? You may remember that students’ rights argument from the Vergara case, in which a judge struck down California’s teacher tenure and dismissal laws based on findings that the laws interfered with students’ right to a quality education protected under the California constitution.

But Harris apparently didn’t buy it – late last month she joined the teachers union to fight that ruling by filing an appeal on behalf of the state, putting her at odds with recent public polling on the issue.

Meanwhile, back to the report. It found a high correlating between truancy and race: 37 percent of African American elementary students sampled were truant, the highest of any subgroup (including homeless students) and 15 percentage points higher than the rate for all students. African American elementary school students are also chronically truant at nearly four times the rate of all students.
Chronic Truancy Rates LAUSD Continue reading

Morning Read: Deasy’s attorney asks for LA school board emails

Attorney for Supt. Deasy asks for L.A. school board emails
An attorney representing Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy is seeking records that would explore possible links between school board members and technology vendors. LA Times

L.A. Unified should rescind plan to delete year-old emails
Editorial: The requirement that most emails at the Los Angeles Unified School District be destroyed after one year may not be legal under California public records law. LA Times

Keeping parents involved in shared decision making
Commentary: As school staff and families head back to school this fall, districts and communities are ramping up for the second year of the Local Control Funding Formula. Edsource

New schools chief: Oakland “full of opportunity”
The Oakland Unified School District has begun the school year with a new superintendent, Antwan Wilson, at the helm. The 46,000-student district is the 14th-largest in the state. Edsource

Vaccine opt-out rate doubled in 7 years
California law requires that children entering kindergarten be fully vaccinated against a range of diseases. However, the rate of parents opting out of vaccines for their children has doubled since 2007. KQED

A teacher finds lessons in the awfulness of 9/11

PBS_logoAs with most moments in my adult life, it was my students and literature that taught me the most significant lessons about the meaning of 9/11.

That morning felt unremarkable, even after my co-teacher came back into the room in the middle of second period to whisper something to me about planes crashing and terrorism. It was only my second year of teaching high school. By the end of the day, I had my classes journaling their initial reactions, creating a sort of time capsule, I said, for when their future selves wanted to remember.

Read the full story here.

Children’s Defense Fund names Alex Johnson as CA chief

Alex JohnsonAlex Johnson, who finished behind George McKenna in the race to fill the LA Unified District 1 board seat, has added two new lines to his resume since the August election runoff.

Nominated by his former boss, Mark Ridley-Thomas, Johnson is now a member of the LA County Board of Education, which mediates a variety of school district disputes, and as of tomorrow, he becomes executive director of CDF-California, the state affiliate of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Johnson is scheduled to appear at the official announcement tomorrow, along with Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of CDF, a non-profit child advocacy organization that has worked for 40 years to improve the lives of children.

Two years later, teachers fighting changes at Crenshaw High

crenshaw high school teachers allege removals LAUSD anti unionA labor board hearing opened yesterday with a dozen LA Unified teachers, including UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl, claiming the district used the reorganization of Crenshaw High School in 2012 to rid the campus of active union leaders who posed a threat to Superintendent John Deasy.

The teachers union filed the unfair labor practice charge against the district and Deasy a year ago, after Crenshaw was split into three magnet schools, a restructuring the 12 teachers vehemently and publicly fought against. As a result, they argue, Deasy specifically targeted them for removal from the school, forcing them to find jobs elsewhere in the district.

“This is a case about discrimination and retaliation,” UTLA attorney Dana Martinez said in her opening statement. “As the evidence will reveal, his comments will clearly demonstrate his motivation to get rid of union supporters who challenged him.”

As it happens, the hearing before the state Public Employment Relations Board, or PERB, comes as UTLA is trying to win a new labor contract from the district. Caputo-Pearl and Deasy are among the chief strategists in negotiations that have barely progressed despite a handful of meetings.

Caputo-Pearl has linked the PERB hearing to other disputes between the union and Deasy, calling the superintendent’s actions at Crenshaw “Another Autocratic Deasy Decision,” as a headline on the UTLA website says. Caputo-Pearl has also called Deasy’s handing of the district’s iPad program and the student-tracking system (MiSiS) “autocratic.” And then there are the contract negotiations, which have gone nowhere.

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Morning Read: LA Unified board enforces email deletion rule

L.A. school board approves contract to destroy emails after a year
The Los Angeles Unified School District took steps this week to enforce rules under which emails are deleted after one year, raising concerns about whether important public records would be destroyed in the process. LA Times

Hearing opens on Crenshaw teachers’ claims of anti-union bias
Twelve former Crenshaw High teachers alleged during opening arguments in a labor hearing Wednesday that the Los Angeles Unified School District targeted and removed them from the campus in retaliation for their union activism. LA Times

Homeless student population growing and less urban
Affluent Santa Barbara was surpassed only by Trinity as having the highest countywide percentage of public school students identified as homeless sometime during the 2012-13 school year, according to a new survey. S&I Cabinet Report

New funding law could raise cost of textbooks
Thirty pounds of math arrived for 6th grader Bethany Hughes in July, hefty tomes whose delivery from a warehouse in West Sacramento to her home in Westminster represented a victory in a small but heated dispute over the new education funding law. Edsource

Centinela Valley school district begins search for new superintendent
The Centinela Valley school district on Wednesday officially began its national search for a new permanent superintendent to replace Jose Fernandez, who was fired for as-yet-unknown reasons. LA Daily News

Reps for LAUSD, teachers union talk about computers, not salaries

UTLA contract talks computersAnother bargaining session came and went today and still no contract agreement between LA Unified and the teachers union, UTLA.

The district said in a press release, “union leaders weren’t ready to talk about raises at the table,”  leaving the sides to focus, instead, on issues with the student-tracking system known as MiSiS, for My Integrated Student Integrated System.

The union did not engage in salary talks, according to the district.

“Teachers certainly deserve a bigger paycheck,” Superintendent John Deasy said in a statement. “Finally, after years of severe budget cuts, we can afford to provide some relief that our teachers well deserve. We want to give raises.”

Chief Labor Negotiator Vivian Ekchian added, “While discussions around MiSiS implementation are very important, it shouldn’t preclude us from spending at least equal time on discussing salary increases.”

The union did not have an immediate response to the district’s characterization of the session.

The District has offered UTLA members an 8.64 percent salary increase over three years, which includes a one-time lump sum for 2013-14. It’s effectively the same deal the district has offered to all its other labor groups — the one-time payment and annual raises of 2 percent, 2 percent and 2.5 percent.

The union is seeking a 17.6 percent salary increase over two years, an amount the district said in the release it cannot afford “without a return to layoffs, dreaded unpaid furlough days, a shortened school year, reduced summer school and repeated deep cuts in staff and services needed to balance recent budgets.”

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Oct. 2

Garcetti endorses Torlakson in state superintendent race

Mayor Garcetti endorses tom torlakson

Mayor Garcetti

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti today endorsed state Superintendent Tom Torlakson in his bid for reelection against Marshall Tuck, a former charter school executive.

Citing his leadership in improving school safety and creating the largest network of after-school programs in the nation, Garcetti said in a statement, “Tom Torlakson is dedicated to the safety of our children and our schools. I support Torlakson because of the work he is doing to combat bullying, expand after-school programs, and keep gangs, drugs and guns out of our schools.”

For now, polls are showing the non-partisan race a volatile tossup because so many voters are not yet expressing a preference. In a Field poll issued yesterday, the two were in a statistical tie, with 41 percent saying they were undecided.

Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa endorsed Tuck several months ago.

Previous Posts:

Torlakson, Tuck in statistical tie, according to new Field pollMarshall Tuck: ‘We need fundamental and urgent change’

LAUSD outlines backup plans as MiSiS work continues

LAUSD School Board meeting 9-9-2014LA Unified is still scrambling to troubleshoot technical issues as the deadline for staffing schools approaches, the school board learned at its latest meeting yesterday.

Norm” day,” as it’s called, is set for Friday but problems with the new student data management system, MiSiS, have forced the district to devise a new plan: “The process will be a rolling process over a course of three weeks,” Deputy Superintendent Michelle King told the board.

Final student counts will be taken manually in a “double verification process,” and principals will get follow up visits from district staff to confirm numbers before any displacements occur, King told the board.

Schools experiencing the most severe problems are those enrolling kindergarten through eighth grade students, magnet schools and special education programs.

Chief Strategic Officer Matt Hill was contrite and optimistic addressing the board in the latest MiSiS update. “We rolled out the system with confidence that we can continue to improve it but there should have been a lot more testing,” he admitted to the board, echoing what many educators said in the months leading up to the disastrous launch of the program.

Another hurdle for the glitch-plagued system is printing student transcripts, a problem distressing to high school seniors who are now applying to colleges.

“Kids get one shot to apply to college … we can’t let our transition on this hurt a kid in their application process,” board member Steve Zimmer said.

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