Claim of Funny Business on Petitions

Two LAUSD School Board candidates — school library aide Franny Parrish and 4LAKids blogger Scott Folsom — say they paid a man named James T. Law to gather signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

The City clerk deemed too many of Folsom’s signatures invalid for him to qualify to be a candidate for District 2. As for Parrish, she says that Law never even delivered the signatures.

“It’s a sad story,” said Parrish, who was planning to run in the Westside’s District 4 against incumbent Steve Zimmer and Kate Anderson. “I would have given Kate a real good run for her money.”

Paying for signatures has become somewhat common. Parrish said she paid Law $2,100 for what was supposed to be 700 signatures. Candidates needed 500 valid signatures in order to get on the March ballot for school board member.

Both Parrish and Folsom are considering taking legal action against Law, who did not respond to our request for comment. Curiously, Law appears to be running for City Council in council district 15, which covers San Pedro. His signatures were deemed valid, according to the City Clerk’s website, and he has apparently qualified for that race.

There is no path forward for the two candidates to get on the ballot, although they can register as write-in candidates. The deadline to register as a write-in candidate is February 19, 2013.

Previous posts: Two District 6 Candidates Drop Out*District 4 Candidate Will Appeal DisqualificationTwo District 6 Candidates Drop Out*

Turnout Could Reach 30 Percent, Says Consultant

Conventional wisdom is that voter turnout is always relatively low for local elections—especially so for school board races. And this is often true.  In off-year election cycles, when the only offices up for vote are City Council or Board seats, turnout can be as low as 11 percent.  Relatively small numbers of voters can sway an election one way or the other.

But the upcoming March 2013 race—when Los Angeles voters will elect a new Mayor, City Council majority, and three Board of Education members—is poised to be more like 2005, when Antonio Villaraigosa faced 11 challengers and total turnout for the city was 29 percent, according to numbers from the Los Angeles City Clerk’s office.

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Morning Read: LAUSD Students Get a Say in Lunch

Los Angeles Gives Students More Control Over School Lunch
Many school districts nationwide have stepped up efforts to increase the nutritional value of the food they serve and reduce the consumption of foods that drive a growing childhood obesity epidemic. Los Angeles Unified School District has been at the forefront of this movement. Education News

U.S. Department of Education Awards Youth Policy Institute $30 Million Promise Neighborhood Grant
The Youth Policy Institute was one of only five agencies in the nation to be awarded President Obama’s prestigious Promise Neighborhood grant today. Digital Journal

Environmental Charter High in Lawndale Nominated for National Blue Ribbon Award
Fourteen public schools in Los Angeles and Orange counties were among 35 across the state nominated for the 2013 National Blue Ribbon Honor, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today. Daily Breeze

Doomsday Prophecy Prompts Rumors of Violence in Schools
The Mayan prediction that the world will end on Friday has caused rumors of violence in schools, including shootings or bomb threats, and a few districts have canceled classes. NYT

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Citizens Charter Looks East

Los Angeles-based CItizens of the World charter network has applied to open a school in fast-gentrifying Williamsburg (Brooklyn), and the local NPR affiliate reports that its possible  arrival is creating both hope and concern.  While socioeconomically diverse and progressive charter schools like Citizens are somewhat familiar in Los Angeles, they remain new and unfamiliar on the East Coast, where most charters are demographically homogeneous and more structured in their educational approach.

Board President Garcia Talks Policy & Politics

During her LA School Report interview, LAUSD School Board President Monica Garcia points at wall charts showing district progress.

East LA native Monica Garcia only planned on working for LA Unified for three weeks.  That was way back in 2001, when former Board member Jose Huizar asked her to be his first chief of staff. But Garcia, now 44, ended up replacing her boss when he was elected to City Council.

The job of a Board member boils down to just four main things, according to Garcia:  “Hire and fire the superintendent, approve a budget, set policy, and serve as community voice. That’s the job.” Garcia is now finishing up her second term on the Board and is about to start campaigning for re-election. She’s also in the middle of her sixth year as Board president, an organizational task she executes with a loud and authoritative voice.

In her interview with LA School Report — the fourth Board member interview that we’ve conducted so far — Garcia discusses what it’s like to be in charge of such an independent and fractious group, the potential conflicts of interest that come from taking money from industries she monitors, and the possibility that the UTLA is going to spend $4 million to defeat her in March despite things like her support of the immediate restoration of furlough days following the passage of Proposition 30.

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LA Times: Streamline Teacher Firing Now

“There is no reasonable explanation for why firing a teacher in California is such a time-consuming, tortuous and expensive procedure… Appeals often drag on for years — during which the school district must pay the teachers’ salaries and benefits — and almost invariably favor the teachers… The dysfunctional process benefits no one except bad teachers. The Legislature has been giving in to union resistance for far too long; it’s time to pass real yet reasonable reform.” — LA Times editorial


Voices Urge “No” Vote On Evaluation

Former School Board candidate John Fernandez is among a handful of voices urging to teachers to vote against the tentative agreement struck between UTLA and LAUSD regarding teacher evaluations earlier this year.

John Fernandez

“The big problem is the district and the union have not figured out how much weight they will count for,” said Fernandez, who is also a former member of UTLA’s Board of Directors and House of Representatives.  “This is a big problem. You have the teachers voting for an agreement that’s still not complete.”

Fernandez is not alone.  From the other end of the ideological spectrum, school reform advocates including former Washington DC public schools superintendent Michelle Rhee have questioned whether the tentative deal is strong enough.

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Morning Read: LAPD Explores School Safety Changes

LAPD Has Few Easy Answers on School Safety
The dozens of educators packed into a police station meeting room Wednesday had a lot of questions about how to protect their students. But LAPD Capt. Tom Brascia made it clear he didn’t have a lot of answers. LA Daily News, KCET, LAist

California Teachers Retirement Fund Threat Triggers Sale of Gun Company
Less than a day after the California teachers pension fund threatened to withdraw its investment, a major private equity firm has announced that it will sell Freedom Group, a company it formed that includes the manufacturer of the rifle used by Adam Lanza to massacre 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. EdSource

The ABCs of Firing a Teacher
There is no reasonable explanation for why firing a teacher in California is such a time-consuming, tortuous and expensive procedure. LA Times Editorial

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Update: Most Boards Review Grants Upon Receipt

“In many states, perhaps all but I don’t know one way or the other, boards of education have to approve the receipt of all grants.  However, I am not aware of boards being required to approve grant applications,” says Donald McAdams, Center for Reform of School Systems (and 1990-2002 Houston school board member).  “If a superintendent was worried that a board would not approve the receipt of a grant he or she would seek approval before going to all the trouble to make the grant application.”

Previous posts:  Grant Approval Varies In Other DistrictsControversial Grant Approval Measure Passes, 4-3Board Considers Unusual Grant Veto Proposal

District 4 Candidate Will Appeal Disqualification*

L to R: Dr. Wendy Walsh, Jeneen Robinson, and City Councilman Bernard Parks

Jeneen Robinson, the would-be school board candidate for the Westside’s District 4, is meeting with the elections division tomorrow to contest her non-qualification for the March ballot, according to her campaign manager, Kevin Durst.

“It’s kind of odd,” Durst told LA School Report. “We turned in 1000 names and only 360 were valid, according to the electoral office. We’re going down to go over the discrepancies.”

If Robinson fails two qualify, there will only be two candidates on the District 4 ballot:  Kate Anderson and incumbent Steve Zimmer.

Durst said that if the decision is not overturned, Robinson — who was previously endorsed by City Councilman Bernard Parks — will consider running as a write-in candidate. For now, he said, “We’re a little shell-shocked.”
*Update: Another candidate, Samuel P. Whitehead, is also challenging his disqualification. In an email to LA School Report, he wrote:”One of the candidates, Kate Anderson, turned in 845 signatures. Her signatures and petitions were validated in less than 24 hours, whereas mine & Jeneen Robinson’s took 9 full days to process.”

New Cable Channel Could Feature School Stories

The New York Times is reporting that Participant Media, the production company behind “Waiting For Superman” as well as several other features and documentaries, is creating a new cable channel of its own to create more do-gooder fare from the likes of Davis Guggenheim, Morgan Spurlock, and others.

Maybe they’ll make something out of Stray Dogs, Saints, and Saviors, LA School Report editor Alexander Russo’s 2011 book about Green Dot Public Schools, Steve Barr, and the rescue attempt at Locke High School. Or (more likely) a feature about mass teacher layoff at a failing Rhode Island high school or the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Who Will The Coalition Pick For District 6?

The Coalition for School Reform has a Board. It has a website, albeit one left over from 2011.  It has a campaign consultant team.  Now all it needs are candidates.

Although the Coalition won’t formally announce its slate of candidates until January, its picks are widely expected to include school board President Monica Garcia in District 2, which covers East Los Angeles, and challenger Kate Anderson, who’s running against board member Steve Zimmer in the Westside’s District 4.

The only real question is who the Coalition will support in the East Valley’s District 6 — Antonio Sanchez, Iris Zuniga, or someone else?

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Morning Read: Looming Vote On Teacher Evaluations

Teacher Vote on Whether to Use Student Test Scores in Performance Evaluations
Teachers in Los Angeles Unified will vote Jan. 14-18 on a tentative agreement that would allow the use of student test data in performance evaluations. LA Daily News

Calif. Teachers Fund Reviewing Firearm Holdings
The nation’s largest teachers’ pension fund announced Tuesday that it was reviewing its firearms holdings after determining that its investment in a gun maker was linked to one of the weapons used in last week’s Connecticut school massacre. AP

Jury awards $6.9 million to boy molested by L.A. Unified teacher
Now 14, the boy was a fifth-grader at Queen Anne Place Elementary School when then-teacher Forrest Stobbe molested him for several months. LA Times
See also: KPCC

11,200 Child-Care Slots in Los Angeles County Lost During Recession
Los Angeles County lost thousands of licensed child-care spaces during three recession-battered years, jeopardizing the ability of low-income parents to work and give their children an academic head start through early education services, data released Wednesday showed. LA Times

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Commentary: So Close – Yet So Far

All around the nation, school districts are trying innovative things to make schools work better for kids.

LAUSD has some of these elements – charter schools, for example, and federally funded merit pay. There’s no shortage of talented individuals, dedicated educators, and generous benefactors willing to help speed the process of change.

But because of disputes among Board members, stakeholders, and advocates, LAUSD is missing out on several other reforms, failing to win funding, or struggling to implement changes successfully. It’s a tantalizing, excruciatingly frustrating situation.

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Teachers Fund Reconsiders $500M Firearms Investment

In the aftermath of Friday’s deadly school shooting, the California teachers pension fund — the largest teachers’ retirement fund in the United States — is rethinking its $500 million investment in Cerberus, a private equity firm that owns a gun manufacturer called Freedom Group, according to this story in the LA Times. After the teachers pension fund announced Monday that it was reviewing its investments, the firm said Tuesday that it plans to sell the gun manufacturer.

Candidates & Coalition Pick Consultants

The March 5 elections are less than three months away, and campaigns and advocates are busy hiring campaign consultants.

The San Francisco-based SCN Strategies political consulting firm has confirmed that they will manage the independent expenditure (IE) campaign for the Coalition for School Reform.

Meantime, three individual candidates — both union-endorsed and otherwise — have hired SG&A Campaigns to manage their campaigns.

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Morning Read: Daily LAPD Visits for Schools

LAPD to Step up Presence at Elementary, Middle Schools
Chief Charlie Beck sets a goal of having uniformed officers visit campuses every day, saying this was the ‘new reality’ the department must address. LA Times
See also: KCET, KPCC, LAist

Districts Face Questions in Spending Long-Term Bonds for Short-Lived Technology
Last month, the Bond Oversight Committee for  Los Angeles Unified balked at endorsing Superintendent John Deasy’s plan to buy tablet computers with bonds intended primarily for building and renovating schools. In doing so, the Committee raised questions that other school districts also should be asking. EdSource

South Bay Lawmaker Proposes Penalties for Schools Without Emergency Plans
Prompted by last week’s horrific school shooting in Connecticut, a South Bay lawmaker plans to introduce legislation that would impose penalties on California schools that fail to create or keep current an emergency response plan. Daily Breeze

Foshay Learning Center Basketball Team Gets New Uniforms, Shoes
Team sports usually require team uniforms. But for years, that hasn’t been the case for the basketball team at James A. Foshay Learning Center in South Los Angeles. Generous donations are outfitting the players to look more like a team. ABC LA

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Update: Grant Approval Varies In Other Districts

Sunday’s LA Daily News picks up on the Board of Education’s new requirement to approve grant applications ahead of time, reporting that a majority of the Board feared that Superintendent John Deasy and his staff had “hijacked” the grant application process but that their votes had set off a string of events that “could stem the flow of tens of millions of dollars to cash-strapped Los Angeles Unified.”

The long-term impact of the new requirement is hard to tell so soon after the decision, but a look around the country shows that there are many  different ways school boards ensure that they have appropriate oversight over outside funding — some of which may be included in the regulations that Superintendent Deasy is developing.

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