After Ferguson, LAUSD giving schools tools to discuss conflict

LAUSDlogoWith tensions from Ferguson, Mo. stirring yet another national debate on race relations, LA Unified is distributing an informational packet, “Engaging Students in Peaceful Dialogues about Conflict and Bias,” with a goal of helping solicit questions or concerns from students in “a neutral, safe and respectful space for constructive dialogue.”

The packet includes suggested activities for students in elementary, middle and high school.

“We encourage youth to consider issues much larger than themselves in order to learn and grow. In this instance, we want to allow our students to reflect, discuss and debate with the guidance of adults at school,” Superintendent John Deasy said in a statement from the district.

The material, developed by the District’s Human Relations, Diversity and Equity team, was designed to help teachers facilitate student dialogue and lead lessons on conflict resolution.


NEA’s president says common core testing could “harm kids”

Edsource logoVia EdSource | by John Fensterwald

In the midst of her first swing through California, the incoming president of the National Education Association praised the Common Core State Standards and California’s measured approach in implementing them while warning that the nation’s largest teachers union would fight efforts to use the new tests for the standards in ways that “harm kids” and punish schools and teachers.

A former elementary school teacher and Utah Teacher of the Year, Lily Eskelsen García, 59, has scheduled events with teachers and the news media today in Los Angeles and the Bay Area later in the week. She takes charge of the 3-million-member union next month.

Read the full story here

LA Unified names Ruth Perez as successor to Aquino

Ruth Perez LAUSD

Dr. Ruth Perez

Eight months after Jaime Aquino’s departure as LA Unified’s Deputy Superintendent of Instruction, the district has a candidate to fill the seat.

Superintendent John Deasy announced today he would recommend Ruth Pérez, former superintendent of the Norwalk-La Mirada school district, whose hiring is scheduled to come before the board for approval at its next meeting, on Aug. 26.

 “Dr. Pérez’s track record of success with students who are growing up in poverty, and youth who, like her, didn’t speak English when they started school, equips her to lead instruction for LAUSD,” Deasy said in a statement.  “Focused on high academic achievement for all students, she excels with diverse enrollments.”

A native of Puerto Rico, Perez began her career in Kissimmee, Fla., teaching English literature and English as a second language.

After moving into administration, she became an area superintendent in the Orange County public schools in Orlando.

Later, as the chief academic officer for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg public schools in North Carolina, she implemented initiatives such as intensive reading programs for students in Kindergarten through the third grade; extensive training for teachers instructing English learners and professional development strategies to teach children of poverty. She also expanded after-school programs to middle school students and reduced suspensions.

During her five years as superintendent at Norwalk-La Mirada, the overall graduation rate increased to 94 percent from 76.5 percent. Performance on state standardized tests also rose—as did the Academic Performance Index (API) score, which increased 54 points.

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Morning Read: LAUSD teachers censure student tracking program

L.A. Unified teachers decry new student tracking system
Los Angeles Unified spent about $112 million on an online student tracking program a decade ago but dumped it two years ago in favor of another one that promised a streamlined way to manage enrollment, attendance and grades for the nation’s second-largest school district. LA Times

Moving past zero tolerance in L.A. schools
Editorial: The Los Angeles Unified School District this week took a welcome step away from a longstanding disciplinary system in which police issued citations to students ages 13 to 17 who committed minor offenses, a system that effectively criminalizes what is often merely coming-of-age behavior while emphasizing punishment over education. LA Times

Gov. Jerry Brown should spell out how he’d fund school construction
Commentary: California governors have enormous power to shove around legislatures. And Gov. Jerry Brown has learned how to use it without working up a sweat. LA Times

L.A. County questions LAUSD spending on poor children
Los Angeles Unified officials will have to explain how they spent $700 million to help needy children last year, before county education officials approve a proposed three-year plan for additional state revenue. LA Daily News

Summer ends before Labor Day for many kids
Historically, Labor Day has had a bittersweet quality – marking the end of a months-long summer break for students, and relief for parents who are able to finally send their children back to school and return to their regular routines. But that historical pattern no longer exists in California. EdSource

Thousands of CA students don’t make it to the 9th grade

KPCC logoVia KPCC | by Sarah Butrymowicz

Devon Sanford’s mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when he was in the eighth grade. After barely finishing at Henry Clay Middle School in South Los Angeles, he never enrolled in high school. He spent what should have been his freshman year caring for his mother and waiting for police to show up asking why he wasn’t in school.

No one ever came.

“That was the crazy part,” he said. “Nobody called or nothing.”

Thousands of students in California public schools never make it to the ninth grade. According to state officials, 7th and 8th grade dropouts added up to more than 6,400 in the 2012-13 school year – more than 1,000 in the Los Angeles Unified School District alone.

Read the full story here

Ridley-Thomas nominating Johnson to county board seat

Mark Ridley-Thomas (left), Alex Johnson

Mark Ridley-Thomas (left), Alex Johnson


Barely a week after losing to George McKenna for an LA Unified School District board seat, Alex Johnson is eying another board seat.

His former boss, LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, has nominated him to fill a soon-to-be vacant seat on the LA County Board of Education, a body that hears appeals of disputes from local school districts and governs the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and International Polytechnic High School.

Johnson recently stepped down as Assistant Senior Deputy for Education and Public Safety for Ridley-Thomas, who played a major role in generating financial support for Johnson’s school board run.

While Johnson lost to McKenna by 1,814 votes, his campaign raised $421,522, and outside groups, many friendly to Ridley-Thomas, spent another $858,757 on his behalf. Both totals exceeded those for McKenna.

Johnson said on a telephone conference today he is exploring his next job opportunity. Whatever it is, it would need to accommodate a county board schedule that would require him to attend three meetings a month.

The county board is, effectively, a volunteer organization. Any member can be removed at any time, and members receive only a meeting fee of $150 and mileage costs.

Johnson told reporters his has made a commitment “to serve the second district,” which is Ridley-Thomas’s. “That’s my focus right now.” But he dodged a question about whether he would run for the LA Unified board seat he just lost, when it’s up again next year. McKenna was elected only to serve out the term of the former member, the late Marguerite LaMotte.

The vacancy on the seven-member County board is being created by the resignation of Rudell S. Freer, the longest-serving member who was first appointed in 1996 by Yvonne Burke. Freer will remain on the board until Sept. 9. 

For Johnson to claim the seat, he would have to be approved by a vote of the Board of Supervisors, each of whom gets to name one appointment for a four-year term. Two other members serve on the board for two-year terms through rotating appointments.

Johnson would have a four-year term.

Previous Posts: Johnson offers McKenna congratulations for his victory; Ridley-Thomas voter group going all out for Johnson; McKenna victory gives appearance of a pro-teacher union board

* Adds updated information on Johnson’s job status.

Morning Read: Deasy urges respect for 1st Amendment

L.A. Unified principals given guidance on student free speech rights
As unrest continues in Ferguson, Mo. and, to a degree in Los Angeles, after the fatal police shootings of unarmed black men in those cities, Los Angeles schools chief John Deasy asked principals Tuesday to be vigilant in their efforts to provide an environment for students to exercise their 1st Amendment rights. LA Times

County yet to approve LA Unified’s LCAP
The Los Angeles County Office of Education is withholding approval of the Local Control and Accountability Plan drawn up by the Los Angeles Unified School District pending clarification of the $700 million the school district says it spent last year on low-income students, English learners and foster children. EdSource

Demise of the school bond means big spike in housing fees
Fallout from the Brown administration’s decision this month to ice the statewide school bond this November will almost certainly spike developer fees on new housing, by as much as $30,000 per unit in some places. S&I Cabinet Report

Gallup finds opposition to Common Core
Americans are hearing more about the Common Core State Standards and most of them don’t like what they’re hearing, according to a national opinion poll released Wednesday. Edsource

Bill would block expulsion for ‘willful defiance’
The state Senate approved legislation Tuesday that would prevent California schools from expelling students for willfully defying school authorities, a punishment that activists say is unevenly applied and disproportionately affects minority students. Sacramento Bee

McKenna’s final margin is 5.63 points over Johnson

election results McKenna beat JohnsonThe City Clerk Elections Division has certified the results of the LA Unified District 1 election, giving George McKenna final tally of 52.81 percent of the vote, to 47.18 percent for Alex Johnson.

Overall, turnout for the Aug. 12 runoff was 9.5 percent of the district’s 342,493 voters, a disappointing but not horrible count, given that no other election was on the ballot.

McKenna collected 17,025 votes against Johnson’s 15,211.

Commentary: The problem with teacher tenure

NYT logoVia NY Times | by Frank Bruni

There are perils to the current tenure talk: that it fails to address the intense strains on many teachers; that it lays too much fault on their doorsteps, distracting people from other necessary reforms.

But the discussion is imperative, because there’s no sense in putting something as crucial as children’s education in the hands of a professional class with less accountability than others and with job protections that most Americans can only fantasize about.

We need to pay good teachers much more. We need to wrap the great ones in the highest esteem. But we also need to separate the good and the great from the bad.

Read the full story here

Morning Read: LAUSD’s computer system problems persist

Los Angeles Unified works to fix new computer system
Although Los Angeles Unified teachers were told Monday they could use a scaled-back version, the district’s new computer system continues to be plagued by problems. LA Daily News

LAUSD policy restricts use of citations, arrests
Students involved in relatively minor offenses on school campuses will no longer be cited or arrested under Los Angeles Unified’s new policy, which takes effect this school year and spells out alternatives district police officers must follow. EdSource

California Republicans want to reverse limits on school reserves
California Republican lawmakers want to revisit one of the most controversial parts of this year’s budget debate, proposing legislation on Monday to remove new limits on how much money school districts can keep in their reserve accounts. LA Times

S.F. teachers vote to strike, but not just yet
San Francisco teachers overwhelmingly supported a preliminary strike vote, with 2,238 checking the yes box on the ballot and 16 voting no. SF Gate

Higher ed is embracing goals of Common Core
Opinion: Most attention to the Common Core State Standards has focused on the continued political backlash against the standards and the status of implementation in schools. EdSource

Commentary: Teaching and business do not mix

NYT logoVia NY Times | by David Kirp

Today’s education reformers believe that schools are broken and that business can supply the remedy. Some place their faith in the idea of competition. Others embrace disruptive innovation, mainly through online learning. Both camps share the belief that the solution resides in the impersonal, whether it’s the invisible hand of the market or the transformative power of technology.

Neither strategy has lived up to its hype, and with good reason. It’s impossible to improve education by doing an end run around inherently complicated and messy human relationships. All youngsters need to believe that they have a stake in the future, a goal worth striving for, if they’re going to make it in school. They need a champion, someone who believes in them, and that’s where teachers enter the picture. The most effective approaches foster bonds of caring between teachers and their students.

Read the full story here

Morning Read: CA Schools depart from memorization in science

Common Core: CA schools shift science teaching away from memorization
California is at a critical stage in carrying out a wholesale change of how it teaches science and other core topics. It’s a process that takes time when you’re working with nearly six million students. KPCC

Of aching backs and digital textbooks
It won’t be long before hardback textbooks – some weighing as much as five pounds – will become relics of the past, replaced by digital versions. S&I Cabinet Report

Classrooms key battlefields in War on Poverty
Editorial: Of the many battlefields where the half-century-old War on Poverty has been fought, there may be none so important — or difficult to conquer — as our public classrooms. LA Daily News

S.F. teachers miss more school than students on average
While absenteeism is usually considered a student matter, in San Francisco – and many other districts – the average teacher misses more school than the average child. SF Gate

64 San Fernando Valley elementary schools to get new playground toys
A whoop of joy swept through the crowd of students at Kittridge Elementary School Friday as they watched their L.A. Unified School Board representative open a truck filled with hoops, ropes and soccer balls. LA Daily News

Morning Read: LAUSD puts new MiSiS computer system on hold

LAUSD in crisis over its new MiSiS computer system
Los Angeles Unified told teachers to stop using the new district-wide computer system Thursday, after days of dealing with glitches and other problems that have lost records and kept students from starting in the proper classes. Daily News

To quell high school angst, some schools build a bridge for 9th graders
Stealing a page from successful college “bridge” programs to help high school students make the transition, some Southern California high schools are offering similar programs for incoming 9th graders. KPCC

Students on computer science fast track
The accelerated program, run jointly by Hartnell Community College in Salinas and California State University, Monterey Bay, will allow them to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science in just three years. Edsource

School bond moves on to uncertain fate
Even if the full Senate approves the measure next week, there is a good chance that Gov. Jerry Brown will veto it. And, even he were he to sign the bill, it may already be too late to get the proposal on this November’s ballot for voter approval. Edsource

Funding lifeline for trade tech centers
The state’s network of regional occupational centers – which still provide most trade and technical training for the public school system – would be eligible for funding from the $250 million Career Pathway Trust program, under pending legislation. S&I Cabinet Report

LAUSD opens arms to Central American immigrant children

Logo_LATimesVia Los Angeles Times | By Howard Blume

At the low-slung bungalow west of downtown, a youngster screams from a vaccination and a nurse records the height and weight of an older boy. Academic counselors stand by, because it is here that many children who recently crossed the southern border enroll in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

As the line runs out the door of the cramped reception area, José Miguel waits his turn to sign up 17-year-old niece Elena, a native of Guatemala who crossed over from Mexico in March without her parents or a guardian.

Under federal law, these children are entitled to attend public school regardless of immigration status.

Read the full story here

Morning Read: McKenna’s friends beat Johnson’s money

Outspent by rival, McKenna drew on connections in school board victory
In this week’s election for a seat on the Los Angeles Board of Education, one side had deep pockets and extensive political connections; the other side had people such as Orley Frost Jr. LA Times

Judge: State must help all English learners
A judge has ruled that the state is ultimately responsible for seeing that school districts provide services to all English language learners not receiving the help they need to become proficient in English. Edsource

With Tueday’s school board loss, charter advocates recalculate
After Tuesday’s defeat of another of their candidates to the Los Angeles school board, charter school advocates are rethinking how to support local candidates. KPCC

Federal education officials to fund preschool expansion
While it is significantly less than the $75 billion the White House wanted, the Department of Education Wednesday announced $250 million in preschool expansion grants for states. KPCC

The big losers last night? Independent groups for Johnson

losing money Alex Johnson campaign LAUSD-School-boardFun with numbers:

By the LA City Clerk’s unofficial results from last night, George McKenna won with 14,940 votes to 13,153 for Alex Johnson.

That translates to $6.79 the McKenna campaign spent for each vote, $101,479 overall, compared with $10.22 that the Johnson campaign paid for each vote, $134,470 overall.

Among the independent groups who spent money on each candidate’s behalf, the really big losers were Johnson backers, who wrote checks for a total of $777,975, or the equivalent of $59.14 per vote. The biggest spenders were Mark Ridley-Thomas‘s voter registration organization (more than $442,000) and a political action committee affiliated with charter schools (more than $183,000).

McKenna’s independent groups — mostly teacher unions — spent $192,543, or just $12.88 per vote.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the first quote from McKenna after declaring victory was: “The community won and sent a message that District 1 is not for sale.”

Morning Read: Coalition opposes Brown’s rainy day measure

School leaders oppose Brown’s rainy day measure
A coalition of some of the state’s most influential education groups is rallying opposition to a Constitutional amendment placed on the November ballot by the Legislature that would require the state to reconstruct a rainy day fund for use in lean budget years. S&I Cabinet Report

California awarded $10.7 million to pay for advanced course tests
California has received $10.7 million from the U.S. Department of Education to prepare low-income and underserved high school students for colleges and careers by partially covering the costs of advanced course tests. LA Times

Bills seek to curb chronic absenteeism
A lot of kids miss a day of school here and there. But some are chronically absent or late. Now some California lawmakers want to crack down on the problem. Capital Public Radio

Teachers poised to strike in San Ysidro
Teachers in the small, cash-strapped San Ysidro School District are poised to walk off the job after months of bitter negotiations over a proposed 8 percent pay cut and failed state mediation. UT San Diego

Breaking News: McKenna wins election to LAUSD board

George McKenna LAUSD

George McKenna

George McKenna, a lifelong educator as a teacher, principal, superintendent and administrator, won the runoff election tonight, defeating Alex Johnson to claim the District 1 seat on the LA Unified school board.

As the leading vote-getter in the June primary, McKenna, 74, campaigned on his decades of service and with all 324 precincts and mail-in ballots counted, he won with 53.18 percent of the vote to 46.81 for Johnson, 34, an aide to LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

McKenna’s margin of victory over Johnson in the seven-candidate primary was 44 percent to 24 percent.

Just 8 percent of the district’s 342,493 voters cast ballots, compared with 13 percent for the primary.

McKenna declared victory shortly after 11:30, saying, “I feel so privileged to have earned the trust and confidence of District 1 voters to be their school board representative.”

He added, “Our task is not easy, but I welcome the challenge. I have never accepted an easy assignment in my career, yet I have always improved the educational outcomes of children. I will draw on the best of my experience, assemble an able team of advisors, and work in partnership with parents, teachers and the community to pursue excellence in our schools.

“Let’s get to work.”

The victory ends a two-month campaign in which the candidates combined to spend $236,000 and outside groups spent another $956,000 on their behalf, the vast majority of it, $767,000, for Johnson.

Once the votes are certified and McKenna is sworn in, probably later this week, he will begin serving out the term of the late Marguerite LaMotte, which runs through June of next year. At that point, he will have the option to seek reelection for a full two-year term.


District 1 Election: McKenna building on an early lead

George McKenna

UPDATED at 10:55 pm

With mail-in ballots and more than three-quarters of the precincts counted, George McKenna had expanded his lead over Alex Johnson  13,041 votes to 11,827 — for the open LA Unified District 1 board seat.

The early totals included 17,483 mail-in ballots as well as results from 247 of the district’s 324 precincts reporting, according to the LA City Clerk.

McKenna’s lead in percentage points rose steadily in the hours after the polls closed, reaching 52.44 at this juncture, with only 77 precincts yet to be counted.

The City Clerk is expected to have a final unofficial tabulation before midnight.

Hey, LAUSD District 1 residents: get out today and vote!

election day LAUSD district 1 2014

The vacuum is ending today, as polls remain open until 8 p.m. for District 1 voters to select a school board member. It’s been vacant since the death of Marguerite LaMotte in December, and now, either George McKenna or Alex Johnson is going to succeed her.

McKenna won the June primary by 20 percentage points, with Johnson second in a seven-person field. Lately, the gap has closed, which puts extraordinary power on every vote.

The district has 342,493 registered voters. Only 13 percent of them voted in the primary and many fewer are expected this time. But that could still change if people keep the core tenet of democracy in mind, that we can choose our leaders by voting.

Remember, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain!