Magnolia going into court to keep 2 of its charters open

Magnolia Charter School playground LAUSD

Magnolia Public Schools (MPS) is going into a Los Angeles superior court tomorrow to ask a judge to keep open two of its schools that LA Unified wants to close.

The district denied the renewal applications for Magnolia Science Academies 6 and 7 after an independent audit determined that MPS is insolvent. The audit uncovered a number of fiscal management violations.  

The hearing, before Judge Luis Lavin, involves Magnolia’s request for a preliminary injunction; lawyers for Magnolia are not seeking a decision on the merits of the District’s claims. Magnolia is asking the court to allow it to continue to operate pending the outcome of the case.

The court has scheduled an Oct. 14 hearing to consider setting a date for trial.

Meanwhile, the California Charter Schools Association says Magnolia parents are planning to protest at the courthouse tomorrow morning in support of keeping the schools open. Tomorrow’s hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

Previous Posts: Magnolia charter troubles having an impact beyond LA Unified; JUST IN: LAUSD expands probe into Magnolia charter schools; ‘Fiscal mismanagement’ cited in closing 2 Magnolia charters

CWC charter finds yet another new home, at least for a year

St Joan of Arc School Los Angeles LAUSD

St Joan of Arc school, CWC’s new home

* UPDATED

Citizens of the World Mar Vista has a new new home. 

The charter school, which was forced to move from its co-location site at Stoner Elementary School after a tumultuous year, has turned down LA Unified’s most recent offer for classroom space and is moving onto a Catholic school campus. 

CWC finalized a one-year deal with St. Joan of Arc in West Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Archdiocese last week — it will remain an LA Unified charter school. 

“We are thrilled that we found a place where we can accommodate all of our students in one location,” Jana Reed, Chief of Schools for CWC Charter Schools, told LA School Report

In June, CWC officials agreed to split the K – 3 school between two district campuses in Westchester — Loyola Village and Kenwood Elementary — a situation Reed described as “far from ideal.” So CWC’s “very active parents” continued the search for an alternative school site. 

It was one of them who found the church property, formerly a private school that has gone largely unused for several years. 

“Our parents are really committed so they just kept looking,” Reed said. “We really didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.”

CWC’s 220 students will have the new campus all to themselves. Reed says it will be much more expensive to operate the school at a non-LAUSD site.

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Freedom Schools strengthen, empower LA Unified students

Freedom Schools lausd

17-year-old Dorsey High School senior Christian Moton, second from right, participates in a group discussion about a book on Nelson Mandela

Every morning for the last six weeks, Dorsey High School senior Christian Moton has been taking part in a highly charged and energetic morning ceremony when he sings, chants and cheers.

“They host Harambee here. Harambee really brings out people’s spirit,” Moton told LA School Report.

The daily Harambee, which means “all pull together” in Swahili, is part of a Children’s Defense Fund program called Freedom Schools, an educational curriculum that helps teach a love for reading and writing and builds self esteem through positive reinforcement.

“I think it’s great,” Moton said. “It’s a way for kids like me who grew up and raised in South LA, for us to get away from it for a good while and learn things that we don’t get to learn.”

Organized by the Community Coalition, a group that works towards improving south LA neighborhoods, the program serves nearly 120 African American and Latino youth from elementary, middle and high schools, mostly from LA Unified. The coalition has been running the program for the last four years.

“It’s all about encouraging them to build their critical thinking skills to give their opinion and really preparing them to engage in the classroom the way most of us don’t learn until we get to college,” Sandra Hamada, director of Youth Programs at the Community Coalition told LA School Report.

During the seven-week summer program, which has been expanding on the West Coast, students gather in groups and read for three hours a day. They also sing and discuss the book’s meaning, while at the same time gaining a sense of self worth.

“We read out loud here and it helps because I know later in life, in college, that I’m going to have to read aloud in groups and I know this is going to prepare me for it,” Moton said.

And thanks to the program’s high impact curriculum, Moton says he has grown more confident and has developed skills that will help him succeed in life.

“It built up my leadership skills,” he said. “I can speak in crowds now. I’m not afraid to express my opinion within groups or with people who are above me in power rank.”

2 LA Unified teachers selected as finalists for national award

Presidential Awards teachers LAUSDTwo LA Unified elementary school teachers are among six California educators selected as finalists for the 2014 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching or (PAEMST).

The two were selected in the science category: Kristen Johnson, a fifth grade teacher at low-performing 93rd Street Elementary School, where she has taught for 21 years; and Erica Rood, a third grade teacher at high performing CHIME Charter School in Woodland Hills, where she has taught for six years.

“The subjects these outstanding educators teach so well are part of STEM education, an area that is critically important to the success of our students and our state,” State School Chief Tom Torlakson said in a press release of all the finalists.

“From these early grades, and with such engaged and inspired instructors, we will be able to encourage more students to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—the building blocks of learning.”

The nominees must demonstrate a mastery of math or science, appropriate use of instructional methods and strategies, effective use of assessment strategies, lifelong learning, and leadership in education outside the classroom.

The California Department of Education (CDE) partnered with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program, which was enacted by Congress in 1983 and authorizes the President each year to bestow up to 108 math and science awards to teachers nationwide.

The awards are considered to be the highest honor for math and science teachers.

The full list of California nominees is here.

LA Times endorses George McKenna for school board

Los Angeles Times logo

Via LA Times Editorial Board

Two candidates with different styles and viewpoints are vying to join the Los Angeles Unified school board, replacing longtime board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who died in December. Both of the candidates also hold different beliefs than did LaMotte, who was a fiery opponent of most school reform. This is an opportunity for voters in District 1, which includes South Los Angeles and sections of West Los Angeles, to make themselves heard. That’s especially true, sad to say, because voter turnout on this one-race election day, Aug. 12, is expected to be below 10%. The only good thing that can be said about such low participation is that those who do turn out to vote will be making their ballots count.

Read the full endorsement here

Deasy joins President Obama in ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ update

LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy joined other education officials at The White House yesterday as President Obama announced new partnerships to help young men of color gain greater access to programs offering support from pre-K through high school.

The program, which includes private companies, nonprofits and the NBA as participants, represents a $100 million expansion of My Brother’s Keeper, a White House initiative launched early this year.

LA Unified and dozens of other big school districts are involved in the program, which carries goals that been too distant for man black and Hispanic young men, including high attendance rates, fewer suspensions and expulsions and higher graduations rates.

Speaking to The New York Times, Deasy said improving learning and lifetime opportunities for boys of color is “a deep moral commitment issue.” In the video above, Deasy talks to Gwen Ifill of PBS.

CA low among states in children’s well-being, says new report

children's well-being Kids Count Data book LAUSDCalifornia ranks 40th among the 50 states in children’s overall well-being, according to The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 25th edition of the KIDS COUNT Data Book, released today in partnership with Children Now, a children’s health and education research, policy, and advocacy organization based in Oakland.

The Data Book ranks each state and the District of Columbia on 16 key indicators across four fundamental domains: Economic Well-Being, Education, Health and Family and Community.

In measures of children’s well-being, California highest ranking is Health (26th) and lowest is Economic Well-Being (48th).

“Knowing our vibrant and diverse communities, our incredible intellectual and financial resources and our reputation for leadership and innovation, there is no excuse for California to be ranked 40th in children’s well-being,” Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, said in an emailed statement. “We simply haven’t invested enough in our children in spite of much greater capacity to do so.”

California ranks 11th among the states in per capita state and local revenue yet much lower, 36th, in per pupil education spending. The state also ranks toward the bottom in Education, 39th.

“The good news is the State is already taking steps to improve,” said Lempert, citing the enactment last year of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and this year’s budget investment in public education. “These actions were critical, given that as of 2012, more than half a million children ages three and four (53 percent) were not attending preschool and 18 percent of high school students did not graduate on time.”

The 2014 Data Book highlights a bright spot for California, in a 63 percent decline in teen birth rate. In 1990, California’s teen birth rate was 71 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19; as of 2012 the birth rate had dropped to 26 per 1,000.

With a health ranking of 26th among the states, California has seen some gains in children’s health. In 1990, roughly 1 in 6 California children (17 percent) was uninsured. By the most recent estimates, approximately 1 in 12 children (8 percent) live without health insurance.

The complete report is available here.

Teachers union calls district contract offer ‘a non-starter’

teachers union raise salary UTLA Contract NegotiationsUTLA, the teachers union, has called LA Unified’s latest contract offer “a non-starter,” signaling a difficult resumption of bargaining when talks resume on Thursday.

“Just days before a scheduled bargaining session, LAUSD today presented UTLA with a revised contract offer that falls short of what is needed to achieve the schools that LA students deserve,” the union said in a statement issued late yesterday.

The union response came hours after LA School Report reported the district’s new offer — essentially a three-year deal with raises of 2 percent over the first two years and a 2.5 percent increase in the third year, with raises conditional on the financial state of the district.

The district’s first offer was a one-year deal with a 2 percent increase. Both offers included a 2 percent bonus for the 2013-2014 school year.

“Keep in mind educators have not had a salary increase in seven years and took what amounted to an eight percent salary reduction during the recession years,” the union said. “Throughout this period the cost of living has increased—putting an even greater burden on educators.”

The union’s salary demand has remained vague throughout, with leaders pressing for a 17.6 percent increase over an unspecified number of years. District officials say the pay raises offered amount to a compounded 8.6 percent increase over three years and, when factoring in health care coverage and other benefits, a 26.3 percent increase.

The new union president, Alex Caputo-Pearl, has also sustained his saber-rattling for a strike in recent days, urging teachers to start saving in case negotiators reach an impasse and union leaders call for a job action to gain leverage.

The union response, which dismissed other changes proposed by the district as not useful, including how teachers are evaluated, came only after details of the offer were made public. Union officials have had the contract offer for several days but remained silent.

Negotiators have scheduled a second bargaining session in early August, before the new school year starts, and another before the month is out. 

JUST IN: LAUSD sweetens contract offer to teachers union

Vivian Ekchian Betty Forrester LAUSD

From left: Negotiators Vivian Ekchian, LAUSD; Betty Forrester, UTLA

In a new contract proposal to the teachers union, UTLA, LA Unified is offering a three-year package with annual raises of at least 2 percent and a plan to re-hire 3,000 teachers who have been laid off in recent years.

The latest offer adds two years to the length of the contract initially offered to the union and mirrors the deal offered to AALA, the administrators union: a 2 percent lump sum for 2013-14, a 2 percent raise over each of the next two years, and a 2.5 percent pay bump in 2016-17. 

District officials intend to present the latest terms to the union officials, including the chief negotiator, Betty Forrester, at a bargaining session scheduled for Thursday. Two more sessions are scheduled for August.  

The district’s chief labor negotiator, Vivian Ekchian, told LA School Report that she is eager to resume contract talks after nearly a month of inactivity. 

UTLA rejected the district’s opening proposal on May 26 without any debate, calling it “insulting.” The union has asked for a 17.6 percent raise over an unspecified number of years, following seven years without a salary increase.  

Ekchian says the more robust offer is not likely to be dismissed as quickly. “The past rejection was based on new contracts for just two years,” she said. “This is a four-year commitment.”

When compounded, the pay increases add up to 8.5 percent over the next three years, which would cost the district more than $353 million, she said. Including health benefits and other costs, the district says the the new reflects a 26.3 percent increase over current levels. 

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Johnson campaign goes negative, citing the ‘myth’ of McKenna

Alex Johnson George McKenna Negative Mailer LAUSDAlex Johnson has gone negative.

In two recent mailings (here and here) to “most likely” voters in LA Unified’s District 1, the Johnson campaign is questioning George McKenna‘s accomplishments as the two candidates seek the open school board seat.

“We always knew that at some point, our campaign has to address to the myth of George McKenna,” Johnson’s campaign manager, Roy Behr, told LA School Report today. “The real George McKenna is nothing like the myth he likes to spread.”

McKenna has responded with a message on his website, calling Johnson’s tactics a “shameful smear campaign” — with the word “SHAMEFUL” in red appearing across a photograph of Johnson — and asking supporters to donate to his campaign.

In an email to voters, McKenna’s campaign manager, Jewett Walker, wrote, “When a candidate loses a primary by 20 points, like our opponent, there is no clear path to victory in the runoff. Well, over the last several days, our opponent has revealed his plan: smear the good name of George McKenna.”

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LA Unified offers shots to stall rise of whooping cough

immunizationIn response to a surge in cases of whooping cough, LA Unified is helping parents meet new state immunization requirements by offering immunization shots, beginning July 28. The T-dap shots protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, or whooping cough.

Eligible students are Medi-Cal recipients, Native Americans and those without insurance.

Students must have a completed an L.A. Unified immunization consent form and a current immunization record to receive the whooping cough booster.

Under a 2010 state law, when California experienced 9,000 whooping cough cases, children entering 7th to 12th grades are required to be immunized and need proof of a T-dap booster shot before starting school. The state legislature passed the law to guard against further outbreaks. Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial disease that is usually spread by coughing.

Pertussis cases have been on the rise with elementary, middle and high school outbreaks being reported across the state, according to the California Department of Public Health. As of July 8, a total of 5,393 cases have been documented in California.

LAUSD officials say 50 LA Unified students have contracted whooping cough since June. More than a third of them are from the San Fernando Valley. Officials have reported 84 cases within the district since March.

A new state law that went into effect Jan. 1 requires parents, except for those who opt for religious reasons, to submit a signed doctor’s note proving that they have been notified of the risks and benefits of immunizations.

A list of clinics providing the shots is available here.

PAC spending for Johnson gives him $200,000 advantage

ballot box money JohnsonAs the week comes to a close, Alex Johnson has expanded his overall lead in financial support over George McKenna in their quest to win election as the new District 1 board member in LA Unified, according to the latest figures from the City Ethics Commission.

At mid-day, he held the same ratio of support, about 8-to-1, in individual contributions that he had as the week started — now, $47,646 to $6,450.

But expenditures on behalf of his campaign have jumped considerably.

Today, the figurees show that money spent by outside Political Action Committees on behalf of Johnson’s campaign has doubled, to a $200,000-plus advantage over McKenna from a $100,000-plus advantage early in the week.

Also, with less than a month before the Aug. 12 election, the figures show Johnson holding a sharp advantage in cash on hand. By the latest numbers, he has more than $46,000 to spend while McKenna has only $2,258.

One caveat for all of Johnson’s money lead continues, however: McKenna remains well-known and popular in the district, and voter participation is expected to be lower than the usual turnout for local elections, especially ones that have the day to themselves. 

Also this week, each candidate picked up an endorsement from a sitting board member. Monica Ratliff endorsed McKenna while Monica Garcia appeared at a fundraiser for Johnson.

Previous Posts: Johnson outpacing McKenna in school board race for money; LA Fed’s PAC recommends Johnson for LAUSD board seat; McKenna, Johnson re-launch campaigns for school board seat

Magnolia charter troubles having an impact beyond LA Unified

Magnolia-Charter-schools-2New troubles for the non-profit charter school network, Magnolia Public Schools (MPS), are beginning to raise concerns beyond LA Unified, where the sudden closure of two schools for fiscal mismanagement expanded yesterday into what could be a larger investigation.

In a letter outlining a recent fiscal audit that led to the closure of the two LA Unified schools, Magnolia Science Academy-6 and Magnolia Science Academy-7, district officials detailed a number of irregularities and called the parent organization itself “insolvent.”

At least one other county has noticed.

“We will pay attention to this – we wouldn’t want to find out that our school would have to close because other schools are in trouble,” said Don Bolce, director of special projects at the Santa Clara County Office of Education, which renewed a charter petition last year for a Magnolia school located on the outskirts of Cupertino after reviewing concerns about the school’s finances.

“We recognize that with a charter school that is part of a charter management organization, a problem at one school could impact other schools – if there is a problem, it endangers the system,” he told LA School Report.

Messages seeking comment from Mehmet Argin, the MPS chief executive, were not immediately returned.

MPS currently operates 11 schools across California: eight in LAUSD, plus three others, including one in Santa Ana that has been of concern to school and county officials in Orange County despite winning approval for $18 million in facilities bond money.

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JUST IN: LAUSD expands probe into Magnolia charter schools

Magnolia Science Academy 7 LAUSD

Magnolia Science Academy 7

* Updated

LAUSD’s audit of two Magnolia Science Academy charter schools leading to their possible closure has triggered investigations into the financial health of six other schools run by the same non-profit group.

We are looking at the other Magnolia charter schools through the Office of the Inspector General,” Superintendent John Deasy told LA School Report today.

The district denied the charter renewal applications for Magnolia Science Academies 6 and 7 after an independent audit conducted on behalf of the district determined that the schools’ parent company, Magnolia Public Schools (MPS), is insolvent. The audit uncovered a number of fiscal management violations.   

MPS, which is based in Westminster, Calif., operates eight schools within LA Unified that serve more than 2,700 students. It also runs three other schools in San Diego, Santa Clara and Costa Mesa.

The organization told LA School Report today it is appealing the denials to the LA County Board of Education, an avenue that state laws provide. The schools have also filed for an injunction in LA Superior Court to allow the schools to remain open. A hearing is set for July 24.

LA Unified’s chief legal counsel, David Holmquist, said the district routinely expands the scope of its investigations when there is evidence of potential instability. 

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Garcia 2nd board member to endorse — Johnson is her guy

Monica Garcia LAUSD School BoardMonica Garcia, who represents LA Unified’s District 2, has become the second district board member to endorse one of the candidates running for the District 1 seat, last held by the late Marguerite LaMotte.

Garcia is the “special guest” at fundraiser tonight in Hancock Park for Alex Johnson, the Mark Ridley-Thomas aide who is opposing George McKenna in the Aug. 12 runoff.

Garcia’s appearance comes a few days after Monica Ratliff, the District 6 representative, threw her support behind McKenna.

Apart from the possibility each of the Monicas faces, the prospect of working alongside a new member she didn’t endorse, the expressions of support are entirely predictable.

Garcia is a well-known proponent of charter schools and overall school reform — her website carries the headline “Reform The L.A. Way,” and much of Johnson’s support has come from a political action committee affiliated with the California Charter Schools Association.

Ratliff, a former teacher, is more closely aligned with traditional schools and United Teachers Los Angeles, the local teachers union whose PAC is supporting McKenna.

The fundraiser is being hosted by Ben Paul, chief executive of the nationwide program After-School All-Stars, which provides activities for students beyond the daily final bell.

Previous Posts: McKenna is the union candidate, but CTA gave to Johnson backers; Ratliff forgoes neutrality, endorsing McKenna in board race; Johnson outpacing McKenna in school board race for money

McKenna is the union candidate, but CTA gave to Johnson backers

AAVREP JohnsonCalifornia’s biggest teacher union contributed $20,000 to an organization that is a major supporter of the LA Unified school board District 1 candidate that UTLA is trying to defeat.

According to the California Secretary of State, which tracks political contributions, the California Teachers Association (CTA) gave the money to the African American Voter Registration and Education Project (AAVREP) in June of last year.

AAVREP, a Super PAC founded in 2002 by LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, has spent over $114,000 in independent expenditures on behalf of Alex Johnson, a strong supporter of charter schools who is running against George McKenna, whose only independent expenditure group for the Aug. 12 runoff election is the PAC for the LA teachers union, an affiliate of CTA.

Johnson works for Ridley-Thomas as an education advisor.

The Project says it’s the largest organized effort targeting African American and urban voters in California, registering more than 175,000 voters over the last 20 years. Its goal is to increase political participation among African American and urban voters.

Since CTA made the donation to AAVREP, the group has also spend money to support Wendy Gruel in her mayoral campaign and the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. 

“Educators believe it is extremely important for citizens who are eligible to vote do so in order to make their voices heard,” said Claudia Briggs, a spokeswoman for CTA. “This is why from time to time we support voter registration projects around the state.”

Previous Posts: UTLA votes to endorse McKenna in District 1 board race; Vote-by-Mail request for District 1 school board starts today; McKenna, Johnson re-launch campaigns for school board seat

With budget boost, LAUSD police gearing up for new year

LASPD LAUSD students policeA budget increase of $4 million  is enabling the LASPD, the police force that serves LA Unified, to build on the safety practices the department began implementing last year.

The additional funding came as a result of a growing number of school shootings across the country, including the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, and the enduring concerns of parents to keep their children safe.

“The community and students can expect to see on the first day of school a high visibility police presence of our police officers throughout different school campuses,” John Guttierez, a senior police officer at LASPD told LA School Report.

The additional funding has provided on-going training for officers, re-training school principals on lockdown procedures and additional safety personal at school sites, including 1,000 aides, which translates into two aides per campus.

They will help officers monitor the school site and report back to them if they see anything unusual. Random searches will also continue on school campuses.

“Parents want to know that we — as a district, as a police department and school administrators — are doing everything we can to keep their child safe,” Guttierez said.

And that includes making sure campuses are free from weapons of any kind, including knives and guns.

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Ratliff forgoes neutrality, endorsing McKenna in board race

Board member Monica Ratliff

Board member Monica Ratliff

Monica Ratliff, who was elected to the LA Unified school board last year, became the first member of the board to take sides in the District 1 school board race, endorsing George McKenna over Alex Johnson, McKenna’s campaign announced late in the day.

No other board member has expressed public support for either of the contenders in the Aug. 12 runoff.

“It is with the utmost respect for his long history of success and dedication to students that I wholeheartedly endorse George McKenna for School Board,” Ratliff was quoted as saying in the announcement. “His many years of experience as a dedicated and successful teacher, principal, and administrator will continue to serve the students and parents of District 1 well.”

McKenna, a retired school administrators with decades of experience, said, “I am humbled to have earned the support of superb educator Mónica Ratliff. Since the voters elected her to the LAUSD board in 2013 she has proven to be a deliberate member and strong advocate for our children. I look forward to working with her and all the board members when the people elect me to be their school board representative on August 12th.”

Ratliff, who represents the East Valley District 6 on the board, did not immediately respond to an email message, seeking confirmation of her endorsement. The message also sought to ask how she would forge a working relationship with Johnson if he were to defeat McKenna.

In the announcement, McKenna’s campaign manager, Jewett Walker, cited Ratliff’s successful campaign last year over Antonio Sanchez as similar to McKenna’s campaign against Johnson. Sanchez had raised far more money than Ratliff, and McKenna is far behind Johnson in both individual donations and money spent on his behalf by political action committees.

“In her 2013 race for school board, Ratliff was outspent by over $2 million dollars,” Walker said, referring to his support that included wealthy westside donors, then Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, “big” charter school operators, the LA County Federation of Labor and SEIU Local 99, the school service workers union.

“They thought the electorate would support a 30-something unknown with no record in education who many believed was only running to use the school board seat as a political stepping-stone,” Walker said. “Voters chose Ratliff, an LAUSD teacher, who forged a campaign led by educators who pounded the pavement. The parallel between the two races is interesting.”

Previous Posts: Johnson outpacing McKenna in school board race for money; Labor groups split on support for McKenna and Johnson in runoff; UTLA votes to endorse McKenna in District 1 board race

Hollywood leaders join program to mentor LAUSD students

Frances Fisher Hollywood leaders LAUSD students

Frances Fisher, film actress and mentor in new program

For those living in Los Angeles it’s not uncommon to brush up against some aspects of the entertainment industry. Now LAUSD students have the chance to meet and get life advice from Hollywood leaders. 

The district is partnering with The Creative Coalition, a non-profit arts advocacy group, to create “Show Biz Gives Back,” a mentoring program that brings students together with actors, writers, producers, directors and other entertainment industry professionals who will provide skills support, and role modeling to kids across the district.  

Robin Bronk, CEO of The Creative Coalition, told LA School Report it’s difficult to nail down details for specific mentors of mentoring programs because of the nature of the entertainment industry. 

“Actors, writers, producers, directors, they never know where they’re going to be. They could be in Romania one day and then back home the next,” she said. “But when we’re able to lock them down, we’ll get them in a classroom, talking to a small group of students or a whole school.”

More than 50 mentors have agreed to participate but many more are likely to sign on, Bronk said. The Creative Coalition’s president, Tim Daly, who recently played a dreamboat on “The Mindy Project,” will be a mentor. Drake Bell, the voice of Peter Parker on the Ultimate Spider-Man, and film actress, Frances Fisher, have also committed to the program. 

Several entertainment companies will also participate, including Sony Pictures, The Walt Disney Company, Open Road Films, ICM, Variety, and The Hollywood Reporter. 

Some entertainment company leaders also plan to offer internships.

“[This] is an opportunity for seasoned professionals to help young people develop both personally and professionally,” Bronk said.

Johnson outpacing McKenna in school board race for money

Alex Johnson and George McKenna LAUSD

Alex Johnson (left), George McKenna (right)

Alex Johnson has opened a substantial lead over George McKenna in campaign support from individual donors and groups that support his candidacy even as major backers from the education reform camp and labor unions who have given millions in previous years appear to be sitting this election out. 

The two candidates are facing each other in an Aug. 12 runoff to fill LA Unified’s open District 1 board seat.

Despite finishing a distant second in the June 3 primary (winning 24 percent of the vote to McKenna’s 44 percent), Johnson has raised almost eight times what McKenna has in individual donations, nearly $48,000, to just under $6,500 for McKenna. Half of Johnson’s contributions are for the maximum $1,100.

Meanwhile, figures this morning from the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission show that Super PACs have spent more than $140,000 on behalf of Johnson — over $110,000 more than groups supporting McKenna. Super PACs are independent expenditure committees that must operate separately from a candidate’s campaign.

The Commission reports that the lion’s share of the money spent on behalf of Johnson — about $114,000 — comes from one organization, the African American Voter Registration, Education & Participation Project (AAVREP), a group founded in 2002 by LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Johnson works for him as an education advisor.

The Project says it’s the largest organized effort targeting African American and urban voters in California, registering more than 175,000 voters over the last 20 years. Its goal is to increase political participation among African American and urban voters.

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