Attention parents: School choice expo tomorrow in downtown LA

choicesexpoFor the first time Los Angeles area parents tomorrow will have a chance to explore school choice options at a convention-style event downtown called ChoicesExpo.

The gathering, which is expected to attract a crowd of as large as 8,000, is intended to help parents learn more about the variety of school options available to their kids, according to the executive producer of the event, Xavier Reyes.

“We have a waiting list of schools. We are trying to create room for them right now,” he said.

Fifty schools, mostly LAUSD magnet programs and charter schools, will have booths at the event. Non-profits that work in schools, like First Five LA and the YWCA, will also be represented.

“We’re excited by the response,” said Reyes. “We’ll have to rent a bigger hall next time.”

The event is free. To find out more click here.

LAUSD School board candidates are gathering for another forum

School Board Candidates will meet at Holman United Methodist Church LAUSD

School Board Candidates will meet at Holman United Methodist Church

They’re baaaaaack.

The seven candidates for LA Unified’s open District 1 seat are gathering again tomorrow for another forum to address answer questions  and address issues facing the district.

Sponsored by community groups and the host site, Holman United Methodist Church, located in south-central LA, the event will honor the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v Board of Education decision that ended segregation in public schools.

“Our event will reflect the quality and equality in education now, as to how it relates to District 1,” said Rev. Kelvin Sauls, pastor of the church.

The format for the event will be slightly different from other forums. Audience members will be invited to write out questions on cards as they enter, and a panel will consolidate them to keep the event moving along.

The moderator is T’Keyah Crystal Keymah, an actress best known as an original cast member in the TV show, “In Living Color.”

Information about the forum is available here.

Candidates for board seat, CA education chief at USC forum

candidate forumYet another education-related candidate forum has been scheduled for Los Angeles, this one on Saturday at USC, and it’s unusual in that it will include back-to-back conversations with candidates for the open board seat for LA Unified’s District 1, then another with those running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The co-sponsors — Parent Revolution, the Los Angeles Urban League and Students for Education Reform — said today that five of the seven board candidates and two of the three people running for the state position will appear.

The board candidates who have agreed to appear are Genethia Hudley-Hayes, Alex Johnson, Rachel Johnson, Hattie McFrazier and George McKenna. Two others are not listed as participants — Omarosa Manigault and Sherlett Hendy-Newbill, but no reason was given.

“Parents across the city and state recognize they need to have the ability to protect their children’s right to both a quality education and opportunity for a successful future,” the organizers said in a news release. “Recent parent successes have come from parents initiating improvements, becoming real partners with educators and community leaders in charting a course of success for their children. Parents need public elected leaders who are truly invested in crafting paths to provide all children in the state with a great education.”

Marshall Tuck and Lydia Gutierrez, the two candidates challenging the incumbent state education chief, Tom Torlakson, are scheduled to appear, but not Torlakson.

See details of event here.

Two other District 1 candidate forums are scheduled for May 7 and May 14.


District 1 board candidates meeting twice in early May

imagesCandidates for LA Unified’s District 1 board seat are participating in two forums in early May, but not all candidates are attending both.

On May 7, Genethia Hudley-Hayes, George McKenna, Alex Johnson and Sherlett Hendy-Newbill will take questions from a moderator and the audience in an event organized by 10 community groups under the sponsorship of The California Endowment.

Why just those four, and not Hattie McFrazierOmarosa Manigault and Rachel Johnson.?

As measured by money raised so far and key endorsements, four candidates emerged at the top, said Manisha Vaze, organization director of Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE), one of the groups organizing groups.

“We decided to keep it at four,” she said. “We thought that was a healthy number for a good conversation.”

In an unusual twist to spur audience participation, Vaze said each attendee will be given two fans, one green and one red, to wave in response to anything the candidates say, as a way to express support (green) or disagreement (red).

Details of the event are available here.

Another forum is scheduled for a week later, sponsored by the California Charter Schools Association with five of the candidates confirmed — Hudley-Hayes, McKenna, both Johnsons and Manigault.

Hendy-Newbill told organizers she has a scheduling conflict, and Hattie McFrazier did not respond to the invitation, organizers said.

Details of that forum are here.

The special election to fill the seat is June 3, with a runoff scheduled for early August if no candidates wins a majority of votes.

LAUSD Museum opens doors to commemorate first arts festival

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The LAUSD’s Art and Artifact museum will open to the public for the first time at 1 p.m. tomorrow. The museum is making its debut in honor of the LAUSD Arts Fest, which ends Sat., March 15 with a day-long celebration of student excellence at Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles.

Vintage artifacts, such as old typewriters, inkwells, desks, rare Roman coins, old textbooks, impressionist paintings and many other curios will on display, providing a peek into the lives of Angelenos then and now. The entire collection consists of 30,000 visual resources and historical artifacts that reflect how relations evolved among the school district, students and community.

Museum visitors can take a self-guided tour at the exhibit location at 333 S. Beaudry Ave.

Teachers union plans leaflet push for raises, smaller classes

UTLA logoThe Los Angeles teachers union, UTLA, is planning to blanket the district with leaflets tomorrow to build support among parents for smaller class sizes, fully staffed schools and raises.

With help from health and human services workers, teachers intend to pass out informational leaflets before and, in some cases, after school.

The leaflets ask parents to contact LA Unified board members to push for using new tax dollars in the classroom.

“Students and LAUSD employees all suffered during the recession years,” UTLA President Warren Fletcher said in a statement. Now that the District has the money, it’s time to right some wrongs. It is wrong when school librarians are laid off and campus libraries are closed; when schools do not have a full time nurse; and when there are not enough mental health professionals to serve student needs. It’s wrong when schools are unsanitary and unsafe.”




Marshall and others carry on LAUSD’s decathlon tradition

California Academic Decathlon Home of the National Academic Decathlon champions for 8 of the last 10 years, LAUSD is no stranger to success in the annual academic competition for high school students. And neither is this year’s district winner, John Marshall High School. The Los Feliz school will represent LAUSD at the state level in March alongside a handful of other district schools, some for the first time and others with a no less storied past.

The team and LAUSD’s 11 other state representatives, which include previous state and national champions Granada Hills Charter, El Camino Real Charter, and Taft Charter, and first-time state qualifiers Grant High, have all have all been buoyed by the support their schools’ own communities and the greater LAUSD community, too, which has recently struggled to maintain the decathlon program during periods of budget cuts.

“I join with the extended Marshall High School family in saluting the students, their families and their coaches for this tremendous win in the Academic Decathlon,” LAUSD Board Member Bennett Kayser said in a press release earlier this month. “To think it was just two years ago that the entire Academic Decathlon program was almost eliminated at LAUSD but for the goodwill of our employees who took pay cuts to save this and other valuable programs.”

For students on the Marshal team, practice sessions start at 2 pm, and last six hours a day, six days a week,” according to the LA Times. At 3:30, the boys slip into blazers and the girls into high heels, and the team warms-up for the speech portion of their practice routine by reading Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” with corks between their teeth. The students then line up to deliver their speeches before hallway lockers.

If the team finds wins in Sacramento next month, it will be off to Hawaii for the National Championship in April. It’ll be new for this group of students, and even their veteran coach Larry Welch, but not for team Marshall. The school took home the national title twice before, in 1987 and 1995.

Since 1987, L.A. Unified has won 19 state contests and 14 national titles.

UTLA candidates hit YouTube with stump speeches

Screen shot 2014-02-21 at 11.11.08 AMWith ballots going in the mail next week, Los Angeles area teachers will start a long, internal election process that could have a big impact on the future of the teachers union (UTLA), one of the most powerful in the country.

The competition for the top job of UTLA president, which pays north of $100,000 a year, is tough. There are nine challengers (see our rundown here) hoping to prevent the incumbent president Warren Fletcher from taking a second term.

To help members decide, UTLA has posted brief campaign video statements on a YouTube channel, not only for president, but for all of the union positions in contention.

For those who would rather read about the candidates, the special election edition of the union newspaper, the United Teacher, has printed candidate statements and ballot instructions.

Previous Posts: UTLA candidate forum, issues break out within the mudslingingIn forum, big ideas — and a strike,  In race to run powerful teachers union: ideology up for grabs

No testimony today in Vergara v California

VergaraTrialStateSealSuperior Court Judge Rolf Treu is taking a break today from the Vergara v California trial. Testimony resumes tomorrow with a returning witness, education policy expert Dan Goldhaber. Lawyers for the plaintiffs — nine students — are expected to conclude their case next week, turning things over to the defendants — the state and its two biggest teacher unions.

At issue are state laws that govern teacher dismissals, tenure and seniority.

UTLA schedules two forums for president candidates

UTLA logoThe United Teachers Los Angeles has announced two additional forums with candidates for president, one at Monroe High School on February 18 and the other two days later at UTLA headquarters.

Eight of the 10 candidates faced off in a debate that resulted in at least one consensus: the current state of the union is fractured and plagued with in-fighting. Though fewer than 40 people attended, those in the audience were treated to lengthy discussions of UTLA governing principles and school board negotiating tactics. Candidates also criticized LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, with one calling him a “corporatee” and accusing his push to rid the district of ineffective teachers as causing irreparable damage to the profession.

Both forums are scheduled to take place from 6-8 PM.

Previous Posts: Union candidates gang up on Fletcher and, of courseDeasyCandidates seeking Warren Fletcher’s job at UTLA vie for attention

LA Unified students compete to solve social issues

aspenchallengeTeams of students across LA Unified are preparing for the kickoff this weekend of the Aspen Challenge, a citywide competition launched by the Aspen Institute in partnership with the school district.

In an effort to hone social entrepreneurial skills, the program challenges students to find solutions to a series of pressing social issues presented to them on Feb. 8, then sets a deadline of seven weeks.

The program is expected to engage 170 educators and students from 17 schools. The winning team receives a full scholarship to present its creative solution to a gathering of policymakers and entrepreneurs at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colo.  It is funded by the Bezos Family Foundation and the the Moriah Fund.

Last year, the first year of the competition, three teams won:

Downtown Magnets designed a solution to the challenge of starting a social movement to protect the oceans by organizing beach cleanups, presenting at community events and forming partnerships with businesses.

Students from Taft High School designed a solution to the challenge of increasing awareness of and enthusiasm for science and technology by creating “Spreading Sprouts” gardens, which can help teach art, science and math.

Westchester High School found a solution to the challenge of bringing peers together to create a healthier community through healthy food. The team designed an Aquaponics system and plans to implement a farmers market to create a healthy community and produce green resources on Westchester soil.

United Way honoring 25 ‘Teachers to Watch’

In the United Way’s first Inspirational Teacher Awards, 25 LA Unified “teachers to watch,” will be honored this evening at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, with Mayor Eric Garcetti and Superintendent John Deasy expected to attend.

The United Way staff and a panel of district teachers chose the recipients from a pool of nearly 200 nominees. Bianca Sanchez, a first grade teacher at RFK Community schools and chair of the selection board, said that teachers aren’t often recognized within their profession.

“This event is intended to not only honor those who are already doing amazing work, but also to promote the profession so that it continues to attract great talent,” Sanchez said in press release from United Way.

The full list of the United Way’s honorees is here.

Public memorial service for LaMotte set for Saturday

Marguerite LaMotte

Marguerite LaMotte

A public memorial service for LA Unified Board Member Marguerite LaMotte, who died last month, will be held  at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Washington Prep High School.

The address is 10860 S. Denker Ave.

LaMotte served 10 years representing District 1 on the board. She died attending a conference in San Diego.

Previous Post: Marguerite LaMotte, Long-Serving Member of LA Unified School Board, Dies, at 80.


State Tries a ‘STEM’ Video to Confront Lagging Math Scores

While some education researchers may question the validity of the nation’s “STEM crisis,” it remains clear that California students continue to struggle in mathematics when compared with their peers across the nation.

According to the recently released Report Card from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), California fourth and eighth graders ranked 47th and 45th, respectively, in mathematics proficiency.

“California students did make some modest improvements, but overall, scores are essentially flat when compared nationally over the past two years,” Suzanne Goldstein, Director of Policy and Development for the California STEM Learning Network, said in an email to LA School Report.

Taking notice of the test results, the California Department of Education is pushing the effort to link STEM programs with jobs in a new video. The STEM subjects are science, technology, engineering and math.

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LA Unified Board to Address 2 Controversies — Vladovic, iPads*

ipad teacherTwo issues that have the drawn LA Unified school board into unanticipated controversy move into the spotlight tomorrow when the board convenes its regular meeting for November.

One is the public profile of Board President Richard Vladovic, as he awaits a consideration of a censure motion from Tamar Galatzan – the first motion of its kind in LA Unified board history. Vladovic has been accused of verbal and sexual harassment by former co-workers. He has publicly apologized for being abrasive toward colleagues but has denied all other charges.

The motion requires support from at least one other board member to move to a full vote, otherwise the resolution falls, and a similar measure cannot be brought forward for six months. So far, Galatzan has no co-sponsor.

The other big issue is the future of the billion dollar iPad program, with conflicting resolutions from the board’s two Monicas – Ratliff and Garcia – that could go a long way toward determining whether district’s Common Core technology project extends Phase 1 of the iPads with iPads or other digital devices.

A third approach has been offered for consideration by deputy superintendent Jaime Aquino.

Ratliff’s resolution aims to prolong the first phase of the tablet rollout through the end of the school year, while evaluators assess the usefulness of the devices and their impact on learning. It also urges the district to launch a new pilot program, distributing laptop computers to ninth graders while conducting studies on the use of other devices and software curriculum in the district.

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STEM Symposium Focusing on Encouraging More Girls

STEM CaliforniaWith implementation of the Common Core standards and Next Generation Science Standards in full swing, a symposium in Sacramento next month will bring together teachers, administrators, students and industry professionals to discuss betters ways to develop robust science, technology, and mathematics programs in local schools.

The inaugural California STEM Symposium is sponsored by the Californians Dedicated to Education foundation and will have a special focus on encouraging girls to participate in STEM fields.

LA Unified is scheduled to make a strong showing, with three featured presentations from district officials. In a joint presentation with NASA, they will highlight how to infuse after-school programs with the engineering and design process by engaging students with “Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles.” They will also discuss the district’s Advanced Placement Boost Program, which has raised district-wide AP testing participation and scores by 8.1 percent and 11.2 percent respectively.

Registration for the symposium is available here.


Deasy Decision Expected Today: Leaving or Staying?

imagesBig Day today for LA Unified. Here’s the schedule although times are generally estimates:

11 am: A rally begins outside district headquarters. It’s sponsored by a group of community and educational groups that want to see Superintendent John Deasy remain in his job.

12:30 pm: The board meeting opens with a public comment period. This is a time when anybody can approach the microphone for any reason to comment about issues before the board, or in case of that guy who always reads a Biblical text, anything at all. Probable subjects for comment include the censure motion facing Board President Richard Vladovic and Deasy’s future as superintendent.

After Comments: The board introduces — or “notices” – Tamar Galatzan’s motion to censure Vladovic for conduct unbecoming a school district official.

After That: The board retreats to a closed door meeting in which Deasy is the prime subject. One of two outcomes is most likely: He stays or he goes.

After That: The board returns to open session to announce any decisions made in private. Deasy has promised to speak publically about events of the last several days.

The district is not providing a live video stream as it normally does for open board meetings.


LA Unified Set for a Busy Afternoon of Committee Meetings

LAUSDlogoIt’s a big meeting day at LA Unified’s downtown headquarters, with three committees convening one after another starting this afternoon.

At 1 o’clock, it’s the Curriculum and Instruction Committee, chaired by Marguerite LaMotte; followed at 3 p.m. by the Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee, led by Bennett Kayser; and at 5:30 by the Common Core Technology Project Ad Hoc Committee, chaired by Monica Ratliff.

No telling how boisterous they might become during the public comment periods, given the number of hot-button issues unresolved, such as the district’s spending plan for the 2014-2015 academic year, Local Control Funding Formula issues and everybody’s current favorite pinata, the iPads, which now might cost an extra $100 each, according to a story in today’s LA Times. Members might also hear from some overwrought, overworked principals.

All in all, it could be quite a show.