LA Unified receives $13 million to help expose students to college

LA UnifiedLAUSD exposing student to college has won a $13 million federal grant intended to expose low-income students to college. The grant will span over seven years and benefit 2,000 students currently in the sixth- and seventh-grades, according to City News Service.

The schools involved in the grant are Berendo Middle School, the Helen Bernstein Complex, Le Conte Middle School, the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools Complex, West Adams Preparatory High School and Young Oak Kim Academy.

The grant comes from the Department of Education’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), which will provide the students with tutoring, counseling, financial aid and campus visits, and track them through their first year of college, according to the story.

“Preparing our students for college is a priority for this district,” LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy told City News Service. “The GEAR UP program targets youngsters from low-income families who would be the first-generation college graduates.”

This is the second GEAR UP grant to LA Unified, which was also awarded $21 million to benefit 4,000 students in 2011.

Closed LAUSD board session grew out of request by Ratliff

Monica Ratliff LAUSD School board

Monica Ratliff, LA Unified board member representing district 6

The LA Unified school board’s sudden decision to hold a closed door session next week grew out of a Sept. 17 email request from Monica Ratliff to Board President Richard Vladovic, in which she expressed her desire to “discuss the current personell (sic) matter.”

The reference was to Superintendent John Deasy, whose performance evaluation is scheduled for Oct. 21. The purpose of a closed meeting is to give members the opportunity to debate what issues are fair game for the annual review.

“My interest is simply that it happens soon — with all of us able to ask any questions, receive information, and discuss information as a Board, as allowed by law,” said the email, which was read to LA School Report by someone with access to a copy of it.

Repeated efforts to reach Ratliff for comment were unsuccessful.

Next month will afford Ratliff her second opportunity to cast a vote on Deasy’s performance. Last year, her first on the board, the members voted 5-1, to give him a satisfactory review, with the late Marguerite LaMotte casting the dissent and Ratliff abstaining, for reasons she never explained publicly.

With a positive review, Deasy’s current contract would extended a year, to 2017. Without one, it would remain in effect until 2016 unless the members then decided to vote to dismiss him. They have the right to fire him at any time.

By terms of his contract, Deasy can be evaluated on such criteria as graduation rate, attendance and academic performance but there is nothing to prevent the board from also using more subjective measures based on the board’s confidence in him, his compatibility with board members and their level of satisfaction with his leadership.

While many of the more objective metrics would show positive gains for the district’s 650,000 students, it remains to be determined how much weight the members would place on his handing of the iPad program and the student-tracking computer system, both of which had endured considerable challenges in their rollouts.

Previous Posts: LAUSD Board calls closed-door meeting to discuss Deasy; In State of the Union, Caputo-Pearl hints at strike, targets Deasy; Deasy on his critics: Constant attacks are ‘politically motivated’

4 LAUSD elementary schools in pilot to improve safety for kids

City Attorney Mike Feuer

City Attorney Mike Feuer

Getting safely to and from school can be tricky in a rough neighborhood. To make it easier, City Attorney Mike Feuer launched a pilot program earlier this month at four LA Unified elementary schools, aimed at keeping kids safe.

The Neighborhood School Safety Program targets schools in areas with high “quality of life” crimes, including graffiti, vandalism, prostitution and illegal dumping.

The pilot schools are Vista Middle School in Panorama City; Barack Obama Global Preparation Academy in Chesterfield Square; Le Conte Middle School in Hollywood; and John H. Liechty Middle School in MacArthur Park.

The City Attorney’s office has partnered with LA Unified and the Los Angeles Police Department.

Providing safe passage on the journey to school is one key component of the program that will start later this fall, Sharee Sanders Gordon, Deputy City Attorney told LA School Report. Volunteer parents armed with walkie-talkies and bright colored vests will be stationed throughout neighborhood streets leading to the schools.

“It seems simple — just walking to school — but it’s not. It can be a very scary, and sometimes dangerous thing,” she said.

A multi-agency School Toxics Task Force has been set up to identify potential polluters within one mile of a school. Local police will conduct semi-regular gun sweeps and the City Attorney’s office will coordinate compliance checks on probationers, parolees and registered sex offenders who reside near school campuses to assure that none are in violation of any law.

Ultimately, the program can be expanded to other areas of the district where children are living in similar circumstances, Sanders Gordon said.

“This could really change their lives,” she said.

UTLA plans ‘Big Red Tuesday’ and monthly ‘escalating actions’

UTLA big red tuesdayAs part of a plan to increase pressure on LA Unified as it negotiates for a new contract, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) is planning monthly “actions” to take place on campuses around the district.

In preparation for the actions, which are to begin in October, UTLA is dubbing Tuesday, Sept. 30 as “Big Red Tuesday,” when union members are all being encouraged to wear red clothing as a sign of unity.

In his recent State of the Union speech, UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl outlined the idea behind Big Red Tuesday.

“It seems small, but [LA Unified Superintendent John] Deasy will ask his administrators — you best believe he will — to count the shirts to measure our resolve. And when they see them from the harbor to Chatsworth, and East LA to the beach, it’s going to send a message to our networks of communication and our resolve across the city,” Caputo-Pearl said.

Sept. 30 also happens to be the same day the school board is meeting in a closed-door session to discuss Deasy’s upcoming annual review.

Red is one of the official colors of UTLA and many of its T-shirts are printed in red. The organization has often encouraged members to wear red when taking part in a protest or gathering, as it did in 2010 when members staged a protest outside of the Los Angeles Times.

Caputo-Pearl also told the crowd to “[k]eep your eye out for the first of a series of monthly escalating actions starting in October at school sites.”

Details on what the October action might entail have not been released by UTLA. Earlier this week, the union issued a press release that covered Big Red Tuesday and the October action but gave no more details than the hints Caputo-Pearl dropped in his speech. The release did encourage parents and community members to wear red on Sept. 30 to “show Deasy and LAUSD that we are united in our fight for Schools LA Students Deserve.”

UTLA and LA Unified are meeting periodically over a new contract, but the two sides remain far apart.

 

Morning Read: Common Core tests shaped by crowd-sourcing

Volunteers can help frame Common Core tests
Teachers and others from California have until Friday to sign up for a crowd-sourcing exercise that will help determine how questions will be scored on the new Common Core tests students will take next spring. Edsource


L.A. school board to meet Tuesday; likely to discuss Deasy’s future
The Los Angeles Unified School District has tentatively scheduled a special closed-door session for Tuesday, during which the future of Supt. John Deasy is likely to be discussed. LA Times


Kanye West talking to fashion students at LA Trade Technical College
Superstar entertainer Kanye West has been making some unannounced visits to Los Angeles Trade Technical College, where the rapper talked with students as part of his community service sentence. KPCC


San Jose State department abuse of public funds found in state audit
A critical California State University audit has found that the former head of a San Jose State academic department misused campus funds, used an illicit off-campus bank account and engaged in conflicts of interest. San Jose Mercury


San Diego Unified Sees Large Increase In Number Of Homeless Students
About 1,500 children were cared for at St. Vincent de Paul Village last year, and about 40 percent were younger than 5, a spokesman for the charity announced Wednesday. KPBS


Teacher who talked of killer robots resigns, gets $92,000 settlement
A San Diego County teacher resigned after being investigated for talking in class about programming robots to shoot and kill students. LA Daily News

LAUSD Board calls closed-door meeting to discuss Deasy

John Deasy

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy

The LA Unified school board has scheduled a last-minute closed-door meeting next week to discuss its top employee, superintendent John Deasy. Sources tell LA School Report that the meeting was called to give the seven school board members a chance to discuss what criteria they would like to include in the superintendent’s upcoming annual performance review, scheduled for Oct. 21.

The closed session, as well as a “special” open meeting were added to the board schedule late yesterday — the closed session reportedly at the request of board member Monica Ratliff, one of Deasy’s more vocal critics. Both meetings are set for September 30, starting at 4 pm.

According to people familiar with the closed session agenda, board members will have the opportunity to discuss what they consider fair game for Deasy’s annual performance evaluation. Under no circumstances, said one of the sources, would a vote be held to determine Deasy’s employment. According to that source, Deasy has the right to attend, but because it is not his official performance review, he isn’t required to.

When reached by LA School Report, the superintendent declined to comment. School board members did not return messages seeking comment.

While the board is bound by no legal requirements to cite any reason for dismissing Deasy — he is essentially an at-will employee whose contract with the district allows the board to fire him at any time — his contract has the unusual stipulation made at his behest that requires the board to evaluate his performance annually based on broad goals, such as graduation rates, student proficiency, attendance, parent engagement and school safety.

To renew his tenure, four of the seven board members must find his performance  “satisfactory.”

Three sources who discussed the newly schedule meeting with LA School Report said at this juncture there are not enough votes to fire Deasy, who was hired in 2011 to take over from Ramon Cortines under a friendlier school board.

But that, of course, could change.. Despite academic gains and lower dropout rates districtwide under Deasy’s leadership, he has also generated widespread criticism for any number of issues, including fallout for the iPad program, the continuing problems with the student-tracking system known as MiSiS and his strong-willed leadership style.

How much those factors and others, the good and the bad, should count in a review will be determined in the closed session — and likely divide the members between those who would keep him and those who would vote him out.

Previous Posts: What’s next *if* Deasy is out? Speculation abounds; Deasy on his critics: Constant attacks are ‘politically motivated’; Teachers union changes tactics, urges board to ‘evaluate’ Deasy*

Study finds online literacy gap reflects family income

Online Literacy family income gapA new study confirms conventional thinking, that an online literacy gap is emerging among students in America, with lower-income students lagging behind their more affluent peers in the ability to navigate the Internet and use it to enhance their studies.

According to the New York Times, the study, led by Donald J. Leu at the University of Connecticut, tested students’ abilities to search for and evaluate academic information online and found that students from a community with a median family income of more than $100,000 “demonstrated slightly more than one extra school year’s worth of online reading ability compared with students from a community where the median family income was close to $60,000.”

“This is more likely a comparison between a wealthier district and a middle-class district,” Leu told the newspaper. “So the gap that we found, we would expect it to be greater if the economic differences were greater.”

The Times noted that the study also found a general lack of online skills for all students, and that few teachers are focusing on digital literacy in their classrooms.

The study comes just weeks after LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy suspended the district’s controversial $1.3 billion iPad program, aimed at getting an iPad into the hands of every student and teacher in the district.

Deasy long hailed the iPad program as a way to close the technology gap for low-income students, but halted it in late August in the face of mounting criticism that he and a former deputy may have influenced the bidding process that gave the deal to Apple and Pearson. Deasy has said that a new bid process will begin soon.

LA’s first ‘Summer of Learning’ touted as success

summer of learning LAUSDWith around 50,000 students participating, the first Los Angeles Summer of Learning is being hailed as a success by officials involved with the program.

Modeled after a similar program launched last year in Chicago, Summer of Learning provided access for LA Unified students to 100 learning opportunities, online and in person, at LA parks, libraries, schools, museums and cultural institutions. The program was a partnership between the city, LA Unified and several private groups.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti touted Summer of Learning as a success during an event last Friday at City Hall to celebrate the launch of AmeriCorps’ City Year Los Angeles program.

“The success of our students isn’t just the responsibility of a school district, it’s the responsibility of a city. That’s why we had 10,000 youth jobs this summer, 50,000 digital badges given out through the first Summer of Learning hand-in-hand with our school district — an education agenda that says you matter, we’ll find what your passion and purpose is, and we’re going to get you not only to stay in school, but to leapfrog ahead in the summertime.”

Charles Taylor Kerchner, a research professor in the School Educational Studies at Claremont Graduate University, wrote that the program was actually “more sophisticated and coherent” than the Chicago program because it “was much more integrated with the school system than was its counterpart in Chicago. LAUSD was the primary organizer of the project. In Chicago, the city and the non-profits drove the program,” Kercher wrote on edweek.org.

Kercher added, “LAUSD has tackled the difficult problem of linking Summer of Learning achievements with a student’s school record so that a teacher can see what his or her students did over the summer.” 

In total, about 52 community organizations participated in the program that offered some 131 digital badges, according to edweek.org.

The program is a partnership of public, private, and non-profit partners, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., The California Endowment, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The California Endowment donated $200,000 and JPMorgan Chase contributed $500,000.

Previous Posts:City, LAUSD announce an LA-wide summer learning program

As work on MiSiS continues, LAUSD is creating MiSiS 2.0

Ron Chandler, LAUSD Chief information officer

Ron Chandler, LAUSD’s Chief information officer

While LA Unified is still wrestling with the final kinks in MiSiS, it is already developing MiSiS 2.0.

“This time we’re involving users in the conversation early on,” Ron Chandler, the district’s Chief Information Officer, told the school board’s Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee yesterday.

As for the current system, which tracks student progress and whereabouts, the district is still working on several components.

Gradebook, the program used to track student grades and attendance, will be available for elementary school teachers in November, but other teachers will have to wait until January, he said. Scheduling students remains challenging, leaving incomplete the “norming” process wherein a school makes final teacher hiring decisions based on the number of students in each class.

The parent portal, which parents use to access their child’s records, is only partially accessible. And printing student transcripts, an increasingly important task as high school seniors apply for colleges, is also proving problematic.

Chandler did not tell members when the problems would be resolved, only that work continues to overcome all the issues.

“Any time you’re changing a (computer system), it’s like a heart transplant,” he said. “You’re literally pulling out the most important parts.”

As for MiSiS 2.0, the plan is to complete the blueprinting phase by the end of the year and have the new system up and running by Fall 2015. Teams developing the upgraded student data management system will include principals, administrators and teachers. Throughout the process new elements will be tested by face-to-face and online focus groups, and users, which Chandler called “our customers,” will have the opportunity to participate in summer institutes.

The new version of MiSiS will include a number of enhancements, particularly for secondary school users who have complained that the current system doesn’t do as much as the previous one. But Chandler didn’t delve into many details about what they are, saying only, “The users will determine the next best thing, the way it behaves.”

Updating school site technology will be imperative to launching the improved software next year.

“It was one of our biggest miscalculations,” Chandler admitted. “We didn’t have a good enough understanding of how out of date the systems at the school are…Many computers are eight to 10 years old and they just don’t work well with MiSiS.”

Previous Posts: LAUSD Title I money in jeopardy over enduring MiSiS glitches; LAUSD outlines backup plans as MiSiS work continues; LAUSD aiming to resolve MiSiS issues as ‘Norm Day’ approaches

Winding path to teaching leads Garfield teacher to Yale award

Kevin Murchie

Garfield Senior High School teacher Kevin Murchie

As a boy, Kevin Murchie saw the award-winning film “Stand and Deliver,” the true story of Jaime Escalante, the Garfield Senior High math teacher who inspired his Latino students to overcome gang violence and poverty in east Los Angeles.

A Caucasian boy growing up in the upper class community of La Cañada Flintridge, Murchie said there was no way he ever thought he would one day become a teacher, and certainly “no way did I ever think I would be teaching at that school someday.”

But some life changing events led Murchie to realize in his mid-20s that he wanted to teach, and after 11 years at Garfield, his dedication recently earned him some national recognition when he became one of only 53 teachers to receive the prestigious 2014 Yale Educator Award.

A former Garfield student, Janet Juarez, a freshman at Yale who credited Murchie with inspiring her as a student, nominated him. Since receiving the award, and since LA School Report posted a story about it last week, Murchie said he has been inundated with messages from former students.

“I don’t think I ever really understood the power of social networking until that article came out,” Murchie told LA School Report during a phone interview. “In a two-day period I heard from more students over my career than I ever had. I mean, I didn’t even realize they remembered who I was. But I got emails, texts, all kinds of things. It was quite amazing.”

Murchie taught Juarez in Advanced Placement English and was also the faculty advisor for the student-run paper, The Scuttlebutt, which Juarez served as editor in her senior year.

“Besides increasing our societal awareness, Mr. Murchie helped many students, myself included, appreciate writing,” Juarez said in a press release. (Efforts to reach her for this story were unsuccessful.)

Murchie came to teaching through a circuitous route. After attending La Cañada High School, he went to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, first majoring in hotel management, then business.

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Morning Read: Charter boundary restrictions struck down by Gov

Brown shoots down charter boundary restriction
An attempt by the Legislature to limit a charter school’s ability to locate outside the borders of its authorizing school district has been struck down by Gov. Jerry Brown. S&I Cabinet Report


Newport schools considering ‘snow days’ during heat waves
After an oppressive heat wave left students sweltering in classrooms without air conditioning, a school district in coastal Orange County is considering shortening school days when temperatures climb to intolerable levels. LA TImes


LA schools data system concerns raised after port fire, transcript problems
Citing Tuesday’s evacuation of George De La Torre Jr. Elementary School following the Port of Los Angeles fire, school officials voiced concerns that a glitchy data system may hinder tracking students in an emergency. KPCC


California public pension fund shifts to clean energy
The California State Teachers’ Retirement System is the second-largest public pension fund in the U.S., managing nearly $200 billion.  NPR


In Colorado, a student counterprotest to an anti-protest curriculum
On Tuesday, hundreds of students from high schools across the Jefferson County school district streamed out waving signs and championing the value of learning about the fractious and tumultuous chapters of American history. NY Times

LIVESTREAM of the Curriculum and Instruction meeting today

livestreamGrafix250The LAUSD Curriculum and Instruction committee will meet today at 4:00 p.m. In addition to a variety of items on the agenda and in the supporting committee materials, an update on the MiSiS project will be presented.

For the meeting agenda, click here.

There are five supporting materials for the meeting: California Emerging Technology fund – click here, and here; Summer Program – click here; Comcast documents – click here; TImes editorial – click here.

For the LIVESTREAM, click here.

Teachers union hiring 6 in ‘groundbreaking’ plan to organize

Alex Caputo-Pearl at a news conference teachers union

Alex Caputo-Pearl, President of UTLA

During his first State of the Union speech at the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) leadership conference last week, President Alex Caputo-Pearl promised that the union was “gearing up for this fight” as he works to negotiate a new contract with LA Unified.

Near the end of his remarks, as if to prove he wasn’t just talking tough, he announced that UTLA is hiring six new people in leadership positions as part of an internal restructuring made possible through a cost-sharing agreement with state and national teachers unions.

Caputo-Pearl described the cost-sharing agreement as “groundbreaking.” The organizations participating in the agreement are the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Education Association (NEA), the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) and the California Teachers Association (CTA).

“We went to our state and national affiliates…and we said to them that everything is affected by what happens in LA across the state, across the country,” Caputo-Pearl said at the conference. “We asked them because of this, our affiliates invest in UTLA and invest in our strategic vision. To invest to help us organize to win key things for our schools, educators and communities, to shape the national debate and to move forward a conversation about UTLA’s long-term stability.”

Caputo-Pearl said UTLA has already hired four people as part of the new agreement and is looking soon to hire a political director and a strategic researcher. The four recent hires are Jeff Good as Executive Director, Brian McNamara as Field Director, Esperanza Martinez, as a community organizer, and Sharon Delugach, who works directly for AFT as a parent coordinator but will now be dedicating three quarters of her time to working with UTLA, according to Caputo-Pearl.

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After early influx, lines dwindling at LA Unified’s immigrant center

Immigrant Guidance Assessment & Placement Center LAUSDLA Unified’s Immigrant Guidance Assessment & Placement Center saw long lines when it opened its doors in August, but concerns that the influx of students would be a problem for the district to handle appear unfounded.

During its first month of operation following the summer recess, the center processed 360 children from Aug. 12 to Sept. 12, according to a district spokeswoman, Monica Carazo. The center helps immigrant and undocumented children get enrolled at district schools while also providing vaccinations and physical and mental health assistance.

The center processed about 1,800 students during the entire 2013-14 school year, an increase of about 400 from the previous year, according to the Los Angeles Times. The spike was credited to the droves of unaccompanied minors who have been arriving from Central America at the U.S.-Mexico border.

In August, as the lines were forming at the center, some officials were worried if the influx would cause problems for the district.

“We don’t know how big a problem this is going to be,” Debra Duardo, executive director of Student Health and Human Services for LA Unified, told the L.A. Times.

But Carazo said the demand eased once classes began, adding that the earlier lines came as a result of the center’s being closed for the summer.

“Everybody was asking all summer to visit the center, and it was closed,” she said.

Carazo also said August and September are typically the busiest times of the year for the center and that it is now processing far fewer students per day than it was in August. “They are still trickling in, you always get that,” she said.

Carazo also said it is “too soon to tell” if the district will see an increase in students processed at the immigrant center, compared with the previous school year.

Over 2,000 of the unaccompanied children who have arrived at the border this year were turned over to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and united with sponsors in Los Angeles County through Aug. 31, according to the ORR.

LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy has said that although the district is legally required to offer an education to children regardless of immigration status, the district would still offer an education to any child even without the legal requirement.

“We are about caring,” Deasy told NBC4. “We are not on a political spectrum of right or left. We’re ‘C’ for center for caring. We are responsible for the care and unconditional regard and concern for any youth who crosses our threshold.”

Morning Read: Deasy faces board review as controversies abound

Amid controversies, school board to weigh superintendent’s performance
After weathering a solid year of criticism for his controversial iPad program, taking a high-profile position in a case against teacher tenure and now dealing with the fallout of an irksome new attendance system, LAUSD superintendent John Deasy is about face the school board for his an annual review. KPCC


Report focuses attention on English learners
As accountability for student progress in California becomes more local, a new report focuses on how school districts can better educate their English learners. Edsource


Charter school movement must focus on excellence
Opinion: When the California Charter Schools Association released our first “Portrait of the Movement” report in 2011, it revealed a stark picture of uneven performance among the state’s charter schools. Edsource


Financing a hurdle in charters’ hunt for space, says report
Federal, state, and private financing for charter school facilities is not keeping up with demand for the publicly funded but largely independent schools. Edweek


Getting beyond one ‘right way’ of K-12 reform
Opinion: Why don’t we get education changing the way successful systems change? This means that we keep working to improve the schools we have, but don’t bet all our chips there. Edweek

LAUSD Title I money in jeopardy over enduring MiSiS glitches

LAUSD students eating lunch* UPDATED

The deadline for LA Unified students’ receiving free and reduced priced lunch is tomorrow, leaving anyone who has not renewed an application facing the possibility of running a tab with the district. Making matters worse, school site officials say a bug in the district’s new student data system, MiSiS, has made it difficult to target students who still need to enroll in the lunch program.

Not counting those students could put hundreds of millions of dollars in jeopardy for the district. Federal funding for the district’s neediest kids, in the form of Title I funds, is determined by the number of free and reduced lunch applications filed by a school, and those figures must be reported to the state by October 23.

“At this point, only 40 percent of my students have filed an application for the new year, which is far below the number of students eligible,” Brian Dunbar, Title I Coordinator for Fairfax High School told LA School Report.

A school is eligible for Title I money only if at least half of the student body is enrolled in the federal meals program. A school receives even more money per pupil if at least 65 percent of students sign up.

“Last year, we were at 76 percent, so I know the kids are here…For our school, that’s just under $1 million,” Dunbar said.

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LA Unified sets record with 5 county ‘Teachers of the Year’

Teachers of the Year 2014 LAUSD

The five LA Unified teachers named Los Angeles County “Teachers of the Year” are in the front row, (left to right): Maricar J. Fortuno Calatán, Lovelyn Marquez-Prueher, Isabel J. Morales, Michael A. Morgan, and Hector V. Perez-Roman.

A record five LA Unified teachers have been named Los Angeles County Teachers of the Year for 2014-15.

The honorees are among 16 teachers in the county to receive the award, and they are all now in the running for the California Teacher of the Year award, according to a district press release.

“These teachers represent the best in education. I applaud them all—in particular those from our District,” said LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy in an issued statement. “Good teaching combines art and science. We take pride in our honorees.”

The winners, who were honored at a ceremony Friday at Universal City, were chosen because they are “educators who have shown exemplary dedication, compelling classroom practices, positive accomplishments and professional commitment,” according to the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s website.

The 
LA Unified winners were chosen from 75 candidates who had been honored locally by their school districts. The state winner will then move on to the national competition, which will take place in the spring of 2015.

The L.A. County Teachers of the Year from L.A. Unified are:

Six LA Unified teachers have won the California Teacher of the Year award in past years:

Another challenger to Kayser enters LAUSD school board race

Andrew thomas LAUSD school board candidate

Andrew Thomas, challenger to Bennett Kayser for the district 5 seat on the LA Unified school board

Andrew Thomas came to the conclusion the LA Unified school board had grown too distant from issues at the school level. He tried one approach at improving things, serving as a member of the Parents Advisory Committee, which was suppose to help shape spending.

Not satisfied that it had much impact, Thomas is now running for the District 5 board seat occupied by Bennett Kayser, one of four seats up for election next year. Kathryn Torres, a former SEIU Local 99 official, is also opposing Kayser.

“The district is not doing the job, supporting schools and parents,” said Thomas, 48, a professor of education at the online Walden University and operator of a research company that consults with school districts, including LA Unified. “There’s definitely a feeling that the district is not going in the right direction, that the board and the district are out of touch with what needs to happen.”

He said his impetus for running stemmed from efforts to seek Kayser’s help for various school site problems and getting no response. He said that cemented his view that the district has become too “focused on autocratic control,” with a “one-size-fits-all” approach to problem solving that leaves parents take action on their own.

As an example, he cited budget cuts in recent years that deprived schools of custodial staff and site managers, “leaving parents to do things like painting and cleaning up the grounds.”

He said he largely agrees with complaints raised by the teachers union, UTLA, over Superintendent John Deasy’s leadership style, the mishandling of the iPads and MiSiS programs and the need to retain greater job protections for teachers.

He called the iPad program “a bad idea,” suggesting that the bond money used for it would have been better spent for capital improvements at schools around the district.

But despite his sympathetic views toward UTLA, he said his initial efforts to seek financial support from the union were unsuccessful, recognizing that UTLA has been a consistently strong support of Kayser.

“I’m going to have to look elsewhere,” he said.

In State of the Union, Caputo-Pearl hints at strike, targets Deasy

Alex Caputo-Pearl new president of Los Angeles Teachers Union

Alex Caputo-Pearl, President of UTLA

In his first State of the Union speech as the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) president, Alex Caputo-Pearl delivered a careful, balanced address at the union’s annual Leadership Conference on Friday night, leaving most of the fiery rhetoric to one of his predecessors, Wayne Johnson, who energetically recalled the 1989 strike, which he led.

While Caputo-Pearl was not shy about “unapologetically” attacking LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy, his barbs were mostly repeats of statements he and UTLA leaders have made the last few months, which reduced a lot of their shock value. Most of the weight of the speech rested on what was only indirectly referred to — the possibility of a strike if negotiations for a new contract prove unsuccessful.

Speaking after Johnson, Caputo-Pearl let the audience know it was no coincidence Johnson was chosen to address the crowd.

“As I said many times as part of the Schools LA Students Deserve campaign, we are bargaining in good faith for a contract that is good for students and educators, but we are also preparing ourselves for all possibilities,” he said. “And you know from Wayne’s talk exactly what we mean.”

The comment was as close as Caputo-Pearl got to forecasting a strike, but he also stressed that union leaders are focusing on getting organized and “gearing up for this fight.” He dropped hints of actions to come, with a reminder for union members to wear red shirts to campus on Sept. 30 as a sign of solidarity and to “[k]eep your eye out for, first, of a series of monthly escalating actions, starting in October at school sites.”

Another part of his speech was dedicated to now familiar attacks against Deasy, which the crowd ate up and applauded.

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Morning Read: Teacher dismissal bill may further muddy process

Teacher dismissal bill may add complexity not simplify
Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation in late June with the goal of expediting the process of dismissing teachers for egregious misconduct, but some experts say AB 215 will only further muddy up an already difficult and costly process. S&I Cabinet Report


Officials optimistic about spring assessments
Last spring more than 3 million students in California, the largest number ever to take an online test in the state, took field tests of new assessments aligned to the Common Core state standards without major technical breakdowns or system crashes. Edsource


Child-Care, research bills make Congressional short list
As the curtain begins to close on the 113th Congress, lawmakers showcased a brief burst of bipartisanship to push forward on two education measures that had been languishing in the legislative pipeline. Edweek


San Diego school district will get rid of armored vehicle
Yielding to residents’ concerns, the San Diego Unified School District says it’s returning the 18-ton MRAP, or mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, that its police department recently acquired from the Department of Defense’s surplus equipment program. NPR