LAUSD’s Matt Waynee named National Magnet School Teacher of the Year

IMG_1256Three years ago, the school now known as the LAUSD/USC Cinematic Arts and Engineering Magnet converted from a performing arts magnet into one with a cinematic focus, and it hired Matt Waynee to head up the new cinematic arts department.

To add to his success at the school, Waynee has now been named National Magnet School Teacher of the Year by Magnet Schools of America.

“It’s amazing. I’ve been teaching a long time and it is an honor. I tell my students that I could not have won it without them because I get to brag about them and all the amazing projects they are doing,” Waynee said.

Waynee worked in Hollywood for a dozen years and earned a list of screenwriting and producing credits before coming to the school. He previously worked as a teacher for three years in Texas after graduating from Notre Dame and signing up with Teach For America. Upon moving to Hollywood he earned a master’s degree from USC while substitute teaching before taking the full-time job at LAUSD/USC Cinematic Arts and Engineering Magnet.

The magnet school is a small one for the district, with 660 students in grades 6-12, and Waynee said one advantage of the size is being able to more closely follow all of his students.

“Being a smaller magnet, we really are a family and you know early on how a student is doing, if they are failing a class or need extra help,” he said.

The funding for the school’s conversion to cinematic arts was part of a three-year, $10.4 million federal Magnet School Assistance Program grant shared with four other schools. The grant has allowed the school to purchase professional-grade film and audio equipment, along with computers and editing software, allowing Waynee’s students to learn college-level skills.

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Morning Read: CORE districts shine more light on subgroups

CORE districts turn spotlight on struggling student groups
To shine a brighter light on academic disparities, the six California districts known as the CORE districts have tracked test results for much smaller student subgroups than the state requires, giving a more complete picture of how some groups – African-American children and students with disabilities, in particular – performed. By John Fensterwald, EdSource

LAUSD administrative staff jumps 22 percent even as enrollment drops

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From LAUSD

Despite projected budget deficits reaching nearly half a billion dollars and steep enrollment declines, LA Unified’s certified administrative staff has increased 22 percent in the last five years, according to a superintendent’s report.

The number of teachers has dropped 9 percent in the same period. And teachers and certified staff are aging toward retirement, heading toward a possible teacher shortage.

The report was presented to the LA Unified school board Tuesday at a special budget meeting at USC to discuss ways of lowering a looming budget deficit.

The administrative staffing level increase surprised some of the board members.

“How is it possible that administrators went up so much when we have a decline in enrollment?” asked board member Ref Rodriguez, shaking his head.

TeacherStaffing

From LAUSD

According to the report presented by Superintendent Michelle King and her staff, certified administrators increased from 2,146 in 2011-2012 to 2,628 positions in 2015-206, a 22 percent increase.

Over the same period, K-12th grade teachers decreased from 27,208 to 24,863, a 9 percent drop.

Concerned that the chart could be “misconstrued,” King explained that many of the administrators are hired for programs located at individual school sites and involve staffing for restorative justice and foster programs that the school board chose to focus on in the past. Also, with the Local Control Funding Formula, schools asked for more local programs requiring administrators, not teachers. Of the administrators, 1,723 are school based while 905 are not.

“We invested in administered accounts, such as more restorative justice and foster programs where the ratios are one person to 100 foster youth,” King said. “You can see how that starts to expand when you’re talking about training for restorative justice coordinators and such. It is important to remember what we invested in and why this is the outcome to where we put our dollars.”

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3 finalists named for 2016 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools

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(Photo: IDEA Public Schools)

Three charter management organizations (CMOs) were named as finalists for the 2016 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation announced today.

The finalists are Success Academy Charter Schools in New York, IDEA Public Schools and YES Prep Public Schools. IDEA and YES Prep are in Texas, but IDEA announced recently that it is expanding for the first time beyond Texas and is eyeing numerous other states for new schools, including Washington, Idaho and Nevada.

• Read more: Big IDEAS: High-Achieving South Texas Charter Network Reveals National Expansion Plan

The winner of the $250,000 prize, which is given to the best-performing CMO serving significant numbers of low-income students and students of color, will be announced June 27 at the National Charter Schools Conference in Nashville, Tenn.

The Broad Foundation is based in Los Angeles, which has the most charter students of any district in the nation, but none of the finalists operate schools in LA, although eight that operate in LA were eligible this year. In 2014, KIPP Public Charter Schools, which operates 13 schools in Los Angeles as part of a national network, won the award.

The finalists are determined by a seven-member review board of national education experts who review “publicly available student performance and college-readiness data from the 2014-15 school year for 30 of the country’s largest public charter management organizations, compiled and analyzed by American Institutes for Research,” according to the Broad Foundation.

“The Broad Prize is an opportunity to celebrate the success of charter schools that are improving academic performance while reducing achievement gaps,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, in a statement. “These three school systems are doing a phenomenal job of teaching all students and preparing them for a strong path ahead, and we really hope that public schools across the country can learn from their success.”

Priscilla Wohlstetter is a professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Education and has been on the review panel since the charter award was first given out five years ago. She explained that among the criteria the review panel looks at, larger CMOs tend to be favored because evidence of having a replicable model is ranked high. Since many large CMOs in LA are focused solely on LA, this hurt their chances of winning the Broad prize.

“Many of the CMOs in LA tend to be very limited into certain geographic areas. And many people on the board — although there are no formal guidelines — come to the conclusion that if a charter management organization can succeed in different districts and different states with different authorizers, they are more replicable,” Wohlstetter said in an interview.

“Los Angeles’s public charter management organizations have always had a strong showing in the CMOs eligible for The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools,” said Gregory McGinity, executive director of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, in an email. “Networks like Green Dot Public Schools, Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, Partnerships to Uplift Communities and others provide a great education to their students, especially those from low-income families and communities of color. In 2014, KIPP Schools, which operates KIPP LA, won The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. With each year of the prize, we see a growing number of charter networks with impressive student achievement. We expect charter management organizations across the country to continue to raise the bar for what’s possible when it comes to providing great educational opportunities for all students.”

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Special ed: a big drain on the district’s budget, but a potential for attracting more students

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Estimated cost per special education student, from LAUSD.

Special education students present one of the biggest costs for LA Unified, but administrators are considering ways to capitalize on the district’s successes with that population.

Half of the school board’s all-day special budget session at USC on Tuesday was spent discussing the costs of dealing with students with mild and severe disabilities.

Special ed is identified as one of the three major deficit drivers on the school budget, along with pension costs and retiree benefit costs. The discussions included better methods of labeling students with disabilities, how to lower costs working with those students and possibly suing the state and federal governments to help pay for them.

The estimated annual cost to educate a student with disabilities is $8,275 more than a general education student. A general education student costs $11,798 per year, so a student with disabilities costs a total of $20,073.

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Michelle King with special education students.

The second-largest school district in the nation also has the largest population of special education students in the country, at 72,973 students, excluding those in independent charters.

“We face issues and challenges for this population with inadequate funding from the federal piece and the state piece,” said Superintendent Michelle King.

Chief Financial Officer Megan Reilly said that only 60 percent of the $1.5 billion in costs is covered by the federal and state money. She said, “There is a perception we have the money to cover all our special education students, but we don’t.”

School board President Steve Zimmer, who has personally lobbied both Washington, D.C., and Sacramento politicians for a more fair share of the special ed money, said the district is at the forefront of trying to get the necessary money to cover the costs.

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Morning Read: LAUSD administrator charged with sexual abuse of student

LAUSD assistant principal arrested on suspicion of sexual misconduct with student
William Webb, a popular assistant principal at the Los Angeles Unified School District’s flagship arts high school, was arrested Tuesday morning on suspicion of sexual misconduct with a student. Los Angeles Times

Anatomy of a top-scoring magnet school: Inside King/Drew Medical Magnet High

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King/Drew Medical Magnet students Robin Sanford, left, and Jai’Myah Henderson work with a staff member at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center across the street from the high school.

This is part of an LA School Report series taking an in-depth look at the different categories of schools that exist within the massive LA Unified school district.

Today we conclude a three-part mini-series on magnet schools. Check here for Part I and Part II

Jai’Myah Henderson may have fallen right through the cracks somewhere else.

The African-American junior at King/Drew Medical Magnet High of Science and Medicine was raised by a single mother in an apartment near the Jordan Downs Housing Projects in Watts after her father went to prison on drug charges. While the LA Unified School District struggles to educate many students like her from low-income families and challenging backgrounds, Henderson thrives at King/Drew and is president of her class of 2017.

Henderson’s success story is not even particularly special at King/Drew. Despite having a student body with a poverty level higher than the district average, King/Drew is one of LA Unified’s top high schools when it comes to graduation rates, standardized test scores or just about any other metric. Even Henderson seems to shrug off her background and her current academic success as if it’s run-of-the-mill.

Despite being class president, Henderson said she doesn’t have many friends. The reason?

“School work comes first. If they want to hang out, homework comes first. I know if I don’t do my work I’m going to mess up myself, and I don’t want to mess up myself,” she said plainly, as if that’s just the way things are supposed to be for every student.

Henderson’s succes and the success of thousands of other students at magnet schools is becoming more than a just a nice story in an often troubled district, because LA Unified now more than ever is trying to devise ways of expanding, promoting and replicating stories like Henderson’s.

Magnet schools have been at the forefront of a very public discussion this school year as the district seeks to to halt a decade-long trend of students leaving in droves for independent charters. Of the district’s 650,000 students, over 100,000 are now enrolled at independent charters, and per-pupil government funding is taken out of the district every time a student leaves for a charter school.

The enrollment drain was already an issue before a well-funded non-profit, Great Public Schools Now, announced plans to expand all kinds of quality schools in LA, including charters, which some board members and union leaders have said could bankrupt the district due to the enrollment loss.

Last Tuesday, the LA Unified school board passed a resolution seeking to improve outside partnerships and woo philanthropic dollars to help expand the district’s popular school choices, including magnets. The resolution was only the latest in a string of comments and actions from district leaders shining a light on the 210 magnet schools or centers.

At the same meeting the board also voted to expand magnet access for the 2017-18 school year to make room for 4,677 new magnet seats and 13 new programs, in addition to the 14 new programs opening this fall.

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LAUSD puts millions into its magnet expansion

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King/Drew Medical Magnet

The LA Unified school board put its money where its mouth is at its May 10 meeting and approved a $3 million expansion of its growing magnet program. The move comes after months of public comments from district leaders pointing to the popular magnet program as a way to increase enrollment in the district.

Two magnet resolutions that were passed will create 13 new programs for the 2017-18 school year and specifically cited declining enrollment as a reason.

“I believe that magnets are what our parents want, and I think we should do everything possible to facilitate that. I think every school in our district should be a thematic school, and that we should do that,” board member Richard Vladovic said at the meeting.

• Read more about magnets in our three-part series, including profiles of Bravo and King/Drew medical magnets. 

The district currently has 210 magnet programs — with 14 more scheduled to be added for this coming school year, plus the 13 just approved for the following year — serving 67,000 of its 650,000 students. But more than 101,000 students attend independent charter schools, and a new plan from Great Public Schools Now would vastly expand that number as it seeks to increase high-quality schools of all kinds, leading district leaders to actively push magnets as a way to keep students from leaving for charters. When a student moves to an independent charter, per-pupil state and federal money moves with them.

A total of 23,000 students applied for a magnet this year at LA Unified but were put on a waiting list. The district has increased enrollment at magnets by more than 7,000 over the last two years. The expansion resolutions call for three new magnet schools, which are self-contained schools that serve only magnet students, and 10 new programs which are integrated into another traditional school’s curriculum.

All but one will be located at existing campuses and do not require any new construction, according to the resolution. One new school will serve students in 6th through 12th grades at South Region High School #8 in Maywood in a new facility already under construction and will be the district’s third center for enriched studies.

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Morning Read: LAUSD reaches $88-million settlement with teacher sex abuse victims

L.A. school district reaches $88-million settlement in sex misconduct cases 
The Los Angeles school district will pay $88 million to settle sexual abuse cases at two elementary schools where complaints about the teachers’ behavior had surfaced long before their arrest, officials confirmed Monday. The settlement with 30 children and their families, finalized over the weekend, is the second-largest in district history and brings a dark chapter to an apparent close. Los Angeles Times

Commentary: Does LAUSD want to protect children or a bloated bureaucracy?

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LA Unified school board members Monica Garcia and Scott Schmerelson

By Peter Cunningham

Across America, parents are demanding more and better educational options for their children while teachers unions and bureaucrats desperately fight to retain their monopoly over public school students.

The latest front in the war against charter schools is in Los Angeles, where a study funded by United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) tallied up the financial impact of the district’s 221 charter schools.

The union’s analysis concluded that charter schools cost the district more than half a billion dollars—but nearly all of it was the per-pupil money that followed 100,000 students to their chosen independent charter school.

Notably, the analysis did not include the 53 unionized charter schools in Los Angeles, suggesting that the real motivation behind the study is to protect unionized jobs, at the expense of the education of the children of Los Angeles. UTLA has embraced the findings of the study and is urging the school board to consider the financial impact on the district before granting any more non-union charters.

The essential problem with the UTLA study is that it is designed to bolster a false argument—that charter schools are siphoning money from traditional public schools. Charter schools are public schools, serving the same students with the same tax dollars and they are held accountable to the same—and often tougher—performance standards. Arguing that public charter schools take money from traditional public schools is like arguing that a younger child deprives an older child of parental attention.

• Read more: Contrary to UTLA study, LAUSD makes money from charters

In Los Angeles, parents aren’t interested in protecting a bloated bureaucracy or preserving a steady flow of union dues. They want schools that prepare their children for success, and they are voting with their feet. LA Unified has more charter students than any other district in the country, making up 16 percent of the district enrollment. Over the last decade, the number of LA charter schools has more than tripled.

The same holds true for parents nationwide. A 2015 poll of 1,000 public school parents conducted by Education Post found that 65 percent agreed that, “Public charter schools offer parents in low-income communities options for quality schools that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.”

Only 35 percent of parents agreed with the union’s argument that, “Public charter schools take resources and high achieving students away from traditional public schools.” The pro-charter numbers were even higher among African-American and Latino families, who overwhelmingly make up the Los Angeles student population.

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A failing high school in one of America’s richest counties

Bassick High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Courtesy BHS)

Bassick High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Courtesy BHS)

By Naomi Nix

(Bridgeport, Connecticut)  —When veteran Bridgeport journalist Nancy Hendrick greeted the start of 1961 with a blistering column called “What’s Wrong With Bridgeport,” the inequalities that afflict the city today were already evident everywhere she looked.

“Suddenly we are all aware of the sharp contrast between private opulence and public squalor that exists within our unprecedented prosperity,” she wrote, going on to describe the “rabbit warrens” of the South End, where “the unloved, unwelcome minority groups live in jammed-in discomfort” as well as “the dilapidated sin-tenements on the East Side that should have the torch of public indignation set to them.”

Bridgeport evoked a similar response later that week among state educators wrapping up an evaluation of Bassick High School.  The Connecticut Post headlined its January 12 coverage: “Report ‘Indicts’ City For Educational Ills,” telling readers that the evaluators were laudatory about the school’s teachers but withering in their assessment of the city’s lack of financial support — noting with special emphasis that students were forced to pay for their own books, science equipment, globes and maps.

“This situation makes a mockery of a free public education. Only a community grown callous over the years could allow such a condition to continue year after year,” they said. “If Bridgeport were a poor community in a poor state in a poor nation, this condition might be more easily understood.”

Fifty-five years later, Bridgeport is now largely a poor community — though Connecticut remains one of the richest states in the country — and life at Bassick High School has only gotten worse, even as the greater powers that Hendrick tried to awaken continue to largely ignore it.

Click here for the full story at The 74.

Morning Read: LAUSD leaders support Obama’s gender neutral bathroom directive

LA school board president: Gender neutral bathrooms for all middle and high schools
LAUSD officials came out in support of the Obama administration’s guidance for protecting transgender students from discrimination. City News Service

LAUSD makes money from charters, contradicting UTLA-funded study, documents show

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Tuesday’s school board meeting while the union report was delivered.

* UPDATED May 13

As district officials and other analysts pick apart the UTLA-funded study released Tuesday that claims that independent charter schools drain half a billion dollars from LA Unified, the district’s own numbers show LA Unified actually makes money from charters.

The first finding of the 42-page union-funded Cost of Charter Schools report states that the revenue collected from charter schools does not cover the annual budget of the district’s Charter Schools Division.

But that’s not what the district’s own numbers reveal.

In January when the Charter Schools Division presented its budget, it showed that the district receives half a million dollars more than they need to pay for the division. That report, presented to the Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee by Charters Division Director Jose Cole-Guttierez, showed that the 1 percent oversight fee collected from charter schools brings in $8.89 million while the annual expenses of the division’s 47 employees including their benefits total $8.37 million.

The UTLA report puts the indirect administrative costs of the division at $13.8 million, including the cost of the square footage of space used in the Beaudry headquarters by the staff, janitorial costs and time managing and investigating charters that could be spent on traditional schools. These costs, it states, are not supported by the 1 percent oversight fee collected from charters that is used to fund the district’s charter schools division.

The UTLA study notes the district doesn’t charge the charter schools the full 3 percent it says they could charge for the 56 schools that are located on district sites. That could result in an increase of $2 million for the district, it says. School board member Monica Ratliff pointed out at Tuesday’s board meeting that many of her constituents ask why the full amount is not collected from the charter schools.

The report was immediately criticized by district staff and others, as both inaccurate and an attempt to divert attention from far larger drains on the district’s finances. District officials have been directed to refrain from commenting officially, but they are planning to respond to the report as early as a special school board meeting planned for Tuesday to discuss the budget.

An initial analysis by the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA), the district’s bargaining unit for middle managers, also noted that the district’s own figures for its charters division contradicted those in the UTLA report. AALA reported that a district official said the number of charters contracting outside the district for special education — and the ensuing financial impact — was vastly misrepresented in the UTLA report. And it questioned whether UTLA was reading the regulations on charter fees correctly and whether the district could charge charters a full 3 percent.

“The report is full of glaring inaccuracies,” the California Charter Schools Association stated in a email. “It mischaracterizes how special education is funded, it ignores millions of dollars that charters pay to the district for facilities, and it guesstimates the staff time of hundreds of district employees, among many other distortions and false conclusions. We’re encouraged that the district will be scrutinizing the report to assess its accuracy. But what’s especially frustrating is that this report totally ignores the most important part of public education: student learning.”

It added, “When it comes to the district’s finances, the elephant in the room is the $13 billion in unfunded post-employment benefit liabilities that places LAUSD in the unenviable position of having to make very hard decisions in the months and years to come. It’s of course no surprise that UTLA’s report made no mention of that issue; they’d rather blame everyone else than offer real solutions for the district’s complex financial problems.”

The UTLA report comes as the district is facing a potential $450 million deficit within three years due to declining enrollment and increasing fixed costs, including pension costs, legal liability and other post-employment benefits.

The report was but together by a Florida-based consulting company, MGT of America, and Susan Zoller, a former teacher and administrator who compiled the report, presented it to the school board on Tuesday.

UTLA spokesperson Anna Bakalis said in a statement, “The data used in the MGT report came directly from the district. We stand behind the figures as given to MGT. We are glad this financial impact report has sparked a dialogue about these issues, and look forward to finding out more ways to address the findings that were laid out in this report.”

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$18 million OKd for charter classrooms housed at district schools

SchoolBoardLA Unified’s school board this week approved spending $18 million on more than 900 classrooms and office spaces for 25,000 charter school students using classrooms that are co-located on 94 traditional district school sites.

The money is coming from Prop. 39 funds. Prop. 39, passed by California voters in 2000, allows charter schools to use under-utilized classroom space on district property. The funds approved at Tuesday’s board meeting will be used to upgrade technology and safety systems, change key locks, make repairs and find furniture for the classrooms.

School board President Steve Zimmer wanted to point out that despite criticism toward the board, they do take care of charter schools, and he said he wanted to find incentives for the host schools too.

“I do want to acknowledge that despite lawsuits to the contrary and other different kinds of messaging, we do want to make sure our charter partners are accommodated and children and families who choose charter schools have seats and facilities and the necessary adjustments,” Zimmer said. “This is proof positive that that happens.”

He added, “The law works best as it can to make sure that all children are served.”

Sarah Angel, managing regional director of the California Charter Schools Association, which sued the district for not following Prop. 39 properly, spoke at Tuesday’s school board meeting. She also said afterward that taking the money from the bond funds further diminishes what could be used for new charter schools. The school board approved the bond money so it wouldn’t have to come from the general funds.

Some of the money is going to repairs of existing charter rooms in the schools: 771 classrooms, 78 offices and 59 for special education. Then there are 349 new charter classrooms that have to be reconfigured at existing school sites, along with 41 new charter school offices and 53 new special education rooms.

Some of the biggest jobs include $1 million for Amino Ellen Ochoa Charter Middle School at Stevenson Middle School for 17 rooms and $994,000 for Equitas Academy 3 at Hobart Boulevard Elementary School for 10 rooms. (The repairs amounts, locations and time schedule can be found in the school board materials under Tab 11.)

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Commentary: UTLA says ‘unmitigated’ charter growth hurts LAUSD? Inconceivable!

The Princess Bride

By Michael Vaughn

The Los Angeles teachers union just spent $82,000 on a report that concludes that the thousands of Los Angeles families who are choosing to send their children to charter schools are costing the LA school district a half-billion dollars annually.

The report “doesn’t fault charters,” according to the LA Times, “saying that the problems have more to do with state and federal policies as well as district decisions.”

The union’s “analysis” of the report, not surprisingly, does blame charters: “Unmitigated charter school growth limits educational opportunities for the more than 542,000 students who continue to attend schools run by the district, and … further imperils the financial stability of LAUSD as an institution.”

So, let’s get this straight. Report concludes: Bureaucratic system is broken. Union’s analysis and solution: Charters are messing with our system! No more charters!
The union really likes that word—“unmitigated”—when talking about charter growth, which has quite a Princess Bride ring to it.

• Read more: Contrary to UTLA study, LAUSD makes money from charters

Charter growth in California is mitigated by a long, onerous application and approval process. It’s mitigated by performance contracts—the “charter” agreements—that must be approved before a charter school can open and that need to be re-approved every five years. But more importantly, charter growth is mitigated by families and their choices. If families don’t choose to send their children to a charter school, it is quite neatly mitigated away. Charter schools need people to sign up for them, or they don’t exist. It’s quite an efficient system of mitigation.

The problem that charters are presenting to the union is that lots of families in Los Angeles are signing up for charter schools, which generally are not unionized.

So LA families are seeking out charters in droves because they clearly found a charter school that is providing a better public service than what they were getting in the traditional LA school system. The LA union pays $82,000 to learn, allegedly, how that system is inefficient in funding schools. And instead of then analyzing the report and focusing on ways to mitigate the system’s inefficiencies and improve service, the union screams that we must mitigate parents’ choices to protect the system.

It’s prioritizing the system over service to families. And it’s a slap in the face to the families who are choosing charter schools, as LA parent Leticia Chavez-Garcia writes about here.

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Morning Read: Study says a little empathy can keep kids in school

The key to reducing school suspensions? Treat kids with empathy, says study
Researchers from Stanford University found that when teachers are reminded to approach students with an empathic mindset, rates of school suspensions go down. Students who get suspended from school are more likely to later drop out and face jail time. By Rebecca Klein, Huffington Post

Sylmar students stage walk-out in solidarity; principal says the brawl wasn’t race related

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Sylmar students participate in a two-hour walkout Thursday. From Instagram “SylmarClass2016”

Although the brawl that took place on the Sylmar High School campus Monday is garnering national attention, it’s for the wrong reasons.

“It was not race related, it was not about bullying,” said principal James Lee, who came to the school four years ago.

Lee allowed students to take over the stage on Wednesday night at a school meeting which was also attended by Danny Trejo, an actor who has roots in Sylmar. The meeting was also attended by LA Unified police chief Steve Zipperman and Superintendent Michelle King.

Despite the much-publicized rant by the actor, the inciting incident for the lunchtime brawl involving about 40 students on Monday had little to do with race and was more about the athletes, according to Lee. It stemmed from a personal dispute that happened after the prom held last weekend.

Lee on Thursday allowed the students to walk out of their classrooms in a two-hour demonstration of solidarity. He said there will continue to be discussions, talks, forums and counselors available as the school year heads to an end on June 13. Until the end of the year, after-school activities except ongoing sports competitions have been canceled.

Many of the students posted pictures on Instagram with #SymlarUnited and #SHS Unity with smiles and laughter and clips of them shouting, “Sylmar United, will never be divided.”

King issued another statement Thursday after the meeting with students, saying, “We appreciate the show of unity by students of Sylmar High School and the Sylmar Leadership Academy and their enthusiasm in expressing support for their schools.” Continue reading

San Francisco Unified opts out of new Teach for America contract

san francisco chronicle- ogoBy Jill Tucker

The taxpayer-supported Teach for America program, which supplies enthusiastic if inexperienced teachers to thousands of schools in lower-income areas across the country, has fallen out of favor in San Francisco.

The city’s school board made clear this week that staffing some of the city’s neediest classrooms with recent college graduates who are on a two-year teaching stint and with just five weeks of training is no longer acceptable.

The board had been set to vote Tuesday night on a new contract to obtain 15 teachers for the upcoming school year — after reaching similar agreements each of the last eight years with the national nonprofit, which receives federal grants, private donations and fees from districts.

But before the vote, Superintendent Richard Carranza pulled the contract from consideration, acknowledging he didn’t have support despite a statewide teacher shortage and a local need to fill at least 500 teaching jobs by August.

Click here for the full story.

 

Morning Read: Actor Danny Trejo, students express frustration over Sylmar High brawl

Actor Danny Trejo joins students in discussion over 40-student lunchtime brawl at Sylmar High
After a wild brawl involving 40 students at Sylmar High School on Monday, students and actor Danny Trejo met Wednesday night to express their frustration with the school board. “What happened on Monday we would all agree is an unacceptable occurrence,” Superintendent Michelle King said to the crowd of students and parents. By Beverly White, NBC Los Angeles

High stakes over ‘parent trigger’: Closed session discussion tries to avoid 20th Street lawsuit

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20th Street Elementary School

The LA Unified school board broke into a surprise closed session for several hours Tuesday afternoon in the middle of their public meeting in order to head off a potential “parent trigger” lawsuit over 20th Street Elementary School.

All morning, the school board was in closed session to discuss employee actions, contract renewals and pending litigation. Then, in the middle of the 1 p.m. public meeting, school board secretariat Jefferson Crain said they were going into closed session again to discuss the potential litigation involving the elementary school.

Board member Monica Garcia, who has worked with the 20th Street parents to try to solve the issues, said Wednesday that the closed-door session wasn’t merely to stop the threatened lawsuit.

“We are making every effort to listen to all of the concerns, the dreams and aspirations of all the players and give energy into making that a better school,” Garcia told LA School Report.

Gabe Rose of Parent Revolution — a nonprofit group that helps parents organize and take over a failing campus through the state’s Parent Empowerment Act — said the attorney representing the parents “made it very clear that there’s pending litigation and that’s why in the closed sessions they went in to see what the settlement would look like. The parents expressed clearly there’s no plausible deal without a significant shift in who’s managing the school.”

But the district didn’t offer enough, Rose said. “The parents need autonomy and without the necessary changes, they will go the legal route and be successful. The district never did any of the things they promised, so of course there’s a lot of hesitation on the part of the parents.”

One of the parents, Omar Cavillo, who helped file the trigger against the district, said the parents are trying to work on a deal with Partnership for Los Angeles Schools that could offer a hybrid of a charter and traditional school as an option, which they have done in 17 schools in the South Central LA area.

“We like the Partnership, but the deal the district offered still had them completely in charge of our school,” Cavillo said. “The attorneys are negotiating, and that’s probably what is going on in the closed session.”

No one seems to want to go to court. “We don’t want a lawsuit, it’s not good for the district or school or community,” Cavillo said. “We care for LAUSD, there are some great teachers. We want to work with the district.”

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