Preliminary data show 74 percent of LA Unified seniors met new graduation requirements

Miranda Rector, who graduated from Venice High School, with LA Unified Superintendent Michelle King at Tuesday's district graduation ceremony. (Credit: LA Unified Communications and Media Relations)

Miranda Rector, who graduated from Venice High School, with LA Unified Superintendent Michelle King at Tuesday’s district graduation ceremony. (Credit: LA Unified Communications and Media Relations)

*UPDATED

Preliminary data show that 74 percent of LA Unified high school seniors met new graduation requirements, the first class required to pass college preparatory classes, the district announced Tuesday.

Superintendent Michelle King made the announcement during a morning ceremony with the school board celebrating Class of 2016 graduates.

“This is the first class that stepped up to meet this challenge,” King said, according to a tweet from the district’s official Twitter account. “They are the pioneers.”

This year marks the first year seniors had to pass A through G standards, a series of courses required for acceptance into California’s public universities, in order to graduate.

In January, the district said just 54 percent of high school seniors were on track to graduate.

At Tuesday's graduation ceremony, from left, former Laker A.C. Green, Canoga Park High graduate Jeremiah Brown, Washington Preparatory High grad Adonis Warren, Superintendent Michelle King and Laura Adkins, who also graduated from Washington Prep. (Credit: LA Unified Communications and Media Relations)

At Tuesday’s graduation ceremony, from left, former Laker A.C. Green, Canoga Park High graduate Jeremiah Brown, Washington Preparatory High grad Adonis Warren, Superintendent Michelle King and Laura Adkins, who also graduated from Washington Prep. (Credit: LA Unified Communications and Media Relations)

King called for an “all hands on deck” approach to get students on track to graduate, along with aggressive implementation of a $15 million credit recovery program.

The district will have a graduation rate estimate in late August. The California Department of Education releases the previous year’s official graduate rate each spring.

That graduation rate will include students who dropped out. The 74 percent of students who passed their A-G courses are of students who were enrolled in school. It does not include students who dropped out along the way, officials said.

Last year’s graduation rate was 72 percent when the tougher standards were not required.

• Read more: By the numbers: Did ‘all hands on deck’ save LA Unified’s sinking graduation rate?


*This story has been updated to show that 74 percent is not the graduation rate, but is the percentage of enrolled students who met new graduation requirements to pass college preparatory courses.

Porter Ranch schools displaced in methane gas leak are heading back home

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The portable classrooms for displaced Porter Ranch students will be removed.

Boxes started being packed up the day after teachers left school last week, and by the time principals come back to school on July 21, all four schools should be back to normal after the Porter Ranch methane gas leak disrupted lives over the past year, school officials said Tuesday.

“A lot of movement has already occurred, and multiple cleanings have been done,” said Vivian Ekchian, the Local District Northwest superintendent who oversaw the move of 1,800 students when it was deemed that the air could possibly be unsafe for students near the Aliso Canyon natural gas leak that caused some nausea and breathing issues for students and teachers. Over the winter holiday break, the district construction team created two entire new campuses on two different school sites and managed to keep the teachers and students together in the same locations rather than dispersing them to multiple sites.

Castlebay Lane Charter and Porter Ranch Community School students and faculty will return to their home campuses when school starts again in August, and the host schools of Northridge Middle and Sunny Brae Elementary schools will return to normal. Overall, more than 1,800 students were displaced, and even though Southern California Gas plugged up the leak in February, some parents were skeptical that the homes and school buildings were safe.

“We are confident the schools are being cleaned with the necessary safety guidelines,” said Carlos Torres, deputy director of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety for the district. The office oversaw cleaning and inspections in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.

Torres said the schools had their air ducts cleaned and were equipped with filters and air purification systems, but that no major construction was required before the students move back to the schools. The district estimates the cost for the relocation at $5 million and counting, and a full bill will be submitted when all costs are tallied. The district expects full reimbursement from the gas company.

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Internal document shows LA Unified disputes some findings of UTLA-funded study on charter schools

UTLA released its study on the fiscal impact of charter schools on May 10.

UTLA released its study on the fiscal impact of charter schools on May 10.

Six weeks ago LA teachers union officials told the LA Unified school board that independent charter schools were costing the district about $500 million each year.

School board member Monica Ratliff called on Superintendent Michelle King to provide the board an analysis of the union-funded study on independent charter schools from which the figure was derived. But the board has met as a full body at least four times since the report was released and has yet to discuss the report publicly. The board meets again today.

A district spokeswoman has been unable to say when the board will discuss the report.

An internal district document obtained by LA School Report shows that district officials have disputed some of the findings of the union’s study.

The union’s 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 were directed to refrain from commenting officially.

After LA School Report obtained the interoffice correspondence, King released a statement. The interoffice letter, dated June 14, was written by the district’s Chief Financial Officer Megan Reilly, Associate Superintendent Sharyn Howell, who oversees special education, and Jose Cole-Gutierrez, director of the district’s Charter Schools Division.

“The information that both our labor and charter partners have brought to the forefront regarding our financial situation is informative, valuable and appreciated,” King’s statement reads in part. “Our team will continue to scrutinize these reports as we create strategies for a successful future and the growth of a variety of high-achieving schools.”

The California Charter Schools Association issued a 10-page response to the UTLA study a week after it was released and sent it to King and members of the school board. The group called the union’s report “riddled with inaccuracies.”

“It draws sweeping and often irresponsible conclusions based on limited information and obsolete data,” the CCSA said.

An initial analysis by the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA), the district’s bargaining unit for middle managers, also found inaccuracies in the report.

UTLA said in a statement in the days after the report was released that it stood by its data used in the study and said the information was provided by the district.

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Morning Read: State budget could bring more preschool seats to LA

More preschool seats coming to LA in state budget plan
The state budget that lawmakers sent to Gov. Jerry Brown this week could open up scores of new preschool seats in the LA area and prompt the re-opening of an early education center. But the gains represent just a fraction of the high need that remains as many parents scramble to find seats for their children. By Dorian Merina, KPCC 

LA Unified works overtime to repair air-conditioners as summer school begins

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By 3:30 p.m. Allesandro Elementary School hit 102 degrees on Monday.

A much-touted heat wave hitting the Southland resulted Monday in 108 service calls — but no emergencies — for air-conditioning units at LA Unified schools as summer school begins for elementary and middle schools on Tuesday.

The technicians for the school district’s facilities division began working overtime over the weekend in preparation for the anticipated high temperatures, according to Elvia Perez Cano of the LA Unified communications department.

“They will and continue to work overtime all week,” Cano said.

Summer school starts Tuesday for elementary and middle schools. Summer school for high school begins next week on June 27.

As of Monday, the district had 985 active calls for the HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) systems at the district schools, with 341 in the progress of being fixed. By noon Monday, 27 issues were completed, Cano said.

Last September, when temperatures soared into triple digits during school, there were 346 units that needed repairing and more than 2,600 calls. In the meantime, $300 million of a $1 billion Critical Repair Fund established three years ago has been used for air conditioners.

An estimated 30,000 LA Unified classrooms and more than 1,000 other public spaces, such as hallways, locker rooms and libraries, use about 68,000 air control venting devices throughout the district, but the problem is that most of the units are more than 30 years old, district officials have said.

New life for Ethnic Studies Committee and a fresh push for required courses

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Derrick Chau said the Ethnic Studies Committee will start meeting again.

The Ethnic Studies Committee, which LA Unified unceremoniously disbanded last year, has been renewed by the district, and members agreed to meet for up to three more years with a goal toward incorporating ethnic studies as a graduation requirement, according to Derrick Chau, director of secondary instruction at LA Unified.

“We are moving ahead with districtwide ethnic studies, but there is not a clear timeline for when it would be a graduation requirement,” Chau said. “The committee is reconvening and we gave different options and they chose to meet for a period of three years.”

The committee was originally formed to look into creating a unified course curriculum that would make ethnic studies a graduation requirement. But last year, then-Superintendent Ramon Cortines voiced opposition to the idea and said it would be too costly, with estimates up to $72 million. Cortines scuttled the idea and the committee, even though the school board asked that the district make it a graduation requirement for the class of 2019.

“It’s a shame that this district was at the forefront of making ethnic studies a graduation requirement, and now has let it lag as if there is a lack of interest,” said Jose Lara of Ethnic Studies Now, who helped instigate the renewed committee meetings last week. Lara said that after LA Unified’s vote for the program in 2014, at least seven other districts in the state have made ethnic studies courses a requirement for graduation. He said that courses are already being taught in high schools throughout the district that could be the basis of a robust class.

For a year, the advisory panel tried to get the committee renewed while students protested and the school board even renewed their call to make it a required class.

Retired teacher Alan Kakassy, who was at the meeting where the committee was renewed, said it gave him hope that the district staff would finally be committed to the classes. Kakassy said he was disappointed though that only about half of the more than 50 former committee members attended the meeting.

“This is such an important class, especially in the political climate of the news of the day and the presidential election,” Kakassy said. “We should look at all sorts of classes like this, for example an Arab-American course.”

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Commentary: Time to end the great charter school debate in Los Angeles and create great public schools now

Great Public Schools Now holds a news conference Thursday where it announced $4.5 million in initial grants. Center is GPSN Executive Director Myrna Castrejon.

Great Public Schools Now’s executive director, Myrna Castrejon, announces the first grants at a news conference last Thursday.

By Caroline Bermudez

More than once in California, it has taken a major lawsuit to try to propel long-awaited change for its schools. In 1999, the State Allocation Board was sued because of overcrowding in Los Angeles public schools. Last year, a coalition of groups brought a lawsuit accusing the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) of diverting money away from low-income, foster children, and English-language learners.

So it’s a welcome development when instead of looking to the court system to improve schools, educational inequities can be addressed through partnerships among schools, nonprofits and philanthropies.

Great Public Schools Now (GPSN), a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles, is awarding grants to successful programs and schools—be they traditional public schools, charter schools or magnet—to replicate or expand their efforts to improve schools for 160,000 students in 10 low-income Los Angeles neighborhoods.

On Thursday GPSN announced its first three grants—$2 million for Teach For America to focus on training more special education teachers for traditional schools, $2 million for Equitas Charter Network to build a school and expand its new K-4 campus, and $500,000 for new space for an after school program run by Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA).

The fact that Great Public Schools Now is open to supporting any type of high-achieving program (and not just charter schools) is a refreshing development in a city whose school board has been hostile to the expansion of charters.

For parents who reside in the low-income neighborhoods GPSN will focus on, they say it’s time for the conflict between traditional public schools and charter schools to end.

Mary Najera, community liaison for Extera Public Schools and a veteran parent organizer who lives in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, said she was excited by the collaborative nature of Great Public Schools Now.

“If charter schools are going to work with traditional public schools, then let’s go for it,” she said. “I love the idea that they’re all sitting at the table together. At the end of the day, it’s not your money, it’s the kids’ money.”

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What’s really in LA Unified’s online credit recovery courses?

Logo_LATimesBy the Times Editorial Board

Because of new rules designed to raise graduation standards, officials of the Los Angeles Unified School District woke up in December to the grim news that only half of its students were on track to graduate, down from 74 percent the year before. The problem was that this was the first year all students had to pass the full range of college-prep courses — known as the A through G sequence – required by the University of California and California State University for admission.

But just a couple of months later, the situation suddenly, startlingly improved, with 63 percent on track to graduate. By the end of March, 68 percent had completed their A-G courses, and an additional 15 percent were close enough that they might be able to make it. The actual graduation rate will not be known for several months.

How did this remarkable turnaround happen, and what does it mean?

Partly, it was that Michelle King, LA Unified’s new superintendent, moved swiftly and decisively, plunging the district’s high schools into a full-bore effort to bring students up to snuff, with extra counseling, Saturday classes and after-school classes.

But also, the district relied heavily on what are known as online credit-recovery classes. These courses, which have helped boost graduation rates locally and across the country, have grown quickly from a barely known concept a decade ago to one of the biggest and most controversial new trends in education.

This is how they work: Students who flunk a course can make up the credit by taking classes either in computer-equipped rooms at school, or at home if they have the equipment and Internet access. Teachers lecture on videos, the computer displays the readings or practice problems, and students take tests that are automatically graded. Written work is supposed to be reviewed by a district teacher. The courses have certain benefits: Students can replay a lecture for missed material, something that can’t happen in a regular classroom. When they can’t concentrate any longer, they can put the course on hold and take a break.

But professors and other education experts are concerned that there is too little quality control to ensure that students have completed the equivalent of a regular classroom experience.

Click here for the full story in the Los Angeles Times.

• Related story: By the numbers: Did ‘all hands on deck’ save LA Unified’s sinking graduation rate?

Morning Read: How students find success — through failure — in Advanced Placement classes

AP classes are tougher, but students are better prepared for college
Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge courses are increasing rapidly in high schools. This includes places like Cardozo High School in Washington, D.C., where 99 percent of the students are low-income and few land on the high-achievement end of any bell curve. But teachers and students at schools like Cardozo and a San Diego charter school have a different attitude and say the inner-city students are being more challenged. By Jay Mathews, Washington Post

A mother’s journey to find the best schools for her kids: The story behind new school expansion group’s ad campaign

Maria Silva worked hard to find the right schools for her kids.

As a stay-at-home mom, she could spend the time and effort it took to research schools and she was willing and able to drive her daughter from their home in Bell to downtown Los Angeles to attend a magnet high school.

A mother of three, Silva is the star of an advertising campaign for a new initiative to expand access to high-performing schools to tens of thousands of students in Los Angeles’ low-income areas.

The ad campaign was unveiled Thursday at Great Public Schools Now’s launch at a news conference at Heart of LA in Westlake. The six-figure advertising campaign features three television ads and a two-minute video that was posted Friday on the organization’s website as well as a digital and print advertising campaign.

In the spot featuring Silva, she explains that her daughter was a “completely changed person” when she switched schools.

“Enough with politics,” Silva says in the commercial. “All of our children deserve the school that fits regardless of where they live. Please help us bring high-quality education for all of our children in Los Angeles.”

Maria Silva, featured in an advertising campaign for Great Public Schools Now, spoke at a news conference Thursday.

Maria Silva, featured in an advertising campaign for Great Public Schools Now, spoke at a news conference Thursday.

Silva’s three children have attended traditional district schools, charter schools and district magnet schools.

Silva’s oldest daughter, Sarahi, attended her neighborhood elementary schools. The first was Liberty Boulevard in South Gate near where the Silvas lived, but then the school’s boundaries were changed and when Sarahi was in third grade, she had to attend State Street Elementary School, which was farther away.

“It didn’t make sense at the time, but we had to follow what the rules are,” Silva said.

Sarahi then enrolled for two years in a district middle school, but Silva realized her daughter wasn’t adapting well in the environment.

“She would come home crying because there were other kids who were struggling, because there were other kids on drugs,” Silva said. “It hurt her so much that it affected her grades, so I decided I needed to take my daughter out of that environment into something that fits in her best interests.”

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A computer for every LA Unified student would cost $311 million

 

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Ways to pay for technology, as indicated by the task force.

After studying technology issues for more than a year, an LA Unified task force this week offered their ideas for the district after the botched iPad debacle that was supposed to result in one computer device in every student’s hands.

The price tag would be $311 million for “a 1:1 environment,” providing every student with a tablet or laptop, but the Instructional Technology Initiative Task Force also explained how much the district has already done in a year in their comprehensive report issued Tuesday and presented to the school board.

For example, 749 school sites have had full wireless infrastructure added this year, and 89 Early Educational Center sites will get it by the end of next school year, according to the report. Bandwidth in the district expanded to 119 gigabits, nearly double from a year ago.

More than 160,000 iPads, Chromebooks and Windows devices have been distributed to the schools since 2013.

“We are aware that as soon as we pressed the button to print this out, it is all out of date,” said Frances Gipson, who was put in charge of the task force last year by former Superintendent Ramon Cortines. “The world has changed by the time we do it.”

Superintendent Michelle King praised the more than 50 teachers, principals, parents, students, community computer experts, business people and administrators who were part of the task force and met every Thursday for the past year to work on the instructional technology issues facing the district.

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Excelentes escuelas públicas develan un plan para financiar la expansión de escuelas exitosas que prestarán servicios a 160,000 estudiantes de bajos recursos en la.

Great Public Schools Now artUn emprendimiento masivo para aumentar el acceso a una educación de alta calidad para decenas de miles de estudiantes de bajos recursos en Los Angeles fue revelado hoy a través de un esperado plan de Great Public Schools Now (GPSN, Excelentes Escuelas Públicas Ahora), una organización sin fines de lucro que recibe una buena cantidad de fondos y que se formó el año pasado.

El objetivo es extender el acceso a 160,000 estudiantes que GPSN ha identificado y que asisten a escuelas deficientes en 10 barrios de bajos ingresos de Los Angeles de manera que puedan asistir a escuelas exitosas que esta organización quiere ayudar a duplicar o expandir

Los barrios están en el Sur de Los Angeles, Este de Los Angeles y el Noreste del Valle de San Fernando, y fueron elegidos porque están llenos de “escuelas de bajo rendimiento crónico y hay muy pocas opciones de escuelas de alta calidad para las familias que tienen dificultades económicas”, señala el plan.

GPSN proporcionará fondos y apoyo a escuelas de alto rendimiento, sin importar qué tipo de escuela sea – escuela charter o autónoma, tradicional, piloto, magnet o afiliada — de manera que se puedan duplicar y ampliar. Asimismo, apoyará a las escuelas propuestas con el potencial de que se conviertan en planteles de alta calidad.

El enfoque cada vez más extenso es una transición de un plan inicial publicado el año pasado antes de que se formara GPSN para expandir las escuelas charter en Los Angeles.

Myrna Castrejon

Myrna Castrejon

“Se trata de un tipo diferente de iniciativa, muy distinto a la que se ha intentado antes en Los Angeles”, dijo Myrna Castrejón, directora ejecutiva de GPSN. “Estoy muy entusiasmada, en particular por la oportunidad de trabajar a través de todos los sectores con el fin de poder realmente fortalecer a toda la educación pública”.

El otro cambio notable del plan inicial es la escasez de datos.  El nuevo plan no incluye una cantidad específica de dólares que la organización tiene por objetivo recaudar, no da un plazo para inscribir en escuelas exitosas a los 160,000 estudiantes que están en escuelas que no tienen un alto rendimiento, no enumera los posibles donantes, ni nombra a ninguna escuela específica – charter, magnet o de otro tipo – como un modelo que quiera duplicar.  

Yolie Flores, miembro de la junta de GPSN y ex miembro de la junta escolar del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Angeles, indicó que algunos detalles se darán a conocer durante una conferencia de prensa el jueves, en la cual se darán a conocer varios ganadores de las subvenciones. Pero también dijo que la junta está recién formada y todavía están precisando los detalles.

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Morning Read: Who’s advising Donald Trump on education anyway? Is anyone?

Looking over some of the things Trump has said and not said about education
There’s still a mystery swirling at the center of the Trump platform: education. Rarely has a politician successfully gotten this far after saying so little about our nation’s classrooms. By Carolyn Phenicie, The 74

Great Public Schools Now grants go to Teach for America, charter school and after-school program

Great Public Schools Now held a news conference Thursday where it announced $4.5 million in initial grants. Center is GPSN Executive Director Myrna Castrejon.

Great Public Schools Now holds a news conference Thursday where it announced $4.5 million in initial grants. At center is GPSN Executive Director Myrna Castrejon.

*UPDATED

Newly established nonprofit Great Public Schools Now announced Thursday it has awarded $4.5 million in its initial grants to three organizations: Teach for America, a charter school and an after-school program.

Great Public Schools Now unveiled its plan this week to increase access to high-performing schools in 10 neighborhoods where it says 160,000 low-income English language learners are enrolled in schools where 80 percent of students are learning below their grade level.

About 50 students, parents, members of the media and people involved in the initiative attended a news conference announcing the grants at Heart of LA’s art gallery in Rampart/Westlake at the corner of Wilshire and Rampart boulevards, where student artwork was on display. Heart of LA is one of the grant recipients. The after-school program that offers arts, athletics and academic programming to about 2,300 youth ages 6 to 24 each year will receive $500,000 that will go toward its new educational arts and enrichment center, expanding the four-building campus to serve an additional 300 students, the large majority of whom live in poverty.

• Read more on the plan and reaction, the 10 targeted neighborhoods and Myrna Castrejon on the path ahead. 

Equitas Academy, which runs three charter schools in the Pico-Union neighborhood of Los Angeles, will use its $2 million grant from GPSN toward its $11 million project to construct a new school building at 11th Street and Beacon Avenue. The new elementary school will serve 500 students and is expected to open in the fall of 2017.

“Finding facilities in downtown Los Angeles is really, really a challenge for schools like ours, so it’s a big win for us,” said Jon Host, chief operating officer of Equitas. Host said 500 students are on the waitlist to enroll in the organization’s charter schools.

The $2 million GPSN grant to Teach for America-Los Angeles will help the group expand the number of new teachers it recruits and trains. Executive Director Lida Jennings said LA Unified will hire up to 50 Teach for America teachers for the upcoming school year, potentially doubling the number the district hired the previous year. This fall’s class represents the group’s biggest cohort of new teachers since the Great Recession.

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‘The challenge and the urgency are huge.’ Leader of Great Public Schools Now outlines the path ahead

Myrna Castrejon

Myrna Castrejon, executive director of Great Public Schools Now

Myrna Castrejon, who was named executive director of Great Public Schools Now in January, was thrust into the spotlight this week with the release of the organization’s plan to increase access to high-performing schools for 160,000 students it identified as attending failing schools in poor areas.

Castrejon came from the California Charter Schools Association, where she spent 12 years in various leadership roles. In an interview with LA School Report ahead of the plan’s release, Castrejon talked about her guiding principles during her career in education reform and her excitement about coming back to Los Angeles.

She first came to LA in late 1999 to work on a school reform effort called Los Angeles Annenberg Metropolitan Project, known as LAAMP, a $53-million grant challenge program funded by the Annenberg Foundation. She now has taken the lead on the latest major reform effort in the city.

What do you hope conversation will be around the plan’s release?

I certainly hope that people see how different this is from prior efforts. And I hope it will catalyze a new set of dialogue and conversation about how do we make this work. As you know, the plan is essentially one where we are landscaping our broad mission and how we will work. In spite of the many conversations I’ve had in the last four months since I was named to this post, we’ve really been taking stock of what’s possible of where the obstacles are and really setting a course. But very quickly this will turn to implementation and execution.

On the lack of details in the plan and differences between the final plan and the draft plan that was published in the Los Angeles Times in August:

First of all, that work occurred more than a year ago. Our landscape continues to evolve, as it continues to evolve moving forward as well. One of the things we’ve been doing in the last four months have been really to listen very closely and to talk to people about what they need and how they can see this work moving forward.

I think it’s important as we get more specific into execution … that we don’t completely bake things in isolation. And so, the lack of specifics I think, it’s very driven by that, the need and the opportunity for us to build this collaboratively.

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What Pamela Anderson’s night visit to the LA Unified school board was all about

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Pamela Anderson speaks at the school board.

Sometimes staying late at the LA Unified school board meetings has its benefits. Particularly when quirky things happen in only-in-LA moments.

About 8:45 p.m. Tuesday late into the meeting, most of the audience members had cleared out of the school board auditorium and the 200 or so protesters outside were gone. There were almost as many people up on the horseshoe dais as there were watching.

Board President Steve Zimmer kidded about seeming a bit loopy because his cold medicine was kicking in. Then, the school police officers stirred, the board members stopped talking and a blur of diverse people marched down the aisle of the auditorium.

Up front was blonde bombshell Pamela Anderson, looking as stunning as she did in her “Baywatch” days two decades ago. In a tight black top and flowered skirt, she brushed back her characteristic blonde locks and prepared herself to address the school board for the first time.

In the pressroom watching on closed-circuit TV, reporters were surprised and snickering about why she was there. The LA Unified communications team didn’t have any idea.

Along with the actress, there were TV journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell and 9-year-old actress Felix Hemstreet, as well as a triathlete, a cardiologist, a best-selling author, a dietician, a doctor of 40 years and Torre Washington, who bills himself as “a professional vegan bodybuilder.”

The circus of presenters was inspired by 14-year-old Lila Copeland from Paul Revere Middle School who wants to have a regular vegan option on the menu in the nation’s second-largest school district. It appeared she had an impact on the board, and she had already met with Laura Benavidez, of the district’s Food Services division, who seemed open to the idea.

“This school district is at the forefront of offering good nutritious food for the students, so we just want them to be aware of allowing vegan options for the students too and helping us have a healthy future for this planet,” Copeland said. “We want the district to provide a vegan option.”

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The experts spewed statistics and anecdotes. They brought up methane caused by cows, the drought, global warming, childhood obesity and ethical reasons for being vegan. They talked about how eating meat can cause heart disease and strokes, they detailed the outmoded federal nutritional standards and brought in packets of vegan meal samples for each of the seven school board members prepared by plant-based protein company Gardein’s chef Jason Stefanko.

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Morning Read: LA Unified considers college savings accounts for students

LAUSD may create college savings accounts for its 640,000 students
The school district would partner with the city of Los Angeles and outside groups including the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce to hammer out the specifics of how the accounts would be opened, and possibly include matching funds for deposits. By Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, KPCC

LA education leaders react to Great Public Schools Now’s plan to expand successful schools

MonicaGarcia2The much-anticipated Great Public Schools Now (GPSN) plan to expand successful schools in the Los Angeles area was released today, and education leaders are weighing in.

GPSN says it will fund the expansion and replication of successful schools in 10 high-needs neighborhoods, including charter schools, magnet schools, pilot schools and Partnership for Los Angeles Schools — and not solely charters, as a controversial early draft plan stated.

Reaction has come in across a wide range of viewpoints. Alex Caputo-Pearl, the president of the LA teachers union, offered up the harshest criticism of the new plan so far.

Here are reactions from some key education leaders in California and Los Angeles:

“This new plan is a public relations move meant to distract from the original proposal, which was greeted with widespread condemnation. It’s clear by the group’s new pro-charter board of directors that the goal remains the same—to rapidly expand unregulated charter schools at the expense of neighborhood schools. It is deeply irresponsible for this group to continue to pursue its agenda in light of the recent report that showed the unchecked growth of charter schools is having a devastating impact on funding for the schools that most LA students attend. We can’t let the majority of our schools starve so that a few privately run schools can do well.

“Instead of defunding and deregulating our neighborhood schools, we must invest in sustainable community schools that support student learning and address issues of access and equity. UTLA is working with parents and community members to fight for investment in schools. Our recent contract agreement makes significant strides for our students and our classrooms, sets a foundation for more improvements to public education in Los Angeles, and addresses equity for our highest-needs students.” — Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of UTLA 

 “As a product of the Los Angeles Public Schools, I was able to get a strong college preparatory education, attend college at 16 and graduate in four years. Today, with a college education more important than ever, every Los Angeles student deserves the same opportunity that I had. But not every school gives students the preparation they need for college admission and graduation that affords them the opportunities that a college education provides. That is why UNCF (the United Negro College Fund) supports Great Public Schools Now’s commitment to finding what works in public education and ensuring that college is attainable for every child in every neighborhood—not just some children in some neighborhoods. Because, as we say at UNCF, ‘A mind is a terrible thing to waste.’” — Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund

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‘Doomsday scenario’ cutting health benefits and increasing class sizes at LA Unified may be averted

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How the district was planning to off-set budget shortfalls.

The self-described “Doomsday scenario” laid out by LA Unified’s chief financial officer at Tuesday’s school board meeting could have resulted in the loss of 2,000 teacher and administrator jobs by next spring, an increase of up to nine students per classroom, and a halt to saving for teacher retirement benefits.

But then, like the cavalry coming over the hill, a letter from Sacramento arrived during the meeting and saved the district from the dire budget battle.

“This letter literally just came in as we were presenting this today,” said Megan Reilly, who for years has been pointing out a looming severe deficit. “We will have to have our legal department look at it, but it’s a reprieve of sorts.”TotalBudget 2016-06-14 at 7.12.04 PM

The letter, from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, said, “Unfortunately, there has been considerable misunderstanding” of a California Department of Education report released May 27 that said LA Unified had not explained how it was funding high-needs students. “Respectfully, the CDE decision does not require LAUSD to identify $1 billion in programmatic cuts.”

The letter adds that “some media reports were not accurate. It was not the finding of the CDE that LAUSD inappropriately expended $450 million or that it ‘shortchanged’ unduplicated students. Instead, CDE reviewed the complaint and concluded that LAUSD did not provide an adequate explanation of how $450 million in special education funds met the proportional spending requirements for services for unduplicated students in Local Control and Accountability Plans.”

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