School Board Gives Final Approval to 24th St. Plan
Hillel Aron | April 16, 2013
Tuesday’s Board meeting began with a moment of silence for the victims and survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing and the memory of teacher and activist Sal Castro.
During the following hours came several key decisions including the unanimous passage of Board member Tamar Galatzan’s resolution to streamline teacher misconduct investigations and the unanimous renewal for the beleaguered charter school Ivy Academia, whose founders were recently convicted of embezzling public funds.
Perhaps the highlight of the session was Board’s 5-1 vote to approve the much-discussed “parent trigger” plan for 24th St. Elementary School to be jointly managed by the district and Crown Preparatory Academy, a charter operator.
The one dissenting vote was cast by Board member Marguerite LaMotte, whose district encompasses the embattled school.
“This is not right,” she said. “The school wasn’t as bad as we tried to pretend it was.”
No Board member responded to LaMotte’s tirade. However, Board member Steve Zimmer said he was abstaining from the vote “in deference to Ms. LaMotte.”
Parent Trigger Approval
Numerous parents, most of whom spoke Spanish, praised the plan for 24th St. Elementary School, which was designed by parents and activists after they organized a “parent trigger” petition drive.
Board member LaMotte suggested that these parents were being coached on what to say.
“I didn’t know most of the people who spoke,” she said. “Someone took people outside to tell them what to say.”
Former Board member Daivd Tokofsky, now a consultant for the administrators union, said that the parent trigger law was flawed, and that the school district needs to provide guidance as to how all parties are supposed to act during the signature-gathering process.
But LaMotte and Tokofsky were the only critical voices in what was otherwise a celebratory day for 24th St. parents and Parent Revolution activists.
“This is a historic day,” said Parent Revolution founder Ben Austin. “This has literally never happened before, this charter-district collaboration… Parents forced adult interests to play in the sandbox together.”
Misconduct Investigation Resolution Passes
A proposal by Tamar Galatzan, co-sponsored by Bennett Kayser, to streamline investigations of teacher misconduct passed unanimously.
Although a few public commenters blasted the board for detaining and dismissing teachers, UTLA Secretary David Lyell thanked Galatzan for her resolution.
“Teachers don’t want colleagues in the classroom who shouldn’t be in the classroom,” he said.
There are currently 278 teachers in “teacher jail,” according to the LA Daily News.
Ivy Academia Renewed
Ivy Academia Entrepreneurial Charter School was approved for another 5 years by a vote of 5-2, with Board Members LaMotte and Kayser voting against.
The founders of the school were recently convicted of embezzling more than $200,000 in public money.
But the school’s chief financial officer, Carl Raggio, hired in 2010 after criminal charges were filed, said the school had changed its ways.
“Ivy has come a long way since 2010,” he said. “This is a different school. We have changed our financial set-up.”
(For more, see the LA Times)
Three resolutions offered by Board member Bennett Kayser — dealing with magnet schools, fiscal priorities and “sustainable funding for modern technology” — were all postponed.
His long-postponed “ethical standards” resolution, which called for Board members who’d received campaign contributions from charter schools to recuse themselves from voting on their renewal, was finally withdrawn.
• In a closed session before the meeting, the Board approved the contract renewals of 45 top LAUSD officials by a vote of 5-1, according to the LA Daily News.
• The Board passed symbolic resolutions in support of State Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan’s teacher dismissal bill AB 375, universal preschool in California and the immigration reform bill being debated in Washington, DC.