Teachers union talking strategy for combatting teacher jail

Teacher Jail LAUSDWhile officials from the teachers union, UTLA, are contemplating salary demands in a new labor contract with the district, they have not lost sight of another key issue, how to deal with teachers housed in what union officials derisively call “teacher jails.”

The union’s Committee for Unjustly Housed Teachers was meeting today, for the first time this school year, in a strategy session to determine how to tackle what they view as the district’s abusive use of the “teacher jails.”

“We need to develop a plan for getting the district to follow the policies that they have in place for housed teachers,” committee point chair, Colleen Schwab told LA School Report before the meeting. “That’s our goal, at the minimum. To get them to do what they said they would.”

Schwab, who’s co-lead of the committee since its inception a year ago, stressed that the teachers union has no intention of calling for the complete elimination jails.

“Obviously, we need a place for teachers who could harm students while the district conducts its investigations,” she said. “But there has to be a better solution than what is happening right now.”

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Deasy, LAUSD board members to welcome back students

John Deasy with students* UPDATED

As LA Unified students begin their first day of school tomorrow, district officials will be out in force, welcoming them.

Superintendent John Deasy has a full schedule over two days, with plans to greet principals and to tour schools that are under construction.

Planning to visit nearly a dozen campuses tomorrow and Wednesday, Deasy will start his tomorrow with a 5 a.m. appearance at Solano Avenue Elementary School where he will be joined by LAUSD board member Monica Garcia and chief facilities administrator Mark Hovatter, followed by a visit to Dolores Huerta Elementary School from 7 to 7:30 am.

Later, Deasy and Hovatter are scheduled to appear at John C. Fremont High School, while LAUSD board member Monica Ratliff heads to Mountain View Elementary School and then to Van Nuys Senior High School.

At 9 am, Deasy, Hovatter, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris,  LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer and LAUSD’s out-going liaison to District 1, Sylvia Rousseau, will gather at Baldwin Hills Elementary School and Gifted/High Ability Magnet School.

Deasy ends the day with visits to Playa Vista Elementary School, Paul Revere Charter Middle School and Magnet Center, Emerson Community Charter Middle School and David Starr Jordan High School.

On Wednesday, Deasy is scheduled to visit four schools, joined by Garcia and Hovatter at Dr. Julian Nava Learning Academy, one of four new four pilot schools opening this year, followed by Haddon Avenue Elementary School and North Hollywood Senior High School.  Deasy will be joined by LAUSD board member Bennett Kayser for his final visit to South Gate Middle School.

As for the two other board members, Tamar Galatzan is starting the day tomorrow with her own children, and President Richard Vladovic has plans to visit schools but has announced his schedule.


* Clarifies Vladovic’s plans to visit schools

From Deasy: RFK, apartheid, Chavez and an Oprah moment

John Deasy at state address LAUSDIn his annual State of the Schools address, LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy today called to mind Robert F. Kennedy, apartheid in South Africa, Cesar Chavez and national immigration reform. He even hammered home this year’s theme, “My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper,” with an Oprah-like moment.

Deasy instructed every LA Unified employee in the audience — about 1,500 principals, assistant principals and district administrators — to reach under their chairs and pluck an envelope taped to the bottom of the seat.

“Take the envelope and hold it in your hand for a minute,” he told the giddy crowd at Garfield High School in east LA. But rather than a set of keys to a brand new “caaaaaaar” that Oprah might have delivered, each Deasy envelope contained the name of a student.

“[It] is the name of a youth in LAUSD who is going to come back to us a week from today, and they need you — exactly you,” he said, challenging members of the audience to “find that youth, stay with her or him until graduation.”

Only with this degree of one-to-one commitment, he said, can the district hope to achieve a 100 percent graduation rate.

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Deasy on UTLA’s talk of a strike: ‘breathtakingly irresponsible’

John DeasyAs LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy prepared to deliver his “State of the District” speech to school leaders and educators at Garfield High School today, he sat for a wide-ranging interview with LA School Report yesterday, addressing the possibility of a teachers strike, implementation of Common Core, his relationship with the board and the importance of reading, among other issues.

Here’s what he had to say.

Question: As the school year opens, and with only one bargaining session under your belt, UTLA is preparing teachers for the possibility of a strike. How much of that is real and how much is theater for bargaining leverage?

Answer: What is there to strike over? We have yet to receive [UTLA’s] bargaining proposal. We don’t even know what their demand is? I just don’t understand such a language whatsoever. It would strike me as breathtakingly irresponsible to talk about something as great as a strike when we have only had one bargaining session. I would never even have a conversation about something as ludicrous as saying to the public that we might have a strike when we met people once. The gravity of telling parents something like that is breathtakingly irresponsible.

Q: We know what they want: Teachers are demanding a 17.6 percent raise.

What we have offered is a 26.3 percent compensation over three years. We have committed to completely picking up the all district’s pension costs, taking care of all increases in health benefits for the next three years and maintaining all the raises that everybody gets. And that is a non-starter? Someone should clue in the LAPD, who are getting zero.

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Deasy joins President Obama in ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ update

LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy joined other education officials at The White House yesterday as President Obama announced new partnerships to help young men of color gain greater access to programs offering support from pre-K through high school.

The program, which includes private companies, nonprofits and the NBA as participants, represents a $100 million expansion of My Brother’s Keeper, a White House initiative launched early this year.

LA Unified and dozens of other big school districts are involved in the program, which carries goals that been too distant for man black and Hispanic young men, including high attendance rates, fewer suspensions and expulsions and higher graduations rates.

Speaking to The New York Times, Deasy said improving learning and lifetime opportunities for boys of color is “a deep moral commitment issue.” In the video above, Deasy talks to Gwen Ifill of PBS.

Top 6 shockers: how Weingarten and Deasy agree on tenure

Courtesy: Aspen Ideas Festival

Courtesy: Aspen Ideas Festival

The stage was set with the two public education luminaries, ready to square off on such lightning rod issues as tenure and teacher dismissal laws in the wake of last month’s Vergara trial: Randi Weingarten, leader of the nation’s second largest teachers organization, AFT, and Superintendent John Deasy, leader of the second largest school district in the country, Los Angeles Unified.

The Vergara decision, striking down tenure and dismissal laws in California as depriving the state’s most vulnerable students equal access to a quality education, was widely seen as a blow to the teachers union and has moved public opinion toward agreeing with change.

But when Weingarten and Deasy engaged in debate earlier this week at the Aspen Ideas Festival, instead of fireworks, they seemed to find surprising common ground.

Could this be an opportunity for consensus building? Here are some highlights:

1. Weingarten supports speedy dismissal for misconduct!
“Misconduct cases should happen within 100 days not 10 years.”  “If someone is guilty of misconduct they should not be teaching… what we did in New York, frankly, is we actually said, ‘no hearing if you are guilty of misconduct — you don’t get a tenure hearing. You’re guilty, you’re fired.’”
2. Deasy supports tenure!
“I absolutely believe in tenure. I believe that people should have a level of regard, celebration, we’re saying we want you for the rest of your career, hopefully with us, we’re investing in you. And there is a just a level of protection because you have demonstrated you have those skill sets. The issue is — not in a year, in two months — that just doesn’t make sense.”

LAUSD using new ‘equity index’ to restore arts to areas of need

Arts Education LAUSDThe plan to expand arts access for students across LA Unified and restore nearly $16 million in arts funding will include data gathered in a new Arts Equity Index, a tool to identify schools in greatest need of arts instruction.

School board member Steve Zimmer, who proposed the idea at the board meeting Tuesday, called it the most comprehensive arts inventory the district has ever taken.

To determine where arts programs are in greatest need, the Index will consider existing arts instruction at a school, proximity to arts centers or places that offer community based arts activities, and levels of poverty (among other factors which have not yet been defined). The results are intended to generate support in the form of district money, foundation grants, private donations and partnerships with local arts facilities.

“Until now access to arts education has been really about entitlement and luck,” Zimmer told LA School Report. “There are some rockstar arts programs that are concentrated in areas of high poverty, but you have other schools in areas of mid-range need that only get one hour of arts instruction a week.”

For example, schools in downtown LA, which are regarded as high needs campuses in most respects, have access to Inner City Arts, a non-profit arts education provider for many LA Unified schools. These schools, according to Zimmer, would fall to a lower position on the arts index.

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JUST IN: LAUSD school board passes $6.4B budget unanimously

Superintendent John Deasy LAUSD School Board Meeting Final Budget 2014-2015*UPDATE

The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education unanimously approved a $6.4 billion budget for the 2014-15 school year, ending a tumultuous year for the district and Superintendent John Deasy.

The budget represents the first in seven years that does not include cuts from the previous year. It reflects a $332 million injection of statewide revenue over last year, as a result of the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).

The 6-0 vote followed a round of comments by all the members, who praised Deasy for a new approach to resolving contentious issues with a strong effort to include community input, especially when it came to supporting the districts students with the greatest needs.


*Clarifies amount to show only the budget for non-Federal money.

LA Unified board nearing finish line on 2014-2015 budget

Superintendent John Deasy LAUSD budget

Superintendent John Deasy

The long road toward finalizing LA Unified’s budget for the 2014-2015 school year ends later today (maybe) when the school board votes to approve Superintendent John Deasy‘s $7.2 billion spending plan.

The new budget reflects not only added support from the state but also new guidelines for how to use the money, which is earmarked to assist students with the greatest needs.

While approval is expected, the budget plan could undergo last minute changes if members push to alter funding for specific programs, such as school police or a district-wide arts program. It’s possible final approval could be delayed a few days to work out final details, but the district is required by state law to have a budget approved before July 1.

Regardless of when final approval comes, Deasy needs at least four of the current six members to vote yes.


LAUSD board hears final arguments on the budget

LAUSD School Board Meeting LCAP Hearing 6-17-2014 budgetIn a surprising move, the LA Unified Board of Education today moved swiftly through multiple motions that had been expected to be quite contentious. Most board meetings these day, go well into the dinner hour.

The highlight, aside from the meeting lasting less than two and a half hours, was a parade of speakers making their final pleas for funding pet programs in the 2014-2015 budget. The budget is scheduled to be finalized and approved by the board on June 24.

The speakers were students, parents, teachers and union officials, including the in-coming UTLA president, Alex Caputo-Pearl, whose microphone was shut off when he exceeded the two-minute time limit. In general, they all offered congratulations if the board is funding programs they liked and criticism if the funding fell short of expectations.

In any event, the $7.8 billion budget, as devised by Superintendent John Deasy, is virtually set, barring any last minute changes, and it’s doubtful that anything anyone said today will make much difference.

In more routine action, the board approved Bennett Kayser’s resolution to reappoint Stuart Magruder, the Bond Oversight Committee member who was essentially booted off the panel in a campaign lead by board member Tamar Galatzan.

She had accused Magruder of “overstepping his bounds” on the committee and temporarily succeeded in blocking him from serving another two-year term.

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Groups pushing ‘need index’ helping LAUSD shape the budget

Alberto Retana Community Coalition LAUSD

Alberto Retana, Executive Vice President of Community Coalition

Among the challenges poor kids in south LA are forced to overcome just to meet the most basic learning conditions in schools, are cockroaches.

Not in their classrooms. In their bodies.

LA Unified students in neighborhoods like South Gate and Watts regularly visit health clinics to have the insects that crawl inside their ears, plucked out,  Alberto Retana, Executive Vice President of Community Coalition, one of three groups that developed the Student Need Index, told LA School Report.

“How can you learn in a classroom if you have a cockroach in your ear that stems from poor housing conditions in the community?” he asked rhetorically. “You can’t. There is a link there.”

And it’s one of several links Retana hopes Superintendent John Deasy makes today when the LA schools chief unveils his plan to distribute $837 million in supplemental and concentration funding for three groups of students with specific needs for academic achievement — foster youth, English learners, and those from lower-income households — to the district’s neediest schools.

Deasy has been instructed by the board to devise a formula using his own set of indicators and data to target the money where the need is greatest and where it will have the biggest impact on academic outcomes.

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Public gets last chance to shape LAUSD 2014-2015 budget

Superintendent John Deasy LAUSD*UPDATED

The revised budget is in the hands of the LA Unified Board of Education, but the public has a final opportunity tomorrow to weigh in on how the district’s $7 billion budget will be spent.

The board has set a limit of 30 speakers to address the six members for two minutes each, to advocate for their causes célèbres.

But in all likelihood, the budget presented last week by Superintendent John Deasy and the spending plan that reflects the new revenue from the state’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) will not change significantly after parents, students and community leaders have their say. In fact, there’s very little the board members can do, either, as the budget approaches a final vote on June 24 and presentation to the LA County Office of Education before July 1.

School board members cannot veto line items. To adjust spending in a particular area, a member must raise the issue for discussion, make recommendations on where to find an offset, then persuade a majority of colleagues to agree to the changes.

“I don’t think that’s going to be happening,” Chris Torres, Chief of Staff for board President Richard Vladovic, told LA School Report. “The board members have expressed everything they’ve needed to express in the past meetings.”

The only item on the agenda that may impact the budget is Bennett Kayser’s resolution to invest $44 million over the next three years in early education. His motion would earmark $10 million for the upcoming school year, $14 million in 2015-2016 and $20 million in 2016-2017.

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Teachers union planning a salary rally at LAUSD board meeting

UTLA logo teachers unionThe LA Unified board meeting on June 17 might be more crowded than usual.

UTLA, the teachers union, is planning a noon press conference outside the district’s downtown headquarters and handing out leaflets to call attention to the board’s demand for “a fair pay raise” for the coming years.

The union’s activities come at a precarious time. The 2014-2015 budget is almost complete, pending a final review and vote by the board, which is scheduled for June 24.

At this point, the district has offered the teachers a 2 percent raise for the academic year just ending, and another 2 percent for the coming year. By contrast, the union is demanding a 17.6 percent increase over an unspecific number of years.

The distance between them and the number of days left before the budget has to be completed, about two weeks, suggests that teachers might begin the new school year under salary terms of the old school year.

The union says in an advisory on its website that members will attend the meeting to demand “a fair pay raise that respects educators’ work and our financial sacrifices during the recession” and “authentic resources and support for our schools—such as lower class size and direct services to students—instead of (Superintendent John) Deasy-driven priorities and more out-of-classroom positions.”

The board is allowing 30 people to appear at the meeting to argue their case. If enough union members get there in time, they can grab all the slots.

A change in communications for LAUSD’s Tom Waldman

Tom Waldman, the communications director

Tom Waldman, the communications director

Tom Waldman is moving on, although he’s not going far.

The Director of Communications for LA Unified is stepping into a new role with the district: the newly created post as Executive Director of Board Communications.

Taking on the role, which was Superintendent John Deasy’s idea, means Waldman will work with the school board, exclusively. He will field all media communications for the six, soon to be seven, board members, and he’ll manage communications between them and Deasy.

“There’s a misconception that there’s bad relationship between the superintendent and the board, so this is a way to work on tightening that relationship,” Waldman told LA School Report.

Waldman took over district communications and media relations about three years ago. From 2007 to July 2011, he was chief of staff to school board member Tamar Galatzan.

Deasy’s Special Assistant, Lydia Ramos, will take over as the head of the district’s communications office starting in mid-July.

“This is a return to the communications office and to journalism for me,” said Ramos, who worked as a Public Information Officer between 2008 to 2011.

“My first day as a journalist was almost exactly 20 years ago,” she recalled. “I remember because my very first day at NBC, I was waiting for O.J. Simpson to show up to court. Of course he never did.” That’s the day he hit the road in the white Bronco, cop cars and cameras hot on his tail in a slow chase.

Waldman, the TV host

Waldman, the TV host

Ramos says she wants to celebrate LA Unified’s “major initiatives.”  She added, “Our parents and our teachers are the public…we need to tell them our story.”

As for Waldman, if the new gig doesn’t work out, he can always rely on his other job — hosting a TV series on KLCS called “Rock N’ Roll Stories,” in which he interviews musicians. He sometimes wears a leather jacket.

Deasy’s revised budget for LAUSD a ‘doggone’ improvement

LAUSD Superintendent John DeasyThe LA Unified Board of Education got one step closer yesterday to approving Superintendent John Deasy’s 2014-15 school budget. And unless the six-member board makes radical changes over the next two weeks, his work, which includes plans for divvying up $332 million in new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) monies, will carry the day.

Passage would signify a major political triumph for Deasy, winning board approval on his version of a near $7 billion budget, eight months after friction with the board left him considering resignation.

As part of the budget, Deasy also presented the board an updated and revised version of the district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), a state-mandated action to demonstrate how districts will spend new money from the state for low-income students, foster youth and English language learners.

The new proposal was supposed to be the culmination of months of input from community groups, educators, parents, and students who have expressed their spending preferences at public meetings and board meetings. But it included only minor changes from the initial plan, presented in April.

“The dollars portion of the LCAP haven’t changed; it’s the goals of the plan that have been expanded,” Edgar Zazueta, LA Unified’s chief lobbyist, told LA School Report.

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LAUSD board inching closer to final 2014-15 spending plan

LAUSD board Meeting 5-20-14The pressure is on for LA Unified schools chief John Deasy and the board of education to work out the details of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and the Local  Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), the most sweeping overhaul in how California schools are governed and funded in the last 40 years.

The state deadline for both is July 1, which means much of tomorrow’s school board meeting will continue the process of reconciling the wish-lists of a variety of stakeholders into a single, comprehensive budget and a justification of that plan.

“There is a lot we don’t know, and time is running out,” Sarah Bradshaw, chief of staff to board member Bennett Kayser told LA School Report.

“[Board members] still don’t have a final draft of the budget, and we’ve never seen a school by school breakdown of how much money each school is going to get,” she said.

While the board will not dive into the weeds of the 2014-2015 budget tomorrow, Deasy will present an updated and revised version of the district’s LCAP, which sets out its goals and priorities, with special attention to high-needs students, who are bringing in additional funds to the district as a result of LCFF.

The draft is the culmination of months of input from community groups, parents, students and even gadflies, who have expressed their spending preferences at public meetings and board meetings in over recent months.

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Racial tensions at Markham Middle School reach Congress

Janice Hahn LAUSD Markham Middle School

Janice Hahn

The racial tensions at Markham Middle School in Watts have now reached the United States Congress.

In a letter to Superintendent John Deasy sent late last week, Congresswoman Janice Hahn writes she was alerted of the conflict between the school administration and parents who feel “that African American students are treated unfairly by being sent home for issues that do not require suspension.” The conflict was reported in an LA Times article.

Parents of black students at the school have for months accused the Latino administrators, including Principal Paul Hernandez, of targeting African American students by using off-the-books suspensions to push them off the campus.

LA Unified banned willful defiance suspensions last year, urging school officials to find alternative/restorative justice means of discipline that would keep kids in school.

Hahn asks Deasy to “personally look into the issues” at Markham. The congresswoman also suggests “it might be helpful to have a meeting with parents and the school Administration to discuss any concerns.”

Analysis: LA Unified still waiting for an opener from UTLA

UTLA logoConspicuous by their absence from last week’s school board meeting were representatives from UTLA, the teachers union, discussing a new contract.

While many of the labor partners who work with LA Unified have begin contract talks or submitted their opening proposals, UTLA has maintained radio silence. At least, that’s how it appears to the public.

The only outward suggestions that union officials have been thinking about their demands was President Warren Fletcher’s pronouncement that he wants a 17.6 percent raise for his teachers, who have been without a contract for quite a few years.

Two problems here: One, the union never stipulated whether the demand is for one year, three years or 17 years. Two, Fletcher is a lame duck, who’s three-year term in office ends June 30.

As the in-coming chief, Alex Caputo-Pearl can’t do anything officially until he assumes power on July 1. Meanwhile, he has been meeting privately with school board members, presumably to exchange ideas of what’s possible in a new contract.

There has been lots of talk that recent improving economic conditions could mean a windfall for the union. The state is sending more money to the district through local control funding, another $1 billion or so over the next seven years. The biggest chunk comes right away, 28 percent, with smaller amounts over the succeeding years.

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JUST IN: Board Member Galatzan announces bid for third term

 Tamar Galatzan LAUSD School Board Member

Tamar Galatzan LA Unified School Board Member

LA Unified school board member Tamar Galatzan, a strong supporter of Superintendent John Deasy and his efforts to reform public education, said today she plans to run for another term next year.

“I plan to seek a third term in order to continue the work I’ve been doing since voters in Board District 3 first chose me to represent them in 2007,” she said in a statement.

“As the only board member with kids in Los Angeles Unified, I want to build on my efforts to guarantee that all district students have access to effective teachers, safe campuses, cutting-edge technology and the other resources they need to thrive academically,” she added. “I also remain committed to increasing transparency and accountability in the nation’s second-largest school district.”

Representing a Valley district that has experienced an explosion of affiliated charter schools since she was first elected, Galatzan says she has “worked tirelessly” on behalf of students in the West San Fernando Valley.

Among her board achievements, she cites funding shade structures and air-conditioning projects for campuses in the some of the hottest areas of the Valley, equipping other schools with devices for their computer labs and holding community meetings on critical topics like the Common Core State Standards, school funding and teacher evaluations.

Her announcement means that District 3 will have at least three candidates running. Two others, Carl Petersen and Elizabeth Badger, have filed with the LA City Ethics Commission to oppose her.

In addition to serving on the LA Unified board, Galatzan, 44, is a prosecutor with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office.


LAUSD board approves multi-year contracts for senior staffers

imgres-4In another sign of improving financial fortunes for LA Unified, the school board today approved multi-year contracts for many of the district’s most senior staff.

In a break from previous years, when high level administration staffers worked on one-year contracts, several of Superintendent John Deasy’s most senior aides were given contracts of two and, in some cases, three years.

Deasy declined to comment on the board’s action but insisted that none of the 52 contracts approved by the board included a raise, but specific salaries were not announced.

Among those who will remain on Team Deasy for three years, through June 30, 2017, are Chief Strategy Officer Matt Hill, Chief Financial Officer Megan Reilly, the district’s chief lobbyist, Edgar Zazueta and LA Schools Police Chief, Steven Zipperman.

Deasy’s contract only runs through June 2016.

The contract renewals for staffers come at a sensitive time for the district as it embarks on negotiations with all of its labor partners, including UTLA, the teachers union. In general, LA Unified employees have not had raises over many years.

In the case of UTLA, teachers have been working under the conditions of an expired contract for three years.

School board member Monica Ratliff abstained from voting on all the contracts, which otherwise were approved unanimously.

“My abstention on every one of the senior management contracts is unequivocally not a reflection on the work of the numerous dedicated, extremely hardworking employees whose contracts were up for renewal today,” she told LA School Report.

“My abstention was based on the fact that I cannot, in good conscience, support very public performance metrics for our Superintendent, a publicly available multi-faceted evaluation template for our teachers, and then vote for senior management contracts that do not include publicly available accountability standards or metrics on which to evaluate performance.”

An effort to reach UTLA President Warren Fletcher for comment was unsuccessful.