South LA charter celebrates community garden’s first harvest

Garden_7

Two Alliance College-Ready Public Schools students at a community garden in South LA. (Credit: LIIF)

A 400-square foot community garden located on the grounds of a south LA charter school run by Alliance College-Ready Public Schools is celebrating its first harvest with an event tomorrow.

The garden, which just opened this school year, is funded by the Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF) and Citi Foundation.

The first City Garden includes an athletic field and is located on the duel campuses of Alliance Renee & Meyer Luskin High School/Alliance College Ready Middle Academy 7. The garden is integrated into the science curriculum of the schools, according to a LIF spokesperson.

The garden also aims to “reduce food insecurity for students and improve health in south Los Angeles, where 25 percent of children live in poverty and 94 percent qualify for reduced price meals at school,” according to press release from LIIF.

The release also said the garden will provide “healthy food to students; an opportunity to teach students and their parents about cooking and gardening; and a new venue for health fairs and farmers markets. The field will create places to play and exercise and a new community gathering spot where none existed before. Together, they create a new hub of the neighborhood.”

At 10 a.m. tomorrow, Alliance parents, students and staff are planning to celebrate the garden’s first harvest with an event that will include performances by the Alliance Luskin Choir & Dance Group and Debbie Allen Dance Academy, remarks by Rep. Karen Bass, tours, cooking demonstrations, and ProCamps events with professional athletes DeAndre Jordan and Shannon Boxx.

 

Despite board approval, Cortines opposes bond money for iPads

Child practicing multiplication on iPad

A day of iPad use at Cimarron Elementary

Barely a week into his job as LA Unified superintendent, Ramon Cortines is pushing back against the school board that hired him, voicing opposition to using any more of the $1.3 billion in bond money to buy digital devices equipped with curriculum for use in classroom instruction.

Three times since his first day on the job, at the start of this week, he has suggested that the district should not use voter approved capital improvement funds for the Pearson software that the board approved for the iPads bought from Apple.

In a statement from the district today, he said he is committed to providing technology to students, but added, “I still need to meet with the Common Core Technology Project team to learn more about the plans in place but I think we will need to identify alternative sources to fund the curriculum ongoing.”

This morning, he was quoted in the Los Angeles Times, saying, “I don’t believe the curriculum should be paid for with bond funds, period.”

And at his first school board meeting two days ago, he publicly disagreed with the board’s unanimous decision to use money from bond sales to pay for the $1.3 billion program, characterizing the expenditure as “stealing” from taxpayer dollars.

His public pronouncements would appear to put him at odds with a board that just hired him to replace the architect of the iPad program, John Deasy, whose handling of the program drew widespread criticism from the LA Unified community, including board members. Nonetheless, at every step in planning, the board approved Deasy’s approach to getting all LA Unified students a tablet or laptop.

Continue reading

LA Unified educator among five California Teachers of the Year

image001

Lovelyn Marquez-Prueher (LAUSD photo)

A middle-school teacher at LA Unified has been named one of five recipients of the 2015 California Teachers of the Year Award from the California Department of Education.

Lovelyn Marquez-Prueher is an eighth-grade English teacher at Dodson Middle School in Rancho Palos Verdes. She has been teaching for 11 years, the last six at Dodson.

Marquez-Prueher was an immigrant child to the U.S and experienced a difficult beginning in school but has embraced the teaching philosophy that learning is a journey, according to a district press release.

“I intend on using what I learn about myself to understand the diversity and culture of every child that walks through my classroom door,” Marquez-Prueher said in a statement. “Through this, I believe that I can ensure that all students learn to function effectively in today’s diverse society.”

Newly-installed interm Superintendent Ramon Cortines offered his praise.

“The award salutes her dedication, passion, and commitment to achieve educational excellence for her students,” Cortines said in a statement.

One of the five winners will be chosen to enter the National Teacher of the Year award, which will be given out by President Obama in April.

“I am thrilled for Ms. Marquez-Prueher, Dodson Middle School, and LAUSD,” said Instructional Area Superintendent-South Robert Bravo in a statement. “I had the pleasure of visiting her classroom with Dodson Principal (John) Vladovic just a few weeks ago and I know first-hand she is a gifted teacher and completely worthy of the recognition.”

John Vladovic is the son of LA Unified board president, Richard Vladovic.

Recent California Teachers of the Year honorees from LAUSD include Veronica Marquez (2012), Jose Navarro (2009), Lewis Chappelear (2008) and Kelly Hanock (2006).

LAUSD awards safe drivers during National Bus Safety Week

little-girl-boarding-schoolbus LAUSDAs part of National School Bus Safety Week, LA Unified’s Transportation Services Division is recognizing its top drivers this week by handing out 811 safe driving pins and certificates.

Some drivers will be receiving pins for multiple years of safe driving, with one reaching as high as 37 years of safe driving, according to Transportation Services Division Director Donald Wilkes

“It is during [National School Bus Safety Week] that LAUSD takes time to celebrate the safe driving accomplishments of their school bus drivers at several award ceremonies,” Wilkes said. “During the ceremonies drivers are treated to refreshments and individually recognized for their achievement in the presence of LAUSD Board member offices, school administrators, as well as their peers.”

Wilkes also said that California state law requires that students receive instruction in school bus emergency procedures and passenger safety at least once each year. (See the attached LAUSD-produced video below on bus safety shown to many students in the district.)

“School bus drivers are required to review with their students how to safely board, ride, disembark the school bus, cross the street, and practice safe habits when walking to or from the school bus stop,” Wilkes said.

In honor of National School Bus Safety Week, here a few interesting facts about the LAUSD fleet. According to the LAUSD Transportation Services Division:

  • Transports approximately 42,100 students daily. 
  • Owns 3,400 buses, trucks, autos and vans.
  • Operates the largest compressed natural gas school bus fleet in the nation, with 530.
  • Logs an average of 23 million miles per year.
  • Assists an average of 1,000 callers per day in the Dispatch/Customer Service Section.

LA Unified reiterates: UTLA demands would lead to cutbacks

teachers union raise salary UTLA Contract NegotiationsIn the first contract talks under LA Unified’s new superintendent, Ray Cortines, negotiators for the district and the teachers union, UTLA, hit another snag yesterday as the district reasserted claims that unions demands are unsustainable and would lead to severe cutbacks to key programs, resources, and personnel that would detrimentally impact students.

The union is calling for a 10 percent salary bump for 2014-15, with the expectation of re-opening pay negotiations next year. Smaller class sizes, salary raises and an end to teacher jail are among key components the union is seeking it its new contract.

“Our budget calculations show that the proposal would cost more than $800 million in 2015-16,” said Vivian Ekchian, the district’s Chief Labor Negotiator. “Combined with a projected $365 million deficit next year, agreeing to the union’s proposal would deal a devastating blow to the District’s educational programs.”

The union’s new wage demand exceeds the district’s standing offer of a 6.64 percent salary increase over the next three years plus a one-time 2 percent bonus.

Another topic UTLA returned to during talks yesterday was the issue of “teacher jail.”

Continue reading

LAUSD employees file lawsuit against SEIU over union dues

Judge Rolf Treu affirm vergara decision

*UPDATED

Several LA Unified workers have filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 99 over what they say is an improper collection of their full dues.

In the complaint, which was prepared with free legal assistance by the National Right to Work Foundation (NRWF), the employes claim SEIU Local 99 union officials denied their requests to refrain from paying full dues, according to a NRWF press release. SEIU represents employees who work in a number of non-teaching jobs in public schools, including bus drivers, gardeners and cafeteria workers.

Under federal law set by the Supreme Court in the Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, public employees that must join a union and pay dues as a requirement for employment can request to withhold payment of any fees that support political causes not related to collective bargaining.

“Because California does not have Right to Work protections for workers, workers can be forced to pay union dues and fees to an unwanted union as a condition of employment. However, under Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court precedent, workers who refrain from union membership can also refrain from paying for union politics and members-only events,” the press release said.

The release also added that despite “the workers’ requests to refrain from union membership and full union dues payments, the Los Angeles Unified School District continues to confiscate full union dues from the workers’ paychecks at SEIU Local 99 officials’ behest.”

The plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit were identified by NRWF as grounds keeper Douglas Kennedy, bus drivers Eduardo Berumen and Griselda Moran and cafeteria worker Magi Shanagian.

“SEIU officials are stonewalling workers’ attempts to refrain from paying for the union bosses’ radical political agenda,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, in a statement. “This case underscores the need for California to pass a Right to Work law making union membership and dues payments strictly voluntary.”

SEIU Local 99 Interim Executive Director Scott Washburn issued a statement on the lawsuit.

“The lawsuit filed by the National Right to Work Foundation is yet another example of this group’s attempt to silence the voice and strength of working families in this country. It is no coincidence that this suit was filed on the heels of the historic $15 per hour minimum wage increase won by school workers at LAUSD,” the statement said. “Wherever workers are making big strides to improve their lives and the wellbeing of their families and communities, we can expect to see attacks like this. SEIU Local 99 members will continue to stand strong and move forward with our efforts to ensure quality schools and good jobs for our communities.””

*Includes statement from SEIU

Cortines promises fixes for LAUSD’s flawed computer program

updates1In his first open address to the LA Unified school board since he was rehired as superintendent last week, Ramon Cortines promised accountability, transparency and constant communication.

“I know the buck stops here,” he told the seven members during a brief address that included an update on the district’s flawed student data software program, MiSiS.

Cortines, who got an early start on the job Monday morning and spent the day in intensive meetings with the district’s top leadership, quipped, “I’ve been here two days going on 10 years.”

Then he outlined a series of changes to MiSiS that will be effective immediately.

At the top of the list is a two-month extension to Dec. 1, from the previous deadline, Oct. 23, for schools to submit the number of students enrolled in the free and reduced meal program, which determines the allocation of federal dollars to individual campuses for low-income students.

A school is eligible for Title I money only if at least half of the student body is enrolled in the federal meals program. A school receives even more money per pupil if at least 65 percent of low-income students qualify. When a campus reaches a threshold above 85 percent combined free and reduced lunch it becomes exempt from collecting applications for four years.

Continue reading

Embezzlement, Poisoning, Murder? Welcome to LAUSD, Mr. Cortines

Law_&_Order_LA_Title_CardIn case there were any chance LA Unified‘s new superintendent, Ramon Cortines, had forgotten just how bizarro school board meetings can be, his first one back today as head of the district included accusations of embezzlement, murder and sexual harassment.

Welcome back, Mr. Superintendent.

While the school board voted unanimously to approve the $300,000 a year contract Cortines was offered to shepherd the district out of its current troubled state — $50,000 less than what his predecessor earned — a handful of speakers criticized him for the sexual harassment lawsuit that followed his departure in 2011.

During the public speaking portion of the brief meeting — during which anyone can have three minutes to address the board on any topic they please — Patricia McAllister, who identified herself as a substitute teacher who was fired, took it a step further.

She hurled a litany of accusations at the board, saying former Superintendent John Deasy “embezzled” billions of dollars from the district and claiming Cortines was guilty of sexually harassing district employees. Then in a Law & Order-type twist, she accused unknown persons of poisoning or murdering the late board member, Marguerite LaMotte, and recommended that an autopsy be performed.

Another speaker, Lady Cage Barile, addressed the board to oppose the return of Cortines. She also cited the circumstances under which he left his previous tenure as superintendent and called him “a disgrace these kids are to look up to.”

The sexual harassment case against Cortines was thrown out twice by a judge, and a $250,000 settlement that was to be paid to his accuser, fell apart.

Cortines, sitting beside board President Richard Vladovic, looked on impassively as the speakers criticized him and did not comment.

 

Commentary: Please, school board, focus on our children

Hispanic children LAUSD school board

By Michelle Crames

My daughter started Kindergarten this year, and part of why I enrolled her in public school was that things were getting better, and my belief that our family’s energy and resources could contribute to bettering our community. Two months after her start, we learn that Superintendent John Deasy, who has provided leadership during this turnaround, turned in his letter of resignation to the school board.

As a parent of three young children, I know it takes at least two parties to fight. Regardless of what you think of Deasy’s resignation, we all want to minimize the impact and distraction inevitable with such a leadership change. Can we please refocus our energy on what matters most, our children’s education?

I believe Deasy achieved a lot, but he certainly made mistakes. However, during the last several months, like many parents. I am most disappointed that our focus has shifted away from what is important, which is the kids. As an outsider, I feel that more time is being spent bickering and politicking than working to provide students with the best possible education.

The parents’ voice was largely absent in the recent feud between the school board and Deasy, but now needs to be heard. Lets put this behind us and get back to work on what matters.

In a city where 80 percent of LAUSD students live around or below the poverty line, the American dream requires great schools for our children. America is a land of equal opportunity, and access to quality education is the basis of that.

Continue reading

LA Unified’s next boss? Round up the usual (and unusual) suspects

LA Unified superintendentNow that John Deasy has stepped down as superintendent of LA Unified, replaced on an interim basis by Ray Cortines, it’s open season on speculating who might be considered as a permanent superintendent.

In the second largest district in the nation, the challenges of finding a candidate who is qualified, interested in the job and gels with the LA Unified school board are sure to be imposing. The recent experiences of Deasy and his like-minded superintendents around the country who have struggled in efforts for change, would suggest that Cortines’s successor would need superlative policy credentials as well as great political instincts to bring opposing sides together.

A successor would also need to avoid the kind of mistakes LA Unified made with technology programs. Is such a person out there?

As Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality told LA School Report, “I don’t know a single person on earth who would want that terrible job. It won’t be a change agent. It will be a status quo candidate who will make life pleasant for himself by enjoying all the wrapping of the superintendency and being smart enough not to try and change a thing.”

In any case, let the speculation begin. Below is a list of possible candidates, compiled by LA School Report :

  • Alberto M. Carvalho has served as superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the nation’s fourth largest school system, since 2008. He was named Florida’s 2014 Superintendent of the Year, the 2014 National Superintendent of the Year and has worked his whole career for the district
  • Richard A. Carranza has served as superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District since 2012. He previously served as deputy superintendent of Instruction, Innovation and Social Justice at the district from 2009 to 2012 and as northwest region superintendent for the Clark County School District in Las Vegas. 

Continue reading

LAUSD teacher to keep marking the ‘nation’s report card’

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 3.22.04 PM

Shannon Garrison

Shannon Garrison, a fourth grade teacher at LA Unified’s Solano Elementary School, has been reappointed to the National Assessment Governing Board, which helps set policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), commonly known as the “nation’s report card.”

Garrison was appointed to the board in 2010 and will serve another four-year term.

“I am honored to have been reappointed to the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) by Secretary of Education [Arne] Duncan,” Garrison said in a district press release. “I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from a diverse group of individuals from across the nation who care deeply about education and student success. My work on the board has deepened my knowledge of assessment methodology, item development, and standard setting. This learning has strengthened my ability to effectively assess student learning and evaluate the appropriateness of assessment items.”

The board, which is made up of politicians, school officials, educators, business leaders and others— is appointed by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education but operates independently and is responsible for developing the framework and test specifications that serve as the blueprint for the NAEP’s assessments, according to the NAEP’s website.

“Ms. Garrison is an amazing leader with a distinguished career in the LAUSD,” LA Unified board member Monica Garcia said in a statement. “She serves our local 4th graders at Solano Elementary and will continue to serve our nation’s children through her work with the NAEP. High-quality instructional leaders are key to getting to 100% graduation. We are proud to have the authentic LAUSD perspective informing the national conversation on student achievement.”

At LAUSD, the district said Garrison has served as a data coordinator, bilingual and Title I program coordinator, writing coordinator, science lead teacher and member of the language appraisal and student success teams. She also received a Milken National Educator Award in 2008.

“Shannon is an exemplary teacher whose hard work and dedication endear her to staff and students alike,” Solano Principal William Bertrand said in a statement.

School cafeteria workers told ‘English only’ when handling food

espanol* UPDATED

A controversy is brewing at Harvard Elementary School where LA Unified cafeteria workers say they feel discriminated against after being instructed to speak only English during working hours.

According to employees at the Koreatown school, an “English only” sign was posted in the cafeteria last week, reminding employees that they could be dismissed for violating the district rule, according to the newspaper, La Opinion.

Most cafeteria workers at Harvard are native Spanish speakers, and 86 percent of students identify as Hispanic.

But district officials said today the workers misinterpreted the notice and that it only applies in narrow circumstances, specifically when food is being handled.

“It’s not that we’re telling them you can’t speak Spanish or whatever language they speak,” Monica Carazo, a district official told LA School Report. “It’s just that for safety reasons, when they’re handling food everybody has to be on the same page. If someone says, ‘Hot plate!,’ we want everyone to understand.”

Employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, told the newspaper the language ban extends to all communication on campus. One woman said workers were told they could only respond to questions from teachers or students in English, even if they were asked in Spanish.

“I feel like I’m being a little bit rude when teachers speak to me in Spanish and I have to answer them in English,” she said. In other schools, she said, she was allowed to speak her native language.

The district’s Food Services Handbook says, “Due to the need for safety and effective communication, the Division has implemented an “English Only Rule.”

It goes on to say, “The rule requires that employees speak in English while in the kitchen and other work areas during the work shift while performing job duties. This is required in order to increase efficiency and effectiveness of communication and to promote the safety of our employees and students. This rule does not apply to employees on rest breaks or during lunch breaks.”


 

* Adds language fro the district’s Food Services Handbook.

City measure would extend LAUSD school board term to 5 1/2 years

Steve Zimmer takes the oath of office for the LA Unified school board

Steve Zimmer takes the oath of office for the LA Unified school board

The Los Angeles City Council is considering a measure that would extend the terms of the next school board election winners to 5 1/2 years, from the usual 4.

The longer terms would only apply to the next two school board voting cycles, bringing the board elections into even-numbered years that correspond with other city and state elections.

The change is part of the city’s effort to enhance voter turnout by consolidating elections. Because of periodic orphan scheduling, school board seats are sometimes filled with only a small percentage of registered voters determining the outcome.

In the case of George McKenna’s runoff victory over Alex Johnson for the District 1 seat in August, just 9 percent of the district’s voters cast ballots. In 2013, only 23 percent of voters citywide participated in the mayoral election.

Several steps remain before the new schedule goes into effect. The City Council is expected to vote on Wednesday to ask the City Attorney to write an ordinance that would appear on the March 3, 2015 ballot, effectively changing the City Charter.

Then the council would have to approve the wording, probably by the end of the month, for the measure to seek final approval from voters.

The first group of school board members to be affected would be McKenna, Tamar Galatzan, Bennett Kayser and Richard Vladovic, as well as their challengers, in a primary scheduled for the same day.

Members up for election in 2017 — Monica Garcia, Steve Zimmer and Monica Ratliff — would also win the longer terms.

The proposed measure might give any candidate pause, considering the additional time commitment for very small renumeration: For a board member who has no other full-time job, like McKenna, the annual salary is $45,637. For a member who also works elsewhere, like Galatzan, an assistant city attorney, the reward is $26,347 annually.

Commentary: Ray Cortines, the once and future

work begins zoneProbably no one has flunked retirement worse than Ray Cortines.  At 82, he’s signed on to steer the Los Angeles Unified School District for the third time.

Twice before he served as an interim superintendent, and he held the post for three years immediately before John Deasy’s tenure.

Cortines understands big city school systems.  In addition to Los Angeles, he was superintendent of New York, San Francisco, Pasadena and San Jose.  But why Ray again?

The answers are straightforward: peacemaking and getting things done.

The school board and the education policy elites (maybe) are tired of toxic warfare.  Cortines has a reputation of someone who can have a constructive relationship with the teachers and administrative unions without being a doormat.  He both charmed and bludgeoned the school board, threatening to resign if they misbehaved.  (Unlike most superintendents, he had a 30-day contract, which he would periodically threaten to not renew.)

And then there is the craft and politics of getting things done.  Most politicians, and most journalists, ignore the politics of implementation.  To them, reforming schools is about getting the right law passed or achieving a favorable court decision.  But as past school reform efforts in Los Angeles illustrate, the heavy lifting starts after decisions are made, not before.

Holding the school board together, implementing an agreement with the union when some teachers balk, attracting administrative leadership: all this is part of the political kitbag of seasoned superintendents.  Cortines is one of them. Continue reading

$300K contract for Cortines comes before LA Unified board

LA Unified's ray cortines

LA Unified Interim Superintendent Ray Cortines

* UPDATED

If it’s Tuesday, there must be another LA Unified board meeting.

Now that the John Deasy era is over, the seven members begin facing more mundane matters, and this time, tomorrow, the 10 am meeting has only one item for open discussion before the members move behind closed doors to discuss, among other things, labor contracts and litigation.

The item for the board in the open session is approving an employment contract for Ray Cortines, the once and current superintendent who was lured out of retirement to hold the seat until the board finds a permanent replacement for Deasy.

According to board documents, the Cortines contract will run from today through the end of next June and pay him the equivalent of $300,000 annually, or $50,000 less than Deasy’s deal. Plus, he gets a car and a driver.

In closed session, the members will review progress — or lack of progress — in bargaining with eight labor groups, including the teachers union, UTLA, which has given no indication its demands are changing now that Deasy is gone.

The board this afternoon added an open meeting at 3:15 pm tomorrow as a formality to recognize issues the union is seeking to negotiate in a new contract.


 

* Adds notice of an afternoon open meeting.

Deasy ponders a future that might include politics

Former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa with Superintendent John Deasy in 2011

Former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa with Supt. John Deasy in 2011

On the day after he stepped down as LA Unified Superintendent, John Deasy offered a glimpse of what may be next for him, and apparently the options include politics.

“I’m not going to speak about them specifically but I would give you the general topics,” Deasy told a group of reporters on a telephone press call hosted by Students Matter, the organization behind the Vergara lawsuit.

“One would be youth corrections,” he said. “Another would be working and supporting the development of superintendents, and the third would be a consideration for political office.”

While he did not elaborate on what kind of office or where that office might be, he said he planned to sleep in this weekend and take some time to think about his future.

“I’ll try to conclude my thinking on the next way to serve, probably by the holidays,” he said.

For the most part he seemed self-aware that his management style — one often called “autocratic” by detractors — made it impossible to continue working with the board and the teachers union, UTLA.

And he even apologized for that, in a humble-but-proud sort of way.

“I take complete responsibility for the consequence of my leadership style,” he said. “In both results and in my failing to have been able to modify or adopt a style as boards change. And I wish I could have found a better balance between my feeling of urgency in my observation of overwhelming peril and poverty for kids and the ability to have built a more unified will to move quickly to do that. And I was not successful at that piece.”

He added that people who “choose leaders that will produce good feelings and an era of no troubled waters” are essentially fearful of the consequences that come with “courageous public acts.”

Deasy also suggested that “labor” has been behind the removal of superintendents in the nation’s three three largest school districts  – New York City, LA Unified and Chicago Public Schools.

But when asked what roles iPads and his mission to get one in the hands of every student and the meltdown of a new districtwide student data system played in his separation from the district, he denied any connection.

“None,” he said.

Toward the end of the call Deasy was asked, “Isn’t part of the problem here that [reformers] have failed to convince voters in Los Angeles that your ideas are correct?”

“I don’t know how to answer that. I don’t run for office,” Deasy responded.

To which the reporter replied, “Yet.”

Wild social media reaction to John Deasy’s resignation

social mediaTwitter and other social media accounts interested in LA Unified news started blowing up late Wednesday night after LA School Report broke the news that John Deasy was stepping down as superintendent, and the online chatter has continued through today.

Check out our Storify feed below to see some interesting, funny and informative tweets and other social media posts about the news.
Continue reading

Commentary: On a momentous day, where was Vladovic?

Richard Vladovic

Richard Vladovic

What a momentous day it was. One superintendent out. Another steps in.

The LA Unified community and social media were alive with chatter — people sorry to see John Deasy go, people celebrating his departure, people happy to see Ray Cortines return for a third deployment, people wondering what the school board was smoking in bringing him back.

So many comments, opinions and responses.

But one person was conspicuously absent.

Board President Richard Vladovic had nothing to say.

Apart from whatever contribution he made to the district’s “joint statement” from the board and Deasy, he issued no press release. He made himself available for no interviews. He made no public appearances to talk about the day’s events.

He appeared to be missing in inaction.

At times of crisis and change — in a family, an organization, even a public agency — constituents want a comforting word that everything will be okay, that problems will be solved, that divisions will be closed, even if it’s more hope than certainty.

In the case of the LA Unified family, teachers deprived of raises for years might like to know there could be better times ahead, parents might like to hear that their kids’ schedules will be straightened out, students might appreciate encouragement to stay the course despite the messes created by the grownups.

If there were ever a moment for a leader to step forward at a critical time from within a bureaucracy wracked by divisiveness, technological dysfunction and public discontent, this was it. And the logical person to utter those soothing words would have been the school board president, the elected face of the school district, second-biggest in the country.

But in this case, the school board president had nothing more to say beyond the joint statement, or so his office advised.

Other board members were quiet, too, but they don’t set the board agenda. The board president does. Continue reading

Caputo-Pearl insists Deasy’s resignation not a victory for UTLA

Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of the teachers union, UTLA, stopped short today of saying he was pleased with former LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy‘s resignation, instead insisting that achieving the union’s contract demands — not Deasy’s resignation — would be a victory.

“What’s going to be a victory for UTLA is actually winning the demands in our Schools LA Student’s Deserve campaign,” he said at an afternoon prerss conference at UTLA headquarters, referring to the union’s contract demands that include higher salaries for teachers, smaller class sizes and the end of teacher jail. “I think his departure offers an opportunity to actually address some of the demands in our campaign”

The union president has been one of Deasy’s most vocal critics over the last few months, rarely missing an opportunity to publicly hammer him on his policies, leadership style and fumbling of two huge computer technology initiatives.

But he always avoided directly calling for Deasy’s firing or resignation, and despite Deasy’s now official resignation, he continued to use aggressive yet pin-pointedly careful language that has characterized most of his attacks on the former superintendent. (See the attached video for highlights of the press conference.)

Caputo-Pearl called Deasy’s resignation “an opportunity towards a more collaborative management style and towards building fully-funded schools that serve all of our students” and a shift away from a “corporate turnaround model of public schools.”

Continue reading

Reaction to Deasy resignation as polarizing as his tenure

Alex Caputo-Pearl strike talks UTLA

UTLA President Alex-Caputo Pearl (file photo)

Former LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy was a polarizing figure, earning almost equal parts praise and scorn, and naturally the news of his resignation has evoked similar opposing reactions.

Some have expressed disappointment and outrage over his resignation, while some can barely contain their glee.

In an email to LA School Report, Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Trigger, a group that helps parents overhaul failing schools, perhaps summed up the viewpoints of most Deasy supporters that student achievement should have outweighed other factors.

“While It’s certainly true that John departs under a cloud of controversy, it’s easy to forget that avoiding controversy is not the job of a superintendent,” he wrote. “It’s serving kids. By that measure, John has been the most successful superintendent in modern LAUSD history. Powerful adult interests have been working for years to oust John. Today was a victory for them and a setback for my children and all the children of the LAUSD.”

Maria Brenes, executive director of Inner City Struggle, a community group that works for improving educational achievement for urban students, said, “We are very grateful for Dr. Deasy’s work in expanding educational opportunities for students of color in LAUSD. We expect the School Board to move forward in this period of transition to ensure that the academic successes that came as a result of Dr. Deasy’s leadership, continue and grow.”

Another community group that worked closely with Deasy and the district — CLASS, or Communities for Los Angeles Student Success — expressed gratitude for the academic advances made during Deasy’s tenure.

“The thousands of families and educators we represent appreciate his unrelenting commitment to delivering a high quality education to the students at LAUSD,” The group said in a statement. “Dr. Deasy embraced a number of community-led efforts and policies that have resulted in tremendous gains for the district including a jump in four-year graduation rates to 77%; expanding Linked Learning to twenty-three high schools districtwide; decreasing suspension rates for students of color resulting in 37,655 more days spent in the classroom; and increasing the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses.” 

One of the victors in Deasy’s departure is United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), whose president, Alex Caputo-Pearl, has been unrelenting in his criticism of Deasy, including his policy of teacher jail, his “autocratic” style, his support of the Vergara lawsuit and Deasy’s gamble on two computer technology programs viewed by many as failures. The union also sought to paint him as a tool of reform movement.

Continue reading