LA Unified moving slowly toward goals of technology in the classroom

students use ipadsThis morning, 350 students at Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences in Granada Hills are getting computer devices. The rest of the school’s 800 students already have theirs.

And, by next week five schools will receive iPads, laptops and Chromebooks. Another 30 schools are in line for their devices, 19,000 of them, said Sophia Mendoza, the interim director of the Instructional Technology Initiative at LAUSD.

This is all part of the steady progress that the district is making in expanding the use of technology in the classrooms in the aftermath of a botched $1.3 billion iPad program that effectively delayed the accelerated use of technology in classrooms by more than a year.

A report released yesterday by the American Institutes of Research revealed how a litany of problems with hardware, software, distribution, internet connectivity and training denied district students devices and the new approach to learning that district officials had promised. The effort was so plagued by challenges that one of the first things Ramon Cortines did when he replaced John Deasy as superintendent a year ago was rebrand the “Common Core Technology Project” to call it the “Instructional Technology Initiative.”

Change — and improvements – are coming. But slowly.

Cortines said in a statement that the 181-page report “points out areas of needed improvement that I have been aware of since my return to the district last October. Many of the recommendations in the report have already been addressed or are being addressed. We have improved the deployment at the school sites.”

For example, most of the 70,000 tech devices have been delivered to the “one-to-one” schools designated for a device for every student by the time school started in mid-August. By the middle of this month they should all be distributed. That’s quite a bit faster than the months-long process it took to hand out 47,000 devices in the entire 2014-2015 school year.

At a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon with new and longtime leaders in the the district’s technology departments, administrators described some of the progress, as well as the remaining issues facing the district in completing the project. So far, 101 schools are participating in the program to get an iPad, Chromebook or laptop to every student and teacher on campus, and allow them to take the devices home.

The students and teachers are going through a rigorous training (which was previously recommended by the report) to teach them to become responsible “digital citizens.”

“We are showing the students how to take pride and responsibility over the use of these devices, so no, they won’t be using them as Frisbees,” said Bill Wherritt, a Facilities Division official who is overseeing the device deployment to the schools.

Continue reading

With White House listening, LAUSD students share concerns, ideas


Matt Gonzales and Adrianna McMullen on panel

A group of LA Unified students joined local and national educators last week to describe academic challenges they face and to suggest ideas for what could help them.

The four-hour discussion last Thursday evening kicked off a weekend of activities sponsored by UTLA in conjunction with the “White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.”

David Johns, the executive director of the initiative, participated in the discussion with the students and in two other events, at Palisades Charter High School and the Grammy Museum, where the theme was social justice.

Also speaking Thursday was Congresswoman Judy Chu, a Democrat from Monterey Park and the first Chinese-American woman elected to Congress. She discussed her concerns that schools in predominantly poor and ethnic neighborhoods have less-experienced teachers than those in more affluent and predominantly-white schools in the same district.

“Kids are coming to our schools hungry, stressed and unprepared,” Chu said. “We need to strengthen teacher preparation and give the teachers resources.” Referring to the federal “No Child Left Behind” program now under review by Congress, she said, “We all know it’s a failure that needs to be fixed.”

“The bottom line,” she said, “is the voices of minority students need to be heard.”

Continue reading

3 PUC Schools moving to a new 7.5-acre campus in Sylmar

PUC Triumph Charter Academy Three PUC Schools are scheduled to open tomorrow with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at a new campus in Sylmar. Newly-elected school board member Ref Rodriguez, who co-founded the PUC Schools, will have a courtyard named after him.

The 7.5-acre campus will accommodate PUC Triumph Charter Academy for grades 6 through 8 and two high schools — PUC Triumph Charter High School and PUC Lakeview Charter High School. The campus also includes facilities that all three schools will share, including a state-of-the-art gym, a soccer field, regulation basketball courts, baseball/softball diamond, science labs, a theater and dance room.

The thee schools had been operating at different sites before now.

The $26 million campus is expected to reach the full capacity of 1,250 students by next school year. Currently, 250 students are on the waiting list to attend one of the three schools, which were financed through a bond and $600,000 from the Ahmanson and Weingart foundations.

PUC –Partnerships to Uplift Communities — operates 12 PUC public charter schools that provide college prep educational programs in densely-populated urban communities with low-achieving schools in northeast Los Angeles and the northeast San Fernando Valley. There group also runs one school in Rochester, NY.

UTLA cites working conditions, health benefits as major concerns

UTLA97The first big step was getting a pay raise. That happened earlier this year. So what’s next for UTLA?

United Teachers Los Angeles president Alex Caputo-Pearl says extensive input from teachers over the summer points to conditions in the classroom and the future of health benefits as among the issues most important to the union membership. He also said UTLA will strive to unionize more charter schools.

“Everyday teaching and learning conditions tend to be something that we hear a lot from our members,” Caputo-Pearl told the LA School Report. “They want to come into their classroom and do what they do and work with young people and not have to deal with ceiling tiles that are falling, or class sizes that are too big, or an administrator that refuses to follow basic contractual guidelines. Basic conditions are a concern.”

The other big concern voiced by teachers is the potential erosion of health benefits that have helped teachers to LA Unified. The benefits package LA Unified offers is among the most robust of any district in the state, including free lifetime benefits for retirees and their dependents.

“There is obviously a very well-funded national movement to attack public sector workers and health benefits that are associated with public sector workers,” Caputo-Pearl said. He talked about billionaire John D. Arnold who he said is “specifically intent to fund efforts to attack pensions, attack health benefits and retirement. It’s a very well-funded effort that our members are concerned about.”

Continue reading

LAUSD launches probe into district email use for Ashley Madison

Ashley MadisonLA Unified said today its inspector general is “looking into” the possibility that nearly 100 district employees used district email addresses to contact, a website that promotes extra-marital affairs, calling itself “the most famous name in infidelity and married dating.”

The district’s legal office has sent employees a memo yesterday, reminding them that the use of district email addresses for such purposes violates district policy.

“Failure to comply with the policy may result in disciplinary action being taken,” district lawyers told employees.

The actions came in response to a report yesterday by LA School Report that the hacked list of emails from the website produced about 100 email addresses that included Many of the addresses were letters and numbers, but it is not uncommon for district employees to use their initials and numbers for their email addresses.

In several instances, subscribers used full names.

The involvement of the district inspector general suggests that an effort would be made to identify people who used district-based email for their Ashley Madison accounts although it remains unclear what sanctions, if any, would be imposed.

The Associated Press has reported that the complete list of Ashley Madison email addresses included nearly 50 government e-mail addresses across California, some of which have announced the start of their own internal investigations.

What’s in a name? It depends on the LA Unified school

joynerThere’s an LA Unified school named after someone who led protests against the district (Sal Castro). There’s a school named after a baseball great (Jackie Robinson), a boxer (Oscar de la Hoya ), an explorer (Richard E. Byrd), a victim of terrorism (Daniel Pearl), a jazz legend (Duke Ellington), a children’s book author (Leo Politi).

Just yesterday, the former Alliance College Ready Middle School #9 was renamed for Kory Hunter, a tireless volunteer and fundraiser for educational programs who died of brain cancer in 2013.

For dozens of well-known people, there’s an LA Unified school named in their honor, even in one case, where the honoree has a controversial past, David Wark Griffith Middle School: There’s a movement to change the name because of the director’s insensitive film “Birth of a Nation,” which canonized the Ku Klux Klan.

So what’s in a (school) name? LA School Report decided to take a closer look at the district’s 1,274 schools.

Continue reading

In LAUSD, AUP turns to RUP to comply with CIPA . . .Understand?

computer labThe AUP is becoming the RUP. “That’s to prevent unauthorized access and … to comply with CIPA, COPPA and FERPA. Furthermore, the RUP clarifies the educational purpose of District technology.”

Got it?

That’s an excerpt from a new document that parents and students were given last week for any plan of going online or using computers at LAUSD schools. While the abbreviations are spelled out elsewhere in the message, it shows the complex use of LA Unified’s obsessive and sometimes confusing use of acronyms.

In this case, it was a memo from Shahryar Khazei, the Chief Information Officer Information Technology Division for the district, issued as a new Responsible Use Policy (RUP) that will replace the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) that was required since 2002. The agreement confirms with a federal law affecting the educational use of digital media called the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

Didn’t get the memo?

Basically, it explains that LAUSD uses technology to block or filter access to “visual and written depictions that are obscene, pornographic, or harmful to minors over the network.” The district also reserves the right to “monitor users’ online activities and access, review, copy, and store or delete any communications or files and share them with adults as necessary. Users should have no expectation of privacy regarding their use of District equipment, network, and/or Internet access or files, including email.”

Students and parents are asked to initial and sign two pages, checking off boxes that they agree to not share passwords, use appropriate language, avoid harassing and discriminatory communications, avoid vandalism, follow copyright laws and “practice positive digital citizenship,” among other things.

Teachers are asked to follow a more extensive contract that includes security issues and gives links to copyright guidelines.

According to the memo, “Site administrators must annually distribute, collect, and keep on file the completed attached forms prior to authorizing access to the Internet or the District’s network.”


Translation: LA School Report is here to help, in case you were wondering. Seriously, just so you know.

TTYL (Talk to you later).

LAUSD’s whooping cough vaccines at 93 percent compliance

immunizationThe anticipated thousands of 7th graders being sent home for not having their vaccinations didn’t quite happen last week, the first week of school.

LA Unified students were at 93 percent compliance, according to Ellen T. Morgan of the district communications office. That percentage “increases every day,” she said. There are about 36,000 7th graders at LA Unified.

Getting the word out to families early was key in educating the parents, although there were some glitches. Parents led a protest at the Thomas Starr King Middle School last week when their children were pulled out of class for not having their Tdap vaccine, which helps prevent whooping cough (also known as pertussis). Phone calls, letters and social media have been used to alert famlies during the summer in preparation for school.

Pertussis, a respiratory illness, is a contagious bacterial disease that can last for months but fade over time.

Starting next year, families will no longer get exemptions from immunizations due to personal beliefs, according to a bill signed by Governor Jerry Brown. Personal belief exemptions remain in effect until then.




Federal grant helping LA Unified spread the word about drought


Tomas O’Grady of Enrich LA at a school garden

LA Unified students are learning about water conservation methods needed locally because of the drought, and the effort got a big boost last week from a $50,000 federal grant.

An award from the Environmental Protection Agency is intended to support a pilot program to teach students how to conserve water. It’s part of the “One Water LA” Educational Initiative created in April 2014 through a resolution from school board president Steve Zimmer. It’s a collaborative effort that includes the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the Metropolitan Water District and Los Angeles Sanitation department.

“Los Angeles is currently experiencing extreme drought conditions and it is the responsibility of educators to ensure the next generation is equipped with the necessary tools to develop solutions, not only for climate change but for other problems, or else the Earth as we know it today will cease to exist in the future,” Zimmer said.

Already, there are programs at many schools across the district. Vivian Ekchian, the area superintendent for the Northwest, said she is making it a priority to show how the school gardens can be grown in a drought-stricken climate. Students of Enadia Way Elementary School in West Hills, for example, are learning what flowers, vegetables and fruit trees they can grow in a 10,000-square-foot garden without using too much water.

Local businessman Tomas O’Grady has a nonprofit group called Enrich LA that has helped student gardens throughout LAUSD, including the transformation of a patch of unused mud in the center of Valley View Elementary School in Hollywood into a raised garden using a drip system. Teachers plant native flowers mentioned in poetry they are studying or draw from other Common Core teaching material.

Continue reading

LAUSD grad, from expulsion to ‘Youth Warrior Against Poverty’

Eduardo Pacheco

Eduardo Pacheco

For most kids, getting expelled in the seventh grade for bringing a weapon to school is the beginning of a sad story, the first step into the school-to-prison pipeline.

But for Eduardo Pacheco, a recent graduate of LA Unified’s Woodrow Wilson High School, it ended up being a low point from which he slowly rose to become an inspiring student leader and recent recipient of the Marguerite Casey Foundation’s 2015 Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty award.

The $5,000 scholarship award honors 12 high students around the country for their vision, passion and dedication to improving the lives of families in their communities. Pacheco was recognized for work he did volunteering with Inner City Struggle and Brothers, Sons, Selves.

“When I heard I had won the Shriver award, I was astonished by it,” said Pacheco, who is now a freshman at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Pacheco said the money has gone toward rent and books.

Pacheco is the son of two Mexican immigrants, and his life growing up around east LA was often filled with economic struggles. In middle school he said he fell in with the wrong crowd, which is what led to his expulsion. But not long after, something happened that made him see his life and its potential in a different light: his older brother was accepted to UCLA.

“I knew I had to change my ways, it was a bad thing for me, and no good was going to be coming to my future,” he told LA School Report. ” But I saw my bother graduate and go to UCLA, one of the best schools in California and the country. I felt like he was unique because not everyone gets accepted there. It motivated me to thinking that I can maybe be unique too.”

Continue reading

LAUSD board has mixed views on foundations’ charters expansion plan

 Some think it is a threat to the public education system. Some welcome it. Members of the LA Unified school board have reacted quite differently to the announcement that the Broad, Keck and Walton Family Foundations are planning to expand the number of charter schools in the district to serve well beyond the 101,000 students (nearly 16 percent) now enrolled in the district’s 211 charters.

The role of charters has been a long-running battle among board members, and now it’s sure to intensify with so many more in the planning stage. Issues involving charters, such as applications for new ones, renewals for existing ones and operational transparency, are part of almost every monthly board meeting, and even before the first meeting of the new year, opinions remain divided, based on interviews with LA School Report and other media outlets.

The foundations revealed their expansion plans several weeks ago but provided few details. One unnamed source told the LA Times that the goal was to enroll as many as half of LA Unified’s students in charter schools within eight years.

One of the two new members, Ref Rodriguez, a charter school founder, said, “I believe we need to offer every family a high quality option in public education, and that can be a LAUSD school or a charter school. I also believe that we need leaders in this district to advocate for transformation. I always welcome ideas around innovative and life changing approaches to creating quality and excellence in every single school across this district.”

Rodriguez added, “Is this plan a bold idea? Maybe. I don’t know the particulars.  But, I want to stay open to hearing about bold options and ideas to get to excellence in all of our schools. And, I want those bold ideas to come from the grassroots – communities, students, and parents.  I want to hear directly from our communities about what they need, what they want, and what they deserve.”

Continue reading

With MiSiS working, Cortines setting sight on class size reduction


Cortines observes the MiSiS team

Now that the MiSiS crisis seems to be in the rear-view mirror, Superintendent Ramon Cortines is focusing on another difficult issue for LAUSD — class sizes.

“We are now beginning to make necessary adjustments to class size,” he said in a statement released today. “For instance, we can open a new class and assign an additional teacher if it is over-enrolled. We can also transfer students to a class that is under-enrolled. Our goal is to stabilize classes and schools as soon as possible – certainly within the next two weeks.”

When he took over the school district again last year, Cortines was appalled by some of the class sizes. At one point district records showed that there were 1,500 middle school classes and 1,200 high school classes with more than 45 students.

Since then, the district and UTLA, the teachers union, hammered out a new labor agreement that set the average class size for K-through-3rd grades at 24 students, while high school classes could have a maximum of 46 students, but a preferred average of 42.5.

Some of the records show that a class is over-enrolled, but may not be. “Some students may be registered, but have not shown up for class,” Cortines explained. “Other students may be enrolled at more than one school. Principals, counselors and other school-site staff are verifying records, and eliminating no-shows and duplicate students from MiSiS. At the same time, our human resources team has begun verifying that schools have the appropriate number of teachers.”

Continue reading

Why the Smarter Balanced tests are so different, and maybe better

SmarterBalanceTestExampleIn a memo regarding the Smarter Balanced Assessments, LA Unified officials explained to Superintendent Ramon Cortines and members of the school board how the new test is so different from its predecessor and why scores may appear lower than in the past.

Cynthia Lim, executive director of the district’s Office of Data and Accountability, said she knows parents will make comparisons between the previous California Standards Tests and the new tests. That would be unfair, she said, describing it as worse than an apples-and-oranges comparison.

“Students are being measured in different ways than in the past tests, and there were five different performance bands; now there are four,” Lim told the LA School Report. The five “Far Below Basic,” “Below Basic,” “Basic,” “Proficient” and “Advanced” — are now “Has Not Met the Standard,” “Nearly Met the Standard,” “Met the Standard” and “Exceeded the Standard.”

Lim said she has seen preliminary scores for LAUSD — about 96 percent of the scores in grades 3 through 8 and 84 percent of the test scores in 11th grade — and they are not great. She declined to provide details but admitted that the scores would be “lower than what we’ve seen in the past in terms of what we would say is proficiency.”

The way the students are taking the tests could hurt the initial scores, too. All the tests are conducted on tablets, with no paper and pencil, no bubbles to fill in, no multiple guess. And, no student gets the same questions.

Continue reading

11 not-well-known facts about the computers running LA Unified

The MiSiS black box shown by Shahryar Khazei

The MiSiS black box shown by Shahryar Khazei

Not many people know much about LA Unified’s $133 million MiSiS computer system that has held the center of attention for the past year—and will determine the success or failure of the school year now underway.

District officials this week gave LA School Report a behind-the-scenes look at the system to understand what it does and how it works.

The public can keep up with MiSiS and it’s progress (or not) through newsletters on the district website. But, here, courtesy of Shahryar Khazei, the district’s Chief Information Officer of the Information Technology Division, are a few things not widely-known about the system, with the formal name, My Integrated Student Information System

1. Everything is stored in a Hewlett-Packard black box, larger than a coffin, on the 9th floor of the district’s downtown Beaudry headquarters.

2. The  black box is a state-of-the-art memory system known as “DragonHawk,” and this latest version was installed in May.

3. The temperature of the room is set at very cool 69 degrees, but if temperatures rise to 85 or above, or if the power goes out, two back-up generators keep the system cool enough to prevent burnout.

4. At the moment there is no DR (Disaster Recovery) site if something were to happen to the black box. A separate site is being built in Van Nuys, but it will not be ready until next year.

Continue reading

JUST IN: LAUSD says new test scores lower but ‘kids not getting dumber’

common-core-standards-After reviewing preliminary results of the Smarter Balanced Assessments, LA Unified officials say the test scores are lower than what parents typically see but want them to know “it does not mean our kids are getting dumber.”

Cynthia Lim, Executive Director of the Office of Data and Accountability, told the LA School Report today that parents should not worry when the see the results fro last year because the new tests are not comparable to previous statewide measures in how they are structured and how they are given — by computer.

Her explanation was part of a district strategy to ease anxieties among parents who may be fearful that the new tests leave the impression that their children are regressing in their academic pursuits. That is not the case, Lim said. It has always been clear to school administrators here and elsewhere that a new form of testing, based on the Common Core State Standards, would drive down test results in the early years.

“We are expecting that scores will be lower than what we’ve seen in the past in terms of what we would say is proficiency, because the tests are really different than what we’ve had for the last 10 years,” Lim said.

Not only are the new tests different in how they pose questions, the new scoring system is tougher, but Lim said the test material isn’t necessarily more difficult for students or any more advanced.

“It is a different way of teaching; the material is not harder, we are assessing deeper levels of thinking among students,” she explained. Rather than multiple choice questions or basic recall questions, the students are asked to explain how they got to an answer.

Continue reading

Zimmer calls Michelle King a ‘top candidate’ for superintendent


Steve Zimmer, center, at Vine Street Elementary School

LAUSD School Board president Steve Zimmer discussed the superintendent race on KNX News Radio this morning and mentioned Chief Deputy Superintendent Michelle King as a potential “top candidate” to replace Ramon Cortines.

While on his way to Vine Street Elementary School to kick-off the school year, Zimmer was was asked in the interview about potential contenders for the LAUSD Superintendent’s position. The interviewer mentioned no other candidates.

“We do not have a top list, but I have known and worked with Michelle King for six years,” Zimmer said, when asked if she would be a leading contender for the job.

“If she is interested, then she would be a top candidate,” Zimmer conceded. “I have not talked to her about that yet.” King would become the district’s first female superintendent.

Zimmer did say that the school board was well on its way to finding a new superintendent and that the members have sought proposals from search companies for candidates. Cortines has expressed a desire to step down by December. “We are fully engaged in the search,” he said.

He also said he was open to looking for candidates within and outside the district.

“It could be someone from out of state, it could be someone from other parts of the Los Angeles area,” Zimmer said. “I am looking for an equity champion.”


Zimmer, board members open the first day of school across district


Steve Zimmer introduces new principal Kurt Lowry at Vine Street Elementary School

In the first effort of its kind, LA Unified staged a whirlwind of events for the first day of school today, with board members fanning out across the district, each visiting schools and other sites to welcome back staff, students and district employees.

At 9 o’clock this morning, board president Steve Zimmer greeted students at Vine Street Elementary School, not far from his house. But that was nearly four hours after his day began, meeting district employees at a bus yard and visiting the MiSiS computer center at district headquarters to make sure that everything was running smoothly.

At Vine Street, Zimmer introduced the new principal, Kurt Lowry, to a standing-room-only crowd of about 80 parents in the Parent Center complex, where there are about 580 students K-6th grade. Both Zimmer and Lowry spoke in English and Spanish (more in Spanish). One parent remarked how well Zimmer spoke in Spanish, while Lowry stopped occasionally and asked for grammar corrections from the mostly-Latino audience.

Continue reading

JUST IN: LAPD investigates Esquith, lawyers ‘declare war’ on LAUSD


Rafe Esquith, book cover of ‘There Are No Shortcuts’

LA School Report has confirmed that an LAPD sex crimes unit has an open investigation of celebrated teacher Rafe Esquith involving allegations of “inappropriate touching.” Meanwhile, Esquith’s attorneys are striking back with threats of additional lawsuits and a “declaration of war against LAUSD.”

One of Esquith’s attorneys, Ben Meisales, said, “This continued defamation by LAUSD knows no bounds. This is a slap at all hard-working teachers and it has created a declaration of war against LAUSD.”

Lead attorney Mark Geragos added, “People all across the country are watching these unscrupulous tactics. LAUSD is acting as a criminal cartel that needs to be put out of business, and we will put them out of business.”

Meanwhile, the Sexually Exploited Child Unit of the West Bureau Sex Crimes of the Los Angeles Police Department has a case that is opened against Esquith and being investigated by Detective Rachel Saavedra. The attorneys for Esquith said they were unaware of the investigation, which is being conducted by police at the Olympic Division of the LAPD in the district of the Hobart Boulevard Elementary School where Esquith taught fifth grade until he was unceremoniously taken out of the classroom last April and confined during the day hours to the “teachers jail” in a downtown LA building.

On Thursday, Geragos filed a class action lawsuit against LA Unified not only claiming age discrimination and unfair business practices, but defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Hours after receiving the lawsuit, LAUSD issued a letter for the first time dealing with alleged serious allegations against Esquith, including “highly inappropriate conduct involving touching of minors” during his time as a district teacher as well as “inappropriate photographs and videos of a sexual nature” on his school computer. The letter also mentions allegations of “threats to a parent and two students” and “possible ethical” violations of district policy regarding Esquith’s nonprofit after-school program, the Hobart ShakespeareansContinue reading

Garcia: LAUSD families need to feel ‘connected and supported’


Monica Garcia talks to students at a board meeting.

As the school year begins next week, Mónica Garcia is celebrating her 10th year on the LA Unified School Board and her 15th year working in District 2, where she served as an academic advisor.

A lifelong East L.A. resident, her parents met at Stevenson Middle School in the 1950s and they remember more of an ethnic mix in the area at that time.

Garcia sat down with LA School Report at her LA Unified office to discuss the issues and anticipation of the new school year ahead.

LA School Report: As LA Unified’s longest-serving board president, six terms, what do you see as the most pressing challenges facing the district over the coming year?

Garcia: This year, even as leadership transition occurs, we want to make sure that our families feel connected and supported. I think that achievement, safety and communication are always at the top of any school. We’re going to see more technology.

We will allocate money from Measure Q [a bond for construction] which will be good for kids and good for jobs and good for our existing campuses. Roosevelt High School in my district will get support in the neighborhood of $100 million dollars. It doesn’t happen but once in a long time. We really have to be purposeful around how to support schools so it continues to grow. We will be talking about roofs and pipes and fields, but we have to really be strategic on the investment.

LASR: Do you think there’s been an erosion of trust with the parents and how do you improve that?

Garcia: We always need to improve whatever we do. When we say LA Unified is 70 percent graduation that means we’re getting it right with 70 percent of the families and missing it with 30 percent. I think we have to continually have to introduce ourselves as a service provider.

Every year there are changes at school sites there are changes with the district and we have to constantly be in communication with families about that.

Continue reading

JUST IN: LAUSD says Esquith case involves sex photos, ‘touching’

Rafe Esquith

Rafe Esquith

Lawyers for LA Unified today told the attorney representing acclaimed teacher, Rafe Esquith, that the investigation into his background has found evidence of “highly inappropriate conduct involving touching of minors” during his time as a district teacher as well as “inappropriate photographs and videos of a sexual nature” on his school computer.

The letter to Esquith’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, also claims that investigators found allegations of “threats to a parent and two students” and “possible ethical” violations of district policy regarding Esquith’s after-school program, the Hobart Shakespeareans.

The original complaint against Esquith focused on his reading of a passage from “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” to his class, financial issues regarding the Shakespeareans and a report from decades ago that he abused a student.

Esquith has been relieved of his teaching responsibilities while the investigation continues. The district said it “has a duty to thoroughly investigate these allegations before making any decisions to return Mr. Esquith to his classroom, and it takes this duty very seriously.”

The district’s letter to Geragos was sent within hours of Geragos’ announcing that he filed a class action lawsuit against the district —  a lawsuit that claims to represent several hundred district teachers — over the nature of the so-called teacher jail system. The lawsuit claims such a policy represents an unfair business practices and retaliation.

Teachers like Esquith facing allegations by students or other teachers are taken out of their classrooms and housed during their work day in a downtown location, sometimes for months, while an investigation is underway.

Continue reading