Bond panel aide blasts LA Unified for ineffective IT operations

LA UnifiedA consultant to the committee that oversees how LA Unified spends taxpayer bond dollars today recommended a complete overhaul of the district’s Information Technology operations, suggesting the district might consider outsourcing the entire department.

Tom Rubin delivered the report to the Bond Oversight Committee, blasting the IT department and asserting that the recent bungled rollout of MiSiS, the student data computer system, exposed a track record of mismanagement and organizational problems that are prevalent in other district programs.

“We have had a history of major IT problems,” Rubin told the committee. “This is not about specific projects; this is about the the totality of the system: It is broken.”

Despite efforts by hard-working employees, he said, “The failure unfortunately is at the top,” adding that, “too many key people have little knowledge, or interest, and do not wish to change their beliefs and ways of working.”

He suggested the district re-structure the organization of departments, functions and responsibilities to change underlying attitudes and practices “that are systemic to the way that things are done at LAUSD.”

“Be prepared to consider massive changes in the LAUSD way of doing things, up to and including changing ITD to a contracted enterprise,” he warned the committee.

The root of the problem is the district’s “silo-ization,” he said, describing a regimen in which “people in one part of the department have no idea what’s happening on the other side.”

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Unions slam LAUSD for ‘English only’ rule for cafeteria workers

espanolTwo unions that represent teachers and support staff at LA Unified schools are calling on the district to rescind its “English only” rule that was issued earlier this month to cafeteria workers at Harvard Elementary, saying the rule sends the wrong message to students and parents,

An “English only” sign was posted in the cafeteria of the Koreatown school a few weeks ago.

Most cafeteria workers there are native Spanish speakers, and 86 percent of students identify as Hispanic, yet the district called the directive a safety issue.

That explanation is falling flat with United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), which represents district teachers, and Service Employees International Union Local 99, which represents the cafeteria workers and other district employees like bus drivers and groundskeepers.

“When the majority of cafeteria workers at the school speak Spanish, how is it safer for those workers to communicate only in English in the cafeteria or anywhere on campus?” the unions said in a joint statement. “When a great majority of cafeteria and other service workers live in the communities where they work and are often parents of children attending LAUSD schools, how does an ‘English Only’ policy promote a welcoming school community?”

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Cortines names new overseer for fixing MiSiS problems

MiSiSThe flurry of organizational changes within LA Unified to deal with the MiSiS crisis took yet another turn late today as Superintendent Ramon Cortines told the district’s Independent Monitor that he is creating a Program Manager position, responsible for managing and overseeing a team working to fix the student data tracking system

Cortines also said he intends to assemble a Project Stabilization team to research, develop and test solutions to bugs in the different components of the system, which has been plaguing district schools since before the start of the academic year.

To oversee the team seeking to resolve remaining problems with MiSiS, Cortines told the monitor, David Rostetter, he is appointing Gary Sabia, an official who has been assisting with the MiSiS project thus far, to a leadership role in addressing MiSiS issues.

“Mr. Sabia had successfully managed the implementation of several Information Technology projects within the District,” Cortines wrote.

Cortines also told Rostetter he is committed to hiring more project managers and allocating more funding to nearly every aspect of MiSiS.

As LA School Report reported earlier today, MiSiS Project Manager Bria Jones has essentially been fired — technically, the district terminated her contract eight months early “for the Convenience of the District.”

In his letter to Rostetter, Cortines explained that the changes are being made to address issues that Rostetter cited for how the district can fulfill a federal court order to satisfy a lawsuit. Rostetter was highly critical of the process leading up to rollout of the comprehensive software program and its development.

In the letter, Cortines agreed with his findings, writing, “[T]he current MiSiS Project composition was not structured in an optimal way to coordinate across development, training, change management, charter school implementation, and recent data correction effort for external systems.”

LAUSD dismisses outside consultant on MiSiS program


Superintendent Ramon Cortines has cancelled the contract for one of LA Unified’s top project managers on MiSiS as part of a larger effort to play a more active role in solving the software issues with the new student-data system.

Bria Jones, an IT consultant who secured a lucrative $280,800 a year deal with the district, was told Tuesday her contract would be terminated “for the Convenience of the District” effective Oct. 31. She’s been instructed to deliver any materials related to her work on the project by the close of business the same day.

In April Jones’ contract was extended for an additional year, through June 20, 2015.

Although Jones described herself as providing “day-to-day project direction and management of the MiSiS team” and took credit for “restoring trust in the project outcomes and on-time deliveries” — both, from her LinkedIn profile – Ron Chandler, the district’s Chief Information Officer, said Jones’ role was limited to “oversee different parts of the development of specifications and code development.”

Still, in an earlier interview with LA School Report about Jones just two months ago, Chandler defended the quality of her work, saying, “She’s leading part of the team and she’s done a great job.”

Jones was hired under a sole-source contract in 2012 to oversee the MiSiS project after district officials determined there were no other viable experts to handle the complexities of the program, according to a district procurement official, George Silva. Continue reading

Cortines ends meetings that take staff out of classrooms

Ramon Cortines

Ray Cortines

Superintendent Ramon Cortines has suspended all out-of-town travel and off-campus meetings for LA Unified’s teachers, administrators and classified staff, calling the time away from the classroom “unacceptable.”

Cortines, who has wasted no time issuing new directives to the staff that he inherited this month from John Deasy, relayed the decision today in a letter to employees, a copy of which was sent to LA School Report by a district staffer who asked not to be identified. In the letter, Cortines expressed clear frustration about the growing number of absences by teachers for professional development and other reasons.

“It has come to my attention that the number of substitute teachers requested for professional development during the school day has increased dramatically in the past two years,” he wrote.

District records show 770 substitute teacher requests were made for professional development activities on Friday, Oct. 17 and another 735 the following week on Oct. 24. Those requests do not account for teachers out on sick days. He called the statistics “staggering.”

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Tragedy prompts safety upgrades at Hollywood school

The scene of a fatal tragedy near a Hollywood middle school eight months ago was populated yesterday by city leaders, parents and students who celebrated new safety improvements at the site and a pilot program aimed at improving pedestrian safety near local schools.

A woman was killed and her 10-year-old daughter injured when they were struck by a truck while walking in a crosswalk on Feb. 11 near LeConte Middle School at 1316 N. Bronson Ave. in Hollywood. But pedestrians who frequent the street can now breath easier as an array of safety improvements was unveiled at a press conference that included Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell.

The improvements include the installation of two flashing signals for the pedestrian crossing at Fountain and Bronson avenues and two stop signs at Bronson and Fernwood avenues.

The improvements were made under a new pilot program called the Safe Passages Volunteer Pilot Program, according to O’Farrell’s office. The program is part of the larger Neighborhood School Safety Program, which is managed by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office and is taking place at four LA Unified schools this school year, including LeConte.

The Safe Passages program involves recruiting and training parents to volunteer as crossing guards at Los Angeles middle and high schools, since crossing guards are only assigned to elementary schools in the city, NBC Los Angeles reported.

“We’re still working just diligently to come up with the funding so we can fund more crossing guards,” O’Farrell told NBC.

(See the attached video report from NBC for more)

LA Unified seniors get reprieve on financial aid applications

application formLA Unified high school seniors counting on grant money to attend state colleges and universities got a reprieve today as the district announced a month-long extension for when student grade information needs to be verified for financial aid.

Merit-based Cal Grants require that the school district verify a student’s grade point average (GPA), and the deadline for doing so has been pushed back to Nov. 30 from Nov. 1.

The competitive awards are for students with a minimum 3.0 GPA who are from low- and middle-income families. The grants can be applied toward tuition at any CSU or UC campus, and they cover fees up to $5,472 and $12,192 respectively. Students applying to private colleges are also eligible for rewards up to $9,084 toward tuition and fees while those attending most other career colleges can get up to $4,000.

And there may be another silver lining for the district’s most go-getter students applying for early admission who have been let down by LA Unified’s busted student management system: Some, if not all UC’s, don’t offer an early admissions window.

“UCLA doesn’t have an early action or early decision program, and students are not required to submit a transcript at the point of application,” Gary Clark, the university’s undergraduate admissions director, told LA School Report.

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LAUSD trying to fix transcript errors before college deadlines

computer-errorAmid reports that LA Unified staff experts were working through the weekend to determine the cause of errors in some student transcripts, Superintendent Ramon Cortines issued a letter to parents today, ensuring them that issues will be addressed.

According to the Los Angeles Daily News, the experts were attempting to determine if the problems were caused by computer bugs or data errors.

The district is also looking to hire retired counselors and principals on a temporary basis to review every high school transcript manually ahead of a district-set Nov. 1 deadline, which is when the state begins accepting finical aid applications, according to the report.

“As superintendent, I take full responsibility for ensuring that our systems are functioning correctly in support of students,” Cortines wrote in the letter. “We are working to resolve problems that have been identified.”

Aside from issues with accurate transcripts, glitches in the district’s new MiSiS computer program have caused an array of problems at at schools, including getting some students the proper schedules and Title I funds.

“Technology teams are working closely with data, instructional and school teams to make sure that official reports for students, including vital information, like courses taken, grade-point averages and class ranks—are precise,” the district said in a statement. “In addition, support staff, including retired counselors, principals and assistant principals will assist high schools by reviewing and certifying transcripts, as well as help with master scheduling of classes.”

Aside from the temporary hires, the district also said it will communicate with colleges and universities to make them aware of transcripts that may be inaccurate and set up hotlines in each Education Service Center to record student concerns and to follow up on any problems.

“I appreciate your help and guidance as we move forward in the best interest of our students,” Cortines said in the letter “There are going to be mistakes, but we are committed to fixing them. Your children are the reason we are here and we owe it to them to provide absolutely everything they need to achieve their goals.”


South LA charter celebrates community garden’s first harvest


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.

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LA Unified educator among five California Teachers of the Year


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.”

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LAUSD employees file lawsuit against SEIU over union dues

Judge Rolf Treu affirm vergara decision


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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.