District makes last push for staff, family input on school calendar


LAUSD is making another strong push for input from families and employees to see what the school schedule should be for the next three years.

And, the district is providing lots of back-up materials to help inform choices, including a comparison of student test scores in traditional school years versus early school calendars, electricity consumption costs for the summer and comparisons to calendars at nearby school districts and colleges.

At issue is whether school should start after Labor Day (a more traditional calendar) or earlier in August, whether elementary and high schools should have different schedules and whether the semesters should be broken up by the winter break. Parents are also asked if they care how long the winter break should be, two weeks or three.

The school board is planning to adopt a final calendar in January, based on recommendations from the superintendent and feedback from the community.

Online surveys are now available through Dec. 6 for parents and guardians as well as for school employees to help hammer out the calendar through 2019. The surveys are also available in Spanish.

“We are always looking for better ways to foster communication between the district and parents, or schools and parents, which is one of our top goals,” said Daryl Strickland, an district spokesman.  “We will look at the results from this effort and others to determine what parents find useful for creating dialogue.”

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LA Unified high school puts a focus on computer science and gaming


Jackie Parades, standing center, teaches game design

At a high school called the Critical Design and Gaming School, you’d think every student had a device on and was playing a game all the time. Not so.

In fact, during one recent morning lesson, students opened up boxes of traditional board games to play with each other.

“They find out pretty quickly it’s not about playing games the whole time,” said computer science teacher Nancy Se. But, the students do learn computer coding, build websites and design games on programs that have created their favorite apps and launched games like Assassin’s Creed. “I teach them that computer science equals wealth equals power, and that is what could happen if you become one of the producers making games.”

It’s no secret that computer gaming is a major segment of of the entertainment industry. It’s also no secret that the gaming field is dominated by white and Asian males.

That’s why, if the black and Latino population of south LA can be introduced to the world of computer design and gaming, then principal Andre Hargunani would have accomplished a major goal. Hargunani came out of school with a computer engineering degree, and he programmed games himself. He could pick any job because there was such a high demand. He chose academia.

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Officials release vote on Supt. Deasy’s job evaluation

Steve Zimmer, left, John Deasy, right

Steve Zimmer, left, John Deasy, right

Via The Los Angeles Times | By Howard Blume

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy received a positive job evaluation last month from the Board of Education by a vote of 5-1 with one member abstaining, the Los Angeles Unified School District announced Tuesday.

The district had previously refused to disclose the vote, but yielded this week, in an apparent response to a demand from The Times.

Board members endorsing Deasy were board President Richard Vladovic, Steve Zimmer, Monica Garcia, Tamar Galatzan and Bennett Kayser. The opposing vote was cast by Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. Monica Ratliff abstained.

The Oct. 29 evaluation happened in the context of a weeklong leadership crisis that began with Deasy himself, when he told some insiders and district leaders that he intended to resign.  Read full story here.

Previous Posts: Villaraigosa Helped Broker Deal to Keep Deasy Superintendent, Top 5 Lessons From the Deasy Comeback Story, Deasy Staying; Board Extends Contract through June 2016

Morning Read: Board Likely to Back Classroom Breakfast

L.A. Unified Board Will Back Classroom Breakfast Program
A majority of L.A. Unified School Board members said they will vote to continue a classroom breakfast program that feeds nearly 200,000 children but was in danger of being axed after sharp criticism by the teachers union. LA Times
See also: LA School Report, KPCC

The Messy Complications of Breakfast in the Classroom
The Los Angeles Unified School District is in a period of tremendous upheaval that, it’s hoped, will result in better education for its students. With so much changing and so much at stake, of course there are more than a few daggers drawn. But when the teachers union and district administration can’t even get together over feeding hungry kids, something sick is going on. LA Times Opinion

Pre-K Funding is Delivered Another Blow
California state funding per child fell by more than than $400 compared with the previous year, and only 41% of 4-year-olds were served by public pre-K programs and Head Start in the 2011-12 school year, the institute reported. LAT

Washington and Sacramento Must End Cold War on Education
It is too late for California to get more than the sliver of Race to the Top funds it has already received. But the administration’s rejection of California’s NCLB waiver request is too important an issue to accept without further urgent efforts on both sides to reach a resolution. EdSource (opinion)

Walton Foundation Gives $8 Million to StudentsFirst
A foundation associated with the Wal-Mart family fortune has expanded its support for the education advocacy group run by former District of Columbia schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. LA Times

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Morning Read: Study Praises Teacher Evaluation Tool

First Academic Study of Controversial LA Unified Teacher Evaluation Program
An academic study of a teacher evaluation method that looks at how much teachers are able to improve students’ test scores gave the pilot program a good grade. But the study comes too late — the teacher’s union and Los Angeles Unified School District agreed not to use the measure in the district’s new teacher evaluation protocols. KPCC

L.A. Unified Fight Focuses on Breakfast Program
Los Angeles Unified will eliminate a classroom breakfast program serving nearly 200,000 children, reject more school police, cut administrators and scale back new construction projects unless the school board votes to approve them, according to Supt. John Deasy. LA Times
See also: LA School Report, Sac Bee, LA Daily News, KPCC

‘Super PACs’ Negate Spending Limits in L.A. Mayor’s Race
As groups raising funds for Greuel and Garcetti pour money into the race — a record $6.1 million so far — voter-approved contribution restrictions become meaningless. LA Times

Eric Garcetti for Mayor
Perhaps most important, Garcetti has demonstrated the capacity to grow, learn and improve his performance. He admits mistakes, such as his vote in favor of a settlement allowing, for a time, virtually unregulated digital billboards. LAT (editorial page)

L.A. Schools Finish One-Two in National Academic Decathlon
After months of preparation, Granada Hills Charter High wins the title for the third straight year. Finishing second was El Camino Real Charter High, a six-time national champion. LA Times
See also: Sac Bee

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District 6 Candidate Commits to Support Deasy

Monica Ratliff. Via LA Times

Concerned that District 6 (East Valley) School Board candidate Monica Ratliff might oppose the leadership of LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, the LA Times editorial page secured a commitment from Ratliff to keep Deasy at the helm of the district as part of re-iterating its endorsement:

“Ratliff, who was a public interest lawyer before she became a teacher, advocates smart solutions to vexing issues — such as improving instruction by giving weak teachers time to sit in on the classes of highly effective ones. She is neither a gung-ho member of the school reform movement nor a backer of the union’s anti-reform rhetoric…. [And] if she were in a position to decide on Deasy’s contract today, she would vote to renew it.” [emphasis added]

Previous posts: Board Candidate Changes Position on Deasy (Again);  District 6 Candidate Hardens Position on DeasyUnion Endorsements Unchanged for District 6

Deasy Requests Changes to Teacher Dismissal Bill

Earlier this week, the LA Weekly honed in on the outsized influence California’s largest teachers union is perceived to have on education policy issues, including recent efforts to speed the removal of sexual predators from the classroom.

“That’s how CTA infamously killed a [2012] law to fire sex-pervert teachers, SB 1530,” LA Weekly writer Matthew Mullins wrote. “A badly watered-down version, AB 375, is alive — because CTA backs it,”

What the LA Weekly didn’t note was that the “badly watered-down” bill moving through the state legislature was amended last week or that LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy has proposed several further changes to make sure that districts have a stronger role in the dismissal process and that teachers who review dismissal cases can be removed if necessary.

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Morning Read: Board Votes to Speed Dismissal Process

LAUSD Board Votes to Improve Abuse Investigations
With 278 Los Angeles Unified educators sitting in “teacher jail,” the school board voted Tuesday to streamline and improve the investigations of those accused of serious physical abuse or sexual misconduct. LA Daily News
See also: LA School Report, LA Times

L.A. Unified Board Ratifies ‘Parent-Trigger’ Partnership
The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday ratified a partnership between the school district and a charter school to take control of struggling 24th Street Elementary under a controversial parent-empowerment law. LA Times
See also: Color Lines, LA School Report

School Board Renews Contract for Ivy Academia Charter
The petition by Ivy Academia Entreprenurial Charter School was renewed with little discussion, less than two weeks after a jury convicted its founders of grand theft, embezzlement and other charges. LA Times
See also: LA School Report

L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa Challenges on Schools
Unions and other elements of the education establishment strongly backed Antonio Villaraigosa’s steps up the political ladder – until he became an advocate of charter schools, parental empowerment, modifying teacher seniority and tenure and other reforms that the establishment despises. Sac Bee Opinion

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Board Preview Update: Discipline, Misconduct, and Dismissals

The LAUSD Board, via LA Times

The agenda for today’s School Board meeting is packed with hot-topic resolutions, including a plan to streamline LAUSD’s teacher misconduct investigation process, a call to work with state legislators to pass a new teacher dismissal bill, and a plan to reduce student suspensions and discipline for “willful defiance” in LA schools.

These topics have received scads of media coverage and statehouse activity in recent months. LAUSD Board members have obviously been paying attention, and the media is getting behind their resolutions.

Board Member Tamar Galatzan penned an op-ed published Monday in the Huffington Post that explains the rationale behind her resolution to streamline investigations of teachers who have been accused of misconduct in the classroom.

And the LA Times published an editorial piece Tuesday morning urging the School Board to approve Board President Monica Garcia’s resolution that would update schools’ discipline policies across the district and cease the suspension of students for “willful defiance.”

Read on for more details on the resolutions up for vote at today’s School Board meeting.

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Morning Read: Board Considers Speedier Teacher Investigations

L.A. School Board to Consider Faster Investigation of Teachers
Sexual misconduct allegations at Miramonte Elementary School sparked a surge of investigations of Los Angeles teachers, pushing the ranks of those in “teacher jail” to more than 300 — and prompting officials this week to consider the rights of accused employees. LA Times
See also: AP, SI&A Cabinet Report, LA School Report

Teacher Dismissals: How Do We Protect Children and Safeguard Teachers’ Due Process?
Fire them. Dismiss them. Send them back. Let them languish in “teacher jails” while investigations drag on for months — or even years.  There’s got to be a better, quicker and fairer way to get rid of teachers who truly do not belong in the classroom and support those teachers who do. Huff Po Op-Ed by Tamar Galatzan

Deasy Should Be Thrilled With Union’s No Confidence Vote
It means he’s shaking up the moribund Los Angeles Unified School District and bucking the union that has battled every education reform proposed to protect the livelihood of its teachers – a livelihood that has put a stranglehold on education. LA Daily News Editorial

‘Willful Defiance’ in L.A. Schools
A proposal to prevent the suspending of students for a relatively minor infraction deserves the approval of the school board. LA Times Editorial

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Watch: Deasy to Focus on Youth Rights

After the symbolic “no confidence” vote by the Los Angeles teachers union last week, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy gave the LA Daily News his thoughts and described his plans to bring “youth rights” to all students in LA schools:

Watch and read the full Deasy interview at LA Daily News; read LA School Report’s coverage of UTLA’s vote here.

Mixed Reactions to New Teacher Dismissal Bill

Assemblymember Joan Buchanan

AB 375, a new bill meant to streamline teacher dismissals, could be headed for quick passage after clearing the State Assembly’s Education Committee with a 7 – 0 vote Thursday.

The bill’s chance at passing is undoubtedly aided by the announcement last week that the state’s largest teachers union, the California Teachers Association, was joining forces with Assemblymember Joan Buchanan and Senator Alex Padilla to support AB 375.

But the alliance of Padilla and Buchanan and the quick pace of action in the statehouse have left some observers confused and concerned. Is AB 375 a watered-down teacher dismissal bill? Or have the unions, legislators, and education advocates finally come to a working compromise that will help streamline the teacher dismissal process?

Edgar Zazueta, the director of government relations for LAUSD, praised AB 375 as a “step in the right direction.”

But he also expressed reservations.

“I think we’d argue that there’s more consideration to be done here. We thank [Buchanan] for moving in the right direction, but we think we could push envelope a little further,” Zazueta said.

LAUSD, StudentsFirst, EdVoice, and Democrats for Education Reform have expressed a mix of praise and concern.

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Board Member Kayser Relives the 2011 Runoff

Bennett Kayser

Picking up on a comparison LA School Report first made last month, LAUSD Board Member Bennett Kayser published an op-ed in the LA Daily News last week in which he compared his 2011 runoff against Luis Sanchez to this year’s runoff between District 6 candidates Antonio Sanchez and  Monica Ratliff:

“I beat the big money.  My campaign coffers never topped $35,000. My opponent Luis Sanchez raised more than five times as much.”

Read the full Kayser op-ed in the LA Daily News here. Kayser neglects to mention the $1.4 million the teachers union spent on his behalf, which you can read about here, or the stubborn reality that UTLA has endorsed both Sanchez and Ratliff. For Luis Sanchez’s recollections about the 2011 race — and how it compares to 2013, read here.

Morning Read: LA Teachers to Vote on Deasy, District Policies

LAUSD Teachers Set to Vote on Confidence in District, Union Policies
Los Angeles Unified’s 40,000 teachers will be polled next month on their confidence in Superintendent John Deasy and whether they want their union to ratchet up demands for higher pay, smaller classes and an end to many of the district’s reforms. LA Daily News

California Voters Split on Jerry Brown School Plans
Fifty percent agree with the governor’s proposal to give more funds to school districts that serve low-income children. A separate Brown plan to give local districts more funding control is favored by 59%. LA Times

LAUSD Salvages Summer School, but Classes Will Be Limited
Despite fears that Los Angeles Unified would have to cancel summer school this year, officials say they’ll be able to hold a limited number of credit-recovery classes at 16 high school campuses across the sprawling district. LA Daily News

State Educators Support LAUSD Waiver From No Child Left Behind Law
State education officials support efforts by Los Angeles Unified and eight other school districts to get a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law, but remain concerned about who would monitor a new accountability system. LA Daily News
See also: EdSource

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Morning Read: Teacher Dismissal Bill Gets New Champion

Sen. Padilla Drops His Teacher Dismissal Bill
Two days after Assemblymember Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, introduced a bill that would make it quicker and potentially cheaper to fire teachers, Sen. Alex Padillo, D-Los Angeles, has shelved his controversial version of a teacher dismissal bill and signed on as a principal co-author of hers. EdSource

L.A.’s Mayoral Rivals Walk Fine Line in Dealing With Labor
Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel are Democrats with long histories of supporting organized labor. But the competition for labor support has upended conventional thinking about the candidates. LA Times

L.A. Unified Officials Let Abuse Allegations Slide, Lawyers Say
Two high-level district employees heard but failed to act on accusations of sexual misconduct by an elementary school teacher, according to attorneys representing alleged victims. LA Times
See also: KPCC, KTLA

LA Unified School Board Blocks Current President From Another Term
The term limit may be the first sign that fewer members on the board of education may support the reform agenda. KPCC

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Morning Read: Pilot Schools Expand in LA

Incubator School in L.A. Sparks Discord Over Location, Teachers
The pilot middle school, which is slated to open next year but lacks a site, will teach students how to launch a business in addition to academics. LA Times

Sun Valley’s Francis Polytechnic High to Convert to Innovative Pilot School
Francis Polytechnic High in Sun Valley will become the first LAUSD campus to convert to a pilot school, which offers greater freedom in scheduling and instruction but also requires teachers to commit annually to the reforms taking place. LA Daily News

LAUSD Teams up With Other Districts to Serve Cheaper, Healthier Lunches
The Los Angeles Unified School District has teamed up with five other large school districts to save money and serve a higher quality menu to students. CBS LA

California Teacher Fund Needs $4.5 Billion Yearly Boost
The California State Teachers’ Retirement System’s $73 billion unfunded liability may be the state’s “most difficult fiscal challenge” and lawmakers should increase funding for the second-largest U.S. pension, the Legislative Analyst’s Office said. Bloomberg
See also: AP

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Morning Read: Board Votes to Limit President’s Terms

L.A. School Board Targets Garcia With Term-Limits Vote
A narrow majority of Los Angeles Board of Education members voted Tuesday to set a limit of two consecutive years for the school board presidency. Unless the new rule is rescinded later, the decision would end the six-year run of current President Monica Garcia in July. LA Times
See also: LA School Report

LAUSD Can Balance Budget This Year, but Potential Losses Loom
Los Angeles Unified can balance its budget this year thanks to a windfall from voter-approved Proposition 30, but needs lawmakers to pass Gov. Jerry Brown’s new student funding formula to keep its coffers filled next year, district officials said Tuesday. LA Daily News

New School to Teach Entrepreneurship Is Approved, Location Isn’t
A new school to teach middle school students about entrepreneurship was approved Tuesday by the Los Angeles Board of Education. But the board stepped back from original plans to place it at Venice High after several parents and students complained that it would siphon off needed space and resources. LA Times

LAUSD Considers Allowing Students to Enter Magnets All Year Long
Officials are working to set up a system that would allow students to enter popular magnet programs all year long in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The revamped admission process would address a long-standing problem: Programs are oversubscribed during the once-a-year admissions process, but underenrolled during the subsequent academic year. LA Times

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Breaking: Board Votes to Oust Monica Garcia From Presidency

Monica Garcia

The LAUSD Board voted today, 4 to 3, to limit the School Board president’s term to two years per individual. This will end Monica Garcia’s role as the Board’s president, a seat she has held for six consecutive years.

Board member Steve Zimmer was the deciding vote, joining his colleagues Marguerite LaMotte, Bennett Kayser, and Richard Vladovic to approve the limitation. Garcia, Tamar Galatzan, and Nury Martinez voted against the term limit.

Check back later for a full update on today’s School Board meeting.

Group Calls for “Courageous” School Board

Ama Nyamekye, the executive director of Educators 4 Excellence Los Angeles, an organization that advocates for teachers to take a more active role in shaping education policies, wrote an op-ed in last week’s Huffington Post LA calling for a more “courageous” LAUSD School Board:

“Our school board needs to get to work tackling a tall order of business,” she writes, ticking off key decisions and activities the Board should make: evaluating teachers and giving them more tools to teach more effectively, listening to teachers, doing more than simply evaluating educators, building partnerships with communities and families, and embracing diversity. Read the full op-ed here.