El Camino Real Charter teachers voice strong support for school, meet with union reps; LAUSD makes correspondence public

Sue Freitag drama teacher El Camino

Performing arts teacher Sue Freitag of El Camino Real Charter High School.

A $1,139 dinner at a steakhouse. A $95 bottle of fine Syrah wine. A $73 bill for flowers.

Those charges and others made by staff of a successful charter school were cited this week at an LA Unified School Board meeting and led the district to take the first steps to revoking the school’s charter.

El Camino Real Charter High School, which educates 3,600 students in the west San Fernando Valley, was given a Notice of Violations Tuesday that they must answer by Sept. 23, or the district could hold a public hearing to decide whether to revoke the school’s charter and return it to traditional district school status.

On Friday morning, all of the correspondence between the district and the school that was provided to the school board members was made public as per a request by board member Monica Ratliff.

While some of the school board members seemed outraged about the charges against the charter school in more than an hour of debate Tuesday, many teachers who spoke in support of the school said they felt that the district was being too harsh on the school. Some of them supported the expenses on lavish dinners, even though the district rules wouldn’t allow such practices for their own traditional schools.

“There are some things that need to be negotiated, and that may mean taking you out to dinner,” said teacher Sue Freitag. “I think the district is being unreasonable. Once again, it’s a huge bureaucracy trying to tell us all what to do. Charters are supposed to be independent.”

Marshall Mayotte, El Camino Real chief business officer

Marshall Mayotte, El Camino Real chief business officer

Freitag taught at the school for 14 years when it was a district school and after it became an independent charter school. She is also a member of the teachers union, UTLA, and notes that she is making 7 percent more than she did as a traditional school teacher. She said she has been part of the school family for 32 years, going back to being a student there.

“This school has had a pristine reputation in academics and the arts and it hurts me personally to see our reputation under scrutiny,” Freitag testified to the school board on Tuesday. “I question the charter school division as to why these issues were not brought up prior to the school year?” Freitag, who also is in charge of the theater program at the school, said, “I’m here for students, they deserve a safe school environment free of political interference.”

The teachers at El Camino Real will be meeting after school on Friday with UTLA members to discuss the issues with the school. The teachers have a separately negotiated UTLA contract that is different than the one for the overall district.

At Tuesday’s meeting, school board member Richard Vladovic said he sifted through the thousand of expenses of El Camino and asked, “Is it common to ask school funds to pay for a corkage fee? Can you use money meant for the students to pay the price of a bottle of wine? Can they purchase alcohol with school money? … If an LA principal did that, what would probably happen?”

Schools have done that, but they are told it’s against district policy, school officials said. Superintendent Michelle King shook her head and said, “There would be an investigation, and appropriate action would follow. No, we wouldn’t say it’s OK.”

Vladovic added that the school was asked months ago about the charges of “significant meals at restaurants and who attended the meetings and what they were for, and they did not respond.”

Jose Cole-Gutierrez, director of the district’s Charter Schools Division that brought the vote for the Notice of Violations to the school board, said his office noted the “seemingly exorbitant personal and improper expenses” including first-class travel and other expenses into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. He said the school has “the opportunity to remedy concerns noted” including charges on credit cards charged to the school that includes unauthorized travel expense. Although charter schools run independently, they must still follow some overall district rules and procedures, and their charters are renewed by the school board every five years but can be revoked at any time.

“We noted credit card activity that is still problematic,” Cole-Gutierrez said. “It does not prohibit the use of personal expenses. It discourages it, but does not prohibit it.” He said the district’s charter division asked for clarifications for the past two years.

School board President Steve Zimmer noted that the Notices to Cure from the charter division are common requests, and that the school board doesn’t plan to revoke the school’s charter immediately. Other school board members expressed serious concerns.

“This does not reflect on a great school, I have major concerns,” Vladovic concluded. “Do we treat schools that are still LAUSD property, as opposed to charter schools on independent sites, differently? No, so they are all treated the same.”

Board member Scott Schmerelson, who represents the district where El Camino is located, pointed out that each of the teachers speaking for the school was passionate and said “the charter school is excellent and used to have a stellar reputation.” Schmerelson noted a media interview with a school representative who said there was a lot of money in the school’s treasury and the expenses weren’t of concern.

“You can’t use public money like that,” Schmerelson said. “What bothers me the most is the arrogance, the arrogance, on the news, as if we’re the bad guys. We like the school, I don’t want to revoke the charter, I think it’s a great school. But you have to play fair and have to be fair with public money.”

Schmerelson said he received many emails from faculty members who said they were happy with the school, but unhappy with the administrators who created these problems. “The great majority of the emails I received were for the school, but against the deeds that were done,” Schmerelson said.

Janelle Ruley El Camino attorney

El Camino attorney Janelle Ruley

In the charter school’s own by-laws, it notes that purchases for staff meals must be pre-approved and “each department has a budget of $50/employee/year for meals.”

Janelle Ruley, a charter rights attorney of Young, Minney & Corr representing the school’s governing board, said the school district’s recent action “feels like a bait-and-switch sucker punch.” She said the school board’s actions are unproductive and said the school answered all the questions in a timely manner and changed some school policies.

“Like Charlie Brown kicking a football, charter schools are set up to make compliance mistakes and they’re heavily penalized when they actually do,” Ruley said. She added that the school board action “will expose the district to liability.” Ruley said the school plans to answer all the questions within the deadline, but that didn’t stop the teachers and families from being angry.

Gail Turner-Graham El Camino

Teacher Gail Turner-Graham

Teacher Gail Turner-Graham pointed out that “El Camino takes care of its teachers” with an average salary scale of $90,000 per teacher last year. She said the school increased classes, clubs and extracurricular activities by more than 15 percent and two college counselors are dedicated specifically for college planning and helping students with credit recovery. She said the school has a waiting list of 1,000 students and has “established a lean operating system” even though support staff increased by more than 40 percent.

Softball coach and teacher Lori Chandler said she had taught at the school since 1985 and when they first talked about going charter. “At the time the faculty lacked confidence and a majority was not in favor, but five years ago was very different and the faculty fully supported it,” said Chandler who also graduated from the high school. “That was the very best thing that happened to El Camino Real. Being a charter school means decisions are made at the school level.”

Chandler pointed out the school won 97 awards in the past five years in athletics. She suggested that the district wanted to take back the school because it was thriving so well and had several million dollars in their coffers for retiree benefits. “Perhaps that’s the problem, we are thriving too much,” said Chandler, who devoted 33 years to the school.

Lori Chandler El Camino

Lori Chandler, teacher and alum at El Camino Real.

District officials said they first notified the school of concerns last year, on Sept. 29, 2015 and issued a “Notice to Cure” to explain the irregularities by Oct. 30, 2015.

But the faculty and students didn’t know of the issues at the school until the first week of school this year, according to a science teacher at the school for the past 14 years, Dean Sodek. He said the faculty and parents were surprised and it was like “having a kitchen sink lobbed at us” by the district.

Sodek said the district paid a total of $1.2 million in oversight fees over the past five years to the district. He said the district charter office should offer more assistance to the school. He and other staff members said the district’s actions have shaken up the school.

“Please try to understand our frustration,” said the school’s ‎director of marketing, Melanie Horton. She said the district’s actions were “distracting and scaring our students and staff.”

Dermot Givens El Camino Real parent and attorney

Dermot Givens, an El Camino parent.

Parent Dermot Givens, an attorney whose son Damian got into the school through open enrollment, pointed out that his is one of the 8 percent of African-American families at the school. “It is not an all-white upper-class population,” Givens said, adding that his son is fluent in French, learning Mandarin Chinese and a member of the basketball team.

Marshall Mayotte, the school’s chief business officer, said the district’s report was a result of “sloppy work and false statements.” He pointed out that his name was mentioned 11 times for charges made on an employee business card and he was not at the restaurants that were named.

After the district voted to approve the latest notice to the school, Mayotte said, “We were caught off guard.” He said he didn’t have time to answer the summary of facts before the district made them public. The Los Angeles Daily News conducted an in-depth investigation of the school finances in May that also detailed expenses.

Tensions during the school board meeting grew so tense that board member Monica Garcia ordered: “OK, everybody breathe! Everybody breathe! There is a lot of tension and anxiety out there. What I hear is there is a lot people who support their school and want to see a solution and concern about some behavior came to light at some point. …  What I’m interested in hearing is a conversation of how to fix the issues.”

Scott Silverstein, a newly elected member of the El Camino school board and the parent of a recent graduate of the school, said, “We are more than happy to make the necessary changes.”

6 top education news stories in Los Angeles in the first 6 months of 2016

Burning birthday candle number 1

(Photos courtesy of iStock)

The first half of 2016 brought high stakes and high drama to Los Angeles’ education scene, from dire budget predictions to heated charter debates to attempts at overhauling teacher tenure laws.

There were anniversaries to celebrate along the way — 25 years for both charter schools nationwide and Teach For America — and comings and goings of superintendents, plus the glimmerings of electoral races to come (for the school board’s members and president, LA City Council, mayor and even governor) that promise a starring role for education.

NEW SUPERINTENDENT

The new year started with the announcement that Michelle King had been chosen by a unanimous vote of the school board to be LA Unified’s next superintendent, the first black female ever to lead the district and the first woman since 1929. The three-month nationwide search had ended at home, with an LA Unified “lifer” who was educated in the district and has worked for it for nearly 30 years. King replaced Ramon Cortines, who stepped down at the end of 2015.

King had to immediately grapple with how the district would co-exist with the growing number of charter schools and the school board’s opposition to a plan to significantly increase their numbers. In fact, the day she was confirmed by the board was also the day of the unanimous board vote against an early draft plan to expand charters.

King called for healing, and in her first community town hall she stressed, “It’s not us versus them.” She met three times with the new head of the nonprofit formed to lead the expansion of the city’s high-quality schools, Great Public Schools Now Executive Director Myrna Castrejon, who, like King, was announced in January, is a minority woman and single mother, and stands to have significant impact on the shape and state of education in LA.

King also took on the plummeting graduation rate as well as predictions of a massive deficit within three years, holding a series of special board meetings in May and June to address the predictions and as well as recommendations outlined in a November report by an independent financial review panel.

She presented her first budget in June, which most board members praised, but noted there was much work yet to be done.

“Are we there? No, we’re not there, but we are on a path moving forward in the right direction,” King said as she presented the budget to the board.

“In general, I think that your staff and you have done a good job of trying to meet the needs in the district with the limited funds we have,” board member Monica Ratliff told her.

Burning birthday candle number 2

BUDGET GLOOM

The future is dire,” is what King heard at the outset of the special meetings on the fiscal health of the district.

Internationally renowned education expert Pedro Noguera of UCLA, hired by the district to advise King and the board and facilitate the special meetings, warned that unless more serious measures are taken, the nation’s second-largest school district is destined to lose more students.

The challenges LA Unified is facing, Noguera said, include declining enrollment because of the growth of charters and demographic shifts, chronically under-performing schools, structural budget deficits and the need to increase public support for schools.

The details were daunting: the budget deficit was projected to reach nearly half a billion dollars in three years; a district audit showed LA Unified debt outstripped assets by $4.2 billion; unfunded pensions topped $13 billion and have more than doubled since 2005; per-pupil funding had doubled but the district still faces financial crisis; and plans for a turnaround included boosting enrollment but not cutting staff. Indeed, even though the district has lost 100,000 students in the last six years, its certified administrative staff has increased 22 percent in the last five years.

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A view from inside LAUSD’s board: Teaching moments from George McKenna and his McKenna-isms

GeorgeMcKennaSmiling387George McKenna is often considered one of the more curmudgeonly characters on the LA Unified school board (although he has some competition). As vice president of the board and the senior member of the seven elected members, McKenna is given a lot of leeway and respect when he has something to say at the board meetings.

And when he does, it often turns into a life story, a history lesson or a smart anecdote from his teaching days ranging back to when he started at LA Unified in 1962.

Here are a few choice McKenna-isms we’ve observed at the school board.

On successful teachers . . .

“I don’t feel sorry for you because you chose to do this. You are putting together something that you must sustain. You are like the land. We can devastate everything else, but the land remains. That’s how we plant the seed, and the fruit is our children.”

On bad teachers . . .

“A lousy teacher is a bad thing to have, it’s like having a lousy doctor: you’re not going to make it.”

On ethnic teachers . . .

“The ethnicity of a teacher has nothing to do with their ability to relate to children. It does not require a black teacher to teach a black child, it does not require a Hispanic teacher to teach a Hispanic child. Melanin does not protect you from racial prejudice. It only protects you from sunburn, that’s about all. I have never found anybody that protected a child against prejudice just because they are black.”

On celebrating successful schools . . .

“We don’t need to celebrate successful schools, that should be expected. It’s like when you take an airplane. You expect it to land; you don’t celebrate that, you expect it. That’s what you’re supposed to do.”

On picking a superintendent . . .

“We can have Sleepy, Bashful, Dopey and all of them stand before us, but we are picking a Snow White.”

On the process of picking a superintendent . . .

“We can have all the forms and surveys and input in the world, but what’s going to tell it to me more than anything is when I look the person in the eye and ask them, ‘Why do you want to be superintendent of this district?’ And that’s how I will decide.”

GeorgeMcKennaMichelleKing11 (1)

George McKenna on a school visit with new Superintendent Michelle King.

On community input . . .

“You know, I’m all for community involvement and engagement and such, but the community is who picked us to represent them. No one invited me to sit on the board of their organization to give input. The community gave us this responsibility, let us do it.”

On fellow board member Monica Ratliff . . .

“Miss Ratliff is psychic as well as bright. … I appreciate everything she asks about, especially when it concerns the budgets. No one else is going to read through all these papers like she is.”

On unanimous decisions . . .

“That, we all agree, would be a flawed assumption, especially with the bizarreness of one or two of us.”

On a motion to close a charter school in his district . . .

“These are my children, I walk with them to school, they’ve been there since 1965. I’ve been there and know what they are doing. The objections are bureaucratic, not because of instructions. I will not vote for this.”

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LAUSD returns to as close to normal as possible after one-day scare

MichelleKingPressConference

Michelle King at press conference

  • UPDATED

After a long tense day that resulted in all LA Unified schools being closed due to a bomb and weapons threat, normal routines came back to schools across the district this morning.

“Things have gone extraordinarily smoothly,” board President Steve Zimmer told LA School Report. “It’s as close to normal as possible. Even so, we remain in a very protective and a alert stance.”

Some people saw more school police in uniform and a larger Los Angeles police presence around school neighborhoods. Parents were inundated with robo-calls and emails (at least three calls and two emails at some households), explaining the situation and assuring that it is safe for students to return to school.

Zimmer said the district had “absolutely increased the presence of law enforcement and district support personnel.”

At 7:30 last night, the district provided every principal a packet of materials to distribute to teachers this morning to help them talk about the school closure and allay any remaining fears. The district posted information in Spanish and English on their website for parents, too.

“Crisis counselors are available if students want to talk about the incident,” chief deputy superintendent Michelle King said in a statement from the district. “Teachers have been provided lesson plans on how to help youngsters who may feel a little anxious or afraid.”

King notably stepped up front at the final press conference yesterday afternoon, while outgoing superintendent Ramon Cortines stood in the background, even after taking the lead at press conferences earlier in the day. King, who may be a contender for the now-vacant superintendent job, took an angry question from a broadcast reporter who is also a mother, expressing concerns that families were not notified fast enough of yesterday’s closures.

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

calendar_icon

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

JackieParades

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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