District Allocates Over $27 Million to 58 of the Miramonte Victims

miramonte schoolLA Unified said today that more than $27 million has been allocated for 58 settlements with the parents of children who were suing the school district over allegations of sexual misconduct by teachers at Miramonte Elementary. That brings to 61 the number of financial settlements with two more awaiting final paperwork and 68 other cases that are still unresolved.

“We’re still hoping to settle these cases in a way that’s in the best interest of the children,” said Sean Rossall, a spokesman for the district’s legal team.

The $27 million comes from the district’s general fund, rather than from insurance coverage. That’s because one of LAUSD’s carriers, Everest National Insurance, is suing the district, claiming that its policies don’t cover the Miramonte abuse claims.

“We’re aggressively pursuing our insurers to hold them accountable for the coverage that they had agreed to provide the district,” Rossall said.

In 2012, veteran Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt was arrested and charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct. Another Miramonte teacher, Martin Springer, was charged with molesting a 7-year-old student in his class. A third teacher was charged with “aiding and abetting” Berndt. Superintendent John Deasy responded to the scandal, which attracted worldwide media attention, by replacing the entire staff of the school.

Previous posts: LAUSD Launches Miramonte Settlement CountdownEx-Miramonte Principal Martin Sandoval Was Reassigned To El Sereno Elementary SchoolUpdate: Teacher Dismissal Bill Heads to State SenateTop District Lawyer Talks Lawsuits, Unilateral Action

Teacher Dismissal Bill Blocked Over Seven-Month Time Limit

Congressional Dist. 10 Debate

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-San Ramon)

After nine months of hearings and amendments, legislation aimed to quicken and streamline teacher dismissal procedures failed to pass in the Senate Education Committee by one vote.

The Chair of the Senate Education Committee Carol Liu (D-Glendale) — the only LA-area lawmaker on the committee — decided not to vote for or against the bill because of district administrators and attorneys’ concerns. Many other lawmakers followed suit.

Liu did grant the bill reconsideration, however, but it now will not be reconsidered until at least January.

Unless the process is changed at the state-level, bill sponsor State Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-San Ramon) says LAUSD and other districts will continue to wade through onerous dismissal procedures that can last 18 months or longer.

However,  Edgar Zazueta, the director of government relations for LAUSD, said that while Buchanan’s bill would be a great improvement to the current law there are some serious flaws that could damage the district if the bill passed as is.

The Buchanan legislation has been supported by the teachers union, among others.

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LAUSD Launches Miramonte Settlement Countdown

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 9.30.28 AMYesterday, LAUSD launched a website to notify the last 35 plaintiffs in the Miramonte case of the district’s settlement offer.

The LA Daily News‘ Barbara Jones describes the website launch as “the latest salvo in what has become a public campaign by both the district and plaintiffs’ attorneys.”

As the Los Angeles Times notes, the website “includes a sample lifetime payment structure that, with interest, is expected to provide victims at least $770,000 each.”

The site also includes a countdown clock at the bottom of the page, indicating the amount of time the plaintiffs have to accept the offer. As of this writing, there’s only 9 days, 7 hours, 22 minutes, and 32 seconds left!

KPCC’s brand-new education reporter, Jed Kim, talked to Luis Carillo, the lawyer for 23 of the alleged victims, who said, “To me this is unethical, because it’s a way of communicating to our clients by scaring them.”

Previous posts: Ex-Miramonte Principal Martin Sandoval Was Reassigned To El Sereno Elementary SchoolTop District Lawyer Talks Lawsuits, Unilateral ActionState Teachers Union Rejects Criticism of Teacher Dismissal Bill

Update: Teacher Dismissal Bill Heads to State Senate

sacramento_state_capital_house

A controversial bill aimed at ensuring teachers accused of sexual misconduct and other immoral acts can be more easily removed from the classroom is now awaiting referral in the Senate Rules Committee before its eventual hearing by the Senate Education Committee.

Given the array of allies and opponents focused on teacher misconduct — especially after reports of ongoing sexual misconduct at Miramonte Elementary School shocked LAUSD — the bill’s next step will be closely followed and hotly debated.

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State Teachers Union Rejects Criticism of Teacher Dismissal Bill*

Former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt (via SCPR)

California Teachers Association President Dean Vogel has issued a sharp response to criticism of the proposed teacher dismissal bill being championed by Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo), focusing in particular on those of former state lawmaker Gloria Romero:

“Far from jumping late onto any dismissal bandwagon, CTA has led support of efforts to expedite the dismissal process, maintain existing safeguards that remove teachers from classrooms immediately when charged with serious offenses and toughen penalties for districts and school personnel who fail to follow mandated abuse-reporting procedures. These are the facts, despite any claims from paid spokespersons for organizations founded and funded in part by outspoken, school-privatization proponents and hedge-fund managers who see dollar signs in public-school funding… We applaud California lawmakers who are moving ahead with bills that keep children safe and streamline the process for removing people who don’t belong in our classrooms, while still maintaining safeguards against false allegations.”

Romero has been joined in her criticism of the Buchanan proposal by LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, EdVoice, and others.  Later this week, amendments to the Buchanan legislation are being considered in Sacramento.

*Correction:  The original version of this post mis-identified the teacher dismissal bill’s chief sponsor as Joan Sullivan, rather than Joan Buchanan.

Previous posts:  Villaraigosa Expresses Concerns About Teacher Dismissal Bill;  Deasy Requests Changes to Teacher Dismissal Bill.

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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Morning Read: Michelle Rhee Brings Ed Reform to California

Taking a Crack at California’s Education System
Michelle Rhee came to prominence as the tough-minded chancellor of Washington, D.C., schools. Now she’s in Sacramento, taking on this state’s system — and its teachers unions. LA Times
See also: L.A. Now Live Chat on Rhee and California’s Public Schools


U.S. Ed Department Agrees to Review 9 Districts’ Plan for NCLB Waiver
The nine California districts seeking a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Law have got their foot in the door. On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it has accepted their waiver application and will treat it as they would an application from other states, with a formal review. EdSource


Bill Clinton Picks Wendy Greuel as L.A.’s Next Mayor
When a city’s schools fail the city fails. The next generation of L.A.’s job creators will create jobs in cities other than Los Angeles. The next Mayor of Los Angeles is going to have his or her hands full. LA Daily News Column


Miramonte Plaintiffs Want 2013 Trial; LAUSD’s 2014 Trial Request Rejected
The families of students allegedly abused at Miramonte Elementary School are pressing ahead with their demand for a trial. There was a court organizing session Tuesday as they move toward a trial. ABC LA

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Morning Read: Villaraigosa Fell Short on Education, Says KPCC

Why Antonio Villaraigosa Fell Short as LA’s Education Mayor
As Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa prepares to step down in June, among the achievements he takes credit for during his eight years in office is improving one institution that the law gives him no authority over: the public schools. KPCC


CTC to Survey New Teacher Prep Grads for Data on System Improvements
Concerned that too many of California’s teacher preparation programs don’t measure up to the state’s high standards, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing is set to undertake a data collection program aimed at pin-pointing strengths and weaknesses of specific institutions. SI&A Cabinet Report


California School Districts Send out Far Fewer Pink Slips
Thanks to a boost in money for public education, California school districts have issued just 3,000 pink slips to teachers this year, a dramatic drop from the 20,000 sent out last year, the California Teachers Assn. reported Monday. LA Times


School District Discriminated Against Gay Students, ACLU Alleges
In a letter from the ACLU, the Hesperia Unified School District is accused of discriminating against gay and lesbian students, including refusing to allow girls to wear tuxedos to the prom. LA Times
See also: AP

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Morning Read: Deasy in DC

Angelenos Storm Capitol Hill for Annual LA Chamber Lobbying Trip
This year’s Access LA group included Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LAUSD school superintendent John Deasy, five city councilmen, and more than a hundred local business leaders. KPCC
Also: Deasy was at the Council of Great City Schools conference in DC earlier this week.


SBE, School Groups in Settlement Talks Over Statewide Benefit Charters
At issue is a section of the Education Code that gives a charter operator the right to submit a petition directly to the state board for approval of a charter school that operates at multiple sites throughout the state. SI&A Cabinet Report


Miramonte Family Presses Forward With Lawsuit Against LA Unified School District
Depression, anxiety and insomnia have become almost daily challenges, according to the mother of a student allegedly abused by a teacher while attending Miramonte Elementary School.  Her family is among the 71 not included in the settlements negotiated between 58 families and the Los Angeles Unified School District. NBC LA


SoCal Olympians Mentor LA Students to Encourage Fitness, Health
While Olympians fight for the gold medal at prestigious international events, California kids are working to pass their own mandated fitness tests at schools throughout the state. These two groups come together in a program called Ready, Set, Gold! KPCC

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Morning Read: LAUSD to Pay Millions Over Abuse Lawsuits

LAUSD to Pay Nearly $30M to Settle Miramonte Sex Abuse Lawsuits
Los Angeles Unified will pay nearly $30 million to settle claims by 58 children who say they were victims of former Miramonte Elementary teacher Mark Berndt, the veteran educator charged with committing bizarre acts of sex abuse against students, attorneys said Tuesday. LA Daily News
See also: LA Times, KPCC, AP, LA Times Now Live


LAUSD Charters Would Lose Funding Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s Budget
Wilbur Elementary got $230,000 in state grants when it converted to a charter last fall. Now, administrators at Wilbur and other affiliated charters, nearly all of them in the San Fernando Valley, are struggling with the news that they stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants if lawmakers approve Gov. Jerry Brown’s new formula for funding public education. LA Daily News


L.A. Charter School Aims to Toss Out Students With Fake Addresses
Officials at Carpenter Community Charter, a top-notch elementary, think 120 children are enrolled fraudulently. They want to make room for students who live in the neighborhood. LA Times


Try a Different tack: Hold Teachers Responsible for Education Quality
The logic of the reformers seems to be that teachers unions are so wrongheaded, and the citizenry sufficiently tired of fights about seniority and teacher evaluation, that putting forward a slate of school board candidates is the way to change the balance of power in the school district and mute the pesky union.  But the strategy hasn’t worked. EdSource Opinion


Over-Praising Preschool
Obama wants the government to fund a free year of pre-kindergarten, but studies don’t back up his claims of long-term benefits. LA Times Opinion

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Morning Read: CA Charter Law Ranked 7th

Report Ranks California’s Charter School Laws 7th Strongest in Nation
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools ranked California 7th for its charter school laws among the 42 states and the District of Columbia that have passed laws allowing charter schools. EdSource


L.A. Schools Supt. Deasy, 4 Predecessors Named in Miramonte Lawsuit
The lawsuit alleges that the superintendents created an environment in which administrators were advised to dismiss complaints of misconduct, shielded teachers from scrutiny and kept allegations from being reported to state authorities and law enforcement. LA Times
See also: LA Daily News, AP, ABC LA


Applying for Kindergarten: What to Do If Your Child Is Too Young
It’s that time of the year when parents of four and five year old’s are busy with school tours and applications to secure a kindergarten spot. KPCC

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Morning Read: UTLA Approves Teacher Evaluation

Los Angeles Teachers Union Approves Use of Testing Data in Evaluations
A landmark agreement to use student test scores for the first time to evaluate Los Angeles Unified instructors was approved by the teachers union Saturday. LA Times
See also: LA Daily News, KPCC, LA School Report


‘Parent Trigger’ Organizers Find Willing Partner in Los Angeles Unified
Compared with the trench warfare with teachers and district officials that parents encountered while seeking to transform low-performing elementary schools in Compton and Adelanto, parents at 24th Street Elementary School in received encouragement rather than resistance from school officials. EdSource


West L.A. Teacher’s Class Act Earns a Milken Award
Jackie Bonilla of Clover Avenue Elementary is the only California teacher to receive the national award this year. LA Times


A Paper Produced by Teens for Teens Is No Longer Pressing Ahead
For 25 years, L.A. Youth was distributed to classrooms across Los Angeles County. Now, because of financial struggles, its final issue hits campuses this week. LA Times

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Morning Read: Looming Vote On Teacher Evaluations

Teacher Vote on Whether to Use Student Test Scores in Performance Evaluations
Teachers in Los Angeles Unified will vote Jan. 14-18 on a tentative agreement that would allow the use of student test data in performance evaluations. LA Daily News


Calif. Teachers Fund Reviewing Firearm Holdings
The nation’s largest teachers’ pension fund announced Tuesday that it was reviewing its firearms holdings after determining that its investment in a gun maker was linked to one of the weapons used in last week’s Connecticut school massacre. AP


Jury awards $6.9 million to boy molested by L.A. Unified teacher
Now 14, the boy was a fifth-grader at Queen Anne Place Elementary School when then-teacher Forrest Stobbe molested him for several months. LA Times
See also: KPCC


11,200 Child-Care Slots in Los Angeles County Lost During Recession
Los Angeles County lost thousands of licensed child-care spaces during three recession-battered years, jeopardizing the ability of low-income parents to work and give their children an academic head start through early education services, data released Wednesday showed. LA Times

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Morning Read: Miramonte Lawsuits Proceed

Miramonte Lewd Conduct Lawsuits Can Proceed
An L.A. County Superior Court judge on Thursday lifted a stay on lawsuits arising from alleged lewd conduct at Miramonte Elementary School. LA Times


Ex-Miramonte Teacher Mark Berndt Hires Defense Attorney
Mark Berndt, the former Miramonte Elementary School teacher accused of lewd conduct against his students, has hired as his defense attorney a former federal prosecutor who is also an ex-television news reporter. NBC LA


Tablets or Teachers? L.A. Tech Initiative Sparks Heated Board Debate
Last month, when a panel overseeing bond spending for Los Angeles schools narrowly rejected initial steps to provide all 650,000 students with tablet computers, the biggest concern for the program was whether bond funding could pay for technology. EdWeek


My View: I Would Trade Tenure for Better Teaching
Teacher Aadina Balti has tenure, but says it’s no reason for her, or any other teacher, to stop innovating. CNN Opinion

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Morning Read: LAUSD Wins Battle With Charters

LAUSD Wins Key Legal Battle With Charter Schools
A California appellate court panel strikes down a ruling that could have opened up many classrooms for charters and created potential hardships for traditional campuses. LA Times


LA Teachers Union Endorses Multiple Candidates for the Same Seats
In an unusual move, the United Teachers Los Angeles on Wednesday endorsed eight candidates who will face off for two seats on the L.A. Unified school board. KPCC


15 Candidates Means a Crowded Ballot for LAUSD Board Election
Fifteen candidates, including two incumbents, met Wednesday’s filing deadline to run for three seats on the Los Angeles Unified board in the March 5 primary. LA Daily News


L.A. Unified Aims to Settle Miramonte Lawsuits by End of January
Lawyers for the Los Angeles Unified School District announced Thursday that by the end of January the district intends to settle 189 legal claims filed in connection with lewd-conduct charges against a former teacher at Miramonte Elementary School. LA Times
See also: Huff Po


Watch: LAUSD Eyes Lower Graduation Standards to Curb Dropouts
The nation’s second-largest school district may be forced to backtrack on its plan to raise its academic standards. CBS

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One Thing: LAUSD’s Crowded “Rubber Rooms”

From LA School Report contributor Hillel Aron, writing for the LA Weekly:

Source: LA Weekly

“On the outskirts of LAUSD’s sprawling, mazelike Educational Service Center in Reseda sit seven long, shabby, peach-colored bungalows with barred windows and rotting wood, which all but scream Southern California public education.

“In one of them is a roughly 35-square-foot room where 25 or so teachers (and a couple of teacher’s assistants) sit at cubicles.

“One sits with his feet up and his head tilted back toward the pockmarked ceiling, fast asleep, snoring loudly through a gaping mouth… Another works on her dissertation for a doctorate in education.

“They are teachers in teacher jail, known more popularly as rubber rooms, and the aim is to keep them out of classrooms while allegations against them are investigated.

Read the rest of the story at LA Weekly.

Morning Read: LAUSD Approves Teacher Grading Deal

L.A. Unified Says Deal on Evaluations Meets Court Order
The Los Angeles Unified School District filed court papers Tuesday asserting that a new tentative agreement with the teachers union has satisfied judicial orders to use state standardized test scores in instructor evaluations. LA Times


LAUSD Board OKs Deal With Teachers Union on Performance Evaluations
The LAUSD school board signed off Tuesday on a deal with the teachers union to implement a new system that will incorporate student test data in performance evaluations. LA Daily News


A New Way to Rate L.A. Unified’s Teachers
What kind of process for evaluating teachers can possibly be devised by a determinedly reform-minded administration, a stubborn union and plaintiffs in a hostile lawsuit? As it turns out, a better kind than they’ve had up to now. LA Times Editorial

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Morning Read: Teacher Dismissal Revived

Bill to Speed up Teacher Dismissals Is Revived
Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) acted in the wake of a state audit concluding that current laws added excessive cost and time to the firing process. LA Times
See Also: LA Daily News 


Billboards Promote Law That Lets Students Leave Low Performing Schools
The Open Enrollment Act became California law two years ago with the goal to give kids a way out of the worst schools in the state.  KPCC


For Dropouts, a Way to Drop Back In
An increasing number of young people neither attend school nor work, a study finds. A new partnership between the city of Los Angeles and L.A. Unified aims to halt that ‘unacceptable’ trend. LA Times


Listen: LAUSD and UTLA Discuss Use of Test Scores for Teacher Evaluations
Should student test scores be used in teacher evaluations? The Los Angeles Unified School District and its teachers union have come to a tentative agreement to allow the use of student test scores in end-of-year evaluations. KPCC AirTalk


AFT Calls for Teacher ‘Bar Exam’; National Board to Oversee
The American Federation of Teachers has unveiled an ambitious new initiative to raise entry standards for teacher-preparation programs—and to create a “universal assessment,” analogous to the bar exam in law. Education Week

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Commentary: Union Points Fingers on Sex Abuse

UTLA: Everything to Hinder, Nothing to Help?

Lots of blame was dished out last week after a state audit found weak dismissal and reporting practices at LAUSD regarding teachers accused of sexual misconduct.

Especially vocal was ULTA president Warren Fletcher, who has consistently lobbed criticism at LAUSD for how it has managed the scandal.

Now I am a Prop-30-supporting-dyed-in-the-wool union Democrat, but I have to ask – shouldn’t the teachers union also take some responsibility here?  Not if you ask the current UTLA leadership, which continues to insist on sacrificing student well-being to protect even pedophiles.

But things could be changing.
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Morning Read: Teacher Evaluation Revamp

LAUSD, Teachers’ Union Reach ‘Historic’ Agreement on Evaluations
Just days before a court-ordered deadline, L.A. Unified and its teachers’ union announced a “historic” tentative agreement allowing administrators to use student test scores in teacher evaluations. KPCC
See also: LA TimesEdSource, LA Daily News, EdWeek, WSJ, UTLA


California Legislator Vows to Reintroduce Bill to Speed Teacher Firing for Abuse
A California state senator said he plans to reintroduce a bill Monday that would make it easier to fire a teacher accused of sexually abusing a student. KPCC

See also LA Daily News, Newswire


New Ideas From a New Generation of Teachers
A critical demographic shift is occurring. This one is taking place, quietly, in teachers unions: Over the past several years, teachers who have spent 10 years or fewer in the classroom have become the dues-paying majority. Washington Post Opinion

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