LAUSD board approves a student voice, but not how to get it

Steve Zimmer LAUSD Board Meeting 4-8-2014

Steve Zimmer LAUSD Board Meeting 4-8-2014

A grand plan by Steve Zimmer and Bennett Kayser to put a student voice on the LA Unified School Board hit a road block today when the board accepted the idea in principle but delayed adopting a plan for how to do it.

In a 50-minute debate, board member Tamar Galatzan was the first to lead the charge against their Student Engagement and Empowerment resolution, which would have required Superintendent John Deasy to develop a plan that included a seven member student advisory board and a district-wide student Congress.

But the effort went down in a 4-2 vote over objections to doing anything more than acknowledging the certainty of creating a student advisory position for the board something during the 2014-2015 academic year.

“I don’t know why we need to create this giant bureaucracy of student advice when the education code is much simpler,” said Galatzan, who voted with Monica Garcia, Monica Ratliff and Board President RIchard Vladovic to defeat the resolution.

Garcia quickly proposed an alternative approach: Accept the petition presented to the board — 1,500 student signatures calling for the addition of a student representative, as required by the California education code — and authorize Deasy to recommend within 120 days the best way to accomplish the effort.

That was passed, 5-1, with Zimmer as the holdout.

After the board meeting, Zimmer told LA School Report, he was disappointed in his colleagues who chose to meet only the minimum standards required by the state.

“I hope that the students who participated in the process don’t feel deflated by democracy,” he said. And he encouraged them to view it as a partial victory.

“The good news,” he said, “is that there will be a student here and that’s going to make this a better board of education.”

Parents, community groups rally for a say in LA Unified budget

CLASS rally at LA Unified

CLASS rally at LA Unified

The battle to influence the Los Angeles Unified School board on how to spend Governor Jerry Brown’s new Local Control Funding Formula budget boost and statewide tax revenues for education continues to rage on.

Parents, educators and community organizers rallied outside of LA Unified headquarters today before a special school board meeting primarily focussed on budget issues.

Inside, members of Communities for Los Angeles Student Success (CLASS) presented the six-member board with a petition containing more than 5,000 signatures by families and teachers across L.A.  “demanding that $1 billion in extra state funding over the next seven years goes to help low-income students, English learners and foster youth.”

The petition was bound by rubber bands, about seven inches thick, and made a loud thunk as speakers dramatically dropped sections of it on the speaker’s podium.

A graduate of Manual Arts High School who said he’d had “a  lot of emotional problems” when he was a student there, suggested the district hire several restorative justice counselors.

Several parents called for the district to close teacher jails and open school libraries  instead.

Caroline Horton, an eduction aide at Crenshaw High School, said the district “is being wasteful twice” when it puts teachers in “teacher jail.”

“You’re paying them to do nothing and then you’re paying a substitute to do their job, too,” she said.

School board member Monica Ratliff tried to manage the protesters’ expectations.

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Glimpses of LA Unified meeting: iPads and kumbaya*

LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy

LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy

Debate at times was intense as ever yesterday.

Tamar Galatzan and Steve Zimmer still didn’t seem to agree on much, the board ignored a recommendation from the Bond Oversight Committee and nobody thought Monica Garcia had a great idea in giving the entire board responsibility for taking District 1 interests into consideration with their votes.

But a change in attitude toward John Deasy was clearly evident. For these few hours, anyway, he appeared as everybody’s friend and confidante. And this is a superintendent, after all, who had grown so frustrated with board dysfunction a few months ago that he threatened to step down.

During a sometimes heated discussion over how many iPads to buy for the next round of distribution, Board President Richard Vladovic came close to cutting off any further discord by saying, “Let’s let the superintendent make the call and move on. I’m going to vote against anything that doesn’t allow him to do what’s best.”

How far have these two come? It was just about a year ago that Deasy was saying he’d resign if Vladovic became board president, and Vladovic let it be known he was not Deasy’s biggest fan.

This was as close to kumbaya as it gets.

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A silent night for two LA Unified board members

Monica Garcia, at a more talkative time

Monica Garcia, at a more talkative time

For all the passion and discord over how to fill a vacant seat, two of the six LA Unified board members were silent during the board’s hour-long debate last night. Neither the current president, Richard Vladovic, nor his predecessor, Monica Garcia, weighed in, apart from their votes.

Before a 4-2 decision to hold a June 3 special election — with Vladovic and Garcia in the majority — Vladovic spoke only in keeping the trains moving — welcoming speakers, chastising hecklers, asking the audience to keep things civil. He had almost nothing to say about the issues at hand.

Mike Trujillo, his spokesman, said he was committed to facilitating a healthy discussion.

“Dr. Vladovic’s core belief is that democracy was the right thing to pursue and he really didn’t feel as though taking up more time when it was clear every argument from A to Z was laid out,” Trujillo said. “When you take into account those who advocated for an election, all of those arguments that were used encapsulated what Dr. Vladovic was feeling when he made his vote.”

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Delay on iPads shows deep division on LA Unified board

TamarDec_17It’s the other delay yesterday that portends long-term consequences for LA Unified students.

In the latest sign of the deep divide on the district school board, the members voted to hold off the next phase of the iPad program, rather than approve a carefully crafted compromise that the board had hammered out, and passed, at the last meeting.

An agenda item yesterday to approve distribution of iPads to 38 schools and laptops to seven high schools was pushed off to the board’s next scheduled meeting, Jan. 14.

Then, later in the meeting, a resolution from Tamar Galatzan and Monica Garcia to act upon the November action – in other words, to bypass the item postponed – was defeated.

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LA Unified board delays action on LaMotte vacancy to January

LA Unified Board Meeting

The LA Unified school board today postponed until next month any consideration of how to fill the board seat left vacant by the death of Marguerite LaMotte, bowing to a wave of pleas from speakers asking the board to wait until after her funeral.

A 3-3 vote on a motion to allow discussion to begin effectively killed the effort. A six-member board requires four votes for any measure to pass.

President Richard Vladovic, Tamar Galatzan and Monica Garcia voted in favor of consideration; Steve Zimmer, Bennett Kayser and Monica Ratliff voted to wait. The board then voted unanimously to schedule a special meeting Jan. 7, when a debate will begin over whether to fill the seat through a special election or a board appointment.

The funeral for LaMotte, who died Dec. 5, is scheduled for Saturday.

The board’s first vote was preceded by a parade of speakers, a majority of whom urged the members to defer action out of respect for LaMotte’s family and legacy.

Typical of the passion was that from Patricia Sanders, vice president of the New Frontier Democratic Club, who argued that it was “time to memorialize and funeralize” LaMotte, who, she said, “would be pissed off to the highest point of pissivisity,” were the board to act so quickly after the death of another member.

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BREAKING NEWS: Board postpones vote on LaMotte seat

20131217-SteveZimmer3The LA Unified school board voted today to delay a decision on how to fill the board seat held by the late Marguerite LaMotte until Jan.7 to allow her family to hold a funeral service and interment.

A 3-3 vote to consider the options effectively killed the motion to take up the matter four votes were required for passage. President Richard Vladovic, Tamar Galatzan and Monica Garcia voted to waive a rule that would have opened the door to immediate consideration, while Bennett Kayser, Monica Ratliff and Steve Zimmer voted against the waiver.

The board then voted unanimously to take up the issue at a special meeting on Jan. 7.


A full plate for the LA Unified board — LaMotte seat, fixes, iPads

generic board meetingThe LA Unified school board is back together tomorrow, with a long agenda highlighted by several high-stakes and, very likely, contentious issues.

Foremost is the discussion and probable vote on how to fill the vacant District 1 seat. Marguerite LaMotte’s death on Dec. 4 has left the board with the options of filling the seat by board appointment or working with the city to hold a special election.

There are rational arguments for and against either choice, but with six people deciding, the prevailing side needs four votes. A 3-3 deadlock would require the board to keep voting until someone is persuaded to break.

Efforts by LA School Report last week to learn where members stand found that they appeared to be split, with President Richard Vladovic, Tamar Galatzan and Monica Garcia favoring a special election and Bennett Kayser and Monica Ratliff favoring an appointment. Steve Zimmer was said to favor an appointment, but he told the LA Times he’s undecided.

A chorus of voices that includes state and federal elected officials have expressed support for an election. Rep. Maxine Waters, whose Congressional district overlaps the LaMotte district, campaigned for an election at the First AME Church of Los Angeles last night. LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is urging people to show up at district headquarters tomorrow to rally for an election.

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Charter Schools Association Pushing Election for LaMotte Seat

MapBoardDistrict1The California Charter Schools Association, or CCSA, has become the latest group pushing LA Unified leadership to hold an election to fill the seat left open by the sudden death of board member Marguerite LaMotte. As the school board continues to weigh the options of appointing a replacement or staging a special election — stakeholders around the city are making their positions clear.

School board District 1, which LaMotte had represented since 2003, includes parts of south LA, Leimert Park and Baldwin Hills. It stretches as far west as Palms, north to Hancock Park, and south to Gardena. As of this year, there are about 40 charter schools operating in the district, serving more than 12,000 students. Only District 2, represented by Monica Garcia, has more charter schools.

CCSA Spokeswoman Sierra Jenkins says the CCSA plans to circulate a petition next week, among parents of charter school students “to encourage the board to hold a special election.”

A former teacher and principal, LaMotte was a strong ally for teachers and other district employees, which won her lasting support from UTLA, the teachers union, as well as SEIU, a public employees union. For most of her tenure on the board, she staunchly opposed charter schools, though she did soften her views in recent years.

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On LA Unified Board, What’s Old is New Again — More Committees

CommittesIt’s that time of year again, and naturally, thoughts turn to LA Unified school board committees.

Well, probably not, but it is worth noting that what’s old is new again, as the deliberative process has returned, echoes of a bygone, pre-Monica Garcia as president time.

Back then, in the middle of the last decade, as many as 10 committees met often, some of them monthly and some of them even more. Who could forget the Committee on the Modified Chanda Smith Consent Decree Committee, which convened during the committee high-mark years of 2005 and 2006, when Board President Marlene Canter had 10 and 9 committees at hand.

When Garcia became president in 2006, the committee system waned, only for a rebirth under Richard Vladovic, who succeeded Garcia as president this year. After Garcia cancelled committees, Vladovic created them. Now there are 7, the most since 2007.

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LAUSD Losing Fewer Teachers For Second Straight Year

Board Member Steve Zimmer

Board Member Steve Zimmer

For the second year in a row, LA Unified is losing fewer teachers, and district projections indicate that the trend will continue through the current school year.

Vivian Ekchian, the district’s Chief Human Resources Officer, told a committee meeting yesterday that the trend is largely due to more diligent work at the front end of the hiring process. She said the district has revamped the interview system to include a lesson observation and an essay, and the district now requires that applicants have a degree in the subject matter they plan to teach.

Teachers leave their jobs for a variety of reasons, including retirement, dismissal and jobs in other districts.

Ekchian was one of several speakers at a meeting of the Committee of the Whole that was devoted to new strategies for training, hiring and retaining better teachers and including among new recruits teachers whose diversity more closely aligns with the diversity of district students.

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Kayser Abstention Dooms Effort to Spread Out Title 1 Money*

Title 1LA Unified School board member Tamar Galatzan had hoped to sway her colleagues to change the way the district distributes Title 1 funds for low-income students. But her motion, co-sponsored by Monica Ratliff, failed to get majority support at yesterday’s board meeting.

The vote was split, 3-3, with Galatzan, Ratliff and Steve Zimmer, all of whom represent districts with mixed income levels, supporting the measure. Monica Garcia, Richard Vladovic, and Marguerite LaMotte, whose schools are located in high poverty communities, voting against.

Bennett Kayser assured defeat when he abstained.

“This is a really tough one,” he said, explaining that his district would suffer no matter which side he took.

Kayser represents schools from Eagle Rock, where the median household income is above $67,000, to Bell where it’s about $37,000.

After federal dollars were reduced by 9 percent in 2011, the district raised the threshold for eligibility for Title 1 funds to schools where 50 percent of students were from low-income families, with schools with 65 to 100 percent low income students getting additional money.

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LA Unified Board Votes to Reshape iPad Program

iPads -- for now.

iPads — for now.

The LA Unified school board re-calibrated its push for technology in the classroom last night, voting to continue into a second phase of its iPad plan but also to launch a pilot test of laptops among high school students. Further technology plans will depend on the outcome of a study.

The decision — approved by a 6-1 vote with Tamar Galatzan as the dissenter — culminated a long and impassioned debate about how fast to get computer devices in the hands of students who really need it. The 2 1/2 hour discussion, which ended an 8-hour board meeting, reflected sharp divisions between members who think it’s better to move swiftly, with iPads, and members who argue that different students require different devices. Members also expressed discomfort with the district’s deal with Apple and called for a reexamination of terms for future purchases.

The final resolution, adopted at 9 p.m., represented a merger of a plan offered by board member Monica Ratliff, which called for a more thorough evaluation of the iPad program and a delayed rollout of devices, and the scaled down Phase 2 rollout that Superintendent John Deasy submitted to the board several weeks ago.

Over the next several months, the district will distribute about 40,000 tablets across 35 elementary and middle school campuses. Another 30,000 will go to the district’s teachers, principals and administrators. And the administration’s procurement team will purchase keyboards for all elementary and middle school students so they can take the Smarter Balanced assessments in the spring.

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Breaking: Motion to Censure Vladovic for Sexual Harassment Allegations Dies

A Vladovic supporter at today's school board meeting

A Vladovic supporter at today’s school board meeting

An effort to censure LA Unified Board President Richard Vladovic for allegations that he violated the district’s ethical code failed today as a resolution from board member Tamar Galatzan did not get a “second” to put it before the board for a vote.

The resolution sought to censure Vladovic for complaints of sexual harrasment and other forms of discrimination by people working for him. Galatzan’s resolution cited an LA Daily News interview that said “formal complaints had been filed against Vladovic by employees alleging they had been bullied, intimidated and or sexually harassed.”

Just as the resolution came before the board with Galatzan as the lone sponsor, her frequent ally on votes, Monica Garcia, left the room, and no other member responded to board vice president Steve Zimmer‘s request for a second.

Vladovic, who recused himself from discussion, was applauded by about 20 supporters, wearing t-shirts that said, “We (heart) Dr. V.”

“You’re loved,” one supporter, Esther Hatch, said to Vladovic after the motion failed.

Near tears, Vladovic said, “I feel proud that they supported me. These are true friends.”

By its failure to get voting consideration, a censure motion for similar reasons cannot come before the board for another six months.

Previous Posts: censure of Richard Vladovic could further fracture LA Unified boardGalaztan’s resolution says Richard Vladovic ‘dishonors’ himself, districtVladovic Apologizes, Escapes Further Board Action — For Now.

Ratliff Seeks Alternatives to LA Unified’s iPads Future

Board member Monica Ratliff

Board member Monica Ratliff

The LA Unified school board will grapple with three separate resolutions regarding the district’s ambitious iPad project at its meeting today, but only Monica Ratliff’s proposal has the potential of drastically changing the course of the district’s ed-tech revolution.

Ratliff is recommending that the district hold off on starting the second round of iPads distribution until the end of the school year. During that time the school board can continue to monitor their effectiveness along with other options.

“We are not the first district to do this kind of thing,” she said during last week’s board meeting, dedicated to the district’s Common Core Technology Project.

She said the board should mine the “wealth of knowledge” individual campuses and some charter schools have gained while using their own technology and curriculum programs. Her Common Core Technology Project committee recently surveyed teachers piloting the iPads.

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LA Unified Board to Address 2 Controversies — Vladovic, iPads*

ipad teacherTwo issues that have the drawn LA Unified school board into unanticipated controversy move into the spotlight tomorrow when the board convenes its regular meeting for November.

One is the public profile of Board President Richard Vladovic, as he awaits a consideration of a censure motion from Tamar Galatzan – the first motion of its kind in LA Unified board history. Vladovic has been accused of verbal and sexual harassment by former co-workers. He has publicly apologized for being abrasive toward colleagues but has denied all other charges.

The motion requires support from at least one other board member to move to a full vote, otherwise the resolution falls, and a similar measure cannot be brought forward for six months. So far, Galatzan has no co-sponsor.

The other big issue is the future of the billion dollar iPad program, with conflicting resolutions from the board’s two Monicas – Ratliff and Garcia – that could go a long way toward determining whether district’s Common Core technology project extends Phase 1 of the iPads with iPads or other digital devices.

A third approach has been offered for consideration by deputy superintendent Jaime Aquino.

Ratliff’s resolution aims to prolong the first phase of the tablet rollout through the end of the school year, while evaluators assess the usefulness of the devices and their impact on learning. It also urges the district to launch a new pilot program, distributing laptop computers to ninth graders while conducting studies on the use of other devices and software curriculum in the district.

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Teacher Union Survey Shows Mixed Support for iPads

imagesA slight plurality of LA Unified teachers said they would favor continuing the iPad program, according to a new UTLA survey that produced mixed results in a district contemplating the next phase of a billion dollar digital device program.

The union poll was conducted over a week in late October, with 255 teachers from the 47 district schools that received iPads in Phase 1 of the program responding. Not all the teachers responded to all the questions, but taken together, the ambiguous results may undermine the value of the survey as a credible resource for policy.

Even the number who favored continuing the program, 62, was barely more than those who would stop it, 57, with another 54 saying they were unsure what to do. The district is planning to give iPads to all 650,000 students by the end of 2015.

The survey was conducted at the request of Monica Ratliff, the LA Unified board member who serves as chair of the Common Core Technology Project committee. She has been in favor of district students’ receiving digital devices beyond Phase 1 but not necessarily iPads. At the board’s meeting two days ago, she proposed holding off further distribution until officials could evaluate the instructional effectiveness of all digital devices used in the district.

The issue could be voted on at the board’s meeting on Tuesday, but as further evidence of differing views, Ratliff’s colleague, Monica Garcia, is introducing a resolution that asks the board to approve Phase 2 tablets for her district.

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LA Unified Board Sees a Digital Future, Maybe without iPads

Board member Monica Ratliff

Board member Monica Ratliff

Over eight hours today, in another tedious LA Unified board meeting, members one-by-one pledged to forge ahead with the district’s ambitious technology program to bridge the digital divide for some of the nation’s poorest students.

But for the first time, some board members signaled that the way forward may not include Apple iPads.

The meeting featured a parade of staff reports supporting the Common Core Technology Project, as district officials painstakingly worked their way through a 95-page presentation for the board. They recapped the nearly-complete first phase of the troubled iPad program and projected what may or may not follow.

While board members refrained from badgering officials as they have done in previous meetings, and the six members in attendance committed to continue with new technologies – Tamar Galatzan was absent – questions arose as to how and when future phases of the technology program would play out.

Monica Ratliff, the newest board member and chair of the Common Core Technology Project Committee, was the most outspoken about switching gears. She had not yet been elected when the previous board voted to approve a billion-dollar program to give all the district’s 650,000 students a digital device.

Ratliff offered a resolution that would delay the board’s vote on the second phase of the iPad roll-out by six months to evaluate the instructional effectiveness of iPads as well as laptops and other digital devices used in district schools.

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LAUSD Sees Dramatic Decrease in Truancy Rate, So Far


Truancy ticketing in LA Unified dropped by nearly 80 percent between 2010 and 2012, and citations across all categories are down by half for the same period. So far this year, district officials report LA school police have issued 77 citations. In contrast, school police were issuing an average of 110 tickets a month in 2010.

That’s a significant reduction for the district, which has the largest school police force in the country, and just last year had the distinction of issuing more citations to students than any other in the nation.

The district attributes this steady decline to a new truancy policy that is more proactive rather than reactive.

“Students who are truant are now directed to a non-court, district-sponsored, diversion program,” the District said in a press release. “A youngster is no longer ticketed when close to the campus as the first bell rings; late, yes; talked to, yes; intervention and support at the school, consequences definitely; but no citation.”

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Villaraigosa Helped Broker Deal to Keep Deasy Superintendent

Dr. John Deasy, and Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in 2011 |Richard Vogel/AP

John Deasy, Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in 2011

LA School Report has learned the deal to extend the contract of LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy might not have been possible without the involvement of former LA mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa.

According to three people with knowledge of events, none of whom would speak for attribution, Villaraigosa made a flurry of calls to both Deasy and Board President Richard Vladovic to help broker a deal. The calls continued through yesterday, just before the board went into a closed-door session that ended with the announcement that Deasy’s contract would extend to mid-2016.

Meanwhile, Villaraigosa’s successor, Eric Garcetti told reporters today that he had spoken to all the parties and discussed the matter with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who said on Monday he believed Deasy and the board should continue to work together.

Garcetti said he had also spoken to “almost all the board members” in an effort to help Deasy remain in his job. He said he told Deasy he supported him and would “do everything I can” to help resolve the situation.

“I was hopeful he’d stay,” Garcetti said.

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