LA Unified board approves school calendar but only for one year


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The LA Unified school board spent more than an hour last night, debating dates for the next three academic calendar years.

Ultimately, the members decided to keep the schedule similar to this year’s — starting in mid-August with three weeks of winter break — but only for one year.

The plan passed on a 5-2 vote, with George McKenna and Richard Vladovic dissenting. The board also agreed to study the matter further before committing additional years to the same schedule.

The debate centered on issues including time enough for college applications, the burden of childcare over a long winter break, the length of summer vacation and how the schedule not only affects student grades, but also their attendance, which translates into money for the district.

In the process, the board generally discounted the district’s efforts to survey more than families by phone, computer and community meetings for their preferences.

“The survey was awful,” said board member Scott Schmerelson. “I don’t think people knew what they were doing.”

Schmerelson said he attended all of the community meetings held by the district to get input for the calendar and concluded that the survey was confusing. The district also conducted a phone survey in September, another two months later and made available an online survey.

The responses showed that a majority of parents and teachers supported mid-to late-August start dates rather than an after-Labor Day start. Most also said they wanted the first semester to end before winter break. New superintendent Michelle King also said student body presidents and school administrators preferred the mid-August start.

For the first time yesterday, a student sat among the board members and cast “advisory” votes on every issue before them.

In his first remarks, Leon Popa, a 16-year-old junior from STEM Academy at Bernstein High, said he talked to fellow students and teachers and concluded, “People would want a longer summer and struggle with three weeks of winter vacation. It would be really tough with underprivileged families taking care of them.”

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Teachers planning to protest charter plan as LAUSD board convenes

UTLA Colleen SchwabAs the LA Unified board is holding its monthly meeting tomorrow, the teachers union, UTLA, is planning a sidewalk protest against the Broad Foundation’s plan to expand the number of charter schools in the district.

The demonstration follows the release today of a Broad-commissioned poll, showing that a large majority of city residents want more choices — charters — for their children’s education. The plan calls for 260 new charters within eight years to serve as many as half the children attending LA Unified schools.

“Broad is working with the Waltons of Walmart and other billionaires to destroy LAUSD,” UTLA says on its website. “We are demanding that the School Board join us in rejecting Broad’s parasitic plan. Losing 50% of LAUSD enrollment would trigger a severe loss in funding for crucial resources and programs for our students, cost tens of thousands of LAUSD jobs, and create a race to the bottom that will hurt all schools and all students.”

The foundation denies any destructive intent.

“Los Angeles families have made it clear that they want high-quality public school options, and we want to support them in their efforts to access educational opportunity,” Swati Pandey, the foundation’s communications manager, said in a statement. “Our only interest is in supporting the growth of high-quality public schools.”

The board is scheduled to consider approvals and five-year renewals of 15 charter schools and the creation of two magnet schools.

The two new gifted magnet centers are scheduled to open in 2016 at Kennedy High School and Taft High School. Kennedy, located in Granada Hills is a Gifted, Highly Gifted, High Ability Medical Magnet for grades 9 through 12. Taft, located in Woodland Hills, is a Gifted, Highly Gifted, High Ability Science, Technology, English, Arts and Math Magnet Center for grades 9 through 12.

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LIVESTREAM coverage of today’s LA Unified school board meeting

livestreamGrafix250The LA Unified school board is scheduled to meet today at 1 p.m.

Among the agenda items of interest is discussion about potential layoffs as the district looks to balance a budget deficit of $160 million for next year. Also on the agenda is discussion about upgrades to some rundown schools and a number of charter school renewals.

Click here to get the agenda and materials for the meeting.


To cut deficit, LAUSD is proposing layoffs of hundreds of teachers

UTLA teachers protesting at Carver Middle School this morning  (photo credit: UTLA)

UTLA teachers protesting at Carver Middle School this morning (photo credit: UTLA)


Despite new money from the state, LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines is taking direct aim at the district’s $160 million budget deficit with proposed layoffs that include hundreds of teachers.

District officials have calculated that to reduce the deficit, the number of teachers, administrators, counselors and nurses — certificated employees — must be reduced by 609 for the 2015-2016 academic year. Additional cuts are projected to come from among support staff employees.

Already, said Lydia Ramos, a district spokeswoman, departments throughout district headquarters are being reduced by at least 8 percent with some as much as 40 percent.

The proposed layoffs will be presented to the school board at its monthly meeting tomorrow, and they come as the state has moved forward from a long period of recession There was additional optimism across the district based on the expectations that Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised budget, due in May, would identify an increase in spending for state public schools.

But Ramos said the proposed layoffs are aimed at reducing a “structural” deficit, which cannot be eliminated by one-time funds.

“Laying off permanent certificated employees will permit the district to meet district and student needs as a result of continued and unresolved budgetary shortfalls for the 2015-2016 academic school year,” district staff told board members in an analysis as a prelude to tomorrow’s meeting.

Alex-Caputo-Pearl, president of the teachers union, UTLA, called the proposed action “out of step” with the chronic challenges faced at district school sites.

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LIVESTREAM coverage of today’s school board meeting

livestreamGrafix250Today, available by LIVESTREAM, the seven members of LA Unified school board will meet for the first time since the high-profile resignation of Superintendent John Deasy and the selection of Ray Cortines as interim replacement.

At 10:00 a.m., the board is set to hear an update on the troubled computer system, MiSiS, which, has caused management and scheduling snafus at several schools. The board is also set to vote on the terms and conditions of the employment contract for Cortines as well as hear public comment.

In a closed-door session to follow, of note is a late addition to the agenda of an item listed as ‘Public Employment, Chief Deputy Superintendent of Schools,’  a possible look at the employment Michelle King, who was passed over to serve as interim superintendent after she offered up her services to replace Deasy.  The agenda is here.

At 2:00 p.m., the Committee of the Whole is scheduled to meet to discuss the controversy over the district’s temporary suspension of the Parent Trigger Law will be discussed with a presentation by Gloria Romero, former California State Senator. The committee’s agenda is here.

At 3:15 p.m., the full board will return for a Special Session to report on the labor negotiations between the teachers union and the district. Agenda is here.

At 4:15 p.m. the Committee on Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment is set to meet to discuss, among other items, the Public School Choice Initiative, first launched in 2011 by then interim Superintendent Cortines. That agenda is  here.

LIVESTREAM: First LAUSD school board meeting of the year

LAUSD livestream

Click this picture to watch the livestream of the meeting

The LA Unified Board meeting reconvenes today with a full compliment of members. The board now includes a representative from District 1, George McKenna, who was sworn in earlier in the day. He is replacing the late Marguerite LaMotte.

Among the items for discussion are a review of the district’s labor contracts, a handful of procurement issues and and a vote to affirm the potential revocation of charters for Magnolia Academy 6 and Magnolia Academy 7.

The board voted to close the schools over financial improprieties in June, but a court ruled they could stay open, on the condition of meeting certain criteria. The board is voting to make official its position on revocation.

The board is also planning to approve new committee chairs and set forth meeting schedules.

For the livestream of the meeting, click here.

For meeting agenda, click here, and board materials, here.

LAUSD board rejoices in passing ‘best budget’ in seven years

LAUSD School Board

LAUSD board members Monica Garcia, Tamar Galatzan and Superintendent John Deasy

An extraordinary year for LA Unified came to an extraordinary end yesterday as the school board unanimously approved —  and with minimal debate — its largest budget in seven years.

The six board members played musical chairs congratulating one another and Superintendent John Deasy for a job well done. Members were especially complimentary of the district’s new effort to include input from community members in shaping the final spending plan.

“What a difference a year makes,” board president Richard Vladovic exclaimed, after lamenting the fiscal crisis of recent years that forced billions in cuts. Board member Tamar Galatzan added, “This is the best budget I’ve seen in the seven years I’ve been here.

The happy ending followed a tumultuous school year, in which the district scrambled to meet the requirements of the Governor Jerry Brown’s new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and create a plan justifying spending (LCAP); faced the potential resignation of the superintendent; suffered the death of Marguerite LaMotte, the board’s longest serving member; grappled with arguments over filling the vacated seat; and –finally — approved $6.4 billion in non-Federal dollars from a total budget of $7.27 billion that adds new teachers, librarians and nurses to a formerly decimated payroll.

The budget represents the first since 2007 that does not include cuts from the previous year. Changes to the law added $332 million from the state, increasing LCFF funding to $4.47 billion from $4.13 billion. The state mandates that $837 million of that is applied toward improving the academic achievement of LA Unified’s neediest students — foster youth, English learners and those from low-income households.

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LIVESTREAM coverage of today’s LAUSD school board meeting: budget a top priority

Community rally on school funding, April 7 2014

Community rally on school funding, April 7 2014

This morning, the Los Angeles Unified School Board meets to discuss a wide variety of issues including what promises to be a charged debate about a budget plan unveiled by Superintendent John Deasy last week.

Community groups have held a series of meetings and rallies, including one last night, advocating for a say in the budget process – which includes the use of new ‘Local Control’ funding.

To download the superintendent’s budget and presentation click here.
For the school board agenda, click here.

The meeting starts at 10:00 a.m.

To watch it via LIVESTREAM click HERE.


Watch now: Livestream coverage of today’s LAUSD committee meeting

monicaratliffoct22_13The LA Unified school board holds a committee meeting today, chaired by LAUSD trustee Monica Ratliff.

Among other items, the Curriculum Instruction and Assessment Committee is set to discuss the new ‘smarter balanced‘ assessments which will be administered this year on computers and tablets, taking the place of traditional standardized tests.

1:00 p.m.: Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee: (Agenda).

For LA School Report, livestream coverage,


LIVESTREAM coverage of today’s LAUSD Board Meeting: iPADs & Election

Monica Ratliff 2013-11-12  Will the LA Unified school board vote (again) to move forward with its commitment to buy enough iPADs for students to take their year-end assessments?
Is a motion to appoint an ‘interim’ board member to the vacant school board seat actually, well, legal?
And how will that $7.8 billion in bond money for school repairs and infrastructure be dolled out?

All big issues – and LA School Report, is there live.  Check us out on Twitter @laschoolreport and via LIVESTREAM starting at 1:00 p.m.

To access, click: LIVESTREAM LAUSD

For meeting agenda click: Agenda


Live Coverage? LAUSD School Board Meets Without Streaming

image school boardThe LA Unified School Board meeting today was set to be carried live by LA School Report – at least the public part proceedings. But the live stream feed, scheduled to begin at 10:00 am when the regular board meeting convened, was not made available by the school board. The board has now retired behind closed doors. (See agenda here). We will commence live coverage when the feed is made available.

  • At 1:30 pm the Committee of the Whole, comprised of all board members, meets (see agenda here), check back with LA School Report for live coverage.
  • At 5:30 pm the Common Core Technology Project Ad Hoc Committee chaired by school board member Monica Ratliff meets (see agenda here), check back for live coverage.

Common Core Budget Approval Put Off for Another Week

Superintendent Deasy

Superintendent Deasy

The LA Unified school board voted, again, to delay its final decision on crafting and approving the $113 million Common Core budget for at least another week. The money comes from the state and is intended to help school districts transition over the next two years to the new curriculum.

It appeared to be a poke in the eye to Superintendent John Deasy, who had presented the Common Core budget at last month’s Board meeting, with roughly 75 percent of it allocated for teacher training. With input from board members, Deasy’s staff radically altered the plan to give individual schools greater control over the money — under the new version of the budget, each school would receive $70 per student.

“The feedback we got from last board meeting was a desire to have more school-based allocation,” said Deputy Superintendent Jaime Aquino.

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School Board Meeting Wrap Up: More Discussion Than Votes*

LaMotte, Garcia and Galatzan all, oddly, showed up in lime gree

School Board Members LaMotte, Garcia and Galatzan all showed up in green

What began as a breezy LA Unified School Board meeting on Tuesday turned, not surprisingly, into a long, tedious, sometimes rancorous session, with a host of issues discussed but rarely resolved. A number of key votes were postponed, and Superintendent John Deasy’s highly anticipated budget presentation was postponed until the Sept. 10 board meeting so it could be considered in the broader context of the 2013-14 budget.

Here are some of the highlights:

• One new feature of Richard Vladovic‘s newly begun presidency (aside from creating a number of new committees) was to order senior staff, including instructional superintendents, to attend board meetings. In many cases, when public commenters brought issues to the school board, Vladovic urged the visitors to meet, on the spot, with the district staffers.

• The Board debated the $113 million budget for implementing the new Common Core State Standards — although voting on the budget was postponed until next month. LAUSD Chief Academic Officer Jaime Aquino pointed out that roughly 75 percent of the budget is set to go toward helping teachers. Continue reading

Vladovic Adds Committees, Doles Out Assignments

photoSchool Board President Richard Vladovic, leading his first full meeting on Tuesday, created a slew of new “ad hoc” committees, naming as chairs each of his colleagues — with the exception of his predecessor as president, Monica Garcia.

Vladovic asked Board member Marguerite LaMotte to continue in her role as chair of the Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee; somewhat surprisingly, he asked Board member Tamar Galatzan to continue in her role as chair of the Budget and Finance Committee.

Galatzan is known as being one of the more fiscally prudent board members; she also ran against Vladovic for president.

As School Board Vice President, Steve Zimmer will chair the Committee of the Whole, which holds in-depth debates on various topics.

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Vladovic Defeats Galatzan for Board President


Board member Vladovic (standing) speaks as Board members Kayser and Ratliff listen

In one of the more dramatic meetings in recent memory, the newly installed 2013-2014 LAUSD School Board selected Dr. Richard Vladovic (standing, left) as its next President by a vote of 5 to 2.

Newly sworn-in Board member Monica Ratliff joined Steve Zimmer, Marguerite LaMotte, Bennett Kayser and Vladovic himself in the majority. Outgoing Board President Monica Garcia nominated and voted for Tamar Galatzan, who received two votes.

Pre-meeting rumors had Zimmer neck and neck with Vladovic, but those turned out to be off the mark, as Zimmer was never nominated. Neither Galatzan nor Mayor Garcetti (rumored to be working behind the scenes) were able to persuade Zimmer or Ratliff to break from the bloc of independent and/or union-allied Board members.

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Preview: Board Presidency Up for Grabs Tuesday

Dr. Vladovic, right, could become the next Board president

Dr. Vladovic, right, was the frontrunner to become the next President until recent revelations about an ongoing investigation

On Tuesday, the School Board will convene for a sort of mini-meeting to swear in current members Monica Garcia, Steve Zimmer and the newly elected Monica Ratliff.

It will also vote to elect a new Board President, a position held by Garcia for the last six years. The Board recently voted to limit the jobs to two consecutive year-long terms.

Until recently, the likely frontrunner for the job was Dr. Richard Vladovic, who is said to have been lobbying other Board members for the job. But as Daily News reported this morning, Dr. V is currently under investigation for harassing two employees.

We’ll have more about the fallout from the Vladovic allegations later today.

One interesting thing to note is the procedure for choosing a president. Superintendent John Deasy will ask for nominations — and who gets called on first is his choice. The Board votes on nominees right after they’re made, meaning that there could be only one nomination. Conversely, nominations could be voted on multiple times.

On Tuesday the Board will also appoint a Vice President who runs the meetings when the President is absent or has recused him or herself. It will then vote on about a dozen routine items of business, and then break for most of the summer.

Previous posts: Vladovic the Frontrunner for PresidentZimmer Reversal Likely Ends Garcia Presidency*Deasy Skirmish With Board Members a Long Time ComingBoard Members Ask Deasy To Explain HimselfDefiant Deasy Says He’ll Push Targeted Spending Plan Anyway

Marathon Board Meeting Signals Changes to Come

Screen shot 2013-06-19 at 11.50.39 AM

Superintendent John Deasy, Board President Monica Garcia, and departing Board member Nury Martinez

As anyone following us on Twitter knows all too well, Tuesday’s School Board meeting was a marathon session that lasted well into the night — much of it accompanied by the sound of protesters drumming on the street outside.

Among several key decisions the Board arrived at during the lengthy session were votes to award a $30 million contract to Apple, close a charter school that had dodged a district audit, and add some local regulations to the controversial parent trigger process (but not call for the law’s repeal).

The last meeting of the 2012-2013 school year, it also marked the final appearance of Nury Martinez, who left the Board after four years to run for City Council.

School Board President Monica Garcia presented Martinez with a giant bell, and Board held a bizarre mid-meeting reception in her honor that included a soft jazz band and chicken salad sandwiches.

By 9 pm, when the meeting finally ended, the Board had also approved its 2013-14 budget and begun a furious (and likely to be long-running) debate on how to spend future revenue increases.

If last month’s Board meeting represented a series of hard-fought victories for Superintendent John Deasy and his allies on the Board, last night’s meeting included a couple of losses, with a hint of more to come when the Board changes composition and leadership next month.

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Special Board Meeting Not So Special After All

UTLA President Warren Fletcher speaking to the School Board

UTLA President Warren Fletcher speaking to the School Board

There was an air of excitement surrounding today’s special Board meeting to discuss LAUSD’s budget, resulting in no less than four television crews in addition to KNX radio and three (count ’em!) education reporters live-tweeting the proceedings.

The cause of all the excitement?  The expected clash between Board members who want LAUSD to rehire teachers and reduce class sizes — included among them Board Member Bennett Kayser, who requested the added meeting — and other Board members like Tamar Galatzan who would prefer to revamp how funds are disbursed among schools (and Superintendent John Deasy, who wants to give everyone a raise before doing much rehiring).

Unfortunately, the event turned into something of a dud, filled with familiar budget presentations and predictable pleas for additional funding. There was little real debate over what district priorities should be once revenue from Proposition 30 starts to pour in, and any decision over the shape of things to come will have to wait until the June 18 Board meeting.

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