Zimmer: immersion school is ‘game-changer’ to stem falling enrollment

LA Unified board member Steve Zimmer

LA Unified board member Steve Zimmer

Despite neighborhood opposition to a proposed $30 million Mandarin-immersion elementary school in Mar Vista, LA Unified school board member Steve Zimmer calls the project “a game-changer” in the district’s efforts to reverse years of enrollment declines that have cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

“I don’t have accurate words to express how important this issue is,” he said in an interview with LA School Report. “The future of public education on the west side of LA as it relates to increasing enrollment in the future depends on this.”

The proposed Mandarin and English Dual-Language Immersion Elementary School on the campus of Mark Twain Middle School, approved by the board last year, represents the first time the district would build a facility to accommodate an instructional innovation open to all students, rather than vice versa, in a shift that recognizes the curriculum’s growing popularity with parents and students across the city.

Zimmer said families of 360 students have committed to the new school, drawn by the focus of its language immersion, and a waiting list includes many more.

“The majority of these students would not otherwise go to an LAUSD school,” he said. “That makes this a sea change in terms of whether LAUSD can plan for enrollment growth or decline.”

Enrollment in district schools is expected to decline in the 2015-2016 school year for a 12th consecutive year. In the most recent year for which the district has figures, 2013-2014, the K-through-12 enrollment was 651,322, a 2 percent drop from two years before. District officials estimate that every 3 percent drop costs the district $100 million in funding.

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Westside group outraged over proposed immersion school

Steve Zimmer

Steve Zimmer

A group of Mar Vista community members and parents is mounting a protest againt LA Unified school board member Steve Zimmer over his support for a Mandarin immersion elementary school slated to be built in their Westside neighborhood.

The $30 million school, currently dubbed the Mandarin and English Dual-Language Immersion Elementary School project, was approved by the LA Unified school board in April 2014 with Zimmer’s support, and an environmental impact report (EIR) on the project entered the public comment phase on March 26.

The school would be located in Zimmer’s District 4 on a few acres of open green space that now exists at Mark Twain Middle School. It would would have 15 classrooms and move students currently from nearby Broadway Elementary School’s Mandarin and English Dual- Language Immersion Program to the new site. The district says that Broadway no longer has space to allow the program to grow.

But the community members and parents have taken to a new website, stopcommuterschool.com, to express their strong opposition to the project.

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Zimmer lashes out at judge’s ruling on federal immigration policy

Steve Zimmer

Steve Zimmer

A ruling by a federal judge in Texas yesterday is forcing the Obama administration to postpone the start of new immigration policies that would lead to work permits and job protections for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants.

The action by Judge Andrew S. Hanen, of Federal District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Brownsville, means that months of legal maneuvering may stand before the end of the President’s reform efforts or their implementation.

That has a huge impact in Los Angeles, where the school district just passed a resolution to offer pro bono services to unaccompanied minor residing within the boundaries of LA Unified.

Steve Zimmer, a sponsor of the LA Unified resolution, responded with a scathing attack on Judge Hanen’s decision, characterizing it as an extension of “racism, xenophobia, fear and hate [that] are promulgated daily by the Republican House leadership.”

In a statement yesterday, Zimmer said:

“I am angry and disappointed but I am not surprised.  Racism, xenophobia, fear and hate are promulgated daily by the Republican House leadership as well as the right media. This hate is directed squarely against LAUSD students and their families.  And this is not new. At every juncture of the Civil Rights movement there was resistance.  At times the strongest resistance infiltrates the judiciary. But we know that the weight of judicial history is on the side of the President and our school communities.

“As such, LAUSD will continue to prepare for our role in facilitating the expanded DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and the new DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) programs under President Obama’s Executive Action. LAUSD understands that our schools have a pivotal role in document preparation and information dissemination. We will continue to work with our partners in labor, immigrant rights and the business community as well as Mayor Garcetti to ensure the Los Angeles leads the nation in guiding our students and their families towards full access to the American Dream.”

Zimmer moderating UTLA panel discussion on union issues

Steve Zimmer

Steve Zimmer

UTLA, the LA Unified teachers union, is offering tonight an unvarnished public view of its bargaining position in negotiations with LA Unified for a new teachers contract.

Board member Steve Zimmer is scheduled to moderate a panel discussion at Occidental College that includes UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Martha Sanchez of Alliance of Californians for Community Development.

The event begins at 7 p.m.

Weingarten is participating to demonstrate support for UTLA, which has been demanding lower class sizes, full staffing, restored funding of adult and early childhood education and higher salaries as part of its negotiations with the district. She ias also expected to discuss how the issues in Los Angeles are playing out across the country

The UTLA-district talks have produced little progress so far after months of negotiating although sources on both sides say parallel talks are underway to help close the gap.

Weingarten is also planning to appear with Caputo-Pearl and others at a news conference tomorrow morning at Slawson Southeast Occupational Center, a career and technical education facility that primarily serves adult students.

“Our class sizes are too large and our schools are not staffed fully to support the needs of our students,” Caputo-Pearl said in a news release from the union. “LAUSD educators are not being compensated fairly and we are in real danger of losing them to other, higher paying districts, and recruiting educators to LAUSD is getting increasingly more difficult.”

Fruit company’s battle with UFW to be examined by LAUSD board

Photo via Garawan Farming

Photo via Gerawan Farming

LA Unified board member Steve Zimmer is asking the board to weigh in on a legal battle between a major fruit company and the United Farm Workers (UFW) union.

Gerawan Farming, one of the country’s largest suppliers of peaches, plums and other fruit, has had contracts with LA Unified and is under consideration for future deals, according to a resolution authored by Zimmer that will be heard at tomorrow’s board meeting.

It appears to be the latest effort by Zimmer to use LA Unified’s contract negotiating power to put pressure on the food industry for changes in the way it grows food, treats animals and treats workers. He recently co-sponsored the board’s “Good Food” resolution, which was passed in December. It calls on the district to purchase healthier foods and to only work with vendors who provide a safe environment for workers and a cruelty-free environment for livestock.

“The effects of this could be quite far reaching,” Zimmer told LA School Report recently. “We do intend to use the contracting process to leverage important changes in the large agricultural industry.”

The fruit company is currently involved in a legal battle with UFW over the union’s representation of its workers, and Zimmer’s resolution calls on Gerawan to comply with state and federal labor laws — which it is has been accused of breaking — and immediately implement a labor agreement issued by a neutral mediator and the State of California.

The resolution also calls on the district’s Procurement Services Division to report back to the board on Gerawan Farming’s compliance with fair labor practices before any contracts with it are brought to the board for approval.

The company’s battle with UFW is complex and dates back 20 years. According to the Fresno Bee:

  • An administrative judge is hearing the case that could decide whether more than 3,000 farmworkers employed by Gerawan Farming will be represented by the UFW.
  • The UFW won the right to represent Gerawan workers 20 years ago, but never negotiated a contract and the case remained in limbo until 2012, when the UFW again requested the right to bargain on the workers’ behalf.
  • A contract was negotiated in 2013 with a mediator but was never honored by Gerawan because, in November, Gerawan workers held an election that attempted to decertify the UFW’s representation of Gerawan workers.
  • The Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) has refused to count the ballots until it investigates a number of complaints of unfair labor practices against Gerawan that includes intimidating workers into voting for decertification.



‘Good Food’ resolution may be bad news for some food companies


With the passing of the LA Unified school board’s “Good Food” resolution in December, a number of giant vendors the district does business with will be forced to change their practices or lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts.

Tyson Foods in particular, which supplies much of the district’s chicken in a five-year $754 million contract with eight other major food companies, is not currently in a position to meet the district’s new standards for antibiotic-free chicken, according to a report by Reuters. A new five-year chicken contract, along with beef and other items, is scheduled to be negotiated by the school board this spring.

“The effects of this could be quite far reaching. We do intend to use the contracting process to leverage important changes in the large agricultural industry,” said LA Unified board member Steve Zimmer, who co-sponsored the resolution along with Bennett Kayser and Richard Vladovic.

The Good Food resolution partners LA Unified with five other districts — New York, Dallas, Chicago, Miami-Dade County and Orlando County — as part of the Urban School Food Alliance. Alliance members will use their purchasing power together to “drive quality up and costs down while incorporating sound environmental practices,” according to its website.

Aside from antibiotic-free chicken, the Good Food resolution requires the district to emphasize certain priorities when negotiating food contracts with vendors, including finding locally-sourced food that offers “generous portions of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains; reducing salt, added sugars, fats, and oils; and by eliminating artificial additives.” It also calls for using vendors that meet certain environmental standards and are proven to provide a safe environment for workers and a cruelty-free environment for livestock.

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Analysis: LAUSD board contemplates enrollment drop

George KcKenna Dec. 8, 2014

LAUSD board member George McKenna at Tuesday’s board meeting

“Forty years ago we were in competition with private schools. Now, we’re in competition with charters.”

That was LA Unified board vice president Steve Zimmer yesterday, speaking at a board committee meeting where the issue at hand was district enrollment. The number of kids attending the district’s traditional schools has been declining since 2003, now hovering around 650,000, from a high of about 750,000, according to a presentation to the committee.

The dip reflects, in part, a slowing birthrate in the district that began in 1996 and is projected to increase only slightly over the next few years or so.

But the rise of independent charters is an unmistakable factor, as well: Data from the California Charter Schools Associations shows that the number of independent charters within LA Unified rose to 206 this year from 132 in 2009.

And more are on the way. KIPP, for example, has opened two of nine planned for the district.

The impact of charters on LA Unified is something of an evergreen debate among board members, faced with the district’s losing revenue for every child who forsakes a traditional district school for a charter. It’s a trend with heavy ripples, as lower enrollment leads to fewer dollars, fewer dollars lead to flat wages, flat wages lead to fewer and angry teachers, and angry teachers are now talking about a strike.

But this week, the discussion of charter impact took on a slightly different tone, as board members at their meeting on Tuesday and again yesterday turned introspective, questioning themselves over how to mitigate some of the enrollment trends.

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LAUSD board, unions vow support on Obama’s immigration action

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl speaks at Gratts Elementary

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl speaks at Gratts Elementary (Credit: UTLA Facebook page)

The LA Unified school board and union leaders moved today to help ensure that district schools are “safe havens” in support of President Obama‘s recent executive orders on immigration.

The orders, announced last month, potentially give deportation relief to millions of undocumented immigrants and their children.

A resolution introduced by board members Steve Zimmer and Monica Garcia pledges that the district will develop a plan to assist any students needing help with immigration records or applications.

The district today also announced plans to send a letter home with students advising their their parents and guardians “to be cautious of ‘so-called ‘notaries’ and dishonest lawyers (who) prey on the hopes of individuals and families seeking a better life,” according to a district press release.

The letter was signed by representatives of LAUSD, SEIU Local 99 and UTLA. Before the board meeting, Garcia and Zimmer held a press conference with leaders of the two unions, according to the release.

“The President’s Executive Action will bring great relief to students and their families,” said SEIU Local 99 Lilia Garcia, according to the press release. “I work with our school community every day and I see how much it impacts students when their mother or father is deported. The children come to school with fear or sadness. The President’s action will mean more stability for families, and this will mean students can focus on their education. I am proud that our union will be working with the District to ensure that parents can access information and resources in our schools.”

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl also pledged the union’s support in the release, saying, “As educators, we care about the whole child— not only their academic achievements, but also the social and economic wellbeing of our students. We support the School Board’s resolution on immigration reform and accountability. Students and their parents need our help and we are ready to do all we can inside and outside of the classroom.”

For LAUSD, more Chromebooks, iPads means more confusion

la-1418303-0426-me-0428-lopez-ipads1-mam-jpg-20130426Announcing the next phase of the digital device program to buy more iPads and Chromebooks was the easy part. Carrying it out is another issue.

While LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines was pretty clear on how he expected it to proceed, others in the district are not so sure.

The district’s Chief Facilities Director says the choice of devices might not be so wide as Cortines suggested, and at least one board member is uncertain how it will all play out.

Last week Cortines gave the go-ahead to spend capital improvement funds to outfit 27 schools with tablet devices and 21 schools with laptops — the so-called Phase 2B. The so-called Phase 2A authorized devices for 11 schools.

In a written statement, Cortines said school principals “will be key in determining which educational tools are best for their school communities” and added that this round would include “more options than previous phases.”

But Mark Hovatter, the facilities director whose department oversees the procurement of devices, says school leaders will only have two choices: iPads pre-loaded with Pearson curriculum or Chromebooks with content developed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

“Those are the only two that are within the budget that the board has authorized,” Hovatter told LA School Report. “They already approved Phase 2B under that contract.”

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Zimmer calls on Obama to help undocumented immigrants

Steve Zimmer

Steve Zimmer

As President Obama considers an executive order on immigration that would allow millions of undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S., LA Unified board member Steve Zimmer is calling on Obama to bring “relief” to undocumented immigrants.

“[Obama] must do what’s best for our children — native born and immigrant alike — by ensuring that their parents can focus on raising their kids, instead of being distorted by the terror of being deported,” Zimmer said in a commentary he submitted to immigration policy groups for their use, according to the board’s communication director, Tom Waldman.

Zimmer also noted that during his long career in education, he has seen top students unable to go to college because of their immigration status.

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‘Good Food’ guidelines on LA Unified board meeting table

LAUSD students eating lunchBoard Member Steve Zimmer has food on his mind.

When the LA Unified school board gathers again tomorrow, Zimmer will be seeking a detailed and comprehensive look at how the district spends more than a $100 million to buy food and deliver meals to students throughout the district.

He is proposing a wide ranging resolution to adopt “Good Food” purchasing guidelines that “can support a regional food system that is ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially responsible.”

“Of all the issues that I’ve brought to the board, this is in the top five,” Zimmer told LA School Report.

“It’s probably the first time that we will, with meaningful implications, say that we are going to hold ourselves to the highest standards for the ethical treatment of the people who work on the food chain from beginning to end, the humane treatment of animals, and the extent of the stomping of the environment that we do as a result of serving this many meals every day,” he said.

The district spends upwards of $120 million a year on feeding students. The board renews food procurement contracts every five years.

In 2012 the board adopted a resolution co-sponsored by Zimmer and former board member, Nury Martinez, establishing “Good Food” guidelines, but he says, at the time, “there wasn’t this imminent major procurement process. Now it’s game on. It’s where the rubber hits the road.”

Under the new guidelines the district would seek to negotiate with local, small to mid-sized agricultural and food processing operators, source from environmentally sustainable food producers that use little to no synthetic pesticides or hormones, pay employees a fair wage, and provide healthy and humane care for livestock.

“I expect it to be a pitched battle,” he said.

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In words of congratulations, Zimmer blasts ‘reform billionaires’

LA Unified board member Steve Zimmer

LA Unified board member Steve Zimmer

Steve Zimmer was the only member of the LA school board with a public response to yesterday’s victory by Tom Torlakson, who won a second term as state Superintendent for Public Instruction.

In it, Zimmer makes clear his disdain for the wealthy funders who backed the losing candidate, Marshall Tuck, congratulating the state teacher unions for standing up to them and urging them to continue, with a particular eye on next year’s LA Unified school board elections.

At the same time, Zimmer decries the millions of dollars spent on the campaign, arguing that the money could have been better used for programs benefitting students.

While Zimmer argues that “collaboration trumps conflict,” his disregard for Tuck supporters is, nonetheless, unequivocal, as he points to the “corporate education reform billionaires who have an endless magazine of resources to shoot at folks trying to solve the problems facing our schools.”  Continue reading

LAUSD outlines backup plans as MiSiS work continues

LAUSD School Board meeting 9-9-2014LA Unified is still scrambling to troubleshoot technical issues as the deadline for staffing schools approaches, the school board learned at its latest meeting yesterday.

Norm” day,” as it’s called, is set for Friday but problems with the new student data management system, MiSiS, have forced the district to devise a new plan: “The process will be a rolling process over a course of three weeks,” Deputy Superintendent Michelle King told the board.

Final student counts will be taken manually in a “double verification process,” and principals will get follow up visits from district staff to confirm numbers before any displacements occur, King told the board.

Schools experiencing the most severe problems are those enrolling kindergarten through eighth grade students, magnet schools and special education programs.

Chief Strategic Officer Matt Hill was contrite and optimistic addressing the board in the latest MiSiS update. “We rolled out the system with confidence that we can continue to improve it but there should have been a lot more testing,” he admitted to the board, echoing what many educators said in the months leading up to the disastrous launch of the program.

Another hurdle for the glitch-plagued system is printing student transcripts, a problem distressing to high school seniors who are now applying to colleges.

“Kids get one shot to apply to college … we can’t let our transition on this hurt a kid in their application process,” board member Steve Zimmer said.

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Zimmer, Kayser back McKenna; Villaraigosa in for Johnson

Steve Zimmer George McKenna

Steve Zimmer, with George McKenna to his right.

Endorsements in the District 1 school board race continued to pile up today as two LA Unified board members jumped on the George McKenna bandwagon, and former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa weighed in for Alex Johnson.

Steve Zimmer and Bennett Kayser appeared at a news conference outside City Hall this morning to offer their strong support for McKenna, the former administrator who won the June primary.

Villaraigosa announced his endorsement through a campaign release from Johnson, the education aide to LA Country Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas who finished second.

The candidates are now facing each other in an Aug. 12 runoff election.

Calling McKenna “one of the most esteemed public educators in recent LA history,” Zimmer said he was disturbed at campaign mailers from Johnson that called into question McKenna’s effectiveness as an administrator.

“I couldn’t stand idly by and let it happen,” he told LA School Report at the gathering. “So I’m getting involved.”

Kayser said he, too, was motivated by the fliers, saying, “I was going to stay out of the campaign. Then I saw the fliers sent out. attacking him. I felt I can’t stand back.”

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LAUSD using new ‘equity index’ to restore arts to areas of need

Arts Education LAUSDThe plan to expand arts access for students across LA Unified and restore nearly $16 million in arts funding will include data gathered in a new Arts Equity Index, a tool to identify schools in greatest need of arts instruction.

School board member Steve Zimmer, who proposed the idea at the board meeting Tuesday, called it the most comprehensive arts inventory the district has ever taken.

To determine where arts programs are in greatest need, the Index will consider existing arts instruction at a school, proximity to arts centers or places that offer community based arts activities, and levels of poverty (among other factors which have not yet been defined). The results are intended to generate support in the form of district money, foundation grants, private donations and partnerships with local arts facilities.

“Until now access to arts education has been really about entitlement and luck,” Zimmer told LA School Report. “There are some rockstar arts programs that are concentrated in areas of high poverty, but you have other schools in areas of mid-range need that only get one hour of arts instruction a week.”

For example, schools in downtown LA, which are regarded as high needs campuses in most respects, have access to Inner City Arts, a non-profit arts education provider for many LA Unified schools. These schools, according to Zimmer, would fall to a lower position on the arts index.

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Vergara ruling gets mixed reaction from school board

LAUSD School board members Vergara ruling reactionsPredictably, the historic superior court decision yesterday in the Vergara case elicited mixed reactions from members of the LA Unified school board.

The ruling, which found California laws dictating teacher tenure, seniority rights and dismissal practices unconstitutional, is seen as huge blow to teacher unions and a boost to education reformers. Here is what a handful of board members had to say:

Monica Garcia, LAUSD Board Member, District 2

“California is a state in transformation! Today, California must act to support our students’ civil rights as directed by Judge Rolf Treu in Vergara v. California. By striking down all five laws, California must focus corrective action that will ensure students are served adequately, and teachers are treated fairly. I applaud the nine student plaintiffs, and the Students Matter team for creating this opportunity to radically change our educational system.”

“On behalf of those I represent, I call on all parties to come together, propose new laws and lead the nation in creating conditions that best serve our youth.”

Tamar Galatzan, LAUSD Board Member, District 3

“The Vergara ruling is the first step toward being able to guarantee that we have great teachers in every LAUSD classroom and classrooms around the state. It is now up to the Legislature to pass laws that provide equal opportunity and provide equal access to a high-quality education.”

Steve Zimmer, LAUSD Board Member, District 4

“Basically yesterday you had a completely antithetical moment. You had the verdict read at the courthouse that identifies teacher tenure and other protection statutes as the reasons why kids have suffered disproportionately in public education. And then, not half a day later, you actually had the incoming president of the teachers union standing with a civil rights leader saying, No no no there are many factors that impact children and their access to education, and these factors are so strong that we believe that you have to take them into consideration when we are distributing funding.”

“As I’ve always said, there are parts of the statute that I would change. The problem with Vergara has always been that in saying one part of the problem is the problem, is a reckless theory. And now I worry that it could be a very reckless implementation.”

Bennett Kayser, LAUSD Board Member, District 5

“On behalf of my former colleagues, public school teachers, I am deeply saddened that our profession has been so attacked in the in the courts. It is shameful when billionaires use children to mask their efforts to eliminate employees’ hard-won rights. I do believe however that, we shall prevail on the Vergara appeal.”

Richard Vladovic, the board president, and Monica Ratliff, did not respond to requests for reaction to the Vergara case.

Previous posts: Vergara decision: Big win for students, big loss for teachers union; Analysis: The long wait for the impact — if any — of Vergara; Vergara trial ends, with CA teacher laws hanging in the balance


Zimmer: LAUSD ‘culture war’ over co-locations on the west side

Steve Zimmer LAUSD on CWC relocation

Steve Zimmer LAUSD Board Meeting


As lawyers figure out where Citizens of the World Mar Vista decides will call home in the 2014-2015 school year, LA Unified board member Steve Zimmer says the charter is likely to encounter the same friction it endured as a co-located school this year at Stoner Elementary if it remains on LA’s west side. (See story here).

“It’s not that it has much to do with CWC specifically,” Zimmer told LA School Report. “It’s that, on the west side you have a culture war playing out on the issue of school choice.”

Much of it has to do with the shortage of land and property values that shut out more people as housing prices increase.

“Land out here is treated like water in the desert,” he said. “It is extremely valuable.”

Zimmer, whose district covers much of LA’s coastal neighborhoods, has been a steady critic of co-locations, a phenomenon that grew out of Prop 39, a voter initiative approved in 2000 that established the practice of making under-used space in a public school available to a charter. Last fall, he introduced a board resolution, asking state lawmakers to draft more clearly-defined guidelines for applying the law so that the host school is not penalized for sharing its space.

In west side areas like Del Rey, Westchester and Venice, where other co-location disputes have broken out, the demographics of homeowners has changed much faster than the local school populations, generally shifting from a mix of African-American and white to larger numbers of white homeowners.

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Another week, another LA Unified school board meeting

LAUSD School Board Meeting 5-20-14It’s hard to believe after last week’s marathon 10-hour session, but LA Unified school board members will be meet again tomorrow with a full agenda.

Most of the issues before the board are much less contentious than those addressed a week ago. They include:

  • Board member Bennett Kayser’s effort to form a task force charged with replacing the district’s potentially asthma-triggering cleaning supplies will come up for a vote.  It is the only resolution for action on the agenda.
  • A plan for a different task force will be introduced by Monica Garcia. This time one that, if passed, would develop a district-wide plan within three months for Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Education to be implemented in the Fall of 2015.
  • And Steve Zimmer has drafted a motion for phasing in the data resulting from the administration of the Smarter Balanced tests now that LA Unified “will sunset the use of API scores as a measurement and evaluation tool for schools communities and all other assessment purposes.”

In a closed session meeting the six members will address the usual: existing litigation, personnel dismissals, and student discipline cases. They will also meet with representatives of various labor groups who are entering into negotiations with the district on new collective bargaining contracts. Among them are the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA), Los Angeles School Police Association (LASPOA), Service Employees International Union Local 99 (SEIU), and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA).

After the meeting, the same board members will reconvene in the afternoon. for a special joint meeting of Committee of the Whole and the Adult Education Committee of the Los Angeles Community College District.

Much of the discussion will focus on Assembly Bill 86, an effort to coordinate public schools and community colleges to serve the needs of adult education students.

For board agenda, click here.

For board materials, click here.

Protests, threats, violence driving wedge through a co-location

CWC community dinner LAUSD* UPDATED

Citizens of the World Charter School (CWC), a K-2 LA Unified school of 160 students in Mar Vista, is inviting neighbors over for dinner tonight. It’s a gesture intended to show that CWC is a better neighbor than some in the area apparently think.

The offer to break bread comes at an unpleasant time for the school, which shares a building with Stoner Elementary, a K-5 school of about 360 students. At this point, though, it’s unclear if the offer will make much difference.

Tensions have been rising through the year, CWC’s first, over issues big and small relating to the co-location experience. The uneasiness, purportedly over traffic congestion generated by CWC’s separate entrance on a residential street, has escalated into a proxy fight over the wisdom of Prop 39, a state measure that allowed for co-located schools when the public school has room to spare, and the intrinsic value and fairness of charter schools.

Groups on both sides of the issue have been arguing and protesting since last Fall, and the animosities continue building.

In recent months, CWC parents claim they have encountered threatening signs, ugly gestures, fear mongering and worse from local residents who have made it clear they don’t want CWC in the area. The parents also say literature circulated in the neighborhood spreads untruths about the school, including the erroneous contention that as a charter it drains funds away from local district schools.

“The bottom line is that we want a safe, peaceful environmental for our school,” said Amy Held, executive director of CWC, which operates schools in Los Angeles and New York. “Since we co-locate with other schools, we have no reason to believe that’s not possible here. That’s what we’re driving toward.”

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Zimmer: Congratulations for Caputo-Pearl, Thanks for Fletcher

Board Vice President Steve Zimmer

Board Vice President Steve Zimmer

The LA Unified School Distirct issued a statement from board vice president, Steve Zimmer, on the election of Alex Caputo-Pearl as president of UTLA, the teachers union:

“I want to congratulate Alex Caputo-Pearl, and his team of candidates upon their election to the leadership of the nation’s second-largest teacher union, local United Teachers Los Angeles.

“Throughout his career, Mr. Caputo-Pearl has been committed to uplifting the rights of children, their families, their teachers and their school communities. I look forward to working with Alex, and his entire team, to celebrate and elevate the teaching profession in this District and beyond. Working together, I know we can positively change the public education trajectories for students throughout our District.

“I also want to recognize and thank outgoing President Warren Fletcher. Mr. Fletcher led the union through the worst budget crisis ever to face L.A. Unified. I appreciate his role in helping to preserve public education in Los Angeles.

“There has never been a more important time for the District, our teachers, our families and our school communities to work collaboratively to ensure the promise of public education is fulfilled for all students. In Mr. Caputo-Pearl and his team, I know we have partners in our effort to make equality in our education outcomes becomes social justice reality in our time.”