Zimmer wins unanimous approval to serve as LAUSD board leader

The LAUSD school board gives Superintendent Ramon Cortines a standing ovation.

The LAUSD school board gives Superintendent Ramon Cortines a standing ovation.

One week after it appeared Richard Vladovic was destined to serve as president of the LA Unified board for a third consecutive term, the members unanimously today elected Steve Zimmer as its new leader, giving the district its most teacher union friendly president in more than a decade.

Zimmer, who began his career with the district as a teacher, has been serving as board vice president for the last two years. Even so, the ease with which he ascended to the throne was a bit surprising.

Just last week, board members Mónica Ratliff and Mónica García had suggested they might seek to waive newly-adopted term limits for the presidency to re-elect Vladovic for a third term, but neither followed through.

However, just before the members were about to entertain nominations for president, Ratliff pressed Zimmer to identify his own successor as vice president. Zimmer said he would appoint George McKenna, who had been sworn in earlier in the day for a new term, along with newly-elected Scott Schmerelson and Ref Rodgriguez and the reelected Vladovic.

McKenna gladly accepted the nomination after Zimmer was elected.

While all seven members were united in their votes for Zimmer, Ratliff was the only one to qualify hers as each member made a choice orally. “I would like nothing more than to vote for a ticket with McKenna on it,” she chirped before voting yes.

Not exactly a resounding vote of confidence for Zimmer.

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Zimmer honored as ‘Good Food Hero’ by LA Food Policy Council

LA Unified school board Vice President Steve Zimmer was honored recently by the Los Angeles Food Policy Council for his efforts in getting the district to take a more progressive approach to food purchasing. 

The council developed the Good Food Purchasing Program, which LA Unified adopted in 2012 and strengthened in late 2014 with two “Good Food” resolutions that Zimmer helped get passed. The resolutions called for the district to prioritize local food vendors, labor conditions, environmental concerns and animal welfare when procuring food.

Zimmer was honored by the group as a “Good Food Hero” at its June 11 fundraising gala at the Vibiana in downtown Los Angeles and was also invited to speak at the event. (See the YouTube video above for his full remarks.)

“I want you all to know, if you don’t take anything else from what I say tonight, is that 82 percent of the students in the Los Angeles Unified School District live in poverty,” Zimmer said. “Not on the margin, not working, they live in poverty every day. So when we talk about the food chain, for our students, we are every link in that chain.”

Zimmer also expressed his hope that every school district in the state would adopt similar purchasing guidelines that LAUSD has.

The council was formed in 2011 by former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and describes itself as a “collective impact initiative” with the goal of making the Los Angeles area a place “where food is healthy, affordable, fair and sustainable.” The council is made up of 40 members and hundreds of stakeholders who represent over 180 businesses and organizations. It is funded by the city of LA, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and a number of charitable organizations.

As part of the food procurement resolutions spearheaded by Zimmer, LAUSD also joined forced with several other major school districts in the country to form the Urban School Food Alliance. The alliance made headlines around the country in 2014 when it pledged to only purchase antibiotic free chicken.

Just in: ‘Game changer’ to game over for Westside ‘immersion’ school

Mark Twain expansionLA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines has cancelled the district’s plans for a proposed construction project at a Westside school campus that was to house an expanded foreign language immersion program.

Explaining the rationale for his decision in a three-page memo to members of the school board and its bond oversight committee yesterday, Cortines said the project “will not move forward,” but he vowed to work with district officials to provide an alternative pathway for students to continue their immersion studies into high school.

The decision is a blow to school board member Steve Zimmer, who had hailed the expansion of the program into a new school as a “game changer” for the district as part of an overarching strategy to stem the tide of falling enrollment.

The proposed Mandarin and English Dual-Language Immersion Elementary School on the current campus footprint of Mark Twain Middle School, approved by the board last year, was a $30 million project intended to house students from the immersion program at nearby Broadway Elementary, which currently has no space for an expansion. It was a bold move, projected as the first facility built by the district to accommodate an instructional innovation open to all students.

But opposition to the project from members of the nearby community, including the West Mar Vista Residents Association, was potent as concerns were raised about increased traffic and congestion the expanded campus and construction might bring to the area. Even LA City Council member Mike Bonin, who represents Mar Vista, voiced his opposition to the project.

“I have reflected on what I learned from our District technical experts, as well as the concerns I have heard from community and school stakeholders,” the Cortines memo said. “It is important that this established Mandarin Foreign Language Immersion Program continue to be offered at Broadway for the long-term. I am supportive of expanding the District’s Mandarin Foreign Language Immersion Program and other Foreign Language Immersion Programs; however, the construction project at Mark Twain is not the avenue to do so, and it will not move forward.”

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As school year ends, so does Vladovic presidency; Zimmer next?

ZImmer Board Meeting March 3, 2014

* UPDATED

The close of the school year next month also brings an end to Richard Vladovic’s second term as LA Unified board president. Rules bar him from serving a third consecutive year.

While critical issues await the new president — transformation to new technology, managing the growth of charters, dealing with new budgets, among them — nothing may be more critical than leading the search for a successor to Superintendent Ramon Cortines, who has re-upped for what is almost certain to be his final year.

Cortines was plucked out of retirement last year to replace John Deasy and end a tumultuous period within the district. In large measure, he has succeeded. But turning 83 in July, he’s not the face of LA Unified’s future.

The board that will start the next academic year is essentially a young group in terms of service, with two new members after election victories last week — Scott Schmerelson and Ref Rodriguez — and two others with two years of service or less, Mónica Ratliff and George McKenna.

Mónica García served six years as president, the longest of any board board member in 80 years, but she is barred from returning to office because board rules now limit members to four years in total as president.

That leaves Steve Zimmer, a member since 2009, as the likely favorite to replace Vladovic.

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Zimmer still angry about Rodriguez campaign but vows to work together

Steve Zimmer

Steve Zimmer

Drinking too much at a work dinner or hitting on a co-worker’s spouse can make things truly uncomfortable at the office. But what about publicly damning a future colleague before his first day on the job?

That’s the situation LA Unified school board Vice President Steve Zimmer faces, now that Ref Rodriguez has defeated his good friend, Bennett Kayser, for the District 5 board seat.

“If there ever was a relationship there with Rodriguez, it has been seriously damaged,” Zimmer said a day before Tuesday’s election, piqued by the tenor of Rodriguez’s campaign.

Zimmer accused Rodriguez and his backers of crossing “new frontiers of depravity” and “using a type of lies and distortion, that lowered the entire moral climate of political discourse” throughout the campaign, even if much of the nastiness was orchestrated by groups working on Rodriguez’s behalf, not the candidate himself. Anyway, Zimmer said, the candidate ultimately bears the responsibility for the tone and scope of the campaign.

His position now?

“I meant what I said, and I stand by it,” he told LA School Report today.

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LAUSD officials in Sacramento to talk trans-k, adult ed and budget

sacramento_state_capital_houseLA Unified officials are in Sacramento today lobbying for adult education and transitional kindergarten programs. Oh yeah, and the budget, too.

Among those joining in on the road trip are Chief Deputy Superintendent Michelle King, Chief Financial Officer Megan Reilly and board members George McKenna and Steve Zimmer. They planned to meet with Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and “other key legislators,” according to district officials.

Superintendent Ramon Cortines announced plans to eliminate funding for a pre-school program serving about 13,000 four-year olds, called the School Readiness and Language Development Program. SRLDP costs about $26 million annually and is the only pre-school program financed exclusively with district general funds.

As a result, the board approved a resolution to explore the idea of expanding existing transitional kindergarten programs, which are partially paid for with state funding.

Adult education programs were among the first to be slashed throughout the the recession years, and it has yet to benefit from recent state revenue increases. Further, more cuts are planned. The district issued layoff notices to hundreds of adult education teachers in April.

The latest budget projections from the state’s legislative analysts office estimate the district will receive $710 million dollars above what it had initially expected.

Zimmer ‘damns’ Rodriguez and his supporters for attacks on Kayser

LA Unified board member Steve Zimmer

LA Unified board member Steve Zimmer

* UPDATED

If Ref Rodriguez wins election tomorrow, he’s got no friend in Steve Zimmer.

Rodriguez is the challenger in the race for LA Unified school board District 5 against Bennett Kayser, easily the most heated of the three board elections. A loss by Kayser could shift the ideological balance of the seven member board from pro-union to pro-charter.

While Zimmer, a former teacher and teachers union advocate who represents board District 4, has been a reliable and long-time Kayser supporter, he recently railed against Rodriguez’s “reformer” agenda and campaign tactics, as well as his most powerful and generous supporter, the California Charter Schools Association political action committee.

“Damn them! Damn them!” Zimmer exclaimed during a fire-and-brimstone speech at a Kayser fundraiser last month, about 7 minutes of which is on YouTube.

The remarks came in response to a series of campaign attack ads against Kayser that Zimmer said portrays the incumbent as a racist slumlord whose Parkinson’s disease makes him unfit to serve a second term.

In an interview with LA school Report today, Zimmer doubled down on his scathing criticism of Rodriguez and CCSA.

“They have crossed new frontiers of depravity in this campaign,” Zimmer said. “This is the most amoral type of campaigning, using a type of lies and distortion, that lowered the entire moral climate of political discourse.”

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Superintendent Cortines hired for another year to lead LA Unified

LAUSD Superintedent Ray Cortines

LAUSD Superintedent Ray Cortines

* UPDATED

Superintendent Ramon Cortines is putting off retirement for another year.

The LA Unified school board yesterday voted unanimously to extend Cortines’s contract through the end of the 2015-16 school year. Terms of the deal are still under review, “but nothing, including salary, was expected to change from the previous pact,” district officials said in a statement. The agreement will become public once the deal is finished.

The district spokesman, Tom Waldman, said Cortines declined to comment on his decision to stay another year.

Cortines, who turns 83 in July, came out of retirement to serve as interim leader of the district for a third term after John Deasy resigned in October 2014 amid a disastrous technology roll out and accusations of shady business dealings with Apple and Pearson.

The decision to hire Cortines, who had led the district twice before as superintendent, was unanimous and happened swiftly at a time when the seven member board appeared deeply divided on most issues. Since then the board has rallied around him and his efforts to bring order to a district awash in controversy.

“He came out of retirement to save the district, and I believe he’s done that,” board member Mónica Ratliff told LA School Report.

“I fully supported extending the Superintendent’s contract because I think he has been amazing,” she added.

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LAUSD preschool program in peril with help still 2 years away

Preschool childrenLA Unified is on the brink of cutting a highly-successful preschool program for some of the district’s poorest children at the same time that members of the California state assembly are trying to expand early education programs for all low-income pre-Kindergarten students.

The district’s School Readiness Language Development Program (SRLDP) is just one of a handful of programs for district pre-schoolers, but it is the only one that is entirely financed by general funds with no supplemental contributions from state or federal revenue to help cover the $36 million price tag. That makes it perpetually vulnerable to cuts, especially in lean years, and next year is no different.

With the district facing a $113 million deficit in 2015-16, Superintendent Ramon Cortines has proposed cutting SRLDP over the next two years, a decision that would impact 10,000 children, nearly a third of the district’s 35,000 four-year olds enrolled in preschool.

But even as the district program teeters on the precipice of extinction, the state Assembly Committee on Education is pushing AB 47, the Preschool for All Act of 2015, legislation that would provide sufficient funding to guarantee “every low-income 4 year old with access to preschool” by 2017.

While the bill is far from becoming law — it will be heard next in the Assembly Appropriation Committee later this month — the prospect of future state support has some LA Unified school board members calling on Cortines to continue funding SRLDP until a decision is made at the state level.

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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

LAUSD-students-eating-lunch-e1411425345457

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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