Linked Learning has helped these LAUSD students thrive

DSCN6311Bryan Cantero discovered in school that he liked to write. Then he found out he could turn it into a career and even spent last summer writing in a paid internship.

Leon Popa always had a passion for medicine. Now every class he takes in high school is geared to something involving a medical career. He interns at Kaiser Permanente Hospital and is being mentored by a doctor. He is also the new student member of the LAUSD school board.

These two students said they thrived in school because of the Linked Learning program. LA Unified has 33 schools that have adopted the program; 11 more are conditionally approved for next year.

Linked Learning started at LAUSD in the 2009-2010 school year as one of nine districts in the state to try the integrated learning program through a grant by the Irvine Foundation. The program mixes rigorous academics, career and technical education, work-based learning and student support in a variety of special interests. It incorporates all the Common Core requirements and directs them toward the area of special interest.

Paul Hirsch, principal of the Hollywood STEM Academy at Bernstein High where Popa attends, said, “We had a tough start. Our graduation rate was in the 50 percent (range) and there were fights every day and the attendance was bad. We had to look for money to hire extra security guards.”

Continue reading

LAUSD board told charters attracting more federal dollars than magnets


Joel Packer who lobbies in Washington for LAUSD

For all the successful magnet schools in LA Unified and elsewhere, they are not attracting as much federal support as charter schools.

That was a stark message from the district’s federal lobbyist, who told a district board committee this week that Washington is increasing national support for charter schools by nearly 32 percent but by only 6 percent for magnet schools, a difference that surprised some of the school board members.

“We never imagined this would ever be this much of a discrepancy,” board president Steve Zimmer said at a meeting of the board’s Committee of the Whole.

The money for charters rose to $350 million from $270 million while the magnet school support increased to $96 million from $91 million, according to Joel Packer, of the Raben Group, which lobbies for the district in Washington.

“Charter schools have big bipartisan support in Congress,” Packer said. “They got a big increase. Magnet schools don’t have the same political clout.”

In response to Packer’s overall report outlining changes in federal education policy, committee chairman George McKenna pointed out, “Charters can lobby and have money to give to campaigns and give to board members. Magnets don’t have that ability; they are not separate legal entities.”

Zimmer wondered if the charter money could also go to affiliated charters, which are still associated with LAUSD employee standards and controls.

“No one can seem to answer that,” he said. “And the Republicans don’t even know what they are.”

Board member Mónica Ratliff said, “We have some amazing magnet schools, maybe we need to do a better job at publicizing what a great job they are doing and replicate more of them.”

Continue reading

Zimmer tells staff to take advantage of CA leadership with LA ties

SteveZimmerFunnyIt’s a such unique moment with the leadership of Sacramento that LAUSD should find a way to take advantage.

That was the message from LA Unified board President Steve Zimmer to district staff at a board committee meeting yesterday: figure out how to ask for more money from the state, even more than the district’s fair share.

His targets were the two new leaders of the legislature — Anthony Rendon, the in-coming Assembly speaker, and  Kevin de León, the Senate pro Tem —  and of course, Gov. Jerry Brown.

“Given what I’ve seen in the initial budget, and that the senate president pro tem and incoming speaker of the assembly are from the LA delegation and represent LA Unified, we’re at quite a moment in terms of budget and what is possible,” Zimmer said, also noting that the governor has had long personal ties to Los Angeles.

Brown moved to Los Angeles in 1969 and worked as a lawyer in private practice and began his political career winning a seat on the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees. A year later he won election as California Secretary of State.

Rendon represents areas south Los Angeles and was an educator and executive director of Plaza de la Raza Child Development Services, which provides child development and medical services to 2,300 children throughout Los Angeles County.

de León is the is the first Latino elected to lead the Senate in 130 years. He represents Los Angeles and co-chaired Prop 39, a tax-increase measure that has generated millions of extra dollars for public schools.

Continue reading

Giant chicken contract ‘test case’ for LAUSD’s new food guidelines

chickenIt appears that the LA Unified school board is headed for a showdown with the giant chicken industry.

As the second largest school district in the nation, LA Unified has traditionally been one of the largest purchasers of chicken in the country but in late 2014 adopted much stricter guidelines for the food it buys.

The “Good Food’ resolution requires vendors to adhere to tougher standards when it comes to the quality of food and how companies treat animals, workers and the environment. The district’s 5-year, $754 million contract with its major food vendors is expiring this spring, and it has already renegotiated contracts with its beef, dairy, produce, bread and other major vendors. The chicken contract is still open.

The chicken industry, more than any other, has proven difficult to negotiate with under the district’s new guidelines, said LA Unified school board President Steve Zimmer, author of the Good Food resolution. A new chicken contract is scheduled to be presented to the board at its Feb. 9 meeting.

“The chicken contract has been a matter of sincere debate because in the industry right now, frankly, it is very hard to find producers and processors who can produce at the level that we need in this district to get the bid under the federal guidelines and also meet our food procurement policies,” Zimmer told LA School Report.

The contracts are negotiated by the district’s Procurement Services Division and then approved by the school board. Zimmer said the chicken contract could potentially be in the area of $60 million and will be first real test of the Good Food resolution since it passed. Tyson Foods, one of the largest chicken companies in the country, is still considered in the running for the contract, Zimmer said.

Continue reading

Search firm president commends LA Unified on choice of King

Hank Gmitro HYA 6.09.05 PM

Hank Gmitro, who helped in the superintendent search

While superintendent searches for large school districts typically end with outsiders getting the job, the president of the firm working with LA Unified said the insider chosen, Michelle King, a district veteran of 30 years, was a commendable match.

“We spent more time than usual to come up with a profile of the characteristics that the community wanted, and I think the school board found someone who matched that list very well,” said Hank Gmitro, president of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates of Rosemont, Ill. “They were very thoughtful and thorough in the potential candidates, and I believe they found the strongest candidate possible.”

In reviewing the process, Gmitro said his firm has now placed 45 superintendents in the nation’s 100 largest school districts. The search in LA Unified started with about 100 applications, the most of any search conducted by his firm, before the board narrowed the list to 25, then to a handful of finalists.

Although the process was similar to most other searches, Gmitro said, the scope was immense. In smaller districts two of their staff could interview the staff and community and develop the Leadership Profile in a few days. This time, it required six people working a full two weeks, and then time to compile thousands of surveys in five different languages.

“The profile took a longer time to develop and make, but it was useful during the interviews,” Gmitro said.

In retrospect, picking King seemed like a no-brainer, but Gmitro said the school board was determined to find as many qualified candidates as possible and making sure the best person was chosen — even if that candidate came from within.

Continue reading

A closed campus sparks LAUSD debate over enrollment decline


If members of the LA Unified school board agree on anything, it’s the financial threat posed by declining enrollment. The latest evidence: a 7-0 vote last week to oppose the Great Public Schools Now charter expansion plan.

But what to do about enrollment, which is falling about three percent a year, is another matter, the difficulties of which were revealed hours later when the members debated what to do with the long-closed Highlander campus in the western San Fernando Valley. The choices: approve a proposal from El Camino Charter Alliance to build a charter school to serve 525 students, as district staff was recommending, or spend upwards of $30 million in public funds to build a district school, as board member Scott Schmerelson was promoting.

With looming deficits and limited construction bond funds, Schmerelson’s vocal support for a traditional school sparked a vigorous debate that became a vivid illustration of how competing interests often spur conflicting approaches to problem solving. It also raised questions among the members about how to pay for such a large capital project: Some said they liked the idea as long as it doesn’t drain money from their board district, while others were willing to give up money from their district for the greater good of LA Unified.

After a lengthy discussion, a split board voted 4-3 to give the superintendent’s office a month to explain how a new school would be paid for, including what projects would be cancelled as a result.

The Highlander campus, along with three other closed schools in the western Valley, has been vacant for decades. El Camino’s leaders have been working on plans for three of the closed sites — and to pay for them without any money from LA Unified other than bond money specifically set aside for charter schools. The board in November denied El Camino’s request to develop one of the sites, Oso.

Continue reading

A student representative returns to LA Unified school board

LeonPopa student youth member school board LAUSD

Leon Popa, student on the LAUSD school board

At the first LA Unified school board meeting of the year on Tuesday, Leon Popa found himself sitting through a long, grueling ordeal.

“Leon Popa has now spent more time at this meeting than he did all day at school,” said school board President Steve Zimmer. And that was only halfway through a meeting that started at 1:30 pm and last until 11 o’clock.

Popa is the board’s newest member, a 16-year-old junior and math whiz at the STEM Academy at Bernstein High School, who was selected from among six students to become the student representative on the seven-member board. He votes on any issue before the board in an “advisory” capacity.

Popa left the meeting around 8 p.m., ostensibly to do homework, but not before he was called upon to discuss the school calendar issue and explain what some of his student peers prefer, a mid-August start.

“I have the passion and will to help all students claim the education they need and deserve,” he said about his role on the board. “I want all students to have their voices heard. I am confident in my ability to listen and represent all students – English-learners, gifted and students living in poverty.”

With his mother, Dorina Popa, a medieval studies teacher, sitting in the front row of the meeting room and Zimmer at his side, Leon was sworn in by the board’s executive officer, Jefferson Crain. Popa will serve a one-year, unpaid term and will participate in discussions, but will not attend closed sessions or have access to confidential materials.

Continue reading

LAUSD approves most charters even as it condemns Broad charter plan


Daniel Cruz and Malia Sandoval, both 10, wait to speak.

The LA Unified school board this week awarded, renewed or revised requests from 10 charter schools, and two applications for new schools were rejected. Some of the approvals came with specific warnings by board members to shape up.

The charter approvals came at the same meeting that the board unanimously condemned the Eli Broad-affiliated group, Great Public Schools Now, and approved another resolution requiring stringent transparency requirements for charter schools.

Charter petitions and renewals are routine at LAUSD school board meetings. Even so, 50 or more families often line up as early as daybreak to get into the school board meeting to vouch for their charter schools. Most votes are unanimous because state law provides stringent reasons for denying them.

At this week’s meeting, fifth graders Malia Sandoval and Daniel Cruz, both 10, waited more than six hours to speak about their Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts. “I love all subjects and the classes have us interact with each other,” said Malia. “My favorite was making shadow puppets.”

In the case of Los Feliz charter, board member Mónica Ratliff pointed out a lack of diversity in the racial mix of the students. She also said many students in her district would be interested in the unique arts program at the school.

“Our job is to push for diversity,” Ratliff said. “It’s more than just white people who like art. We have a lot of artist in Pacoima, we have a lot of artist in Sylmar.”

The district’s charter school division director, José Cole-Gutiérrez, said the school came close to being denied renewal because of its lack of ethnic diversity, but he noted improvement, an observation that helped sway a vote to approve. ”They have made outreach efforts, and they are making progress,” he said.

Continue reading

Charter advocates launch salvo against Schmerelson resolution

Scott SchmerelsonCharter school administrators, alumni and parents appeared today at a morning meeting of the LA Unified school to oppose a resolution that will ask the board to condemn any threat to the school system through a proliferation of charter schools.

“Resolutions like this distract us and are perpetuating harmful myths in the community,” Rachel Hazlehurst, of Camino Nuevo Charter Academy told the board, calling the resolution from board member Scott Schmerelson “divisive in nature.”

Hazlehurst and 14 other speakers were part of an effort to pushback against the motion, which was scheduled for a board vote later in the day. The measure is general in its wording but was precipitated by the recent formulation of Great Public Schools Now, an offshoot of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation that wants to expand the number of charter schools in LA Unified.

Schmerelson nodded and listened intently to all the speakers. Before the meeting adjourned for a closed session, board President Steve Zimmer applauded the speakers for expressing their opinions and pointed out that their messages of urging collaboration and best-practices sharing was far more collegial that what he has heard from Great Public Schools Now.

“I hope that there is internal conversation that is happening,” Zimmer said. “The words [in the resolution] were in response to the a proposal that had very different words than the words that were said today.”

Zimmer said he found materials and websites that “perpetuate deficit thinking” about traditional schools and “present a negative picture of the schools they want to collaborate with.”

Continue reading

King, Adams believed to be finalists for LA Unified superintendent

superintendent search* UPDATED

LA Unified’s selection of a new superintendent could end as early as this afternoon with the board announcing a successor to Ramon Cortines after a months-long search.

The finalists are believed to be Michelle King, the current interim, and Kelvin Adams, superintendent of public schools in St. Louis.

A special board meeting has been scheduled to start at 4 p.m.

Both of the presumptive finalists are African-American. As the second-largest school district in the nation, LA Unified has 644,000 students, including 74 percent who are Latino, 9.8 percent white, 8.4 percent African-American and 6 percent Asian.

While the district has been led by an African-American before — Sidney Thompson from 1992 to 1997 and David Brewer from 2006 to 2009, no woman has served in the position in nearly 90 years.

King, 54, who was recently named interim superintendent, served as Chief Deputy Superintendent under Cortines. A product of three LA Unified schools  — Windsor Hills Elementary, Palms Junior High and Palisades High — she began her career in the district in 1984 as a science and health teacher at Porter Middle School in Granada Hills. She went on to serve as magnet coordinator at Orville Wright Math, Science and Aerospace Magnet Middle School in Westchester and then became principal of Hamilton High School in West Los Angeles.

She was promoted to a Local District superintendent before moving up to assistant superintendent under John Deasy. When Deasy resigned under pressure and Cortines returned in late 2014, she was named his second-in-command and top advisor. He stepped down last month.

Adams, 59, took over a district with many problems and began turning it around over the past seven years. The 24,000-student school district in St. Louis has a large population of low-income students and was suffering from declining enrollment, both issues that are important at LA Unified. Adams has confirmed that he was interested in the job.

Continue reading

‘Difficult conversation’ on charters finally comes to LAUSD board


After three revisions, a resolution aimed at curtailing future charter school expansion in LA Unified is finally coming before the school board for a vote on Tuesday.

While the measure is largely symbolic in that it cannot change policy regarding charter growth — that is a state matter — it’s a way to open a “difficult conversation that is long overdue,” said its only sponsor, Scott Schmerelson.

General in scope, the resolution is an obvious response to the Broad Foundation-inspired plan, Great Public Schools Now, that is proposing a dramatic increase in the number of LA Unified charters over the next eight years. Schmerelson and other board members have characterized the plan as dangerous to the district’s traditional schools.

“As a retired, life-long LAUSD educator, I believe that I have a moral obligation to raise awareness and understanding of externally driven strategies that support the uncontrolled proliferation of charter schools at the expense of the District’s ability to adequately provide for the needs of all students, especially the most disadvantaged students who rely on public education,” Schmerelson told LA School Report.

As impassioned as the resolution may be, it’s effectively toothless in terms of changing how the district deals with charter applications and renewal requests that come before the board. State law creates the rules for charters, and it only provides for denials in the cases of questionable finances or managerial weakness.

In his review of the resolution, LA Unified’s chief legal counsel, David Holmquist, said as much: “It should be noted that any analysis done by the district on any charter school proposal needs to be in accordance with the provisions of the Education Code.” He added, “The Board should be cautioned against using any fiscal impact to the district and potential decrease in revenues as bases for denying a charter.”

That’s part of the problem, Schmerelson said, pointing to state regulations that restrict how the school board monitors, controls and approves charter schools. “We need to change state law and clarify ambiguous state and district guidelines that hamper our ability to act as responsible charter authorizers and exercise diligent oversight of existing charter schools,” he said.

Anita Landecker, interim executive director of Great Public Schools Now, said the resolution won’t impact the organization’s plan to press ahead.

Continue reading

Signs point to new LAUSD superintendent by early next week

superintendent searchHere’s another bit of evidence to suggest that LA Unified will have a new superintendent by next week.

The agenda for a board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 12 includes this: “Recommends approval of an employment agreement for the Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent of Schools.”

That would presume that the members will have coalesced around one candidate by the time that vote is taken. Another closed session of the board is scheduled for 4 p.m. the day before, and it is widely believed that a new superintendent will be presented at its conclusion.

Selecting a new superintendent is an action separate from approving a new contract. By state law, a vote to approve the contract must be done in public; the actual vote on the candidate, while conducted in private, will also be made public, although perhaps not right away.

If this scenario plays out, it would bring to an end a long series of meetings that started on Dec. 6 when the seven members of the board began narrowing a list of candidates to replace the recently-retired Ramon Cortines.

After the latest closed session, a five-hour meeting on Tuesday, board President Steve Zimmer said the board was “on track to having an appointment made in January.”

Monday is January 11. The only question now is: who will it be?

LA Unified search goes into next week, but end is close

ZimmerAfter meeting five hours today to discuss candidates for the next LAUSD superintendent, the school board adjourned until next Monday with no decision made.

The school board members began a closed session at 9 a.m. and returned at 2:15 p.m. to say they will resume the search discussions on Monday, Jan. 11 at 4 p.m., with the board’s regular monthly meeting scheduled for the next day.

School board president Steve Zimmer said after the adjournment that the delay has nothing to do with the announcement by San Francisco school Superintendent Richard Carranza that he is not seeking the job. Zimmer said he could not confirm nor deny that Carranza was in consideration and said the process is confidential.

“I respect the work that Mr. Carranza has done in his district, and he is certainly a great superintendent, and he wrote the letter that he thought was appropriate for his board,” Zimmer said.

Meanwhile, Zimmer said the board is on track to getting an appointment for LAUSD by the end of the month. He said he believes the board is taking the “appropriate amount of time” and that they have “diverse candidates.”

“It is truly one of the great honors and privileges to get to the right decision; it is very hard work,” Zimmer said. “There is not one moment in which the weight of this decision and those who are affected by it, have not been present in all of us in the room.”

Playa Vista dispute reflects classism as major issue facing LAUSD

RamonCortinesScoldingThe school board vote was simple, but the matter is far more complex, drawing a focus to an issue many within LA Unified find uncomfortable to talk about: classism.

The issues involved in the Playa Vista Elementary School dispute are a microcosm of complexities within the second largest school district in the country. They involve noise and air pollution, freeways and airports, pitting charter schools with traditional public schools, school over-crowding, district budget cuts and an increase in demand to teach the students’ parents in an ever-growing adult education program at LAUSD.

And, it also involves classism: With the area in question a part of Los Angeles that includes million dollar beach houses and families with yachts as well as some of the most notorious gang-infested housing projects in the city, where do children go to school?

The friction began when Playa Vista Elementary opened in 2012, offering a highly-regarded STEM program for kindergarten through fifth grades. It had 26 classrooms at the time but has now grown to 540 students with no more space available. New housing under construction nearby suggests that by 2020, the school will need to accommodate 400 more students in 14 more classrooms.

A proposal will move fourth and fifth graders from Playa Vista to Wright Middle School by the 2016-2017 school year. Wright also has 19 classrooms on campus for the Westside Innovative School House charter elementary school (WISH). The district is looking for a new home for the charter classes and is considering renovating the adult school at Emerson, which was originally built as an elementary school.

Now, there are families who want a separate middle school for the area. Playa Vista families even issued a press release in that regard. Parent and longtime resident Lisa Hamor said the conflict has resulted in “pitting schools against schools, and potentially students against students with little or no regard for our students or our existing school communities and their desire for a quality education.”

Continue reading

LAUSD board votes to shut 2 Valley schools because of gas leak


Brian Cohen doesn’t want the schools to move.

Citing an “abundance of caution” for children the second time this week, the LA Unified school board voted today to move two Valley schools to another location until June because of toxic fumes from a leaking gas storage facility.

The unanimous vote by the seven-member board cleared the way to move 1,870 students in the Porter Ranch Community School and Castlebay Lane Charter Elementary School to new locations until the leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility is plugged.

By the vote, the board declared emergency conditions for the schools, approved the relocation of students and staff and authorized litigation to recover costs of the moves from the Southern California Gas and Sempra Energy companies. The leak was discovered Oct. 23; company officials have estimated it will take up to four months to stop.

“This is the second time we’ve used the term ‘abundance of caution,’” school board president Steve Zimmer said, echoing the rationale used on Tuesday to close all districts after an email threatened widespread violence.

Today’s decision came after the board heard from a series of experts, explaining what exactly the dangers of the gas leak are, in both short-term and long-term health consequences. Dr. Kimberly Uyeda, the district’s medical director, told the board that short-term issues such as headaches and nausea, have not been been scientifically shown to cause long-term problems.

She said she had assigned two full-time nurses to each of the schools after Thanksgiving break when there were traces of mercaptans, an odorant associated with methane gas that has a strong rotten-egg, garlicky or skunk-like smell that can be irritating to the eyes, skin and respiratory system.

“We have had children complain of headaches, nosebleeds, nausea,” she said.

Continue reading

LAUSD board meeting to discuss gas leak, new superintendent

SchoolBoardThe LA Unified school board is drawing closer to the end of the search for a new with another closed door meeting scheduled for tomorrow, just after a special open session to discuss the on-going gas leak affecting two nearby schools in the Valley.

The board is considering a move to declare emergency conditions at Porter Ranch Community School and Castlebay Lane Charter, which are being affected by a natural gas leak at the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility. The leak has led to symptoms of illness in some people and has prompted families to move temporarily from the Porter Ranch neighborhood in the north San Fernando Valley.

The board is being asked to vote to give authorization to the superintendent’s office to take all actions necessary to ensure education and the health and safety of students and staff. Such actions include contracting with companies to respond to the emergency conditions at the schools and relocating students and staff.

It also seeks to give the school’s attorney the right to initiate litigation if necessary, against Southern California Gas and Sempra Energy to recover costs to the district caused by the gas leak.

Board member Scott Schmerelson, who represents the district of the two schools schools, said today that the district has installed air filters in every classroom, assigned additional nurses and initiated daily air-quality monitoring at the two campuses.

Meanwhile, the board is in its final phase of deciding who will be the next superintendent, following the departure of Ramon Cortines, who stepped down last week. The board met even during the school shutdown on Tuesday and will resume discussions tomorrow afternoon. It’s possible, though not likely, that the members could announce the selection at the conclusion of the meeting.

School board president Steve Zimmer was asked yesterday if any of the candidates dropped out the running because of all the emailed threat of violence. He smirked and said, “No, not yet.”

Click here to sign up for the LA School Report newsletter, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

LAUSD declares schools safe for opening, but investigation continues


LA Unified Board President Steve Zimmer at this afternoon’s press conference

LA Unified officials said tonight that all district schools have been declared safe and will reopen tomorrow.

The decision was made after law enforcement officials determined that an email foretelling violent acts across the district was judged to be “not a credible threat” by investigators, in the words of Mayor Eric Garretti, who joined city and regional officials at an early evening news conference.

The announcement brought an end to one of the most challenging days in LA Unified history, causing anxiety and inconvenience to hundreds of thousands of families who send their children to the district’s 1,100 schools. The officials said 2,780 law enforcement personnel had swept 1,531 school sites to determine that all schools were safe for the resumption of instruction.

However, as Garcetti warned, the opening of schools does not bring an end to the episode. He objected to characterizing the email as a “prank” or a hoax,” suggesting instead it could be a case of “criminal mischief or testing true vulnerability of the district.”

“We sure hope we catch who is responsible,” he said. “At best someone was engaged in extreme criminal mischief, a serious crime. Somebody needs to pay for that. If they were testing our vulnerability, we did a pretty good job of responding.”

The mayor said the threat came to LA Unified’s board president, Steve Zimmer, at 10 pm Monday night. Zimmer immediately contacted law enforcement, and it quickly led to a collaboration involving the FBI, country agencies, the Los Angeles Police Department and the district’s police department.

After hours of work, they presented information early in the morning to Ramon Cortines, who had stepped down three days before as district superintendent, to make a decision about opening schools.

Continue reading

LAUSD board meets on superintendent as probe continues


Steve Zimmer and Monica Garcia flank LA Mayor Eric Garcetti

It wasn’t by accident that all seven LA Unified school board members happened to be at this morning’s press conference with the mayor, the sheriff, the police chief and superintendent as they announced closing the schools today.

The school board had already plan to continue closed-door deliberations to select a superintendent to succeed Ramon Cortines. His last official day in office was Friday, but when he came in to the press conference this morning in a sweat shirt, yellow cap, jeans and tennis shoes — very uncharacteristic for a man known for his natty suits and bow ties. He began his remarks, joking, “I have retired and returned now for the fourth time.”

The board’s scheduled meeting was eclipsed by the school closings. Early on, board President Steve Zimmer and member Mónica García joined in, translating news into Spanish.

Then, all the school board members showed up at a 10 a.m. press conference with the major police officials in the county.

There had been some hints that maybe the school board would announce a decision about the superintendent today, but that now seems even more unlikely than it had been. The board was continuing its search discussions, awaiting any further developments on the threat assessment.

JUST IN: LA Unified closed due to ‘serious’ threat to schools


Ramon Cortines at a press conference


All LAUSD schools were closed today due to a “serious threat” called into the district.

The threat was not aimed at any specific school, but was judged credible enough for school officials to close all the campuses, which serve 643,000 students in 900 traditional and 200 charter schools.

“This is a rare threat, we get threats all the time, but due to the circumstances in neighboring San Bernardino and what’s happening in the nation, what happening internationally, I as superintendent am not going to take the chance with the life of a student,” Ramon Cortines, the out-going superintendent, said at an impromptu press conference.

He later confirmed reports that the threat came to the district “from overseas.” Shannon Haber, the district spokeswoman, confirmed that an email was sent to a member of the school board last night suggesting a threat involving “backpacks or packages.” She also said the email came from an IP address in Frankfurt, Germany.

The New York Times reported that New York City officials said that they had received a similar threat but had concluded that it was a hoax. The paper quoted Mayor Bill de Blasio saying he was “absolutely convinced” that there was no danger to schoolchildren in New York.

Cortines said schools would remain closed until the authorities have searched all school sites and determined they were safe for students and staff to return. He said the district would issue a statement later in the day, with an update on the results. He also said that city police and the FBI were assisting with the threat assessment.

Continue reading