a 4LAKids reader writes:
This page is a compendium of items of interest - news stories, scurrilous rumors, links, academic papers, damnable prevarications, rants and amusing anecdotes - about LAUSD and/or public education that didn't - or haven't yet - made it into the "real" 4LAKids blog and weekly e-newsletter at http://www.4LAKids.blogspot.com . 4LAKidsNews will be updated at arbitrary random intervals.
Decisions regarding new computers should be made as part of a larger technology plan to support instruction and individual student needs. Smarter Balanced is committed to achieving a successful compromise between allowing the oldest hardware possible, while still meeting the requirements to assess the full depth and breadth of the Common Core State Standards.
December 11, 2013 (Wash.) :: Among the improvements anticipated with the new Smarter Balanced assessment system, set for rollout in many states next year, are a variety of embedded accommodations for students with disabilities.
From a text-to-speech option to color contrast and magnification tools, the new computer-based tests have been developed in an effort to serve all students based on their visual, auditory, linguistic and physical needs.
“In a paper-pencil world, if a student needed a larger font – you couldn’t do that – but in a universally-designed, computer-based world, automatically, the font can be enlarged,” said Fred Balcom, director of the Special Education Division at the California Department of Education.
Launched in 2010 with a $176 million federal grant, Smarter Balanced is one of two state-led consortia developing the new Common Core-aligned assessments, expected to be used in 27 states including California, Nevada, Washington, Michigan and Connecticut.
In advance of the 2014-15 completion date, the test development team has released guidelines to the program’s many accommodation tools. Although the primary target is special education teachers, as well as participants on Individualized Education Program teams, some of the system’s features can be offered to any student who might need additional support.
As currently envisioned, the test program provides a set of “universal tools” that would be available to all students to select and use at their own discretion.
An on-screen calculator, for instance, could be accessed for some test items when consistent with testing objectives. There’s a digital notepad for temporary text storage. There’s also a dictionary, a digital highlighter, a ruler and protractor. There’s even a spell check system that alerts a student when a word is incorrect although it stops short of providing a correction.
The array of “universal” tools are only available during appropriate test segments – the calculator, for example, cannot be accessed during the math section.
A second, more restricted set of tools, called “designated supports,” would be offered if indicated as necessary either by the teacher or IEP team.
Color contrasting, aimed at students with attention difficulties, is one option in the “designated” category – allowing the student to adjust the screen background or font color including reversing the entire screen. A variety of text-to-speech tool gives support to students who are struggling readers as well as students whose primary language is not English.
The last and most restricted test tools are called “accommodations,” which are defined as changes in the procedures or materials that “increase equitable access” during testing. Unlike modifications, these changes are not considered significant enough to invalidate the test results for federal and state accountability purposes.
A translation of the test in American Sign Language, for instance, has been embedded into the test. Test content can also be delivered in braille and through closed captioning.
The list of tools was developed in consultation with a number of experts and advocacy groups including the Council for Exceptional Children, the National Center for Learning Disabilities and the Center for Applied Special Technology. Officials at Smarter Balanced in a FAQ, said the list is subject to change, noting that a standing committee will be established to review suggestions for adjusting the services.
Member states also have the ability to issue temporary approvals of unique accommodations for individual students. They also acknowledge that states may elect not to make available all of the accommodation tools in the test system based on state law.
December 11th, 2013 :: Through most of elementary school I believed myself to be truly stupid. Unaware then that I have dyslexia, all I knew, and all my parents could see, was that I hated anything and everything to do with reading or writing. But instead of trying to force better grades out of me, whether by hiring a tutor or by piling on extra homework, they took a more accommodating approach, which proved even more effective.
When I was in third grade my dad brought me to a live marital arts performance. He knew I was struggling in class and hoped to find other ways to instill confidence in me. I fell in love almost instantly and joined a nearby martial arts school soon after. The daily routine of kicks and punches, I began to think, weren’t that unlike what I did in the classroom, only the mechanics of martial arts seemed to come a lot easier. Around the same time I also began to learn Chinese, which tipped my parents off to my dyslexia. Unlike English, where letters and words often became jumbled on the page, I always got the strokes right when I wrote in Chinese.
These were minor victories, but for me they helped reverse growing insecurities about my own ability to succeed in school.
My parents helped in other ways, too. I remember one night coming home late after working on a group project with classmates. I was starving; all I could think of was filling the nagging hole in my belly. As soon as I came through the door I was greeted by the crackling sound of food on the stove and the aroma of steaming rice in the cooker. Within minutes my mom had a table full of hot food laid out in front of me. In fact, our house maintained a regimented mealtime (with the exception of an occasional late night), which helped me structure the rest of my day. I always knew there’d be food waiting for me at home, and a ride to school in the morning.
Until high school, I assumed most students were ferried to and from school by their parents. Most of my friends were driven to school, so I never conceived of it as a luxury but simply part of the daily routine. Then came the day for my SAT. I saw a fellow student getting off the bus as I was being dropped off, and began to wonder about how much earlier than me she had to wake up to get to the test site on time. Not only that. While I sat in the relative comfort of my parents’ car, she jostled with crowds of mostly unruly kids before sitting for the four-hour long test.
Both of my parents are college teachers, and so their schedules allowed for at least one of them to be there for me most days. I know not all parents have the same luxury. Still, more than anything else, my parents’ attention to providing me with the basic comforts helped me stay focused and took the edge off of school, which in turn led to improved performance and better grades. Without that sense of security and comfort, I’m not sure I’d be where I am now, starting college.
Stephen Fong is a graduate of Galileo High School in San Francisco. He began college this fall at the University of Arizona, where he plans to major in East Asian studies. Fong participated in a joint summer internship for EdSource Today and New America Media.
That’s not something that he is guilty of – it’s a fact.
Dyslexia, though a challenge, is often a marker of giftedness in other arenas. His hero’s journey is not in overcoming his own challenge – but in recognizing other people’s other challenges. That some of his peers take the bus; that their parents cannot always be there with the rice cooker and the hot meal. Sometimes they can’t be there at all. In recognizing that he joins the village it takes to raise all the other children
Courtney Hengl-Crowson, left, uses a Chromebook for a class project. 5th graders in Jeff Jennewein's class at Victor Elementary School are now using Google Chromebooks to do homework and class projects. Dec 5, 2013. Brad Graverson - Staff photographer
Nadia Goiset did her class research from a couch at Victor Elementary School in Torrance. Brad Graverson — Staff photographer
Posted: 12/10/13, 4:22 PM PST | Updated: 12/11/13 5am :: Los Angeles Unified and other school districts have stirred admiration and consternation with plans to put iPads in the hands of students, some South Bay schools are favoring a less expensive option: the Google Chromebook.
Both the Torrance and Redondo Beach school districts have either purchased or recommended the devices, which resemble mini laptops. Known as thin clients, the Chromebooks essentially operate in the cloud, meaning that virtually all of their functions - such as word processing, emailing, Web browsing, photography and spreadsheet creation - are accessed via the Internet, precluding the need for a large hard drive or powerful processor.
Torrance Unified has ordered 3,200 of the devices - one for every seven students in the district - which should arrive in February.
The Redondo Beach school board will vote tonight on a technology plan that, if approved, would call for ordering 1,200 Chromebooks. Approval could lead to procuring thousands more, so the majority of the district's 9,200 students would have a Chromebook that they can take home.
Derek Kinsey, chief technology officer at Redondo Unified, said more and more districts seem to be favoring the Google machines over other options.
"I was at a tech conference two weeks ago, and it was the talk of the town," he said. "Everybody was pretty much planning to go the Chromebook route."
The heightened interest in the Chromebooks comes at a time when districts like LAUSD and Manhattan Beach Unified have drawn both praise and scrutiny for ambitious technology plans that aim to put an iPad in the hands of every student.
LAUSD's program hit an embarrassing snag in September, when students figured out how to hack through the security so they could surf the Web. The iPad plan suffered another PR blow that same month, when it came to light that LAUSD would need to purchase keyboards for every device to allow students to take standardized tests.
Despite these setbacks, Michael Matthews, superintendent of the Manhattan Beach Unified School District, believes the iPad is still the way to go, though he acknowledged that other technologies are catching up.
"If we are teaching our students to create, collaborate, communicate and think critically, I believe the iPad is still the best learning tool out here," he said in an email. "But the playing field is leveling. It is also clear that there are now many viable options out there that are lower in price."
As for the Chromebooks, educators from both Torrance Unified and Redondo Unified say cost factored heavily into why they gravitated toward them. At roughly $280 a unit, Chromebooks sell for less than half the price of an iPad, whose per-unit cost at LAUSD reportedly runs as high as $770.
Some schools in Torrance Unified do have iPads, but those have been purchased by the school sites themselves, often with money from grants.
The current technology frenzy in the school world is largely the product of an approaching sea change for standardized testing. Called Smarter Balance, the new end-of-year testing protocol will require students to take the exams this spring (on a trial basis) via computer instead of the traditional pencil-in-the-bubble method. The requirement, part of the massive roll-out of the Common Core standards, has districts across the state scrambling to purchase the technology necessary to support so many users logging onto a secure system at once.
When it comes to testing, all devices - Chromebooks, iPads and other laptops - will use a special browser that essentially locks down the computer. This will prohibit students from using tools that would enable them to cheat by looking up answers on Google, or taking screen shots of test questions, said Brandt Redd, the chief technology officer for Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.
School districts also are allowing students to use the devices in class or even at home. It was this category of use that got LAUSD into trouble back in September. Students discovered they could circumvent the security system preventing them from using programs for music, social media and other purposes if they deleted their personal profile information.
(Deciding which websites to block is a local school district decision. Redondo Beach Unified, for instance, allows students to access Facebook, but not Tumblr or Snapchat, Kinsey said.)
In Manhattan Beach, the cost of the iPads has been a point of contention between the administration and teachers union. Accusing the district of being less than forthcoming about the true cost of the iPad program and other expenses, the teachers filed an unfair labor practice charge with the state's labor board, which, in October, seemed to vindicate the teachers by filing a complaint against the district. The two sides will try to resolve the dispute at a mediation meeting scheduled for Friday.
In Torrance, the Chromebooks are being leased, not purchased.
This gives the district better flexibility to replace the machines when they become outdated several years from now, said Don Stabler, the district's deputy superintendent of administrative services.
Last month, the Torrance school board authorized a $1.1 million expenditure to lease the 3,200 machines, which will arrive in a few months.
Jeff Jennewein, a fifth-grade teacher at Victor Elementary in Torrance, has been a proponent of the Chromebook since before it was cool. A year ago, he submitted a local grant to ExxonMobil for Chromebooks, but it was passed up in favor of another local teacher who wrote a proposal seeking iPads.
In any event, Jennewein doesn't have any particular beef with iPads, or LAUSD's iPad program.
In fact, he applauds the district for taking the lead.
Jennewein said he subscribes to education guru Sugata Mitra's belief that, to some extent anyway, children will teach themselves when equipped with technology tools. Mitra put computer kiosks in impoverished areas of India for children, who in turn used the kiosks to teach themselves. He later won a $1 million TED prize.
"I admire the superintendent (John Deasy of LAUSD) for what he did," Jennewein said. "I think the superintendent was following that belief that if he could allow a lot of these kids to get access to technology, they would develop that drive and determination to figure out how these things work."
Rob Kuznia covers education for the Daily Breeze.
Jack Moscowitz passed away on December 9, 2013 .
He went into the hospital and had a procedure and everything was fine and then it wasn’t.
He was a father and husband and grandfather and uncle and friend. He was a teacher and an administrator and union honcho at AALA and ACSA. Maybe he was a fixer; certainly he was a mensch.
He was one of those who quietly-but-not-silently holds up his end of the world Jack held office-in and did business-from the A level cafeteria at Beaudry – dispensing wisdom, counsel and jokes from a table where there was always room for another chair. He was a reassuring presence – if Jack was on it there was hope.
Hope is neither a strategy nor an outcome. Jack accused me of poetry last Sunday – and Ms. Dickenson ….the dream we had, pressed in organdy and clothed in crinoline of smoky burgundy said that Hope is that thing with feathers.
On Monday it flew home.
His obituary is brief. His heart was huge. The candle he lit illuminated the darkness and filled the world with a warm glow. Jack Moscowitz lit a lot of other candles, made us all think and laugh and ponder other more important things – like educating all these kids.
It is the Jack Moscowitzes of this and all other worlds that form that Glow at the Edge of the Universe that the astrophysicists find because they look – and because the Big Bang goes on and on and on.
Godspeed Jack Moscowitz.
Beloved husband of Freda; loving father of Steven (Maria) and Marc (Theresa); cherished grandfather of Amber; devoted brother of Eileen Meskin; caring uncle of Suzy (Stephen) Bookbinder and Larry Jonas. Jack was well respected for his life of devotion to family, friends and education.
Services will be held Thursday, December 12,2013 at 10 am
Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries ~
Hollywood Hills (800) 600-0076
In lieu of flowers donation may be made to Association of Jewish Educators or Associated Administrators of Los Angeles
Thursday, Dec 12, 2013 10:00 AM
Mount Sinai Hollywood Hills
5950 Forest Lawn Drive
Los Angeles, California 90068
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Lying in Repose
Visitation Hours – Noon to 5 p.m.
Angelus Funeral Home
3875 S. Crenshaw Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90008
Friday, December 20, 2013
Lying in Repose
Visitation Hours – 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Angelus Funeral Home
3875 S. Crenshaw Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90008
Saturday, December 21, 2013 – 9 a.m.
Celebration of Life Services
(for family and close friends)
Limited seating available
St. Brigid Catholic Church
5214 S. Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90062
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Interment - Immediately following services
Holy Cross Cemetery
5835 W. Slauson Avenue
Culver City, CA 90230
Saturday, January 18, 2014
Public Memorial Service
Time and location to be announced
Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte was born on July 17, 1933 in New Orleans, the youngest of seven children, to Leon and Amy Poindexter. She flourished in a segregated Louisiana school system and graduated from Xavier Preparatory High School and the YMCA Business College in New Orleans. At age 18 she was appointed Director of Spaulding Business College in Baton Rouge. She took classes on a part-time basis at Southern University and was awarded the B.A. degree in Education, Summa Cum Laude in 1961. She completed her Master of Education Degree in 1965 from Louisiana State University. She was the first African-American woman to serve as Visiting Professor, LSU Undergraduate School of Education.
In 1973 she relocated to Los Angeles and described her first teaching assignment in the Special Education Department at Drew Junior High as one of the most rewarding of her life.
Successful promotional examinations led to her service as Head Counselor, Edison Junior High; Assistant Principal, Francis Polytechnic High School and in 1984 LaMotte was appointed Principal of Horace Mann Junior High School. The tremendous improvement in students’ academic performance and social behavior was featured on several television programs including the Tom Brokaw NBC Nightly News.
In 1988 Ms. LaMotte was promoted to Director of Secondary Instruction in Administrative Region C. She also served Region C as Administrator of Operations. With the District’s reconfiguration in 1991, she requested to return back to the schools, “back to the real action working directly with and positively changing the lives of the students.” She was assigned as Principal to Washington Preparatory High School.
Under LaMotte’s direction Washington Prep received Outstanding Accreditation Review by WASC for a maximum 6-year period. LaMotte credited the school’s staff with developing and producing an innovative school-wide Study Skills Program which provides each student with a focused 2-day exposure to the basic study skills needed to be successful and productive. In addition the implementation of standards-based lessons, a continuing effort of all departments, placed Washington in the forefront with common lesson plans for curriculum mapping. LaMotte’s staff considered her the “founder” of the Theater Arts Academy at Washington Preparatory High School.
The former teacher, counselor and principal was elected to serve District 1 of the LAUSD Board of Education in 2003. She was re-elected in 2007 and 2011. LaMotte represented a geographically and ethnically diverse area, including Palms, Mid-City, Baldwin Hills, Pico Union, Jefferson Park, Vermont Knolls, Gramercy Park, Exposition Park, North University Park, Gardena and much more.
She made her transition on Thursday, December 5, while attending an educational conference in San Diego.
She was preceded in death by her parents, brothers, Frank and Willie Poindexter and sisters, Elodia Rogers and Alma Ferebee. She leaves to cherish her memory, a son, Dale LaMotte of Little Rock, Arkansas, daughter, Faye Landry of Los Angeles, three grandchildren: Christopher, Clayton and Danielle; brother, Leon Poindexter of Houston, Texas, sister, Juanita Shepherd of Katy, Texas; faithful companion, Melvin Morris and a host of relatives and friends.
Posted: 12/09/2013 12:18:29 PM PST | Updated: a day ago :: MOUNTAIN VIEW -- Silicon Valley public schools are largely failing poor students and English learners, a report issued
Monday in May asserts, indicating that even schools in wealthy neighborhoods perceived to be highly successful are inadequately preparing these students, considered the hardest to educate.
"Broken Promises: The Children Left Behind in Silicon Valley Schools" highlights two tiers of achievement, based on state test scores from 2012-13. Only 14 percent of English learners, 21 percent of African-American students, 24 percent of Latinos and 29 percent of low-income students tested proficient in algebra at the end of eighth grade. That's compared with 58 percent of white students and 80 percent of Asians.
Historically, those numbers carry over into high school, with huge gaps in college readiness.
"We've got a big problem in the valley for low-income kids and English-language learners," said Matt Hammer of Innovate Public Schools, the year-old nonprofit that published the report. At the same time, he said, the report found encouraging news. "There are some schools that are showing you can do amazing things and achieve high performance with kids in any of these subgroups."
Elementary schools doing the best for poor students, as measured by the state's Academic Performance Index, include some in districts serving high-needs students. At the top was Gilroy Prep Charter in Gilroy; Cornerstone Academy charter and Voices College-Bound charter, both in San Jose's Franklin-McKinley district; and McCollam in Alum Rock.
When evaluating schools with a majority enrollment of English learners and poor students, three of the four with the highest API were charters -- Gilroy Prep and three Rocketship schools. They were followed by four schools in the Alum Rock Union School District.
"From the perspective of a low-income Latino family looking for good schools, one of the best places to live is now Alum Rock," the report notes, "where there are high-quality charter schools and several of the top district-run schools in the region."
The new report highlighted successes such as Renaissance Academy, a small school in Alum Rock, where 59 percent of Latinos scored proficient in eighth-grade algebra, and Summit Preparatory in Redwood City, where 90 percent of Latinos and 95 percent of African-Americans graduated eligible for the University of California and California State University.
On the other hand, the report pointed out that in some middle-class areas, such as Sunnyvale and Berryessa, fewer than 10 percent of Latino students attain proficiency in algebra at the end of eighth grade.
Parents like Mayela Razo of San Jose welcomed the report pointing out the lack of high-quality education options in her neighborhood of Franklin-McKinley schools. After her two children attended an elementary charter school, she struggled to find an appropriate middle school -- and her older son languished in math class, repeating what he already had learned in fifth grade.
The report, which analyzed scores from public schools in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, is the second edition issued by Innovate, the Mountain View nonprofit that seeks to accelerate improvement in public schools for poor and minority students.
Monday's report updated one issued in May and includes 2013 API scores, dissected by ethnicity and for low-income students and English learners.
However, while the report lists the lowest performers among schools in all 54 districts in the two counties, it limited its survey of high-performing schools to those with more concentrations of poor and Latino students and English learners. The lowest-scoring elementary schools, measured by the state's Academic Performance Index, for low-income students were Laurel in Menlo Park and Springer in Los Altos -- two of the highest-scoring elementary districts in the state.
But those figures are skewed by low numbers in both cases. Springer, for instance, had only 12 low-income students last year. Laurel had 11. "It's not comparing apples to apples," said Linda Creigton, Laurel's principal.
Because some Laurel students are taught solely in Spanish in primary grades, they have not fully transitioned to English teaching, she said, and as a K-3 school, Laurel doesn't benefit from the higher scores of upper-grade children. Districtwide, low-income children in both Los Altos and Menlo Park score much higher -- but still far below low-income students in the top-scoring elementary schools.
Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775. Follow her at Twitter.com/NoguchiOnK12.
2013 API for English language learners and low-income students
Highest and lowest-scoring schools, and their districts, that have a majority of Spanish-speaking English-learners and low-income students
School English-learner API Low-income API
Gilroy Prep Charter 948 941
Rocketship Mateo Sheedy charter, 837 843
Rocketship Mosaic charter, 835 832
Rocketship Si Se Puede charter 827 832
Cesar Chavez, Alum Rock 825 823
Rosemary, Campbell 820 828
LUCHA, Alum Rock 817 820
Ryan, Alum Rock 810 811
Spruce, So. San Francisco 806 799
Martin, So. San Francisco 802 805
Grant, San Jose Unified 698 712
Santee, Franklin-McKinley 685 701
McKinley, Franklin-McKinley 680 688
Los Robles, Ravenswood 665 675
Gardner, San Jose Unified 665 676
John Gill, Redwood City 657 661
Pescadero, La Honda-Pescadero 656 688
Garfield, Redwood City 642 662
Belle Haven, Ravenswood 639 659
Empire Gardens, San Jose Unified 638 660
Source: Innovate Public Schools
The full report, a waste of bandwidth, is here.
Despite the cost of a special election, L.A. Unified should let voters decide who should take her seat.
LAUSD board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, seen above in 2011, died last week at an education conference in San Diego. (Los Angeles Time / December 9, 2013)
December 10, 2013 :: The Los Angeles Unified school board has barely had time to mourn the loss of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte; now it must decide how best to fill her seat.
LaMotte, a school board member since 2003, died last week at an education conference in San Diego. Under the law, the board may pick someone to represent her district until the next scheduled election in June 2015. Or it may hold a special election sooner than that. The first way would be faster and more efficient, while the second would cost several million dollars.
Nonetheless, the board should spring for an election.
LaMotte was a fierce champion of her district in the south and southwestern portions of L.A. Unified, an area with a particularly high concentration of disadvantaged black and Latino students. Voters there should now be given the opportunity to pick someone who will similarly represent their concerns and interests.
Of course, it's unclear how voters will interpret those concerns and interests. LaMotte took office in 2003, as the era of accountability under No Child Left Behind was just getting under way. She wasn't a fan of the change, or of many of the related reforms, such as the explosion of charter schools in the years that followed. A steadfast ally of United Teachers Los Angeles, she was one of the more implacable opponents of former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's education policies and, more recently, those of Superintendent John Deasy.
It's unclear how the political composition of the board would be affected by an appointment or an election. Right now, the board majority's views fall somewhere between LaMotte's anti-reform stance and Deasy's unwaveringly pro-reform agenda; that would probably be reflected in any appointment. In an election, LaMotte's constituency might remain loyal to her anti-reform legacy — and undoubtedly UTLA would throw money behind an anti-reform candidate — but it's also likely that powerful and moneyed people such as Eli Broad and Michael Bloomberg would contribute heavily to a pro-reform candidate.
The most important consideration at the moment should not be the board's future makeup, but ensuring that the voters of District 1 are represented by the board member of their choice. That's why an election makes the most sense. After all, the other members of the board were all elected by their respective districts; the voters in LaMotte's district didn't choose them and aren't represented by them. So why should they get to select her replacement?
Because incumbents are seldom turned out of office in L.A. Unified, the person who takes in LaMotte's seat will almost certainly be there for many years. That person should be someone who truly represents the the voters of her district.
December 9, 2013 :: If history is any guide, a school board election is in the offing.
As officials at the LA Unified school board scramble to work out options with the city and county on how best to fill the school board seat left vacant last week by the sudden death of longtime member Marguerite LaMotte, they are weighing elements of timing, tradition and of course, politics.
The law relating to vacancies on the school board, written into the LA City Charter, clearly lays out two options for the school board: appoint a replacement or call a special election.
And while appointing someone may seem simpler, cheaper and faster, doing so has big liabilities.
For one, it’s dangerous politically. The seat for school board district 1, which encompasses a wide swath of south LA, extending from Hancock Park to Gardena, has been held continuously by a black woman since 1979. That was the first year board members were no longer elected at-large, a change brought about in part because the black community argued it was under-represented electorally. So having the school board hand-pick an appointee raises red flags in the black community, which is already voicing concerns.
For another, there’s a long tradition of vacancies being filled by election, not appointment. City council seats — which are frequently vacated by members seeking higher office — have uniformly been filled by special election. The last long term appointment was in 1966.
But calling a special election takes consensus, too. The last time a special election was called by the school board was when Jose Huizer vacated his seat after being elected to city council in 2005.
That year, the school board fast-tracked a special election in late November by giving notice and approving a motion (seconded by LaMotte) to hold a stand-alone primary the following March and consolidating with a statewide election for a run-off in June 2006.
City Council quickly approved, setting the election into motion. Monica Garcia won that seat, which she still holds.
But a March/June timeline in this case would require swift action by a school board already hobbled by divisiveness. A board meeting scheduled for tomorrow was pushed back a week because of LaMotte’s death, leaving little time for coordinating an election with city council before the new year.
Another scenario would be to call for the primary to take place on June 3, 2014, the same day as a statewide primary, while pushing the runoff to a later, stand-alone election. This would also give prospective candidates notice in case they need to move into the district to meet the City Charter’s residency requirements of 30 days.
smf/from The Times:
“The nation's second-largest school system faced the death of a board member before, when Donald Newman, 54, died of a heart attack in 1976. At the time, legal advisors told district officials they were required to appoint a replacement. A subsequent lawsuit forced the board to conduct public interviews with the 10 finalists — 336 had applied. “
Attorney Howard Miller got the nod and held the seat in the next election. But he didn't finish a full term either — falling victim to a recall election after unhappy voters faulted him over the forced busing of students to promote integration.
But those events occurred under the previous City Charter, and the rules have since changed. ” http://lat.ms/1gNOC1C
The Los Angeles Unified School District wants to triple its supply of iPads, even while a citizen’s oversight committee wants to hit the brakes.
December 9th, 2013, 5:43pm :: Superintendent John Deasy's administration released a request this week, asking for about 100,00 more iPads for students and staff. The district purchased 30,000 of the devices earlier this school year as a pilot, which will be independently studied for effectiveness.
In its request, the administration is leaving no time to learn the results.
Deasy said the new $115 million request, which also includes a laptop pilot, is a necessity since, he said, students need the computers to take new digital performance tests. Under the plan, students would have to share iPads rather than get one for their individual use.
The request does not account for the number of existing computers at schools. KPCC requested the inventory of the district's computers at school sites last month, invoking the freedom of information laws, but the district has yet to provide the records.
"The district is already in very dangerous territory with the public’s trust," said Stuart Magruder, a member of the oversight committee that monitors the bond money used to purchase the iPads.
Last month, the committee approved only a small portion of the district’s request of $135 million to expand the program. Magruder voted against even the limited expansion, and stated the data does not back up the expense.
"You talk to anybody on the street who is engaged in the civic life, and they think this is a bizarre use of funds," Magruder said.
The oversight committee's decisions are non-binding, but it's extremely rare for the school district to discount the committee entirely.
Still, Deasy's recommendations could be rejected. The $115 million package goes to a school board vote later this month.
Annie Gilbertson, Education Reporter
Teachers protest L.A. Unified's process for misconduct investigations
Critics say district's approach to misconduct allegations presumes guilt and results in dismissal for even small infractions.
By Stephen Ceasar, LA Times | http://lat.ms/18zpgSM
December 9, 2013, 8:33 p.m. :: Scores of teachers protested Monday against the conditions under which the L.A. Unified School District handles teachers who are facing allegations of misconduct.
United Teachers Los Angeles members held "vigils" outside four L.A. Unified offices where many of the teachers are "housed" until their cases are adjudicated — either by law enforcement authorities or by the district itself.
The union says that teachers are kept in these offices for far longer than necessary and that, in some cases, they are unjustly fired even after an allegation is proven untrue.
At a demonstration in Van Nuys, protesters marched in front of the offices, decrying the practice as unfair to the accused.
"What kind of school district removes a teacher from the classroom if a 13-year-old said so?" said Colleen Schwab, a teacher and union representative, over a loudspeaker. "This one," teachers shouted in response.
Teachers union president Warren Fletcher told protesters that they must stand by their fellow teachers as they are unjustly held.
"We will turn this into a district where the truth reigns," Fletcher said.
During his remarks, any mention of Supt. John Deasy was received with loud boos.
"We got close to dethroning the teacher jailer — we will try again," Fletcher said, adding later that the comment was meant as a metaphor for the entire district.
The union is calling on the school system to end the practice of keeping teachers in these offices; inform instructors of allegations against them within 10 days of removal from the classroom; and conduct an independent review of all dismissals by the Los Angeles Board of Education since 2012.
Deasy declined to comment specifically on the demonstrations, saying that the district prioritizes the security of students, teachers and others at schools above all else.
"Our responsibility is the safety of the students and the other adults in the system," he said in an interview.
The superintendent said the majority of incidents involving teachers and others involves activity that occurred outside the schools. And, he said, there have been improvements made in the investigations process since last year.
Allegations of sexual misconduct at Miramonte Elementary School in early 2012 sparked a surge of investigations of teachers. More than 300 were removed from schools and assigned to these district offices or to their homes. Most of those continue to be paid.
That number has since dropped to about 260, L.A. Unified said.
District policy requires that employees be told why they have been pulled from the job — if such disclosure doesn't compromise law enforcement investigations. Instructors also are required to be advised quickly about the expected length of the inquiry.
David Holmquist, L.A. Unified's general counsel, said the district shares the union's interest in a swift resolution, but that investigations by the district often are delayed to comply with requests by law enforcement.
The district is hiring a team of professional investigators to assist principals with investigations.
The added manpower should speed the process, Holmquist said.
Some teachers, however, are not satisfied that district policy is followed or goes far enough to promote fairness.
Fletcher said that while the policies appear good on paper, the district doesn't follow its own rules.
"It has become a form of nearly indefinite detention," he said.
Critics accuse Deasy and other district officials of employing a zero-tolerance approach to misconduct that presumes guilt and moves inevitably toward dismissal for even minor infractions.
Holmquist said the district does not presume guilt of its teachers, but rather insists on being thorough in its investigations.
"When it comes time to balance the rights of adults and the safety of students, we're always going to choose the students," he said. "We have to make student safety the most important thing."
Despite the failure of earlier efforts, district officials continue to seek changes to state law that would allow for speedier dismissals.
Protests against LAUSD’s ‘teacher jails’ held
By Susan Abram, Los Angeles Daily News http://bit.ly/18k5yg1
12/09/13, 7:53 PM PST :: Calling for an end to what they say is harassment, hundreds of United Teachers Los Angeles members rallied at district offices across the city late Monday afternoon to support educators removed from classrooms and housed in so-called teacher jails while allegations of misconduct are investigated.
More then 50 UTLA members withstood chilly temperatures to protest outside the Educational Service Center in Van Nuys, one of four district offices where demonstrations were held. UTLA president Warren Fletcher led the crowd in chants of “End the lies!,” then asked the group to spread the word in their own schools about how the Los Angeles Unified School District handles allegations of misconduct.
What used to be a system in which suspected teachers were investigated and reassigned, has become a long, drawn out process, with educators uncertain of what they are being accused of, Fletcher said.
“There are teachers, nurses and counselors being carted off,” he said. “The system has been perverted.”
There are 260 teachers currently being housed, said Sean Rossall, spokesman for the general counsel at LAUSD.
Under the system that many educators call “teacher jail,” those accused of misconduct are housed in district offices while administrators investigate misconduct allegations. The process can drag on for months, with teachers collecting their full pay — an average of $6,000 a month, plus benefits — until they’re returned to work or fired.
The district has taken a strict approach because of last year’s sex abuse scandals at Miramonte and Telfair elementary schools, which prompted a spike in complaints. The district also enacted a zero-tolerance policy for abuse, and dozens of teachers have been fired as a result.
“Anytime we receive a credible allegation for misconduct, we allow law enforcement to conduct their investigation, and from there we conduct the administrative investigation,” Rossall said. “The issue is anytime there is an allegation, we’re going to err on the side of the students.”
In April, a proposal to streamline the process passed the school board. The proposal, made by board member Tamar Galatzan, would take investigations of alleged physical or sexual abuse away from principals and into the hands of professionals. Teachers also have to be told why they’re being pulled from classrooms.
But UTLA members complained that the process is stagnant and said the process itself is unfair.
An online team of professional investigators is expected to be up and running by the end of January, Rossall said.
District officials say having to annually verify students' family income to qualify for extra state dollars costs time and money.
December 9, 2013, 7:30 p.m. :: Major California school districts fear they will be shortchanged millions of dollars in funding for their low-income students under new state rules requiring them to verify family incomes every year.
Officials in Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno and elsewhere are scrambling to collect verification forms but said that hundreds of families have not yet turned them in — potentially jeopardizing funding that school districts are counting on this year. At stake, for instance, is $200 million in L.A. Unified and $6 million in San Diego.
The districts are urging the state to guarantee them all funding due this year, based on last year's count of low-income students, whether the new forms are turned in or not.
Under a new law this year, districts are receiving extra money for students who are low income, learning English or in foster care — a boost that amounts to about $2,800 per pupil in L.A. Unified. State officials say the rules are necessary to ensure that the extra dollars are going to those who actually qualify for them.
"We have to make sure that the [new system] is being driven by real students and their needs," said Erin Gabel, director of government affairs for the California Department of Education.
But many districts are objecting, saying they already verify students' family income every four years for the federally subsidized meal program. A separate, annual effort for the state risks missing some students and costs districts both time and money to complete, they said.
"The whole thing is outrageous," said L.A. Unified schools Supt. John Deasy said. "Give our kids their fair share."
Some school systems are struggling to collect the state paperwork, saying that notifications about it came too late and that some parents are balking at divulging personal information.
In the Fresno Unified School District, for instance, hundreds of families have declined to fill out the income forms — possibly because of fears associated with immigration, according to Ruth Quinto, the district's chief financial officer. Parents may also be confusing the new state forms with the federal meals documents they've already filled out, some community organizers said.
In L.A. Unified, only 39.5% of 138,000 verification forms distributed to 380 high-poverty schools had been returned as of Friday, the district's initial deadline. Deasy said the state should simply accept the federal data rather than require a separate state verification process.
Deasy drew statewide attention to the issue last week in a sharp exchange with Rich Zeiger, chief deputy superintendent of public instruction. After L.A. Unified released a statement attacking the state for "shortchanging" its students, Zeiger retorted that "allowing [L.A.] to circumvent the same paperwork that every other district is required to do would deny much-needed funding to other students around the state."
That prompted Deasy to fire off another statement, saying he was "offended by [Zeiger's] presumption that middle-class students are sneaking into schools in poor areas to reap the benefits of additional funding." He invited Zeiger to tour impoverished L.A. neighborhoods with him — but the deputy schools chief has not accepted, Deasy said.
In San Diego Unified, only three of 68 high-poverty schools had turned in their forms as of last week, said Martha Alvarez, the district's director of government relations. She said San Diego was also concerned about an undercount of the 40,000 students in those schools who are set to receive millions in extra dollars.
Other major urban districts, such as San Francisco and Santa Ana Unified, said they completed verifying their family incomes this year for the federal program so they would not have to do a separate effort for the state.
But Tony Wold, Santa Ana's director of business operations, questioned the need for a separate state verification effort every year — especially since districts must pay for it with their own dollars rather than federal funds. L.A. Unified, for instance, has so far spent $100,000 just in printing costs for the effort, according to Edgar Zazueta, the district's chief lobbyist.
Some officials, such as Deasy, are pushing to eliminate rules for a separate state effort, while others want to change the annual verification requirement to every few years.
State Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) said she would push for legislation guaranteeing districts the money they expected this year and work to make sure they have adequate time to collect the required information in subsequent years. She criticized state officials for imposing new verification rules she said were not made clear at the time legislators voted for the new funding system.
"This is not the bill of goods we were sold," she said of the new rules. "To require a new form on a tight timetable is a recipe for disaster and will fundamentally undermine the … intent to increase funding for our neediest students."
Gabel said state education officials would support such legislation. To assist districts this year, the state has extended the deadline for verification forms to March. She added that the state began notifying districts about the verification requirements last May, but several districts officials said the details were not made clear until the fall.
So Dr. Deasy started this “Woe is LAUSD” campaign last week and that wasn’t working in producing sympathy – so now he’s enlisted his CORE California (Misery♥Co.) fellow superintendents in the chorus. In fairness, San Diego isn’t in CORE CA – but it wants to be. This week’s modified whining about “unfairness” has prompted a rewrite of last week’s article about poor LAUSD.
I half-seriously remind everyone that “fairness” doesn’t really exist in politics, government or real life – it’s an secular Apollonian concept imposed on kids to disrupt Social Darwinism in the nursery and on the playground.
CORE CA, (The California Office to ®eform Education) has set itself up as the ®eform counterculture quasi-official alternative to the real State Department of Education - making its own rules with its own NCLB waiver - isn’t popular with the the real CA DoE – or the governor or the legislature – and it’s doubtful that this message will get much resonance.
Maybe LAUSD and the other districts should just do the homework rather than complain about the assignment.
December 2nd, 2013 | Long-term employees of San Jose Unified School District received an unexpected bonus payment the day before Thanksgiving to replace pay they lost to five furlough days in the 2010-2011 school year.
The one-time payment, a total of $3.1 million, was divided among the nearly 2,400 current employees – 74 percent of the district’s workforce – who were employed during the 2010-2011 school year and still work at the district, said the district’s chief business officer and former head of the San Jose teachers’ union, Stephen McMahon. Employees were paid what they lost during the days of the actual furlough, regardless of their current salary. School board members and district leaders see the payment, which came from the district’s reserves, as a fiscally conservative way to reward their best employees for loyalty during a tough economic time, McMahon said.
“We felt it was right to show (long-term) employees our appreciation,” McMahon said. “We’re not as competitive (with salaries and benefits) in the marketplace as we used to be. So this was a way to recognize our best employees.”
Like many districts in the state, San Jose Unified has not offered teachers raises since the start of the recession. Unlike in other districts, however, employees of the San Jose schools will not be getting across the board raises this year. McMahon said his district cannot count on a large windfall from the new Local Control Funding Formula for schools, and was not ready to implement ongoing raises based on the new funding formula and initial indications that the state economy is growing again.
“We think we’re being super fiscally conservative,” McMahon said. “We’re not taking what the state (funding formula provided) and using that to pay back employees.”
Testing to the test? Though the latest PISA test results indicate faults in the U.S. school system, the test requires skills the Common Core curriculum is aiming to improve.
Students take the National Center Test for University Admissions at the University of Tokyo earlier this year. Students from Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea were among the highest-ranking groups in math, science and reading in test results released last week by the Program for International Student Assessment. (Kyodo News / Associated Press)
December 9, 2013 :: The standardized tests known as the Program for International Student Assessment are considered so important that when the latest results were released last week, the U.S. Department of Education participated in a so-called PISA Day.
The leaders of the nation's teachers unions immediately fired off news releases asserting that the mediocre PISA scores of American students showed that more than a decade of testing-based reform had failed our schools. Prominent reform leaders, by contrast, concluded from the test results that the U.S. was failing to change schools radically enough to aid its most disadvantaged students. Still others predicted that the U.S. economy would crash and burn because of our students' unimpressive math scores on the PISA exams compared with other countries' students. (American students ranked above the median in reading and science but below it in math.)
A saner interpretation of the PISA results came from researchers who have studied international rankings in great detail, and their message goes something like this: Calm down, everyone. The results on this and other international tests are more complicated than they look, and in this case, nuance makes a difference. Despite the doomsday talk, the scores a country receives on the PISA don't necessarily predict the strength — or weakness — of its future labor force or the trajectory of its economy, according to Martin Carnoy, a professor of education at Stanford University. Some countries with relatively low scores have built thriving, tech-based economies, while the economies of some high-scoring nations have faltered.
And the results on the PISA, administered every three years to 15-year-olds in 65 countries, tell us as much about cultural differences as about differences between school systems. In the Asian countries that took the top spots — including Singapore, South Korea and areas of China — families spend heavily on private tutoring to prepare their children for college entrance examinations that closely resemble the PISA tests, Carnoy said. So the high PISA results don't necessarily reflect on their schools.
The reasons that some countries do well (or poorly) are complicated. Finland, for instance, has historically been successful on the PISA tests — so much so that governments, including California's, have sent delegations there to figure out the educational magic. And Finland has been successful despite the fact that, unlike in Asia, testing is de-emphasized and recesses during the school day are long. But Finland also is a country with relatively few disadvantaged children, largely because of the nation's social welfare network. And disadvantaged children, no matter what the country, fare worse on the PISA tests than students from more educated and affluent families. A Stanford study last year found that non-school factors such as the number of books in students' homes accounted for more than two-thirds of the variation in scores on high-profile international tests like PISA.
A study published this year by Carnoy and Richard Rothstein, a researcher at the Economic Policy Institute, found that much of the difference between U.S. scores and those of high-ranking nations is because the United States has a higher proportion of disadvantaged students. But the researchers found that the scores of the most disadvantaged U.S. students have been improving markedly over the years, while scores for their counterparts in many top-ranked nations have fallen precipitously.
In contrast, the highest-scoring U.S. math students are nowhere near their peers in top-ranking countries, Carnoy said.
Though curriculum itself isn't a cure-all, the Common Core curriculum, which California and dozens of other states are beginning to implement, should help. It is more closely aligned to the kind of conceptual understanding and deep thinking that is both called for on the PISA tests and required for true innovation.
If there is a lesson to be gleaned from PISA, it's that moving toward a more educated nation will require helping families give their children the resources and background they need to do better in school, as well as continuing reform efforts to improve instruction and curriculum. It requires committed action over time, not warring and self-serving pronouncements.
PISA tests fifteen year olds. In the US: Ninth graders. The first year of high school. The first year we start counting credits towards graduation. The year we yank away the comfortable classroom rug of social promotion, there since kindergarten. This is the most problematic grade in American public education – and the grade with the most students in it because of the number of kids who get retained in Grade 9 because they didn’t get enough credits to advance into grade 10. These kids are called 9-Rs and in some schools they count for more than a third of the 9th grade population.
At fifteen one’s hormones rage. Focus is difficult, sleep is elusive and you are like a puppy with huge feet and your body changes and (unless you are in a school with an enlightened sex/health ed component instead of abstinence and a pamphlet about STDs) you start working on some of the mysteries without any clues.
Everyone’s looking at you and you have the wrong shoes/backpack/hair color/physique. That man can’t be a man because he doesn't smoke the same cigarettes as me. You are a marketeer’s dream and that boy/girl in your English Class is so hot! And your mom is telling you that these are the best years of your life and it so sucks.
By fifteen in the Asian tiger economies they have sorted out the successful kids from the unsuccessful ones already. You are either already in a competitive college prep program …or you’re not.
In Finland – where they do educate everyone - everyone is middle class and white and – well – Finnish. Everyone has medical and dental and mental healthcare. If the school thinks you should have an iPad of course you have an iPad. Or glasses. Or a tutor to help with algebra.
In America we have everyone on a college track too. And the ones who don’t make it – whether because they are poor or unmotivated or don’t get help or are not reading at grade level/not proficient/Black/Brown/American Indian/struggle with the language/are in foster care or just don’t “get” algebra -- the ones who don’t graduate are labeled failures.
The tragic significant subgroup. Put ‘em on the spreadsheet.
Remember Scrooge and The Ghost of Christmas Present?
‘This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom.'
`Have they no refuge or resource.' cried Scrooge. ’Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?’
Yes, Mr. Scrooge, there are.
Welcome to the pipeline.
December 8th, 2013 | For the first time since the Great Recession, school districts are getting more money this year from the state; some – big beneficiaries of the new Local Control Funding Formula – are getting a lot. And that increase is expected to be larger next year, in one-time and ongoing money, if the Legislative Analyst’s predictions for a rebounding economy are on target.
School finance experts John Gray and Joel Montero, however, injected a cautionary note during a presentation Friday at the California School Boards Association’s annual convention in San Diego.
“We are still in a volatile situation. Be conservative. Be careful,” Montero advised several dozen school board members at his talk.
Montero is the unofficial fiscal worrywart of K-12 education. As the executive director of the state Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, or FCMAT, his job is to see that districts don’t run out of money and end up in bankruptcy. FCMAT’s oversight and dire warnings have worked; only a handful of the state’s 1,000 districts are in receivership despite devastating cuts over the past five years.
Gray is president of School Services of California, a Sacramento consulting firm that provides services to and represents school districts, including in negotiations with employees unions. It’s his role to advise districts to be chary with a dollar.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office is projecting that there may be as much as $12 billion in new Proposition 98 money for the fiscal year starting July 1. In the state budget he will release next month, Gov. Jerry Brown will likely dedicate a big portion as one-time money – for paying off late payments or deferrals to schools and implementing Common Core, perhaps – but the increase for districts’ operating budgets will likely be sizable nonetheless.
So why were Montero and Gray acting like Saturday Night Live’s Debbie Downer? A combination, they said, of the hangover from the recession and the new complexities of the Local Control Funding Formula prompt them to urge caution to districts when creating a spending plan for next year and negotiating staff raises this year.
About 60 percent of the state’s school districts deficit-spent last year, and many have done so for two or three years, Montero said. They got by through eating into their reserves. So a district’s first priority should be to eliminate its operating deficit. For those districts with structural deficits, “You can (receive) more money this year but have no money to spend,” he said, particularly if a district has a declining enrollment, with fewer students generating state dollars.
A paradox is that many districts have built up record reserves – far beyond the 1 to 3 percent of a district’s operating budget that state law requires. They did so because of uncertainty: not knowing whether Proposition 30, creating temporary taxes, would pass a year ago and not knowing what the Local Control Funding Formula would look like.
Healthy reserves, of course, are good. What’s dicey, Montero and Gray said, is spending them down too quickly, based on the assumption that projected state revenue three years from now will cover spending commitments they can make today.
“The pressure (from calls to increase spending) is going to intensify on you,” Gray said. “You will likely live with what you do in year one (of LCFF) for a long time.”
Furthermore, Brown’s projection that the LCFF will be fully funded in eight years assumes uninterrupted economic growth. The last recession technically ended four years ago, even if growth in California has been puny. Twelve straight years of economic growth hasn’t happened, Gray said, so it’s prudent to expect a setback. The biggest beneficiaries of LCFF should have the largest reserves, Montero said, because they’d be most vulnerable if the revenues fall short of state predictions.
This chart shows how three elementary districts, with different proportions of high-needs students, would fare under the Local Control Funding Formula. Over the next eight years, each would annually receive a percentage of the gap between what they got in 2012-13 and what they would receive at full implementation. Note that each district started at a different funding level. Source: Department of Finance
Another point to keep in mind, they said, is that each district will get a different increase per student annually over the next eight years or so, making comparisons between districts problematic.
“Once fully implemented, LCFF will be the simplest formula around,” Gray said. “But in the transition period, the next eight years – or longer – the system will be more complicated than the one we left.” So educating stakeholders on how the formula works is critical, he added.
The range in per-student funding at full implementation will be between about $8,500 and $13,000. This year, each district will get about one-eighth of the difference between what they got in per-student funding in 2012-13, the last year of the old formula, and their target at full funding. The average increase this year is $308, but some districts will get less than $200 per student, while others will see more than $600 per student.
Whether a district gets a lot or a little will depend in part on how many low-income students, students learning English and foster youth it serves and in part on its starting point, the funding level it received in 2012-13. So, Gray noted, even two districts with the same percentage of students with high needs won’t get the same per-student funding increases in the transition.
Unlike the old system, where districts got the same increases to their “revenue limits,” or base grants, every district’s funding situation in the LCFF transition period will be distinct. So it will be difficult explaining to teachers in one district why there’s no money for the raise that teachers in an adjoining district have negotiated, Gray said.
“Stakeholders may not understand how you receive the money,” Gray told school board members. He cited one unnamed district with declining enrollment and a huge deficit problem that is seeking to roll back salaries, while another unnamed district has reached an impasse with its teachers union despite an offer of a 7.5 percent raise.
“How your neighbors behave will have a significant impact on you,” Gray said. “The pressure is going to intensify.” (To what extent it is permissible for districts to grant pay and benefit increases using some of the additional dollars intended to provide extra services for high-needs students – a major fear of low-income advocacy groups – is a separate and important issue that the State Board of Education is expected to weigh in on when it adopts LCFF regulations in January.)
Finally, Montero and Gray cautioned, there will be huge pressure – more than districts can accommodate – to restore programs, start new ones and grant pay increases.
“You’re facing a pent-up demand,” Gray said. “Most districts haven’t given raises for five years. Expectations are high. You survived with fewer people, paying them less.” Along with bargaining units’ demands, parents and community members will be letting school boards know what they want. The LCFF requires incorporating parents’ views in a three-year Local Control and Accountability Plan, which school boards must adopt by July 1.
Under the old system, with Sacramento-dictated spending rules for dozens of categorical programs, school boards had little control. Now the dynamic has changed, and the responsibility, Gray told school board members, is theirs.
“It a lot easier to say I can’t do something. It’s harder to say I won’t do something,” he said. “Stakeholders will have different ideas on how to spend money. You have to stay strong to say (maintaining) facilities or adult ed is important to our success. It’s important to hang tough and determine your priorities.”
“Your job has been terrible since 2008-09,” Montero said. “Now the economy is improving and likely to continue to improve. Board members are hungry and anxious to do something. Be smart about that.”
December 09, 2013 As the nation turns later this week to acknowledge the one-year anniversary of the mass killing at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, clashes over school safety and Second Amendment rights are becoming increasingly common.
What once seemed an easy policy decision has become more complicated and politically-charged – so much so that the National PTA recently revised its long-standing position that learning environments should be gun free, to defer to local sentiments.
“Prior to 2013 we had position statements that expressed a clear preference for a gun-free school climate,” said Heidi May, a spokeswoman for the largest volunteer child advocacy organization with more than 4 million members.
“But after the tragedy at Newtown, several states proposed legislation that would put guns in schools, whether it was with law enforcement, school resource officers or teachers,” which, she explained, prompted a reevaluation of the association’s 14-year-old position statement, created a year after the 1998 Columbine High School shooting.
“After a lot of discussion, our position statement was modified to add that we defer to our local affiliates to allow for the presence of armed law enforcement only,” May added. “But our preference is for schools to be gun free.”
Evidence of the dilemma gun safety presents to school officials is scattered about national headlines almost on a daily basis.
Last summer, officials at Flowing Wells Unified near Tucson sent home a gun violence contract as part of the annual student registration packet. The contract requires that students agree they will not bring guns to school and that parents pledge they will lock their guns away.
According to published reports, district officials later retracted the contract proposal after it drew immediate opposition within the community.
Only weeks later, the St. Helens School Board north of Portland, Ore., voted to lift an eight-month old ban on staff carrying concealed weapons – a position taken only a few months before in reaction to the tragedy at Sandy Hook.
The original policy was based on an Oregon legal decision that employers had the right to prohibit dangerous or deadly weapons in the workplace, according to an October memo from the school superintendent. Since then, supporters of the gun ban – including some teachers and parents – have rallied and held press conferences in opposition to the board’s current policy.
And just last month, the West Bloomfield Board of Education – located in a suburb of Detroit – called on state lawmakers to add public schools to the list of places where people can't openly carry firearms.
The request came after a parent attended an event at a district elementary school openly carrying a firearm. Although the incident unnerved school officials and many other parents, West Bloomfield Police Chief Michael Patton told the Detroit News that the gun-toting parent didn’t break the law.
“He had a handgun in a holster on his hip,” Patton said. “It was holstered the entire time, and he wasn't handling it at any point.”
Just as Congress is badly torn over gun control so too are the states. A recent NBC news investigation found that 18 of the 50 states already have laws on the books that allow adults to carry loaded guns on school grounds – in most cases, as long as they have written permission from specified education officials such as superintendents or principals.
The PTA’s prior policy advocates “restricting access to guns from persons who may endanger public safety.”
It lists examples of ways to improve youth and school safety including:
The recent amendment was to extend the following sentence, “National PTA believes the most effective day-to-day school climate to be gun-free” by adding “but defers to local collaborative decision-making to allow for the presence of law enforcement deployed in community-oriented policing.”
smf: From time to time I am a spokesperson “for the largest volunteer child advocacy organization with more than 4 million members”. Every PTA member should be (and is) when they speak out for every child with our one voice.
Heidi May is the Media Relations Manager for national PTA, not the national president – when Moses states The Law he doesn’t hand it off to the press office. There is controversy here - and I am not so Pollyannaish to believe that all of those 4 million members agree on much more than that people shouldn’t shoot children – whether the shooters be mentally deranged psychopaths, gun toting parents or teachers, or other children – whether by design or accident.
When I was a student at Hollywood High in the halcyon days of Peace+Love I carried a gun in the Jr. ROTC. We had a rifle drill team and an honor guard that occasionally performed as the firing detail at the burial of veterans – a damn sobering experience when you’re sixteen.
Hollywood High had a rifle range under the bleachers (What is it with “under the bleachers?” The Manhattan Project started under the bleachers at the U of Chicago …and look how that turned out!).
I am not a gun nut, I don’t own a gun. But I was a marksman at one time. Go figure.
I think National PTA policy is pretty good – and sure to upset both gun nuts and peace creeps. I interpret it to mean that schools should be gun free except for sworn law enforcement. And perhaps for things like ROTC and competitive marksmanship. Certainly no pistol packing parents and teachers!
- Guns don’t kill people; bullets kill people.
- And idiots like Wayne LaPierre endanger us all.
Nothing-well regulates a militia better than locking up the firing pins and ammo in a safe! Especially when the retired army sergeant with the key is always off-campus playing golf.
And we wouldn't want the skeet population to get out of hand!
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