Friday, May 22, 2015


from the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles update for the week of 25 May |

May 21, 2015  ::  Five high school students and three teachers from Compton Unified School District have filed a lawsuit against the District for allegedly failing to address the effects that chronic trauma had on their learning ability. The students said that the poverty, violence, neglect and abuse that they faced in their daily lives resulted in complex trauma and should qualify as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. If so, it would enable them to receive special academic and mental health services that the school would be required to provide. The lawsuit, Peter P. v. Compton Unified School District, was filed on behalf of the students by Public Counsel and another law firm working pro bono.

It is well known that trauma has a negative effect on students and those who have experienced it are far more likely to repeat a grade, have attendance and behavioral problems, lower reading scores and other problems. Recent research shows that trauma can cause children to be in a constant state of fear, making it difficult for them to relax enough to process verbal instructions and learn. According to the Los Angeles Times, the lawsuit is seeking training for district staff to recognize trauma, mental support for students and a shift from punitive disciplinary practices to those based on reconciliation and healing (May 19, 2015). The plaintiffs include students who have suffered physical violence, sexual abuse, witnessed several shootings, been homeless and shuffled between foster homes. One student slept on the roof of the high school for two months because he was homeless and when he was discovered, he was suspended.

One of the teachers in the suit is an alumnus of Dominguez High School and has taught there for 19 years. Despite losing dozens of students to violence and attending from one to three funerals a year for current or former students, he has never received training on trauma or mental health nor been made aware of any system for referring students for mental health services. He joined the suit because he wants more training and support.

Mark Rosenbaum, an attorney with Public Counsel, says that focusing on childhood trauma would do something about the achievemenachievement gap and while society may not be able to eliminate causes of trauma, schools must address its effects.

Also see:
  • “Class-action lawsuit alleges that Compton Unified failed to address impact of trauma on student learning” | LA Times |
  • “Lawsuit says schools are legally required to address student trauma” | EdSource |


smf 2cents Suing a school district for failing to provide mental healthcare may seem, at first blush, to be a stretch. What part of the 3Rs is mental healthcare? But this is a stretch that is needed – like those stretches people who exercise do before they exercise.

Education is about stretching our little grey cells. It’s about being safe and well and healthy. Maslows’s Hierarchy of Needs: Food, Comfort, Safety.

  • You can’t learn if you are hungry.
  • You don’t learn if you don’t have a place to live.
  • You won’t learn if you don’t feel safe.

Then and only then can we get down to the Rs.

In Compton and in most of the brink o’ th’ apocalypse they inhabit the school nurse is most students’ primary-and maybe-only healthcare professional and medical provider. The school nurses’ office has become the Health Office has become the School Wellness Center – even as the School Nurse has become a vanishing species, repurposed to paperwork shuffling and IEP Compliance Officer – often traveling from school-to-school on a one-day-a-week rotation.

This has all worked out because school health crises: The flu outbreak, the second grader who falls out of a tree, the incident of diabetic or anaphylactic shock – these only occur on the days the nurse is at the school and is otherwise available.

I have spent some of the last month reading essays by middle-schoolers about the impact of violence and trauma on their lives. Most need additional instruction on narrative storytelling  (and grammar+punctuation) …but the far more pressing need is for mental health professionals to begin to have the conversation with them about their lives.

LAUSD in planning to eliminate some psychiatric social workers in next year’s budget. The bad-news masquerading otherwise is that the District is not going to eliminate as many as first proposed. Nobody in their right mind is proposing to rehire mental health workers previously laid off.  But I am.

Post Traumatic Shock Disorder is not just for returning warriors anymore. This is not John Boy’s America. This is not the Bobsey Twins’ America. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm graduated decades ago and doesn’t come back for the alumni meetings ‘cause she’s scared of the neighborhood. Today’s narrative was written back in 1969: “Oh, a storm is threat'ning / My very life today / If I don't get some shelter / Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away.”

By ‘75 Bob was feeling better about it than Mick+Keith in ‘69:

“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

It’s an apt metaphor to duck in under.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

CSEA: LAUSD CLERICAL WORKERS TO GET RAISES IN 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17

By City News Service  | from the LA Daily News |

Posted: 05/21/15, 7:51 AM PDT  | LOS ANGELES :: The Los Angeles Unified School District has reached a new three-year agreement with the union representing various clerical and office employees, the district announced Wednesday.

The agreement with the California School Employees Association Local Chapter 500 includes a 2 percent salary increase in 2014-15, a 2 percent increase in 2015-16 with a living wage adjustment to $13 an hour for those making less than $13 an hour and a 2.5 percent in 2016-17 with a living wage adjustment to $15 an hour for those making less than $15 an hour, according to Thomas Waldman, the Los Angeles Unified School District’s communications director.

Members will receive access to new employee orientation; participation in an evaluation pilot program; improvement in processes through payroll optimization and provides members with important protections with respect to layoffs, Waldman said.

The agreement covering about 3,900 office technicians, library aides, financial managers and other professional clerical and office employees allows for a salary reopener option in cases where other units negotiate and receive a higher base salary amount, Waldman said.

The agreement requires ratification by union members and the Board of Education.


By The Times Editorial Board  |

Ref Rodriguez

With victory in sight, LAUSD District 5 candidate Ref Rodriguez hugs a supporter at his election headquarters in Highland Park on May 19. (Los Angeles Times)

21 May 2015  ::  Voters — few though they were — sent some strong messages to the Los Angeles Unified school board Tuesday. That two incumbents were voted out showed justified unhappiness with the current board. People are still mad about the badly mishandled plan to purchase iPads for every student in the district. Reflexive decisions by board members — whether it was Tamar Galatzan's unquestioning support for the tablet purchase or Bennett Kayser's equally ideological vote against almost every charter school application — didn't help. Political battles too often trumped basic common sense and concern for students.

The biggest change might be that the board becomes less factionalized, more open to debating each issue on its merits and more involved in the ... work of improving education. - 

In the end, though, the balance of the board remains pretty much the same. Galatzan, a reliable supporter of charter schools and the testing and accountability policies put forth by former Supt. John Deasy, was ousted by Scott Schmerelson, the candidate favored by United Teachers Los Angeles. Kayser was unseated by charter school founder Ref Rodriguez, who received tremendous support from the charter movement. Board President Richard Vladovic retained his seat largely because his only challenger was underfunded and little-known.

This page supported Galatzan, with misgivings. She appeared to have learned from the couple of bad mistakes she made. But Schmerelson, a well-informed, congenial retired principal, doesn't hew to every opinion held by the teachers union. He could be a real asset on the board. And Rodriguez, whose Partnerships to Uplift Communities Schools have been found to have serious administrative and financial problems, has nonetheless spoken in favor of tougher oversight of charters and takes other independent-minded positions.

In other words, if everything happens for the best, the biggest change might be that the board becomes less factionalized, more open to debating each issue on its merits and more involved in the big-picture work of improving education.

The board has much on its plate. It needs to provide a clear vision and goals for the district; end the destructive graduation requirement that students earn at least a C in the full range of college prep courses; take a critical look at the district's often lackluster teacher training programs; develop a realistic plan for putting technology in the hands of more students; build a stronger Common Core curriculum; and declare a moratorium on meaningless, symbolic resolutions that waste the board's time.

It should start, though, by selecting a new superintendent. Interim Supt. Ramon C. Cortines has been doing an admirable job of untangling the knotty problems left by Deasy, but the district needs a permanent leader to carry out a long-term vision.


By Howard Blume | LA Times |

Ref Rodriguez

With victory in sight, Ref Rodriguez, an LAUSD District 5 candidate, hugs a supporter at his election headquarters in Highland Park. (Lawrence K. Ho, Los Angeles Times) 

●●…but why is that little girl crying?

21 May 3015  ::  Supporters of charter schools won a groundbreaking election victory in Los Angeles this week, putting one of their leaders, for the first time, on the governing board of the nation's second-largest school system.

The triumph of charter school co-founder Ref Rodriguez gave leaders of that movement, once outsiders and competitors, a seat at the controls of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The win gives the district's 211 charter schools a key ally they never had before.

Rodriguez defeated one-term incumbent Bennett Kayser to win election to a school board post that represents areas north and east of downtown and the cities of southeast L.A. County.

The Kayser/Rodriguez contest became a high-cost, bitter proxy campaign between charter advocates and the teachers union, a face-off with implications well beyond Los Angeles.

Charter advocates spent more than $2 million to elect Rodriguez. The teachers union put more than $1 million behind Kayser. In three races Tuesday, outside groups spent more than $5million.

The charter group, in opposing the union-backed candidates, took on a role filled by then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in past elections. Current Mayor Eric Garcetti has declined to be actively involved.

The outcome of races for the Board of Education fell short of a clean sweep for either side. In the west San Fernando Valley, incumbent Tamar Galatzan, who had the support of charter advocates and other well-funded groups, lost to challenger Scott Schmerelson, an ally of the teachers union.

In the third contest, board President Richard Vladovic won a third term; he avoided becoming a target of any powerful political action committees. He represents an area stretching from South Los Angeles to L.A. Harbor.

Rodriguez, 43, now is poised to be a voice on the seven-member board for charter operators and their clientele across the system — families who have left traditional or private schools to enroll their children in the free and publicly funded but independently operated campuses, most of which are nonunion.

"Ref understands just how hard it is to run a great public school serving a low-income community," said Jim Blew, president of StudentsFirst, a national group that frequently confronts teachers unions over education policy. "He's particularly sensitive to how hard it is to run a great public charter school in the hostile environment created by the L.A. school board."

No district in the nation has more charters, or more students enrolled in them, than L.A. Unified. About 15% of district students attend those campuses.

"We need high-quality options so that parents can choose what's in the best interests for their children," Rodriguez told supporters Tuesday night. "We need our schools to fit our young people, not the other way around."

That allusion to charters, before backers of those schools, was as close as Rodriguez came to carrying the flag for the movement. He spent more time talking about supporting teachers, a possible fence-mending gesture toward United Teachers Los Angeles.

Rodriguez's elevation has practical and symbolic implications, especially because Kayser had become the board's most unrelenting opponent of charters, routinely voting against starting new campuses or renewing operating agreements with existing ones.

Within his district, Kayser had opposed allowing charters to share space on traditional campuses — charters have a right to classroom space under state law.

"Charter schools will have a bigger voice on the board and someone with a vested interest in supporting the movement in general," said Sharon Weir, principal of New West Charter School, which has clashed with the district in the past. She "wholeheartedly" had encouraged parents to vote for Rodriguez.

The growing number of charters, along with the parents whose children attend them, provides a new and critical grass roots foundation. These enthusiasts include Gloria Soto, a 65-year-old grandmother who had worked in the 1990s to build support for construction of a high school downtown to relieve overcrowding.

Now three grandchildren are enrolled in a charter that she likes, one that Kayser was unable to keep from taking control of a newly built campus in Echo Park.

"I heard a lot of negative and positive about the charters and I believe the best thing is to give it a try and not just go by hearsay," she said.

Kayser's anti-charter votes almost never prevented charter schools from starting or staying open; the board majority generally supported these campuses. But defeating him had become personal for many.

Ingrid Oliu, a parent at a Celerity charter school in Glassell Park, said she was upset to learn that, despite academic success, Kayser "still voted no every time our school came up." She worked phone banks as a campaign volunteer: Rodriguez, she said, "has my support 200%."

Before Tuesday, the pro-charter forces could rely on wealthy donors to help them dominate spending, but had been unable to defeat candidates backed by the teachers union — especially when it called attention to those donors.

Contributors to PACs that took part in the campaigns on behalf of charter supporters included Netflix founder Reed Hastings, $1.5million (to the charter group only); former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, $550,000; Walmart heir Jim Walton, $375,000; and philanthropist Eli Broad, $205,000.

To Kayser, the issue wasn't whether charters benefited some students. He believed that the schools' rapid growth was sapping resources badly needed for traditional campuses while also leaving behind students who were more difficult and expensive to educate.

Rodriguez said he was unwilling to limit the growth of charters at this time. But he also insisted that he wanted improved oversight. For example, he wants to track whether charters are pushing out students who could bring down test scores. And low-performing charters should be shut down, he said.

His commitment to oversight will be tested. His endorsement list includes the operators of charters that L.A. Unified tried to close because of low test scores and other problems. The charters appealed to other agencies and were able to remain open.

When asked about one of those campuses, Rodriguez said he didn't know enough about the situation to comment.

Some, including at least one current board member, were concerned that any policy debate over charters was obscured by the negative tone of the campaign.

"We've sunk to a level where there is no viable discourse and no moral conscience when it comes to public education and control of the school board," said board member Steve Zimmer, who was especially critical of the negative campaign against Kayser.

Both incumbents were hurt by fallout from a costly, now-abandoned effort to provide every student, teacher and campus administrator with an iPad.

Charter advocates used that issue against Kayser, even though he was largely a critic of the iPad program; the teachers union used it against Galatzan.

Galatzan had been a close ally of former Supt. John Deasy, who resigned under pressure in October.

That made her a target for the teachers union, which had battled Deasy over several initiatives, including his bid to make student test scores part of a teacher's evaluation.

lRodriguez's victory, though, suggests that charter supporters are an emerging political force in future board elections, analysts say, not only in Los Angeles but in districts nationwide.


smf 2cents “…putting one of their leaders, for the first time, on the governing board of the nation's second-largest school system.”

¿Really? Two of their leaders have been there and done that, albeit in reverse order.

  • Caprice Young left the presidency of the board and started the California Charter School Association. She later became CEO of ICEF schools, she is now the CEO of Magnolia Charter Schools.
  • Marlene Canter left the presidency of the board and is currently the CEO of Green Dot Public Schools.
  • Does the name Yolie Flores ring a bell?

It’s not a linear process; it’s a revolving door.


Commentary By Kentaro Toyama | The chronicle of Higher Education |


James Yang for The Chronicle

May 19, 2015  ::  In 2004, I moved to India to help found a new research lab for Microsoft. Based in Bangalore, it quickly became a hub for cutting-edge computer science. My own focus shifted with the move, and I began to explore applications of digital technologies for the socioeconomic growth of poor communities. India struggles to educate its billion-plus population, so during the five years that I was there, my team considered how computers, mobile phones, and other devices could aid learning.

Sadly, what we found was that even when technology tested well in experiments, the attempt to scale up its impact was limited by the availability of strong leadership, good teachers, and involved parents — all elements that are unfortunately in short supply in India’s vast but woefully underfunded government school system. In other words, the technology’s value was in direct proportion to the instructor’s capability.

Over time, I came to think of this as technology’s Law of Amplification: While technology helps education where it’s already doing well, technology does little for mediocre educational systems; and in dysfunctional schools, it can cause outright harm.

When I returned to the United States and took an academic post, I saw that the idea applies as much to higher education in America as it does to general education in India. This past semester, I taught an undergraduate course called "IT and Global Society." The students read about high-profile projects like One Laptop Per Child and the TED-Prize-winning Hole-in-the-Wall program. Proponents argue that students can overcome educational hurdles with low-cost digital devices, but rigorous research fails to show much educational impact of technology in and of itself, even when offered free.

My students — all undergrads and digital natives — were at first surprised that technology did so little for education. They had a deep sense that they benefited from digital tools. And they were right to have that feeling. As relatively well-off students enrolled at a good university, they were all but guaranteed a solid education; being able to download articles online and exchange emails with their professors amplified the fundamentals.

But their personal intuition didn’t always transfer to other contexts. In fact, even in their own lives, it was easy to show that technology by itself didn’t necessarily cause more learning. To drive this point home, I asked them a series of questions about their own experience:

"How many of you have ever tried to take a free course on the Internet?" Over half the class raised their hands.

"And how many completed it?" All the hands went down.

"Why didn’t you continue?" Most students said they didn’t get past two or three online lectures. Someone mentioned lack of peer pressure to continue. Another suggested it wasn’t worth it without the credits. One student said simply, "I’m lazy. Even in a regular class, I probably wouldn’t do my homework unless I felt the disapproval of the professor."

In effect, the students demonstrated an informal grasp of exactly what studies about educational technologies often find. So, if my tech-immersed undergraduates could intuit the limits of educational technology, why do educators, policy makers, and entrepreneurs keep falling for its false promise?

One problem is a widespread impression that Silicon Valley innovations are necessarily good for society. We confuse business success with social value, though the two often differ. Just for example, how is it that during the last four decades we have seen an explosion of incredible technologies, but America’s poverty rate hasn’t decreased and inequality has skyrocketed? Any idea that more technology in and of itself cures social ills is obviously flawed. Yet without a good framework for thinking about technology and society, it’s easy to get caught up in hype about new gadgets.

The Law of Amplification provides one such framework: At heart, it affirms that technology is a tool, which means that any positive effects depend on well-intentioned, capable people. But this also means that good outcomes are never guaranteed. What amplification predicts is that technological effects follow underlying social currents.

MOOCs offer a convenient example. Proponents cite the potential for MOOCs to lower the costs of education, based on the assumption that low-cost content is what is needed. Of course, the Internet offers dirt-cheap replicability, and it undeniably amplifies content producers’ ability to reach a mass audience. But if free content were all that was needed for an education, everyone with broadband connectivity would be an Ivy League Ph.D.

The real obstacle in education remains student motivation. Especially in an age of informational abundance, getting access to knowledge isn’t the bottleneck, mustering the will to master it is. And there, for good or ill, the main carrot of a college education is the certified degree and transcript, and the main stick is social pressure. Most students are seeking credentials that graduate schools and employers will take seriously and an environment in which they’re prodded to do the work. But neither of these things is cheaply available online.

Arizona State University’s recent partnership with edX to offer MOOCs is an attempt to do this, but if its student assessments fall short (or aren’t tied to verified identities), other universities and employers won’t accept them. And if the program doesn’t establish genuine rapport with students, then it won’t have the standing to issue credible nudges. (Automated text-message reminders to study will quickly become so much spam.) For technological amplification to lower the costs of higher education, it has to build on student motivation, and that motivation is tied not to content availability but to credentialing and social encouragement.

The Law of Amplification’s least appreciated consequence, however, is that technology on its own amplifies underlying socioeconomic inequalities. To begin with, the rich will always be able to afford more technology, and low-cost technology in no way solves that. There is no digital keeping up with the Joneses.

But even an equitable distribution of technology aggravates inequality. Students with poor high-school preparation will always find it hard to learn things their prep-school peers can ace. Low-income families will struggle to pay registration fees that wealthy households barely notice. Blue-collar workers doing hard manual labor may not have the energy to take evening courses that white-collar professionals think of as a hobby. And these things are even more true online than offline. Sure, educational technologies can lower costs for everyone, but it’s those with existing advantages who are best positioned to capitalize on them.

In fact, studies confirm exactly this: Well-educated men with office jobs disproportionately complete MOOC courses, while lower-income young adults barely enroll. The primary effect of free online courses is to further educate an already well-educated group who will pull away from less-educated others. The educational rich just get richer.

So what is to be done? Unfortunately, there is no technological fix, and that is perhaps the hardest lesson of amplification. More technology only magnifies socioeconomic disparities, and the only way to avoid that is nontechnological: Either resolve the underlying inequities first, or create policies that favor the less advantaged.

Kentaro Toyama is an associate professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information, a fellow of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT, and the author of Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change From the Cult of Technology, published this month by PublicAffairs.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Two challengers, one incumbent, finish first in L.A. Board of Education races

Incumbents who faced challengers with money behind them fared poorly in L.A. school board races

By Brittny Mejia and Howard Blume |

    Ref Rodriguez

L.A. school board challenger Ref Rodriguez surged to an early lead in election returns Tuesday. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)


Campaigns for L.A. school board used lots of money, but also relied on volunteers

20 May 2015  ::  In final, unofficial election returns Tuesday night, two challengers defeated incumbents to win seats on the Los Angeles Board of Education.

In District 5, well-funded challenger Ref Rodriguez bested one-term incumbent Bennett Kayser, winning with nearly 54% of the vote. That area includes neighborhoods north and east of downtown, as well as the cities of southeast L.A. County.

"It looks good," Rodriguez told a crowd of supporters before the final results were tallied. "I decided to run because I knew the system wasn't working for all kids."

Data: Complete, updating L.A. general election results

Data: Complete, updating L.A. general election results

In District 3, which covers the west San Fernando Valley, challenger Scott Schmerelson finished ahead of two-term incumbent Tamar Galatzan. His lead solidified over the evening and he ended with about 55% of ballots cast.

In District 7, two-term incumbent Richard Vladovic maintained a clear plurality over Lydia Gutierrez, claiming 56% of the vote. District 7 stretches from South Los Angeles to the L.A. Harbor.

The results will affect the direction of the nation’s second-largest school system. The next school board will choose a superintendent to run the L.A. Unified School District and deal with thorny issues such as a new teacher evaluation system and graduation requirements.

The campaigns in the two most expensive races were dominated by independent spending. In all, outside groups have poured in $5.1 million, compared with under $1 million spent by campaigns controlled by the candidates, according to reports filed through Monday.

The contest drawing the most attention and the most dollars was the Kayser/Rodriguez race.

Kayser was backed by the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, which spent more than $1 million to keep him in office.

Rodriguez co-founded an organization that operates charter schools, and benefited from strong support by a group representing charters.

How L.A. voted: City Council results, mapped block by block

How L.A. voted: City Council results, mapped block by block

That group, California Charter Schools Assn. Advocates, put more than $2 million into this race ($2.4 million overall) through Monday, the most of any outside group.

Charters are independently operated and free from some regulations that govern traditional public schools. Most are nonunion.

Kayser has been the board’s most persistent voice opposing the continued growth of charter schools in L.A., which has the most charters, 211, of any district in the country. About 15% of L.A. Unified students are enrolled in those campuses.

Both sides assembled grass-roots operations to make calls and knock on doors. The teachers union has been especially effective in gathering volunteers in the past, while its opponent relied significantly on paid canvassers.

But charter advocates insisted that they have caught up, by involving parents of students in charters as well as the students themselves in working politically for their schools.

At Rodriguez's campaign headquarters in Highland Park on Tuesday evening, Miquitzli Herrera, 15, had been on the phones since 8:30 am, calling volunteers and voters.

"I really admire what he's done in his years of educating people, opening up all of those schools and trying to help kids get an education," said Miquitzli, who attends a Pasadena private school. "It's very admirable and inspiring."

"If we have Dr. Ref Rodriguez he'll make the schools better," said Sabrina Gastelum, 13, another charter student making calls to voters. "We've already read a lot about him and I like what he's about."

At the posting of the early returns, the crowd erupted in cheers and exchanged hugs.

"Si se puede" (Yes we can), people shouted; others stood to snap pictures of the computer projection of the results.

Many volunteers also participated in the campaign for Kayser. His supporters said they are concerned that charters, by enrolling so many district students, are sapping the district funding base and making it more difficult to provide services, including for students who are harder and more expensive to educate.

The Galatzan/Schmerelson race also featured a face-off between the union, which backed Schmerelson, a retired principal, and Galatzan, who had support from the charter group.

In this race, Galatzan also received substantial backing from another political action committee, Great Public Schools Los Angeles. This PAC drew on many of the same donors as a PAC that associated in recent elections with former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

In the Vladovic/Gutierrez race, Vladovic was endorsed by all three big-spending PACs, but none of them devoted comparable resources to this race. Gutierrez is a Long Beach Unified elementary teacher.

Low voter turnout was expected; in most areas, the L.A. Unified contest was the only one on the ballot.


12:01 a.m.: This post was updated to reflect the final unofficial election returns.

11:28 p.m. Tuesday: This post was updated to reflect later returns that showed the same two challengers leading, but with Rodriguez's lead shrinking and Schmerelson's increasing.

10:30 p.m. Tuesday: This post was updated to reflect the continued strong lead by Ref Rodriguez and that Miquitzli Herrera attends a private school in Pasadena.

This story was first published at 9:50 p.m. Tuesday.



Election 2015: Ryu, Rodriguez poised to upset challengers in low-turnout vote (update)

KPCC Staff |


105603 full
Antonio Torres of El Sereno votes on election day at El Sereno Elementary School on Tuesday, May 19. The election includes runoffs for three Los Angeles Unified school board seats and one City Council seat.  | Maya Sugarman/KPCC

19/20 May 2015  ::  Voters headed to the polls Tuesday to elect three board members of the Los Angeles Unified School District and one member of the Los Angeles City Council. Check back here for updates as the results come in.

11:41 p.m.: Tough night for incumbents in low-turnout race

L.A. teachers unions may have lost one of their biggest advocates on the LAUSD school board, as incumbent Bennet Kayser appears poised to lose his seat in the 5th district to charter advocate Ref Rodriguez.

Meanwhile, L.A. City Council candidate David Ryu appeared to have upset Carolyn Ramsay, former chief of staff to outgoing councilman Tom LaBonge in district 4. Ryu had run as a political outsider against Ramsay, whose endorsements included a number of influential Democrats, including Mayor Garcetti and California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. Ryu would become the first Korean-American to hold a seat on the council.

2-term incumbent Tamar Galatzan will likely lose her seat on LAUSD's board to Scott Schmerelson, a union-backed candidate who ran against Galatzan's support for the controversial iPad program currently under scrutiny by the FBI.

Of the three LAUSD board members who faced elections this year, only Richard Vladovic — an early supporter of the iPad program who raised concerns about its rollout, and eventually pulled his backing for the project — looked sure to hold on to his seat.

As of 11:41 p.m., with 100 percent of votes tallied, only 8.6 percent of registered votes had taken part in Tuesday's election.

10:54 p.m.: At halfway point, few changes

With 60 percent of votes in, community health center director David Ryu continued to hold an advantage over Carolyn Ramsay, the chief of staff of former councilman Tom LaBonge.

Dogged by the iPad scandal at LAUSD, board incumbents were having difficulty holding off their opponents. Union-backed boardmember Bennet Kayser held 47 percent of the vote to his opponent, charter school administrator Ref Rodriguez's 53 percent.

2-term LAUSD boardmember Tamar Galatzan gained some ground on opponent Scott Schmerelson, who leads with 53 percent of the vote to Galatzan's 47 percent. Incumbent Richard Vladovic led Lydia Gutierrez with 55 percent of the vote.

As of 10:54 p.m.:

  • About 74,197 ballots had been counted, just 7.45 percent of voters registered for the election
  • 56,729 votes had been counted in all LAUSD races
  • 17,468 votes had been counted in the City Council District 4 race

Back to the top

10:06 p.m.: Early poll returns mirror mail-in results

The first returns from precincts around L.A. have come in, but the numbers haven't changed: City council candidate David Ryu held a lead of 54 percent of the vote over challenger Carolyn Ramsay.

LAUSD board race returns were similarly unchanged, with Scott Mark Schmerelson leading incumbent Tamar Galatzan 52 to 48 percent, and Ref Rodriguez leading incumbent Bennett Kayser 56 to 44 percent.

Meanwhile, board incumbent Richard Vladovic, an initial supporter of the iPad project who went on to push for an investigation into its rollout, kept his lead of 54 percent of the vote over Lydia Gutierrez.

As of 10:06 p.m.:

  • 61,294 votes had been counted, or 6.16 percent of all registered voters
  • 47,142 votes had been cast in the three LAUSD races
  • 14,152 votes had been cast for the City Council District 4 seat


8:35 p.m.: Ryu, Rodriguez lead in early returns

David Ryu picked up an early lead in the race for L.A. City Council District 4 Tuesday night. In early returns, Ryu had 6,623 votes; Ramsay had 5,728.

Ryu is running as an outsider in the race against Carolyn Ramsay and was able to pick up endorsements from Democratic heavy-hitters including Gavin Newsom and Sandra Fluke.

A total of 55,501 mail-in ballots, representing about 6 percent of registered voters, had been counted as of 8:30 p.m. in races for three LAUSD board seats and one city council seat, according to the Los Angeles City Clerk's office.

In perhaps the most watched of the LAUSD board races, charter school administrator Ref Rodriguez leads incumbent Bennett Kayser in mail-in balloting.

Incumbent Tamar Galatzan was trailing opponent Scott Schmerelson. Galatzan, an early supporter of former Superintent John Deasy's plan to provide iPads to every LAUSD student, found herself fending off criticism of the program from her rival's supporters.

Of the three LAUSD board incumbents, only Richard Vladovic maintained an early lead in the race over his opponent, Lydia Gutierrez.

As of 8:30 p.m., officials were still counting ballots from polling stations and had reported no results.

​8 p.m.: Polls close

Officials were expected to begin counting votes in Tuesday's citywide general election to fill three seats on the Los Angeles Unified School District and one on the L.A. City Council.

KPCC will be updating this story with results as soon as we have them



LA School Report |


Vladovic breezes to a third term with largest margin of board races

Posted on May 20, 2015 6:06 am by Vanessa Romo

LAUSD school board President Richard Vladovic

LAUSD school board President Richard Vladovic

LA Unified Board President Richard Vladovic successfully held his District 7 seat last night, winning a third term by the largest margin of the day’s three elections in a race with the lowest turn out.

He won with 56 percent of the vote to Lydia Gutierrez’s 44 percent.

Mike Trujillo, a campaign consultant to Vladovic, told LA School Report, that Vladovic’s appeal lies in his ability to strike the right balance on a range of issues.

“Dr. Vladovic’s educational career has always been about putting students, parents and teachers first, Trujillo saids. “His political career is much like that of Goldilocks where the porridge is never too hot, never too cold, always just right.”

Apparently, the mix also appealed to political action committees on the reform and union sides.  Vladovic was the only candidate in all three of the races to receive endorsements from pro-charter advocates, including the California Charters Schools Association PAC and labor groups UTLA and SEIU.

Gutierrez had no major endorsements and little campaign money throughout the election.

Despite that she made an impressive splash in the March primary race finishing only five percentage points behind Vladovic. And as recently as April, an internal poll of District 7 voters by the California Charter Schools Association Advocates and Great Public Schools: Los Angeles, showed Gutierrez, leading by 37 percent to 34 percent, with 29 percent undecided, in a statistical tie. The margin of error was 4.9 percent.

Last night’s defeat marks her fifth failed bid for public office since 2008. In her most recent before now, she came in third in a run for state superintendent last year against Tom Torlakson and Marshall Tuck.

Vladovic was first elected to the board in 2007 and became president in 2013. Over most of that time the board slashed billions from the district budget.

But with more than $700 million in extra revenue coming in next year, he says he wants now to focus on leading the district into more prosperous and efficient times through priorities that include proper distribution of money to schools that need it most, a MiSiS system that works, a teacher evaluation system that’s fair and a better use of best practices districtwide.

Buoyed by millions, Rodriguez beats Kayser for District 5 board seat

Posted on May 20, 2015 6:04 am by Vanessa Romo

Ref Rodriguez

Ref Rodriguez

In the most of expensive and vitriolic of all three LA Unified board races, Bennett Kayser lost to Ref Rodriguez in the battle to represent District 5.

Shortly after polls closed Rodriguez cemented an early lead, and Kayser, who had hoped for a second term, was never able to catch up.

“This is a historic victory, as Los Angeles embraces positive change for our schools,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

“The message of transforming middle schools and supporting innovation really resonated with voters,” he wrote, adding words of gratitude for the “community victory.”

The win is a game changer for the California Charter Schools Association, which contributed several million dollars to Rodriguez’s campaign through its political action committee. The organization paid for television, radio and direct mail advertisements championing the charter school founder and railing against Kayser. It marks the first time the CCSA successfully turned over a pro-union seat.

But it is only a partial triumph for the education reform group which was counting on Tamar Galatzan to hold on to her seat in District 3. In that scenario, charter school supporters would have regained control of the board with a 4-3 majority.

That is not what happened.

Scott Schmerelson, a former teacher, counselor and school administrator beat Galatzan by more than 10 percentage points. And although, Schmerelson resists the pro-union label, he acknowledged that he couldn’t have won it without UTLA’s support.

While UTLA campaigned aggressively for Kayser in the March primary races, the teachers union changed strategies for the general election.

“It became a different kind of race at that point,” Marco Flores, a member of UTLA’s political action committee told LA School Report.

“We were just trying to fend off racist and toxic accusations,” he said, referring to the attack ads directed at Kayser. “If we had more money maybe we could have been more effective.”

Kayser is expected to release a statement later today, according to his campaign manager Susan Burnside, who spoke to LA School Report from Schmerelson’s party. Burnside also worked on his campaign.

Schmerelson stuns Galatzan to deny her third term on school board

Posted on May 20, 2015 5:59 am by Vanessa Romo

Scott Schmerelson

Scott Schmerelson

In a stunning upset, Scott Schmerelson handily defeated two-term incumbent Tamar Galatzan in the race for LA Unified’s District 3 seat.

Schmerelson beat Galatzan with more than 3,000 votes, 55 percent to 45 percent.

“I am very happy, very excited, and I’m ready for my five-year term,” he told LA School Report late last night, referring to the extended term school board members will be serving following a voter approved measure aligning local elections with state and federal races.

While many observers predicted the outcome of the election in District 5 — between Bennett Kayser and Ref Rodriguez — would determine the future ideological balance of the seven member board, it is Schmerelson’s victory that ensures the so-called “reformers” will remain in the minority despite Kayser’s loss.

“I intend to be perfectly fair,” Schmerelson said, unwilling to describe himself as either pro-charter, pro-union, or pro-anything specific.

“I am not a vehement anti-charter person,” he explained, then launched into a lengthy speech about how many charters engage in deceitful practices dumping students with disciplinary problems or before important testing. His conclusion: “They really need to be closely monitored.”

The teachers union threw its support behind the veteran educator after the primary race in an effort to elect “anyone but Galatzan” according to UTLA PAC official, Marco Flores.

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Posted on May 20, 2015 12:16 am by LA School Report

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Monday, May 18, 2015


LESSONS IN DESEGREGATION:  Other cities have much to teach San Francisco on how to diversify

Story by Jill Tucker, Heather Knight and Greta Kaul | San Francisco Chronicle |

“Spatial segregation is a feature of metropolises from San Diego to Boston, from Santiago to Cape Town, from Belfast to Bangalore. In some places the segregation is associated primarily with racial groups, in other places, ethnicity or religion, while in still other places, income status.

“In the U.S., spatial segregation is a serious policy issue because of the complex interactions between land and housing markets on the one hand, and their connection to local revenues and the distribution and quality of local services on the other hand. Disparities in school quality may be one of the more dramatic examples of the variations in public services between places.

“The combination of residential segregation by class and by racial or ethnic groups and the systematically uneven spatial distribution of quality schools results in poor inner-city enclaves where children attend substandard schools, which in turn limits their life chances. Other services, such as access to transportation and health care, also vary spatially, as do such measurable factors as air quality and neighborhood infrastructure.”

- Urban Spatial Segregation: Forces, Consequences, and Policy Responses

May 18, 2015  ::  There are ways to diversify schools — and other American cities have found those ways.

But in San Francisco, one of the most diverse cities in the country, a third of the elementary schools are segregated, with at least 60 percent of students from the same race. It’s the byproduct of housing patterns and a student assignment system that emphasizes parental choice.

Of the city’s 72 elementary schools, 23 have an enrollment that’s at least 60 percent of one race or ethnicity: 10 schools are predominantly Asian, two mostly African American and 11 Latino. That degree of segregation is a problem, according to academic experts, and decades of data from local, state and federal research.

“Racially isolated schools often have fewer effective teachers, higher teacher turnover rates, less rigorous curricular resources (e.g., college preparatory courses), and inferior facilities and other educational resources,” concluded a memo issued by the federal Justice and Education departments in 2011 regarding racial isolation in schools and legal issues related to desegregation.

Diversity in San Francisco schools, 2013-14

But across the country, as in San Francisco, court decisions have made it difficult for school districts to force desegregation. Consequently, many desegregation plans have fallen away in favor of choice-based programs — such as magnet schools and language programs — designed to attract students from diverse backgrounds.

In San Francisco, the school board has relied on a school assignment system to try to diversify schools. First preference is given to younger siblings of children enrolled in a school, second to families living in census tracts where students score lowest on standardized tests and third to students living in the neighborhood.

But it hasn’t worked.

“What we see is when we have choice, people self-segregate by race,” school board member Sandra Fewer said.

Yet school board members unanimously said they don’t want to give up on desegregating schools. Examples of desegregation efforts across the country — including magnet schools and creative school boundaries and assignment systems — suggest they don’t have to.

Impact of choice

In San Francisco’s Excelsior neighborhood, parental choice at one school shows how choice can lead to diversity in a school’s makeup.

Monroe Elementary is one of the most diverse — half Hispanic, a third Asian American, 7 percent white and 2 percent black.

The school has a Spanish-immersion program that draws both Spanish- and English-speaking families, a Chinese bilingual program for students who want to maintain the language while learning English, and a traditional general education program — programs placed at the school years ago to address the language needs of students in the surrounding community.

While the district didn’t set out to create a diverse school, the three programs lure a wide range of families from the neighborhood and from across the city. With 500 students and parents who speak three different languages, it’s a juggling act, but worthwhile, Monroe Principal José Montaño said.

“It’s a tall order to have all this in one school,” he said. “But language pathways make a huge impact in a school’s racial makeup. ... Language is a big part of race.”

In the Monroe library, “Goodnight Moon 1, 2, 3” is displayed next to the book “Te lo regalo!” while “The Three Little Tamales” is displayed alongside “My Friend Jamal,” with two smiling boys on the cover, one black and one white. Books in Chinese are on a nearby shelf.

In one third-grade Chinese bilingual classroom, the students are Asian American. Next door, the Spanish-immersion third-graders are mostly a mix of Latino and white. Just down the stairs, in the general education third-grade classroom, Asian, white, Latino and black faces glance up when a visitor walks in the door.

“Racially isolated schools often have fewer effective teachers, higher teacher turnover rates, less rigorous curricular resources … and inferior facilities and other educational resources.”

U.S. Justice and Education departments’ 2011 memo

While 80 percent of the students are from low-income families and two-thirds of them are English learners, the school overall exceeded the state’s benchmark of 800 points on the 1,000-point Academic Performance Index, based primarily on standardized tests. But more importantly, students across all subgroups exceeded the district average for each category. That means Asians, white and Latino students, English learners and poor students all posted higher test scores than their peers across San Francisco schools. Subgroup test scores were not available for African American students because the number tested at Monroe was too small.

There is no magic fix to segregation, Montaño said. But what’s happening at Monroe is a good start, he said, but just a start.

“On paper, we look pretty diverse,” Montaño said.

The playground, however, offered another picture. At recess, the Latino children play soccer. The Asian American youngsters play basketball. A group of white girls huddle on a bench.

“You can’t force them to hang out,” Montaño said. “You can’t force them to like each other.”

Unintended benefit

San Francisco has other magnet programs that lure families to a school or a neighborhood they might not otherwise consider, but in many cases, including the placement of language programs at Monroe, diversity was an unintentional positive result rather than a deliberate attempt to reduce segregation by district officials.

Before adding a Mandarin-immersion program at Starr King Elementary in 2006, the school, located next to a public housing project on Potrero Hill, was predominantly black and Latino and under-enrolled in the school’s traditional general education program. With the Chinese-language program in place, the school has doubled enrollment and is more diverse: 25 percent Asian, 18 percent Latino, 19 percent African American and 18 percent white.

With so many empty classrooms, it was in danger of being closed, said board member Shamann Walton. It is now full and has become the most diverse school in the city.

“A quality program did make that school change,” he said. “Just imagine if we did some of the same things with schools in the Bayview.”

Magnet programs

Several districts across the country have taken the idea a step further, using a regional approach to magnet programs to make schools more diverse across city and suburban lines.

Schools in the St. Louis area are among them. There, 4,500 students from the city, where students are predominantly African American, take buses into the suburbs for school in a voluntary transfer program. A much smaller number of students, 130, bus from the suburbs to 24 specialty magnet schools in the city.

Since the racial makeup of suburban schools varies, the program’s results are not uniform. Enrollment in Rockwood School District, in St. Louis’ western suburbs, for example, is now about 10 percent African American, compared with the 2 percent that might have been enrolled without the voluntary transfer program, said David Glaser, the chief executive officer of the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corp., which oversees the desegregation program.

“You can’t force them to hang out. You can’t force them to like each other."

José Montaño, Monroe Elementary School Principal

“It’s substantially more integrated. Is it as diverse as the overall population in the world? In some districts, it is and in some districts, not as much,” Glaser said.

After a Connecticut Supreme Court ruling in 1996, Hartford created a system that allows students in the city and the outlying suburbs to transfer to one another’s schools. The students are lured to schools far from home, thanks to a big state investment in regional, high-quality, subject-specific magnet schools.

One of them, the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, was rated the 15th-best high school in the country last year by U.S. News and World Report. Other magnet schools specialize in early reading, science and technology, environmentalism, performing arts, journalism and medicine. Seats are awarded through a lottery system, and some busing is provided.

In 2013, the state reported that half of Hartford students were attending integrated schools, meaning less than three-quarters of a school’s population are minorities.

In Berkeley, the district takes another approach. In response to the 1996 passage of Proposition 209, which prohibits public institutions from considering race in education and hiring decisions, Berkeley Unified now divides the city into three broad attendance zones. Within those, the city is further divvied up into areas of four to eight blocks apiece, each of which is given a diversity rating depending on its racial makeup, income and education levels. The diversity scores range from 1 (more disadvantaged) to 3 (more advantaged).

Families can choose which elementary school to send their child to as long as each school’s percentage of category 1, 2 and 3 students is close to those percentages for the whole attendance zone. If a school’s diversity mix is askew, open seats are given to students who would help achieve balance.

The district’s 11 elementary schools are diverse, closely mirroring the district’s overall racial demographics. None of them has 50 percent or more of any one race.

Bolder action urged

For decades in San Francisco, education officials have relied almost exclusively on the student assignment system in one way or another to diversify schools, but success stories like Monroe and Starr King show that it needs a closer look at alternatives, school board members said.

The district needs to be bolder, they said, noting they need to take a harder look at putting programs in schools — language programs, music programs, art programs — to draw families to segregated or unpopular schools.

“I don’t know if we’re very early or just doing our research,” Porquez said. “With your first kid, you have no idea. ... I want her to thrive.”

The board has also considered giving “golden tickets” to entice families to choose certain schools — perhaps first choice in enrollment at city high schools, which they offered as an enrollment incentive at the new Willie Brown Middle School in the city’s less-popular Bayview neighborhood.

“I am interested in us looking more to those strategies,” board member Jill Wynns said.

A school in Lower Pacific Heights is already on the school board’s radar as a possible option for a new magnet program.

Cobb Elementary now occupies a newly renovated building painted a deep schoolhouse red with bright white window frames. The school is 72 percent black and Latino and severely under-enrolled with 148 students. There is room for up to 200 more, despite its centralized location.

Superintendent Richard Carranza said the school could accommodate a new program to diversify and increase enrollment. One suggestion is to relocate Clarendon Elementary’s Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program to Cobb, which would also increase the number of neighborhood seats at Clarendon, which are in high demand.

Clarendon families in the Japanese program are already pushing back.

“I think we’re satisfied with the idea that some schools are not that attractive for some people,” said school board member Matt Haney. “It’s a huge disparity in our district, and the choice patterns are often by race. We don’t make efforts to try to disrupt that in ways that are positive choices that people might make.”

Jill Tucker, Heather Knight and Greta Kaul are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers.

Project contributors

John Blanchard, Erin Brethauer, Brad Brown, Elizabeth Burr, Trapper Byrne, Christoper T. Fong, Nicole Fruge, Greta Kaul, Mike Kepka, Heather Knight, Kristen Go, Mark Lundgren, Leah Millis, Danielle Mollette-Parks, C.W. Nevius, David Steinberg, Scott Strazzante, Lea Suzuki, Jill Tucker and Judy Walgren

WHAT WENT WRONG WITH L.A. UNIFIED’S iPAD PROGRAM? To put it simply: There was a complete breakdown in the planning and execution of the initiative.

by Tod Newcombe / Government Technology |

This story was originally published by Governing Magazine [] as:

A Cautionary Tale for Any Government IT Project: L.A.'s Failed iPad Program

How did Los Angeles spend more than $1 billion to buy an iPad for every student and instead end up losing its leader and being investigated by the FBI and SEC?
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy resigned in October.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy resigned in October. AP/Damian Dovarganes

May 14, 2015  ::  Two years ago, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) tried an interesting new experiment: give every student a tablet computer equipped with a digital curriculum. It was a bold move that was supposed to push Los Angeles public schools into the 21st century. It turned out to be a disaster.

The idea was certainly huge, requiring the purchase of 650,000 Apple iPads, networking gear and educational software from Pearson -- all at a cost of nearly $1.3 billion. L.A. Schools Superintendent John Deasy, who launched the program in 2013, also saw it as a way to help the city’s low-income students. Until Deasy’s announcement, students had limited access to digital education tools at computer labs, which couldn’t accommodate all students at the same time.

Today, LAUSD is exploring possible litigation against Apple and Pearson, the world’s largest education publishing company, to recoup millions of dollars; a criminal grand jury is investigating possible ethics violations by district officials; the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission have launched their own inquiries into possible wrong-doing; and Deasy resigned.


So what went wrong? To put it simply: a complete breakdown in the planning and execution of the initiative. The Los Angeles Times labeled the mega-technology project “ill-conceived and half-baked.”

In fall 2012, Deasy announced to school administrators his plan to give a tablet computer to every student. Convinced the highly popular technology was going to be the future of education and that low-income students would struggle academically if he didn’t move quickly, Deasy gave LAUSD only a few months to generate a plan before putting the initiative out to bid in 2013, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Education.

In June 2013, the Board of Education approved a contract with Apple and Pearson worth $500 million and set aside another $800 million to improve Internet access at schools. The entire purchase was funded by construction bonds, which are typically used to build and repair schools.

LAUSD bought 43,261 iPads loaded with a curriculum, which the school district selected from Pearson based only on samples of a math and English program available at the time. Problems surfaced immediately during the rollout at 47 schools in fall 2013.

Internet connectivity was spotty at some schools, partly because the district’s facilities chief was not included in the planning process for upgrading school networks to carry the heavy data demands of so many devices connecting to the Internet. Teachers were ill-trained on how to use the iPads and curriculum, and faculty never widely embraced the tablet, according to the Department of Education report. And many students learned how to bypass the security features and just used the iPads to surf the Internet.

With problems occurring almost daily with either the technology or the curriculum, Deasy slowed down the rollout. But criticism of the initiative from teachers, administrators and the local media kept mounting, and under pressure, Deasy resigned in October 2014. In December, LAUSD officially ended the initiative and canceled the Apple contract -- though schools and students continue to use the existing iPads.

In addition to poor planning, the Department of Education's review of the initiative found LAUSD was too “heavily dependent on a single commercial product for providing digital learning resources.” While the district followed state guidelines for purchasing hardware that aligned with Common Core standards, a report released in August 2014 by the LAUSD board showed that the district had added detailed specifications regarding screen size and touchscreen functionality that heavily favored Apple and essentially excluded other technology options.

Students using a Google Chromebook, which can cost as little as $200. LAUSD, however, paid $768 for each iPad. (MCT/Los Angeles Times/Bob Chamberlin)

Media reports also detailed how bid requirements seemed to track with curriculum specifications suggested by Pearson in private email exchanges before the bidding process opened. The FBI has since launched an investigation into questions about whether Apple and Pearson enjoyed an advantage in the bidding process.

Beyond the issue of whether or not Apple and Pearson had an inside track in winning the bid, LAUSD has been faulted for choosing one rather expensive device when less expensive choices were available. Devices with keyboards might have been a better option, for instance, since older students could have used them to write papers. Google’s Chromebook, for example, is a laptop that can cost as little as $200, while LAUSD paid $768 apiece for its iPads, including the software, according to the Times.

The SEC in April also launched an inquiry into whether L.A. school officials complied with legal guidelines in the use of bond funds to finance the iPad deal. Using construction bonds to purchase Internet infrastructure is common, but the LAUSD also used money from the bonds to purchase the iPads, which break down after a few years. Some critics of the plan have said LAUSD should have set aside a sum from its operating budget to purchase the tablets.

Meanwhile, LAUSD took action of its own in April, announcing it would seek to recoup millions of dollars from Apple because it was “dissatisfied with their product.” The district’s demands for a refund stem from materials that didn't adapt well for students who weren't proficient in English and a lack of software tools to analyze how well the curriculum functions.

Teachers were ill-trained on how to use the iPads, according to the Department of Education. (MCT/Los Angeles Times/Bob Chamberlin)

Government technology projects often fail because policymakers take too long to deploy them, so they miss deadlines and end up with out-of-date technology. But as LAUSD’s fiasco showed, moving quickly can be just as disastrous. Without proper planning, a technology project of this size and scope is bound to fail.

Another important lesson from this story is how a district’s reliance on one type of technology can end up limiting the value of that investment. Students of different ages have different needs and no one device is necessary or sufficient to solve all education problems.

Computers are nothing more than tools that can help educate students when they are used as part of a well-planned curriculum. Unfortunately, that point was lost when Los Angeles let the glamour of a new and popular product cloud its judgement.

Tod Newcombe |  Senior Editor

With more than 20 years of experience covering state and local government, Tod previously was the editor of Public CIO, e.Republic’s award-winning publication for information technology executives in the public sector. He is now a senior editor for Government Technology and a columnist at Governing magazine


By Kelly Corrigan | The Burbank Leader/LA Times |

Burroughs students

John Burroughs High School graduates Jessica Little and Brian Kaplun and current student Susie Miller, right, worked on a PTA resolution with Burbank parents that advocates for clearly stated health standards and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students. The resolution was passed during the California PTA Convention earlier this month.  (Courtesy of Steve Frintner / May 15, 2015)

May 15, 2015 | 5:04 p.m [LA Times May 18] .  ::  The Burbank school district’s Parent Teacher Assn. is one step closer to influencing change across California with a resolution seeking to incorporate clear health standards into the state’s curriculum to address lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students, in addition to promoting an inclusive school environment for the young LGBTQ community.

The resolution won formal approval at the California State PTA convention in Sacramento earlier this month, and its passage still brings Steve Frintner to tears.

As Burbank PTA council president, Frintner’s voice broke with emotion as he shared the news with the Burbank school board last week, and he choked up again this week while discussing it during a phone interview.

“It’s been two weeks, and I can hardly talk about it without getting emotional about it,” he said.

The resolution was months in the making and not without outspoken opponents.

Its passage will allow lawmakers or state education officials to refer to the document should they introduce legislation or curriculum that would lead to sexual health education and learning materials acknowledging lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender students and those who are exploring their sexual identity.

Burbank parents formed a committee to write the resolution at the start of the school year, based on the work of former John Burroughs High School student Brian Kaplun.

Now a freshman at Stanford, Kaplan, 19, wrote a bill while he belonged to Burroughs’ Junior State of America Club. In it, he advocated for health standards that deal with issues surrounding gender expression and identity, in addition to supporting a safe learning environment for LGBTQ students.

“From a personal experience, I’ve never been bullied as a result of being gay…There’s never been violence against me or anyone I know… but we still have a ways to go,” he said during the phone interview.

California education code prohibits discrimination based on students’ sexual orientation, and states that sexual health instruction and learning materials “shall be appropriate for use with pupils of all races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and pupils with disabilities.”

However, in Kaplun’s experience, many LGBTQ students have been marginalized during conversations about sexual health in the classroom, which are largely given in the context of heterosexual relationships, he said.

After writing the bill for the club, “I thought to myself, I want to make this a real thing. It’s a really important issue,” Kaplun said.

He then approached state Sen. Carol Liu, who suggested working with the Burbank school board. Roberta Reynolds, school board member and a longtime member of the PTA, advised Kaplun to take it to the PTA to draft a resolution.

“I thought this was a great idea,” Frintner said, and when he brought the idea to fellow parents, they responded with overwhelming support, some of them with transgender, gay or lesbian children, others without, but all in agreement that the issue needed to be addressed.

“It wasn’t a hard sell,” Frintner said. “Everyone was on board.”

For the next several months, the Burbank Council PTA resolution committee backed up the resolution with recent research citing cases of LGBTQ students dropping out of school or becoming depressed because they didn’t feel they belonged, or in the most devastating events, they physically hurt themselves.

“That’s why we really feel like it’s so important and such a big issue for us,” Frintner said.

The draft ultimately won support from First District PTA — encompassing all PTA groups from Burbank to Pomona, including the Glendale Council PTA, which paved the way for it to be introduced at the state level.

On May 2, the day it came down to a vote in Sacramento, opponents who spoke out against it said gender identity and sexual health education were topics that would be better left to discuss within the family home. Others approached the contingent of Burbank parents and students with gratitude and encouragement.

“People I didn’t know shared their own moving stories,” Kaplun said.

Fellow students Susie Miller, a Burbank High senior, and Jessica Little, now a freshman softball player at Glendale Community College, also spoke in favor of the resolution passing.

“This resolution means a lot to me because I have people that are close to me — best friends that went through high school and middle school not really being accepted for who they were,” Little said. “I do have friends and family who were affected either by bullying or weren’t fully understood by their peers.”

She added that students could also learn that it’s OK to have two moms or two dads in a more accepting environment.

As the vote came down from more than 600 delegates, the resolution secured about 60% approval, and Frintner sunk into his chair with overwhelming relief.

“I had to just stop for about five minutes,” he said. “I had to put things down and try and breathe, and it took me several minutes to compose myself before I could start paying attention again to the next order of business.”

Kaplun is hopeful that the resolution could spur legislative action.

“My personal goal is to work to actually effect real change,” he said.

The resolution will also go before voters at the National PTA convention in Orlando next year.

“As generations are going on, they’re becoming more accepting,” Little said. “I think it’s a very good time to start to become more aware of these issues. It’s to help everybody. Everybody has a voice, and everybody needs to be understood.”