Thursday, July 02, 2015


By Karen Baroody and Melissa Galvez | EdSource |

 Jul 1, 2015  | Earlier this year Superintendent Devin Vodicka of Vista Unified School District in Southern California gathered his leadership team to revise their Local Control Accountability Plan.

To inspire the team, he used the metaphor of a house. He compared his district’s budget right after the 2008 recession to a storm-battered cabin. It had been ravaged, but it also gave the district an opportunity to rebuild better – to “dream big and think differently.” The new dream house could look many different ways, he said, but the important thing is that it be built deliberately and on a strong foundation.

With the announcement of the new state budget earlier this month, California districts can look forward to new resources to help build that dream house. The budget agreement increases funding for the Local Control Funding Formula by $6.1 billion, bringing the total very close to “full funding” that was expected to take 8 years to come in. The question is, with the influx of new funds, will school districts rebuild their houses the way they were, or will they seize this opportunity to dream big?

Last year, The Education Trust – West did a detailed analysis of 40 LCAPs and a shorter review of 100 more. [ see following]

They concluded that “In general, districts offer only modest innovation in the first year,” noting that most districts “are shoring up rising staffing costs, restoring programs and personnel cut during the Great Recession…and adding one or two new programs for high-needs students.” The Legislative Analyst’s Office and the Public Policy Institute of California also raised concerns about how well the proposed action items aligned with goals.

This is understandable. California districts are still reeling from years of severe cuts, and under LCFF, had to learn to exercise unprecedented planning authority in a relatively short period of time, and in accordance with changing state guidelines. Districts are preparing to submit their first annual LCAP Update, and those may reflect exciting, productive changes.

But “modest innovation” will not solve California’s chronic education problems. How can district leaders use the prospect of new dollars to truly transform their systems and schools—and ensure that every new and old dollar is doing the most to help all students? This will mean taking a hard look at the way they currently allocate resources – including people, time, and money – and considering what they can do instead, not just in addition. It means considering structural costs that might be controlled by more than one central office department, like teacher compensation, hiring and staffing policies, and how students and teachers use their time during the school day. If the proverbial budget house is drafty, it means being willing to tear down and rebuild a room more effectively, rather than just patching the holes in the slats.

For example, if elementary reading is a trouble area, a typical district might budget for extra professional development or a new literacy program. But a strategic district will consider systemic changes that improve instruction for the long term. This might mean reorganizing school schedules to ensure struggling students get more time in reading or to provide enough collaborative planning time for teacher teams led by expert coaches. Or it could consider policies to attract and retain excellent teachers, such as hiring earlier and more strategically, or increasing compensation for teachers who take on leadership and responsibilities. These strategies can be tailored to most clearly support high-need students, but they also help all students succeed.

Adjusting these fundamental structures is likely to provide a greater return on investment (ROI) than just adding new programs to what’s already there. Many people associate ROI with cold and calculating businessmen tallying profits. But it’s simply about improving the impact of limited resources – in this case, impact defined as student learning, parent involvement, or any of the other priority areas laid out in the Local Control Funding Formula. Districts can estimate the ROI of different strategies by looking at their own data, national studies, or the experience of peer districts. It’s not necessary to calculate an exact number that summarizes the ROI of a particular strategy – even labeling different options as likely “low,” “medium” and “high” ROI is enough.

We call this system-strategy return-on-investment thinking. It’s about starting with fundamental student needs and asking not “Which program is better?” but “What resources will meet this need?”

Vista’s superintendent Vodicka says that system-strategy return-on-investment is a “fabulous concept” and the “wave of the future,” but notes that, in his experience, it is challenging to implement it immediately. For starters, districts’ data systems are often not integrated with each other, making it difficult to track the impact of a particular strategy. In Vista Unified, they are working to make their data systems “talk to each other” so that one day, the district can better measure and monitor progress. And he cautions that there are at least some crucial budget cuts that simply need to be refilled.

But if system-strategy return-on-investment sounds daunting, it doesn’t have to be. At Education Resource Strategies we have developed a series of tools and resources that can help California districts apply a system-strategy return on investment approach to their strategic planning. The two most important aspects of this approach are stepping back and looking beyond the normal solutions to consider shifts in fundamental resource use, and using data – however incomplete – to prioritize investments by their likely impact. It is, after all, what the proposed LCFF evaluation rubric calls for: not “continuing historical practices” but “selecting [investments] based on evidence of effectiveness.” It’s not about rebuilding the kitchen or adding a wing, but remodeling the edifice for the 21st century.

<<Karen Baroody and Melissa Galvez of Education Resource Strategies

Karen Baroody is managing director and Melissa Galvez is a writer at Education Resource Strategies, a national nonprofit that partners with districts and states to analyze how districts use their resources and design new strategies aimed at increasing student success.


REPORT: LCFF Case Studies

Published on Feb 12, 2015 by Ed Trust - West

California’s Landmark Local Control Funding Formula dramatically changed the way the state funds its school districts, directing greater resources to districts serving large numbers of low-income students, English learners, and students in foster care. LCFF also shifted substantially more control over spending decisions to school districts and communities. In a series of case studies, Education Trust – West describes how the first year of LCFF implementation unfolded in several focus districts around the state. The purpose of these case studies is to illustrate LCFF implementation at the local level from multiple perspectives. These case studies describe ways in which community stakeholders and districts engaged with one another to develop their Local Control Accountability Plans. The case studies also provide an analysis of each focus district’s LCAP, with an eye towards how transparently and effectively each district shared its decision-making with the public, along with how the districts proposed to invest in the success of low-income students, English learners, and foster youth. We also provide a one-page “At a Glance” information sheet for each focus district. This includes district demographic and budget information, a community engagement overview, and highlights from the district’s LCAP.

smf 2cents

 NOTE; Ed Trust – West and many of the cited sources in the ‘14-15 ETW/LAUSD Case Study are noted School ®eformers aligned with Secretary Duncan, the Broad/Gates/Waltons – and the then superintendent John Deasy – whose LCAP this was.  The Walton Foundation is thanked for their support.

ALSO NOTE: Footnote #5 in the LAUSD at a Glance: “5 Los Angeles County Office of Education approved the LCAP after receiving clarification on how LAUSD calculated its supplemental and concentration grants, considering the inclusion of special education expenditures.” 

This fails to mention that LACOE originally DID NOT APPROVE the LAUSD LCAP because of the Special Ed inclusion. No other district included Special Ed in their LCAP - and despite the ‘clarification’ a lawsuit was filed July 1 challenging the Special Ed inclusion in the “unduplicated students”



image image image image

Other district case studies are available here:


By Jane Meredith Adams | EDSOURCE |

    How many kindergarteners opted-out of vaccinations at your school? Click for the database.

How many kindergarteners opted-out of vaccinations at your school? Click for the database.

Jul 1, 2015 | Now that Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law – which he did on Tuesday – a bill that says parents can no longer refuse to vaccinate their children based on their personal opposition, schools and parents are parsing the fine print to put the new law into practice.

The law, Senate Bill 277, will roll out in phases, giving school staff time to sort out vaccination compliance issues and parents who oppose full immunization time to sort through their options.

Most school districts in California will be affected, with 47 out of 58 California counties in 2014-15 reporting they had kindergartners with personal belief exemptions to school-required vaccinations. (To find out how many kindergartners opted out of vaccinations at your school, click here.)

Still, the numbers are small. Statewide, more than 13,500 kindergartners held personal belief exemptions in 2014-15, a sliver of the state’s kindergarten enrollment of 500,000. And the numbers ranged widely across the state, from two kindergartners in Colusa County to 2,100 kindergartners in Los Angeles County.

In the coming months, the California Department of Public Health, in conjunction with the California Department of Education, will be issuing regulations and guidance to schools. At this point, here are answers to frequently asked questions, as explained in the text of the legislation and in analysis by the lawmakers.

What does the law say?

Private or public child care centers, preschools, elementary schools and secondary schools cannot admit children unless they are immunized against 10 diseases: diphtheria, Haemophilus influenzae type b (bacterial meningitis), measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, rubella, tetanus, hepatitis B and chicken pox.

If the Legislature votes to add other vaccination requirements, parents will be allowed to obtain personal belief exemptions for those new vaccinations, the law says.

What did the law change?

The law eliminated the personal belief exemption for required vaccinations. This exemption allowed parents to opt out of vaccinating their children by completing a form, signed by a health care practitioner, attesting that vaccinations were counter to their personal beliefs.

The law also overrides an allowance for a religious exemption to vaccinations that Brown had inserted three years ago in previous legislation. The religious exemption was not part of state statute.

Are there exemptions to the new law?

Yes, there are three: medical, special education and homeschooling or independent study.

Young children and students may obtain a written medical exemption to vaccinations from a licensed physician. The reason for the medical exemption may include family medical history.

A child who has an individualized education program, as required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, will be allowed to obtain special education services regardless of whether the child is vaccinated or not.

The law states that the vaccination requirements do not apply to students who are enrolled in a home-based private school or an independent study program. Some questions remain about whether students enrolled in independent study through publicly funded district or charter schools would be exempt from complying with the law; the issue will be clarified in guidance from the California Department of Public Health.

When does the law go into effect?

July 1, 2016.

Will kindergartners be allowed to enroll “conditionally” if they have not yet completed the required vaccinations?

Yes. School districts already have their own systems for tracking and following up with kindergartners who are not fully immunized. Whatever systems districts are currently using will remain in place.

What about children who currently have personal belief exemptions on file?

Children who hold personal belief exemptions to vaccinations before Jan. 1, 2016 are “grandfathered in.” The new law does not apply to them until they reach their next vaccination checkpoint – kindergarten or 7th grade.

If it is determined that a child has been exposed to one of the 10 diseases named in the immunization requirements and does not have proof of immunization, the child may be temporarily kept out of school.

If parents wish to obtain a personal belief exemption before Jan. 1, 2016, they should go to their child’s school, pick up a personal belief exemption form, meet with a health care practitioner and obtain the practitioner’s signature, and return the form to the school before the deadline. A health care practitioner is defined for these purposes as a school nurse, doctor, nurse practitioner, naturopath, osteopath or physician’s assistant.

Will unvaccinated children who move from one California school or district to another have to meet the vaccination requirements of new students?

Newly enrolled students are required to be up to date on immunizations. Whether the personal belief exemption will travel with students relocating within California is thought to be likely, but will be clarified in forthcoming guidance.

What vaccinations are required of unvaccinated students before entering 7th grade?

As of July 1, 2016, all students entering 7th grade will be required to have the pertussis vaccination.

It’s not yet clear what, if any, other vaccinations those previously unvaccinated students may have to receive – but it won’t include the hepatitis B vaccination, which is given in a series of three shots. The law specifically states that full immunization against hepatitis B is not a requirement for entering 7th grade. The issue will be clarified in the forthcoming guidance from the California Department of Public Health.

What are the options for parents who do not want to have their children vaccinated?

Parents who do not want to vaccinate will have two options for their kindergartners and seventh graders starting in fall 2016: obtain a medical exemption to vaccinations or enroll in homeschooling or independent study.

What is homeschooling and independent study?

According to the California Homeschool Network, parents who wish to homeschool have four options:

  • The first is to establish their own private home school by filing a private school affidavit. Parents are free to collaborate with other homeschools. Homeschools are required to teach California mandated subject areas, but have latitude as to when and how such subjects are taught.
  • The second option is to join another private home school and become a “satellite” home school.
  • Third, parents may enroll in a district or charter public school that offers independent study. The student receives assignments from a teacher but fulfills most of the work independently.
  • The fourth option is to homeschool by hiring a credentialed tutor.

Jane Meredith Adams covers student health and well-being for EdSource


…the clock is ticking, yet they take July+August off!

Los Angeles Unified: new board members, new president, soon new superintendent

By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News  |

Scott Mark Schmerelson joins the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, July 2, 2015. (File photo by Hans...

Scott Mark Schmerelson joins the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, July 2, 2015. (File photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)


Ref Rodriguez joins the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, July 2, 2015. (Courtesy photo)

Ref Rodriguez joins the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, July 2, 2015. (Courtesy photo)

Posted: 07/01/15, 7:40 AM PDT | Updated: 9PM  ::  The Los Angeles Unified school board seated two members, elected a president and discussed the upcoming search for a superintendent Wednesday.

The superintendent replacement, newly installed board President Steven Zimmer said, will be guided by current Supt. Ramon Cortines.

“If I was given the opportunity to have any one person in the country guide a superintendent search, I would choose Ray Cortines,” said Zimmer, who was elected president Wednesday in a 7-0 vote.

One of his first jobs will be coordinating the outreach for a successor to Cortines, who has announced he would leave in six months.

The process takes about seven months from the time a recruiter begins soliciting candidates. The school board, however, has yet to decide on an employment recruiter to tackle the search.

Zimmer said he hopes to call a meeting between now and the board’s next scheduled session on Sept. 1, but even if those plans fall through, he still expects a transparent process with plenty of community input.

Earlier Wednesday, the school board welcomed two members, Scott Schmerelson and Ref Rodriguez. Both won runoff elections in May, with the teachers’ union backing Schmerelson and its adversary — charter school advocates — supporting Rodriguez.

Schmerelson, a retired LAUSD principal who has worked at more than a half dozen campuses across the city, handily beat incumbent Tamar Galatzan for the District 3 seat, elected by voters in the western San Fernando Valley.

“After working at all of these different places, I know that I am responsible for all of our students, no matter what district they live in,” Schmerelson said.

Rodriguez ousted incumbent Bennett Kayser for the District 5 seat with the confidence of voters in areas including South Los Angeles and Echo Park. “We are unified in one thing,” Rodriguez said. “We are here to educate all kids — they come first.”

Two board members had their terms renewed Wednesday.

George McKenna ran unopposed this year after winning an election last year to finish out the term of late board member Marguerite Lamotte, who passed away in December while at a California School Boards Association convention.

Board member Richard Vladovic won his May runoff to retain the District 7 seat, which represents the South Bay.

All four members elected this year will serve longer board terms — five and a half years — because a ballot measure passed in May that consolidates their re-election bids with statewide ballots in 2020.


Vowing unity, new LA Unified board members sworn into office

Posted on LA School Report by Mike Szymanski|

July 1, 2015 3:15 pm    ::  Two new LA Unified board members and two former board members took their oath of office today during a ceremony in which they vowed to bring unity and collaboration to the district and with each other.

For each member, it was the start of a five-and-a-half year term, following a change in the city’s voting schedule to get more people to the polls.

The other three board members -  new president Steve Zimmer, Mónica Ratliff and Mónica García — watched from the stage, along with lame-duck Superintendent Ramon Cortines, as newly-elected Ref Rodriguez and Scott Schmerelson, along with Richard Vladovic and George McKenna were given the oath of office.

In brief remarks after the oath, each member spoke with passion about  hoped-for unity on the new board and their dedication to serving. They also had kind words for Cortines.

Rodriguez, a charter school executive who won a contentious election campaign against Bennett Kayser, angering other board members, said he wanted to talk about the “U” in LAUSD.

“Unified means that we all are welcome, there’s a place for you in our district,” said Rodriguez, who also gave part of his speech in Spanish. “I want to make sure that we put love at the center of everything we do in this district.”

Rodriguez named each fellow board member by name and said, “I know that we will be unified in our quest to make Los Angeles excellent.” He even had a bro-hug for Zimmer, who had criticized him for the ugliness of his campaign.

McKenna, who ran unopposed after serving out the term of the late Marguerite LaMotte, said, “We must work together, but we don’t always have to agree.”

McKenna pointed out: “Our most important constituents didn’t vote for me because they aren’t old enough to vote, and they don’t know our names.”

He said, “If anyone knows anything more precious than children, you tell me.”

He praised Cortines and teachers, saying, “We know our teachers are more valuable than entertainers, more valuable than athletes, more valuable than politicians.”

Schmerelson, who described himself as “a plain old guy from the school,” was sworn in by representatives of the two unions who supported him in his victory over Tamar Galatzan: Colleen Schwab, a vice president of the teachers union, UTLA; and Judy Perez, the newly-retired president of the principals union, Associated Administrators of Los Angeles.

“I am the right person for the job,” he said. He pointed to all the union support he received in his election and said that “unions can united to work together.” Unlike Galatzan, who also worked in the city attorney’s office, Schmerelson said, “I will be a full-time board member.”

Schmerelson also promised a “bully-free” environment and promised that “parents get the attention and respect they deserve.”

Vladovic, the out-going board president who defeated Lydia Gutierrez in his bid for a third term, was given the oath by his son-in-law, Merrill T. Sparago. In his brief remarks, Vladovic conceded, “We have our problems as any family, but LA as a district works.”

He also praised Cortines, recalling a 6 a.m. telephone call from Cortines years ago when Cortines served in an earlier term as superintendent and Vladovic was an area supervisor.

“He pushes us hard, and that’s good,” Vladovic said. “There is not a person here who I question their motives. They all care about our children.”

The ceremony was held at the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center and was followed by a meeting at LA Unified headquarters, where Zimmer was voted in unanimously as board president.

With the addition of Schmerelson and Rodriguez, LA Unified now has a school board that has no member with a child in an LA Unified school.

New L.A. school board members are sworn in, but old challenges remain

By Howard Blume | LA Times |

Ref Rodriguez, a new member of the Los Angeles Board of Education, greets Supt. Ramon Cortines before the board's meeting Wednesday. (Mark Boster, Los Angeles Times)


2 July 2015  ::  Before choosing Steve Zimmer as their new president, L.A. school board members gave him a lecture: He would need to build consensus, welcome those with differing politics and varying approaches to education, and speak for them as a whole.

Their admonishments made it clear that the seven-member board remained split by sharp differences on how to confront an array of challenges — particularly as two new members were sworn in Wednesday.

The new board includes charter school co-founder Ref Rodriguez, who replaces teachers union ally Bennett Kayser, the board's most unrelenting critic of charter schools. And Scott Schmerelson, a teachers union-backed retired principal, defeated incumbent Tamar Galatzan, an opponent of the union on key issues.

LAUSD board


Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times | LAUSD board members and staff give a standing ovation to outgoing LAUSD Supt. Ramon C. Cortines during the annual meeting at LAUSD headquarters.

The board faces pressing issues in the nation's second-largest school system — chief among them, the selection of a new superintendent. But first the board members acknowledged personal and policy disparities.

"I do believe the board president will have to do some healing and bringing together," Zimmer said.

The divides on the Board of Education reflect differences and doubts in the wider community, said Charles Kerchner, a professor in the school of educational studies at Claremont Graduate University.

The Los Angeles Unified School District "faces an existential problem that people have lost confidence in the district's ability to solve its problems and create a sense of excitement about the many good things that are going on," Kerchner said. "If this continues, there will be increasingly forceful calls to break up the district or radically alter its governance."

In coming months, the board will deal with an improved but limited budget, one that includes long-awaited pay raises but also layoffs. Sweeping academic challenges also persist, including the need to revamp the college prep program so that more students graduate. The district also has yet to resolve two technology debacles: a faulty student records system and an aborted plan to provide every student, teacher and campus administrator with an iPad.

Some analysts say the two incumbents lost their seats in large measure because opponents associated them with the costly iPad project, which became the target of an FBI investigation. Galatzan was an early supporter and Kayser, though a frequent critic, took a similar beating in campaign materials. The iPad effort had been a major initiative of former Supt. John Deasy, who resigned under pressure in October.

The new board represents an ideological shuffling, especially concerning charter schools, which are independently operated and exempt from some rules that govern traditional campuses. Most charters are nonunion, and the teachers union has sought to limit their growth.

The effect and oversight of charters could be a point of conflict.

But Rodriguez indicated he would collaborate with his colleagues.

"I will do everything in my power to ensure that we are unified," he said at the swearing-in ceremony at the Roybal Learning Center.

He implied that it was time to move beyond a vitriolic campaign that left bitter feelings between his supporters and those of Kayser, who included Zimmer.

George McKenna, who won his first full term in May after winning a special election in August, and Richard Vladovic, who won a third term, also took the oath of office.

The task of choosing a superintendent has become especially pressing since Ramon Cortines, who came out of retirement after Deasy's resignation, said he would prefer to leave by the end of the year. The previous board, pleased with Cortines' work, had put off any moves until the new members were seated.

The choice is about more than finding a capable administrator. By choosing Deasy, for example, the board had, in effect, opted for a particular direction in reforms, one that included the controversial use of test scores as one element in a teacher's evaluation.

The selection of the next superintendent is as much about philosophy as managerial competence. On that, the previous board — and five of seven members are returning — often struggled to find common ground on policy. The two new members are championed by vastly different constituencies, even though they all said they shared the same priority — the best interests of students.

Vladovic could not continue as board president because of a rule barring more than two consecutive one-year terms. Some board members had tried to change the rule — and thwart Zimmer — but failed.

So board members lectured Zimmer instead. Although the formal vote for Zimmer was unanimous, insiders said his appointment was based on a 4-3 majority, which included his own vote.

Monica Ratliff said she wanted the president to speak for the entire board but without getting ahead of it, while also acting transparently, without making alliances behind the scenes.

Monica Garcia reminded him that the position was "an opportunity to say out loud what we're trying to do," adding that "when we make comments about our beliefs," the views of the board president "get picked up at national and local levels in the way that individual voices do not."

Schmerelson talked about the need to be "open, sincere, even-tempered."

In an interview, Vladovic said he tried to bring the board together around important issues, such as support for Cortines and the successful resolution of contract negotiations with teachers.

Critics have questioned whether that deal is affordable, but Vladovic insisted it is — provided that all sides commit to solving long-term problems, such as how to keep paying for retiree health benefits.

"I tried to tone down the animus on the board even when there were strong feelings," he said. "I'm not an ideologue."

During his time in office, Zimmer has become more closely associated with the teachers union, especially after he relied on union backing to win reelection two years ago. One of his first moves Wednesday was to appoint a liaison between the board and labor groups. He asked Vladovic to serve in that role.

Schmerelson supporter Brent Smiley, who taught at a school where the new board member was principal, said he was hopeful.

"My sense was the school board members didn't like each other very much, and bringing people together is Scott's strength," Smiley said.



Zimmer wins unanimous approval to serve as LAUSD board leader

Posted on  LA Schoool Report  by Vanessa Romo |

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

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

July 1, 2015 4:28 pm  ::  One week after it appeared Richard Vladovic was destined to serve as president of the LA Unified board for a third consecutive term, the members unanimously today elected Steve Zimmer as its new leader, giving the district its most teacher union friendly president in more than a decade.

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

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

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

McKenna gladly accepted the nomination after Zimmer was elected.

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

Not exactly a resounding vote of confidence for Zimmer.

Still, Zimmer’s joy could not be stifled, and he wept in thanking Vladovic for being “my friend, my mentor, my colleague.” Then Zimmer presented Vladovic with a plaque.

“I’m going to make mistakes and letting people down and disappointing people is the hardest thing about this job and we all experience it in a very public way,” he said.  That is why, he said, “I want to ask you for your openness, honesty, input, partnership.”

In recent weeks Zimmer has repeatedly spoken about the new president’s role in selecting a new superintendent for the country’s largest school district run by a board and he wasted no time today. He said the process will be undertaken in full collaboration with Superintendent Ramon Cortines, 82, who signed a year-long extension several months ago but then surprised the board last week saying he might leave by December.

“Now that the business of the budget, the elections, and today are behind us, we can move on to the next big question facing LAUSD today, who are we going to choose to lead,” Zimmer said. “Given the opportunity to have one person in the county to help guide our search, I would choose Cortines,” he added.

After Zimmer’s comments, the board gave Cortines a standing ovation.

Despite Cortines’s six-month warning — no formal notice has been delivered to the board regarding a resignation date —  Zimmer says he doesn’t expect Cortines to leave before a new superintendent is hired.

But the clock is ticking, and today the board could not agree on a meeting date for the month August. The next meeting is scheduled for September 1, which means that the district can’t issue a Request for Proposals (or any kind of help-wanted ad) until September 2, at the earliest.

“I don’t know how it will work out but we will work it out,” Zimmer said. “There might be some timeline consolidation but it will get done.”

Besides a personal triumph, Zimmer’s ascension symbolized a triumph for the teachers union, UTLA, which has been among his strongest strong supporters since he first won election to the board in 2009. He follows Vladovic, who came to the board as a reformer with help from former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, before drifting to the center as board president.

Prior to Vladovic, Garcia, a staunch reformer, served as president for six years. Before she could serve a seventh, the board passed the term limit rule.



Lawsuit: LAUSD Misappropriated Funds For High-Need Students

from Associated Press (CBS2) |

Lawsuit says LAUSD short-changing neediest students

by Mary Plummer | KPCC 89.3 |

Audio from this story: 1:00 Listen


July 1, 2015 12:24 PM  |  LOS ANGELES (AP) — Civil rights groups filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District Wednesday alleging that millions of dollars intended to help low income, foster care and English-learner students were diverted to special education services.

The nonprofit law firm Public Advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California assert the nation’s second largest school counted special education costs in the 2013-14 school year instead as spending on services for the students targeted under a new funding law.

The local control funding formula adopted in 2013 provides districts with higher numbers of low income, foster care and English learner students with additional funds. While districts are given discretion on how to spend the funds, the regulations require they be spent on the designated high-need students in proportion to the increase in funds received. The law is considered one of the nation’s largest public undertakings to equalize educational opportunities.

“LAUSD is breaking its promise to provide my children and millions of other students in the future, with the services they need and the law says they should receive,” said Reyna Frias, a mother of two students who qualify for the additional funds and a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims LAUSD included $450 million in special education spending in its 2013-14 estimate of expenditures tied to the supplemental and concentration grants determined by a district’s number of low-income, foster care and English learner students. As a result, the groups claim LAUSD inflated its baseline spending, “lessening its obligation to spend new funds it will receive to increase or improve services for these students over the course of implementation.”

Public Advocates and the ACLU estimate that as a result high need students were deprived of about $126 million in the 2014-15 school year and $288 million in the next. The groups conclude low-income, foster care and English learner students will miss out on more than $2 billion total by the time the law is fully implemented in 2020-21.

The lawyers are asking Los Angeles Superior Court to require the district to recalculate its previous expenditures and for the county superintendent to reject LAUSD’s annual accountability plan, which it is due to approve by early August.

The suit is believed to be the first to specifically address proportional spending on high need students. The groups said they don’t want LAUSD to set a precedent for other districts.

“If other districts followed LAUSD’s lead the promise of LCFF would evaporate overnight,” said John Affeldt, an attorney for Public Advocates.

In a board meeting in June, LAUSD leaders said local control funding has been spent on increasing the number of counselors, providing additional supports for foster care students, as well as toward the district’s implementation of restorative justice. They also acknowledged spending money toward schools that had been hardest hit by the recession.

File photo: Legal groups have filed a suit against Los Angeles Unified, charging that the district has diverted funds meant to help foster youth and other high-needs students.

File photo: Legal groups have filed a suit against Los Angeles Unified, charging that the district has diverted funds meant to help foster youth and other high-needs students. Kathryn Baron/KQED

July 01, 11:58 AM  ::  Legal advocates filed a lawsuit Wednesday charging that Los Angeles Unified misused $126 million in state education dollars and funneled it away from the district's neediest students.

The suit, filed Wednesday morning by Public Advocates, ACLU Foundation of Southern California and Covington & Burling LLP in Los Angeles Superior Court, takes the district to task for inappropriately using the funds to pay for special education, services that they say should come out of the district's general fund.

The lawsuit is the first of what could be a broader legal challenge across California examining how school districts use state dollars designated for English-learning, low-income and foster care students.

"This accounting manipulation will shortchange these students over $2 billion over the next decade," said Victor Leung, staff attorney at ACLU Foundation of Southern California.

In a Los Angeles Unified release, the district said it was disappointed by the suit. "We believe that this group has misinterpreted the Local Control Funding Formula. The Legislature clearly granted school districts — which serve predominantly low-income students, foster youth and English language learners — the highest degree of flexibility in determining student program needs."

The dollars in dispute come out of a funding pot called local control funding formula or LCFF — a new state system implemented by Gov. Jerry Brown two years ago to shift funding decisions to the local level and help improve learning for high-needs students.

LCFF has dramatically increased education funding across the state, helping to restore school district budgets that saw deep cuts during the recession.

The legal advocates say LAUSD's special education budget includes LCFF funds that they argue should be used to increase or improve services for the targeted students. Instead, the district is using the new funds to pay for basics, specifically special education, that it is already legally required to cover.

"They are taking credit for what they were already doing," said David Sapp, director of education advocacy for the ACLU of California. "That reduces the amount of new increased or improved services for the three high-needs student groups that LCFF identifies."

In court documents, the plaintiffs say the district's inappropriate LCFF spending amounts to $126 million for the 2014-2015 school year. They also say the district is on track to short-change the targeted students by $288 million for the 2015-2016 school year.

Without a re-calculation, the lawsuit says, high-needs students in the district could lose $2 billion in funding over the next decade.

“LAUSD is breaking its promise to provide my children and millions of other students in the future, with the services they need and the law says they should receive,” said Reyna Frias, a mother of two Los Angeles Unified students who is among the plaintiffs, in a news release. Her children qualify for targeted LCFF funds.

This story has been updated.

LAUSD misspent money on special education that was meant for foster care, English learners, lawsuit alleges

By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News |

Posted: 7/1/15, 11:39 AM PDT | Updated: 7/2  ::  A lawsuit filed by civil rights groups claims the Los Angeles Unified School District violated state law when it spent hundreds of millions of dollars on special education students.

The state funding was supposed to help students living in poverty or foster care or those struggling to learn the English language, according to the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Advocates and the law firm Covington and Burlington LLP.

A non-profit group, Community Coalition of South Los Angeles and an LAUSD parent, Reyna Frias, were claimants in the civil action that alleges $400 million last school year and next is misspent on special education.

“LAUSD is breaking its promise to provide my children and millions of other students in the future with the services they need and the law says they should receive,” said Frias, whose children are among those meant to be helped by the new state funding plan, called Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF.

LAUSD General Counsel Dave Holmquist denied the allegations. The district’s spending, he said, follows state law.

District officials have been working with the civil rights groups in hopes of avoiding a lawsuit, Holmquist said.

“We’re disappointed they chose to file a lawsuit,” Holmquist said.

A recent report from the University of California, Berkeley, and United Way of Greater Los Angeles criticized the district for its spending on special education, while leaving few dollars dedicated to students for whom the increased state funding was meant to help.

Last month, this news organization reported that with nearly 14 percent of all students in special education, LAUSD officials had identified more pupils with learning disabilities than the statewide average and the other four largest school districts in the state.

According to the lawsuit, LAUSD was already obligated to fund special education programs when the state allocated additional funding to help students who are low-income, in foster care or English learners.

“If every district uses its new LCFF funds to pay for things it’s already legally required to do like LAUSD, the promise of California’s new funding law will evaporate overnight,” said John Affeldt, managing attorney with Public Advocates. “LCFF requires that LAUSD use these hundreds of millions of dollars to deliver new and better services to targeted students.”

Wednesday, July 01, 2015


By The Times Editorial Board  |

Jerry Brown

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 277 into law on Tuesday, eliminating personal belief exemptions for vaccinations. Above, Brown addresses the California State Association of Counties Legislative Conference in Sacramento on May 27.  (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

1July2015  ::  Congratulations, California. With Gov. Jerry Brown's swift signature Tuesday on a tough new mandatory vaccination bill, the state has established itself as a national leader on public health. Of course, it will take some years for reality to catch up with the bill's mandates. First there will be the inevitable lawsuits. And even if those don't delay implementation, it will still take a few years before all California students are immunized, because those currently in seventh grade and higher are not required under the law to be vaccinated.

Even with younger students, schools will have to learn to work with parents to get their children fully immunized rather than being forced into one of two undesirable alternatives: turning away all students who don't have every vaccination completed, or lackadaisically ignoring the new law.

So there are still challenges ahead. But this week, the state has already transformed itself, ending its absurdly loose policies on vaccination and moving to protect not just the health of young children but the public as a whole. In his usual terse style, Brown acknowledged the heartfelt concerns of SB 277's opponents but neatly summed up the reasons for making it law. "The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases," he wrote. "While it's true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community."

Tougher vaccination laws are necessary to achieve what is known as "herd immunity" — the level at which even children who are too medically fragile for vaccination, or whose bodies don't respond to vaccination, are protected by the health of others. To achieve that, 90% to 95% of the school-age population must be vaccinated.

Yet opponents have been sharpening their legal arguments for months; even the American Civil Liberties Union chimed in, saying that because the state Constitution guarantees access to a public education, a vaccine mandate might unconstitutionally keep children from obtaining that education. So far, though, courts have consistently upheld government's right to make vaccination compulsory despite such constitutional guarantees. Mississippi's stringent immunization law for schoolchildren has withstood legal challenge, and this year a federal court upheld New York City's vaccination rule.

As far back as 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the common good of public health could take precedence over the right of individual choice. The case involved a Massachusetts man who refused to submit to a smallpox vaccine during an outbreak. As it happens, smallpox was declared eradicated through vaccination in 1980.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


newsfeed compiled by The Maddy Daily

30June2015  ::  California Senate sends mandatory vaccine bill to governor -- After months of packed committee hearings and lengthy floor debates, California’s controversial mandatory vaccinations proposal now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for consideration. In a 24-14 concurrence vote, the state Senate on Monday accepted Assembly amendments to Senate Bill 277, which would eliminate California’s personal and religious belief exemptions for vaccinating schoolchildren, and sent the measure to Brown’s desk. Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article; AP article; San Jose Mercury News article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Monday, June 29, 2015


by Barbara Michelman in the ASCD Policy Priorities | Summer 2015 | Volume 21 | Number 2 |


smf 2centsI was asked last week for a one line quote for PTA publication on the work we do. I’m good at that… and hyperbolized immediately about ‘Educating the Whole Child…” because it’s the thing to do+say.    Of course “Whole” is pretty all-encompassing – but I agree with the following that challenging and engaging curricula; strong social-emotional and physical health supports; moral and ethical development; and safe, supportive learning environments …creating policies and support practices that address the multifaceted and individualized learning needs of each child, regardless of geographic location, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and mental or physical abilities - are no less and probably more important than test scores. OK, cross out probably. Should teachers and schools be accountable for academic outcomes? Yes. But they need be accountable with all the rest of us villagers for all the other moving pieces.

Like Horton, we say what we mean and we mean what we say …but what exactly do we mean? It’s always the right time to ask that question.

115037[1] 29June2015  ::  When asked what defines an excellent preK–12 educational experience, professional educators overwhelmingly provide an answer that goes well beyond academic achievement. Why, then, do the majority of district, state, and federal education policies prioritize annual assessment results over equally important factors, such as challenging and engaging curricula; strong social-emotional and physical health supports; moral and ethical development; and safe, supportive learning environments?

The commonly accepted—but narrow—definition of student "success" that centers on academic achievement dismisses research documenting life-long payoffs of a "whole child-centered" approach to teaching and learning that accounts for children's cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and ethical development. One subtle but significant challenge in shifting toward this expansive approach to education is that shareholders do not agree on the terms and definitions of the factors that make up a whole child framework. The same term can refer to similar—but different—concepts. Also, an educator's understanding of a term may differ from that of a policymaker, parent, or business leader.

To enable thoughtful, engaged conversation on issues that matter to educators, parents, communities, and students, we need clarity on key educational terms and philosophies, such as character education, school climate, social-emotional learning, and 21st century skills. The ability to speak with greater precision and cohesion would help diverse stakeholder groups create policies and support practices that address the multifaceted and individualized learning needs of each (whole) child, regardless of geographic location, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and mental or physical abilities.'s President and CEO Becky Sipos acknowledges the confusion around educational terms and their application: "Parents don't understand … policymakers don't know what to support. There are a lot of parallel tracks. How can we build the field so that there is public acceptance [as well as] demand … and to respect [all of] these as essential—not 'soft'—skills?"

National School Climate Center (NSCC) President Jonathan Cohen notes that consensus on both individual and shared terminology is an "important and worthwhile goal."

Cohen believes that "there are more similarities than there are differences" between these approaches, adding that it's "politically [and] strategically important to support each other's efforts in a 'coordinated, unified manner.'"

Greater agreement around educational outcomes leads to less importance being placed on the words used to describe them, said Helen Soule, executive director of the Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21). While acknowledging the confusion over different terms, she notes that "from a public perspective … I don't know that's the argument we ought to be having." Instead, Soule offers, we should focus on how to reach the best educational outcomes "whatever your definition is."

You Say "Whole Child," I Say ….

While terms such as whole child, social and emotional learning (SEL), character education, school climate, and 21st century skills may be hot topics right now, they have been around in some version for quite a while. As early as the 19th century, philosopher and academic John Dewey used language related to whole child concepts to describe the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual needs of students (Cohen, 2013). When ASCD launched its Whole Child Initiative during a time when high-stakes testing was becoming a disproportionate predictor of student success, the term "whole child" encompassed its vision for ensuring that each child, in each community, had the necessary educational supports and conditions for long-term development and success.

Our nation's founders wanted U.S. children to develop a moral foundation for implementing democratic principles—what we might refer to as a "character education." Shared values and character were integrated into the U.S. public school system. "The founding fathers did think of developing a virtuous citizenry inculcated in those civic values," Sipos says. "In order for the democracy to survive, we needed those shared values."

School climate is "something that educators have explicitly been researching for over 100 years," notes Cohen, "and SEL is something that I would suggest is several thousands of years old. Think of the Greeks and what they had written on the ancient sanctuary of the Oracle of Delphi: 'Know thyself.'"

While the ancient Greeks may have identified the need for social-emotional learning, we can trace its current context to risk prevention researchers who, in the 1970s and 1980s, began to delineate the specific social and emotional skills that support resilience in children.

"Within education and school-based programming, there were a bunch of different prevention and other movements all focused on positive youth development," said Roger Weissberg, board vice chair and chief knowledge officer for the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), describing the early 1990s when CASEL was established. "Schools were also at the time so focused on academics and academic performance. We said that it was important to think about the cognitive as well as social and emotional development of children. We decided that the social and emotional competence of kids was important as well as creating the social and emotional conditions for learning."

As the 20th century edged closer to completion, the business community began to publicly voice concerns over skills gaps among its new hires—skills such as collaboration, creativity, and problem solving that an increasingly global, interconnected, and innovative workforce needed. Companies began to consider these types of skills as educational "must haves" rather than "nice to haves," providing impetus for a comprehensive approach to a child's overall preK–12 education experience. This workforce development conversation created an opportunity for organizations such as P21 to elevate "21st century readiness" in policy conversations about redesigning education systems and individual learning experiences.

"Lumpers" vs. "Splitters"

The education community should seek agreement around the "good conditions to support kids' wholesome development and the skills that children need to learn" to become lifelong learners and successful adults, says Weissberg.

"I think it's important to have agreement around common outcomes, but the means by which you get there … I think there are a variety of different strategies," he added. "My hope is that we can have respect for recognizing there are different strategies and different frameworks that can fit together in some ways. Maybe we can talk about the active agreement on the ingredients—what makes programming effective."

Ultimately, Weissberg said, people join one of two different camps when it comes to terminology: "There are some people who are 'splitters' and some who are 'lumpers.' Lumpers look for commonalities and try to connect them and find synergies. Splitters look for differences, and say what's unique about an approach. In our country right now in education, we need to do a lot more 'lumping' and looking for the synergies."

Defining the What and How

Common threads connect such terms as whole child, character education, social-emotional learning, school climate, and 21st century skills. Certainly all establish that myriad factors—both inside and out of the academic environment—promote a student's long-term development and success. And yet, despite widespread agreement among educators on this vocabulary's importance in a child's overall educational experience, a persistent challenge exists in determining how best to incorporate it into the overall school setting and direct instruction. The difficulty in measuring the efficacy of each term on student outcomes, given our current limited assessment models, may be partly to blame. It's hard, say, for a standardized test to measure how safe and supported children feel in their education settings.

What follows is a shorthand definition of each of these terms, as defined by organizations such as ASCD,, CASEL, NSCC, and P21. Individual nuances are important, but more "lumping" than "splitting" appears to be occurring between each.

Whole Child: An education that ensures that "each child, in each school, in each community is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged," describes ASCD's whole child approach. With these tenets, ASCD hopes to change the conversation about education from a narrow focus on academic achievement to one that promotes the long-term development and success of children. Such an environment can help educators, families, community members, and policymakers move beyond a vision about educating the whole child to sustainable, collaborative action.

School Climate: The "quality and character of school life as it relates to norms and values, interpersonal relations and social interactions, and organizational processes and structures" describes the NSCC's definition of school climate. As they see it, "school climate sets the tone for all the learning and teaching done in the school environment and predicts a student's ability to learn and develop in healthy ways."

Social-Emotional Learning: The "process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions," is the definition of SEL according to CASEL. They note that "SEL programming assumes that the best learning emerges in the context of supportive relationships that make learning challenging, engaging, and meaningful."

Character Education: The phrase, "an educational movement that supports the social, emotional, and ethical development of students," articulates's use of this term. The organization defines it as "the proactive effort by schools, districts, communities, and states to help students develop important core ethical (recognizing what's right) and performance (doing what's right) values such as caring, honesty, diligence, fairness, fortitude, responsibility, grit, creativity, critical thinking, and respect for self and others." Through character education, "students learn how to be their best selves and how to do their best work while making school a place where students and educators feel comfortable and able to work."

21st Century Skills: Abilities that enable students to "actively engage in their education and directly apply their content knowledge through collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity," is how P21 defines this term. As detailed in P21's Framework for 21st Century Learning, these skills include digital, media, and information literacy to evaluate content and use technology effectively; life and career competencies such as flexibility, time and project management, and self-direction; cultural awareness; leadership; and responsibility. According to P21, these skills "are essential in enabling students to leave school prepared for success in college, careers, and citizenship in a global and interconnected world."

True Grit … or True Resilience … or True Perseverance

Ambiguity with educational terms certainly doesn't end with the five concepts listed above. More specific or granular terms—many of which are related to the above approaches—are often used interchangeably, despite nuanced differences, or as stand-ins for broader educational concepts.

Nonacademic, noncognitive, soft skills, and people skills are terms that educators and researchers use to describe vital attributes for students to succeed in higher education, inside the workforce, and across society. These terms are often used in conjunction with 21st century skills such as collaboration, creativity, team building, and innovation, which can overlap with social-emotional learning skills. Typical standardized achievement tests lack the capability to measure most of these skills. But widespread agreement exists on the need to incorporate them into a student's educational experience, especially when preparing today's students for tomorrow's workforce.

The challenge in these skills being universally accepted as integral components to a whole child education, however, is in dispelling their negative connotations. For example, prefacing a term with "non" or "soft" mistakenly implies that it's not important to achievement.

Terms such as grit, resilience, and perseverance provide an even more granular example of the skills mentioned earlier. And too, these terms seem to be used interchangeably or their definitions overlap each other, often in very subtle ways. These terms certainly have received their share of recent attention, in part from the popularity of Paul Tough's 2013 book (How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character) as well as the research of individuals such as Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist. Each trait is a component of learning approaches and educational programs that seek to develop life-long skills and attributes in students.

Resilience has been described as the ability of students to bounce back from adversity or a quality exhibited by those who thrive despite coming from at-risk environments (Perkins-Gough, 2013), while grit has been explained as sticking with a goal over the long term despite obstacles (Edutopia, 2014). The term perseverance often describes a student's tendency to complete their work thoroughly and on time, to the best of their ability despite obstacles or level of challenge. Skills such as staying focused on a goal, regardless of distractions or challenges; prioritizing higher pursuits while delaying gratification; and exhibiting self-control seem to weave in and out of such definitions.

Stakeholders often use adjectives such as well-rounded, holistic, and student-centered to describe programmatic approaches to supporting the whole child. While we should not consider these approaches as substitutes for whole child–centered teaching and learning, they certainly serve as important components inside a whole child framework.

According to many, a well-rounded education expands "core academic subjects" to include English language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, foreign languages, physical education, art, music, civics, government, economics, geography, and health education. In this learning environment, students receive enriched learning experiences as well as extracurricular activities.

A holistic education helps students find identity and purpose in life through connections to their communities, nature, and humanitarian values. This model values not only academic success but also students' ability to learn about themselves, healthy relationships, social responsibility, and compassion.

The term student-centered learning can refer to a variety of educational programs, learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic support strategies that address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students and groups of students. This term describes forms of instruction that allow students to lead learning activities, participate actively in discussions, design their own learning projects, explore topics that interest them, and contribute to the design of their own course of study.

Terms such as community schools, wrap-around services, and full-service schools often describe partnerships between schools and local, community-based service providers that support the academic, physical, mental, social, and emotional development of students, their families, and the community. Services that support student's academic success may be offered at or near the school building, and can include primary, mental, and dental health care; family engagement, including adult education; preschool learning; academic enrichment; expanded afterschool or summer programming; mentoring; postsecondary education; and career options awareness.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Today's educators strive to balance the complex learning needs of their students to ensure measurable academic achievement as well as help them build solid foundations for career and life success. But policymakers who "want to see the 'magic research study'" make their work more difficult, said Sipos.

"We say, 'think crock pot, not microwave.' You've got to put all of this stuff together," she added. "This is hard work, but it's valuable work. And I want it to be respected among policymakers and the community."

"Everyone should be familiar with the terms and concepts used to support a whole child education," said ASCD Policy Director David Griffith. "There are no right or wrong terms, but it would help if we could use a common framework. We hurt ourselves by fostering confusion across parents, policymakers, and business and community leaders. The goal is for everyone to support learning and achievement beyond academic performance."

Cohen says that his first goal is to educate the whole child, "whatever label is used"—and that his second goal is to support the "whole village—school, parents, guardians—working together."

Education, he added, is a "continuous process of learning and development, both instructionally and systemically. I'm in favor of doing anything that's within a continuous process of learning and development."

"We want people to be thoughtful about the education they provide, and offer the resources and supports for them to do it well," said Weissberg. "I want people talking, communicating with each other about the paradigms that guide their work. What that's going to lead to in terms of language? I guess we'll find out."

"Bringing in all stakeholders is key," Sipos said. "We all implement together. It's not one more thing on the plate. It is the plate."


By Rong-Gong Lin II | LA Times |

A victim of SSPE

Marissa Cortes-Torres holds a photo of her son, Ramon "Junior" Cortes, 9, who died of a complication of measles, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, after having contracted measles as a baby. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

24 June 2015  ::  Measles is commonly thought to be a one-time deal: Get it once, survive, and you’re immune for life.

But like a Trojan horse, the virus can find a way to hide from a baby’s undeveloped immune system. The baby will survive, but within his or her body, a weakened form of the measles lurks, beginning to infect the brain.

Over the ensuing years, the disease gets stronger. Then the infected human being, long past being a baby, experiences mood swings and behavioral problems. Convulsions, coma and death follow.

There is no cure. It is always fatal.

There were at least 11 cases of this deadly complication, known as SSPE, or subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, after the 1988-91 measles epidemic in the United States, which infected more than 55,000.

Dr. James Cherry, primary editor of the Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and a UCLA professor, said the complication underscores the need for measles vaccination rates to remain as high as possible, as inoculations have fallen in the last decade.

“Measles is not a benign disease,” Cherry said. And SSPE, he said, is a “horrible disease.”

The most vulnerable to getting SSPE are those younger than 2, who have undeveloped immune systems. Especially at risk are babies too young to get their first measles shot, which happens at 12 months.

That’s what happened to Ramon “Junior” Cortes, a boy born in Orange County 26 years ago.

His mother, Marissa Cortes-Torres, was 24 when she gave birth to him. When Junior was a month old, Marissa became very ill.

Doctors didn’t figure out she had contracted measles until the baby fell ill. (Marissa had been vaccinated in the 1960s, when mistakes were made in how the newly introduced inoculation was administered.)

The infant was in the hospital for two months, hooked up to tubes, struggling to breathe.

By the time Junior reached age 3 months, he seemed to recover.

Years later, in kindergarten in Escondido, he would stand when a teacher told him to sit. He struggled to add. At home, he would arbitrarily take clothes out of the drawers. When he biked or rollerbladed, the boy would take surprising spills, bruising his legs.

Finally, a neurologist at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego told Marissa, “I’m sorry to tell you: Your son is going to die.”

SSPE, she was told, “attacks the nervous system and it destroys the brain.”

It was the day before her son turned 7.

Soon, the boy who used to “swim like a little fish” became confined to a wheelchair.

Junior started to suffer tremors so bad he couldn’t feed himself. He became so frustrated that he would push his food away and refuse to eat. He had to wear diapers again. Seizures sapped his strength. When he hallucinated, all Marissa could do to try to soothe him was say, “Junior, Junior. Mommy’s here.”

One day, after he turned 9, he laughed while watching "Barney & Friends," but while looking away from the television.

“I put my hand in front of his eyes,” Marissa said. “He was blind.”

Junior breathed his last breath a month later, on his mother’s lap.

There have been at least 16 cases of SSPE in California since 1998, which is likely an undercount because not all cases may be diagnosed nor are they required to be reported to the state, according to the Department of Public Health. There are several suspect cases that have not been confirmed.

Seven of the 16 cases involved people born in the United States.  The other nine cases involved people born outside of the country who fell ill with SSPE in California.

Kathleen Harriman, chief of the state’s vaccine-preventable diseases epidemiology section, said she often hears from people who say that getting a disease like measles naturally is best.

“I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard that ... ‘My child will be fine, because I feed them really good food and they’re well nourished and so they will survive measles,’” Harriman said. “This is a clear example where it’s not better to get a natural infection.”

Officials say they hear a report about SSPE about once a year in California.

In the Bay Area, a 4-year-old boy is currently dying of SSPE, said Dr. Catherine Sonquist Forest, the medical director of the Stanford Health Care clinic in Los Altos.

The boy, born in the United States, was only 5 months old when he was infected with a severe viral illness. After he turned 3, the once healthy young boy began to struggle with behavioral problems and seizures. Soon he was diagnosed with SSPE.

He is now in hospice care. His eyes are open, but he can no longer move on his own and cannot respond to commands.

“He was exposed because other people weren’t immunized,” Forest said.

Two weeks ago, Forest recounted the boy’s diagnosis to a California Assembly committee on health. She urged lawmakers in a letter to require that children, barring an allergy or other medical reason, be vaccinated as a condition of entry into school.

The Assembly is scheduled to vote on the bill, SB 277, on Thursday. The Senate passed the bill in May.

“As the mother of my patient told me last week, ‘My child is dying because someone who chose not to be immunized exposed my vulnerable baby, and nothing can be done to save him,’” she wrote.


by Laura Colby | Bloomberg News |

June 26, 2015 — 8:39 AM PDT  ::  News Corp. is winding down sales of custom-made tablet computers after few schools bought the devices, once central to the company’s goal of overhauling U.S. education, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The media company, whose executive chairman is billionaire Rupert Murdoch, is no longer ordering new tablets from its manufacturer in Asia, though it has stock on hand for existing school customers, according to the people, who declined to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

By the end of this month, New York-based News Corp. will have invested more than $1 billion in Amplify, its education division, which sells a digital curriculum and testing services in addition to the tablets. Few districts have bought the units, which can be used for classroom work, homework assignments and tracking student performance. The head of the tablet business left the company earlier this year.

“We continue to support our tablet customers and are still fulfilling orders for additional tablets,” Amplify said in an-email. The company said it “continues to receive and consider new contract requests” for the tablets.

Greensboro Glitches

The Greensboro, North Carolina, school district placed a $14.6 million order for the tablets. The contract, which included service, is by far the largest one Amplify received. Technical glitches marred their introduction in fall of 2013, and the district canceled the rollout and tried again a year later with a redesigned device, Bloomberg reported in April. Amplify said the feedback from the district had been positive with the revamped tablets.

Amplify said it is still committed to marketing its digital classroom materials to U.S. schools. It has received “several million dollars” of orders in the past 10 weeks for its software-based curriculum, according to the company.

Amplify makes up about 1 percent of the $8.6 billion in annual revenue of News Corp., which also publishes newspapers including the Wall Street Journal and competes with Bloomberg News. School testing, a business News Corp. entered in 2010 with the $360 million purchase of Brooklyn-based Wireless Generation, is the largest part of Amplify’s revenue. The testing business sells software that lets teachers gauge student progress and remediate reading skills. Amplify also markets English, math and science curricula as well as educational games.

News Corp. shares rose 1.9 percent to $15.03 at 12:34 p.m. in New York. They have fallen 4.3 percent this year.

For the year ended June 30, 2014, Amplify reported a $193 million loss on sales of $88 million. The loss narrowed 51 percent, to $69 million in the first nine months of the current fiscal year, compared with a year earlier.

Earlier this month at a London investor conference, News Corp. Chief Executive Officer Robert Thomson said the company’s investment in Amplify would be “significantly lower” over the next year and praised the quality of the company’s curriculum.

Executive Departures

The head of Amplify’s tablet unit, Stephen Smyth, left the company in February. An interim leader is in place as the company, under a program called One Amplify, attempts to integrate its units into a single organization and eliminate duplication, the company said. Smyth didn’t return messages seeking comment.

Smyth wasn’t the only high-level departure at Amplify this year. In June, Christopher Cerf, the head of its testing unit, left the company after slightly more than a year. Cerf previously worked with Amplify CEO Joel Klein in the New York City schools. Klein was chancellor under then Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News. Cerf was named superintendent of the Newark, New Jersey, public schools starting July 1. He didn’t return messages.

Prevent another tragedy, TEACH CPR IN HIGH SCHOOL



By Dr. Jared Salvo, MD | Op-Ed in the Bakersfield Californian |

Monday, Jun 29, 2015 1:45 AM  ::  How many more deaths from cardiac arrest does our community need before action is taken to change this grim reality? Every year there are almost 424,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the United States, and of this figure an estimated 10,200 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen to children. In our community, we have lost two beautiful young teens to cardiac arrest within the past few months.

Jose Manuel Beltran, died on January 26, 2015, after collapsing at Cecil Avenue Middle School. Jose had undiagnosed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which led to his sudden cardiac arrest. Most recently, a 14 year-old student at Richland Jr. High School passed away from a sudden cardiac arrest as she walked to get a drink of water. 4 out of 5 cardiac arrests occur outside of a hospital setting and sadly less than 10 percent of those victims survive the event, but effective cardiopulmonary resuscitation can double or triple survival rates. Let’s not wait for another tragedy to unfold; we can proactively take steps to improve survival rates in our community.

In order to improve the chain of survival in Kern County, I urge local school boards to pass legislation to train students in CPR techniques and receive overview of automated external defibrillators prior to high school graduation, as well as require that all schools have AEDs onsite. High school is filled with countless life lessons, and I believe a school setting is the perfect place to teach life-saving skills like Hands-On CPR. If we pass legislation to train our high school students, we will put thousands of lifesavers in our community every year, creating a generation of lifesavers.

Studies have shown that young people are capable of learning CPR techniques and are capable of retaining the basic skills for the rest of their life. For example, American Heart Association volunteer and Taft Union High School student Sara Jewell, age 18, was able to save the life of a toddler, by administering CPR while attending Disneyland to perform with the Taft Union High School Advanced Choir. Sara learned CPR as a lifeguard at the Westside Recreation and Park District.

“The mom was holding her child and the child was limp. She hadn’t been breathing for a while. Her lips were blue, her eyes were rolled into the back of her head and she was convulsing. I immediately started giving her CPR. I did the breathing and a nurse did chest compressions. After more breathing treatments, the child turned her head and threw up spaghetti noodles and started coughing, and coughing is breathing.”

We can build on our momentum, improving the chain of survival. Last year, the Start A Heart committee championed the placement of AED’s in all Bakersfield high schools. This year we need AED’s to be placed in all middle schools and high schools in all Kern County.

If we build CPR training into the high school curriculum, we will equip our students with lifesaving skills, and we will hear more stories of survival and less stories of tragic results.

I believe implementing CPR in Schools at the local School Board level and placement of AEDs on all school campuses will empower our students to be heart savers ready to respond appropriately in an emergency cardiac situation.

Dr. Jared Salvo of Bakersfield is a cardiologist at Central Cardiology Medical Clinic and board president of the American Heart Association, Kern County