Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Monday, October 30, 2006
Parents, teachers and community groups speak out at a forum on L.A. Unified. The focus is on which campuses the mayor will oversee.
by Carla Rivera, LA Times Staff Writer
smf: Exactly who this "broad based coalition" was is not spelled out.
Notably absent were parent representatives from groups such as PTA, the Parent Collaborative, Title One, English Language Learner or Special Education parent groups. Those groups – the officially recognized and/or legally mandated parent representatives within LAUSD were not even informed that this "broad based collation" was being coalesced.
By the end of the day one thing was clear: Parents, teachers and community organizations want an equal say in determining how the district will be remade.
We still do.
Villaraigosa acknowledged as much in his opening remarks to the group of 100 or so people, who represented church groups, businesses, human services agencies, city and county departments, law enforcement, city councils and numerous schools.
"This issue of 'mayor control' is a misnomer," he told the meeting — billed as an education retreat — at the Doheny campus of Mount St. Mary's College near downtown. "This is the perfect example of a partnership. I don't need to bring 200 people together if I was just going to do it alone."
Is it 100 or 200?
New legislation — Assembly Bill 1381 — gives Villaraigosa broad authority over the district. It also establishes a Council of Mayors from each city within the district's boundaries and each member of the
The focus Saturday was on Villaraigosa's plan to directly oversee three clusters of low-performing schools, each containing a high school and the elementary and middle schools that feed into it. The mayor's office has already identified 19 potential clusters in
Participants were invited to indicate their top two choices in each region. The final choice will be selected by the mayor and incoming district Supt. David L. Brewer around the end of the year. Two would be established in July and the third in 2008.
The participants also discussed possible criteria to be used in the selection. Options included: greatest social/community need; lowest academic performance; degree of ethnic diversity; highest community acceptance; and receptivity to change. Other issues centered on the curriculum and techniques for instruction, greater family engagement, experimenting with small school models, realigning teacher and principal responsibilities, and integrating community and school social services. Participants said they were generally impressed with the quality of discussion and level of inclusion.
"I was very apprehensive about coming, because of what I've been reading about how the two camps can't make up their minds," said Marcos Hernandez, an assistant principal at L.A. Unified's San Gabriel Avenue Elementary School in South Gate and a member of the group One L.A., which advocates for school reform and parent involvement. "But what I saw here was a totally different picture. There's a sense of collaboration going on here that gave me a whole new outlook."
Assistant Principal Hernandez' apprehension is well placed – though his reference to "two camps" seems out of place; this "retreat" –- was a camp meeting of just one camp!
The LA Daily News reported on July 5 [UTLA CASH RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT ENDORSEMENTS] that One LA – of which Hernandez is a member - has received $45,000 in the past two years from UTLA – still the mayor's partner in AB 1381 despite a vote from the membership repudiating it - and has been actively advocating for the bill.
Shirley Ford, whose son attends a charter school in
Hopeful and cautious are wonderful; but two things:
Two: Charter schools – whether in LA, any of the other 27 cities within LAUSD,
Charter parents are and forever will be unaffected by any of this.
"I'm somewhat encouraged, but I'll be watchful," she said. "I'll be nudging someone if I don't see [parents] involved all the way. What I'm most interested in is what schools will be chosen. When we choose the major clusters, let's make sure we create partnerships with all schools. Let's not leave anybody out."
Deputy Mayor Ramon C. Cortines, who is heading Villaraigosa's education initiative, said providing greater support to all schools is a major goal.
"It's not just about the mayor's clusters but about how we create partnerships across the district," he said. "And it's a bubbling process. I don't think when we open the first cluster next July, we're going to say, 'We're open, that's it.' It's an ongoing process, an evolution. It's democracy in action, not just democratic rhetoric."
Democracy is something that happens in two places, in the ballot box and the open:
In the clear sunshine of the light of day.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Lost amidst the brutal fight for control of
by Mitch Paradise |
“I had just finished a multi-year research project on the possibility of retrofitting
“He pulled out the Prop. BB budget, which was roughly the size of the Oxford English Dictionary and really, to be a nice guy, Xeroxed for me the page that detailed how $1.5 million was going to be spent upgrading Grand View. That night I’m reading the page, and I go, ‘Wait a minute, this has to be a mistake.’ Half the money was for re-asphalting surfaces. My wife had just raised $20-30,000 to have asphalt removed from that school. I nearly broke my wrist getting back on the phone with Steve.”
Not only was the figure not a typo, but was, multiplied by 400 schools, part of an astounding $200 million for 60 million square feet of blacktop. “Basically, they took the total land area of the district,” Soboroff said, “deducted out the current green space, the buildings, and building paths, and said everything left was asphalt, and it all needed to be replaced. No thought was being given to replacing some of the asphalt with green.”
At the time, Soboroff also happened to be the chairman of the Recreation and Parks Department; “green” was something he understood. He and Lipkis organized a plan to mitigate some of that asphalting, and at only his second Oversight Committee meeting, that plan was overwhelmingly well-received before being shot down by the Maintenance and Operations people. The district, under the perennial pressure of budget cuts, was down to six gardeners for 400 elementary schools. There was no money for any greening program.
Scrutinizing the budget, the two men quickly got to the line that read $250 million for air conditioning. “The money was only for the buying and installation of the air conditioning units,” said Lipkis. “There was nothing for the cost of running them, which would be the single largest cost associated with the classroom.” Lipkis was able to demonstrate to the school board that shading alone, by the strategic planting of trees, could lower energy costs 12 to 18 percent. That televised board meeting generated such enormous public response that the committee was able to stop the process cold, and Soboroff ultimately brokered a deal to green one-third of the original asphalt with trees, flowers, shrubs, and permeable surfaces – 20 million square feet. The greening of L.A. Unified had begun.
Beginning well before the year 2000, when former Colorado Governor Roy Romer took over as superintendent of the LAUSD, the public has heard little but bad news about the state of the district – especially during this summer’s bruising fight over Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s ambitious plan to take control of the schools. During that time, however, the district has moved inexorably into the forefront of green, energy-efficient, sustainable development in its massive building program. Even as new, sustainable schools continue to come on line – 57 so far, and 10 more this fall – the talk surrounding L.A. Unified is dominated by poor student performance and the legal battle over the mayoral control issue. Sadly, the design standards that have established the LAUSD building program as a national showcase have gone virtually unnoticed.
“Sustainability,” as defined in a landmark 1987 report by the U.N.’s World Commission on Environment and Development, means “to meet the needs of present generations without compromising the capacity of future generations to satisfy their own.” To the question of how sustainability is applied to education, Soboroff had a couple of ideas: green the school grounds, and in the evenings and on weekends let the public use the facilities under agreements between LAUSD and Recreation and Parks. It’s called “joint use,” and “in 10 years of talking about it, they’d done three joint-use agreements,” Soboroff said. After the greening resolution, “we signed 30 agreements in 60 days.”
DWP has had another answer. In 1999-2000, along with TreePeople, the L.A. Conservation Corps, and the Hollywood Beautification Team, DWP funded the removal of tons of asphalt at both Multnomah Highly Gifted Center downtown and Broadous Elementary Math/Science Magnet Center in Pacoima through its Adopt-A-School program. At Multnomah, a cistern system now provides recycled irrigation water for extensive green areas and flower gardens. At Broadous, water filtration technology can capture and reclaim up to a half-million gallons of rainwater, while the value produced by flood prevention and groundwater recharge paid for a new soccer field. Both schools use green areas for study programs; both cut down on playground injuries, and it may be a coincidence, but Broadous’s test scores for the state’s Academic Performance Index rose 80 points in 2002, one of the largest gains in the district.
The LAUSD is enormous – 947 campuses and centers to accommodate K-12 enrollment of roughly 720,000 with another 160,000 adult, occupational, and other students, yet prior to 2002, there had been practically no construction for a quarter century, with no major expansion since post World War II. The exploding enrollment that necessitated 1997’s Proposition BB and a succession of state and local bond issues required a plan for 150,000 new seats. While most citizens equate optimal learning conditions with class size, textbooks, and teacher preparation, an enlightened corps of architects, engineers, environmental scientists, project managers, and energy professionals have persuaded the local educational hierarchy of much more: the maximum efficient use of daylighting; the optimizing of thermal, visual, and acoustic comfort; the reduction of heat islands through shading and lighter paving materials; managing storm water runoff; incorporating high-performance HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems; as well as the maximum use of recycling in both construction and demolition – in short, high performance schools.
Under the new rubric of a certification panel called the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS, and referred to as “chips”), a high performance school is one that is healthy; thermally, visually, and acoustically comfortable; energy, material, and water efficient; easy to maintain and operate; environmentally responsive; and conducive to learning. A high performance school is also safe and secure – a community resource that is adaptable to changing needs, architecturally stimulating and sensitive to its surrounding environment, and whose very existence instructs by example. Of the roughly 150 schools the district is building over the current decade, the majority will meet the CHPS program standards.
This fall, the LAUSD will open two “showcase” schools, Charles H. Kim Elementary in Koreatown, and the
THE EVOLUTION OF A NEW STANDARD
A little background reveals the elegant evolution of the CHPS program.
In the early ’90s, David Gottfried, a Bay Area developer with a green entrepreneurial vision, re-examined the entire building industry with a holistic eye. “What I saw was a need for a coalition of all the sectors of the industry with the manufacturers and environmental organizations book-ending the rest of the professions – design professionals, utilities, developers, etc. Instead of suing each other, [we’d] all work together … to accelerate green building in the
Out of this vision came the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), with Gottfried the first president. The USGBC in turn created LEED – Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design – a formal yardstick by which the sustainability of the building process could be evaluated and a common framework imposed.
LEED broke down the process into five categories: 1) sustainable sites, 2) water usage, 3) energy consumption, 4) materials, and 5) indoor environmental quality. Under LEED, the USGBC would provide building certification, professional accreditation for industry professionals, and a variety of resources in state-of-the-art strategies for sustainable development. The CHPS panel, which specifically certifies schools as being sustainable, would adapt LEED criteria, using the same five categories.
“Most of the ’80s and ’90s, people involved in this pursuit bounced around with one idea or another about what could be done,” says Dennis Bottum, then an architect with Fields Devereaux and founding partner with James Wiener of its design unit, GreenWorks, which was involved in several of the new school designs. “But there was no way to integrate this idea into the practice of architecture and engineering in a comprehensive way. People would throw in a couple of low-flush toilets and call it sustainable development.”
On a parallel track, the California Energy Commission, along with several state agencies, as well as city utilities, the Gas Company and LADWP, also saw the pupil explosion as an opportunity to increase the energy efficiency of school buildings. Randall Higa, a senior marketing consultant specializing in energy efficient programs with the Southern California Gas Co., had consulted with designers and engineers on school development in the past, but had always had a difficult time getting the sustainability message across. That all changed when Higa became the Gas Company’s representative on the board of CHPS. “Once initial objectives were hammered out, it was decided that what was needed was to get involved as quickly as possible with the entire design and funding process.” Their immediate answer was to produce “best practice manuals” for building construction in three categories – Planning, Design, and Criteria.
At the time, Higa, and Gregg Ander, chief architect at Southern California Edison, were also members of the LAUSD’s new High Performance Working Group, where Angelo Bellomo, the newly-hired director of Environmental Health and Safety, was in the process of putting together guidelines of his own. Bellomo, the first environmental scientist to hold his position, sat in on Proposition BB Advisory Committee meetings and saw first-hand an enormous bureaucracy with entrenched resistance to new ideas. Just as the greening advocates were having to educate the Maintenance and Operations people at the district, so Bellomo, today a member of the CHPS board as well, was having to educate his own department when it came to asthma awareness, indoor air quality, and skin cancer risk from sun exposure.
“A lot of people [outside the district] were focused on this issue, but you had a school district that was very much focused on the imperative for new school construction with limited funds. What we wanted to do by bringing this work group together was to show that if we merely think about sustainable building design, we can at minimal cost build in a design that will not only make these schools safer and more healthy, but much more conducive to learning.”
Despite bureaucratic impediments, greening, sustainability, and the LAUSD came together, as Randall Higa says, “like a perfect storm.”
That storm fell largely on Kathy Littman, who became the LAUSD’s deputy chief executive for School Building Planning in 1999. Littman’s degree is in English Literature and Child Psychology, a discipline she readily admits comes in handy in the construction field, where she learned her craft on jobs like the ill-fated DreamWorks campus at Playa Vista. At Gensler and Associates, one of the largest architectural firms in the world, she worked on the Gap headquarters building in
“I realized I was going to have to come into the system if I was going to make a change,” she said, and she would proceed to oversee 80 new schools heading into design and construction, bringing a comprehensive, no-nonsense project manager mentality to a bureaucracy desperate for someone with her expertise. “While, prior to BB, there may have been a district architect or two interested in daylighting, [sustainability] hadn’t been implemented into any of the programs. For new construction, there were a hodgepodge of specs as much as a dozen years old, and here was an opportunity to start from scratch and imprint a new approach onto the process.”
She had David Gottfried, then the DreamWorks green consultant at Playa Vista, and Charles Eley, whose San Francisco architectural firm had been hired to administrate the CHPS program, come south in late 2000 to co-facilitate an event on sustainability for her new team at the Gas Company’s Energy Resource Center. Deborah Weintraub, then project manager at
It soon became apparent to everyone involved that CHPS was going to be the vehicle to drive the LAUSD into the 21st Century. By the fall of 2000, a first draft of the Best Practices Manuals was ready for review, but there was no mandate at the district that they would have to follow this path.
On February 13, 2001, Julie Korenstein, who years earlier had voted for the cutbacks that nearly thwarted the greening program, introduced a resolution – drafted by Michael Lehrer, President of the Prop. BB Committee, and Bellomo’s working group – at the LAUSD Board of Education that began as follows: “Whereas students learn best in an environment that is comfortable, healthy, naturally lit and well maintained, and studies indicate that student achievement is greater and attendance higher when these conditions are met … ” and required CHPS standards be adopted for all new construction. It passed unanimously.
Superintendent Romer then turned his considerable political skills to persuading a bureaucracy long-entrenched in an existing system of the long-term efficiency of the sustainable approach. “We have to conserve if we are to sustain this planet,” said Romer. “Increasing numbers of people and limited supplies of resources require us to look at alternative energy sources. We must incorporate this thinking in the approaches we take in designing our schools.”
As the current board has done with its choice for a new superintendent, Romer turned to the military to shake things up. His first new hire was Facilities Chief James A. McConnell, Jr., whose previous job was as commanding officer at the
John Zinner, who had been former Mayor Tom Bradley’s energy coordinator, joined the district as a sustainable development consultant to help institutionalize CHPS at the LAUSD. He now chairs the High Performance Working Group. “In the beginning,” said Zinner of working CHPS into the design process, “schools were more or less rating themselves. To rate ?20 yourself under LEED is a time-consuming and expensive process in which paperwork is submitted to the USGBC, which reviews a project’s qualifications and determines whether they get silver, gold, or platinum ratings. CHPS, by contrast, is self-certifying. It’s a pass/fail program.”
Pass, for CHPS, is 32 out of 81 points on a sustainability scorecard, and the new Charles H. Kim Elementary and
THE WAY FORWARD
With state and local bond measures providing the funding, sustainable development now enjoys broad-based support at the district and in the community. The mandate of the original BB Citizens’ Oversight Committee was renewed in 2002 with a new charter. Now known as the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizens’ Oversight Committee, it will continue to scrutinize all facets of development and renovation, and for the first time, its charter contains specific language that schools are to be “educationally and environmentally sound, [and shall] enhance their neighborhoods through design and programming as centers of community, and reflect the wise and efficient use of limited land and public resources.” The Gas Company is providing financial and technical assistance at Kim Elementary, while
This degree of attention to sustainable goals is not limited to construction. At Environmental Health and Safety, Angelo Bellomo spent much of 2002/2003 doing a “wall to wall” audit and inspection of more than 900 campuses, inventorying problems. His
Today, Lipkis remains an environmental sentinel at TreePeople, but some of the original players have moved on. Steve Soboroff made an unsuccessful run for mayor in 2001, but as president of Playa Vista, he oversaw a development that can boast a 92 percent rate of recycling of all construction and demolition waste as well as innovative use of reclaimed water for all irrigation. Guy Mehula is the new district facilities chief, replacing McConnell, while Bruce Kendall, the prior director of Maintenance and Operations who oversaw the installing of MAXIMO, a computerized facilities management maintenance system, moves into Delker’s chair. Kathy Littman went back into the private sector for a while but is now back as the newly created staff executive for Small Learning Communities, a program that converts school populations into learning communities of 500 pupils or less.
The continuity of internal management has meant, according to Mehula, a vastly improved relationship with the contracting community. With $7 billion to spend upgrading existing facilities, and $11.7 billion on new ones, the district will be spending $350-550 million per quarter through 2009. In a city where construction is booming, the district has been able to keep top builders on its projects while winning more than 50 awards for its achievement in new building.
In April 2005, the district created a new position to oversee CHPS integration into all aspects of new construction and existing facilities. Architect Ying Wang also interfaces with other government agencies to tap appropriate available funding. Reporting to Wang, Global Green USA, a national, nonprofit organization that establishes collaborative partnerships with local governments and public and private agencies to facilitate sustainable policies, has established a partnership with the district to supervise and certify CHPS implementation in new schools. Global Green reviews the new school process four separate times during design, and also monitors construction, insuring that guidelines are met. John Zinner serves a similar role for new buildings on existing campuses.
On a local and state level, policy, legislation, and incentives are catching up with the district’s cutting-edge program. A new state bond bill, Prop. 1D on the November
Ballot, allocates $10.4 billion for K-12 new school construction, with an additional $100 million set aside as incentive money for high performance schools. L.A. Unified is well-positioned to capture a good amount of that money. As Ted Bardacke, the Global Green senior program associate working with the district, put it, “Early adopters are being rewarded.”
While its ballyhooed ban on soft drinks in 2004 got national, even international attention, the dynamic new schools being occupied in the coming years remain essentially mysteries to the larger community they will serve; yet these designs are every bit as exciting in their own sphere as the Disney Hall or the new downtown cathedral. From
Today, CHPS has finished six manuals addressing various topics related to high performance design. Even many of the 80 Phase I schools, which were already in the design process and therefore not mandated to be CHPS-certified, will, according to Guy Mehula, come close to certifying under the 32-point scorecard, and all CHPS schools submitted to the Department of the State Architect since
Michael Lehrer put it this way, “Beauty is the sum total of solving lots of problems in an elegant and sustainable way. Why should you settle for something less? Why shouldn’t it be sustainable, and beautiful, and nurturing of the spirit, and a place where the quality of light and the quality of space ennobles the people using it? Architecture and good buildings make a difference in communities.”
Monday, October 23, 2006
by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer, LA Daily News
With the board's authority over budget issues being stripped by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's Assembly Bill 1381, board members are concerned that significant funding will fall by the wayside.
"If we don't take action before Jan. 1 and AB 1381 is not declared unconstitutional, we don't know how the money will be divvied out to the schools and whether they'll receive it or not," board member Julie Korenstein said, alluding to the suit filed by the district and a coalition of groups and parents challenging the legality of the law. "It's shocking to find this out, but I will venture to say there will be many other issues that will come out in the near future, and we'll find out AB 1381 will have a negative impact on the children of L.A. Unified."
The Mayor's Office declined to comment.
In a presentation Monday, California School Boards Association Executive Director Scott Plotkin said the district faces funding challenges because of declining enrollment and the implementation of AB 1381.
One example of uncertainty stems from funding for counseling programs - funds school boards must act on - at about $30,000 per school.
A representative of the California School Boards Association advised the board to act on it before Jan. 1 to avoid losing out on the money.
"This is the kind of thing you need to start looking at now," said Rick Pratt, assistant executive director of the CSBA.
District staffers have also been directed to provide the board with an analysis of all issues that could be affected by the legislation taking effect Jan. 1.
But there is a sense of uncertainty and lack of clarity about the changes that will take place when the law goes in effect.
"There will be more detail then, but I think there are things no one has even thought about, issues that will blindside us all because this was not a well-thought-out bill," Korenstein said. "I don't think anybody looked at the little innuendoes of the law, and it's the intricacies of (AB) 1381 that people have not defined yet," she said. "We don't know what will happen."
Working off a template inspired by Mayor Richard Daley in
As it turns out,
Though Villaraigosa wanted ultimate authority over the nation's second-largest school system, a new
Critics use another word. As one adversarial board official put it, Villaraigosa's initiative is a "mess."
The school board sued Oct. 10 to overturn Villaraigosa's control, saying it violates a 1946 amendment to the state constitution separating school systems from municipal control.
Days later, the board selected a new superintendent with no experience running schools - and without input from the mayor, who happened to be on a trade mission an ocean away, in
Apparently stuck with the new schools chief, Villaraigosa said he was "disappointed."
Despite the setbacks, mayoral aides insist the reforms can work in
While mayoral takeovers are viewed by some experts as a positive way to restore accountability if not boost achievement in big-city districts,
Others say Villaraigosa could have secured more authority if he had offered more of a grand plan.
"I think he should have spent his first year in office selling a vision of what the system could be - small autonomous schools, organize parents, give a lot of money and better work conditions to teachers, high expectations for kids," said mayoral ally Steve Barr, CEO and founder of Green Dot charter schools, a network of 10 college prep schools.
The new law, which the
Across the country,
While Los Angeles' state test scores have been rising, only 31 percent of students are proficient or better in math and only 30 percent are at such levels in English. Those figures compare with statewide averages of 40 percent for math and 42 percent for English.
While the new law doesn't directly make Villaraigosa the sole, explicit person to credit or blame for reform, "in a practical sense, yes, the mayor has assumed the mantle of responsibility and the people will expect him to deliver," said Thomas Saenz, counsel to the mayor. "We have a lot of work to do, but we've got a good start."
Not so, responded Kevin Reed, general counsel for the
The district, the principals union, the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles, and the California School Boards Association are suing Villaraigosa, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the state board of education to stop the new law.
"What the mayor got in this bill is not the system in
Some of Los Angeles' ongoing problems will sound familiar to Chicagoans who have seen almost two decades of reform, including the 1995 Illinois law giving Daley outright control.
"A culture of passive resistance" exists among faculty and central office officials who believe that "if you didn't like the reform agenda, all you had to do was lie low for two years and the agenda would change," Saenz said.
"There are some employees of the district who probably should have left the district a long time ago and will probably be driven out by this change," he added.
Mayoral ally Barr said that many employees in board headquarters hold patronage jobs and the central office suffers what Barr called a "bunker mentality" with attitudes such as "How dare someone say we need to change?"
But school board officials aren't convinced that data show more mayoral control equates to better achievement, board general counsel Reed said. What matters is "a strong, cooperative relationship" between the board and the superintendent, he said.
When asked about the board's relationship with the mayor, Reed hesitated and laughed: "Hmmm, how would I describe the relationship? Sensitive.
"I'm just trying to find a word that I wouldn't mind seeing in print," he said.
There are some big differences between the new
SCHOOL CONTROL: Hands down, Daley and his schools team yield enormous power in holding every school accountable, with a range of sanctions at their disposal including closing schools. In
by Walter F. Roche Jr., LA Times Staff Writer
With investments from his parents, George H.W. and Barbara Bush, and other backers, Neil Bush's company, Ignite! Learning, has placed its products in 40
At least 13
The law provides federal funds to help school districts better serve disadvantaged students and improve their performance, especially in reading and math.
But Ignite does not offer reading instruction, and its math program will not be available until next year.
The federal Department of Education does not monitor individual school district expenditures under the No Child program, but sets guidelines that the states are expected to enforce, spokesman Chad Colby said.
Ignite executive Tom Deliganis said that "some districts seem to feel OK" about using No Child money for the Ignite purchases, "and others do not."
Neil Bush said in an e-mail to The Times that Ignite's program had demonstrated success in improving the test scores of economically disadvantaged children. He also said political influence had not played a role in Ignite's rapid growth.
"As our business matures in the
FUNDING LAWS UNCLEAR
Interviews and a review of school district documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act found that educators and legal experts were sharply divided over whether Ignite's products were worth their cost or qualified under the No Child law.
The federal law requires schools to show they are meeting educational standards, or risk losing critical funding. If students fail to meet annual performance goals in reading and math tests, schools must supplement their educational offerings with tutoring and other special programs.
Leigh Manasevit, a Washington attorney who specializes in federal education funding, said that districts using the No Child funds to buy products like Ignite's would have to meet "very strict" student eligibility requirements and ensure that the Ignite services were supplemental to existing programs.
Known as COW, for Curriculum on Wheels (the portable learning centers resemble cows on wheels), Ignite's product line is geared toward middle school social studies, history and science. The company says it has developed a social studies program that meets curriculum requirements in seven states. Its science program meets requirements in six states.
Most of Ignite's business has been obtained through sole-source contracts without competitive bidding. Neil Bush has been directly involved in marketing the product.
In addition to federal or state funds, foundations and corporations have helped buy Ignite products. The Washington Times Foundation, backed by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, head of the South Korea-based
Oil companies and
Neil Bush said he is a businessman who does not attempt to exert political influence, and he called The Times' inquiries about his venture — made just before the election — "entirely political."
Bush's parents joined Neil as Ignite investors in 1999, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission documents. By 2003, the records show, Neil Bush had raised about $23 million from more than a dozen outside investors, including Mohammed Al Saddah, the head of a Kuwaiti company, and Winston Wong, the head of a Chinese computer firm.
Most recently he signed up Russian fugitive business tycoon Boris A. Berezovsky and Berezovsky's partner Badri Patarkatsishvili.
Barbara Bush has enthusiastically supported Ignite. In January 2004, she and Neil Bush were guests of honor at a $1,000-a table fundraiser in
Organizer Mary Blankenship Pointer said she planned the event because district students were "utilizing Ignite courseware and experiencing great results. Our students were thriving."
The former first lady spurred controversy recently when she contributed to a Hurricane Katrina relief foundation for storm victims who had relocated to
The company also has COWs deployed in
COWs recently showed up at
Neil Bush said Ignite has more than 1,700 COWs in classrooms.
SHIFT IN STRATEGY
But Ignite's educational strategy has changed dramatically, and some are critical of its new approach. Shortly after Ignite was formed in
Adaptive Learning founder Mary Schenck-Ross said the software's interactive lessons allowed teachers "to get away from the mass-treatment approach" to education. When a student typed in a response to a question, the software was designed to react and provide a customized learning path.
"The original concept was to avoid 'one size fits all.' That was the point," said Catherine Malloy, who worked on the software development.
Two years ago, however, Ignite dropped the individualized learning approach. Working with artists and illustrators, it created a large purple COW that could be wheeled from classroom to classroom and plugged in, offering lessons that could be played to a roomful of students.
The COWs enticed students with catchy jingles and videos featuring cartoon characters like Mr. Bighead and Norman Einstein. On Ignite's website, a collection of teachers endorsed the COW, saying that it eliminated the need for lesson planning. The COW does it for them.
The developers of Adaptive Learning's software complain that Ignite replaced individualized instruction with a gimmick.
"It breaks my heart what they have done. The concept was totally perverted," Schenck-Ross said.
Nevertheless, Ignite found many receptive school districts. In
Correspondence obtained by The Times shows that Neil Bush met with top
Another Ignite official asked a
Ungurait, identified in another Leonard e-mail as "our good friend" at the state office, told her superiors in response to The Times' inquiry that she never acted on Leonard's request.
Leonard said he did not ask Ungurait to do anything that would be improper.
"You can't even get basics like paper and scissors, and we went out and bought them. I just see red," he said.
Sources familiar with the
Rogich, who chairs a foundation that supports local schools, said he applied no pressure but became interested in COWs after Neil Bush contacted him. Rogich donated $6,000 to purchase two COWs for a middle school named after him.
Christy Falba, the former
Few independent studies have been done to assess the effectiveness of Ignite's teaching strategies. Neil Bush said the company had gotten "great feedback" from educators and planned to conduct a "major scientifically valid study" to assess the COW's impact. The results should be in by next summer, he said.
Though Ignite's products get generally rave reviews from
"I wouldn't advise anyone else to use it," said Supt. Paul Vranish. "Nobody wanted to use it, and the principal who bought it is no longer here."
Ignite's website features glowing videotaped testimonials from teachers, administrators, students and parents.
Many of the videos were shot at Del Valle Junior High School near
In the video, a student named
Lori, a woman identified as
The woman, however, is not
In return for use of its students and facilities, a district spokeswoman said Ignite donated a free COW. Five others were purchased with district funds.
District spokeswoman Celina Bley acknowledged that regulations bar school officials from endorsing products. But she said that restriction did not apply to the videos.
"It is illegal for individuals to make an endorsement, but this was a districtwide endorsement," Bley said in an e-mail.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Veteran Jurist on LAUSD v.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs, who sits in Department 85 of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse—one of the two high-volume writs and receivers departments—has her boosters. They praise her as brilliant and exceedingly hard-working. Some of them concede, however, that she can be curt.
Janavs also has her detractors, their criticism centering on her demeanor. Some say she’ll scream at lawyers and, if they don’t understand what she’s saying because of her accent, she’ll become all the more agitated. Yet, when complaints about her are voiced, her legal abilities and her work ethic do not come into question.
One booster is Deputy Attorney General S. Paul Bruguera, who is himself a candidate in a judicial race. Asked by the METNEWS editorial board what sitting judge he would seek to pattern himself after, he said that (in addition to his wife, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Soussan Bruguera) it would be Janavs.
He hailed her as “very thorough, very knowledgeable.”
Bruguera acknowledged, however:
“I’ve heard attorneys who were disappointed with her temperament.”
One of the county’s top litigators remarked that Janavs is “not perceived as warm, fuzzy, friendly—although I’ve never heard anything derogatory about her intellect.”
Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Paul Turner of this district’s Div. Five commented:
“For the past 16 and one-half years, I have reviewed the decisions of Judge Janavs. She consistently follows the law and does so with efficiency and integrity.”
If she had temperament problem, he said, it would come through in the transcripts of proceedings in her courtroom. He’s viewed dozens of such transcripts, he noted, and spotted not “a single instance” of demeaning conduct.
Nonetheless, through the years, there have been grumblings among attorneys about her deportment. Putting it about as strongly as it’s apt to phrased,
“In my experiences appearing before Judge Janavs, I recall a short-tempered, narrow-minded, mean spirited and extremely biased judge.”
“Other attorneys with whom I have spoken regarding Judge Janavs comment that she heavily favors the Deputy A.G. on every case and turns a deaf ear to private counsel.”
Another lawyer, who requested anonymity, remarked:
“My own experience and observations are that Judge Janavs is frequently aloof and surly, and always very punctilious.”
CRITICISMS NOT ANTICIPATED
Confronted with the disapproving comments, Janavs, 69, appeared taken aback. She knew that some lawyers considered her “too demanding,” she said, but had not realized that there was a perception that she lacked appropriate temperament.
“I have to run a pretty tight ship because I have a huge calendar,” she pointed out, saying:
“I may have to tell a person, ‘This argument must end in the next two minutes.’ ”
Yet, she related, some observers of proceedings in her courtroom have told her they don’t know how she can remain so patient.
“There are times when one is frustrated,” Janavs said, giving as an example when she sees a declaration under penalty of perjury that doesn’t ring true, causing her to inquire as to the facts.
“Who doesn’t get frustrated occasionally?” she asked.
She acknowledged that hers is a “demanding court,” and described herself as a “perfectionist.”
Janavs’ high standards have not only ruffled feathers of some of the attorneys appearing before her, but also court research attorneys. One source at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse contended: “None of the experienced permanent research attorneys have worked for her or have expressed an interest in working for her.”
She can only get new admittees to work for her, the source said, remarking: “It’s basically been a revolving door in Department 85.”
Until last November, law clerks could only be assigned to a particular judge for two years; now it’s two-and-a half years. Most leave Janavs within a year, “some don’t even make it past six months,” the insider noted.
Janavs responded: “I’ve never heard of that,” and maintained that she has no problem working with staff lawyers. She noted, however, that she does the best she can to minimize reliance on them, working 12-hour days.
“I do three-fourths or so of my own work,” she said.
Preparation of rulings on applications for temporary restraining orders, Janavs noted, “I do myself, exclusively.”
Janavs hears matters on odd-numbered days in Department 85, while David Yaffe, the judge in department 86, has a calendar on even-numbered days. The two courtrooms constitute the Writs and Receivers Department which Janavs supervises.
She spends the non-calendar days and, generally, the afternoons of the days when she does hear matters, reading the papers—including, often, volumes of records in administrative mandamus matters.
Janavs noted that while the need to devote time to preparation militates against allowing argument to stretch into the afternoon if it can be avoided, it sometimes can’t be.
“I will never, ever cut my time short [in hearing argument] if I think it’s needed,” she said.
Turner pointed out that Janavs and Yaffe handle “some of the most complex cases in the state.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Assistant Presiding Judge Stephen Czuleger remarked that having Janavs in the Writs and Receivers Department “these past many years”—it’s been since August 1999—“has given the Los Angeles Superior Court an unparalleled resource to deal this most complex and demanding of calendars.”
Seemingly signaling that he intends to reassign her to that department during his tenure next year and the year after as presiding judge, Czuleger added:
“Judge Janavs is simply one of the most tireless and intelligent bench officers sitting today....Having her skill and dedication has made the job for court administration a much easier one and the public which we all serve is blessed with the quality that she brings every day to work.”
EMIGRATED IN 1950
Janavs’ father, who in
Both, she noted, were alive when Gov. George Deukmejian appointed her to the Superior Court in 1986, and attended her enrobement.
At the time of her appointment, Janavs was first assistant chief of the Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. One of the numerous attorneys she supervised in that capacity was Fumiko Wasserman, now a judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Wasserman recounted that in that role, Janavs “was highly regarded for her integrity, intelligence, work ethic, and knowledge of the law” and “was an excellent supervisor, who was accessible and supportive,” adding:
“She instilled her core values of doing what was fair and just.”
Wasserman went on to say:
“As a judge, she continues to promote and maintain those high standards. Our court has benefited from her legal acumen, hard work, and collegiality.”
Janavs had been a member of the U.S. Attorney’s Office since 1962, the year she was admitted to practice. She received her law degree from the
CONSIDERED FOR FEDERAL BENCH
Then-U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson, R-Calif., in 1990 recommended Janavs for appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. President George H. W. Bush did not take
Janavs recounted that she came under consideration at the same time as William Masterson (who became a member of this district’s Court of Appeal, and is now retired). Masterson was then 60.
The perception on the part of the administration, she said, was that Masterson “was too old and I was too liberal.”
She identified herself as a moderate Republican.
Janavs noted that Court of Appeal Justice (now Presiding Justice) Norman Epstein of this district’s Div. Four had urged her to seek appointment to his court, but she decided not to.
“I really sort of enjoy what I’m doing,” she explained.
Janavs lives with her husband, retired architect John R. Janavs, in a
“I have thought over the years that maybe I should retire,” she said. “I just couldn’t do it.
“I’m just not ready yet.”
The judge related that when she was challenged, the immediate support lent by colleagues was “uplifting, heartwarming, incredible.”
Now, she’s revving up as a candidate, readying to attend bar meetings and speak before civic groups.
“I’m not looking at this as something that’s going to be a misery,” she said.
20-YEAR INCUMBENT WITH FOREIGN-SOUNDING NAME DRAWS CHALLENGE
The sole Los Angeles Superior Court incumbent to be challenged in the June 6 primary election is Dzintra Janavs, a native of
The challenger is Lynn Diane Olson, co-proprietor of a bakery and sandwich shop in
Olson, running a silent and invisible campaign, has launched no criticism of the incumbent.
Speculation is that Olson entered the race because she viewed Janavs as vulnerable to a challenge in light of her foreign-sounding name. Olson has not denied that motivation.
In 1992, little-known attorney Patrick B. Murphy unseated incumbent Abraham Aponte Khan in a Citrus Municipal Court race, with the election outcome generally attributed solely to Khan’s name having been a political drawback.
The current race tests the strength of the ballot designation of “Judge of the Superior Court” in a context in which it has not previously been tested.
Janavs has hired the political consulting firm of Cerrell Associates, Inc. and will be holding fundraisers, while the challenger has said she will not spent even as much as $1,000.
by Alex Dobuzinskis, Staff Writer, LA Daily News
On Friday, the Los Angeles Superior Court judge was officially re-appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But two environmental groups complain that Janavs recently erred in dismissing their case.
The Santa Clarita Organization for Planning the Environment and the California Oak Foundation case against a proposed 160-acre Newhall business and industrial park was thrown out last month by Janavs, and they claim that the dismissal was a mistake since their side was due to be argued in court.
"I think a mistake on this (case) on the part of a judge is really questionable," said Lynne Plambeck, president of SCOPE, adding that Schwarzenegger should not have reappointed Janavs.
"It was a real slap in the face of the voters," she said.
An attorney for Gate King, the developer behind the contested industrial and business park project, also said the dismissal may have been an oversight, even though it was in favor of her client.
"It's unclear whether that dismissal was valid," said attorney Annie Mudge, adding that there may be other grounds for dismissal.
Janavs dismissed the case in favor of the defendants on Sept. 25, even though within a few days the plaintiffs were due to argue against a report that found there was enough water to support the project, said plaintiffs' attorney Babak Naficy, who was less critical of the judge than his clients.
"It's sort of a tempest in a teapot; I don't tink this is a significant event because it's pretty clearly done by a simple kind of oversight error," he said. "It's pretty rare, but these kind of mistakes do happen."
Naficy is due to argue in court on Oct. 25, and before then he expects to ask the court to reverse the dismissal ruling.
Janavs had been widely endorsed in her race against challenger Lynn Diane Olson, who practiced commercial law for four years before opening a bagel shop in 1992. Janavs finished 8 percentage points behind Olson.
After Janavs' supporters rallied around the judge, Schwarzenegger announced in June that he would reappoint her. Schwarzenegger suggested Janavs lost because of her name and that he could relate - since his own name is hard to pronounce.
Janavs was sworn in Friday at her
"Judge Janavs has a long and distinguished record as a jurist in
Santa Clarita is a defendant in the lawsuit and has declared that water supplies are adequate for the Gate King industrial park. An attorney for the city said that because Naficy apparently submitted objection papers late, Janavs' dismissal ruling should stand.
"It's a real technical issue; whether or not it will be reinstated is unknown," said attorney Geralyn Skapik, of Burke, Williams and Sorensen. "The judge will have to make a decision."
The California Oak Foundation has argued that the project, on
Janet Cobb, president of the California Oak Foundation, joined Plambeck in slamming the judge's dismissal of their case.
"... For whatever reason, it's highly unusual that someone voted out of office would be reappointed and then would make this grave error," she said.
By Janette Williams Staff Writer,
October 18, 2006 - PASADENA - The city should have made developer Gene Buchanan provide a new Environmental Impact Report when substantial changes were made to plans approved two years earlier to convert the historic Raymond Theatre to a housing and retail complex, an appeals court ruled Tuesday.
The 2nd District Court of Appeals panel of three judges said Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs erred in ruling that no new environmental report was needed in her decisions on a lawsuit filed in 2005 by Friends of the
The justices upheld Janavs' dismissal of the rest of the lawsuit, which alleged the city violated other state and local laws. The decision goes against the city, and removes Buchanan as a defendant.
Friends of the
In the 2005 suit, the group objected to city approval of Buchanan's plans to add a seventh story to the building and cut a hole in the roof to allow light and air into the interior. Members also opposed changing the residential part of the project from 61 apartments to 36 condominiums; the expansion of commercial space within the project; and a reduction in parking requirements.
In response, the city and Buchanan argued they were not properly served with notice of the lawsuit. The appellate court sided with Buchanan and dismissed the case against him, but ruled the city was properly served. Four other lawsuits are pending over the development.
Gina Zamparelli, founder of Friends of the
City News Service contributed to this report
BUSH TOUTS EDUCATION PROGRAM: He says No Child Left Behind is working and he won't back down on standardized testing.
by James Gerstenzang, LA Times Staff Writer
"We'll be rational and reasonable, but what we will not do is allow schools to lower standards. And what we will not do is allow people to get rid of accountability systems," Bush said.
He spoke at a
The measure expires at the end of next school year, but can be extended automatically if no changes are made.
Over four years, Bush said, the proportion of third-grade students reading at their grade level had gone from 46% to 76%. He attributed such gains to No Child Left Behind's demand that schools monitor progress with standardized tests and then act to correct deficiencies uncovered by the tests. Critics argue that "teaching to the test" does not necessarily prepare students to become engaged in a broader curriculum.
BIG BUSINESS GOING TO BAT FOR NCLB: Competitiveness Is Cited as Reason to Retain Law
by David J. Hoff | Education Week
As Congress gears up to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, business groups are laying the groundwork to have their voices heard in the process. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable—two prominent Washington-based groups representing business owners and chief executives of large corporations, respectively—announced last month that they have formed a coalition with other business groups to protect the nearly 5-year-old education law from major changes.
The U.S. Chamber, the Business Roundtable, and other business organizations are also pushing for changes in other areas of pre-K-12 education, such as improving mathematics and science education, expanding instruction in foreign languages and international issues, and offering preschool to all families that want it.
Business leaders say their interest in the No Child Left Behind law and other education matters can be summed up in one word: competitiveness.
“This is a very, very serious problem, and business takes it seriously,” Arthur F. Ryan, the chairman and chief executive officer of Prudential Financial Inc., a Newark, N.J.-based insurance and financial-services company, said at a forum on the NCLB law sponsored by the Business Roundtable in Washington last month.
Executives such as Mr. Ryan, who is chairman of the BRT’s task force on education and workforce preparation, are actively involved in part out of self-interest. They believe that by improving schools and student achievement, they’ll have better employees in the future.
“Business is probably the largest consumer of American education,” said Charles E.M. Kolb, the president for the Committee for Economic Development, a Washington-based group of business, academic, and philanthropic leaders. The priority is “having people in the workforce who are capable and have the skills you need in the workforce today,” he said.
Before Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, business leaders had not been big players in reauthorizations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Great Society-era legislation that was most recently revised by the NCLB law.
That year, the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce formed a coalition of 50 other business groups and individual companies to support key elements of the legislation, which President Bush ultimately signed into law in January 2002. The coalition worked hard to ensure that the law’s testing requirements focused on reading and mathematics and required annual snapshots of students’ performance. Congress adopted that approach, requiring testing in those subjects in grades 3-8 and once in high school.
The business groups also endorsed the law’s accountability measures that require districts to take action to fix schools not meeting achievement goals. Those interventions start with requiring districts to allow students whose schools don’t meet yearly achievement goals to transfer to other public schools after two consecutive years and to receive free tutoring after three consecutive years. If problems persist, the districts must intervene by taking over the schools.
Because the law’s testing and accountability requirements have faced criticism from various quarters, business leaders plan to enter the reauthorization debate and put their muscle behind keeping them in place, said one lobbyist.
“There’s a general sense that in the business community, No Child Left Behind was a very important step and to back away from it would be a troubling sign, … particularly in the face of this ramp-up [of educational achievement] in other countries,” said Sandy Kress, who as a White House policy aide helped President Bush negotiate with Congress over the details of the No Child Left Behind law. He is now a lawyer based in
The U.S. Chamber recently retained Mr. Kress to lobby on federal educational issues, particularly on the NCLB reauthorization, which is scheduled to begin next year.
While the most prominent business groups are backing the law’s testing requirements, some leading companies are looking for significant changes.
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, which includes technology and education companies such as Microsoft Corp., Pearson Education, and LeapFrog Schoolhouse Inc., wants assessments that can assure that students have gained more than basic academic knowledge during their school careers. The Tucson, Ariz.-based group also counts nonprofits such as the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and the American Association of School Librarians among its members.
The partnership’s approach measures “higher-order thinking skills” rather than simply the “memorization of facts” that schools stress under the current systems, said Joel Packer, the director of education policy and practice for the 3.2 million-member NEA.
“We would hope that [business leaders] recognize that you can have accountability, but you want to make sure it’s fair,” he added.
Susan Traiman, the director of public policy for the Business Roundtable, said the coalition her group is building with the U.S. Chamber is focused on reading and math achievement because those are the essential skills that all future workers need to master.
While the coalition of groups working with the BRT hasn’t taken an official stance on the Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ proposal, Ms. Traiman doubts that the states would be able to take on such a large expansion of testing.
“The question is whether we currently have the capacity in education to assess these additional skills on a statewide basis in a valid and reliable way,” she said.
Despite the current focus on the No Child Left Behind law, the
In a report earlier this year, the Committee for Economic Development advocated universal preschool for 4-year-olds. Also this year, it said that American schools should dramatically increase the availability of foreign-language instruction and require high school graduates to show an understanding of other countries’ geography and cultures.
“You can see how it’s increasingly important to learn about other countries and other cultures, and learn to speak other languages,” said John Brademas, the president emeritus of
Mr. Brademas, a Democratic member of Congress from
The Business Roundtable has set a goal of doubling the number of
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently established an institute that will focus on educational issues related to preparing students for a future in the workforce.
All of those efforts have one goal in common: to make American workers of the future economically competitive.
“We see there’s kind of an umbrella issue that all students graduate high school [ready for] college and work,” said Ms. Traiman of the BRT. “They’re all falling in under that broad objective.”
While corporate campaign contributions often open doors on Capitol Hill, one House aide said that business leaders also bring credibility to the debate over education policy because they are advocating changes, not resisting them.
“Their perspective is different than everyone else’s,” said Vic Klatt, the staff director for Republicans on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. “All of the education groups are first and foremost worried about their members and maintaining the status quo. The business community has no interest in the status quo.”
But Mr. Packer of the NEA said that the business community’s stance on the NCLB law is incomplete because it has been “largely silent” in the debate over funding for the program, which rose dramatically in the years after Congress passed it, but leveled off in the past two years.
“If you think these are good policies,” he said, “you should be pushing for resources for them.”
SIDEBAR — THE BUSINESS OF EDUCATION: Three major U.S. business groups, all based in Washington, with a wide range of interests in education policy, have recently stepped up their efforts to influence the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Members: 165 chief executives of major
Education agenda: Working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a coalition to improve the NCLB law. The groups support the law’s accountability and testing rules, especially annual testing to measure whether students are making progress toward reaching proficiency in reading and math. The roundtable has set a goal of doubling the number of college students graduating with majors in science, math, engineering, and technology by 2015. Improving the quality of K-12 math and science instruction is vital to meeting that goal, the group says.
▲U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Members: 3,000 state and local chambers of commerce, representing 3 million businesses
Education agenda: Is working with the Business Roundtable to support the NCLB law as Congress prepares to reauthorize it. Recently started the Institute for a Competitive Workforce, which convened a meeting this month of K-12 policymakers and business leaders to discuss important issues in education policy and how business leaders can be involved. The institute also plans to issue report cards on states’ education policies.
▲COMMITTEE FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Members: More than 170 business executives, academics, and philanthropic leaders
Education agenda: Advocating voluntary preschool programs for all 4-year-olds. Promoting foreign-language instruction and international education as a way to help students become better prepared to enter the workforce.
SOURCE: Education Week