Saturday, July 23, 2011

DR. DEASY DOES HIS HOMEWORK! ...or reading other people's mail

from the Associated Administrators Weekly Update

smf: Remember mail? People from before my time wrote letters. Then came the phone and email and - in very short order - moral decay and Rock 'n Roll and he decline of Western Civilization The end of the epistolary exchange. See The Letters of John and Abigail Adams – or novels like Letters from a Portuguese Nun (1669) to The Color Purple and Griffin and Sabine (an epistolary graphic novel).

Please read Sullivan Ballou’s letter to his wife Sarah on this the 150th anniversary of The First Battle Bull Run: “The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.”

The AALA newsletter is doing its best to rehabilitate the epistolary form. The following points out how it used to be done and can be done – and perhaps shouldn't be done.

It also raises questions like:

  • Whatever happened to decentralized authority and local decision making? AALA President Judith Perez correctly points out twice that the actual authority being challenged or usurped resides in the 'school principal and the School Site Council’.
  • And if the superintendent can bring back PSA counselors with a simple directive/mandate/missive to the troops why cannot (and why doesn't) he do the same for school librarians and school nurses?

Herself the Board President has issued a call for 100% graduation and 100% attendance by students and staff.  How – in the name of all that's good – is  a target of “66% student attendance 94% of the time” adequate/acceptable/good enough? When I do that math I come up with 62.04%.  If we had a 180 day calendar (we don't!) that would put median students in the mean classroom 118 days a year.



from the Associated Administrators Weekly Update of July 25 |

Last week’s Update (week of July 18, 2011) pointed out the numerous weaknesses of the District’s newly established homework policy. AALA wishes to commend Superintendent John Deasy for honoring AALA’s request to rescind the policy until public discussions are held to obtain the widest possible stakeholder input on any potential changes.

On Wednesday, July 20, 2011, Dr. Deasy issued a memo to all principals, which in part, stated the following:

After careful consideration, I have decided to postpone implementation of the District’s homework policy. While well-intended, I am not confident that the initial policy received sufficient comments and general input from parents, teachers, and board members. We cannot and will not implement a policy of this magnitude without actively soliciting and incorporating recommendations from our key constituencies.

Dr. Deasy further shared with principals his intentions and a timeline for the development of a new policy:

I continue to believe that this District needs a policy that properly balances homework with other critical factors–tests, classroom participation, and others–in determining student performance.

Accordingly, I have asked Dr. Jaime Aquino, Deputy Superintendent of Instruction, to lead the effort to craft a homework policy for LAUSD. This effort will be conducted in close consultation with parents, teachers, administrators, and board members. I will ask Dr. Aquino to have a draft of the policy to me by January 1, 2012, with the intention of taking it to the Board for a vote by March 1. Adhering to this schedule will enable the District to introduce the new policy in time for the 2012-2013 year.

AALA thanks Dr. Deasy for doing his homework! We also recommend that Dr. Aquino ensure that the committee he convenes to develop the revised homework policy addresses the following key issues as they prepare the draft for Board consideration:

• The many purposes of homework

• A review of current research

• The developmental needs of students from K through adult

• Differentiation of homework expectations for students with special needs, talents, interests and goals

• Content-specific needs (e.g., music practice, theatre rehearsals, multiplication table review,higher-level thinking through analysis of news articles, working with peers on projects)

• Multidisciplinary issues (e.g., reading and writing in all content areas, application of math content to the real world, research projects and presentations)

• Commitment to lifelong learning (e.g., study skills, sense of responsibility, work ethic)

• Success in postsecondary education (i.e., embracing the habits of mind necessary to complete college).


On June 28, 2011, Superintendent John Deasy sent a memo to 194 K-12 principals under the subject heading of “Attendance Improvement Requirement” that directed them to revise their 2011-2012 school budgets to include the purchase of PSA Counselor time to improve student attendance. We received many email messages and phone calls from AALA members expressing serious concerns about this directive, two of which we published last week.

While supporting the Superintendent’s goal of improved student attendance, our members disagreed with his mandated approach. AALA President, Dr. Judith Perez, sent the following letter to the Superintendent explaining why and requesting answers to key questions. His response follows the letter.

On or about June 30, 2011, 194 selected principals received a memo from you with the above subject,which stated, in part, “Those who have not purchased the required time are requested to meet with their Local District Director to identify available funds to meet this mandate.” AALA supports improved student attendance; however, this directive to principals reflects a lack of timeliness, support, and sensitivity. Principals received this mandate, directing them to find funds to purchase PSA counselor time, on a furlough day at the end of the 2010-2011 school year.

AALA and our members are requesting responses to the following concerns and questions so that they may act appropriately in response to the Superintendent’s directive:

• Many principals, working with their School Site Councils, have already allocated their funds for2011-2012. In all of your weekly Superintendent Newsletters, you state the following: “We will make the District budget more transparent, align resources for greater impact and equity, and

give schools the ability to target resources to meet their specific needs, bringing funding and decision-making closer to schools and classrooms.” Does your directive supersede agreed upon local school budgeting decisions?

• If this directive was prompted by “April, MyData Statistics,” why were principals not notified of this budgetary requirement until the end of June 2011, after their budgets were closed?

• Is District staff advising you of the dates when principals return to work for 2011-2012? If not, they should be.

• Most principals and principal leaders are currently not on District assignment. Therefore, they may not know of this requirement. Current District Title 1 Principals return to work on July 29, 2011. School Administrative Assistants (SAAs) return on or about August 17, 2011.

• Included in the June 28, 2011, memo you indicate that “those (principals) who have not purchased the required time are requested to meet with their Local District Director to identify available funds to meet this mandate.” Are Principal Leaders now called Local District Directors? Do Local District Directors have funds to support those principals and schools that no longer have available funds to respond to your mandate? If not, why are they being directed to meet?

• What if a school principal and school site council strongly believe that an additional administrator or counselor would better address the need for improved attendance than a PSA counselor? Does your directive supersede local school decision making?

• Whatever happened to the District policy of having each school develop a schoolwide attendance improvement plan, monitored by the principal and, as needed, by local district staff?

• Schools are currently operating with minimal administrative staffing. They need support, not ill-timed directives, which cause them to question District leadership and support.

• Why was AALA not copied on this memo? AALA has yet to receive, as promised, a copy of a memo to all division and unit heads, citing that AALA should be copied on memos and bulletins to principals.

AALA looks forward to your timely response.

AALA is delighted to report that Superintendent Deasy has modified his requirement that PSA Counselors be hired by those schools that do not meet the target of “66% student attendance 94% of the time.” The new expectation is that those schools that are not in compliance will be expected to submit an attendance improvement plan to be reviewed by the Local District, Deputy Superintendent of Instruction, Dr. Jaime Aquino, and Superintendent Deasy for implementation during the 2011-2012 school year. Quarterly reviews will be conducted throughout the year. Local District Superintendents have already been informed of this modification.

AALA thanks the Superintendent for responding quickly to the concerns expressed by our members and for rescinding his directive. We appreciate his recognition that one size does not fit all. We are confident that administrators and their teams will find a variety of creative and effective ways to improve student attendance, an essential goal, especially in this period of diminished resources and decreased student enrollment in the District.

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