Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Board Meeting of Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012: DEASY UNDONE?

2cents smf smf: It began with Board Vice-president Tamar Galatzan inexplicably in the chair even though President Garcia was present. Eventually Ms. Garcia took the chair back  after moments characterized below as “controversial”, “a shouting match” and “name calling” – with the words “raucous” and “angry” sprinkled throughout .

When last seen Garcia was angrily bouncing a green rubber ball on the dais – as the superintendent:

  • had his wings clipped on the issue of Grants and Funding Accountabilitywhich by his own admission amounts to over $1.5 billion in outside-the-budget funding a year;
  • got his way on a Parent Involvement Policy created behind closed doors with little parent input beyond the ones his staff hand-picked (and a blatant attempt to silence objection at the board meeting) …using the old “you’ve got to support this or we’ll miss the deadline” strategy, and
  • the return from-the-dead of of the superintendent’s Tablets-for-All Initiative was welcomed  like zombies everywhere

The Streaming Video of the Full Board Meeting is available here. You must have QuickTime installed on your computer to view it [free download] and there seems to be a glitch in the feed as of this writing.

Controversial Grant Approval Measure Passes, 4-3

by Hillel Aron in LA School Report |

December 11, 2012  ::   A controversial proposal written by Richard Vladovic to give the school board the authority to approve most grants over $1 million was approved 4-3 by the board today, following tense discussion and over the strenuous objections of Superintendent John Deasy.

<< Richard Vladovic, right, was the key player in another tense board meeting

Board member Vladovic argued that it is the school board’s job to set policy, and that some grants can change policy. ”Every grantor has an agenda,” said Vladovic. “They superimpose an ideology on us.”

Superintendent Deasy, who was visibly unhappy with the proposal, said it would jeopardize many of the grants LAUSD applies for, a number of which are “fast turnaround” grants. ”There’s no question we will miss out on many of them.”

Fierce Debate Over Grant Application Veto

In this video clip, LAUSD Board Members Tamar Galatzan and Steve Zimmer debate the risks the grant application veto could pose to school funding opportunities during the Tuesday, December 11 meeting:Posted on LA School Report December 12, 2012 by Samantha Oltman

The key vote swing vote cast by Steve Zimmer, who offered an amendment to raise the threshold to $1 million (from $750,000), and for the motion to only apply to “new, non-formula grants.” This was meant to exclude grants like Title I federal grants, which are given out to districts based on demographics, and was accepted by Vladovic and the proposal’s co-sponsors, Marguerite LaMotte and Bennett Kayser.

As usual, the board was deeply divided. The subtext for the discussion was a feeling, among certain board members and observers, that Deasy has too much control over the school board.

“Who is running the board?” shouted LaMotte. “Because it certainly isn’t the seven of us!” She also said that she and Deasy’s staff had an “inability to work together as a team.” ”I don’t even know who your senior staff is!” she told the Superintendent, who muttered something unintelligible off-mic. It was the first major vote in a long time on which the Superintendent found himself on the losing end.

Members of the board seemed just as unhappy. When Zimmer said that he didn’t want the district to lose any money but still thought the proposal could work, Board member Tamar Galatzan replied, “It’s incredibly arrogant for you to say it won’t affect a grant proposal when the superintendent said it will.”

“We don’t have a dedicated grant staff,” added Galatzan. She argued that the people who write the grants have many other responsibilities, and don’t “have luxury of coming back to the board for guidance.”

Vladovic said that most school boards in the county have approval authority over large grants. ”We aren’t going to lose grants,” he said, adding: “We may initially lose something that probably wasn’t good for us anyway.”

When Zimmer said, “I want superintendent and his team to come back with guidelines,” Deasy couldn’t help interjecting, “Not my guidelines– your guidelines.”

Deasy will now have to design the specific way to implement the board’s policy – that is, guidelines for which grants have to be voted on by the board

Technology or Salaries?

Earlier in the meeting, deputy Superintendent Jamie Aquino gave a presentation on expanding digital learning in the classroom, which contained a set of long-term goals including getting laptops, tablet computers and 3D printers into classrooms.

But things turned testy when Vladovic (clearly with a bee in his bonnet) wanted to know where the money would come from.

“I’m concerned with coming up with more than half a billion dollars,” he said. “I believe we need to restore the salaries of employees before we take on any of this.

“Are you saying we should raise salaries before we buy computers?” asked Board President Monica Garcia.

Vladovic then started yelling at Garcia: “I think salaries should be a priority!”

Galatzan asked Aquino for a proposal on how to fund the classroom devices. Presumably, the district would use bond money. Last month, the district bond committee rejected a proposal to use bond money to buy tablet computers for classrooms, although their vote was non-binding (See: Deasy’s Tablet Plan Blocked).

Angry parents

At another point during the lengthy meeting, dozens of angry parents showed up to speak out against a proposal to revise LAUSD’s Title I parent involvement policy. In their comments, the parents mostly spoke out against Maria Casillas, the head of School, Parent and Community Services, calling her a “bully” and accusing her of getting various parents thrown out of community meetings. The room became quite raucous, with parents standing up and shouting.

“These folks just to cause a disruption, to protest,” LAUSD associate general counsel Greg McNair to LA School Report.

Standing in the back of the room was Maria Casillas herself.

“I’m afraid of these guys,” she said. “They scratched my car up.”

Marguerite LaMotte shared the parents’ anger, and asked her colleagues to postpone the vote. The motion to postpone failed, 3-4, with Vladovic and Kayser joining LaMotte. The three of them abstained from voting for the motion itself, which then passed, 4-0.

In Other News

In far less divisive news, the school board unanimously passed a resolution “to improve the District’s food and nutrition policy.” (See the LAUSD press release here.)

The board also unanimously passed a non-binding resolution to  improve the dismissal process in California, which would have to be done by the State Legislature, aimed in particular at teachers who are found guilty of harming a child. (See the LAUSD press release here.) Senator Alex Padilla has a pending bill in Sacramento that would do just that


LAUSD board debates raising salaries or buying students tablet computers

By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer - LA Daily News (also Huffington Post


Students in Jenn Wolfe s seventh grade English class at Valley Academy of Arts & Sciences hold up their iPads. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

12/11/2012 06:53:56 PM PST  ::  With the groundwork laid for a new digital-learning plan, a request for a strategy to buy computer tablets for all students erupted Tuesday into a shouting match between two Los Angeles Unified board members over setting budget priorities for the district.

The altercation erupted amid a presentation on the district's vision of buying tablets for all 600,000 students - a plan that South Bay board member Richard Vladovic estimated would cost at least a half-billion dollars. He expressed concern about locating that much money and said he wanted to first reimburse employees for furlough days and salary cuts they've taken over the years.

"Are you saying we should raise salaries before we buy computers?" board President Monica Garcia asked, prompting Vladovic to shout, "I think salaries should be a priority!"

"We've taken so much away from employees," Vladovic said. "We need to restore what they're owed."

When Garcia responded that restoring salary cuts would amount to a raise, Vladovic said he wanted to ensure that district employees are working for a living wage.

"I don't want to put one (issue) against the other," Vladovic said. "I want to see the total package. I would say, `Let's bring everything at once so we, as a board, can decide priorities."

In the end, the board directed Deputy Superintendent Jaime Aquino to report in January on suggestions for funding the expansion of digital education, including infrastructure, equipment and employee training, and answers on how they could be used by students.

That issue arose on Monday, when students at Valley Academy of Arts & Sciences in Granada Hills were told they'd no longer be allowed to take home the iPads they've been given as part of a pilot project.

The district's legal staff had raised concerns about equipment purchased with bond money, as the iPads were, being taken off campus. That opinion apparently never made it through channels to administrators at the school.

Ronald Chandler, who heads the district's Information Technology Division, said he was trying to figure out where the communications breakdown occurred. He was also trying to determine how to reimburse parents who had paid $35 for an insurance policy covering the loss or damage of iPads removed from campus.

Consultant Tom Rubin, who works with the district on technology issues, said LAUSD attorneys are continuing to study the "devilishly complicated" regulations governing bond revenue and how they might apply to the evolving technology arena.

"There's an opinion from the California attorney general that bond money can be used for library books, and those can certainly be taken home," he said. "Bond money has also been used to buy school buses, and those leave campus. So, we believe there is precedent there."


LAUSD Faces Criticism For Plan To Buy iPads For 600,000 Students

CBS Los Angeles

December 12, 2012 8:57 AM  ::  LOS ANGELES ( — Officials with the Los Angeles Unified School District Wednesday said a proposal to use bond money to purchase iPad tablet computers for every one of its 600,000 students was critical to students’ academic future.

The proposal is part of a digital learning strategy being implemented by the district as it works to determine how to spend more than $17 million in bond money.

LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia was among the board members present at a meeting Tuesday night that erupted into a shouting match over whether that money should instead be spent on reimbursing employees for salary cuts and furlough days levied by the district in recent years.

Garcia told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO that officials remain focused on preparing students for the 21st-century workplace.

“L.A. Unified has to move towards closing the digital divide, putting an instrument in every student’s hands, because that is what the world is dictating,” Garcia said.

The district’s Bond Oversight Committee voted in November against a plan from Superintendent John Deasy that would provide electronic devices for LAUSD students at 14 secondary schools.

But the prospect of funding technological upgrades for students without paying teachers and staff for previous furlough days has drawn criticism of the proposal – a perspective that Garcia said she completely understands.

“Teachers and every employee have made great sacrifices, and when LAUSD gets more money from the state, should they be compensated? Absolutely,” she said.

The Board of Education moved in November to rescind 10 furlough days and restore its full 180-day academic year after the passage of Proposition 30.

Board members ordered Deputy Superintendent Jaime Aquino to devise a strategy on how to fund the expansion of digital education and report back in January.


LAUSD board narrowly OKs new parent policy at low-income schools

By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer,  - LA Daily News

12/12/2012 09:34:53 AM PST | 12/12/2012 07:33:35 PM PST ::  A long-simmering controversy about which parents can have a voice at Los Angeles Unified's Title I schools erupted Tuesday, with boisterous critics accusing a district administrator of bullying and discriminatory tactics.

The agenda item seemed fairly routine - updating a 2006 policy that encourages parents to participate in the decision-making process for how to spend $306 million in federal Title I grants at low-income schools.

But the issue provided an official forum for many parents who have been complaining for months about the school-site councils during the board's public comment period.

They lined up outside LAUSD headquarters and packed the board room, angrily demanding to be heard after the limited number of speakers' cards suddenly disappeared at the start of the meeting.

Daisy Ortiz took the microphone to lambaste Maria Casillas, the former head of the nonprofit Families in Schools, who was recruited to head the district's School, Parent and Community Services branch. Ortiz repeated comments she's made at several previous meetings that Casillas had her and other dissenting parents illegally ejected from meetings and prevented them from participating in the decision-making process.

"I ask you not to approve the policy due to the bad procedures that took place," Ortiz said in Spanish. "Maria Casillas is not letting parents participate in how to spend the money."

Given the vitriol expressed by critics, several board members asked for the vote to be postponed so mediation sessions could take place.

They were told, however, that the plan had to be approved on Tuesday because federal officials will be visiting the district in February and needed to have the policy in hand.

A motion to delay the vote failed, and the policy was approved by a four-member majority. Board member Steve Zimmer, who voted for the policy change, asked that Superintendent John Deasy bring together the feuding parties in an effort to resolve their differences.

"As this moves forward, with the conflicts expressed today, I want to be sure that the concerns expressed are mediated and that all voices can be heard," Zimmer said. "I want to acknowledge the voices who haven't been heard."

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