Thursday, January 17, 2013


By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer | LA Daily News |

1/15/2013 08:05:27 PM PST  ::  A proposed Hebrew-English charter school in Van Nuys won the approval Tuesday of the LAUSD board, which also OK'd the renewal of two landmark charters and the conditional approval of a third.

Lashon Academy plans to open in July near Vanowen Street and Hayvenhurst Avenue, operating a dual-immersion program in English and Hebrew. It initially expects to enroll about 290 students in grades K-2, with a target of 660 youngsters in grades K-6 by the end of the five year charter.

The charter was approved 6-0, with board member Richard Vladovic absent, despite concerns raised by Tamar Galatzan about opening a language-based school.

"I'm generally supportive of choice," said Galatzan, who represents the Van Nuys area. "This is a choice that parents should make, and it's called private school."

Superintendent John Deasy pointed out there are several dual-immersion programs operating in Los Angeles Unified to cater to its diverse population.

"I'm interested to find out who would attend a Hebrew-English program in Van Nuys," Galatzan said, repeating her worries about "private schools masquerading as public schools."

The board also gave its backing to the renewal of N.E.W. Academy, a K-5 school in Canoga Park that ran into trouble in August 2010 when an audit by the district's Inspector General found questionable expenses and misappropriation of funds totaling nearly $2.7 million. The IG recommended ways for the school to tighten

its fiscal procedures and controls, and the charter operator subsequently submitted monthly status reports to the district.

The district's Charter Schools Division said it continues to monitor the school, but believes that the fiscal problems have been resolved.

Renewals for the N.E.W. Academy charter, as well as the charter for Vaughn Next Century Learning Center in Pacoima, were approved without discussion.

North Valley Charter Academy in Granada Hills won conditional approval, after operators agreed to rectify problems outlined by district staff within 30 days.

That includes dropping a requirement that students enroll in its summer camp, and revising its fee structure, which mandated that students buy uniforms from the school. Operators also will revise its suspension and expulsion policy to eliminate a demerit system that would violate state law.


2cents smf: Tuesday’s board meeting was one of the great dysfunctional conclaves in the LAUSD board’s pathetic-yet-extensive history of dysfunctional meetings.  The superintendent crammed his reconstitution of Crenshaw through without opposition from the board ….although the students, teachers, parents and the Crenshaw community were very vocal-but-unheeded in opposition. And the transfer to LAUSD of the Aspire charters – one of the statistically best (repeat: statistically*) charter organizations - unopposed from the community - was not approved.

The approval of Lashon Academy is a case in point of the Bd of Ed’s mealy-mouthedness and collywobblihood on charters. No being a clinician I’m not going to diagnose bi-polarity …but I would question selling them a firearm!

Both Tamar Galatzan and Steve Zimmer expressed serious misgivings about the school’s program and still voted to support it.  And I’m going to go all politically incorrect here to state the obvious: Both Ms. Galatzan and Mr. Zimmer are Jewish – and as members of that community (which I am also by marriage, sympathy and one-time temple membership) both questioned the equity and correctness of a dual immersion Hebrew-English program.

At one time in the history of education, instruction of-and-in Hebrew, Latin and Greek were pillars of a Classical Education – but no evidence was presented here of instruction at Lashon in Latin or Greek or the Dialogues of Plato.

Ms. Galatzan questioned the demographics of a Van Nuys based Hebrew-English Academy – going as far as to suggest that the students would be predominantly-if-not-exclusively white, Jewish and Israeli – hugely at odds with the general demographics of Van Nuys itself.  Mr. Zimmer – who is under political attack from the charter community – asked but was not answered on the same question. And no one from the charter itself or District staff spoke to this issue. It is an question everyone on the board and the charter office and the superintendent’s office want to keep at the distance of a ten cubit pole.

Ms Galatzan opined that this just might be a private school. (The courts and the US Dept of Commerce have already established that charters are private schools …but we know what she means.)

Lashon Academy appears to fail the duck test. It swims like a private school. It waddles like a private school, It quacks like a private school.

To the board and especially the Talmudic scholars on the board let me offer this: If you have questions that are unanswered, or if the answers are unsettling or raise deeper questions you have a couple of options:

  1. You continue to ask questions.
  2. You move to postpone the decision
  3. Or you abstain or oppose.

Voting to support after kvetching+kvelling your concerns isn't really an option.


* “Applying objective measures badly is worse than not applying them at all.” Statistician Nate Silver |

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