Friday, February 01, 2008


- by Howard Blume from the Homeroom Blog/

smf notes: THE TIMES HOMEROOM BLOG started out as a true weblog recalling the experiences of a couple of Teach for America student-teachers teaching in LA - along with a single student. Now it seems to be becoming a place where The Times publishes education news from the education beat reporters that the editorial staff doesn't consider weighty or 'sexy' enough for the printed paper - news like the following which weaves a tale of acrimony and dissent - and fundamental disagreement on policy - between the board of education and the superintendent. The kind of stuff no one should really care about.
Evergreen Solutions seems to be Superintendent Brewer's consultant of choice, having prepared the benchmark Evergreen Report - a"Reader's Digest" compendium of all the previous LAUSD reform studies for him.
Maybe the operation of the district should just be outsourced to Evergreen?

1/30/08 - Los Angeles school board members Tuesday gave no indication that they are in sync with retired Navy Adm. David L. Brewer, the novice schools chief who has three years left on a four-year contract to run the nation's second-largest school system.

In the end, board members narrowly approved a key component of Brewer's ongoing effort to turn around the lowest-performing middle and high schools: $680,000 in consulting contracts to help schools write reform plans.

But first they spent an hour beating up on the effort.

For those who like to keep score on what the seven board members are doing and saying, here are some of the gripes they expressed.

Marlene Canter: She wanted to know how these contractors would be held accountable. Could they just help write plans, cash their checks and walk away to the next needy urban school system? In the end, she voted to support the superintendent's plan. She also questioned why other board members were withholding support without giving more practical guidance on what it would take to win their support.

Julie Korenstein: She wanted to know what these contractors had accomplished elsewhere. And she reiterated an onging theme for her: that the federal No Child Left Behind Act is fatally unfair and will soon classify all schools as failing. She also voted with the superintendent.

Richard Vladovic: He wanted to know why outside contractors were needed. He would prefer using district "directors": They are the administrators who directly oversee high schools. At the same time, Vladovic said he felt he need to vote for the plan because Brewer is the hired leader. He would then hold Brewer accountable for the results. Vladovic later voted against the plan anyway.

Yolie Flores Aguilar: She questioned the plan's focus on middle and high schools, when only 24% of third graders test as proficient in English. (The number is actually 28%, but she's certainly not far off.) Not surprisingly, she voted no.

Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte: Without going into great detail, she said that there are "too many questions for something this important at this stage of the game." She voted no. But she also wanted to make clear: "My vote was against this procedure, this process for consultants. It has nothing to do with faith in the superintendent." The other "no" votes made no such stipulation.

Monica Garcia: She was willing to OK Brewer's plan but sounded an ominous warning that she expected to see tangible, siginificant results within a year. She voted yes.

Tamar Galatzan: Because she arrived late, she missed the discussion. But her vote was crucial. She broke the tie, which approved the consulting contracts by a 4-3 margin.

Brewer was relatively forceful in defending his plan--more so, for example, than he'd been in opposing health benefits for part-time cafeteria workers because of the cost. He said that the consultants were needed because the district lacked sufficient in-house expertise. To do this work in-house, he said, would require pulling people off other important jobs and would delay the effort. The reform plans are due by the end of March. He added that ultimately district administrators, especially principals and their supervisors, had to be responsible for crafting and carrying out school reform plans. The role of the consultants was to help school leaders with models for reform plans and to manage the tight timelines.

Much of the detail was explained by Robert Schiller, who has accepted, on an interim basis, the No. 2 job in the school district under Brewer. Schiller was originally brought in as a consultant but agreed to fill in as a top executive about a month ago.

Here is part of Schiller's official bio, taken from the Web site of Evergreen Solutions, where Schiller has worked as a consultant. "He has served as the state superintendent of education for the states of Illinois and Michigan, as well as deputy state superintendent for the states of Louisiana and Delaware. In Illinois, Michigan and Louisiana, he also held the title of state chief financial officer and was responsible for multibillion-dollar state budgets. During Bob's career, he also served as a district superintendent for five school districts in three states. In Baltimore City School District, he served as interim CFO and CEO for 16 months."

Schiller, who considers himself retired from longterm, full-time school-district duty, said he intends to turn over the L.A. Unified No. 2 job as soon as someone can be hired.

-- Howard Blume

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