Saturday, April 26, 2008



Sherman Oaks Sun - LAUSD Talk

In a season of depressing stories about the Los Angeles Unified School District, the recent hiring of Ray Cortines to fill the position of Senior Deputy Superintendent stands out as an exception.  With his vast experience in public education and proven commitment to putting students first, Cortines is a valuable asset.

Before he gets too comfortable in the job, however, I thought now would be a good opportunity to offer the Senior Deputy Superintendent a few of my own suggestions for improving our schools.  Having met with him several times, I know he is open to new ideas.

Help for schools in middle class and upper middle class areas

A glaring misconception about the LAUSD is that schools located in upscale communities are “well-off” by definition.  In fact, more often the opposite is the case.

Since these schools do not usually qualify for Title One funds, they must seek financial support elsewhere for such necessities as a nurse, psychologist, PE teacher, or updated computers.  And no matter how many parents contribute, the amount of funds could never come close to matching what schools in low-income communities receive from Title One.

I would ask Cortines to work with the Superintendent and the Board to find a way to develop a more equitable distribution of funds and resources to schools in “well-to-neighborhoods” – many of which are in my board district.  If the District continues to engage in a half-hearted attempt to meet the needs of these schools, or dismisses them altogether, more and more disgruntled parents will simply choose private schools or charters.

Reducing the drop-out rate/increasing the graduation rate

Depending on which study you consult, the drop-out rate in LAUSD is anywhere from 26 to 50 percent.  Either figure is unacceptable.

Cortines has already indicated that one of his top priorities will be getting more kids to graduate.  I strongly support this effort, and have shared some of my ideas for turning the situation around.  These include the establishment of strong and consistent measures for determining the efficacy of existing programs to increase the graduation rate.  We need to know what works, what doesn’t work, and what must be changed.

Eliminate Needless Expenditures

The most prominent of the depressing stories I alluded to at the beginning of this column is the LAUSD’s budget crisis.  Though much of the problem is attributable to a $460 million reduction in revenue from the state, there are also areas where the District can make meaningful cuts.

As an example, I recently learned that LAUSD was preparing to spend millions of dollars to a company that launders PE towels for students.  I believe we can no longer afford to allocate funds for this kind of service.  (For the time being, the issue has been shelved).  To achieve this and similar funding cuts, I need the strong backing of Cortines, the Superintendent, and my colleagues on the Board.

The hiring of Ray Cortines gives me hope that we can improve the management of LAUSD and provide students with a better education.  I am eager to start working him on accomplishing these goals.

Tamar Galatzan represents LAUSD District 3 on the School Board. She has an office on the 24th floor of LAUSD HQ; the board members offices are behind locked and secured doors - there is no access to the 24th floor from building stairwells.  Senior Deputy Superintendent Cortines has an office on the more accessible 11th floor, he is famous for his open-door policy.  Up until recently Deputy City Attorney Galatzan and Deputy Mayor Cortines had offices at City Hall. Having said that 4LAKids hopes that Ms. Galatzan and Mr. Cortines are not having their principal dialog on the pages of the Sherman Oaks Sun.

Sun Community Newspapers - LAUSD Talk

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