Wednesday, August 12, 2009


by smf for 4LAKids

ON TUESDAY THE BATTLE FOR THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF LA SCHOOLCHILDREN - or a least for the fifty new schools about to be completed - went national.

  • DIANE RAVITZ - a national figure in ed reform - wrote an OpEd in the LA Times opposing the Yolie Flores Aguilar school board resolution to offer up the new schools to charter operators and outside partners.
  • MAYOR VILLARAIGOSA (not to be outflanked by his erstwhile ally Superintendent Cortines) held a "town hall" of his own and preached to a receptive choir (no nonbelievers need attend) about how the resolution was "the centerpiece of education reform for his second term." Hallelujah!
  • LEONE HAIMSON wrote an article in the Huffington Post critical of US Education Secretary Duncan's meddling in New York City Schools - lobbying for mayoral control at the expense of community and parental involvement. I think it's safe to assume we'll be hearing about Arne Duncan's support of the Flores Aguilar proposal within a day or two.

The lines are being drawn in City Hall and Sacramento and Washington DC. And the voices from the classroom and the neighborhood school are being largely ignored.


MY COMMENTS YESTERDAY ABOUT THE FIRST OF CORTINES' TOWN HALLS - about how democracy isn't pretty - came back and bit me at the second meeting - held Wednesday eve at Maywood Academy in Local District #6. That meeting was much more attractive and much less democratic.

Marty Galindo's (the local district superintendent) presentation of the official PowerPoint went much better. We saw slides #1 and #2 - interspersed with stock photos of children and families (it was the very model of a modern presentation) - and the rest was left as a homework assignment.

I'm being glib, but I'm frustrated - and I'm not alone. This is supposed to be about a plan …and no plan - if there is a plan - was presented. Marty was honest about the progress and challenges in LD6 to date. "We have done many things right - but we just haven't done enough things right."  Circumspection is not a plan.

The presentation done - or done away with - numbers were handed out and the community was called to the microphone to speak out, vent, comment, etc.

Gentle readers, this is not community engagement, this is not dialog. This is someone giving a speech and inviting a whole lot of other people to give their own two minutes on any subject. This is open mic at The Education Store.

The community did speak. They seemed ill-at-ease-with-or adverse-to charter schools taking over their schools. Even in the Southeast Cities, where the LA mayor has forged an alliance with the Southeast Cities Coalition, the people weren't at all interested in the LA mayor's Partnership for LA Schools (PLAS).

Often at meeting the most telling thing is who isn't who's at a meeting - but who isn't there.

  • At meeting number two in the superintendent's road show there was again no school board member.
  • The LA Parents Union/Parent Revolution held their own town hall earlier in the day, they excused themselves.
  • No one was there from the big charter operators who stand to gain the most. There were a couple of charter parents from small schools - the kind of schools the charter law envisioned - , but not from Green Dot or KIPP or ICEF or the Alliance for College Ready Schools. No one from the mayor's partnership - though a couple of PLAS parents spoke ill of that experience.
  • Nobody from the Southeast Cities governments, the mayors and councilpeople who are ubiquitous at meetings in the area. Intentional or not, the meeting was scheduled on the same evening as the Maywood City Council.
  • Where was Padres Unidos in their red outfits , the real voice of school reform in the SE cities?
  • Marty listed as a failure that the auditorium wasn't filled - there were maybe 200 present. While Maywood is the third-smallest incorporated city in Los Angeles County it has about thirty  thousand inhabitants and is the most densely populated municipality in California.

Superintendent Cortines, in the room, was silent as a sphinx. Listening is good, but it is not communicating.

THE PLAN AS OUTLINED calls for LAUSD to follow the lead of reform taken by New York, Chicago and Denver. Those places are not LA - and they haven't solved their problems. And LA already has more charter schools and partnership schools and pilot schools than all of them combined.

To what end? Reform isn't the goal, reform is the road.

We don't need to do something, we need to do the right thing. Show us a real plan. With goals and benchmarks and accountability.

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