Tuesday, September 22, 2009

smf to Board of Ed on Sept 22nd

Text of smf speech re rules changes

Good afternoon President Garcia, Dr. Morris, and members of the Board. I officially bring you the Happy New School Year greetings and best wishes of Los Angeles Tenth District PTA and - unofficially - the seventy thousand card carrying PTA members of PTA in LAUSD.

There has been talk of this action and other recent actions of the board being "done deals" - I hope not. I'd like to believe that I'm not wasting my time and your time by tilting at windmills here.

The agenda item itself: "Proposes specific changes and suspension of specific board rules to align the operational rules of the board with current practice, create efficiencies and effectuate cost savings..." seems a cynical nod to the "done deal": - "…and adds Board Rule regarding authorizations required for teachers to teach English Language learners." seems like a bit of sugar coated misdirection.

My first suggestion is parliamentary and procedural - I call for a Division of the Question -- I ask that you break these proposed rules changes into individual items and debate each on their merits.

PTA participates in the Parent Engagement Task Force - a group charged under a resolution from the board - and you Ms Flores Aguilar - with creating parent involvement policy - which is a good thing - and opening LAUSD to greater parent and community engagement - which is a great thing. Many of us on the task force having been working at this for years -- we are well on our way.

But the message being sent here today - limiting public board meetings, eliminating committees, abridging public comment and standardizing meeting times is a series of big steps in the wrong direction. You endanger the progress being made by throwing out the baby with the bathwater - and Ms LaMotte is always reminding us that it's about the babies!

The committees which you propose to abandon offer unique public forums for the board to interact with district staff, community members, experts-in-the-field, and parents as equals - up there on that horseshoe in the comfy chairs - in conversations that drive policy. The advent of Full Day Kindergarten in LAUSD grew out of a discussion David Tokofsky and I began at the Facilities committee.

The book BEYOND THE BAKE SALE - An Essential Guide to Family School Partnerships poses some interesting themes: Who's in charge hare anyway? - Developing Relationships - Linking to Learning - Supporting Advocacy and Sharing Power.

It describes two models of parent organizations: THE TRADITIONAL MODEL built on bake sales and fundraising, regular meetings at convenient times to staff and supporting the principal's agenda - and THE LEADERSHIP MODEL, where the focus is on supporting student achievement, the agenda responds to issues within the community and meetings take place at the convenience of stakeholders.

You are creating policy here that compounds the issues we face and isolates this board to your offices, whether upstairs or in the field. You are making the same mistake that traditional parent organizations make: you need to reach out - not withdraw into policy and rules.

We - LAUSD - are making progress and we need your leadership. We need transparency and we need accountability. Parents need access to this Board of Education. We are not asking you to micromanage, we are asking you to lead. You need to embrace a leadership style that doesn't lead from the twenty-fourth floor but from this boardroom and out into the district - leading not from the top ….but from the center.

Thank you.

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