Monday, April 30, 2012

L.A. YOUTH: Student newspaper faces funding crunch

L.A. High school students from around L.A. write for their peers in L.A. Youth, a newspaper that tackles weighty subjects important to teens. But its sources of funding have taken a hit.

From an earlier generation of L.A. Youth

Mike Fricano, one of the adult editors for L.A. Youth, shows students copies of the paper from its 1992 L.A. riots coverage. (Gary Friedman, Los Angeles Times / April 29, 2012)

By Rick Rojas, Los Angeles Times |

April 29, 2012, 6:55 p.m  ::  As they do on many Saturday afternoons, the teenagers from across Los Angeles county descended on the nondescript Fairfax district office building. It was time for the weekly editorial meeting at L.A.Youth the newspaper by teens for teens. The latest issue had just hit the hallways of L.A. schools, and the deadline for the next one was fast approaching.

As more than a dozen students sat around a square of folding tables, Amanda Riddle, one of the adult editors, kicked things off with a question: What did they know about Trayvon Martin?

The killing of the Florida teenager sparked an intense conversation that slalomed from an injustice — in the view of many at the table — to race and racial profiling; why a hoodie, a sweatshirt so ubiquitous to them, could be considered to have played a role in the teen's death; to gun rights, whether their parents had guns in their home, and whether or not that was a good idea.

Then Riddle stopped them: Who's going to write this?

That's the formula for producing the newspaper centered around first-person accounts of young people on their community, culture and the challenges they face, allowing for more depth than the typical high school newspaper. Over the years, they've tackled such subjects as life as an undocumented immigrant, drug abuse, teen pregnancy and how budget cuts have hurt their schools.

In the most recent issue, Locke High School student Maceo Bradley wrote an account of his mission to take on the city's (now-altered) policy for ticketing tardy students. There were also stories about life in the juvenile justice system, an Indian girl coming to appreciate her culture by learning Bollywood-style dancing, and one young man's dispatch on learning to drive with a mom scared to ride with him.

"It's just a really important outlet for a lot of teenagers," said Oscar Rodriguez, now a 28-year-old graphic designer, who did illustrations for L.A. Youth as a Lynwood High School student. "Usually you're in your own little world, but when you get letters from random people" — other teens who read the paper — "it opens your eyes. You realize there's a world out there, and people are feeling the same way I did."

L.A. Youth, he said, "definitely played a part in what I went on to do in life."

But as the newspaper approaches a quarter-century, it is struggling to hang on. The foundations whose grants have long been the primary source of funding have pulled out, and board members who once brought in corporate donations have been laid off, said Donna Myrow, L.A. Youth's executive director.

The paper, which operates on a $500,000 budget, has two full-time editors, Riddle and Mike Fricano, who guide the young scribes through the writing process. L.A. Youth is printed six times a year, with a circulation of about 70,000 and an estimated readership of 400,000, Myrow said. (The Times donates the printing of the newspaper.)

Myrow said the newspaper needs to raise $500,000 by mid-May or it will run out of money. Unlike other newspapers, which have seen scores of readers migrate to the Internet, Myrow said that's not an option. Even with this high-tech generation, she said not as many students would read it online, mostly because of a lack of computer access.

Jolie Augustine, an English teacher at Wilson Middle School in Glendale, has included L.A. Youth in her lessons for eight years. The paper, she said, serves as an "important way for students to think about writing, to think about the issues that affect them. Their parents don't talk about these issues with them. It's certainly not in textbooks. These are real issues that L.A. teens are talking about."

And when the paper prints letters to the editor from her students — which she encourages through extra credit — she said it gives them a sense of validation. "They feel their voice is being heard," she said, "and they are being recognized."

It's that sense of affirmation that attracts the students who have become regular contributors.

On a recent Saturday, they flipped through the pages of the latest edition. They critiqued the design — some quite harshly — and didn't take too well to an article that had been underwritten by a company (they thought it looked too much like an ad).

And when the editors asked about the next edition, Kristy Plaza, a senior at Duarte High School, raised her hand. She wanted to write about racial profiling.

Plaza, 18, said she would like to become a journalist and tell the stories of her community. L.A. Youth, she said, provides her the experience to get started.

Even with all the serious topics, there's still plenty of room to riff. Victor Beteta, a University High School senior, has written music reviews and taste-tested new lunch options at school ("It was all right," he said, "definitely not the best.")

Beteta, 18, said he knows other students are reading. He wrote an essay about listening to classical music, and he received a number of letters from other teens who enjoy it too.

And after friends and classmates told him they saw his picture in the paper, he knew they had to flip through the pages to find it. Through the experience, he said, he has learned there's something even better than having a voice. It's knowing someone is listening.


Click here to write to L.A. Youth
L.A. Youth can also be reached at:
5967 W. Third Street, Suite 301
Los Angeles CA 90036
(323) 938-9194

The Current Issue:

March – April 2012
Downloads: PDF of issue | Teacher’s Guide

L.A. Youth (Youth News Service Los Angeles Bureau) is a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt, nonprofit organization.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

This has little to do with public education, it has everything to do with what’s going on in LAUSD: AN OBITUARY FOR THE FACTS

Facts, 360 B.C.-A.D. 2012

In memoriam: After years of health problems, Facts has finally died.

Ask Rex Huppke: I Just Work Here

By Rex W. Huppke, Chicago Tribune reporter|

April 19, 2012  ::  A quick review of the long and illustrious career of Facts reveals some of the world's most cherished absolutes: Gravity makes things fall down; 2 + 2 = 4; the sky is blue.

But for many, Facts' most memorable moments came in simple day-to-day realities, from a child's certainty of its mother's love to the comforting knowledge that a favorite television show would start promptly at 8 p.m.

Over the centuries, Facts became such a prevalent part of most people's lives that Irish philosopher Edmund Burke once said: "Facts are to the mind what food is to the body."

To the shock of most sentient beings, Facts died Wednesday, April 18, after a long battle for relevancy with the 24-hour news cycle, blogs and the Internet. Though few expected Facts to pull out of its years-long downward spiral, the official cause of death was from injuries suffered last week when Florida Republican Rep. Allen West steadfastly declared that as many as 81 of his fellow members of the U.S. House of Representatives are communists.

Facts held on for several days after that assault — brought on without a scrap of evidence or reason — before expiring peacefully at its home in a high school physics book. Facts was 2,372.

"It's very depressing," said Mary Poovey, a professor of English at New York University and author of "A History of the Modern Fact." "I think the thing Americans ought to miss most about facts is the lack of agreement that there are facts. This means we will never reach consensus about anything. Tax policies, presidential candidates. We'll never agree on anything."

Facts was born in ancient Greece, the brainchild of famed philosopher Aristotle. Poovey said that in its youth, Facts was viewed as "universal principles that everybody agrees on" or "shared assumptions."

But in the late 16th century, English philosopher and scientist Sir Francis Bacon took Facts under his wing and began to develop a new way of thinking.

"There was a shift of the word 'fact' to refer to empirical observations," Poovey said.

Facts became concrete observations based on evidence. It was growing up.

Through the 19th and 20th centuries, Facts reached adulthood as the world underwent a shift toward proving things true through the principles of physics and mathematical modeling. There was respect for scientists as arbiters of the truth, and Facts itself reached the peak of its power.

But those halcyon days would not last.

People unable to understand how science works began to question Facts. And at the same time there was a rise in political partisanship and a growth in the number of media outlets that would disseminate information, rarely relying on feedback from Facts.

"There was an erosion of any kind of collective sense of what's true or how you would go about verifying any truth claims," Poovey said. "Opinion has become the new truth. And many people who already have opinions see in the 'news' an affirmation of the opinion they already had, and that confirms their opinion as fact."

Though weakened, Facts managed to persevere through the last two decades, despite historic setbacks that included President Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky, the justification forPresident George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq and the debate over President Barack Obama's American citizenship.

Facts was wounded repeatedly throughout the recent GOP primary campaign, near fatally when Michele Bachmann claimed a vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease causes mental retardation. In December, Facts was briefly hospitalized after MSNBC's erroneous report that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign was using an expression once used by the Ku Klux Klan.

But friends and relatives of Facts said Rep. West's claim that dozens of Democratic politicians are communists was simply too much for the aging concept to overcome.

As the world mourned Wednesday, some were unwilling to believe Facts was actually gone.

Gary Alan Fine, the John Evans Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University, said: "Facts aren't dead. If anything, there are too many of them out there. There has been a population explosion."

Fine pointed to one of Facts' greatest battles, the debate over global warming.

"There are all kinds of studies out there," he said. "There is more than enough information to make any case you want to make. There may be a preponderance of evidence and there are communities that decide something is a fact, but there are enough facts that people who are opposed to that claim have their own facts to rely on."

To some, Fine's insistence on Facts' survival may seem reminiscent of the belief that rock stars like Jim Morrison are still alive.

"How do I know if Jim Morrison is dead?" Fine asked. "How do I know he's dead except that somebody told me that?"

Poovey, however, who knew Facts as well as anyone, said Facts' demise is undoubtedly factual.

"American society has lost confidence that there's a single alternative," she said. "Anybody can express an opinion on a blog or any other outlet and there's no system of verification or double-checking, you just say whatever you want to and it gets magnified. It's just kind of a bizarre world in which one person's opinion counts as much as anybody else's."

Facts is survived by two brothers, Rumor and Innuendo, and a sister, Emphatic Assertion.

Services are alleged to be private. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that mourners make a donation to their favorite super PAC.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


By Susan Ferriss, iWatch News: The Center for Public Integrity |  FROM THE Huffington post |

Posted: 04/25/2012 5:07 pm   ::  As a national debate heats up over appropriate student discipline, new data from Los Angeles reveal that school police there issued more than 33,500 court summonses to youths between 10 and 18 in three years -- with more than 40 percent of those tickets going to children 14 and younger.

The data obtained by the Center for Public Integrity show that officers of the nation's largest school police force issued the equivalent of 28 tickets every day to students during the 2011 calendar year. The Los Angeles Unified School District totals almost 680,000 pupils; the district's police force has 340 sworn officers and support staff. 

Students ticketed in 2009 through 2011 were disproportionately Latino or African American. Last year, black students represented about 10 percent of the Los Angeles Unified School District but 15 percent of those ticketed. In 2010, black students were 20 percent of those cited.

Latinos, about 73 percent of the district enrollment, represented 77 percent of those cited last year. White students, nine percent of enrollment, were about 3 percent of those ticketed.

This sheer volume of citations, the racial and ethnic statistics and the number of younger children cited have all contributed to a brewing controversy over the role of police in public schools in Los Angeles.

Among those who have expressed concern is Judge Michael Nash, who presides over Los Angeles' juvenile courts, and has actively supported reforms to reduce police citations for incidents he believes should be handled in schools or through counseling or meetings with parents outside court.

"How much time do our courts have to deal with these kids? I don't think this has been effective, and it has dealt with them in a superficial way," Nash said.

Nash, like other prominent juvenile court judges across the country, points to research showing that students who are pulled into court on minor offenses end up at increased risk of going on to more serious trouble and dropping out of school.

The courts, Nash added, "are not there for schools to abdicate their responsibility to work with kids on minor discipline matters."

In 2009 through 2011, Los Angeles' school police cited students for a wide range of infractions that include failing to wear a helmet while biking, jaywalking, vandalism, possessing markers that could be used for graffiti, having cigarettes or a lighter or marijuana possession.

Other than tardiness, one of the largest single categories of citations over the course of three years was disturbing the peace. This offense can stem from kids engaging in fisticuffs, but can also include threatening to fight or simply being boisterous or unruly in school or nearby.

Out of 2,378 citations for various kinds of disturbing the peace allegations issued to kids between 10 and 18 last year alone, far more than half -- 1,522 -- were given to students between 10 and 14 years old, the Center found.

About 30 elementary-school students from age seven to nine, all black or Latino, were also ticketed during this three-year period. Officers also cited several hundred adults each year.

Community organizations in Los Angeles are also analyzing the police statistics, which they obtained as a result of a public records request. The statistics do not include arrests officers made or summons to full-fledged delinquency court. The 33,500-plus citations in the new data represent referrals to what is known as Los Angeles' informal traffic and juvenile court for lower-level allegations.

Officers with the Los Angeles Police Department and other city police forces that operate in the district also ticket and arrest students. But the Los Angeles Unified School District Police are a constant presence, with officers posted in schools and patrolling nearby. School staff can request that officers get involved in discipline matters, but officers can also make independent decisions at times to ticket students.

District Police Chief Steven Zimmerman, who has been receptive to community groups urging changes in how police interact with students, sent prepared comments Wednesday after the Center's story was initially published. Ellen Morgan, spokeswoman for the school district and school police, said previously that the district had no response to the Center's findings and that the chief wanted to review the statistics.

On Wednesday, in a written response, the chief said: "A student's first contact with school law enforcement usually occurs in middle school. Hopefully, the contact is positive and the student learns from whatever mistake was made."

Zimmerman said "a citation is an educational tool," and so it is expected that middle-school students will receive more citations than older students. He also noted that overall citations were "trending down over the past three years," with African American students' citations "trending lower" and white and Latino students' citations rising in proportion. 

The Center found that there was a decrease in tickets to 10-to-18-year-olds from 11,880 in 2009 to 10,172 in 2011. Some of that decrease, according to some community organizers, stems from a decline in daytime curfew tickets after complaints began to bubble up from parents and students.

Zoe Rawson, a lawyer with the Labor-Community Strategy Center -- one of the groups that requested the citations information -- said the data reveal that nearly a quarter of all citations were issued at the Los Angeles district's middle schools.

"The majority of youth policed on campus," Rawson said, "are being cited for conduct that is either non-violent or conduct, like fighting amongst students, that a school must anticipate and has the best opportunity to prevent."

Rawson, who has represented students in court, said that there are proven methods that schools can turn to that help reduce disruptive behavior without resorting to police citations that include community service penalties or fines of several hundred dollars.

Ticketed students are ordered to appear in court with a parent during regular work hours, which means parents must often miss work, which can provoke considerable conflict within families, Rawson said.

Zimmerman, in his written response, said: "School yard fights have been a part of school life for a long time. Many intervention programs are in place but young students do not always follow the program . . . Young students sometimes need a wake-up call so that they will not continue similar behavior as an adult. A visit to a juvenile-court referee should help make the student aware that fighting is not tolerated in society."

Nash, the presiding juvenile-court judge, said many kids don't tell their parents about tickets, and never show up in court. Their fines can accumulate into thousands of dollars, and they can face a misdemeanor charge for failing to appear.

Jesse Aguiar, 20, is an organizer with a group called the Youth Justice Coalition. He said he received his first ticket -- for being disruptive -- when he was at 11, at which time he viewed the citation as a badge of honor.

"It was like a dream come true to me," he said. "I grew up in a neighborhood where I listened to Snoop Dog and that stuff. When I got a ticket from police, I felt that I was official."

Aguiar said he went on to get into more trouble, eventually doing time at juvenile hall. His younger brother, Christopher, 16, was ticketed for vandalism last year for "tagging" under a freeway. Christopher said he was just bored and looking for something to do. He was also cited for arriving about an hour late to school.

"I overslept," Christopher said. "I could have not gone to school, but I had an exam that day."

The 12 informal juvenile and traffic courts, where "referees" rather than judges hear from kids and decide penalties, are slated to be shut down by June 30 due to a financial crunch.

Once that occurs, Nash said, the plan is to forward students' tickets to probation officers, who will decide whether the cases merit a conference with parents at a probation office or should be sent to juvenile delinquency court, where students could face prosecutors. Youth advocates are concerned that a trip to juvenile delinquency court will only serve to further "criminalize" student behavior.

Nash said the pending closure of the informal juvenile and traffic courts "is really a golden opportunity for us to all work together to craft a way to deal with this without referral to law enforcement."

Nash recently took steps to enact reforms inside the informal juvenile courts by ordering that referees there stop requiring students to pay daytime curfew fines, and instead refer students to counseling or community service.

The city of Los Angeles also recently amended its 1995 daytime curfew laws to drop basic fines of $250 and instead require counseling sessions to address root causes of tardiness or truancy and help students make plans to get to school.

Data editor David Donald contributed to this story.

Updated (April 25, 2012, 3:53 p.m.): This story was updated to add comments from Steven Zimmerman, schools' police chief.


Granada Hills (again) wins Academic Decathlon

By Harrison Sheppard, Staff Writer | LA Daily News |

Granada Hills Charter High School won the national Academic Decathlon in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Saturday, April 28, 2012. It is their second consecutive national championship. (Cliff Ker)

28/2012 03:46:45 PM PDT ::  Granada Hills Charter High School has repeated as champion of the national Academic Decathlon, scoring the highest point tally in the competition's history.

The reigning champ beat out teams from 30 other states and one from London in the Albuquerque, N.M. finals.

"This is phenomenal," Los Angeles Unified's Acadeca coordinator Cliff Ker said. "This is by far the highest score any team has ever gotten in the history of Academic Decathlon."

That score - 54,081 points out of a possible 60,000 - broke the previous record of 53,119 set by Moorpark High School in 2008.

The win culminates a long season of hard work by the team members, including up to 12 hours a day of studying and skipping winter and spring vacations.

"It's almost like sweatshop labor," joked team member Jimmy Wu, who scored 9,182 points, a record for a varsity-level competitor. "Twelve hours a day of studying. It's ridiculous. I don't even know how I did it."

"It was totally worth it," the 17-year-old senior from Northridge added. "I've grown so much. ... I feel like the 12 hours a day of sweatshop labor really paid off."

Team member Sean Wejebe, who earned the competition's highest individual score with 9,441 points, credited the win to strong teamwork and a spirit of solidarity.

"We all had our moments of doubt and `Is it really worth it?"' said the 17-year-old senior from Canoga Park.

"But as a team, we managed to pull together.

Whenever someone was feeling unmotivated or unsure of what they were doing, as a team we would help each other out through this."

Spencer Wolf, one of three Granada Hills co-coaches, said team members were confident entering the competition because throughout this year their scores in the earlier rounds were far above their closest rivals.

"We've been dominant the entire year," Wolf said. "So we shifted our focus to setting personal goals for the kids and performing as well as possible. Somewhere along the line we realized we had a chance to break the all-time record so we used that to motivate the kids."

The win also boosts LAUSD's program at a critical time. The district has been the most successful in the national program's history, with 13 champions since 1982.

But as LAUSD struggles with a fiscal crisis, it is proposing to gut the program's budget. Ker has been scrambling to raise private donations to keep the program going.

"I'm hoping that the budget picture for LAUSD will crystallize or improve over what it's been." Ker said. "But nobody really knows. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed."

"As successful as our kids have been, and for future generations, we have to keep it going."

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, who attended the Super Quiz portion of the competition, offered his praise to the school.

"Congratulations to Granada Hills Charter High School's academic decathlon team and coaches on capturing the national title," Deasy said in a written statement. "Their incredible commitment, discipline, and hard work have resulted in another decathlon win for LAUSD."

Granada Hills also won the 2011 competition in Charlotte, N.C., but its team members were all new this year.

The Academic Decathlon competition involves a series of intellectual contests in 10 categories: art, economics, essay, interview, language and literature, mathematics, music, science, social science and speech. The theme of the 2012 competition was "The Age of Empire."

Teams compete at the district and state level before moving on to nationals.

Students on the Granada Hills team are: Lev Tauz, Sean Wejebe, Hamidah Mahmud, Christian Koguchi, Priscilla Liu, Kimberly Ly, Jimmy Wu, Stella Lee, and Julia Wall. The team was coached by Matt Arnold, Nick Weber and Spencer Wolf.

The school's team members also dominated the individual portion of the competition, with seven students among the top nine finishers. Four of them broke the 9,000 point barrier, a rare feat in Acadeca: Sean Wejebe (9,441); Lev Tauz (9,430); Hamidah Mahmud (9,041); Jimmy Wu (9,182).

The school is planning a rally for the national champions Monday morning.

Granada Hills wins Academic Decathlon with record-breaking score

It is the second straight national victory for the charter high school. Teams and coaches from other states view the students with awe, clearly impressed at their prowess.

By Rick Rojas, Los Angeles Times |

Granada Hills wins Academic Decathlon

Granada Hills Charter High School's Kimberly Ly is hugged by her mother, Tsao, after the team victory in the National Academic Decathlon in Albuquerque. (Eric Draper, For The Times / April 29, 2012)

Academic Decathlon pushes students outside their comfort zones
Academic Decathlon pushes students outside their comfort zones
2012 National Academic Decathlon in Albuquerque
Photos: 2012 National Academic Decathlon in Albuquerque
For Academic Decathlon team, hard work and adrenaline rushes
For Academic Decathlon team, hard work and adrenaline rushes

April 28, 2012, 7:14 p.m. – ALBUQUERQUE   ::   In the nine months since the Granada Hills Charter High School Academic Decathlon team began studying for the competition, it's racked up an impressive list of accolades.

The group took home victories locally, beating out all other teams in the Los Angeles Unified School District — and statewide, besting teams from across California.

On Saturday, for the second year in a row, Granada Hills clinched the national title, outperforming 32 other teams. And this year — with a score of 54,081 points — the students claimed the highest score ever at the national competition.

The team's top scorer, Sean Wejebe, crossed the award ceremony stage so many times, it became a running joke with the master of ceremonies, a local broadcaster. ("From Granada Hills Charter High School in California — I'll just let everyone guess: Sean Wejebe!")

Teams and coaches from other states viewed the Granada Hills students with awe, clearly impressed at their prowess.

"This was our end goal, and we did it," said Julia Wall, a senior on the team. Now, they have the "reward for all of our work over the past nine months."

Yet it was clear that there were other victories. Those are not as tangible as the clanking medals around the students' necks and the heavy glass trophy. But they are perhaps even more important: team bonding. Confidence. Endurance. Social skills.

"The nature of the program turns you into a good student, someone who can set goals and accomplish them," said Julia, a C-level, or "varsity," student — who admits she previously wasn't the most studious.

Her parents, who were in Albuquerque for the two-day competition, marvel at her transformation. Her mother said she struggled after changing high schools after 10th grade. She was shy. She had a "competitive spirit," her father said, but she lacked an outlet.

"I'm glad to see her come into her own," said Dan Wall.

Julia and Jimmy Wu both aimed to be the first varsity students to break the 9,000-point barrier in the competition — considered to be quite a feat in an event with 10,000 possible points.

Jimmy pulled it off, scoring 9,182 points. He was stunned. "I didn't think I broke 9,000," he said soon after hearing the news.

"I've always been an underachiever, a C student," he said. "I joined Academic Decathlon to change that."

Their win was the product of an intense process: marathon study sessions, lost weekends and breaks, a constant effort to push themselves further and further. Surviving that — and being successful — has left them with an uncommon bond.

"They were strangers when we started," said senior Lev Tauz. "I didn't know any of them. I didn't grow comfortable with just the [test] subjects, but with the people."

They saw each other more often than they saw their families, and they learned to encourage and rely on each other.

Spencer Wolf, one of the coaches, described his philosophy: "Put them in control, and see what they can do."

"People can do impressive things if they have focus," he said. "So it's about raising the bar."

The team of nine includes Hamidah Mahmud, Christian Koguchi, Priscilla Liu, Kimberly Ly and Stella Lee, in addition to Sean, Julia, Jimmy and Lev. Besides Wolf, the coaches are Matt Arnold and Nick Weber.

Kimberly, who spoke at a small gathering for the winning teams, said she finally found a place where she could be herself. "I was trying to fit in with everyone else," she said. "I was trying to be cool." But she found a group who accepts her for who she is. ("I'm weird," she said.)

Kimberly and Hamidah, both juniors, could have another year to compete, but for everyone else, the decathlon is over. They will return to school with Advanced Placement exams looming and an upcoming prom, but they'll have a gaping hole in their schedule.

"Oh, I'll get to go home when it's still light outside," Julia said.

Saturday's victory could also help win support for the decathlon in L.A.; the Los Angeles Unified School District has threatened to pull funding for the program to help deal with a budget shortfall. (Charter schools like Granada Hills are publicly financed, though they are independently run and have more control over such programs than traditional campuses.)

The district, the nation's second-largest, has been a decathlon powerhouse, winning 13 national titles.

Wolf said the coaches will have to regroup and figure out what their goals for next year could be. They've won nationals, they've broken the record for the highest-scoring team. What could they hope to accomplish next?

Friday, April 27, 2012


By Emma G. Gallegos in laIST |

Screenshot via Fox LA

April 27, 2012 10:30 AM  ::  LAUSD took drastic measures this February when it discovered that not one but two teachers on the Miramonte Elementary school campus were accused of being really inappropriate with students. It relocated the rest of the staff to the unopened school of Augustus Hawkins High School in South Los Angeles. The district says in the meantime they're investigating the full story at Miramonte.

So what are these teachers doing at Augustus Hawkins? A reporter from Fox tried to catch up with the teachers as they left, but he didn't have too much luck. Finally, he ran into one teacher (whose name we couldn't catch) who wasn't shy about saying what life was like for a teacher not teaching kids: "It feels like we're on an island...Gilligan's Island...We have to be here from 7:25 am until 2:15 pm and then we're released into society."

The man said that the teachers are working on curriculum development, but mostly they're just passing the time with busywork. He said they're even learning how to knit and sew. It sounds like the "Rubber Room" of New York City.

The teacher's union is pretty pissed off about this and are demanding that the teachers be put back in the classroom: "The district is wrongly and unfairly punishing and stigmatizing dozens of completely innocent employees and depriving hundreds of students of a consistent education. UTLA demands you return the Miramonte staff to their worksite and allow the school's students, staff and community to begin healing."


Transferred Miramonte teachers wait - and learn to sew

By Kevin Roderick | LA Observed |

April 27, 2012 1:35 AM  ::  Remember all those teachers who were summarily moved out of Miramonte Elementary School in February after two colleagues were accused of sexually attacking children at the school? Fox 11's Phil Shuman found out what they are doing. It isn't teaching.

Miramonte Elementary Teacher Controversy Latest:

They cool their heels each day at an unopened future high school two miles from their old campus, working on what the LAUSD calls professional development. But it sounds like they really are just hanging on until they can go back to their kids. One teacher tells Shuman they have classes in knitting and sewing, so I guess that's nice.


Xavier University's Center for the Study of the American Dream Shows as Americans Prepare to Exercise Civic Duty This Fall, Too Many Remain Uninformed

By Xavier University - PR Newswire - The Sacramento Bee

CINCINNATI, April 27, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In the midst of the Presidential election, a new national survey from Xavier University's Center for the Study of the American Dream reveals one in three native-born citizens failed the civics portion of the naturalization test, in stark contrast to the 97.5% pass rate among immigrants applying for citizenship.

Passing means answering 6 out of 10 questions correctly.  If the pass rate were 7 out of 10, one half of native-born Americans would fail.

The Center's nationwide survey tested adult Americans on 10 random questions taken directly from the naturalization test.  In a concurrent survey, the Center found that 77% of native-born citizens agreed that all Americans should be able to pass the test.  Furthermore, 60% agreed that high school students should have to pass the naturalization test as a requirement for graduation. The Center's research persistently shows a strong distrust of our public institutions, particularly government and our political leaders, yet 59% of survey respondents could not name one power of the federal government, 77% could not name one power of the states, and 62% could not name the Governor of their state.

"Civic illiteracy threatens the American Dream because it threatens the freedoms we treasure.  Civic illiteracy makes us more susceptible to manipulation and abuses of power," said Michael Ford, the Center's Founding Director.

The survey found that native-born citizens do best with elementary school level questions such as: "What is the name of the President of the United States?", "What is the capital of the United States?", "Where is the Statue of Liberty?", "Who was the first President?", "When do we celebrate Independence Day?", and "What are the two major political parties in the United States?". However, the highest incorrect scores consistently concern the US Constitution, and the governmental, legal and political structure of the American republic and basic facts related to current political life and identification of key political decision-makers.

For example, when asked questions about our government and political leaders, the survey results found:

  • 85% did not know the meaning of the "the rule of law."
  • 82% could not name "two rights stated in the Declaration of Independence."
  • 75% were not able to correctly answer "What does the judiciary branch do?"
  • 71% were unable to identify the Constitution as the "supreme law of the land."
  • 68% did not know how many justices are on the Supreme Court.
  • 63% could not name one of their two US Senators.
  • 62% could not identify "What happened at the Constitutional Convention?"
  • 62% could not answer "the name of the Speaker of the US House."

"We certainly don't expect everyone to know all the answers. For example, does it matter if we don't know how many amendments there are? No. But almost 60% don't even know what an amendment is," explained Ford.

The survey results did reveal a deep division among education levels. Only 44% of respondents with a high school education or less passed in contrast with an 82% pass rate among college graduates---a 38% gap.  Compared to the immigrant passage rate of 97.5%, college graduates underperform by 15%, while high school graduates underperform by 53%. The numbers were consistent among red states and blue states.

"The issue is not about sensationalizing who passed and who failed. It's about what vote-eligible Americans specifically know and do not know in the midst of an important presidential election, after 12-18 years of school and 24/7 exposure to unfiltered multi-media," explained Ford.

About the survey: From February 29-March 11, 2012, Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates (FM3) conducted telephone interviews with 1,023 native born U.S. citizens age 18 and older using a Random-Digit Dial sample of landlines and cell phones.  The margin of error for the sample is +/-3.1%. The methodology was designed to replicate the US Citizen and Immigrations Services civics examination. 

  • For more information about the survey, or to view the Executive Summary, log onto Xavier University's Center for the Study of the American Dream site. Follow the Center on Twitter for up-to-date information and new survey data each month: @XUAmericanDream and "Like" the Center's Facebook page.
  • Xavier University ( is a private university located in Cincinnati, Ohio, providing a liberal arts education in the Jesuit Catholic tradition. Founded in 1831, the university is the sixth-oldest Catholic university in the nation. U.S. News & World Report ranks it No. 4 among master's-level universities in the Midwest, and The Princeton Review names it as one of the "Best 376 Colleges in America."


By Elly Weinstock, University High School Wildcat from |


my high school journalism


Wednesday, April 25, 2012  ::  LAUSD’s new plan to increase the graduation rate amongst high school students involves dropping the credits requirement by 25%. Currently, students must earn 230 credits by the end of high school; the new system would allow students to graduate with a mere 170.

Health, Life Skills, and Technology classes may be some of the first that will be cut from the list of requirements. Former Senior District Official Sharon Robinson is outraged, “I know of no other school district in California that is reducing graduation requirements by 60 units and calling it an improvement.”

District officials have voiced their concerns about the pace of progress in schools; certain classes just aren’t considered necessary. However, cutting the requirements for Health or Life Skills classes could not possibly be beneficial. High school should be about more than getting the credits, test preparation, and skills to graduate and get into college; it should be about enjoying school, as well. If LAUSD wants well-rounded, happy students, the district should reconsider this decision.

Many of the Health classes in LAUSD have enlightened kids on birth control, pregnancy risks, and drug abuse. Cutting these programs would only open the door for the return of ignorance. “I think the requirements are fine right now,” says Junior Yali Bitan. “I mean no matter where you set the bar, you’re going to have students who slack off and don’t pass classes. Changing the credit requirement doesn’t help. You have to change how students think.”

It’s not to say the concerns are not legitimate. According to the LA Times, a mere 15% of graduates in the Los Angeles Unified School District last year qualified for entrance to the UCs and State Universities.

Yet while the intentions of the district may be in the favor of students, the outcome will not be favorable. Students need to understand that passing classes is important, and that the standards will not be lowered because they cannot achieve the minimum grade in a class to get the credits.

It would be much more helpful to prepare students for high school before they start, instead of showing them that they can take the easy way out and still graduate. The district should definitely focus on a plan to help ease students into more rigorous academics early on, instead of spending time cutting the requirements and standards.


By Kathryn Baron, Thoughts on Public Education |

Posted on 4/27/12 • California school buses won’t be wearing anything but yellow for the foreseeable future.  This week, the state Senate Education Committee killed SB 1295. Introduced by Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, it would have permitted school districts to selling advertising space on the outside of buses to raise revenue.  This is a shortsighted decision by Democrats on the Senate Education Committee,” said the Diamond Bar Republican.  “We should be providing solutions, not gambling on the future of our children.”

Democratic Senator Leland Yee of San Francisco failed to convince members of the Senate Education Committee to put some limits on executive salaries during tough economic times.  SB 967 would have prohibited Cal State University trustees from increasing top administrators’’ salaries within two years of raising student fees.   It would also have capped salaries for newly hired executives at 5 percent above what was paid to their predecessors.

Yee’s bill grew out of frustration last July when the Cal State University Board of Trustees approved paying the new president of San Diego State University a $100,000 more than his predecessor.  During that same meeting, the Board increased tuition by 12 percent, or an additional $294 per semester for undergraduates. Last month, CSU trustees agreed to 10 percent pay increases for the incoming presidents of Cal State Fullerton and East Bay.  Even State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson criticized the board for its lack of tact.

“The students we serve and the public that supports our system enjoy no immunity from the consequence of the Great Recession, which has left millions without work and more millions more working harder for less.  Why should those we select to lead our campuses be any different?” wrote Torlakson earlier this month in a public letter to CSU leaders.

On the aye side of the voting, the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday passed a measure by Senator Kevin De León to increase eligibility for CalGrants, the state higher education program that provides merit and need based funds.

The committee also approved several bills aimed at bringing down the price of textbooks and making them available electronically.  Read more about those bills here.

Coming attractions

Some of the textbook bills are up for their next vote next week.  Legislators are also scheduled to move to the next step with bills that would require information on academic achievement of students for new charters and renewals, that seek to reduce out-of-school suspensions and expulsions,  (which we wrote about here), and create a middle class scholarship program for California residents attending UC or Cal State.

We will be updating action on education bills on a weekly basis.  Click here for a table providing the status of about three dozens of those measures.

ToPEd Table of Bills Week Ending April 27[1]



By Marc Maloney, PACE from SI&A Cabinet Report |

Friday, April 27, 2012  ::  In the United Kingdom, inspectors have been visiting and evaluating schools for about 150 years, and the British government has required standardized inspections of all schools since 1992.

In the United States, schools are evaluated largely by student performance on standardized tests that are scored by computers. Critics say the emphasis on test scores and the adequate yearly progress formula used during evaluations aren’t flexible enough to diagnose individual schools’ strengths and weaknesses.

Craig Jerald, president of Break the Curve Consulting, a Washington, D.C. education policy, communications, and research consulting firm, will compare the two assessment systems during “School Inspections in a Strengthened Accountability System,” an April 27 seminar sponsored by Policy Analysis for California Education.

Jerald authored “On Her Majesty's School Inspection Service,” a report examining the rigor of school inspections in England, a system that aims to give parents better information about schools and hold schools accountable for performance.

When British inspectors, who report directly to Parliament and provide theirimage findings “without fear or favor,” identify a school needing improvement, they generate a letter to school administrators detailing strengths and weaknesses in key areas like leadership and classroom teaching, along with a list of high-priority recommendations for resolving problems. After changes are implemented, the school’s performance usually improves, often in less than two years.

Change often comes more slowly to American schools than it does to English schools.

Jerald, who argues American education policymakers should consider on-site inspections more closely, will discuss the benefits of school inspections and explore major policy decisions when such systems are designed.

Seminar topics include school evaluation methods that use a broader range of evidence than that provided solely by test scores and formulas, how schools can leverage expert judgment rather than relying only on mathematical formulas, and how to give schools better diagnostic feedback to support continuous improvement.

A key difference between school reviews in England and the United States is that U.S. schools are held accountable primarily through test scores and other quantifiable data, whereas in England, test scores are supplemented by observational data inspectors gather.

“In an inspection system,” Jerald wrote in his report, “trained professionals weigh the evidence for judging a school rather than simply plugging it into a weighted formula.”

English inspectors, Jerald notes, “observe classroom lessons, analyze student work, speak with students and staff members, examine school records, and scrutinize the results of surveys administered to parents and students.”

With its emphasis on test scores, Jerald said the American evaluation system can fail to account for factors like teacher quality, school leadership, and student behavior and discipline.

“In a way,” he said, “with our dependence on numbers, the U.S. has ceded accountability measures to computers.”

While centralization worked for England’s school inspections, Jerald acknowledges a call to centralize a government service likely would be “a hard pill to swallow” in America’s current political climate. Still, he believes a thorough and rigorous school inspection system could find a place in the United States.

“There is a tremendous polarization among educators about school accountability,” he said. “Some people are tired of all of the test-based accountability measures and want to get rid of it entirely. The other side still favors testing of some sort.”

Despite these disparate viewpoints about how schools should be evaluated, Jerald said educators generally agree about the necessity of school accountability measures.

“Once you point out accountability will continue under this system, inspections can start to become pretty attractive,” he said.

Policy Analysis for California Education is an independent, non-partisan research center based at the University of California – Berkeley, the University of Southern California, and Stanford University that seeks to define and sustain a long-term strategy for comprehensive policy reform and continuous improvement in performance at all levels of California’s education system, from early childhood to post-secondary education and training.

PACE seminars are held at UCCS Conference Room on the basement floor at 1130 K Street in Sacramento from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 P.M. Lunch is provided. To RSVP, call (916) 669-5423 or email


by PACE/Policy Analysis for California Education |

April 12, 2012  :: The Early Assessment Program (EAP) has emerged as a national model for states seeking to design policies that increase the number of students who leave high school ready for college and careers. In addition, the two national consortia designing new assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards have recognized the EAP as a model for the design of new high school assessments, which California will implement in 2014-15. The report was written by Hilary McLean of Capitol Impact, LLC.

The report describes the key features of the EAP, with a particular focus on the ways in which the program can help to strengthen coherence and alignment in California’s fragmented educational system. The report reviews the available research on the EAP and its impact on student access and success in post-secondary education, and identifies ways in which the program could be modified to increase its value to California students and educators.

  • Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) is an independent, non-partisan research center based at Stanford University, the University of California – Berkeley, and the University of Southern California


By Tom Chorneau, School Innovations & Advocacy/SI&A Cabinet Report |

Wednesday, April 25, 2012  ::  With the governor’s release of his revised May budget just a few weeks away, a key legislative panel on Tuesday rejected a host of ideas the administration had put forward in support of charter schools.

Members of the Assembly’s subcommittee on education finance also seemed hostile to a proposal brought forward again by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst to give charter schools an additional $23 per pupil to compensate them for performing 17 mandated activities.

Meanwhile the Democratically-controlled panel also placed on hold further discussion of a widely-embraced plan the governor has made to enhance the borrowing options for charter schools.

Speaking specifically about the borrowing proposal, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, said too many questions still remain.

“I don’t think there’s any objection to looking at the ability of charters to borrow money – that’s not the issue,” she said. “The issue is doing it in a way that is consistent with how they’ve been established and the current system that is in place without completely abandoning it.”

While perhaps not unexpected, the panel’s action may signal a showdown this summer between the Democratic majority of the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown over a number of education funding issues.

In committee action earlier this spring, Brown’s centerpiece plan for restructuring school financing with a weighted formula favoring disadvantaged students has been set aside awaiting full policy debate outside the budget process. Brown and his aides have responded in recent weeks in private meetings with school groups by saying the weighted formula will come back as part of the May revise.

Now several elements of Brown’s proposal to improve charter schools have been rejected – something the governor likely will push back against, given his strong position as an advocate for the charter movement.

Among the items voted down Tuesday is Brown’s budget proposal to allow charter schools to directly seek a hardship waiver from the June apportionment deferral, rather than seeking the exemption through the charter authorizer as required under existing law.

Currently, a charter authorizer must review and approve the deferral exemption requests. The administration’s plan would give the governing body of a charter school authority to certify to the Superintendent of Public Instruction, in consultation with the county superintendent of schools, that the charter school would be unable to meet its financial obligations as a result of the June deferral. This would streamline the process by reducing the length of time it takes for a deferral exemption to be approved, according to a committee analysis.

Also rejected was Brown’s proposal to require school districts seeking to sell or lease property to first offer that property – at no cost – to any interested charter school in order to maintain eligibility for various education facilities programs.

In a letter to the committee opposing the plan, the California Association of School Business Officials said, “Essentially, this proposal would take away one of the few remaining means by which school districts can mitigate the deep cuts that they have suffered over the past several years. Most district-owned property has considerable value, and any land which could be considered surplus can be an important part of a district’s Asset Management Plan. Some districts have been able to maintain programs (and smaller class sizes) using surplus property proceeds, as authorized by the Governor and the Legislature.”


By Tami Abdollah/KPCC |

Loyola Village Elementary School

Tami Abdollah / KPCC - The playground at Loyola Village Elementary School.

12:09 p.m. | L.A. Unified officials said today it will end this school year three days earlier after an arbitrator ruled the district could impose up to five furlough days on teachers.

The district will send out a letter to parents today that details the scheduling change depending on the calendar the school is on.

"We regret having to reduce the number of instructional days, but with our continuing loss of State financial support, we believe it is necessary," wrote LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy in the letter.

"I am relieved that the upcoming reduced instructional time for this school year is three days rather than the five days of last year. The savings that result from these reduced instructional days will help us retain more teachers and staff to serve your children."

Below are the letters in English and in Spanish:

Reduced Instr Year - Ltr. to Parents 11-12 4-27-12 Reduced Inst Year - Ltr to Parents_spn 4.27.12


KTLA News |

VIDEO: Polls Show Support Lags On Taxes For LAUSD - Wendy Burch reports

 VIDEO: Polls Show Support Lags On Taxes For LAUSD - Wendy Burch reports

6:42 a.m. PDT, April 27, 2012  ::  LOS ANGELES (KTLA) -- Two new pollS show that the L.A. Unified School District is facing an uphill battle getting voters to approve taxes that could help prevent big cuts to jobs and programs.

At issue are a statewide half-percent sales tax increase to fund education, as well as a $300 per year local parcel tax.

Both measures will appear on the ballot in November.

A survey by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that 52 percent of Californians oppose Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed sales tax increase.

Additionally, 57 percent are against a competing plan that would raise personal income taxes.

The poll also found weak support for a bond issue or parcel tax to fund schools.

Still, most of the 2,005 state residents surveyed said that the quality of education is a major problem.

A separate poll of about 1,150 registered voters in Los Angeles found that only 40 percent favored the parcel tax.

The tax need to win a two-thirds majority approval from voters in order to pass.

However, the poll also found that 54 percent of voters would be willing to extend the county's temporary half-percent sales tax for transportation.

The LAUSD is currently facing a $390 million budget deficit.

Back in February, The LAUSD board he board approved sending 11,700 pink slips to teachers and other employees.

The notices had to be sent out ahead of the state-mandated March 15th deadline.

Superintendent John Deasy has said he hopes two-thirds of those pink slips can be rescinded.

Preschool and adult education programs could also be on the chopping block.

A budget proposal calls for eliminating the district's 24 adult education campuses.

That would cut 1,500 jobs and save the district about $134 million for the 2012-13 school year.

Deasy has said the district should be able to preserve a good portion of the adult education program, at least for the next year.

Other popular programs targeted for cuts include the GATE program for gifted students and the Academic Decathlon program.


By Daily News |

4/26/2012 09:06:10 PM PDT  ::  Ten administrators were named Thursday to lead LAUSD's newly formed Local Education Service Centers [ESC] , part of a reorganization designed to focus more attention on classroom instruction.

As most computer users no longer are concerned with the details of controlling their computer's peripherals,  the escape key was appropriated by application programmers, most often to mean Stop. This use continues today in Microsoft Windows's use of escape as a shortcut in dialog boxes for No, Quit, Exit, Cancel, or Abort, as well as a common shortcut key for the Stop button in many web browsers -Wikipedia

The new structure consolidates Los Angeles Unified's eight local district offices into four regions, with a fifth office supervising struggling campuses. Each region will have a local superintendent to oversee instruction and an administrator to handle operations.

The promotions announced late Thursday by Superintendent John Deasy will take effect July 1.

Linda Del Cueto, who has served the West San Fernando Valley as Local District 1 superintendent, will oversee the entire Valley as superintendent of the new North Region. High school Principal Juan Flecha will be the Valley's operations administrator.

Cheryl Hildreth, a Local District 1 director, will be promoted to superintendent of the West Region, which includes the Pacific Palisades and Westchester. The operations chief will be Jan Davis, who currently works at LAUSD headquarters as an administrative coordinator of secondary operations.

The South Region will be served by charter schools coordinator Robert Bravo as superintendent and secondary Principal James Noble as operations chief.

Roberto Martinez and Rowena Lagrosa, who now head Local Districts 5 and 6, respectively, will be the superintendent and operations head of the East Region.

Deasy tapped his special assistant, Tommy Chang, as superintendent of Intensive Support and Innovation. Michael Hopwood, an administrator in Local District 7, will be the local administrator of operations.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


by e-mail from Medicaid in Schools |

Medicaid in Schools


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Last Tuesday the House of Representatives approved Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) fiscal year 2013 budget proposal.

Ryan's budget plan would reduce overall Medicaid spending and convert the program to a block-grant system, in which states would receive a fixed amount of Federal dollars.  Under the Ryan plan, Medicaid block-grants would be capped at current spending levels for the next ten years. Block-grants mean fewer federal Medicaid dollars for special education and other school-based health programs, as they would be forced to compete with every other Medicaid program in a state.  A Medicaid system based on Federal block-grants would mean the end of Medicaid reimbursement dollars for school-based health and special education programs.Block-grants could provide Governors with some degree of flexibility in managing their own State Medicaid programs, but block-grants would also require the Governors to prioritize programs that would receive the limited Federal Medicaid funds.  Moreover, if the Affordable Care Act stands, States would not be allowed to change their eligibility standards after 2014, leaving them with no choice but to cut programs or raise taxes.  With or without the ACA, reimbursement for school-based health and special education programs would certainly be among the first to be cut.In addition to the Ryan budget plan -

    • 29 Governors openly support Medicaid block grants. 

    • Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney supports block grants.

    • Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., has introduced a bill to make Medicaid into a block grant program.

      Here is the reason for this email: School-based Medicaid reimbursement programs have only a small presence in state capitals and putting them in competition with all other state Medicaid programs would almost certainly eliminate their federal reimbursement.  We don't have the political clout to have much impact on the decision-making process on Capitol Hill or, if block grants become the law, in the various state capitals.  Joining with other groups who also oppose block grants - and there are many of them - could accomplish two things:  first, our combined strength might make a difference in Congress; and second, should block grants become the law of the land, we might have made some friends along the way who could stand with us in influencing states to continue to give school-based health programs access to Medicaid reimbursement dollars.  If you would like to be kept up to date on this issue, please send an email to  Please include your name and the name of your organization.  Your email address will not be used for any purpose other than to provide you with updates on the block grant issue.I may have met you at one of the many conferences we all attend or during our successful fight to overturn CMS 2287, which would have eliminated Medicaid reimbursement for school outreach programs.  This issue is no less critical.  Please join us in providing an online home for the collection and dissemination of information on the block grant issue.  Please feel free to share your thoughts with us so that we can pass them along.

      Gregory Morris

      Attorney at Law


      Medicaid in Schools

      Medicaid in Schools is an unincorporated association registered with the State of California

      Our website,, is under construction

      POB 662, Dixon, CA 95620


      —Howard Blume, LA Times |

      April 25, 2012 |  2:25 pm  ::  The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved new maps for school board seats that closely resemble the current seven districts.

      Overall, the maps will keep together more neighborhood elementary and middle schools and the high schools they feed into. In District 5, school board member Bennett Kayser will have more familiar territory to represent, while in District 2, school board President Monica Garcia will add Garfield High to her boundaries.

      The maps determine the voting areas for the sprawling Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest. They also establish which board member a student, parent or district employee would seek out about an issue at a particular school. Boundaries must be adjusted, as needed, every 10 years to account for population shifts.

      Leading up to the vote, City Council members and staff raised concerns about maps that had come forward from an appointed redistricting commission. These concerns included the separation of Marshall High in Los Feliz from some of the schools and neighborhoods that feed into it.

      The thorniest issue emerged from the proposed maps for District 5 and District 2, which together stretch across central Los Angeles as well as east and northeast of downtown, before dipping down into the cities of Southeast L.A. County.

      A coalition of Eastside activists supported the map that emerged from the appointed commission. They praised it for uniting El Sereno, East L.A., Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights in Garcia’s District 2.

      In past elections, “the collective Eastside voice has been diluted since some of our struggling schools are mixed in with schools that face different barriers in terms of academic opportunities,” said Maria Brenes, executive director of InnerCity Struggle, an Eastside nonprofit group. Brenes spoke at a Wednesday morning hearing of the Council’s Rules and Elections Committee, which preceded the council vote.

      But this consolidation was achieved by reworking District 5 in a way that split a half-dozen attendance areas among three board districts, said city mapping consultant Dave Ely. The city attorney’s office added there were concerns about whether the new maps could be legally defended if challenged under the federal Voting Rights Act. That law enumerates many rules for drawing up election maps. They include keeping “communities of interest” together, ensuring appropriate representation of minorities and ethnic groups, and responding to community input.

      As a result, revised maps emerged Wednesday, when they were unveiled publicly for the first time.

      One change embodied no controversy. Board of Education members Tamar Galatzan and Steve Zimmer both wanted the old north-south border between their districts restored.

      To address the Eastside, city staff and consultants recommended one of two options — neither of which was the final commission-approved map. One option was an earlier commission map that had undergone extensive public review. But the second option — the newly revised map — carried the day. It restored much of the prior District 2 and District 5 boundaries.

      In District 5, Kayser called the Council’s revisions a step in the right direction. His district still retains an odd shape: a north and south lump connected by a thin line, but that thin line will largely coincide with its current location, along the eastern boundary of L.A. Unified. He also will represent the Marshall High attendance area.

      In District 2, Garcia had been a main beneficiary of the commission-approved map. But in the version favored by the City Council, she retained one gain that she wanted: Garfield High.

      Brenes, generally an ally of Garcia, said the latest compromise improved somewhat over the status quo because more of the Eastside will be united, but not as much as her community wanted. She wasn’t certain at Wednesday’s meeting whether her own El Sereno residence had landed in District 2 or District 5.

      Also at the meeting was a small contingent that disagreed with Brenes and wanted Garfield High to remain in District 5, represented by Kayser.

      The latest revision passed in City Council by a vote of 9-2. Voting no were Bernard Parks and Jan Perry.

      For starters, they objected to the process that had resulted in the commission’s original recommendation. The commissioners, they noted, had approved a map that arrived to them by email at 2 a.m. on the same day as their final vote.

      In an interview, Parks said the final amended map was an improvement over the commission’s choice, but “I could not vote for a map that has not been vetted by the public.”

      “I don’t have a preference for a map,” Perry said. “I have process concerns when I hear reports that people were drawing maps based on what assets people wanted in their districts as opposed to keeping neighborhoods intact.”

      Perry and Parks have also criticized the separate, city redistricting process, which resulted in major changes affecting areas they represent.


      L.A. council approves new political districts for LAUSD board

      By Rick Orlov Staff Writer, LA Daily News |

      4/25/2012 06:42:01 PM PDT  ::  Making only minor changes to high school boundaries, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved new political districts for the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education.

      The 9-2 vote will allow the new boundaries to be in place for the 2013 school board elections. Council members Bernard Parks and Jan Perry opposed the proposal.

      The new maps resolve earlier complaints over how Marshall High School and its feeder schools were divided, taking out a substantial portion of the area represented by school board member Bennett Kayser.

      "It was a major problem and I think we went a long way to keep that area together," said Councilman Tom LaBonge, who chairs the council's Rules and Election Committee that oversaw the maps proposed by a citizens redistricting commission.

      Parks and Perry said they were concerned that the citizens panel ignored an alternative map offered by a member of the public, comparing it the City Council redistricting process that sparked similar complaints.

      "It's a lot like the process we had here and how South Los Angeles was affected," Perry said, referring to dramatic changes made to her own council district.

      However, the new school district maps drew praise from one of the panel's commissioners, Jimmie Woods Gray, who also had earlier complained about how the final maps were presented.

      "I am glad to see you listened to the community and the parents," Gray said. "I think you have met the needs of the community and kept the Marshall community together."

      Kayser, who had served on the city's Elected Charter Reform Commission and included a provision requiring that high schools and their feeder schools are kept together, said he was pleased with the new map.

      "After all the drama and trauma, the `new' LAUSD Board District 5 is basically the district I ran for and won just nine months ago," Kayser said. "All I can say is, it's great to be back and I am thrilled for the chance to continue serving the very people who have placed their trust in me."


      …where will the LAUSD Board of Ed be?

      smf: LAUSD and the LAUSD Board often operate like they are all alone in the world – us v. them and that’s a mindset that’s self fulfilling. The first time I met the then executive director of CSBA he took me aside and asked how we – he and I, PTA and CSBA  – could get better participation-from and engagement-with the LAUSD board?  We didn’t really have an answer. He was later implicated in a bit of a scandal – but that said, his question is still out there …much like Rodney King’s.


      from the dairy council of california

      April 18, 2012

      Join us for an engaging afternoon as teachers, administrators and parents across California share their best practices for creating a healthy school environment with more successful students.

      FREE Webinar

      Wednesday afternoon, May 23, 2012
      3:00-3:45 p.m.

      This webinar will provide a 45 minute, condensed primer of practical tips and wellness how-tos from California educators, administrators and parents.

      • Learn why healthy classroom policies and nutrition education can prepare students for academic success, and
      • Gain ideas and inspiration to energize your campus-wide school wellness policies.

      Register Today at:

      Tuesday, April 24, 2012


      By MARY MACVEAN, Los Angeles Times …but from the Kansas City Star! |

      Tue, Apr. 24, 2012 07:05 AM -- LOS ANGELES  ::   It's not easy to keep pace with the youth gardening evangelist Mud Baron - in the real world or the virtual one.

      To keep up, you need to relentlessly advocate for schoolyard gardens full of food and flowers. You need to be a constant presence on Twitter. (He has more than 24,000 followers.) You need to schlep all over Southern California to collect seeds. And you need to be willing to make people mad, to push teenagers to get dirty and to nudge companies to make donations.

      A bearded, baggy-pants-wearing Baron might quote Cicero, Lou Reed, Jonathan Swift or Wynton Marsalis to make a point. But he's also not above poop jokes born of the manure that feeds the gardens.

      Rarely without pruners in his pocket, Baron is a rabble-rousing master gardener with a florist's touch. Or, as he likes to say, he has tattoos of Cornel West and Martha Stewart on his behind. (His girlfriend says that's not literally true.)

      No school garden should fail for lack of stuff, he says, so he rustles up seeds, worm castings, compost, bulbs. Black plastic sheets from a film set become mulch liners. Last year, he says, he raised $5 million in in-kind donations.

      Essentially unemployed - or at least without a regular paycheck - he works a few days a week with students at John Muir High in Pasadena, Calif., building a garden on 11/3 acres. He also spends time at a Los Angeles Unified School District science center in San Pedro, in one of about 300 district gardens. His students sell their flowers at the Hollywood Farmers Market. He got the cooking class at Santee Education Complex to cater for Occupy protesters before getting detained himself.

      Baron, 42, sees his work in a broad context, calling school gardens "the engines of environmental empathy." His mantra: "Kids who grow broccoli eat broccoli."

      Mud's real name is Matthew Anthony Baron, one of two children of a Mercedes-Benz dealer in Ohio. When college didn't suit him, he became an apprentice cabinetmaker while living on a farm run by the late peace activist Art Gish, a place Baron calls "a radical Christian intentional community." He later worked as an assistant to Sierra Club founder David Brower, who taught Baron to "be audacious and bold."

      In his down time, he coaches youth soccer and takes his 12-year-old son, a Japanophile, for ramen.

      He got his nickname long ago, for Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was convicted of conspiracy in President Lincoln's assassination for treating John Wilkes Booth but was pardoned for waging war against yellow fever in the Florida Keys. Baron says he and Booth are distantly related, and like the doctor he is fighting for what is right.

      Julia Cotts, executive director of the Garden School Foundation, which runs a garden at the 24th Street Elementary School near downtown L.A., says Baron is willing "to just stick his neck out when it's dangerous to do so. He has gotten bitten on the (behind), and it doesn't seem to deter him."

      Ernest Miller, chef at the Farmer's Kitchen at the Hollywood Farmers' Market, describes Baron as a slightly chaotic force of nature. "I sort of hate this metaphor, but he's planting a lot of seeds."

      Getting the plant donations has tremendously increased teachers' ability to have gardens, says Yvonne Savio, manager of the University of California Cooperative Extension master gardener program. He can be "too much of a loose cannon," she says. "But that's what you have to do if you're passionate."

      Sometimes Baron's impatience with government wins few friends among the groups working with LAUSD ("5,000 acres of asphalt - that's how they interact with nature, and that's obscene," he says).

      "Mud says things that I certainly think but don't say," says Megan Hanson, a longtime advocate for better school food and founder of RootDown LA, which works to get kids to eat vegetables.

      Baron was let go from LAUSD but saw no reason to stop. Over the last year he's organized an intensively planted garden in San Pedro, shaded by cypress trees and full of birds and butterflies. One morning, he works with culinary students from Carson High, ignoring the tentative way they bend over to plant ranunculus bulbs or sunflower seeds, one hand holding up their jeans. He takes aside a boy using his cellphone and, without a reprimand, partners with him to pick flowers and herbs.

      "Watching him work with kids is really, really inspiring," says Michele Grant, co-owner and chef of the Grilled Cheese Truck. "If I can help, I'd put my money on Mud any day without a doubt."

      At Muir one chilly morning, Baron and retired science teacher Doss Jones roam among students in the garden. There are piles of cast-off shoes and work gloves, so teenagers wary of dirt have no excuses. Baron prompts students to try mizuna straight from the ground or to spread compost. He jokes with boys who tell him they use cologne after his class to cover up the smells.

      "He talks to you more as a friend than a teacher," says Luis Santacruz, a Muir senior. "He talks about gardening and life and not straying myself too much, how to work."

      Like an evangelist, Baron tells stories for effect. One such "story" might be filling a garden bed with flowers that could make Pasadena officials that much happier to support the garden. Another is about nutrition, he says: "How do I teach kids about Flaming Hot Cheetos? We grow radishes."