Friday, February 22, 2013


See some of the emotional, heated and pointed discussions at the long afternoon meeting Thursday in the attached video.

By Mike Szymanski, Sherman Oaks Patch |

Attorney Georgianna Kelman challenges the district representatives to do something. Credit Mike Szymanski


Principal Martinez greets seven LAUSD officials. More than 200 people came to Carpenter.
Seven LAUSD officials came to answer questions.


Principal Martinez welcomes the crowd and outlines the problems.

Bruce Takeguma, Administrative Director of LAUSD school management, talks about school caps.

Superintendent Linda Del Cueto responds to the Carpenter parents' concerns.

Attorney Georgianna Kelman challenges the district representatives to do something.

Superintendent Linda Del Cueto talks about the next steps.

Rachel Medved talks about how this affects Studio City.

A dramatic speech late into the meeting by parent Amber Schaeffer.


22 February 2013 - 11:28 am  ::  More than 200 present, past and future parents of students at Carpenter Community Charter School in Studio City came to meet seven of the top Los Angeles Unified School District officials to answer questions about the future of their school, and how they can combat fraudulent enrollment.

Tensions grew high. There were tears, angry outbursts and applause. And, they got some long-awaited answers. (See a sampling of the speeches above.)

One of the most positive outcomes seems to be that San Fernando Valley LAUSD Superintendent Linda Del Cueto said she hopes to launch a pilot program at the charter affiliate school in order to help them combat enrollment fraud.

“Our teachers are stressed, the classes are compacted and we are all overwhelmed,” said Laura Diaz a parent of a fourth and first grader at the school. She said she knows of two families that have gamed the system and brag about not living in Studio City, but still attend Carpenter.

“People are taking advantage. What will it take?" Diaz said. "This is a very big public outcry from very, very visible parents in this community.”

Almost moved to tears, Del Cueto said, “I am just asking you to let me bring all this information to Dr. [John] Deasy (the LAUSD superintendent). You have touched me with what you said. I take this very, very seriously.”

Del Cueto said she will look into Carpenter’s situation as a pilot program for combating fraud in the nearly 900 schools in LAUSD. Carpenter experienced an increase in enrollment because their test scores skyrocketed. The school wants to use a records system to help identify fraud.

The school’s enrollment committee has identified nearly five classrooms full of students (an estimated 120) that do not belong at Carpenter, and could force incoming residents into a lottery system to get into the public charter school that is still affiliated with LAUSD.

“This could be a district-wide problem to our nearly 900 schools, and of course we have limited personal,” said Del Cueto. “I’m a mom as well, I take it very seriously.”

The school was able to nail the district down to a school enrollment cap.

Bruce Takeguma, the administrative director of school management for LAUSD, said the Kindergarten enrollment for next year will be capped at 192. This past year, 210 new students entered.

He capped the entire school population at 1,020—and promised that number would not change. The school did have more than 1,000 students earlier this year and is at 998 now.

When the school reaches that limit, then a lottery will be put in place, and a priority will be given to residents living in Studio City. The school’s Governance Council made up equally of teachers and parents, have devised a policy for enrollment that will have to approved by LAUSD in April.

Meanwhile, for now, the district representatives have denied the school to use the public records in the LexisNexis database to indentify potential fraudulent addresses for students.

Parent and attorney Georgianna Kelman insisted the district give answers now. “You have caused us widespread panic. Our hands are tied, we can’t sit around for three more weeks.”

The district representatives said they would have an answer by early next week about approving extra counselors to review enrollment fraud, and get questions answered by the legal department that may give a greenlight to a pilot program at Carpenter.

Teacher Lydia Friedlich, who has been at the school for 22 years, said, “Very simply there are 120 students who don’t belong here. We want to keep a great school GREAT!”

In 20 inspections where administrators paid visits to houses, five families were found that they didn’t belong and were sent to the appropriate school of their district, said Patricia Jimenez, the Public Service and Attendance Coordinator for the district.

The LAUSD Charter School Division Director Jose Cole Gutierrez received some negative response when explaining that because of Carpenter’s charter status, a family can enter a student as a resident and stay at the school even if they have moved out of the district. In LAUSD public schools, if you move, you enter the neighborhood school of your new district.

Richard Niederberg, of the Studio City Neighborhood Council who went to Carpenter as a student half a century ago, said, “I don’t understand why the district won’t allow some of this simple technology to help them locate people who don’t belong here.”

Andrew Barrett, of the Governance Council, said, “They are giving us no tools for us to monitor this. It is like they are telling us to dig a ditch without a shovel, without a spoon, and telling us to do it with our fingers.”

Oona Hanson, of the Governance Council, said Carpenter is a public school that was converted to a charter affiliate, and therefore needs to cater to the community and residents first. She even cited that there would be funding problems from businesses if residents were no longer going to their local school.

Principal Martinez nixed some of the parents’ ideas that would ask teachers to monitor where children live, or have an anonymous tip hotline for people to turn in families that don’t live in the district.

“I think pointing fingers at each other is not healthy community building,” said Kevin Finkelstein, of the Governance Council.

Parent Denise DaVinci said, “I’m not worried about my son, who’s in fourth grade, but I wanted to show support to the district representatives that we all stand together on this. I know two families who don’t belong at Carpenter, we all do, but I would be sad if they left, too.”

Meanwhile, the priority is to make sure that people who do live in the area will have the chance to attend Carpenter and avoid a lottery system.  First, some more questions from the district need to be answered.

Heather Tonkins, chairperson of the Governance Council, said, “This is the most-attended Governance Council meeting in our school’s history.”


Parents accuse LAUSD of allowing out-of-area kids at high-performing Studio City school


Rob Hayes  |

Friday, February 22, 2013  ::  STUDIO CITY, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A much-sought-after elementary school in Studio City is proving too popular. Carpenter Community Charter School says parents from outside the area are committing fraud to get their kids admitted. Now the school is overcrowded.

Carpenter Community Charter School is one of the Los Angeles Unified School District's highest-performing elementary schools.

But now dozens of neighborhood parents are worried their kids won't be able to go to Carpenter. The problem, neighborhood parents say, is that families from other areas are fraudulently signing their kids up at Carpenter using bogus addresses near the school. LAUSD puts that number around 120.

School officials say as a result, last year their kindergarten enrollment jumped 32 percent, forcing them to enact an enrollment cap and possibly a lottery for this upcoming year.

With neighborhood kids possibly locked out of Carpenter, parents are fighting mad.

At a heated meeting with school district officials Thursday, parents wanted to know if the district would crack down on families lying about their addresses by taking advantage of widely used software that roots out fraudulent claims. District officials at the meeting didn't give an answer.

LAUSD officials denied requests for an interview.

Incoming parents say as Carpenter's registration deadline approaches, the district has left them hanging, wondering if their neighborhood school will be off-limits to their kids.

The LAUSD released a statement Thursday afternoon:

"During a packed meeting on Thursday, educators and administrators from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) addressed concerns of parents and guardians regarding enrollment at Carpenter Elementary, which converted to an affiliated charter school in 2010-2011.

"A team from LAUSD responded to allegations of fraudulent enrollment practices, such as using a false address to allow students who live outside residential boundaries to attend the high-performing school in Studio City.

"Administrators also explained education and District enrollment policy guidelines related to affiliated charter schools. Carpenter was a traditional LAUSD school prior to a recent conversion to an affiliated charter school.

"Carpenter's growing enrollment, and the other issues raised by parents, including verification of student addresses, will continue to be monitored by school staff and District administrators."


2cents smf: OK: Upper middle class white folks arguing over equity. Yuppie scum. My people.

Carpenter is a victim of its own success. A number of years ago it was faced with declining enrollment as the Studio City population aged and South of the Boulevard gentrified. The then principal aggressively recruited parents to come to Carpenter  to save her teaching staff and budget (“Damn the catchment map, full speed ahead!”)  and the outcome was a robust program and a school on a par by all the measurements – from test scores to turning out well-rounded scholars – with the best schools in the District: Ivanhoe, Third Street, Warner Avenue, Wonderland and Mount Washington.

Of those schools Carpenter has the benefit of an affluent parent base and a supportive business community – Studio City merchants and CBS studios support Carpenter with the mother’s milk of education: Money!

Parents and kids flocked to Carpenter, success bred success like bunnies. Test scores went up – and GPAs and SATs followed …the kids went on to Harvard and Princeton and Berkeley.

And now all that success is a problem.

I agree that local resident kids must have first priority – and fraud where it exists needs to be discouraged.  But at what cost?  I  know from my experience at one of those “destination” schools mentioned above that parents who commit the fraud and show up at the first-day-of-school with a false address and a bogus DWP bill are exactly the parents you want at your school: Motivated, engaged and involved in their children's education.

Fraud is simply one of the flavors of ©hoice the ®eformers delight in. I worry that a pilot program to root it out becomes Les Miz …only longer. The similarities between Russell Crowe and John Deasy don’t need exploring!

That parents succumb to temptation to advance the education of their children may be an ethical failing – but it isn’t a moral one. They are not “those parents” – wretched refuse of some teeming shore;  North of The Boulevard is not The Third World! And their children, because they are not entitled, because they are flying under-the-radar - tend to work a little harder and do a little better. And the children themselves are not the perpetrators of the fraud; once established at a school they should not be punished for it.

There are inevitably some Carpenter parents who would like to erect gates and restore restrictive covenants to maintain some socio-geographic status quo ante.– to maintain the Whole Foods/whole grain fed purity of the stock.   They need to be loaded on the yellow bus and bused to the real world.

And lastly, I note with curiosity that the advertising “partner” (sponsor) of the article in the Patch is Campbell Hall – a private school which stands to pick up any affluent students removed from Carpenter for fraud. Coincidence? I think not..

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