Wednesday, June 19, 2013

THE SCHOOL BOARD MEETING OF JUNE 18th – or how I spent Paul McCartney’s birthday (+ additional coverage)

By smf for 4LAKids NewsJuneteenth,

June 19, 2013  ::  Yesterday’s (seems so very far away) school board meeting started late - 25 minutes after noon - and ended far, far later – after dark. I don’t know how late – I didn’t stick around. I gave my speaker card to another speaker who had better things to say – she had waited in line since the morning and hadn’t been able to get in until late in the afternoon. I don’t know what Cathy Ellingford said – but as an elementary school librarian (called library aides by an LAUSD that doesn’t value their work) I know she spoke for children’s access to knowledge.

I had planned to quietly remind the board of Thumper’s father’s excellent advice: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” And then walk away.

Between the late start and the later ending the meeting was filled with drama, staged and real. Students recapped valedictory addresses. The Board president – in her last hurrah - lost two votes six-1; at one point the audience hooted her into actually following Robert’s Rules of Order. A multibillion dollar budget was approved without true discussion. A sole supplier contract was awarded to Apple to begin the process of putting iPads in the hands of every student in the District; no mention was made of who will provide the software and educational content (the giant textbook publisher Pearson – who may or may not be kicking back a percentage of the contract to the District –which would convert bond funds to general funds – a bit of suspect fiscal chicanery) A spokesperson from Microsoft challenged the selection – with hints of lawsuits to come. We learned that Supt. Deasy, Boardmember Kayser and General Counsel Holmquist own Apple stock – and that Boardmember Galatzan owns Microsoft stock – so two of the boardmembers, the superintendent, and their attorney have apparent conflicting conflicts of interest; stay tuned! But hey – it’s being paid for with “leftover” bond funds, it’s not like it’s real money!

In the middle the meeting was recessed to have a party with tasty snacks for departing Boardmember Nury Martinez. Charter schools were approved and denied. Resolutions that instruct the superintendent what to do were debated contentiously; at times the debate grew personal. Class size reduction is a good thing, The Parent Trigger is not. Board member Zimmer predicted that the acrimony was a harbinger of things to come in the next term when the Board of Ed Class of 2013-16 takes office. Towards the end of the meeting the lights flickered on and off and the air conditioning failed. Outside Aztecs dancers beat drums and chanted and danced. It was a three ring circus, the Boardroom, The Lobby – with lobbyists lobbying – and the theater on The Street,  And sideshows abounded.

As I said I left before the end. After I left the board reconsidered and reversed  its motion (proposed by Dr.  Deasy himself) to legally challenge the Parent Trigger Law. Two steps forward, one step back. From the precipice …or the future?  Maybe after I left a small car pulled up and a plethora of clowns unloaded. Who knows?

LAUSD passes guidelines for Parent Trigger, seeks law's repeal

By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer |

6/18/2013 09:09:12 PM PDT  ::  Following a ruckus over the use of the Parent Trigger law at two Los Angeles Unified schools, the board set guidelines Tuesday for to better deal with efforts to handle the takeover and transformation of low-achieving campuses.

The resolution by board member Steve Zimmer requires the district to independently verify the signatures and how they're gathered by Parent Revolution, the group that helps to organize parents in efforts to take over schools. The district will also increase the amount and types of information available, such as an analysis of five years of school data and the types of reforms attempted in the past.

The Parent Empowerment Act allows parents at struggling schools to "trigger" reforms if more than 50 percent of them petition for change.

In efforts at 24th Street and Weigand Avenue Elementary schools, some parents say that Parent Revolution organizers lied to them in order to get their signatures and refused to rescind them when they asked. Parent Revolution's Gabe Rose, meanwhile, said that some district employees had crossed the line in trying block the group's takeover effort.

Zimmer and others acknowledged, however, that there was little they could do because the Parent Trigger is rooted in state law. Ultimately, they amended the resolution to call for a lobbying effort to repeal it.


L.A. Unified awards Apple $30-million contract for iPads

The district will begin delivering the devices to 47 campuses. Also, the board launches an effort to seek more public data on school overhaul campaigns.

By Howard Blume and Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times |

10:57 PM PDT, June 18, 2013  ::  Apple Inc. won a $30-million contract Tuesday from the Los Angeles Unified School District, paving the way for the company to provide every student with an iPad in the nation's second-largest school system.

During a wide-ranging, lengthy L.A. Board of Education meeting, members launched the first effort in the state to seek more public information about school overhaul campaigns under the controversial parent trigger law. Board member Steve Zimmer said his proposal was aimed at increasing "accurate and objective" information for parents about the trigger process.

The 2010 law gives parents at persistently low-performing schools the right to force out school staff, close their campus or reopen as an independent, publicly financed charter.

On the tablets, the board voted 6 to 0 to authorize the purchase of the devices after senior staff lauded the iPad option as both the best in quality and the least expensive product that met the district's specifications.

L.A. Unified will begin rolling out the devices to 47 campuses. However, by choosing Apple as the sole vendor, the district also made a de facto commitment to spend hundreds of millions of dollars with the Cupertino, Calif., digital giant over the next two years.

The push for tablets came from schools Supt. John Deasy, who made it his goal to close the technology gap for the overwhelming majority of low-income district students. He expects to pay for the tablets with school construction bonds, a controversial source because they are repaid over decades. Such bonds typically are used to build and modernize campuses.

New state and national tests will be taken on computers, and district officials don't want students to lack the necessary experience with them.

Zimmer questioned whether devices other than tablets were more fitting for high school students.

"This is one of the most high-profile contracts this board will ever approve," Zimmer said.

The district is paying $678 per device — higher than tablets available in stores — but the computers will be preloaded with educational software. The price does not include a wireless keyboard, which may be necessary for older students.

Board member Richard Vladovic said members lacked detailed information on costs. He also said he'd dropped and broken two iPads — and students could do the same.

The three-year warranty includes free replacement machines for up to 5% of the value of the purchase, Vladovic was told.

Students will be able to take the computers home and controls will be included to limit undesirable content, such as pornography. Social networking sites will be available to students, with some limits.

A Microsoft representative urged the board to try more than one product and not to rely on one platform. Doing so could cut off the district from future price reductions and innovations, said Robyn Hines, senior director of state government affairs for Microsoft.

But district staff countered that Apple offered the superior product. They also said that students and teachers often change schools and should not have to learn a different platform.

The teachers union has criticized Deasy for appearing in an Apple promotional video before the bidding process.

Deasy said he abstained from involvement in the decision — not because of the video but because he owned a small amount of stock in Apple. He left the board room before consideration of the contract for the same reason, along with board member Bennett Kayser, who also said he owns some Apple stock.

On the parent trigger, the board had voted to seek a repeal of the law. But Kayser changed his vote.

The board's action directs L.A. Unified to provide members with more information related to parent petition campaigns, including evidence of public notice and public meetings, an analysis of five years of school data and a summary of attempts to improve that campus. It also asks the district to develop guidelines for principals and other school staff on how to respond to parent questions about trigger campaigns.

Several speakers criticized the law for sowing conflict on campuses and complained they had been lied to by organizers with Parent Revolution, the Los Angeles nonprofit that lobbied for the law and has assisted efforts in three cities. Raquel Cedillo, a parent at Haddon Avenue Elementary, said organizers had told her that signing the petition would bring every child a laptop computer.

"We're excited about the board approval because it gives parents the right to hear both sides so we can make an educated choice," she said.

But Gabe Rose, Parent Revolution's deputy director, said he was disappointed that the board failed to address the problem of harassment and intimidation by school staff of parents organizing for change. He had urged the board to adopt a code of conduct with disciplinary actions for those who violate it.

In other action, the board approved a $6.8-billion operating budget that, in sharp contrast to recent years, contains some spending increases. Custodial services will be increased, as will school security. But teachers and students in the adult education program testified that their program has suffered another round of reductions.

The board also voted to reject a bid from an independently operated charter school to remain open. Anahuacalmecac International University Preparatory High School had sought a second, five-year charter, as well as permission to expand to offer a kindergarten-through-12th-grade program.


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