LCAP Plan Raises Concerns at MUSD
Stakeholders have until June 18 to provide feedback on the draft report.
By Nancy Martinez, EGP Staff Writer
UPDATE: MUSD has moved the next board meeting to June 23 at 7 p.m. and extended the deadline to submit feedback until then.
Gov. Brown earlier this year approved a new Local Control Funding Formula that gives additional money to schools with large numbers of students that are low-income, English Learners or in foster care. An important requirement of the funding is parent and student engagement in the process.
Following months of work to determine how these new state funds should be used to improve services for “high-need” students in the Montebello Unified School District, administrators last week asked parents and other stakeholders to take a look at the draft of their plan and provide feedback before it goes to the school board for final approval later this month.
At a recent public hearing, however, one parent pointed out that such a task would be difficult considering the 34-page document had yet to be translated to Spanish, the primary language of many of the parents with children in Montebello Unified schools.
“That should have been done” already, Board Member Edgar Cisneros said in shock after hearing that the translated LCAP (Local Control Funding and Accountability Plan) will not be available until this Friday, just days before the June 18 board meeting where it will be up for approval. “This is news to me,” he said in response to the parent’s concern.
Board President David Vela told EGP he “wasn’t exactly pleased” the translation was delayed, saying Spanish translations should have been incorporated throughout the planning process. He said the board previously “mentioned” the need for the plan to be translated, but staff did not follow through.
Though Vela understands the delay was likely due to the numerous revisions made, nearly 10 before it went before the school board last week, he told EGP “this is stuff we pay people to get done.” This level of performance will be factored in when making future decisions about staff,” he said. “We’re trying to get the draft to the community … right now we’re taking corrective actions,” he said.
More importantly, according to parent Sonia Valencia, the district’s LCAP is not clear or easy to understand.
“The general public has not received an explanation of the documents in layman’s terms,” the outspoken parent complained. “I can’t imagine all the parents will understand it,” she said, referring to the educational jargon she said fills the pages of the document.
Although a number of parent and teacher groups testified during the public hearing that the LCAP was thoroughly explained by staff, when compared to the plans developed in some neighboring districts, MUSD’s LCAP lacks many of the details on specific actions or changes that will take place next year as a result of the targeted funding change.
Alhambra Unified School District, for example, has prepared an 86-page LCAP that presents student performance data, including separate numbers for English learners. The document, outlined in easy-to-read bullet points, even includes a section titled, “What will be different/improved for students” after each district goal aimed at fulfilling one of the eight state-mandated priorities: access to core services, student achievement, student engagement, parent involvement, school climate, implementation of the common core state standards, course access, suspensions and expulsions.
Montebello Unified’s LCAP on the other hand, lists the type of data used, but does not actually include the numbers in the document. Such data can be helpful in clearly defining areas of greatest need and for future measurements.
The medium-sized district has schools in the cities of Bell Gardens, Commerce, Montebello, Monterey Park and portions of East Los Angeles, Pico Rivera and Rosemead. According to the California Department of Education, nearly 30,000 students attend the district at one of the 16 elementary schools, 6 middle schools, 5 high schools, community day school and small k-8 school.
MUSD Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Cheryl Plotkin told EGP that individual schools will be able to decide many of the specifics based on their needs.
In the past, MUSD has said that its current comprehensive learning framework already fulfills the eight state priorities aimed at getting students career and college-ready.
Vela tells EGP the district has been preparing for these academic goals for the last two years and has at least established a “baseline to fulfill the basics.”
At the June 8 board meeting, several of the people who spoke at the hearing used their time to tell board members and district staff what they hope to see included in the final plan.
Father of three, Roberto Hernandez, said he hopes the district considers using more digital textbooks. He also called for more foreign language options at the Applied Technology Center and added that there is a need for more supervision on the schoolyard.
Board Member Lani Cupchoy said providing appropriate instructional materials such as eBooks and digital learning is one of the LCAP’s most important and defined areas, the other being the development of rigorous curriculum by teachers.
Cupchoy told EGP she personally advocated for specialized programs such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), Dual [Language] Immersion, visual and performing arts, community gardens and GATE (Gifted and Talented Education); all of which are reflected in the proposed draft.
Cupchoy says the LCAP will address the low graduation rate among English Learners, which according to the district currently stands at 63%.
Vela said the biggest challenge creating the LCAP was ensuring there was actual inclusiveness, but he assured EGP that efforts were made to include every association and parents were invited to the 10 or so meetings held throughout the district.
Cupchoy attended several of the LCAP outreach meetings as the school board’s liaison, but according to Vela, responding to complaints from the community about the lack of board member attendance at LCAP planning meetings, he will attend more meetings as the process continues.
Plotkin told EGP that the LCAP committee will stay intact and will meet once a month to follow up and observe the progress the district makes when it implements the plan during the next school year.
Vela told EGP that people need to understand that this is the first time the district is going through this process and they did not receive any additional funding to hire more staff to help prepare the LCAP or hold all the extra meetings. “This is the first time, people assume that the district had the resources for this big change,” he said. “We’re making lemonade with very few lemons.”
Vela told EGP he wants the process to be more “approachable” to parents and he is taking feedback from this first LCAP seriously.
“This is a learning curve, there’s a lot of room for improvement,” he said. “I want to ensure that it comes to as close to perfection” as possible, he said. “And if that means I need to hire more staff, I will.”
School districts have until the beginning of July to submit their LCAPs the state for approval.
The LCAP is available on the MUSD website and hard copies are available at District headquarters and at school sites.
Highlights of the Montebello Unified School District LCAP
– Focus on implementing common core curriculum
– More tutoring for English Learners
– Continual purchases of technology
– Take a look at A-G classes to ensure variety
– Informing students and parents the importance of A-G courses
– Access to counselors at all levels
– Ensure school websites are updated at least monthly
– Establish a site discipline policy
– Host more parent meetings with academic focus
– Support AVID program district-wide
– Look into AVID program for English Learners
– Ensure physical activity is occurring at all sites and levels
– Provide childcare for parent advisory meetings
June 12, 2014 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.