‘Mothers of East LA’ Founder Passes Away

April 19, 2012 by · 2 Comments 

An unconventional activist, who made the mothers of an inner city neighborhood a force to be reckoned with, passed away last week.

Lucy Delgado, founder of the Mothers of East Los Angeles (MELA), passed away April 11: she was 87.

Delgado was born on Dec. 15, 1924 and lived her entire life in Boyle Heights.

Left to right: Josephine del Pozo, Henrietta Castillo, Lucy Delgado and Amanda del Pozo (Photo courtesy of Mothers of East Los Angeles)

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Fallece Activista, Fundadora de ‘Madres del Este de Los Ángeles’

She is being remembered as a fierce leader who organized East Los Angeles area mothers during the 1980s to fight the construction of a prison in Boyle Heights.

Delgado is credited with helping to create a movement among regular people who were fed up with their neighborhood being the dumping ground for the public projects not wanted in other communities.

“There were weekly Monday night demonstrations … hundreds of mothers along with their spouses and children would march up and down the Olympic Boulevard Bridge demanding that their voices be heard,” states the MELA website, describing the anti-prison protests.

“The women would always wear scarves on their heads as a sign of peace, dignity and respect for their community.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina said Delgado was an inspiration to all who fought against the proposed prison in East Los Angeles, including herself.

“Even at our lowest times, her smile and determination propelled us forward. When you spoke to her, she would hold your hand in a firm, but loving grip, a gentle reminder that everything you love you work hard for. She loved her church and she loved her community … she was at heart a warrior for justice,” Molina told EGP by email.

US Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard told EGP that she was “proud to fight alongside” Delgado to stop the prison. “She was a gentle but tough woman… who worked tirelessly to improve our community and set an example of empowerment for others to follow.”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called Delgado “one of the bright lights of Boyle Heights.” Her neighbors are better off today because of her “extraordinary zeal and doggedness,” he said in a written statement.

“First my faith, then my love for Boyle Heights” was her motto, said MELA Executive Director Diana del Pozo-Mora, whose mother Josie Del Pozo was Delgado’s sister. The two women and Lucy Ramos founded MELA.

“Lucy Delgado was a passionate advocate of community awareness … who fought the environmental injustices in her own backyard,” said del Pozo-Mora.

Monsignor John Moretta, pastor at Resurrection Church, worked with Delgado on numerous social justice issues over the years, including the prison fight.
“We lost a true matriarch, it is a loss not only to her family but to Boyle Heights. She was somebody,” he told EGP.

According to Moretta, MELA received its name quite accidentally.

Over 200 mothers from East LA had traveled to Sacramento to testify against the prison. When someone asked who they were, I responded they’re the Mothers of East Los Angeles,” Moretta said.

And the name stuck.

The battle to stop the prison lasted nearly a decade, but ultimately the residents of East Los Angeles were victorious, said Frank Villalobos of Barrio Planners, Inc, who along with Moretta were male members of MELA. The prison was built in Lancaster.

“With a female head of household leading the way,” and with the help of some key legislators, we successfully challenged unwanted projects in court and through legislation, Villalobos said.

But Delgado and her sister’s community involvement started long before the fight against the prison, Villalobos said, recalling that both sisters had worked at the old Sears & Roebuck in Boyle Heights.

They were heavily involved in the school district and other issues in the Assumption Parish neighborhood, Villalobos said.

Delgado joined Cesar Chavez during his first fast against the use of pesticides on California grapes, recalled Del Pozo-Mora, noting that Boyle Heights related causes were not the only issues Delgado cared about.

Echoing that sentiment, and calling her “one of a kind,” Councilman Jose Huizar said, “Lucy Delgado … worked tirelessly to help others in need.” He said her “deep-seated concern for the health and safety of her neighborhood made her an inspiration to all as a leader of action, change and empowerment.”

Delgado was a historical preservationist and fought against the construction of the highways that bisect Boyle Heights, and changing the name of Brooklyn Avenue to Cesar Chavez.

She promoted the Jewish community’s restoration of the Breed Street Shul and the establishment of the Japanese-American National Museum in Little Tokyo. She was a founding member of the Boyle Heights Historical Society and the Breed Street Shul Preservation Committee.

“Lucy was La Madre del Este Los Ángeles, the quintessential proud and loving mother of the Eastside, and, in the words of the Jewish tradition, an exemplary eyshet chayil, woman of valor,” said Stephen Sass, chairman of the board for the Breed Street Shul Project.

Plans were already underway to honor Delgado at the Shul’s annual community event in June, but sadly she will not be at the event, Sass told EGP by email.

“One of my many vivid memories of Lucy was her at age 75+ at one of our work days, sweeping the outside of the Shul and putting the other volunteers to shame with her stamina!” Sass said.

Delgado was a founding member of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, Boyle Heights Neighbors Organization, and active in numerous other groups.

During the 1990’s, she fought against Vernon’s plans to construct a hazardous-waste incinerator. More recently, she protested plans for a Vernon Power Plant and the sale of alcohol at a retail pharmacy opening soon at the Golden Gate Theatre.

Delgado supported METRO/MTA’s transportation projects in Boyle Heights.

A street beautification project showcases mosaics made by her and fellow artist Juaquin Castellanos that adorn a section of Cesar Chavez, near Soto Street.

Delgado’s activism was fueled by concern for the health and safety of her neighborhood. She fought against “environmental racism” and took on quality-of-life issues, Del Pozo-Mora said.

She challenged the stereotype that poor people don’t care about the environment, she added.

Delgado is survived by her three children, Robert, Victor and Irene; seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A rosary and mass for Delgado were held yesterday, April 18, at Resurrection Church. Her burial followed at Calvary Cemetery.

An earlier version of this obituary was first published at EGPnews.com on April 12.

Cultural School’s Charter Renewed Despite Questions

April 19, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Despite the superintendent’s recommendation against renewing the charter for Xinaxcalmecac Academia Semillas del Pueblo in El Sereno, the Los Angeles Unified School District School Board Tuesday approved the school’s charter petition for another five years, and a condition that the school undergo another review in two years.

The board’s vote was split 4 to 3; Board Members Marguerite LaMotte, Bennett Kayser and Tamar Galatzan voted against the renewal.

The vote came after a heated discussion during which LaMotte complained that the charter school was receiving preferential treatment over other district “focus” schools that will be undergoing reform. She said charter and district schools should be treated the same, calling to attention Semillas’ academic performance scores which she said were no better than two South Los Angeles district schools put up for reform.

“You took La Salle and threw out the window, here you say this one has ‘culture’… If you’re going to be transparent, you have to be transparent for everyone,” she said. If Semillas is approved, then La Salle and Dorsey High should be removed from the public school choice reform process, LaMotte said.

Academia Semillas de Pueblo Principal Marcos Aguilar addressed the board dressed as an Aztec Dancer. Students learn the ancient dances as part of the school’s cultural enrichment program. (LAUSD School Board Meeting Screen Grab)

“Cheating is cheating, and I’m sick of it,” LaMotte told Board President Mónica García, who defended Semillas’ reauthorization on grounds that LAUSD does not have a process for properly evaluating innovative schools that do not fit the typical school model.

She said staff did the best it could with the evaluation process it has to work with, but added the process fails to account for the other valuable measures of student success.

Semillas has an API of 624, below the California Department of Education Similar Schools Median of 778, Resident Schools Median Score of 748 and Comparison Schools Median of 747. The school is in “Program Improvement Year 5” for it’s second year and did not meet the minimum performance criteria in the State Education Code, according to the staff report.

Last year, Semilla’s 2010-2011 API score dropped 92 points, following a 30-point improvement jump the year prior, when its 2009-2010 API increased to 716, according to the LAUSD School Report Card.

In 2010-2011, only 34 percent of students scored proficient or advance in English Language Arts, and only 39 percent in math, according to the same report card.
García said the school is actually performing better than current metrics indicate.

She acknowledges that the school is “struggling,” but said the school board “needs to do more to recognize schools of innovation.”

Academia Semillas del Pueblo was originally approved by the Board of Education in 2001. Its charter was renewed in 2007, despite a staff recommendation against renewal because of the school’s poor test scores.

The school has a dual language and International Baccalaureate programs with instruction in English, Nahuatl (an indigenous Mexican dialect), and previously in Mandarin, and cultivates cultural and intellectual heritage and social awareness, according to the report.

While the charter for the high school was not up for renewal, several speakers cited the achievements of high school students who came up through Semilla’s K-8 program as reasons for renewing the elementary school’s charter.

Marcos Aguilar, principal of both the K-8 program and the high school, told the board the school is the district’s first IB school and is a sought after safe and encouraging environment, He said they have a nearly 100 percent attendance rate and an 80 percent college acceptance rate. “Our students have outperformed their peers in local schools,” Aguilar said.

Parents and other stakeholders told the board the school has zero gang violence, and is a school their children are eager to attend every day.

Nonetheless, Galatzan said charter schools are given contracts and have to live up to certain expectations. She said Semillas was already given a second chance. “We’ve tried and our responsibility is to no longer renew that experiment,” she said.

Garcia said if LAUSD fails to reauthorize the school, it would likely seek charter approval from the Los Angeles County Board of Education.

Kayser expressed concern that approving the Academia Semillas charter despite the school’s weak performance would set a new precedent.

“What will that mean for the next school that comes with similar issues? Will we be able to take action or will this be the new standard?” Kayser asked.

There was some discussion about holding off on approving the charter for 5 years, but LAUSD General Counsel David Holmquist said the charter petition would be automatically approved if the board failed to act Tuesday.

Board member Zimmer, who added a friendly amendment to review the school’s progress in two years, said LAUSD needs to come up with a way to accurately measure this school’s performance.

“If then, under an accurate model of measuring there is still underperformance, that is a different question for me,” he said.

Responding to comments from the public, Kayser asked why there was a discrepancy in the academic achievement being boasted.

José Cole-Gutiérrez, director of LAUSD Charter Schools Innovation and Charter Schools Division, implied that speakers could have been referring to the high school, which is a separate charter school that is not up for renewal this year.

After the vote, LaMotte said she wanted all focus schools in her district to be treated the same, and demanded Dorsey and another high school be reassessed.

Garcia told LaMotte, contrary to the school-of-residence focus schools she was mentioning, like Dorsey High School, as a charter school, Academia Semillas is a school of choice for parents and no one was being forced to attend.

“Sometimes the answer is shut it down… [that’s] not my answer for this one,” Garcia said.

LaMotte, however, was not buying Garcia’s explanation of the difference.

“They were worse than my schools,” she said. “I’m tired of having to assess our schools and nothing is being done for them. This is wrong.”

‘It Takes A Village’ to Keep Students Safe, Says MUSD’s New Police Chief

April 19, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Linh Dinh has been named chief of Montebello Unified School District’s 102-person police department, making him one of the first Vietnamese Americans in California to reach this rank.

The 15-year veteran of law enforcement will be sworn in during a ceremony at today’s school board meeting.

Dinh, 37, has been with the district for seven years, and has been serving as the temporary police chief since December. Former district superintendent Edward Velasquez previously served as the district’s police chief.

He will lead an organization of 40 sworn officers, 60 campus security officers, and two non-sworn staff in the third largest school district in Los Angeles County.

Dinh was born in Vietnam and came to the United States as an infant with his parents as refugees following the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War. He and his family lived in Iowa and Ohio before moving to Los Angeles in the 1980s.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in biogeography from UCLA. Prior to becoming a police officer, he had plans to go into environmental science or natural resource protection. He became interested in law enforcement while working in a resource protection job.

“This is truly a great police department,” Dinh said. “I’m excited to be here and ready to continue to serve the Montebello Unified School District community.”

MUSD police oversee the security of 30,000 students at the district’s 33 schools.

“Right now my priority is the sustainability of the program that we’ve created,” he said.

A grant funded department reorganization in 2005 allowed the department to “bring on personnel and create community based programs and education,” he said.

As a police department, they also have access to law enforcement grants. They are currently funded by the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant, the Readiness and Emergency Management For Schools grant, as well as a federal Secure Our Schools grant.

The grants have also allowed the district to hire a probation officer who handles about 25 cases. Dinh says 92 percent of the students in the officer’s caseload graduate from high school or are released from probation.

Linh Dinh, left, is MUSD’s newly appointed police chief.He will be sworn in Thursday night.

A police officer is assigned to each high school, he said. “We build a rapport with students at these schools, so we actually get a lot of intel and information … We act as mentors, as a helping hand or someone to listen to. [The students] have that connection on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

Dinh says efforts made by other MUSD departments have also contributed to student safety improvements in recent years. “I think it does take a village… as a district we’ve been able to work together with the police department through physical and mental health programs.”

He credits a 95 percent attendance rate and an 11 percent decrease in the expulsion rate during the last two years as also making a difference. “It’s hard to pinpoint any one cause [for these results], but obviously it’s the intervention of the attendance folks, and the mental and the physical health programs from the counselors, psychologists and administrators. The police department gives the tough love sometimes, as far as attendance, discipline and not repeating the same mistakes,” he said.

He says school police and attendance staff work together to improve attendance. “Sometimes it takes an arrest, a truancy citation, to drive the point home with students and parents that it is the responsibility of the child to go to school, and the responsibility of the parent to get their child to school,” he said.

MUSD runs a truancy detention center in Bell Gardens, where a credentialed teacher supervises truant or suspended students. “This is part of our effort to make sure kids go to school to get an education. The truancy center takes in students we find out on the streets loitering or ditching schools … rather than suspending students and having them sit at home, oftentimes without supervision, we’re offering the truancy center, and nine times out of ten parents are pleased with the result,” he said.

The department also runs a Police Explorer program for students interested in a career in law enforcement. Dinh says there is a similar program in the works, called Navigators, that is targeted toward at-risk students, especially students on probation. “It instills the same values, such as team building and responsibility and service to others,” he said.

“This District is fortunate to have such a qualified Chief lead our police department,” Board of Education President Hector Chacon said. “His experience and dynamic leadership will certainly build upon the successes of the past and take the department to the next level.”

Ybarra Sworn In As Vernon City Councilman

April 19, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Michael A. Ybarra was sworn in Tuesday morning following a win against incumbent candidate Daniel Newmire at the April 10 city council election.
He promised to keep the city on track toward reform during a speech he made after taking the oath of office.

“Ending our city’s old ways has not been easy. There is still more to be done. I promise to serve this community of Vernon with honesty and integrity,” he said.

Ybarra is the first councilman to be sworn in after an ordinance to prohibit city council appointments was put into place. “The election was a vote for change,” he said.

Newly-elected Vernon city councilman, Michael Ybarra, was sworn in on Tuesday.

Ybarra received 26 votes following an election night ballot count and a subsequent count of two provisional votes that both favored him. Newmire, received 19 votes.

During the election night ballot count, several challenges by Vernon Chamber of Commerce attorneys resulted in six votes getting disqualified. The city clerk had already disqualified two other ballots for inconsistencies in the voters’ signatures.

On Tuesday, Ybarra said Vernon also faces a financial challenge as it tackles a $16 million deficit in next year’s budget.

Ybarra has deep roots in Vernon. He was born and raised in Vernon, and his family’s history in Vernon dates back to the 1860s. He has also worked at a Vernon business for 23 years.

While it is known that his father Thomas A. Ybarra served 43 years on the Vernon city council, Ybarra revealed that he has another relative, Esteban Peralta who also served on the city council for 15 years in the 1930s.

Peralta is his great uncle on his great grandmother’s side of the family. He ran the city’s first store in 1905, the year Vernon was incorporated.

“This is a proud day for the Ybarra family…  I know that today, my dad and uncle are looking down on me with a large smile on their face,” Ybarra said.

The City of Vernon will hold another election to fill a seat vacated by the former mayor, Hilario Gonzales. Candidates Luz Martinez and Reno Bellamy will be running to finish Gonzales’ unexpired term.

LAUSD School Board President Target of Recall

April 19, 2012 by · 4 Comments 

A campaign to recall Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board of Education President Mónica García was formally launched last week, the Los Angeles City Clerk’s office has confirmed.

The campaign was announced on April 11 in front of LAUSD’s headquarters, one day after the city clerk received the recall notice.

García, who represents the second district, is termed out. Her term ends June 30, 2013. A replacement could be elected in March or May 2013, depending on whether there is a runoff for her seat, Maria de la Luz Garcia, senior project coordinator for Office of the City Clerk-Election Division told EGP.

While the recall process has been initiated and García has been served, the group cannot start collecting signatures quite yet, according to Maria Garcia. They must first show proof that the notice was published in a local newspaper, submit copies of the petitions they intend to circulate and once they receive approval they’ll have 120 days to collect 26,608 signatures from registered voters in the district, and have them certified, Maria Garcia said.

Backers of the recall seem not to be worried about the time crunch, the signatures or the cost of a special election.

As reported by EGP on April 5, the recall appears to be fueled by anger over the proposed elimination of adult education and early education and other programs, and García was targeted for recall because she is president of the school board.

“Our community cannot take any more of these cuts,” recall petitioner Robert Skeels told EGP.  “It’s not [just] about her [García] but it is about a board that has continually punished the community. We believe by taking out the president of the board, we’ll send a clear message,” Skeels told EGP Wednesday.

Image from website RecallMonicaGarcia.com

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Lanzan Campaña para Destituir a la Presidenta de la Junta Escolar

Related story: Angry Adult Ed Supporters Threaten Recall of LAUSD Board Members

Skeels said they encourage residents in other LAUSD districts to begin recall campaigns against their school board representative, which can only be initiated by the voters of a district.

The board is not getting enough political pressure from the community, Skeels said.  It might seem unusual to target a board member in the last year of her term, “but other board members need to understand they can’t do this,” he said.

Though a recall election could be pricey for taxpayers, Skeels said taxpayers are already paying for the costly decisions of the board.

In the recall notice — signed by three community activists, a teacher and an adult school student — recall proponents state they want to recall García because she has ignored stakeholders and is to blame for the layoff off thousands of LAUSD teachers and staff. While some of the teachers have been rehired, recall petitioners say the yearly layoff notice process has left teachers demoralized and has disproportionately hurt schools in poor areas.

Under García’s tenure, public schools have been systematically starved while hundreds of millions of dollars in LAUSD properties and resources have been handed over to privately managed charter school operators, the notice claims.

“The hallmark of García’s tenure has been hundreds of millions of dollars squandered on unnecessary tests, consultants, and questionable hiring priorities,” the notice states.

García accused backers of the recall of playing politics and being a distraction to efforts to protect children’s education.

“…Instead of getting involved in politics that only derail the work we should be doing, I welcome everyone to join me in figuring out how we can work together to serve our children during these hard economic times,” García told EGP in written statement.

Supporters of García say she has done much to improve schools and bring about needed reforms.

García’s track record shows she is a reformer, Maria Brenes, executive director of Innercity Struggle, told EGP. She helped bring about the A-G college prep requirements, supported charter schools and small schools in her district. She fought for Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez and Esteban Torres high schools, and has supported teacher-lead collaborations for in-house reforms, said Brenes, whose husband Luís Sánchez ran unsuccessfully last year for the school board district 5 seat and was formerly García’s chief of staff.

Brenes, who has been involved in education and school reform for many years, says the backers of the recall are part of the status quo, and have targeted García because she is a Latina leader of the Eastside. She said the school board has a difficult job to do, with all the funding cuts.

“These are challenging times because of the state crisis, and people have a right to be angry… Like all board members, Monica’s hands are tied when it comes to these cuts because so much revenue comes from the state.”

For the Record: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Luís Sánchez as Mónica García’s chief of staff, he no longer holds that position. He does, however,  still serves as a “Senior Advisor to the Board President,” and has started his own consulting firm, according to Maria Brenes.

EDITORIAL: LAUSD and UCs, Two Shortsighted Approaches on Education

April 19, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The University of California has offered enrollment to 43 percent more out of state and foreign students for the 2012-2013 Academic School Year.

UC officials said this week that they expect non-Californians to account for more than 12.3 percent of the students enrolled in a UC school next fall.

They also say that a record number of students from California, 61,443, were offered admission to one of the state funded college system’s nine undergraduate campuses, an increase of 3.6 percent from last year.

UC officials cite less funding from Sacramento as the reason they will allow more out-of-state and foreign students to attend a UC school. The higher tuition those students pay will help offset some of their anticipated budget shortfall, they claim.

But their shortsighted solution could potentially have long-term negative consequences.

California, even in bad times, is still a draw to people wanting to live here. The 18, 846 non-resident students who are expected to attend a UC school, will probably wind up competing for professional jobs here in California: Jobs that our taxpayer-funded schools of higher learning should have trained California residents for.

Couple this with the information that the LAUSD is contemplating lowering its graduation standards for its high school students, possibly allowing students to pass college prep classes with a grade of D — in order to avoid a massive increase in the dropout rate due to higher standards passed by the Board passed eight years ago — and it becomes clear that we are still headed down a path of mediocrity when it comes to preparing our residents for the global workplace.

After years of demanding that the school district improve its preparation of students for college by requiring them to take so-called A-G college prep classes, we are now considering letting them pass those classes with a D, even though Cal State and UC schools won’t accept less than a C in those classes for admission.

We don’t necessarily believe every high graduate needs to attend a four-year university since there are many highly technical and skilled jobs that do not require a college degree. But now, the LAUSD is even considering eliminating the electives that help prepare students for technology-based careers.

We don’t get it.

Having fewer and fewer LAUSD students able to meet the C requirement for college entry and others denied the opportunity to study technology, we foresee a very dim future for many of California’s young people, especially minority and ethnic high school graduates, and a UC system whose student bodies will be made up of outsiders.

High-Speed Collusion

April 19, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The iPad3. The Kindle Fire. The Galaxy Nexus. It seems like every few months an amazing new wireless device is unveiled. Consumers benefit from all this wireless innovation.

However, the foundation for this success — a competitive market for high-speed Internet access — is in serious jeopardy. That’s because of a steady and unmistakable march away from competition and toward higher and higher levels of concentration in the market.

In the past seven years we’ve witnessed rampant consolidation. Sprint bought Nextel. AT&T merged first with Cingular and then with BellSouth. Verizon gobbled up Alltel. Comcast absorbed NBCUniversal. This trend finally paused when the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) blocked AT&T’s takeover of T-Mobile.

The consolidation we’re experiencing isn’t a natural result of free-market forces. Rather, it’s the outcome of the FCC’s policy decisions, which discourage competition and place a disproportionate amount of the nation’s most valuable spectrum into the hands of just two companies: AT&T and Verizon.

Now one of these behemoths has asked the government to bless yet another unholy union. Verizon announced late last year that it intends to team up with a coalition of cable companies. In this deal, Verizon has agreed to stop competing with cable in exchange for the opportunity to buy a valuable chunk of “wireless spectrum” — the industry’s term for the public airwaves over which wireless traffic moves.

This latest deal to divvy up the market for high-speed Internet access would hurt consumers. We’d wind up with fewer options for broadband in our communities, higher prices, and increasingly unfair terms and conditions.

Verizon would control even more of the nation’s valuable mobile broadband spectrum, and it would cement AT&T’s and Verizon’s dominance in the wireless market.

Put simply, since Verizon controls more spectrum than any of its competitors, it doesn’t need this deal to meet growing consumer data demand. But it is the best way for Verizon to ensure that another wireless company cannot compete by using that spectrum to offer higher-quality services at lower prices.

The spectrum sale alone should be enough to tilt this transaction against the public interest. But the most stunning part of these deals is a series of cartel-like side agreements between Verizon and the cabal of cable companies — former competitors — to resell each other’s products. If all goes according to plan, you’ll be able to buy Verizon Wireless service from your local cable company, or get cable modem and cable TV service from the Verizon Wireless retailer around the corner.

That proposition would put an end to any hope for nationwide competition between truly high-speed Internet service providers. Competition benefits consumers when companies try to win subscribers from their competitors through better service and lower prices — not when they offer to sign up their own customers for their rivals’ services.

These agreements simply represent a pact between these companies to stay out of each other’s way, forever. They put former rivals on the path toward collusion rather than competition.

Consumers are already feeling the impact of the lack of competition as they get locked in to more expensive long-term contracts and bundles while alternatives are locked out of the marketplace.

There’s no reason this pattern of consolidation and consumer harm has to continue. The FCC and the Justice Department should protect consumers by stopping this deal. If the decision to block the AT&T/T-Mobile merger was the down payment on future competition, preventing Verizon’s deal with the cable cartel should be the next installment.

Joel Kelsey is the policy adviser for Free Press, a national, nonpartisan nonprofit working to reform the media. www.FreePress.net. Distributed via OtherWords.org.

A Better Approach to School Discipline

April 19, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

On March 6, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released data from a national survey of more than 72,000 schools, covering a range of issues that included school discipline. The data revealed startling racial disparities in suspensions, expulsions and arrests in districts and states.

Among the findings: Black students are 3.5 times as likely to be suspended as their white peers, and more than 70 percent of students involved in school-related arrests or who have been referred to law enforcement are black or Latino.

The new data have attracted a great deal of attention in the press, including an editorial in the New York Times, a panel discussion on PBS Newshour, and articles in the Washington Post, Huffington Post and Los Angeles Times.

While the data suggest that harsh, inequitable approaches to school discipline are widespread, there are also many schools taking a different approach — one that heads off disciplinary issues by offering students a range of positive supports. And these schools are seeing success in some of the nation’s poorest neighborhoods.

The Elev8 initiative, for example, provides school-based health care and counselling, out-of-school activities, and outreach to parents and families in high-poverty middle schools in Baltimore, Chicago and Oakland and in five communities across the state of New Mexico. These Elev8 programs are being implemented in diverse urban, rural and tribal communities, and as such, they may serve as an important national model. There is compelling evidence that Elev8’s array of services is making a difference for schools and their students:

—According to annual surveys, students in Elev8 schools feel safer at school and in Elev8 activities than in their surrounding communities.
—One Elev8 school in New Mexico reported a 50 percent decrease in disciplinary actions in the three years following Elev8’s launch. Youth arrests in the surrounding neighborhood went from 60 to one in a single year.
—Suspensions in one Elev8 Chicago school were down more than 80 percent in 2009-2010.
—Across schools, Elev8 has substantially broadened student acceptance and use of counseling services, which school staff link to notable declines in disciplinary problems.

Other research confirms the value of more positive, preventive approaches to school discipline. For example, a recent report by the Research Alliance for New York City Schools highlighted the importance of positive approaches to discipline in efforts to turn around struggling middle schools.

The work being pioneered in Elev8 and other community schools around the country suggests that there is a clear alternative to the harsh, discriminatory approach to discipline that prevails in many school districts. Elev8 has joined with other organizations in calling for federal policies that will help schools adopt fairer and more effective discipline strategies, including positive behavior support, conflict resolution, and mediation programs.

Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is long overdue, and many are hoping to see it passed this year. In this important piece of legislation, Congress should insist that school districts are required to collect and report better data about school climates and discipline. These climate measures should be incorporated into the legislation’s accountability framework. Just as important, funding should be increased for interventions designed to improve student engagement and the larger learning environment. Such strategies are critical for creating safe and effective schools.

Taylor is Education Program Officer for LISC Chicago. © Copyright American Forum. 4/12

Working Group on Long-Range Plan of Southwest Museum Off to a Slow Start

April 19, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Nearly a year after Los Angeles City Council members approved a motion to form a working group to develop a long-range plan for reopening Los Angeles’ first museum in Mount Washington, a council committee met Tuesday to begin discussing the group’s formation, but stopped short when legal concerns over the group’s operation surfaced.

The working group, first proposed by Councilman Jose Huizar in June of 2011, was intended to bring members of the council, the Autry and community stakeholders together to work on a plan to reopen and operate the Southwest Museum, closed in 2010 by the Autry.

Councilman Richard Alarcon (CD-7), who chairs the Arts, Park, Health and Aging Committee, and committee member Councilman Ed Reyes expressed support for reopening the Mt. Washington’s Southwest Museum of the American Indian and the Casa de Adobe as a resource to the community.
Councilman Tom La Bonge, the third member of the committee did not attend the meeting. The Southwest Museum is located in Reyes’s district, while the Autry National Center in Griffith Park is located in La Bonge’s district.

Southwest Museum (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Dozens of Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition attended Tuesday’s committee meeting. They asked that their group be part of the working group. The coalition has for years fought efforts by the Autry National Museum to close the Southwest museum and move its collections of art and artifacts to the Autry’s museum in Griffith Park.

Representatives of the Department of Recreation and Parks and the City Attorney’s Office informed Alarcon and Reyes that the city does not have jurisdiction over Casa de Adobe or the Southwest Museum. The city only has jurisdiction over the Autry National Center in Griffith Park, they said.

Legal issues regarding possible quorum and Brown Act concerns, and whether the working group should meet publicly or informally were raised, resulting in the motion being put on hold for two weeks to give the committee time to review the concerns further.

The motion’s original intention was accountability, Reyes said. He emphasized that they wanted to move away from the antagonism and confrontations of previous discussions related to the Autry’s merger with the Southwest Museum.

“The next step is to revisit the language of the motions, and revise them so they are legally applicable. We plan to come back to the Arts Committee in two weeks with language that is legally applicable and in good will for all parts of the City. It’s incumbent on us, as stewards of the City in philanthropic circles, in education circles, and within the City government, to prioritize the Southwest Museum as an investment for the future,” Reyes later told EGP in an email.

During the discussion, Alarcon expressed concern about exposing the city to litigation.

The city is currently facing two legal challenges related to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process for a renovation project at the Griffith Park site, and alleged Brown Act violations for Recreation and Parks Commission hearing during which critics of the Autry were not notified through an email blast system, said Deputy City Attorney Arletta Brimsey.

The Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition has for nearly a decade charged that the Autry has failed to live up to the merger agreement that resulted in their acquisition of both properties in Northeast Los Angeles and a multi-million dollar collection of artifacts. The group wants to hold the Autry accountable.

However, the city has limited power because it was not a party to the merger, Brimsey said at the meeting.

While further discussion on the work group was postponed to May 1, Alarcon said he would not let the issue die in committee. “We are huge supporters of both the Autry and the Southwest Museum,” Alarcon said noting that the Southwest Museum and Casa de Adobe are a “special treasure” and an “incredible asset” that should be brought to life, not shuttered or abused.

Luke Swetland of the Autry National Center told the committee members the working group would be the best way to move forward. “We more than anyone in this room want success for both Casa de Adobe and Southwest Museum,” he said.

While members of the coalition disagreed with some statements by the Autry representatives, namely to bring in museum operations experts into the working group, Nicole Possert, co-chair of the Southwest Coalition, told EGP she was happy that after 11 months the community has the opportunity to have a voice and express support for the taskforce.

Dan Wright, attorney for the coalition, said the city’s attorney’s claim at the beginning of the meeting to limit the scope of the city’s work to the Griffith Park site is part of the problem the group has faced for almost a decade.

For the Record: An earlier version of this story stated the Autry closed the Southwest Museum in 2006, it was actually closed  to the public in March of  2010. According to Yadhira De Leon, the Autry’s director of public relations,  they are making the Southwest Museum “once again accessible to the public on May 19.”

Suspect Sought in Boyle Heights Attempted Kidnapping

April 19, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles Police Department sex crimes detectives on April 12 asked for the public’s help in identifying and locating a suspect responsible for an attempted kidnapping of a 13-year-old girl.

Police said the girl was walking home from Hollenbeck Middle School in the 1900 block of East Fourth Street in Boyle Heights around 2 p.m. on April 10 when the suspect stopped her.

He blocked her path and asked, “What is your name? Do you need a job? How old are you? You’re beautiful. I love your lips.”

She spoke briefly to the suspect and then walked way. The suspect got into his car, which was parked on the northeast corner of Fourth and State streets.

As the victim continued walking east on Fourth Street toward Boyle Avenue, the suspect drove alongside her and continued to ask if she needed a ride.
The suspect then drove past the victim and turned north onto Pecan Street.

When the victim reached Pecan Street, she saw the parked car on the northwest curb of Pecan Street about 40 feet north of Fourth Street near the entrance to the Hollywood (101) Freeway.

This time the suspect waved cash and yelled, “Here, you want money?” as she crossed Pecan Street.

“Just leave me alone,” she yelled back.

The suspect then drove up to the victim, got out of the car, grabbed the girl by the shoulders and tried to force her into the back seat of his car.
She fought off the suspect and ran to a nearby market for help.

She sustained bruises to her back shoulder and legs.

The suspect was described as 35 to 45 years old, about 5 feet 9 inches tall, with short cut hair, pock-marked face and a tattoo of a dragon or snake on his left forearm. He was wearing a blue short-sleeve dress shirt, black pants and black dress shoes.

Composite sketch of attempted kidnapping suspect on April 10 in Boyle Heights. (LAPD composite sketch)

The car may have been a black, four-door sedan, possibly a Mercedes- Benz, with what resembled a peace symbol on the hood.

Anyone with information on the kidnapping attempt was asked to call Detective David Meza at (323) 342-8993.

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