Education, prevention and intervention are three of the most important components to improving schools with high needs in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), said Superintendent Michelle King last week.
King, who in recent weeks has been on a “Listen and Learn” tour of LAUSD schools, was speaking June 6 at a forum at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights hosted by a coalition of community organizations.
A veteran LAUSD administrator and former teacher, King is relatively new in her superintendent position, appointed by the school board back in January. She is the first African-American woman to lead the second largest district of the nation.
King takes charge following the departures of two former superintendents — John Deasy and Ramon Cortines — in less than three years.
While the “Community Unity Forum” on the School Climate Bill of Rights and Comprehensive Wellness Strategy was not technically part of King’s Listen and Learn tour, it was another opportunity for the superintendent to hear from east and southeast area education advocates what they believe is needed to improve schools, from added funding to changes in discipline policies. It was also a chance for King to share her views on the topic.
According to King, education is the first step. People need to know what a healthy school climate looks like and educated about the components to achieve it, she told the audience of about 200 people.
Prevention is the second component, said King. “What is the root of the problems? What is it that harms the community?” she asked. “We have to identify what those are and think about how we go about preventing.”
Third, and equally important is intervention, King said.
“Expulsion is not the way…It’s not just ‘here’s the punishment’ and the problem hasn’t been addressed. Counselors should be available not only for academic purposes but to help guide and heal,” she said.
The forum included a resource fair where King got a close-up look at local efforts to put the three tools into action. Students and staff provided information on health and wellness, LGBTQ rights, parent involvement and how to advocate for funding directed at “restorative justice,” an effort to use counseling and dialogue to resolve issues that affect students and their families or friends, in hopes of preventing problems from escalating.
Many in the restorative justice movement complain that too much money is spent on school police and would be better spent on restorative coordinators trained to do more than just give out punishment. According to an informational graphic in one booth, LAUSD has over 476 sworn and unsworn police officers but only 52 restorative coordinators.
“Sup. King needs to step up with more after-school programs and continuation schools instead of giving more money to police,” Roosevelt 10th grader Nancy Ruelas told EGP.
Local activists say they want King to prioritize school climate programs in LAUSD’s 2016-2017 Fiscal Year budget by increasing funding for such programs from $7 million to $60 million to at least match the budget for school police.
“Trying to solve the problems only with police is not fair; we need counselors,” said Ruelas.
The School Climate Bill of Rights resolution approved by board members in May 2013 called for creating more prevention and intervention programs aimed at increasing graduation rates and decreasing incarceration time, according to LAUSD.
District data show that restorative justice programs created under the measure have had positive results, decreasing out-of-school suspension rates nearly in half, from 12,353 in 2012-2013 to 6,184 in 2013-2014.
During the resource fair, students explained to parents that under the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), more money is given to poor-performing schools with large numbers of low-income students, foster youth and English learners, but added that more money is still needed.
“Our intent is to get parents involved with local organizations to fight for more money for their schools,” Lucia Ortiz, a senior at Roosevelt, told EGP.
Sophomore Laura Gutierrez added that they are encouraging voters to extend Proposition 30 tax increases on the wealthy set to expire at the end of 2018. Approved in 2012 as temporary, advocates back extending the tax increase for an additional 12 years.
Gutierrez said passage would help stop future cuts to schools, put more police on the street—not in schools—and help balance the budget.
Ultimately, the goal is to have healthier and safer schools with less police intervention and fewer school suspensions, according to the hosting coalition, which includes Building Healthy Communities—Boyle Heights Initiative, the Brothers, Sons Selves Coalition and the Dignity Schools campaign.
The group provided King with a list of recommendations to work on:
—Develop racial justice reforms to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline for the youth.
—Ensure dollars allocated for Restorative Practices.
—End in-school suspensions and report discipline data as required by the School Climate Bill of Rights in a format accessible to the community.
—Add intervention and prevention programs for the LGBTQ community in wellness centers.
The superintendent has yet to respond to the group’s list of priorities.
A group of Spanish-speaking mothers were waiting outside the Highland Park Ebel Club on Avenue 57 last week to meet with their local school district board member when L.A. police units swarm the location in pursuit of an alleged “armed” gang suspect, yelling at the women to leave the area. They take refuge across the street inside a local coffee shop where they hope to continue their meeting.
A few doors down on Figueroa Street, a man in a white shirt and tie stands outside a new hip, antique-filled bowling venue and restaurant greeting the mostly White guests, he seems oblivious to the chaos unfolding less than a block away. A street vendor sells ice cream to a man waiting at a bus stop while people gather on street corners as police cordon off several blocks, denying them access to their homes and cars left in public parking lots. The only vehicles being allowed through are those with loud sirens; firefighters, an ambulance, police patrols and three K9 units. A helicopter combs the area at a close range.
It could have been a scene right out of a Hollywood movie but instead was real life in Highland Park, a community at the crossroad of change.
Perhaps most striking that day was how the community seemed to take things in stride, for the most part just going about their business in a neighborhood where gentrification is changing the face of what’s normal.
The best example being the group of mothers who, undaunted by the scene taking place outside of the Antigua Café, continued to press forward with their meeting with Los Angeles Unified School Board Member Ref Rodriguez, who initially followed police instructions to leave the area because it wasn’t safe, but at the women’s urging returned to meet with them.
“Padres de Highland Park,” a group of about eight mothers representing the 11 public elementary, middle and high schools in Highland Park, had a long, organized list of items they wanted Rodriguez to address. Charter schools were not represented and all the women taking part are Latina. They primarily spoke in Spanish, and repeatedly emphasized their desire to be partners in their children’s education.
Calling the mothers and children “mi familia” (my family), Rodriguez said he was ready to listen.
“The school never asks our opinion,” complained Daisy Ortiz, whose child attends Garvanza Elementary. “We are giving them our most precious treasure and you just make business out of their education,” she told Rodriguez.
The parents complained about schools that wait to incorporate accelerated or advanced classes until middle or high school.
“Advanced education has to start from elementary school,” said one mother as Rodriguez listen attentively and a member of his staff took copious notes on a laptop computer.
Some of the mothers stressed the importance of inclusion in the education of their children and asked the board member to help make it a school district goal.
“We want a resolution approved that will require the involvement of parents at the beginning of any process, instead of at the end,” Ortiz said.
You [the District] don’t have a vision for our children, she continued. “There are new positions in LAUSD to make money, but not to fix the educational system,” she lamented.
Taking turns speaking, the women asked Rodriguez to work with them on a list of goals they said would help improve Highland Park schools. Specifically, they want schools and the District to:
—Always consider parents and give them full and concrete information;
—Include parents’ opinion when implementing new school programs;
—Listen to [parents’] questions and concerns;
—Give parents workshops on how to conduct meetings and understand District information and;
—To hold quarterly meetings with the board member.
We don’t want to go to our school parent centers for Zumba or knitting classes, said Alma, who did not want to give her last name.
What we really need, she said, are experts who can teach parents how LAUSD meetings work so they can take part.
The best thing schools can do for families is to give them the opportunity to be included in the process, the women said.
They said they volunteer at their schools so their children will have a better future than the man police were searching for right outside their meeting.
“We are not against the District, we want to work with you, but words are not enough,” said Susana Zamorano, an organizer with CARECEN who works with the group.
Public schools need to work harder to keep students instead of pushing them to charter schools, Leticia Aldana told Rodriguez.
“[Students] leave public schools because they don’t feel welcome,” she said.
“Charter schools have more programs,” added another of the mothers.
Rodriguez answered specific questions about school data and other matters, and what he could not answer, he said he would look into and come back with an answer. He concluded the meeting by saying he would take all their comments and suggestions under consideration, and agreed to meet again.
Outside, the neighborhood was returning to normal as streets were reopened to pedestrians and traffic. LAPD Northeast Division Sergeant Christopher Gomez told EGP that police officers had observed a known gang member with a gun walking near Avenue 57 and attempted to stop him, which led to the foot pursuit and the suspect discarding the gun along the way. The suspect eventually surrendered without incident, said Gomez. The gun was not found.
The Los Angeles Unified School District voted Tuesday to expand the number of seats in its popular magnet program by 5,000 in 2017-18.
The school board also unanimously approved a plan to open a new magnet campus in Maywood, for grades 6-12, the District announced this week. The new magnet school will be located at South Region High School No. 8, scheduled to open in fall 2017 as a Center for Enriched Studies Magnet School.
The new campus is expected to alleviate overcrowding at Bell Senior High School, allowing it to transition from a year-round to two-semester calendar, and create more seats for the Bell Zone of Choice.
South Region High will be the third Center for Enriched Studies in the District. The two others are in West Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.
‘The Southeast community has long advocated for more high-quality instructional programs in their neighborhoods,” said Board Member Dr. Ref Rodriguez. “I am thrilled that the LAUSD Board and District has listened, and has taken another step forward in closing the opportunity gap by creating a Center for Enriched Studies to be located in the City of Maywood. This new magnet school highlights the Board’s commitment to increasing the number of magnet programs throughout the District, and adds to the portfolio of magnet programs available to middle school and high school students in the Southeast Cities.”
There are currently approximately 67,000 students enrolled in the school district’s 198 magnet programs, with an additional 44,000 students on waiting lists. The campuses offer themed programs in subjects ranging from architecture and filmmaking to science and technology.
“We embrace multiple strategies for student success on our path to 100 percent graduation,” said Board Member Mónica García. “We continue to expand the portfolio of options for our students, families and school communities.”
Individual schools apply to create or expand a themed magnet, and must meet specific criteria designed to ensure the program will be successful and will meet the needs of its community. Of the 12 magnets set to open in Fall 2017, nine will focus on STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
Varias agencias y el distrito escolar unificado de Los Ángeles participarán este sábado en la conferencia “De la Cuna a la Preparación para la Universidad” en el Centro de Aprendizaje Roybal en 1200 West Colton St. 9006 de 8-3pm.
El objetivo es para informar a familias con niños de 0-5 años de edad, a crear conciencia sobre la importancia del desarrollo de la infancia en relación a la preparación escolar y universitaria. Habrá una feria de recursos y servicios para los padres, estudiantes y la comunidad así como almuerzo gratis y regalos.
In a major victory for teachers’ unions, a state appeals court panel today overturned a Los Angeles judge’s ruling that struck down California’s laws granting tenure to educators.
The panel ruled that while there appear to be “drawbacks” to the state’s statutes governing tenure and the firing of teachers, the plaintiffs in the case failed to prove the laws are unconstitutional.
The ruling by a three-judge panel of 2nd District Court of Appeal struck down a decision made in June 2014 by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu, who found students and teachers alike were “disadvantaged” by the statutes.
The judge noted that teachers have a right to due process when they are being targeted for dismissal, but the current system is “so complex, time consuming and expensive as to make an effective, efficient yet fair dismissal of a grossly ineffective teacher illusory.”
The lawsuit, known as Vergara v. California, was filed in May 2012 by a privately funded advocacy group called Students Matter on behalf of nine young plaintiffs, alleging the laws violate students’ constitutional rights to an equal education.
The suit named the state and two teacher unions that later intervened as defendants, the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers. The unions argued that the laws governing tenure ensure that quality teachers are in classrooms.
In a hearing before the appeals court panel in February, plaintiffs attorney Ted Boutrous argued that teacher job protections result in a “dance of the lemons,” in which “grossly ineffective teachers” are simply transferred from school to school.
“It’s impossible to dismiss these teachers,” the attorney said, adding that poor teachers invariably end up in low-income and minority outposts.
“The students’ fundamental right to a quality education is being violated,” Boutrous said, urging the panel to affirm Treu’s ruling.
But Deputy Attorney General Nimrod Elias argued that there is no evidence that students at some poor and minority schools are being harmed by the protections.
“These laws help reduce teacher attrition,” he said. “There are benefits.”
Elias also argued that school districts statewide attract educators who might otherwise be dissuaded by what they may consider low pay and difficult working conditions. In California, administrators must in effect decide whether to grant teachers tenure permanent employment after just 18 months.
In its 36-page ruling, the appeals court panel noted that the case pointed out “deplorable staffing decisions being made by some local administrators that have a deleterious impact on poor and minority students in California’s public schools.”
“The evidence did not show that the challenged statutes inevitable cause this impact,” the court ruled. “Plaintiffs elected not to target local administrative decisions and instead opted to challenge the statutes themselves. This was a heavy burden and one plaintiffs did not carry. The trial court’s judgment declaring the statutes unconstitutional, therefore, cannot be
Officials with Students Matter said they plan to appeal the ruling.
A Los Angeles Unified School District bus caught fire Monday on a freeway transition road in Boyle Heights, but all children got off safely and no one was hurt.
The fire, which was quickly extinguished, was reported shortly before 10 a.m. on the transition from the northbound Santa Ana (5) Freeway to the eastbound San Bernardino (10) Freeway, the Los Angeles Fire Department reported.
It was a banner day for students, families and teachers at an East Los Angeles area charter school Tuesday.
They were celebrating KIPP Raíces Academy being named a 2015 National Blue Ribbon School award by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE).
Located in a predominately low-income Latino neighborhood, KIPP Raíces Academy is one of only 33 schools in California, and the only Los Angeles Unified School District school to receive the Blue Ribbon designation.
The East Los Angeles elementary school was chosen as an “Exemplary High Performing School” based on its achievement on state assessments. In 2015, KIPP Raíces students exceeded the averages for both the district and the state on the state assessment exam, with 82 percent of the school’s students meeting or exceeding the standards in math and 78 percent meeting or exceeding the standards in English Language Arts.
“KIPP Raíces Academy has shown what is possible for public education in East LA,” said L.A. Unified Board Member Mónica García. “It is clear that this community of dedicated educators and students has raised the bar, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be here today to celebrate this very bright spot in our community.”
Founded in 2008, the school currently enrolls 545 students in grades K-4 — 85 percent of who are from low-income families and 96 percent of who are Latino.
“This award is a testament to what can happen in East LA when a public school is seen as a joyful place, where learning is celebrated and possibilities are endless,” said current KIPP Raíces Academy school leader Chelsea Zegarski. “I am so proud of our students, families, and staff for the work that they do every day to make this vision a reality.”
KIPP Raíces is a part of KIPP LA, a network of six middle schools and seven elementary schools serving over 6,000 students and alumni throughout South and East Los Angeles.
En reacción a las redadas del Gobierno federal anunciadas a principios del año contra familias centroamericanas, las escuelas públicas de Los Ángeles, donde cerca del 50% del alumnado es hispano, no permitirán la entrada de autoridades de Inmigración a sus instalaciones.
La decisión tomada este martes en la junta de gobierno del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles (LAUSD) declaró todas las escuelas, desde kínder hasta último año de secundaria, como “zonas seguras y centro de recursos para estudiantes y familias amenazadas por el cumplimiento de las leyes de inmigración”.
De acuerdo con la proposición presentada por el presidente de la junta, Steve Zimmer, cualquier solicitud del Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas (ICE) para ingresar a un escuela del LAUSD deberá ser remitida para decisión al Superintendente y al abogado general del distrito escolar.
La resolución aprobada por los supervisores destaca la necesidad de que el Congreso actúe para reformar la ley de inmigración y declara que “cualquier sede de una escuela del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles es un lugar seguro para todos sus estudiantes y sus familias”.
Igualmente ordena que el personal del distrito trate “a todos los estudiantes de una forma equitativa en la recepción de todos los servicios escolares incluyendo, pero no limitándose a, el programa de almuerzo gratis o el precio reducido, el transporte y la instrucción educativa”.
La portavoz del ICE para la Región Oeste Virginia Kice recordó en un comunicado que consideran las escuelas y las iglesias como “lugares sensibles”, por lo que no realizan detenciones en esos sitios.
La resolución del LAUSD igualmente anima al superintendente a que aumente y extienda alianzas con organizaciones comunitarias y de servicios legales que “ofrezcan recursos para las familias que enfrenta la deportación”.
De esta forma, buscan que se establezca una “red de respuesta” para ayudar a los niños que tengan algún familiar que haya sido detenido por Inmigración.
La superintendente adjunta del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles Michelle King fue nombrada el lunes como la nueva superintendente del distrito.
“Es un momento histórico”, dijo el presidente de la junta del LAUSD Steven Zimmer. “Una hija de nuestra ciudad, estudiante y egresada de LAUSD, una maestra de nuestras escuelas, directora de nuestro sistema, una líder de nuestra comunidad ahora toma el timón con nosotros para juntos llevar este distrito, nuestras escuelas y nuestra comunidad en los avances de la educación pública para los estudiantes que nos necesitan
King, de 54 años, ha estado con el distrito durante 31 años como maestra y administradora. Ella es la primera mujer en dirigir el distrito en más de 80 años y la primera mujer afroamericana en la historia que dirige el segundo distrito más grande del país.
“Me siento honrada y orgullosa de ser seleccionada como superintendente del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles”, dijo King. “Una vez más quiero dar las gracias a la Junta de Educación por su confianza y apoyo por permitirme guiar a los estudiantes, empleados y familias de este increíble distrito.
Dijo que como la primera mujer afroamericana en dirigir el distrito, ella quiere “inspirar a los estudiantes de todas las razas y orígenes para perseguir sus sueños mediante la demostración de lo que es posible en el sistema de educación de L.A.”
King dijo que planea ampliar los esfuerzos para involucrar a los padres, los sindicatos del LAUSD y otros interesados en tomar un esfuerzo activo en el movimiento del distrito hacia adelante, y “crear nuevas vías para todos los estudiantes y darles las herramientas que necesitan para tener éxito”.
Se espera que la junta directiva finalice su contrato en su reunión del martes. La selección de King fue unánime.
De acuerdo con el distrito, el King asistió a las escuelas primarias Century Park y Windsor Hills y a la escuela intermedia Palms. Se graduó de la preparatoria Palisades y asistió a UCLA.
Ella comenzó su carrera de docente en la escuela intermedia Porter en Granada Hills, enseñando matemáticas y ciencias, antes de convertirse en coordinadora de matemáticas, ciencias e industria aeroespacial en la escuela intermedia Wright en Westchester. Más tarde se desempeñó como subdirectora y directora de la preparatoria Hamilton en Cheviot Hills.
Se desempeñó como jefe de gabinete de Cortines durante su administración anterior, y luego como jefa adjunta bajo el Superintendente John Deasy y otra vez bajo Cortines tras la salida de Deasy.
The unanimous vote by the Los Angeles Unified School Board to appoint Michelle King as Superintendent ends a search that at times seemed to be fruitless.
We don’t need to go into the whys; we’ll just say that the candidate who called the country’s second largest school district a mess got it right.
Ms. King, an LAUSD insider should have no problem identifying the most challenging problems now facing the District, from low scores to the power struggle between charter school advocates and traditional school supporters and the teachers’ union.
At the core, schools are supposed to educate, to teach students to do mathematics, read and write – the three fundamental building blocks of a good education. But it’s a mission LAUSD has had great difficulty achieving, particularly among low-income and ethnic students.
There are those who feel that appointing a longtime insider like King will only serve to perpetuate the status quo. Others see the hiring as an opportunity to avoid the learning curve and get right to work.
We hope that as an educator trained in mathematics and sciences, King will do the work needed to focus on strengthening student attainment in those fields as well as English.
As a product of LAUSD schools and having worked for years in the district in various capacities, from teacher to principal to a top level administrator, King has an expansive understanding of what’s worked, what’s failed, and the political gaming that too often takes center stage.
That understanding, we hope, will serve as a bellwether of what needs to be done and assist her in rebuilding the district.
Reports are that she has managed to not become embroiled in any of the district’s scandals.
The list of what educators, including school reformers want her to do immediately is sure to be endless, but in our view, what the new superintendent needs to do first is to build her administration, a team that should be diverse, but as she has said, focused on students and their families.