Three candidates running for a spot on the board of the second largest school district of the country were at Eagle Rock High School Monday evening, taking part in forum where they told voters why they should represent District 5 on the L.A. Unified School District Board of Education.
The school’s auditorium was nearly packed, with many of those in attendance there to support their preferred candidate, incumbent Bennett Kayser, or one of his two challengers, professor Andrew Thomas and charter school executive Ref Rodriguez.
District 5 covers a large and diverse area that includes schools in the southeast communities of South Gate, Cudahy, Maywood and Huntington Park, as well as east and northeast Los Angeles neighborhoods like Highland Park, Cypress Park, El Sereno, East L.A., Mt. Washington, Lincoln Heights and Eagle Rock among others.
The seven-member school board oversees LAUSD’s $7 billion budget and sets policy for District’s 1,000 schools; 650,000 students; and more than 45,000 employees.
It was the first debate with all three candidates in attendance: Kayser and Thomas opted to not take part in a debate sponsored by the United Way of Greater L.A. and a diverse group of community partners Jan. 28 at the Goodwill Community Center in Lincoln Heights, leaving Rodriguez as the only participant.
Kayser’s absence in particular raised the ire of several community groups, who in a news release said his “refusal to participate” deprived the community of “an opportunity to meet all candidates, learn their values, strategies and ideas for the Board and the District,” which is key to voters deciding which “best meets the needs of their children and local schools.”
Kayser responded to the criticism Monday, distributing a written statement explaining he had participated in multiple other election-related forums, interviews and Q and A’s and that “Debating debates is pointless.” The concerns facing District 5 “are too large for us to waste another moment on this contrived issue.”
At Monday’s forum, moderated by education journalist Annie Gilbertson, Kayser said his time as a board member has benefitted LAUSD students. He said he voted to add $34 million for early childhood education and adult education as well as sponsoring hundreds of fieldtrips. He is a big supporter of providing better programs for students with special needs, he said.
Thomas said his two children attend LAUSD schools and the experience has left him unsatisfied with the quality of schools throughout the district. “Three out of ten LAUSD school students are not graduating,” he said. The next school board needs to fix the District’s budget and implement Common Core –that sets high academic standards in math and English language arts/literacy, he said.
In 1999, Rodriguez co-founded “Partnerships to Uplift Communities,” a network of highly respected charter schools. He said the achievement and excellence gap could be closed by providing better education to LAUSD students. Communication between parents and teachers and the board willing to collaborate is the key to success, he said.
While all three candidates seemed to find common ground on issues such as Common Core and the restoration of arts and music programs, Thomas and Keyser expressed disapproval with the growing number of charter schools in the District.
Thomas said 18% of LAUSD students now attend a charter school and that takes money away from other public schools. “Every time a charter school opens they take away money from LAUSD,” he said, adding that 20% of charters are performing below the standard.
Rodriguez defended charter schools noting that many perform exceptionally well, but added that those programs that fail to provide a high quality education should be closed. While most parents move their child to a charter in search of higher quality education, much of the exodus from traditional LAUSD schools is due to parents leaving because they cannot afford to stay in the city.
“It’s not about charters taking away kids, it’s about parents [leaving],” he said.
All three candidates agreed that teachers are vital to providing high quality education and they need an environment that allows them to do their best.
Keyser said teachers need more flexibility in their lessons. Rodriguez said teachers should to be paid better. Thomas said that the biggest priority is to reduce teacher-student ratio.
In regards to the Local Control Funding Formula, a new funding mechanism that allocates more money to schools with large numbers of special need students, English Learners (EL), and students in foster care, Rodriguez said the funds should support high quality proficiency programs. “Schools need peer coaching, peer training, especially for foster kids and low-income kids.”
During the forum, Thomas called for greater transparency at the District. “Schools have decided for the second year in a row not to publish results” on the Common Core standards and that’s not acceptable, he said.
Kayser said programs and services for children with special needs should be required at schools with low-income families.
“I have a son who goes to King Middle School and it is a good opportunity to see where each candidate stands,” Norma Lopez told EGP following the forum.
“It’s good to see diversity among the candidates,” added Gabriel Sandoval.
LAUP is accepting nominations for the best pre-school teacher in Los Angeles County.
The nomination deadline is Feb. 20.
Nominees should be teachers who have gone above and beyond their duties to prepare students for elementary school and life.
Five teachers, from each L.A. County Supervisorial district will be awarded $2,000 in cash and $500 in classroom supplies if selected as a “Los Angeles County Preschool Teacher of the Year Award.”
The awards are sponsored by Los Angeles Universal Preschool or LAUP.
Candidates may nominate themselves or be nominated by parents, co-workers or administrators. Nominations are open to all county preschool teachers. Applications must be received by Feb. 20.
For more information about the application process, call (213) 416-1877 or email email@example.com
Today, Feb. 5
7-8:30pm—LA Unified District 5 Candidate Debate at Eagle Rock High School. Meet the Candidates before you vote! Confirmed participants: Bennett Kayser, Ref Rodriguez & Andrew Thomas. Eagle Rock High Auditorium: 1750 Yosemite Dr. LA 90041.
Friday Feb. 6
8pm— Comedy “Clean Start” at Casa 0101. When Beverly Hills socialite, Parker Reed, loses her fortune, she is forced to move in with the only person who will take her – her loyal Latina maid, Rosario Rodriguez. Adjusting from Beverly Hills to Boyle Heights is a messy transition for Parker, and making it all the messier is Rosario’s superstitious mother and immature sister, who both want her out. It’s Beverly Hills vs. Boyle Heights as worlds collide in this raucous comedy. Playing until Feb. 15. Location: 2102 E. 1st St. 90033 Phone: (323) 263-7684 www.casa0101.org
Saturday Feb. 7
9am-3pm—Too Toxic to Trash: Free LA County Hazardous & E-Waste Roundup at Lugo Park in Cudahy. Safely discard household hazardous waste: antifreeze, unused medications, car batteries, used motor oil, paint, pesticides, hypodermic, pen & intravenous needles, syringes, lancets, household batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, and e-waste such as TVs, monitors, computers, VCRs, stereos, and cell phones. Park is located at 7810 Otis St., Cudahy.For more information, call County of LA Dept. of Public Works at 1(888) CLEAN LA or go to www.888CleanLA.com, contact LA County Sanitation Districts at 1 (800) 238-0172 or www.lacsd.org.
10am-12pm—CD-14 Candidates Debate at Boyle Heights City Hall. Boyle Heights residents will have the opportunity to hear about the candidates’ plans if they get elected in the upcoming election in March 3rd. Hosted by the Boyle Heights Beat. Candidates confirmed; Nadine Diaz, Gloria Molina, Mario Chavez, Jose Huizar. Location: 2130 E. First Street 90033.
10am-9pm—Monterey Park Lunar Year Festival Feb. 7-8. Celebrate the year of the goat during the annual street festival. More than 250 participating merchants, organizations & food vendors will take over East Garvey Avenue. Enjoy live performances, amusement rides & fireworks. Admission is free. Time: 10am-9pm Saturday and 10am-7pm Sunday. For info, visit, www.montereypark.ca.gov.
6pm—LAUSD District 5 Candidates Forum at the Old Timers Foundation in Huntington Park. Candidates Ben Kayser, Ref Rodriguez & Andrew Thomas. Location: 3355 E. Gage Ave., Huntington Park 90255.
6pm—DAPA/DACA Forum at CARECEN. For those interested in knowing about the implementation of the executive action by president Obama and how to apply, CARECEN will be offering an informative forum. Location: 2845 West 7th Street Los Angeles, CA 90005. For info. call: 213.385.7800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, Feb. 11
6-9pm—LAUSD District 5 Candidates Forum at El Sereno Senior Center. Candidates confirmed Ben Kayser and Ref Rodriguez. Hosted by LA-32. Location: 4818 Klamath Place 90032.
6-7:30pm—Community Meeting on the City of Los Angeles Consolidated Plan at the Boyle Heights Technology Youth Center:1600 E. 4th St., LA 90033.
14th Council District Town Hall and Debate Thursday, Feb. 12 at Luther Burbank Middle School in Highland Park. Invited: Nadine Momoyo Diaz, Jose Huizar, John O’neill, Mario Chavez and Gloria Molina. Hosted by The Historic Highland Park NC, Highland Park Heritage Trust, Garvanza Improvement Assoc. & Eagle Rock NC. Meet & Greet at 6pm; Debate 7pm. School: 6460 N. Figueroa St. LA 90042. For more information, email email@example.com
A 13-year-old boy accused of fatally stabbing a 14-year-old high school student outside Griffith Middle School in East Los Angeles was charged Tuesday with murder.
The boy, whose name was not released because he was charged as a juvenile, is expected to appear in court tomorrow at the Eastlake Juvenile Courthouse.
He is accused of stabbing Steven Cruz, a student at Garfield High School, shortly after 3 p.m. Friday in front of the nearby middle school.
Friends said Cruz was walking home when he stopped by the middle school to see friends. The suspect, a reputed gang member, asked Cruz where he was from, a common tactic by gang members to determine gang affiliation, then stabbed him in the torso, officials said.
A 14-year-old high school student was fatally stabbed outside Griffith Middle School in East Los Angeles Friday.
A 13-year-old was arrested at his home in Los Angeles Saturday afternoon. He was taken to the East Los Angeles sheriff’s station and booked for suspicion of murder, sheriff’s officials said.
The identity of the suspect was not immediately released, but officials said he is possibly a gang member.
Firefighters responded at 3:08 p.m. Friday to a report of a stabbing victim on the school steps and took the youth to County-USC Medical Center, a Los Angeles County Fire Department dispatcher said.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Bureau has identified the victim as 14-year-old Steven Cruz.
Los Angeles Unified School District spokeswoman Monica Carazo said the victim was stabbed by another boy as he stood on the perimeter of school grounds immediately after classes let out for the day.
Daryl Strickland, another LAUSD representative, said the victim was a student at Garfield High School.
“Early reports said the victim was stabbed with scissors, but that has been changed to a sharp object,” Strickland said.
The identity of the suspect is not known, but was described by Lt. Holly Francisco of the Sheriff’s Dept. as a male Hispanic juvenile. It was unclear if or where he attended school.
Sheriff’s homicide detectives were dispatched to investigate the killing.
Cruz was walking home when he stopped by the middle school to see friends, the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s station reported.
The suspect, a gang member, asked Cruz where he was from, a common tactic by gang members to determine gang affiliation, then stabbed him in the torso, according to KCAL.
Cruz was described as a good student who enjoyed skateboarding.
Griffith Middle School parents were notified of the death by a recorded audio message, Carazo said.
The school, just starting its after school program, was locked down after the stabbing “to ensure the students’ safety by making sure the grounds were safe and to give authorities a chance to see if anyone witnessed the fatality,” Strickland said.
Parents, hearing news of the stabbing rushed to the school but were not immediately allowed to speak with their student.
“Parents and students were brought to the auditorium so they could hear more about why it was important to keep students later than usual,” he said, adding that students were to be released one at a time to ensure that they were going home with a family member. Parents were not allowed to speak with their children during the lockdown.
Crisis counselors will be available to students at Griffith Middle School and Garfield High School on Monday, LAUSD officials said.
Update Sat., Jan. 24, 9:30pm. Story updated with information of arrest made in the murder.
Correction Mon., Jan. 26, 10 a.m. An earlier version of the story incorrectly referred to the stabbing as a shooting.
El Superintendente del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles, Ramón Cortines, aseguró el lunes a padres que el distrito esta trabajando para resolver los problemas con su sistema computarizado de información de estudiantes, y dijo que los equipos de tecnología están trabajando para asegurarse que los estudiantes obtengan sus boletas de calificaciones exactas.
“Como superintendente, asumo toda la responsabilidad de asegurarme que nuestros sistemas estén funcionando correctamente a favor de los estudiantes”, escribió Cortines en una carta enviada a los padres. “Estamos trabajando para resolver los problemas que han sido identificados”, agregó.
Cortines, quien asumió el cargo de superintendente la semana pasada a raíz de la renuncia de John Deasy, dijo a la junta escolar que le proveería actualizaciones semanales al distrito sobre los esfuerzos para resolver los problemas con el confuso Mi Sistema de Información de Estudiante Integrado (MiSiS por sus siglas en inglés).
Los problemas con el sistema han estado plagando al distrito desde el inicio del año escolar, lo que resulta que algunos estudiantes no puedan conseguir sus clases requeridas y otros están repitiendo la misma clase. Hay hasta quienes están en su último año de preparatoria, comenzando la solicitud de inscripción en universidades, y no pueden obtener sus certificados de estudios.
Cortines aseguró a los padres en su carta que el distrito cuenta con expertos en tecnología que trabajan con las escuelas para garantizar la exactitud de las transcripciones de los estudiantes.
El distrito también ha reclutado consejeros jubilados, directores y asistentes de directores para trabajar con las escuelas secundarias para revisar y certificar las transcripciones.
LAUSD está alertando a los sistemas universitarios públicos de California y otros colegios sobre los problemas con el sistema informático y los posibles fallos de transcripción. Empleados adicionales del distrito también están trabajando para revisar transcripciones y se han establecido líneas directas en los cuatro Centros de Servicio de Educación para abordar cualquier preocupación y seguimiento de los problemas reportados.
“Aprecio su ayuda y orientación a medida que avanzamos en el mejor interés de nuestros estudiantes”, escribió Cortines. “Van a haber errores, pero estamos comprometidos a arreglarlos. Sus hijos son la razón por la que estamos aquí y les debemos el proporcionar absolutamente todo lo que necesitan para lograr sus metas”, finalizó.
El Distrito Escolar Educativo de Los Ángeles (LAUSD), cuyo alumnado es mayoritariamente hispano, pretende disminuir el papel de la Policía Escolar dentro de las escuelas y ofrecer alternativas de consejería al sistema judicial juvenil.
Tras la aprobación de estas medidas algunas faltas que anteriormente eran remitidas al sistema judicial ahora serán tratadas directamente por la misma escuela a través de un funcionario o un consejero.
Alumnos con problemas de comportamiento como peleas o consumo de alcohol o posesión de marihuana dentro de la escuela, o el pintar graffiti en las paredes, ya no serán transferidos a la Policía Escolar, sino que tratarán este tema con la administración del plantel educativo.
“Hemos visto de primera mano cómo un número incontable de jóvenes, especialmente negros, latinos y otros estudiantes de color, han sido criminalizados innecesariamente”, dijo a Efe Manuel Criollo, director de Organización de la Campaña de Derechos Comunitarios del Centro de Estrategia Trabajo/Comunidad de Los Ángeles.
Un informe presentado en marzo por esta organización junto con el Proyecto Black Organizing de Oakland destacó que desde 1980 el gasto estatal en Educación Superior en California ha disminuido un 13%, mientras el de Prisiones y Correccionales ha crecido en un 436%.
El informe aseguró que “las escuelas con fuerte presencia policial, que se encuentran invariablemente en comunidades de bajos ingresos y de color, tienden a crear climas hostiles y poco acogedores que alienan a los estudiantes y alimentan los indicadores habituales de fracaso escolar”.
Según destacó el martes el Superintendente del LAUSD, John Deasy, la nueva política no significa que las acciones incorrectas no tengan consecuencias: “no aceptamos el mal comportamiento, pero nuestra respuesta no es criminalizarlo inmediatamente”.
“Hemos estado disminuyendo nuestros índices de suspensión de manera espectacular y queremos seguir haciendo lo mismo con las tasas de citación (judicial)”, agregó el líder del segundo distrito más grande del país, con más de 640.000 estudiantes, de los cuales el 73% son hispanos, y con cerca de 1.100 escuelas.
Scores showing the progress of elementary, intermediate and high school students across the state were released Monday, providing some reasons for cheer among schools and districts within Eastern Group Publication’s coverage area where many schools do not meet, and sometimes fall well below, the state’s target Academic Performance Index, API, score.
Several low-performing schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District that have been the subject of reform efforts saw increased API scores, while officials of the Montebello Unified School District were heartened to see continued double-digit increases to their schools’ API scores.
The API score increases bring local schools closer to the target of 800 set by the state ten years ago. This year forty-six percent of California’s schools achieved the statewide API target of 800, which is set on a scale of scores ranging between 200 and 1000.
California’s API scores are calculated based on how students performed on the STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting Program) and the CAHSEE (California High School Exit Examination) tests.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell called the state’s target an “ambitious” goal that “challenged most California schools that had never been held accountable for improving academic achievement.”
The scores also provide a glimpse at how well schools are serving a state made up of 60 percent African-American and Latino children. Local schools covered by EGP are made up of a pre-dominantly Latino population.
In the MUSD, for example, 94 percent of the students are Latino or Hispanic. Also, 89 percent of students in the district are categorized as socio-economically disadvantaged, which means the students’ parents do not have high school diplomas or the students qualify for free or reduced lunch programs, while 9 percent of students in the district have disabilities.
Officials at MUSD were glad to see their students’ test scores improved again in the 2009-2010 school year, raising the district’s overall state Academic Performance Index by double digits from 696 to 710.
“MUSD has experienced double-digit growth as a district every year since 2003, when districts statewide were provided with an API score for the first time,” said MUSD Board President David Vela. “Our students are continuing to achieve academically and there is no better feeling than seeing their hard work and dedication reflected in these scores.”
Individual schools in Montebello Unified have already surpassed the state target. Montebello Gardens Elementary achieved a score of 868, and Portrero Heights Elementary achieved a score of 842.
Schools in the district that do not meet the state target are expected to increase their scores by a set amount each year according to a district target that is lower than the state’s. In this area, MUSD has performed well over the years.
A majority of schools at MUSD, including all of the high schools, have significantly surpassed the targets set at the district level. The district highlighted in particular the gains in its middle schools, which together have had an average growth of 82.6 API points in the last five years, double the average growth targets set by the state during the same period.
But while some MUSD schools, such as Fremont Elementary, which gained 40 points this year, performed beyond expectations, some individual schools lagged or actually lost points.
Washington Elementary, Winter Gardens, and Laguna Nueva increased their API scores, but did not meet the district’s target, while scores at Joseph A. Gascon Elementary, Greenwood Elementary, Montebello Park Elementary, Rosewood Park Elementary, and Macy Intermediate went down.
Meanwhile the scores of some subgroups at the high school level experienced decreases, even though overall scores not only went up, but also exceeded the district target. These subgroups are defined based on race, as well as according to socio-economically disadvantaged, English learner, and students with disabilities statuses.
MUSD’s high school students’ scores lagged in the categories not defined by race. Schurr High School, which achieved a 757 API score, was expected to achieve a 5-point growth among its socio-economically disadvantaged students this year, but went down by 2 points instead.
Montebello High School achieved a 670 API score this year, but instead of gaining 21 points among students with disabilities, the school’s score went down by 9 points.
Bell Gardens High achieved a 664 API score, but among students with disabilities, the school lost 8 points, instead of meeting a 22-point growth target.
LAUSD schools in EGP’s coverage area have fallen under much scrutiny in recent years. API scores are used by LAUSD to single out schools in need of reform. Any school that falls below a 600 API score and fails to reach targets for improvement for a number of years, can be designated as a “focus school” and is eligible for takeover by outside educational agencies such as charter schools, groups of teachers and administrators, and nonprofit organizations, in the hope that they can bring new ideas to the table to raise student achievement.
Charters and nonprofits are not bound by the LAUSD’s union contracts and could potentially replace all the teachers in any campus they take over. Five schools, not in the local area, raised their scores above 600 this year, allowing them to stay under the control of the district.
“I congratulate these schools for their growth in student achievement and hope it will become a trend with the help of extra support of the district,” LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines said Monday.
LAUSD turned over 18 new schools and 12 troubled ones to outside operators during the first round of the Public School Choice Initiative in February. Teacher-administrator groups backed by United Teachers Los Angeles claimed the vast majority, while four were awarded to charter operators.
One of those focus schools was awarded to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s nonprofit Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. “We are seeing growth at the vast majority of our schools and, in some cases, we are seeing transformational growth,” he said, referring to all LAUSD schools. “While this shows we are moving in the right direction, we cannot content ourselves with anything short of transformational progress for every struggling school.”
Villaraigosa’s own nonprofit saw growth as well. Roosevelt High School made a record 57-point increase in the last two years to achieve a score of 607 this year, while Hollenbeck Middle School increased by 42 points in the same period to achieve a score of 625. Stevenson Middle School came back from a 7-point setback last year with a 16-point increase to its API score this year to achieve a 627 score.
The 21 Partnership schools, which consist of LAUSD schools that had been among the lowest performing in the district, have an overall score of 606, as compared to the LAUSD’s overall score of 709.
Charter-run schools in LAUSD did well this year, with three high schools run by Alliance College-Ready Public Schools ranked among the top ten in the district. College-Ready Academy High School #4, to be renamed Dr. Olga Mohan High School later this month, scored 883 and ranked fourth in the district. Environmental Science and Technology High School scored 859, ranking seventh in the district. Gertz-Ressler High School scored 853, putting them ninth in the district.
“We are proud that our charter schools ranked among the best schools in all of LAUSD, the nation’s second-largest school district,” said Alliance President and CEO Judy Burton. “These strong results only deepen our belief that all students can excel in the classroom and graduate from college. We look forward to continued academic improvement during the new school year.”
Reform efforts and steady progress in local schools also reflect a need for continued attention to schools with high concentrations of minority groups. A report by the Education Trust-West indicates that while African-American students together increased their API scores by 15 points, from 670 to 685, they continue to trail their white peers by 153 points. Latino students increased their scores by 17 points overall to achieve 715, which still leaves a gap of 123 points when compared to white students.
The report’s authors urge policymakers to go beyond “convening taskforces that highlight problems everyone knows exists,” and instead implement “high-impact solutions that have long been avoided or ignored.”
“It is extremely important that California address the specific needs of Latino and African American youth. Education reform efforts must address the crisis presented in these reports,” said Assemblymember Tony Mendoza (D-Norwalk), Vice Chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus. “We are at a critic point. If we do not make a shared pledge to close opportunity and achievement gaps for Latino and African American students, we are putting California’s future at risk.”
City News Service was used in this story.
Luis Sánchez kicked off his campaign to replace retiring Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member Yolie Flores’ District 5 seat in front of Esteban E. Torres High School in East Los Angeles on Sept. 9.
Sánchez, currently LAUSD Board President Mónica García’s chief of staff, is one of the founders and former executive director of the eastside education reform advocacy group InnerCity Struggle and Vice President of the Los Angeles Board of Recreation and Parks Commissioners.
Garcia, along with several other local elected officials, all democrats, have endorsed his candidacy.