Outside Hearing Officer to Oversee Ethics Case Against LAUSD Board Member

October 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission opted Tuesday to bring in an outside hearing officer to oversee its case against Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education member Refugio “Ref” Rodriguez and his cousin.

The commission did not directly respond to a request by Bradley Hertz, attorney for Rodriguez and Elizabeth Tinajero Melendrez, to stay the ethics case against them while they deal with the ongoing criminal case they are facing related to the same set of accusations.

Sergio Perez, the commission’s director of enforcement, told the panel that staying the ethics complaint case would be a more appropriate decision for the hearing officer to make.

“Because a question of a stay requires an understanding of the substantive facts related to the case and to the allegations, and an understanding of how the law applies to those facts, I do believe that this issue is not ripe for consideration. It is one that should be handled by the preliminary hearing officer or the hearing officer,” Perez said.

Rodriguez and Melendrez were charged last month with more than two dozen criminal counts for allegedly reimbursing nearly $25,000 to donors he listed on a campaign finance form. Rodriguez, a charter school founder, ran successfully for the school board in 2015 and was elected as its president over the summer.

LAUSD Boardmember Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez

LAUSD Boardmember Refugio “Ref” Rodriguez

After the charges came to light, Rodriguez stepped down as the board president but chose to retain his seat.

The criminal charges against Rodriguez and Melendrez stemmed from an investigation by the Ethics Commission after it received a whistleblower complaint in March 2015 about Rodriguez’s fund-raising activities.

The commissioners agreed to bring in an outside officer to conduct a preliminary and administrative hearing, which Perez estimates will take five days. The hearing is to be scheduled within four months of the selection of the hearing officer, according to Ethics Commission guidelines.

The commissioners rejected three other options: having one member of the commission serve as the officer; all members of the commission sitting as a hearing panel with an individual hearing officer presiding; and all the commission members convening as a hearing panel without an individual hearing officer presiding.

The commissioners voted unanimously for an outside officer after Commission President Jessica Levinson stated it was her preference and that it also is the most common choice. A preliminary hearing officer may not be necessary if neither side requests a preliminary hearing, but must be an individual, and that person can also serve as the administrative officer.

The Ethics Commission, which enforces city laws regarding governmental ethics, conflicts of interests, campaign financing and lobbying, has contracted with the California Office of Administrative Hearings for administrative law judges to serve as hearing officers.

The commission’s staff accused both Rodriguez and Melendrez of 25 acts each of laundering funds into Rodriguez’s campaign, and can levy a maximum penalty of $5,000 per violation or three times the amount of the money improperly reported or contributed.

According to Ethics Commission documents, shortly after Rodriguez began his campaign for the school board seat in November 2014, Rodriguez “provided $26,000 of his own money to Melendrez, his cousin and a key campaign volunteer, with instructions to funnel that money into his campaign account by asking family members to make contributions.”

“Melendrez enticed 25 family members and friends to make campaign contributions by telling them that their contributions would be reimbursed,” according to the Ethics Commission accusation. “The 25 contributions were made from Dec. 23-31, 2014, ranged from $775 to $1,100 each, and totaled $24,250. Melendrez fully reimbursed all 25 contributions using Rodriguez’s funds.

According to the Ethics Commission, Rodriguez filed a campaign disclosure statement on Jan. 12, 2015, and that statement included the 25 donations that had been reimbursed.

“In that statement, Rodriguez certified under penalty of perjury that he had raised a total of $51,001 in contributions from other people. However, nearly half of the reported funds were actually Rodriguez’s own money,” according to the commission documents.

Rodriguez was charged by the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office with one felony count each of conspiracy to commit assumed name contribution, perjury and procuring and offering a false or forged instrument. He is also charged with 25 misdemeanor counts of assumed name contribution.

He and Melendrez appeared in court in downtown Los Angeles on Sept. 13, but their arraignment was postponed until Oct. 24.

Rodriguez, 46, issued a statement saying he and his attorneys have been trying to “resolve the issues with the Los Angeles Ethics Commission for over two years.”

“I have cooperated with authorities and hope these issues will be resolved expeditiously and fairly,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez was elected in 2015 to the District 5 seat on the LAUSD board, representing areas including Atwater Village, Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Los Feliz, Mount Washington and Silver Lake. He is a co-founder of Partnerships to Uplift Communities, a series of charter schools in northeast Los Angeles and the northeastern San Fernando Valley.

Rodriguez is also facing a conflict-of-interest complaint with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission filed by Partnerships to Uplift Communities over about $285,000 in payments that he authorized in 2014 from the charter organization to a nonprofit under his control, the Los Angeles Times reported this week.

School Board Chief Steps Aside

September 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

One week after being charged with perjury and other felonies for allegedly funneling $25,000 of his own money into his campaign by listing phony donors on a disclosure form, Ref Rodriguez on Tuesday gave up his position as president of the Los Angeles Unified School District board.

Rodriguez will remain on the school board, but said he was stepping aside as president to avoid being a distraction.

“When I was elected board president, I committed to highlighting the Kids First agenda for L.A. Unified,” Rodriguez said. “I remain committed to putting kids first, and so, in order to allow the board to remain focused on the hard work ahead of us, I have decided to step aside as board president.

LAUSD President Ref Rodriguez

LAUSD President Ref Rodriguez

“I do not want to serve as a distraction to my colleagues, or to any of the other dedicated teachers, principals and employees who do the hard work of educating students every day,” he said. “I have always been driven by my passion to give all kids, but especially those with backgrounds similar to
mine, a chance at a brighter future, and I believe this decision will help us continue doing exactly that.”

Monica Garcia serves as the board’s vice president and will take over the top post until the board selects a new president.

Rodriguez, 46, was charged last week with more than two dozen criminal counts for allegedly reimbursing nearly $25,000 to donors he listed on a campaign finance form. He was charged with one felony count each of conspiracy to commit assumed name contribution, perjury and procuring and offering a false or forged instrument, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Rodriguez was also charged with 25 misdemeanor counts of assumed name contribution.

His cousin, Elizabeth Tinajero Melendrez, 45, was charged with one felony count of conspiracy to commit assumed name contribution and 25 misdemeanor counts of assumed name contribution.

According to city Ethics Commission documents, shortly after Rodriguez began his campaign for the school board seat in November 2014, Rodriguez “provided $26,000 of his own money to Melendrez, his cousin and a key campaign volunteer, with instructions to funnel that money into his campaign account by asking family members to make contributions.”

The D.A.’s filing of criminal felony charges caught many political observers by surprise, with most noting the relatively small amount of money involved and the fact that it’s not illegal for a candidate to give money to his own campaign.

The latter point has left many bewildered as to why, if the allegations prove true, Rodriguez would reimburse others for their donations rather than give the money outright to his campaign committee.

Some have speculated that as a late entry into the race and facing a campaign finance-reporting deadline, Rodriguez wanted to bolster the appearance that he could run a viable campaign.

“Melendrez enticed 25 family members and friends to make campaign contributions by telling them that their contributions would be reimbursed,” according to the Ethics Commission accusation. “The 25 contributions were made from Dec. 23 through Dec. 31, 2014, ranged from $775 to $1,100 each, and totaled $24,250. Melendrez fully reimbursed all 25 contributions using Rodriguez’s funds.”

Rodriguez said last week he and his attorneys have been trying to “resolve the issues with the Los Angeles Ethics Commission for over two years.”

Melendrez’s attorney, Mark Werksman, called the criminal charges “much ado about nothing.”

“We are surprised this has risen to the level of a criminal prosecution,” he said, calling it “mystifying” that county prosecutors would bring a case “over such a small amount of money so long ago.”
 

LAUSD to Pay $150 M to Resolve Lawsuit

September 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles Unified School District will pay more than $150 million to 50 schools in primarily low-income areas to resolve a lawsuit accusing the district of misspending funds that should have been used to benefit “high-need” and English-learning students.

The lawsuit was filed in 2015 by a coalition of community groups that alleged the district had been misspending about $450 million annually that should have been earmarked toward campuses in primarily low-income communities.

“We are pleased to have reached to solution that will immediately improve the lives of students across the Los Angeles,” said Aurea Montes-Rodriguez, executive vice president of Community Coalition, one of the groups involved in the lawsuit. “While this is a promising victory, it also serves as an important reminder that low-income communities of color remain overlooked in Los Angeles. The time for communities like South L.A. is now, and we must continue the fight for our kids and our future.”

The “settlement provides a tremendous opportunity to direct more resources to our highest-need students and schools,” said David Holmquist, general counsel for the LAUSD.

“The underlying litigation between the parties involved varying interpretations of a very complex statutory framework. With this settlement complete, the district is ready to move forward and continue to put kids first,” Holmquist said.

The 50 schools that will receive additional funding are primarily in South and East Los Angeles. The money is expected to support academic, social and emotional support services, drop-out prevention programs and parent-engagement efforts, according to the groups that filed the lawsuit.
 

LAUSD Board President Charged With Campaign Fraud

September 14, 2017 by · 2 Comments 

The president of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education and his cousin were charged Wednesday with more than two dozen criminal counts for allegedly reimbursing nearly $25,000 to donors he listed on a campaign finance form.

Refugio “Ref” Rodriguez — who became president of the school board this summer — was charged with one felony count each of conspiracy to commit assumed name contribution, perjury and procuring and offering a false or forged instrument, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Rodriguez, 46, is also charged with 25 misdemeanor counts of assumed name contribution.

His cousin, Elizabeth Tinajero Melendrez, 45, was charged with one felony count of conspiracy to commit assumed name contribution and 25 misdemeanor counts of assumed name contribution.

Both defendants appeared in court in downtown Los Angeles, but their arraignment was postponed until Oct. 24.

Deputy District Attorney Susan Ser told the court that Rodriguez “breached the public trust.” She said the alleged violations were brought to the attention of prosecutors by a “whistleblower” whom she did not name.

Rodriguez and Melendrez stood with their attorneys as Superior Court Judge Deborah Brazil rejected a prosecution request for bail and allowed the defendants to remain free on their own recognizance. Brazil did order that their passports be surrendered at their next court appearance in October.

“We’re going to come back to court in a couple of weeks and see where things stand,” Rodriguez’s attorney, Daniel Nixon, said outside court. “My client intends to go back to work for the LAUSD tomorrow and continue to do the job he was elected to do.”

Rodriguez did not comment at the courthouse, but later released in a written statement said he and his legal team had been trying to “resolve these issues with the Los Angeles Ethics Commission for over two years.

“As the product of an immigrant family, nobody has more respect for the integrity of the American justice system than I do. I have cooperated with authorities and hope these issues will be resolved expeditiously and fairly,” Rodriguez said, adding he remains committed to students, teachers, parents and families of Los Angeles and putting students first.

Outside the court, Melendrez’s attorney, Mark Werksman called the issue “much ado about nothing.” Werksman said it was “mystifying” that county prosecutors would bring a case “over such a small amount of money so long ago.”

Prosecutors allege Rodriguez raised more than $50,000 during the first campaign reporting period that ended in December 2014 and that 25 donors — most of whom were family members and friends — were allegedly paid back $24,250 by Rodriguez and Melendrez.

The donors’ names had been listed on a campaign finance report that was allegedly signed by Rodriguez under the penalty of perjury and submitted to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, which received a whistleblower complaint in March 2015 about Rodriguez’s fund-raising activities, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

According to Ethics Commission documents, shortly after Rodriguez began his campaign for the school board seat in November 2014, Rodriguez “provided $26,000 of his own money to Melendrez, his cousin and a key campaign volunteer, with instructions to funnel that money into his campaign account by asking family members to make contributions.”

“Melendrez enticed 25 family members and friends to make campaign contributions by telling them that their contributions would be reimbursed,” according to the Ethics Commission accusation. “The 25 contributions were made from Dec. 23 through Dec. 31, 2014, ranged from $775 to $1,100 each, and totaled $24,250. Melendrez fully reimbursed all 25 contributions using Rodriguez’s funds.”

According to the Ethics Commission, Rodriguez filed a campaign disclosure statement on Jan. 12, 2015, and that statement included the 25 donations that had been reimbursed.

“In that statement, Rodriguez certified under penalty of perjury that he had raised a total of $51,001 in contributions from other people. However, nearly half of the reported funds were actually Rodriguez’s own money.”

The Ethics Commission staff accused both Rodriguez and Melendrez of 25 acts of laundering funds into Rodriguez’s campaign. The commission will review the accusations and make a final determination on the allegations and a decision on penalties. The commission can levy a maximum penalty of $5,000 per violation.

Rodriguez and Melendrez were charged criminally following an additional investigation by the District Attorney’s Office.

David Holmquist, attorney for the LAUSD, said the district is aware of the criminal charges.

“These allegations are not connected to any district business,” Holmquist said. “However, we will cooperate, as needed, with the District Attorney’s Office. L.A. Unified remains committed to its mission of providing all students with access to high-quality schools so that our graduates are prepared for college and careers.”

Rodriguez was elected in 2015 to the District 5 seat on the LAUSD board, representing areas including Atwater Village, Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Los Feliz, Mount Washington and Silver Lake. He is a co-founder of Partnerships to Uplift Communities, a series of charter schools in northeast Los Angeles and the northeastern San Fernando Valley.

Melendrez was a volunteer with his campaign.

“Eventually, we will resolve this matter,” her attorney said.

Presidente de LAUSD, Prima Son Acusados

September 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

El presidente de la Junta de Educación del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles (LAUSD) y su prima fueron acusados el miércoles de más de dos docenas de cargos criminales por supuestamente reembolsar casi $25,000 a los donantes que enumeró en un formulario de financiamiento de campaña.

Refugio “Ref” Rodríguez – quien se convirtió en presidente de la junta escolar este verano – está programado para ser procesado el miércoles por la tarde en un tribunal del centro de Los Ángeles, en una felonía cuentan cada una de las conspiraciones para cometer la contribución de nombre asumido, perjurio y adquisición y ofrecimiento de un instrumento falso o forjado, de acuerdo con la Oficina del Fiscal del Condado de Los Ángeles.

Rodríguez, de 46 años, también es acusado de 25 cargos por delitos menores de contribución de nombre.

Los Angeles Unified School District President Ref Rodriguez

Los Angeles Unified School District President Ref Rodriguez

Su prima, Elizabeth Tinajero Melendrez, de 45 años, es acusada de un delito grave de conspiración para cometer una contribución de nombre asumida y 25 cargos de delito menor de contribución de nombre.

Ambos acusados comparecieron ante un tribunal en el centro de Los Ángeles, pero su comparecencia fue pospuesta hasta el 24 de octubre.

La fiscal del distrito, Susan Ser, le dijo a la corte que Rodríguez “violó la confianza pública”. Ella dijo que las presuntas violaciones fueron llevadas a la atención de los fiscales por un “denunciante” a quien ella no nombró.

Rodríguez y Melendrez se pusieron de pie con sus abogados cuando la juez de la Corte Superior Deborah Brasil rechazó una solicitud de libertad bajo fianza y permitió que los acusados permanecieran libres bajo su propio reconocimiento. Brasil ordenó que sus pasaportes se rindieran en su próxima comparecencia en octubre.

“Vamos a volver a la corte en un par de semanas y ver dónde están las cosas”, dijo el abogado de Rodríguez, Daniel Nixon, fuera del tribunal. “Mi cliente tiene la intención de volver a trabajar para el LAUSD mañana y seguir haciendo el trabajo que fue elegido para hacer”.

Ambos acusados rechazaron hacer comentarios, permitiendo que sus abogados hablaran por ellos.

“Esto es mucho ruido sobre nada”, dijo el abogado de Melendrez, Mark Werksman, fuera de la tribuna. “Nos sorprende que esto haya aumentado hasta el nivel de un proceso penal”.

Werksman dijo que era “desconcertante” que los fiscales del condado trajeran un caso “sobre una cantidad tan pequeña de dinero hace tanto tiempo”.

Los fiscales alegan que Rodríguez recaudó más de 50,000 dólares durante el primer periodo de informes de la campaña que termino en diciembre de 2014 y que 25 donantes – la mayoría de los cuales eran miembros de la familia y amigos – supuestamente recibieron $24,250 de Rodríguez y Melendrez.

Los nombres de los donantes habían sido listados en un informe de finanzas de campaña que presuntamente fue firmado por Rodríguez bajo pena de perjurio y sometido a la Comisión de Ética de la Ciudad de Los Ángeles, que recibió una denuncia en marzo de 2015 sobre las actividades de recaudación de fondos de Rodríguez, según la Fiscalía del Distrito.

Según documentos de la Comisión de Ética, poco después de que Rodríguez comenzara su campaña para el puesto de consejo escolar en noviembre de 2014, Rodríguez “proporcionó $26,000 de su propio dinero a Melendrez, su prima y una voluntaria de campaña clave, con instrucciones para canalizar ese dinero en su cuenta de campaña pidiendo a los miembros de la familia que hagan contribuciones”.

“Melendrez atrajo a 25 familiares y amigos para hacer contribuciones a la campaña diciéndoles que sus contribuciones serían reembolsadas”, según la acusación de la Comisión de Ética.

“Las 25 contribuciones se hicieron del 23 de diciembre al 31 de diciembre de 2014, oscilaron entre $775 y $1,100 cada uno y totalizaron $24,250. Melendrez reembolsó totalmente las 25 contribuciones usando los fondos de Rodríguez”.

Según la Comisión de Ética, Rodríguez presentó una declaración de divulgación de campaña el 12 de enero de 2015 y esa declaración incluía las 25 donaciones que habían sido reembolsadas.

“En esa declaración, Rodríguez certificó bajo pena de perjurio que había recaudado un total de $51.001 en contribuciones de otras personas. Sin embargo, casi la mitad de los fondos reportados fueron en realidad el propio dinero de Rodríguez.

El personal de la Comisión de Ética acusó a Rodríguez y a Melendrez de 25 actos de lavado de fondos en la campaña de Rodríguez. La comisión revisará las acusaciones y tomará una decisión final sobre las acusaciones y una decisión sobre las penas. La comisión puede imponer una multa máxima de $5,000 por violación.

Rodríguez y Melendrez fueron acusados penalmente tras una investigación adicional por parte de la Fiscalía del Distrito.

David Holmquist, abogado de LAUSD, dijo que el distrito es consciente de los cargos criminales.

“Estas acusaciones no están relacionadas con ninguna empresa del distrito”, dijo Holmquist. “Sin embargo, cooperaremos, según sea necesario, con la Oficina del Fiscal del Distrito. LAUSD sigue comprometido con su misión de proveer a todos los estudiantes acceso a escuelas de alta calidad para que nuestros graduados estén preparados para la universidad y carreras”.

Rodríguez fue elegido en 2015 para ocupar el puesto de distrito 5 en el directorio de LAUSD, representando áreas como Atwater Village, Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Los Feliz, Mount Washington y Silver Lake. Es cofundador de Partnerships to Uplift Communities (Asociaciones para Elevar las Comunidades), una serie de escuelas chárter en el noreste de Los Ángeles y el noreste del Valle de San Fernando.

Melendrez fue una voluntaria en su campaña.

“Eventualmente, resolveremos este asunto”, dijo su abogado.

LAUSD Board President and Cousin Charged With Campaign Fraud

September 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Ref Rodriguez, president of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, was charged today with conspiracy, perjury and other counts for allegedly reimbursing nearly $25,000 to donors he listed on a campaign finance form in 2014.

LAUSD President Ref Rodriguez

LAUSD President Ref Rodriguez

He and his cousin, Elizabeth Tinajero Melendrez, who was also charged in the case, are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon in downtown Los Angeles.

Rodriguez — who became president of the school board this summer — will be charged  with one felony count each of conspiracy to commit assumed name contribution, perjury and procuring and offering a false or forged instrument, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Rodriguez, 46, is also charged with 25 misdemeanor counts of assumed name contribution.

His cousin, Elizabeth Tinajero Melendrez, 45, is charged with one felony count of conspiracy to commit assumed name contribution and 25 misdemeanor counts of assumed name contribution.

Prosecutors allege Rodriguez raised more than $50,000 during the first campaign reporting period that ended in December 2014 and that 25 donors  — most of whom were family members and friends — were allegedly paid back $24,250 by Rodriguez and Melendrez.

The donors’ names had been listed on a campaign finance report that was allegedly signed by Rodriguez under the penalty of perjury and submitted to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, which received a whistleblower complaint in March 2015 about Rodriguez’s fund-raising activities, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Rodriguez and Melendrez were charged following an additional investigation by the District Attorney’s Office.

David Holmquist, attorney for the LAUSD, said the district is aware of the criminal charges.

Estudiantes de DACA Aún Son Bienvenidos, Dicen Oficiales de Educación Estatal y Local

September 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Funcionarios de educación locales y estatales denunciaron el martes los planes para eliminar gradualmente el programa de Acción Diferida para los Llegados en la Infancia (DACA) y trataron de tranquilizar a los beneficiares del programa de que aún son bienvenidos en las escuelas y campus universitarios.

“Las políticas de inscripción y matricula de la universidad no se basan en el estatus de DACA para que la inscripción, la matrícula y la ayuda financiera para los estudiantes no se ve afectada por el fin del programa”, dijo Timothy White, canciller del sistema de la Universidad Estatal de California con sede en Long Beach.

“Seguiremos esforzándonos en el compromiso de la CSU de avanzar y ampliar el conocimiento, el aprendizaje y la cultura; proporcionar oportunidades para que las personas se desarrollen intelectual, personal y profesionalmente; y para preparar egresados educados y responsables que están listos y capaces de contribuir a la cultura y la economía de California”.

La presidenta de la Universidad de California, Janet Napolitano, dijo que la decisión del presidente Donald Trump de poner fin al programa en seis meses – sin restricción alguna por parte del Congreso – era “profundamente” preocupante.

“Este movimiento de pensamientos retrógrados y de gran alcance amenaza con separar a las familias y descarrilar el futro de algunas de las mentes jóvenes más brillantes de este país, miles de las cuales actualmente asisten o se han graduado de la Universidad de California”, dijo Napolitano.

Dijo que estaba dirigiendo su comité asesor sobre “estudiantes indocumentados” para determinar “como apoyar mejor y proteger a los estudiantes de la Universidad de California que dependen de DACA durante los próximos seis meses y más allá”. Ella dijo que el sistema seguirá ofreciendo servicios a los receptores de DACA, incluidos los servicios jurídicos.

En el Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles (LAUSD), los funcionarios enfatizaron que los planteles escolares seguirán siendo “zonas seguras”, lo que significa que los agentes federales de inmigración no serán permitidos en los campus “sin una revisión por parte de los funcionarios del distrito”.

“Estos jóvenes inmigrantes han hecho valiosas contribuciones a la comunidad y la nación que consideran su hogar y se han ganado el derecho a un lugar permanente en su historia”, dijo la superintendente de LAUSD, Michelle King.

El presidente de la Junta Directiva de Educación del LAUSD, Ref Rodríguez, dijo que los DREAMers, sean maestros o estudiantes, “han trabajado duro para contribuir a este hermoso país y ciudad”.

“Deben ser celebrados, no rechazados”, dijo. “Estamos comprometidos con fuertes esfuerzos de promoción a nivel federal y estatal, para que el Congreso encuentre el coraje de revertir esta decisión”.

El Distrito Escolar Unificado de Montebello (MUSD), el segundo más grande en el Condado de Los Ángeles, también repudió la decisión de poner fin a DACA, reiterando en un comunicado el martes que el distrito escolar está comprometido a ayudar a los estudiantes y sus familias.

“La Junta de Educación de MUSD se opone firmemente a la decisión del presidente Trump hoy de poner fin al programa de DACA”, dijeron.

“El tiempo, la energía y el dinero que se ha invertido en estos estudiantes sería una pérdida económica enorme en términos de recursos perdidos y en las contribuciones que podrían estar haciendo a nuestras comunidades”, dijo MUSD, agregando que “el estado sufrirá un mayor retroceso “en satisfacer las demandas” de una mano de obra más educada para competir en una economía mundial”.

Al unirse a la protesta contra el anuncio de la Casa Blanca, el canciller de los Colegios Comunitarios de California, Eloy Ortiz Oakley, dijo que terminar con DACA es una “decisión sin corazón y sin sentido”.

“Aquellos que son afectados por esta decisión fueron traídos a este país como niños y están persiguiendo una educación y haciendo contribuciones a su comunidad”, dijo Oakley. “Algunos han servido en las Fuerzas Armadas defendiendo este país. En California, no ponemos los sueños – o DREAMers – en espera”.

“Los Colegios Comunitarios de California continúan comprometidos a servir a todos los estudiantes, sin importar el estatus de inmigración y a proporcionar ambientes seguros y acogedores en los que aprender”.

State and Local Education Officials Urge DACA Students to Stay In School

September 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Local and statewide education officials Tuesday denounced plans to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and sought to reassure beneficiaries of the program that they are still welcome on school and university campuses.

“The university’s enrollment and tuition politics are not based on DACA status so enrollment, tuition and financial aid for students is not impacted by the ending of the program,” said Timothy White, chancellor of the Long Beach-based California State University system. “Additionally, state funding under the California Dream Act is not based on DACA status and will not change. Our mission to provide excellent educational opportunities to all Californians shall not waver,” White said.

“We will continue to vigorously pursue the CSU’s commitment to advance and extend knowledge, learning and culture; to provide opportunities for individuals to develop intellectually, personally and professionally; and to prepare educated and responsible alumni who are ready and able to contribute to California’s culture and economy.”

University of California President Janet Napolitano said the decision by President Donald Trump to end the program in six months — barring any action from Congress — was “deeply” troubling.

“This backward-thinking, far-reaching move threatens to separate families and derail the futures of some of this country’s brightest young minds, thousands of whom currently attend or have graduated from the University of California,” Napolitano said.

She said she was directing her advisory committee on “undocumented students” to determine “how to best support and protect University of California students who rely on DACA over the next six months and beyond.” She said the system will continue offering services to DACA recipients, including legal services.

At the Los Angeles Unified School District, officials stressed that school campuses will continue to be “safe zones,” meaning federal immigration agents will not be permitted on campuses “without a review by district officials.”

“These young immigrants have made valuable contributions to the community and the nation they consider their home, and they have earned the right to a permanent place in its history,” LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King said.

LAUSD Board of Education President Ref Rodriguez said DREAMers, be they teachers or students, “have worked hard to contribute to this beautiful country and city.”

“They should be celebrated, not turned away,” he said. “We are committed to strong advocacy efforts at the federal and state levels, so that Congress will find the courage to reverse this decision.”

The Montebello Unified School District, the second largest in Los Angeles County, also repudiated the decision to end DACA, reiterating in a statement Tuesday that the school district is committed to assisting students and their families.

“The Board of Education of the Montebello Unified School District (MUSD) strongly opposes President Trump’s decision today to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program,” they said.

“The time, energy, and money that has been invested into these students would be a huge economic loss in terms of resources lost and in contributions they could be making to our communities,” said MUSD, adding that “the state will suffer a major setback” in meeting demands “for a more educated workforce to compete in a world economy.”

Joining the outcry against the White House’s announcement, California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said ending DACA is a “heartless and senseless decision.”

“Those who are affected by this decision were brought to this country as children and are pursuing an education and making contributions to their community,” Oakley said. “Some have served in the Armed Forces defending this country. In California, we don’t put dreams — or DREAMers — on hold.

“The California Community Colleges remain committed to serving all students, regardless of immigration status and to providing safe and welcoming environments in which to learn.”

L.A. Trae Comida Vegetariana a las Escuelas

September 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

En el marco de un programa piloto que pretende dar a los alumnos opciones más saludables de comida, estudiantes de siete escuelas del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles (LAUSD) tendrán a partir del martes 6 de septiembre la opción de tomar un almuerzo vegetariano.

“Queremos darle más opciones a los estudiantes y también es una respuesta a lo que los mismos alumnos han estado pidiendo y diciendo: queremos tener comida vegetariana”, indicó a EFE Ivy Marx, especialista en nutrición del LAUSD en una entrevista telefónica.

El menú vegetariano ofrece chile con tortillas, tamales de fríjoles, salchichas, hamburguesas y emparedados al teriyaki, todos hechos con vegetales.

El programa piloto fue implementado en las secundarias Banning, Crenshaw, Fairfax, Huntington Park, Roosevelt, Sylmar y North Hollywood, donde Marx estuvo entrevistando a los estudiantes que tomaron la opción vegetariana.

“En los primeros 20 minutos se terminaron los platos que teníamos. A la mayoría de estudiantes les gustó mucho, incluso muchos no sabían que era una opción vegetariana”, explicó Marx.

La junta del LAUSD ha trabajado desde hace varios años para introducir menús vegetarianos en las escuelas del distrito, el segundo más grande del país con el 74 % de hispanos entre sus estudiantes.

En el 2013, algunas cafeterías implementaron el “Meatless Monday” (El lunes sin carne) y el año pasado las autoridades escolares apoyaron una propuesta para que el pollo que se serviría en los almuerzos no debía contener antibióticos y hormonas. El LAUSD fue el primer gran distrito escolar de Estados Unidos en aprobar una medida de esta categoría.

A pesar que la Administración Trump anunció hace unos meses que revertía parcialmente las reglas alimenticias del expresidente Obama en las que se exigía reducir las cantidades de sal, sodio y grasas saturadas, el LAUSD siguió con su idea de promover uno de los menús escolares más saludables del país.

“Nutrir a los niños para alcanzar la excelencia es nuestra misión, estamos orgullosos del desarrollo de nuestro menú de opciones veganas y los materiales para promoverlos”, dijo Joseph K. Vaughn, director de Servicios de Alimentos de LAUSD.

La medida se extenderá hasta noviembre cuando las autoridades escolares analizarán si amplían esta propuesta a todas las escuelas y cuál ha sido la respuesta de los estudiantes sobre los sabores y los platos.

“Una de las cosas más importantes es que les guste, que sepa bien, y obviamente que los almuerzos ayuden a cuidar la salud de los estudiantes”, concluyó Marx.

L.A. Unified Grads Falling Short In College

August 31, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

In what’s being billed as the first extensive effort to track the college success of Los Angeles Unified School District graduates, a study released Wednesday found that about 70 percent of LAUSD grads enroll in a two- or four-year college, but only about 60 percent persist to a second year.

The study by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and Claremont Graduate University found that among graduates in the LAUSD class of 2008, only 25 percent actually earned a college degree within six years.

The report’s authors — who also tracked the college success of the classes of 2013 and 2014 — said the research points out the need for LAUSD students to be better prepared for higher education to ensure more graduates enroll in college, stay in college and earn a degree.

According to the report, fewer than one-third of 2014 LAUSD graduates had an A or B average, and only one-fourth who took the SAT or ACT scored above the national average.

“In LAUSD, graduates with at least a B average were five times more likely to complete a four-year degree than graduates with lower grades,” according to the report. “Because students’ academic performance in high school depends very heavily on the academic skills students have acquired earlier in their lives, improving students’ academic performance is not a task limited to high schools and their students.

“The responsibility for improving LAUSD students’ academic skills begins early in children’s lives and continues throughout their academic career, and should involve the entire school community as well as the families and other adults who work with students to ensure that they are prepared for their highest educational aspirations.”

The report’s authors said the district must work to ensure students complete their A-G course requirements with at least a C average, and ensure students and their families have a full understanding of the college-application and financial-aid-application processes.

“More than one in six LAUSD graduates who were academically eligible to attend a public four-year college did not enroll in any college in the year following high school graduation,” the study found.

“Another one in six of those eligible for four-year college enrolled in a two-year rather than a four-year college. These students completed their A-G course requirements and earned the combination of grades and SAT scores that made them eligible for a California State University, yet they did not enroll in a four-year college.”

Frances Gipson, LAUSD’s chief academic officer, said the reports recommendations are in line with district efforts to prepare students to succeed in college.

The report’s goals “serve as the framework for an array of strategies we are implementing to address the needs of students, families and schools,” Gipson said. “We are passionate about continuing our work to foster a college-going climate in our schools and to strengthen our college planning and academic supports as we provide more robust counseling services for our students.”

According to the report, 68 percent of LAUSD graduates in 2008 enrolled in a two-or four-year college, most of them in a two-year school. Only 59 percent of them persisted into a second year of college, and only 25 percent earned a degree within six year.

Among 2013 graduates, 68 percent enrolled in college, and 57 percent continued into a second year. For the class of 2014, 70 percent of LAUSD graduates enrolled in college.

“It will be important to continue to track these college-going outcomes in upcoming years to understand students’ successes and challenges as they progress through college, and to learn about how college outcomes change for future graduate cohorts,” said Thomas Jacobson, Luskin Master of Public Policy graduate and co-author of the report.

A companion study, based on a survey of LAUSD high school staffers and students and external service providers, found that counselors were burdened with overwhelming caseloads limiting their ability to work with students. More than 75 percent of counselors said they have the information available to assist students with college applications and financial-aid processes, but less than half said they have enough time to give students the help they need.
 

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