Respecting School Choice: No Need for Villians

April 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The denial of space to Collegiate Charter High School at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights may have been for reasons other than a strong opposition to charters schools as far as the Los Angeles Unified School District is concerned.

But there is no denying there are those who see every issue involving a charter school as a call to fight the “devil in our midst.”

We find that view discouraging and disrespectful to parents who feel a charter school would better serve their child’s needs.

The recent decision by the Los Angeles Unified School District to back away from its plans to give space on the Roosevelt High School campus is a case in point.

While we understand the objections to the site placement by students and local activists who believe a Wellness Center would better serve the needs of current and future Roosevelt students and their family, we disagree that the villain in this case is Collegiate Charter.

LAUSD is required by law to share facilities with charter school operators, but the District and local school board member were fully aware of the community’s desire for a Wellness Center at Roosevelt when it agreed to give space to Collegiate on the campus. The problem is LAUSD.

Roosevelt has struggled for more than a generation with poor academic outcomes, forced to endure years of overcrowding and shortages of textbooks, desks, college prep classes, year-round, multi-track schedules and even long lines to eat lunch.

This newspaper has published many articles over the years about the unacceptable conditions at Roosevelt and the desperate need to reduce overcrowding and for real education reform.

Our goal here is not to judge the effectiveness of public or charter schools, but to remind our readers that there is no simple, single right answer along the path to educational equality and closing the academic achievement gap for Latino students.

We should not forget that the popularity of the charter school movement, and for that matter, the pilot schools and small learning academies on many local campuses today, exist because the status quo public schools were failing too many students.

Students, parents, and yes, many teachers lobbied hard to bring change and greater school choice to LA Unified. EGP believes that no student or parent should be denied an education in the school of their choice, nor should they be intimidated in the process.

We have always been supportive of efforts to provide the best facilities the District has to offer to all students. It disappoints us that instead of greater collaboration between all school systems to better serve all students, some people prefer an adversarial and winner take all scenario.

A parent’s decision for their child’s education should be respected, no matter if it’s for a traditional public, charter or parochial school.

EGP wants all students to find the school that best fits his or her educational needs. All students are entitled to comfortable and safe campuses with good instructional materials, books and counseling.

And we want all the students’ parents to be respected and supported in the system of schools they have chosen.

Charter Blocked to Make Room for Wellness Center

April 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The battle over charter school expansion was recently front and center at Roosevelt high School in Boyle Heights, where students, parents and anti-charter school advocates are calling a decision to not allow a charter school to co-exist on the eastside campus an important victory.

In November of last year, the Los Angeles Unified School District, LAUSD, started the process to allow Collegiate Charter School to operate out of 6 classrooms in bungalows on the Roosevelt campus, a decision that angered students and area activists who said the move would disrupt the school environment and culture and plans for an onsite wellness center.

In 2000, California voters passed Proposition 39 that requires public school districts to make their educational facilities available to charter schools operating in their district, which is what LAUSD was complying with in their plan.

Roosevelt students celebrate the decision not to locate charter school at their campus.  (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia )

Roosevelt students celebrate the decision not to locate charter school at their campus. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia )

But parents, teachers and students said they did not become aware of LAUSD’s plans until about a month ago, sparking their efforts to halt the District’s plans.

For decades, Roosevelt was one of LAUSD’s most overcrowded schools, serving as many as 5,000 students on a campus built to accommodate 2,500-3,000 students.

The building of new high schools nearby and the creation of the district’s public school choice initiative — out of which a number of pilot and charter schools were created — reduced Roosevelt’s population down to just over 2,000 students today.

The change has freed up space on the campus that students and local activists say can be put to better use than just adding more students on campus.

Maria Brenes, executive director of the nonprofit InnerCity Struggle, said the district’s plans would have circumvented efforts to build a community wellness center on the campus for Roosevelt and Hollenbeck Middle School students, and the community at large. She said Roosevelt is a high needs campus that qualifies to receive part of the $50 million “Wellness Centers Now” investment resolution approved by the school board in 2008.

According to Brenes, InnerCity Struggle and 11 other eastside organizations got involved in the fight to stop Collegiate Charter’s move to Roosevelt when they learned of the issue from two of the school’s student organizations, “Taking Action” and “United Students.”

“We had already identified the bungalows that were empty and would be the future [wellness] center,” Brenes explained.

That’s why eastside organizations like ICS, Promesa Boyle Heights, Proyecto Pastoral, East LA Community Corporation, The Wall Las Memorias, Las Fotos Projects and others, supported the students’ efforts to stop LAUSD’s plans by holding workshops and rallies, writing letters to LAUSD and speaking at a Collegiate Charter School board meeting.

They demanded the space be kept available for the proposed wellness center, which would include space for a parents’ center, student clubs, community organizations and for “restorative justice coordinators, counselors and psychologists serving the students.”

Students, parents and supporters at Roosevelt High School hope to see  a wellness center be built on their campus. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Students, parents and supporters at Roosevelt High School hope to see a wellness center be built on their campus. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

However, the future of the wellness center was not the only issue on the table. Arguments against LAUSD’s plans were steeped with anti-charter sentiment and rhetoric and the belief that charter schools are businesses that take away resources—such as space and money—from students who need it most.

At an April 10 rally outside Roosevelt, students and their community supporters chanted “Roosevelt Si!” and  “Charter No!” as they celebrated their victory to keep Collegiate from moving to their campus.

“Charter schools privatize human rights to our education and take a critical role to segregate students and the community,” said Destiny Renteria, a senior at Roosevelt. “Our voices have been heard,” she said triumphantly.

After meeting with InnerCity Struggle and learning more about plans for the wellness center, Collegiate agreed to work with LAUSD to find another location.

Charter schools are public, tuition-free, open enrollment schools that educate students from the same eastside communities the organizations represent, said Collegiate Executive Director Vanessa Jackson. “Over 95% of our enrolled students reside in Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights and East Los Angeles,” she added.

“This is an important resource for the school and there was a concern among community leaders as to where there would be physical space for the wellness center as well as for our school,” Jackson explained. “The District has been working to find a solution that’s going to work for everyone, and we’re happy to be solutions-oriented,” she said. “We’ll be the same school regardless of the campus where we are located,” she added.

But for some of those involved in the protest, Collegiate’s compromise did little to quell their mistrust of charter schools or LAUSD’s efforts to accommodate them in the District. They still believe charters bring “gentrification” to public schools.

Community Rights Campaign organizer Cindy Donis calls it the “privatization” of public education by people who have no experience in education and are more interested in profits than people.

“Pushing Collegiate out of the heart of Boyle Heights demonstrates the power and the beauty of unity and what we can accomplish when we put our demands at the forefront,” she said.

Jackson calls the amount of “misinformation” about charter schools “disheartening.”

“We are open-enrollment and entirely nonselective…I think that all families should have access to accurate information as they’re making the important choice of where to send their students for high school,” she said.

According to Jackson, they are close to signing an agreement with LAUSD for a new facility. It could come within a week or so, she said

“Collegiate will still be on the Eastside…Our new location is within a two-to-three-mile radius of where the vast majority of our enrolled families live,” she said.

But for people like Carlos Montes, president of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, the fight to push charter schools out of the eastside is not over. “We will work to unite other school communities to defend public education and build a movement to keep our schools public.”

Los Angeles Unified Approves Teacher’s Contract

April 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles Unified School District board voted unanimously Tuesday in support of a three-year contract with teachers that provides roughly 10.4 percent in salary increases.

Members of the teachers’ union, United Teachers Los Angeles, are expected to vote on the proposed contract next month. If ratified by the union, the contract will return to the LAUSD board for a final vote.

“LAUSD and UTLA believe this agreement is good for students, educators and the stability of the district moving forward,” according to a joint union-district statement issued late Friday, when the tentative deal was struck.

The agreement also calls for reduced class sizes and increased counseling services and makes changes to the teacher evaluation system and teacher reassignments, according to the district and union.

The tentative agreement came as UTLA engaged in a series of protests they called “escalating actions” aimed at reaching a more lucrative contract for teachers. LAUSD Superintendent had been holding the line on raises, saying offering more money would lead to across-the-board layoffs.

In a report to the Board of Education, Cortines said the proposed contract could leave the district in the red by hundreds of millions of dollars by the 2016-17 school year. He said, however, he was hopeful that Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised budget would help erase an anticipated 2015-16 deficit of about $140 million.

According to UTLA, the proposed contract includes a 4 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2014, and another 2 percent retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year. It also includes another 2 percent raise effective July 1, and another 1 percent effective Jan. 1.

Students, Parents: Rate LAUSD Schools

March 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Parents, students and school staff will be rating the Los Angeles Unified School District through a new a new poll that will help evaluate the quality of their school. 

The survey asks whether the school offers opportunities for students to become leaders, how welcoming and collaborative is the environment and how clean and safe is the campus.

Students will take home a survey for parents that can be filled out on the form or online at www.reportcard.lausd.net. Students and staff will take the survey at school. The deadline to respond is April 10.

For more information, contact school or call (213) 241-5600.

Más de 600 Educadores de LAUSD Podrían Ser Despedidos Por Falta de Presupuesto

March 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

La junta del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles (LAUSD) estudió en su reunión del miércoles una propuesta para notificar la finalización de contrato a más de 600 profesores, consejeros y trabajadores sociales del distrito escolar como parte de las soluciones para enfrentar un déficit de cerca de $160 millones.

Además, el órgano de gobierno consideró revisar la renovación de contratos a personal administrativo certificado, supervisores y otros funcionarios especializados.
La lista incluye a más de 260 educadores de adultos, 59 consejeros, 63 trabajadores sociales psiquiátricos y varias docenas de profesores de idiomas extranjeros.

Incluyendo estas notificaciones que no son usuales, el LAUSD podrá enviar en total cerca de 2.500 notas de finalización de contrato a su personal.
Según un reporte del LAUSD, el segundo distrito escolar más grande del país, éste enfrenta un déficit de $158,3 millones que buscará solucionar para comenzar el año 2015-2016 el 1 de julio.

El envío de las notificaciones es una medida preventiva exigida por la ley, aunque no necesariamente significa que todas las personas que reciban el aviso perderán su empleo. Cada año el LAUSD envía más de 1.800 notificaciones de finalización de contrato.

La decisión del miércoles, por otra parte, puede afectar las negociaciones entre los directivos del LAUSD y el sindicato Maestros Unidos de Los Ángeles que se encuentran estancadas, al no llegar a un acuerdo sobre el porcentaje de aumento de salario para el próximo año escolar.

Mientras el sindicato solicita un incremento de 8,5%, el distrito ha ofrecido un 5%.
Por eso, representantes del sindicato calificaron la decisión del miércoles de la junta como una maniobra de presión en la negociación sobre salarios.

Sin embargo, el superintendente del LAUSD, el hispano Ramón Cortines, defendió las medidas argumentando que es urgente balancear el presupuesto.

L.A. City Council Incumbents Make Strong Showing

March 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

City Councilman Jose Huizar fended off a spirited challenge from former Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina to retain his 14th District seat, headlining a winning night for council incumbents.

“We did it!” Huizar shouted at his election-night party Tuesday night at Salesian High School, drawing cheers from the crowd.

Huizar’s battle with Molina – billed a heavyweight bout between two Eastside political veterans – turned out to be a largely one-sided affair. Huizar grabbed a commanding lead when vote-by-mail ballots were tallied, and he never looked back.

As a former county supervisor, city councilwoman and assemblywoman, Molina was the best known of the four challengers attempting to unseat Huizar, who will return for his third and final term representing the district that stretches from downtown Los Angeles to Eagle Rock.

Huizar — whose most recent term was marred by sexual harassment allegations — insisted the 14th District has seen improvements thanks to his efforts to secure funding for graffiti removal, repair work on a City Hall building in Eagle Rock, initiatives to help the homeless and other programs to address local needs.

“Last night’s results are a testament to the great work that we have accomplished together over the last 9 years,” Huizar said in a statement posted Wednesday on his campaign’s facebook page.

“We move forward with a commitment to prioritize basic services in the city budget and improve their systematic and procedural delivery,” his post said.

He went on to say that more needs to be done to “ensure that working and middle-income families have housing options” and the city implements new affordable-housing policies and deals with its  “disgraceful lack of an approach to homelessness.”

In the eastern San Fernando Valley’s 6th District, incumbent Nury Martinez emerged victorious in a rematch with former Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez.

Montanez was the top vote-getter in the 2013 primary election to complete Tony Cardenas’ unexpired term, but she lost to Martinez in an upset in the runoff election. Martinez said during her more than 18 months on the job, she has fought prostitution and human trafficking crimes, brought in economic opportunities and jobs, and worked to clear up blight.

Herb Wesson, who represents the 10th Council District, cruised to victory over Koreatown activist Grace Yoo, who last clashed with the powerful council president during contentious proceedings to redraw district lines in the Koreatown area.

Councilman Paul Krekorian also held onto his early lead in his bid for a second term representing the 2nd District — which includes North Hollywood, Studio City, Valley Village and Van Nuys, against challenger Eric Preven, a television writer who is a regular gadfly at City Council and County Board of Supervisor meetings.

Councilman Mitch Englander ran unopposed in the 12th District, which includes Reseda, North Hills, Northridge, Chatsworth and Porter Ranch.

In the 8th District, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, a former executive director of a nonprofit founded by Rep. Karen Bass to improve economic conditions in South Los Angeles communities, defeated three other candidates to replace termed-out Councilman Bernard Parks.

The race to replace termed-out Tom LaBonge in the 4th District will move to a May 19 runoff election, with 14 candidates splitting the vote and preventing any candidate from earning the more than 50 percent needed to win the seat outright.

The council members elected today will serve 5 1/2-year terms. The passage of Charter Amendment 1 will mean a one-time lengthening of the terms of city and school board officials elected in the 2015 and 2017 elections, with future elections being held in even-numbered years.

School Board Candidates Debate in Eagle Rock

February 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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.

(Left to right): Ref Rodriguez, Andrew Thomas and incumbent Bennet Kayser speak to a large audience about their future plans for the District 5. (EGP Photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

(Left to right): Ref Rodriguez, Andrew Thomas and incumbent Bennet Kayser speak to a large audience about their future plans for the District 5. (EGP Photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

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.

Nominations Sought for Preschool Teacher of the Year Awards

February 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

 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 bbove@laup.net

 

Community Calendar: Feb. 5, 2015 – Feb. 11, 2015

February 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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.

 

Tuesday, Feb.10

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 info@carecen-la.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.

 

Upcoming

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 info@ernc.la

13-Year Old Charged With Murder in Middle School Stabbing

January 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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.

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