Montebello Unified Approves Deep Job Cuts

February 23, 2017 by · 1 Comment 

Nearly 500 Montebello Unified School District employees will receive pink slips as part of plan to deal with the district’s multi-million dollar budget deficit.

Under intense pressure from workers and the public, the Montebello Unified school board earlier in the month postponed voting on a recommendation to cut 319 jobs, saying they wanted more time to look for other solutions to the district’s looming financial crisis. The decision to cut even more positions left many questioning why in less than two weeks the number of jobs slated for cuts grew by nearly 150.

“Looks like soon we’ll all be getting laid off,” said a disappointed Lisa Dominguez following the board’s vote at its Feb. 16 meeting.

Although Dominguez’s job title is not listed on the approved resolutions, as a longtime senior office assistant and member of the California State Employees Association, she knows many of the classified employees who could find themselves without a job come fall.

Montebello Unified is under intense pressure to close an estimated $17 million budget deficit or risk the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) sending in someone to oversee district finances.

The Montebello Unified School Board voted to approved districtwide layoffs and reductions during the Feb. 16 meeting. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The Montebello Unified School Board voted to approved districtwide layoffs and reductions during the Feb. 16 meeting. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

For nearly three hours, speakers pleaded with school board members to save their jobs, but in the end the board voted 4-1 to approve laying off classified and non-classified employees ­­– including plumbers, attendance technicians, custodians and administrators on special assignment.

Tom Callison, a district carpenter, said he was not surprised by the board’s decision, but was dis-appointed in the way they handled the situation.

“I thought they should have at least apologized for what they had to do,” Callison complained.

The board’s action met LACOE’s Feb. 17 deadline to submit a fiscal stabilization plan and the ap-proval of corresponding resolutions, while at the same time complying with its March 15 deadline to notify impacted employees as required in bargaining unit agreements.

“Because of the actions you’re taking tonight we no longer feel it necessary to put a fiscal advisor” at the district, said LACOE’s Chief Financial Officer Dr. Scott Price.

Price said their team of fiscal experts would still provide the district with advice, but would not have the same powers as a fiscal advisor to rescind district decisions.

MUSD employees on the other hand were not as impressed.

“Recall” was heard soon after the gavel hit making the layoffs official.

CSEA Chapter 505 President Lloyd Garrison told union members to not give up hope that every job would be saved.

Employees do not plan to wait until the November election to fight back, Garrison told EGP.

“We don’t want to give them 8 months,” he said. “Our goal is to get at least one [board member] out as an example, we just don’t know who that will be.”

Marisol Rivera, a school secretary and CSEA regional representative said employees plan to take their outrage to their neighbors.

“We need to make those phone calls and knock on doors to let them know what is going on in their backyard,” she said.

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

In the meantime, employees say they welcome the county and state looking into district finances. They hope they will uncover alleged financial discrepancies and to oust Chief Financial Officer Ruben Rojas, who they claim falsified information on his resume and job application.

Board Member Hector Chacon, the lone vote against the cuts is up for reelection in November. He too blames Rojas for the district’s current financial woes.

“There should only be one layoff,” Chacon said, referring to Rojas.

For many employees, their last hope is Superintendent Anthony J. Martinez, who they have been calling on to “do the right thing” and to put Rojas on leave while accusations against him are investigated.

“Why not take the time … if the allegations are not true, provide that proof to the public,” Callison said.

Chacon said he does not trust the budget presented by Rojas, especially since the deficit grew from $15 million at the last school board meeting to $17 million now.

Price said such increases aren’t unusual, explaining that earlier numbers were based on what the district expected to receive before the governor released his annual budget.

CSEA Labor Relations Representative Simon Rea called out Rojas for his contradictory statements over the severity of the district’s financial situation.

“It doesn’t add up,” he said.

Citing a previous article by Eastern Group Publications [publisher of this newspaper], Rea read a statement by Rojas highlighting the “strong fiscal management of the district” that has resulted in Montebello Unified’s $100 million voter-approved school bond receiving a AAA rating from the Fitch Ratings Agency.

Board Member Ben Cardenas stressed the board made a sincere attempt to avoid layoffs and to buy a little more time.

“Given the current timeline we came up with fiscal scenarios to ensure we minimized layoffs, especially in the classroom,” Cardenas said.

With the help of the county’s fiscal experts, he said they might be able to rescind many of the pink slips going out by the end of the fiscal year.

By approving the layoffs, there’s less urgency to save jobs, countered Chacon.

Raphael Ramirez, one of four plumbers in the district and number 29 on the list of layoffs, warned the board that cutting their jobs will have a major impact on students.

“Nobody thinks about how water comes out of the faucet, until it doesn’t,” he said.

Update: Feb. 24, 2017 10:45 a.m. clarified original statement that Lisa Dominguez’ job was not in jeopardy.

MUSD Workers Get One Month Reprieve

January 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Custodians, bus drivers, secretaries and cafeteria workers in the Montebello Unified School District (MUSD) successfully persuaded school board members to temporarily delay action on proposed job cuts and to try to find another away around the district’s looming budget crisis.

“We are the ones at schools before the class lights come on and the ones there way after the lights go off,” Marisol Rivera, a school secretary and regional representative with the California School Employees Association (CSEA) Chapter 505, told EGP during a raucous protest rally before the Jan.19 school board meeting.

Lea este artículo en español: Trabajadores de MUSD Reciben un Mes de Aplazamiento

MUSD is facing a $15 million budget deficit next year and district staff proposed laying-off 319 certificated administrators and classified – or non-teaching – employees to save money.

The proposal comes following notification by the Los Angels County Office of Education (LACOE) that its analysis of MUSD’s finances concluded the school district is in danger of not meeting its financial obligations for the next two school years. They gave the district until Feb. 17 to submit a detailed fiscal stabilization plan or risk the county sending in an overseer.

MUSD must identify $15 million in cuts for the 2017-18 school year and an additional $16.4 million for 2018-19, without touching a penny from its reserve account that has fallen just below the state-mandated 3 percent minimum saving requirement.

News of the potential cuts did not sit well with the approximately 100 employees, parents and some alumni at the protest rally before last week’s board meeting where the layoffs were on the agenda.

“I’m here to put a face to a name on that list,” 54-year-old attendance and pupil data coordinator, Rene Infusino, told board members.

Marisol Rivera rallies hundreds of Montebello Unified School District employees during a rally Jan. 19. (EGP Photo by Nancy Martinez)

Marisol Rivera rallies hundreds of Montebello Unified School District employees during a rally Jan. 19. (EGP Photo by Nancy Martinez)

Infusino’s husband Marcello, 57, has worked for the district for nearly 40 years and is currently the print shop operations coordinator. Ironically, he printed the very agenda that called for eliminating his position.

“You’re wiping out an entire family,” he said, pleading with board members to save his job.

He and his wife both losing their jobs would be a huge hardship, Marcello told EGP, explaining he has a mortgage and student loans to pay and two children in college.

During the 2010-2011 school year, MUSD had $44 million in reserves. The fund has since dwindled to less than $10 million.

“Where did all the money go?” demanded Jerry Perez, a district bus driver.

“Why don’t the higher ups get cuts?” he said, punctuating the view of many at the meeting.

Perez, still wearing his uniform, told EGP he blames the board and Chief Business Officer Ruben Rojas for the district’s financial mess.

The worker’s union, CSEA, has passed a “vote of no confidence” in Rojas and accused him of hiring personal acquaintances, lowering district morale and pushing through questionable and expensive labor contracts and falsifying documents on his job application.

“How is it that he’s still employed while our people are getting cut,” said Rivera in disbelief.

Rivera says cutting classified workers will hurt students.

“We are the maintenance workers that make sure the AC works, the bus drivers that get them to school, the clerical [workers] that deal with parents and the health assistants that handle sick children,” she said.

CSEA Labor Relations Representative Simon Rea disputes district claims of having less money due to falling enrollment, saying revenue has actually increased in recent years.

Hundreds of Montebello Unified School District employees protest proposed cuts Jan. 19. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Hundreds of Montebello Unified School District employees protest proposed cuts Jan. 19. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

He suggested MUSD take a closer look at its professional consulting services and other higher paid positions instead of classified staff, who he says are underpaid and overworked, comparing them to the oil that keeps the parts of a car from breaking down.

LACOE Chief Financial Officer Scott Price reminded the board that MUSD has been living beyond its means for years, refusing to make cuts despite warnings from the county about its structural deficit.

“If you keep going in the same direction you are going to reach zero percent [of reserves] by the end of next year,” Price warned.

Board Member Ben Cardenas asked Price if it seemed plausible the district could find a fiscal solution not requiring layoffs.

“I do not see how you can do that without making cuts in personnel,” responded Price.

Longtime Board Member Hector Chacon called the proposed layoffs the “lazy way out.”

“Cuts have always been the last resort, not the first resort,” Chacon said before asking his colleagues to continue the item until the Feb.16 meeting to give the board time to exhaust all other options.

He suggested the district consider borrowing money to avoid layoffs, take a closer look at contracts proposed by Rojas, freeze promotions, ask unions to consider a 2 percent pay cut and even proposed MUSD sell off its district headquarters and move their offices to the Laguna Nueva School site. Others suggested furlough days.

While many in the audience were pleased to hear Chacon say he would not support cuts, they were also frustrated that Chacon, who’s been on the board for decades and is up for reelection, failed to act on past opportunities to prevent the fiscal fallout facing the district today.

“They should have done that years ago,” someone in the audience said.

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“He is all talk,” said another.

If the school board ultimately approves layoffs, the district must deliver pink slips to impacted employees by March 15 to comply with the terms of agreements with its bargaining units.

“Is it possible we come up with multiple scenarios? Yes, it is possible will we find these in the prescribed time, that’s open to interpretation,” said Cardenas.

If the district fails to adopt a plan to stabilize its finances, the county is likely to send in a fiscal advisor to ensure steps are taken to shore up MUSD’s budget.

The prospect of county oversight – particularly over spending – appealed to many in the audience who had complained about Rojas.

In response to those complaints, Chacon asked staff to include on the board’s next meeting agenda discussion of whether Rojas should be placed on paid administrative leave while claims against him are investigated.

The district began hosting informational meetings on their fiscal stabilization plan Wednesday and will hold three more meetings over the next two weeks.

An earlier version of this story was published at www.EGPNews.com

MUSD Postpones Decision on Layoffs

January 20, 2017 by · 3 Comments 

Over 300 Montebello Unified School District jobs on the chopping block were saved at least for now as district officials try to come up with a plan to make up a $16 million budget deficit.

“Jobs were temporarily saved tonight but we’re not holding our breath,” Marisol Rivera, a school secretary and regional representative for the California School Employees Association (CSEA) Chapter 505, told EGP following the vote during Thursday’s MUSD school board meeting.

Sporting union shirts and gripping signs that read, “Recall the MUSD Board” and “NO CUTS!,” hundreds of CSEA members, from custodians and bus drivers to attendance technicians and cafeteria workers, protested outside district headquarters before the meeting to demand board members vote down a cost-cutting plan that would have laid off 316 district employees.

Marisol Rivera rallies hundreds of Montebello Unified School District employees during a rally Jan. 19. (EGP Photo by Nancy Martinez)

Marisol Rivera rallies hundreds of Montebello Unified School District employees during a rally Jan. 19. (EGP Photo by Nancy Martinez)

The proposed layoffs follow a notice from the Los Angels County Office of Education (LACOE) informing the district that it might not meet its financial obligations for the next two school years according to their analysis of the district’s finances.

The district must now identify $15 million in cuts for the 2017-18 school year and an additional $16.4 million for 2018-19, without touching a penny from its reserve account that has fallen just shy of meeting the state-mandated 3 percent minimum saving requirement.

“Without full implementation of the proposed cost reductions, the district’s ability to maintain the minimum reserve requirements and its fiscal solvency may be severely impacted beginning with 2017-18,” LACOE’s Chief Financial Officer Scott Price advised the district in his letter.

Hundreds of Montebello Unified School District employees protest proposed cuts Jan. 19. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Hundreds of Montebello Unified School District employees protest proposed cuts Jan. 19. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Citing a lack of funds, district staff proposed laying off 316 certificated administrators and classified – or non-teaching positions –saving the district millions of dollars.

Marcel Infusino, 57, and his wife Rene, 54, are two of the employees who could lose their job if those cuts are made.

Infusino has worked for the district for nearly 40 years and currently works as the district’s print shop operations coordinator, where for the last 12 years he has been in charge of printing school board meeting agendas and other district-wide tasks. Ironically, he says he had to print the agenda that called for his positions to be eliminated.

“You’re wiping out an entire family,” he pleaded with the board Thursday.

He still has a mortgage and student loans to pay and two children in college, Infusino told EGP, explaining the hardship that would result from he and his wife both losing their jobs

“We’re just not ready to retire,” his wife lamented.

Longtime Board Member Hector Chacon was visibly upset with the proposal to layoff workers, calling it the “lazy way out.”

“Cuts have always been the last resort, not the first resort,” Chacon said before asking his colleagues to continue the item until the board exhausts all other options.

Many in the audience, including district alumni who turned out to the meeting, were pleased to see Chacon would not support cuts, but some also expressed frustration that the longest sitting member of the board member had failed to act on past opportunities to take action to prevent the fiscal fallout facing the district today.

Now, working under a time crunch, the board only has until Feb. 17 to submit a detailed fiscal stabilization plan to LACOE, just one day after its next board meeting. If they ultimately approve layoffs, the district agreements must deliver pink slips to impacted employees by March 15 in order to comply with the terms of its agreements with bargaining units.

Price reminded MUSD board members and staff Thursday that the county has been warning the district for years that they were operating on a structural deficit.

“If you keep going in the same direction you are going to reach zero percent [of reserves] by the end of next year,” Price warned.

“You have to live within your means.”

If the district fails to adopt a plan to stabilize its finances, the county is likely to send in a fiscal advisor who would be tasked with ensuring the district takes the steps needed to shore up its budget. The prospect of county oversight – particularly over spending – appealed to many in the audience who had complained about the performance of MUSD’s Chief Business Officer, Ruben Rojas.

MUSD Chief Business Officer Ruben Rojas provides a budget update to the board of education during the Jan. 19 meeting. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

MUSD Chief Business Officer Ruben Rojas provides a budget update to the board of education during the Jan. 19 meeting. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

CSEA earlier this year passed a “vote of no confidence” in Rojas, accusing him of hiring personal acquaintances, lowering district morale and not adhering to project labor agreements among other issues. Union members and others recently accused Rojas of falsifying documents on his job application, growing increasingly angry that there’s been no action by board members on their charges, allowing Rojas to keep his job while union members are on the verge of losing their livelihood.

Chacon responded to their complaints by asking staff to include on the board’s next meeting agenda discussion of whether Rojas should be placed on paid administrative leave while claims against him are investigated.

The district will host informational meetings on their fiscal stabilization plan for the next two weeks beginning on Wednesday.

MUSD May Not Meet Financial Obligations, Analysis Finds

January 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

County education officials have notified the Montebello Unified School District that it might not meet its financial obligations for the next two school years unless the District implements budget cuts and takes action to stabilize its finances.

MUSD is facing tough fiscal realities and challenges, according to the Los Angeles County Office of Education, which advised school officials they must take steps to restore and maintain the minimum reserve for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years as required by law.

MUSD has agreed to move forward with an “aggressive” fiscal stabilization plan with “minimal disruption to the classroom” in response to the LACOE’s analysis, the District said in a written statement.

School Board President Dr. Lani Cupchoy called the MUSD’s fiscal woes “an inherited problem,” and placed blame on “a state that is unwilling to invest significant resources into public education and inaction by previous boards and executive administrations to address the difficult fiscal challenges facing the District,”

In the past, the district would avoid program cuts and employee layoffs by using its reserves and one-time monies, according to Board Member Benjamin Cardenas

“MUSD is facing the same kind of funding challenges that are currently impacting numerous districts across the state, including declining enrollment, increasing retirement pension costs, rising health benefit costs for current employees and retirees,” Cardenas said, adding that the expiration of one-time mandated block grant funding and underfunding of special education are also been a factor.

The District serves more than 64,000 students in grades K-12 and adult education programs in Bell Gardens, Montebello, Commerce, Monterey Park, East Los Angeles and Pico Rivera.

Declining enrollment due to lower birth rates in the area and families enrolling their children in neighboring districts has been an ongoing issue for the MUSD.

MUSD officials say the financial crisis has forced them to take a closer look at where they can cut costs, particularly in staffing, reassignments, employee benefits and worker’s compensation   to remain fiscally solvent. This includes the possibility of a work force reduction as a “last resort.”

MUSD plans to host informational sessions on the school board’s proposal next week where they will take questions from parents, employees and stakeholders.

Last month, board members approved a forensic audit of the district’s finances, which they said would help them better understand MUSD’s financial protocols, policies and procedures.

“What’s important to note is that this board is committed to looking at every budget restructuring scenario to ensure that we continue to provide a quality education for all our students,” assured Board Vice President Edgar Cisneros. “Maintaining local control and oversight is essential to ensuring that the priorities and needs of our students, parents and employees are addressed and met.”

Montebello Unified Declares Immigrant ‘Safe Zone’

December 27, 2016 by · 2 Comments 

In an effort to protect undocumented students and other vulnerable communities from threats of deportation or other potential federal actions, Montebello Unified officials have voted to become a “sanctuary district” and “safe zone.”

“Our decision today will put in place programs and procedures that will shield our students from any efforts to determine their legal status, sexual orientation and other forms of personal information,” said MUSD Boardmember Ben Cardenas.

With President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration approaching, many are worried he will follow through with his promise to deport millions of undocumented immigrants. MUSD serves the cities of Bell Gardens, Commerce, Montebello and portions of East Los Angeles, Monterey Park and Pico Rivera – all home to large immigrant populations. The threat of deportation and potential separation from one or both parents, or other family members “can have a chilling effect on a child, create undue stress and impact a child’s ability to concentrate in the classroom,” Cardenas said.

The declaration will allow the District to protect data and the identities of students, family members or school employees from disclosure to federal agencies for purposes not related to education.

Under the newly adopted sanctuary, safe zone designation, District personnel will be prohibited from asking students about their immigration status or participating in any other immigration enforcement effort. The District will also create an educational equality advisory committee to to consider the impacts immigration issues and policies will have on the district.

It is imperative the District put these types of procedures in place to minimize the impact on District students, their families and staff of any new policies adopted by a Trump Administration, said Boardmember Joanna Flores

“The district must always strive to combat racism, sexism and other forms of bias and assume a responsibility to provide equal educational opportunity to all students,” said MUSD Board President Lani Cupchoy during the Dec.15 meeting when the action was taken.

Under the Plyler V. Doe Supreme Court ruling, state and local governments are prohibited from excluding undocumented children from obtaining a free public education.

The “safe zone” will also protect LGBTQ communities, women, political minorities and others.

“Beyond education, our students and families need to know that the district is also fighting for their constitutional rights and their quality of life,” Flores said.

 

MUSD Opens New Homeless Student Resource Center

November 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Whether living in cars to couch surfing, nearly 1,000 students in the Montebello Unified School District experience homelessness daily.

The school district helps them and their families connect with food banks and other resources, and now plans to take the assistance a step farther by providing them with “essentials” on a weekly basis at a new resource center opened Wednesday in Commerce.

The new Families in Transition Resource Center is located at the former Laguna Nueva School, and the only school district-run facility for homeless students in the region.

School supplies, toiletries, gently used clothing, blankets, towels, pillows and other necessities will be made available every Wednesday to the 972 students and their families enrolled in the district’s Families in Transition Program. Parents will be given a voucher that allows them to go to the center and pick out items for their family.

“Unfortunately Los Angeles County has one of the largest homeless populations across the country,” points out MUSD Boardmember Joanne Flores, a former social worker.

A new resource center for homeless students attending the Montebello Unified School District, opened Wednesday at the Laguna Nueva School site in Commerce. (MUSD)

A new resource center for homeless students attending the Montebello Unified School District, opened Wednesday at the Laguna Nueva School site in Commerce. (MUSD)

“I can see how this is a concern for our communities.”

Although the district has been addressing homelessness for some time, it has not been a concentrated effort like the center, explains Program Specialist Aida Hinojosa,

“We want families to feel safe and comfortable,” she told EGP. “If families need something for their day-to-day living we will have it here.”

The District’s Families in Transition Program focuses on supporting students identified as homeless through a student residency questionnaire. Each school site currently has a liaison to help identify and support these vulnerable youth, according to the District.

The challenge is students do not always identify themselves as homeless, says Hinojosa, who explained being homeless doesn’t just apply to those living on the street or in a shelter.

According to the McKinney-Vento Education of Homeless Children and Youth Assistance Act, homelessness is defined as a student who does not have an adequate nighttime residence, which applies to living in a hotel, temporary housing or doubling up with another family. The Act ensures students experiencing homelessness attend school and are provided the support to succeed.

Students attending special education at the Laguna Nueva School site, join MUSD administrators to celebrate the grand opening of the Families in Transition Resource Center. (MUSD)

Students attending special education at the Laguna Nueva School site, join MUSD administrators to celebrate the grand opening of the Families in Transition Resource Center. (MUSD)

“We don’t have a lot of runaway or unaccompanied youth,” says Hinojosa. “The majority of our families are living doubled up with another family, but most don’t identify as homeless.”

In the past, the program provided referral support to families but was unable to provide actual resources.

Through fundraising, the center has now collected enough money and other donations to help facilitate the added assistance to the families. Funding for the center is made possible under the District’s Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAP), which allocates funds to provide services to foster youth and homeless students.

A lack of storage space and manpower, however, is keeping the center from receiving larger quantities of products or opening the center more than once a week, according to Hinojosa.

MUSD students are doing their part to help support the center. Students attending special education at the Laguna Nueva site helped organize, size and hang clothing at the center.

Montebello High School volunteers will be washing and folding donated clothing this weekend and students at intermediate schools across the district have held toiletry and towel drives.

“Not only is this center about helping our homeless youth but it’s helping our students understand service and contributing to their community,” Hinojosa told EPG.

“It’s breaking down the stigma of being homeless.”

Montebello Unified Sues Companies For Spreading Asbestos

August 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Montebello Unified School District is collectively suing two companies for $3.5 million, alleging that untrained workers spread asbestos-containing materials throughout various schools in 2015 while work was being done to install energy-efficient lighting.

The MUSD’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit names as defendants Industry-based Evergreen Energy Solutions LLC and Enveniam LLC, which is headquartered in Roswell, Georgia.

A representative for Enveniam did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the suit, which alleges negligence, breach of contract and breach of an implied covenant to perform work in a competent manner. However, an Evergreen spokesman released a statement.

“Evergreen was unaware of your referenced item via your inquiry, consequently we are very disappointed,” the statement read. “To date the district has yet to communicate anything to the reference item. We are immediately inquiring with the district regarding this matter.”

The suit filed last week states that the MUSD and the two firms entered a contract in February 2015 for Evergreen to “consult and procure” and for Enveniam to install energy-efficient lighting at Montebello Intermediate School, Montebello Gardens Elementary School and Bell Gardens High School. The MUSD agreed to pay $2 million, the suit states.

Before work began, the parties met in April 2015 and discussed fireproofing materials that contained asbestos at Montebello Intermediate, Bell Gardens High and the district office, according to the complaint.

The meeting highlighted that it was “critical that the contractor had the requisite eight hours of asbestos-awareness training at a minimum,” the complaint states.

A month later, the work began at Montebello Intermediate. In August 2015, the MUSD’s hazardous materials coordinator suspected that the workers accidentally disturbed insulation materials carrying asbestos fibers in two classrooms, the suit states.

“MUSD immediately shut down all construction activities and retained an environmental consultant to test for asbestos,” the suit states.

A subsequent inspection by the South Coast Air Quality Management District showed that Enveniam “had used uncontrolled methods by untrained asbestos workers to spread asbestos-containing materials throughout not only Montebello Intermediate, but to other sites, as well,” according to the lawsuit.

To ensure the safety of students, the MUSD “initiated a massive cleanup operation, with at least five separate contractors tackling the widespread asbestos contamination,” the suit states.

With workers on the job 24 hours a day, the remediation plan was completed by Aug. 20, 2015, at a cost of $3.5 million, according to the school district’s court papers.

Students Head Back to School

August 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Many of them might have preferred to be visiting the beach Tuesday, but more than a half-million students instead headed back to class as the 2016-17 school year began for the nation’s second-largest school district.

“I am tremendously excited to begin a new school year,” Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Michelle King said Tuesday. “Today sets the tone for the work we do throughout the year to guide all students on the road to graduating ready for college, career and life.”

King joined dignitaries including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, members of the LAUSD board and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education James Cole Jr. in visiting a variety of campuses and meeting with students and parents throughout the district, which covers 710 square miles and includes about 640,000 students.

“We are here to welcome every child— from the very youngest pre-kindergarten students to our graduating seniors — to a new year,” LAUSD Board President Steve Zimmer said. “What we say and do for these students today and every day makes a difference in their lives, their communities and helps guide them on the pathway to achieving their dreams.”

District officials said there have not been any reports of problems with campus air-conditioning systems — a positive sign in light of a heat wave that’s expected to linger for a few more days.

King, who recently announced that the district had a 75 percent graduation rate for high school students in the class of 2016, will be pushing for an increase in that figure. She said the district is making an extra effort this year to help keep kids on track in their studies.

Specialized counselors will be assigned to “high-needs” high schools, while college and career counselors will be working with students at “struggling” middle schools. The district is also planning to provide additional resources to help English-learners — a group that represents almost one-third of the district’s students.

Parents, meanwhile, will have to ensure that their children are fully immunized before they’re allowed to attend classes. A state law that took effect in January eliminated the so-called personal-belief exemption to the vaccination requirement, so LAUSD students will have to show proof of immunizations against such diseases as polio, measles, chickenpox, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.

The start of school also means more children on city streets in the mornings and afternoons, and Los Angeles police issued a warning to drivers to be extra cautious. The LAPD will be conducting a “traffic education and enforcement task force” at various campuses to drive home the point.

Police reminded motorists to:
— slow down, particularly in school zones;
— be alert for small children who sometimes cannot be easily seen from
behind the wheel; and
— come to a full stop when a school bus has its flashing red lights and
signal arm activated as it loads or unloads passengers.

Students in the nearby Montebello Unified School district return to school Thursday. District officials plan to be on hand to welcome students back.

Eastmont Student Wins LA Sparks’ Writing Contest

August 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

MONTEBELLO –A seventh-grader at Eastmont Intermediate School is the proud winner of the 2016 #WeAreGirls essay writing contest sponsored by the Los Angeles Sparks basketball team, announced the Montebello Unified School District.

Rosario Meneses was handed a huge $5,000 check at center court during halftime at the team’s July 10 game, according the MUSD.

The contest was the first for the professional women’s basketball team, which hoped to “empower young girls to write about their inspirations,” the District said.

In her essay, Rosario shared that joining the school’s cheerleading squad encouraged her to be more outgoing to support her team. She also said being in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) college preparatory program helped her become more organized.

Rosario dreams of one day attending UCLA or Harvard, and keeps her grades up while still putting in the time it takes to be a cheerleader.

(left to right) Rosemary Parsons of Sparks’ Sponsor Equitrust, WNBA President Lisa Borders, LA Sparks President Christine Simmons, Rosario Meneses, Rosario’s mother Josefina Camacho, Rosario’s brother Daniel Meneses, Eastmont teacher Monique Lopez, Eastmont principal Cecilia Ramirez, scholarship donor Lorraine Williams. (Montebello Unified School District)

(left to right) Rosemary Parsons of Sparks’ Sponsor Equitrust, WNBA President Lisa Borders, LA Sparks President Christine Simmons, Rosario Meneses, Rosario’s mother Josefina Camacho, Rosario’s brother Daniel Meneses, Eastmont teacher Monique Lopez, Eastmont principal Cecilia Ramirez, scholarship donor Lorraine Williams. (Montebello Unified School District)

“I think AVID is fun because it’s like a game and a challenge for me,” Rosario said. “My mom and teachers have shown me that going to college will help me get a better job, so I want to work as hard as I can now to get there some day.”

Taking stalk of how hard she works at school, cheerleading and helping her mother donate clothes and food to the poor, Rosario’s teacher, Monique Lopez, encouraged Rosario to enter the contest.

“They are truly a deserving family and I think this scholarship is the work of a higher power,” said Lopez who developed a close relationship with the family while working with Rosario. “I think her dad was looking out for her.” On the day of the big event, it was Lopez who drove Rosario and her family to the Staples Center to receive her reward.

“I was almost in tears,” Lopez said. “I was so proud. I had never seen her smile so big. She really was the center of attention in this big stadium, which was almost full. I just thought to myself this is just the beginning for her because she’s going to go on to college.”

Rosario plans to save most of the $5,000 for college but may use some before then for school supplies and books.

“I’m very proud that an extraordinary student like Rosario was recognized for her writing talents by an esteemed organization like the Los Angeles Sparks,” Montebello Board President Ben Cardenas said. “The District is also fortunate to have teachers who encourage their students to pursue every opportunity that will help them get into college.”

USDA to Keep Children Fed While School Is Out

July 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

To ensure children from low-income areas do not go hungry this summer, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) will serve more than 200 million free lunches to children nationwide.

The federally funded, free lunch program picks up where schools, closed for the summer, leave off, providing what for many is the only nutritional meal of the day.

Lea este artículo en Español: USDA Provee Alimentos para los Niños Durante las Vacaciones

According to the USDA, 1 in 5 children live in households struggling to consistently put food on the table. USDA reports millions of children depend on the school lunch but only 1 in 7 of those children have access to that same meal during the summer break.

Numerous cities and the Montebello Unified School District are partnering again this summer with the agriculture department to provide the free meals to local children 18 years and under at area parks, schools and libraries.

Over 85 percent of students who attend Montebello Unified schools receive free or reduced-priced lunches during the regular school year. The district has schools in Bell Gardens, Commerce, Montebello and portions of East Los Angeles, Monterey Park and Pico Rivera.

Free lunch will be offered throughout Los Angeles County at schools, parks and libraries. (Montebello Unified School District)

Free lunch will be offered throughout Los Angeles County at schools, parks and libraries. (Montebello Unified School District)

“This program is vital in providing assistance to families who may struggle financially,” said MUSD President Benjamin Cardenas. “We hope our community’s students who qualify take advantage of this program throughout the summer.”

MUSD will offer lunches at nearly all its elementary, middle and high school campuses. Cities like Bell Gardens, Commerce and Montebello will also make lunch and snacks available at various locations.

The free lunches are offered Monday through Friday starting as early as 10:30 a.m. at most sites.

For specific schedules, visit www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks.

 

Local Sites offering Free Lunch Program
(Now – July 15)
Bell Gardens High School – 6119 Agra St.
Montebello High School – 2100 W. Cleveland Ave.
Schurr High School – 820 Wilcox Ave.
Applied Technology Center – 1200 Mines Ave.
Vail High School – 1230 S. Vail Ave.
Greenwood Elementary – 900 S. Greenwood Ave.
Rosewood Park School – 2352 S. Commerce Way.

(Now – July 29)
Bell Gardens Intermediate – 5841 Live Oak St.
Eastmont Intermediate – 400 S. Bradshawe Ave.
Montebello Intermediate – 1600 Whittier Blvd.
La Merced Intermediate – 215 E. Avenuda de La Merced.
Macy Intermediate – 2101 Lupine Ave.
Suva Intermediate – 6660 E. Suva St.

(Now – August 5)
Over 45 Los Angles County parks –
For locations and times call (310) 965-8630

(Now – August 12)
Bristow Park Library – 1466 S. McDonnel Ave.
Veterans Park – 6364 Zindell Ave.
Montebello City Park – 201 S. Taylor Ave.
Washington Elementary – 1400 W. Madison Ave.
Over 350 LAUSD School Sites –
visit http://lausd.schoolwires.net/Page/462

(Now- August 26)
Bell Gardens Youth Center – 5856 Ludell St.
Bell Gardens Ford Park – 8000 Park Lane

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