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


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 –

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

Votantes Eligen Sobre Medida de Bonos para MUSD

June 2, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Con la esperanza de causar un impacto en los $1.2 billones estimados para las necesidades en todo el distrito, el Distrito Unificado de Montebello está pidiendo a los votantes—que incluye Montebello, Bell Gardens y Comerce—aprueben una medida de bonos de $300 millones en las elecciones del 7 de junio.

Los ingresos de la medida GS serían utilizados para mejorar todo, desde los baños, bibliotecas, laboratorios de computación y ciencias, así como otras mejoras de la infraestructura, de acuerdo con los funcionarios del distrito. La única cosa donde los fondos no pueden ser utilizados, es para sueldos y pensiones del personal administrativo.

Read this article in English: MUSD Bond Measure Goes to Voters Tuesday

“El distrito estaba consciente que la necesidad de modernización, era evidente”, dijo Rubén Rojas, director de negocios de MUSD. Y el “Fondo General nunca sería capaz de hacer frente a estas necesidades”.

Un estudio de evaluación de necesidades realizado el año pasado revisó 30 escuelas del distrito y la oficina del distrito. Se encontró que las escuelas primarias tenían $390 millones en necesidades, las escuelas intermedias $320 millones y las preparatorias requerían $487 millones.

Rojas explicó que las necesidades de seguridad solamente para cosas tales como vallas de seguridad, puertas, pavimento, iluminación, vigilancia de vídeo y mejoras del sistema contra incendios, suman $130 millones.

Cumplir con el Acta de Americanos con Discapacidades (ADA) costará otros $110 millones, mientras que otras renovaciones de instalación podrían añadir hasta otros $500 millones, dijo Rojas. Adicionalmente se necesitan $190 millones para hacer que las aulas sean energéticamente eficientes.

Sin embargo, el artículo más costoso que llama la mayor atención a los padres del distrito escolar, es la necesidad de mejoras tecnológicas, Rojas le dijo a EGP. Según la evaluación del MUSD, se necesitan $70 millones para las actualizaciones de fibra óptica, conexión inalámbrica a Internet en las aulas, laboratorios de computación y la infraestructura global de tecnología.

Pancartas apoyando las medidas están en el césped de algunas propiedades. (EGP foto por Nancy Martínez)

Pancartas apoyando las medidas están en el césped de algunas propiedades. (EGP foto por Nancy Martínez)

“Ni siquiera estamos hablando de iPads o computadoras”, explicó Rojas. “Estamos hablando de la disposición del aula para el siglo 21”.

Richard Michael, un miembro de control del bono escolar, le dijo a EGP que le preocupa que no haya sido incluida una lista específica de los proyectos en la boleta de votación. MUSD quiere un cheque en blanco, le dijo a EGP.

“Digan lo que realmente necesitan”, dijo Michaels. “Si se trata de un techo con goteras digan cual escuela que tiene un techo con goteras”.

Sin embargo, Rojas asegura que hay escuelas específicas con necesidades y si el bono es aprobado el siguiente paso sería dar prioridad a los proyectos para obtener el “mayor rendimiento por nuestro dinero”.

En el pasado, algunos residentes y funcionarios electos de Bell Gardens y Commerce se han quejado de que las escuelas en la parte sur del distrito reciben menos atención que sus contrapartes del norte.

Las autoridades del distrito dicen que van a garantizar que los ingresos se dispersen de manera uniforme en todo el distrito y lleguen a la comunidad para determinar las prioridades de financiación.

Ben Cárdenas, presidente de la Junta de Educación de MUSD le dijo a EGP que el distrito espera la optimización de cada dólar para modernizar y mejorar los salones e instalaciones.

“Esta financiación será esencial para garantizar que continuemos proporcionando un ambiente de aprendizaje seguro, limpio y atractivo en el que nuestros estudiantes puedan alcanzar su potencial”, dijo.

G. Rick Marshall, director financiero de la Red de Acción de Contribuyentes de California cree que la lista de proyectos prevista en la Medida de GS es demasiado genérica.

“No hay ninguna garantía que cualquiera de esas cosas en particular se harán, en cualquier locación”, escribió en su argumento contra de la medida. “No hay detalles iguales ni responsabilidad”.

Según Rojas, MUSD anticipa que utilizará el 80% de los ingresos de bonos para modernizar las instalaciones existentes. “Queremos ser capaces de estar a la par con otros distritos, ya sea LAUSD o los niños en el Westside”, dijo.

Si los votantes autorizan los bonos, los dueños de propiedades en la zona estarían en la mira para asegurar la cantidad de bonos más los intereses y cargos por servicio de la deuda, que se recoge a través de un impuesto sobre las propiedades dentro del distrito escolar. La cantidad específica que cada dueño de la propiedad tendría que pagar dependerá del valor de la propiedad. El impuesto se traduciría a $60 por cada $100,000 de valor de tasación de la propiedad. El residente promedio pagaría $144 en nuevos impuestos, basado en el valor promedio de la propiedad del distrito, que se sitúa en torno a $240.000, según Rojas.

Las mejoras en las escuelas podrían atraer a más estudiantes al distrito de MUSD y hacer un distrito de elección, elevando los valores de propiedad en la zona, dijo, llamándolo una situación de ganancia para los negocios y residentes.

Si no se aprueba la medida GS sería “lamentable” para un distrito que ya tiene que hacer más con menos, sostiene Rojas. “Todo lo que estaríamos haciendo es pegar retazos”, dijo.

Los votantes de MUSD aprobaron una medida de bonos de $98 millones en 2004. Los distritos escolares están autorizados a emitir no más de 2,5% del valor de tasación total de la propiedad en el distrito, que según Rojas limita a MUSD a $366 millones en bonos totales.

“¿Qué va a pasar a la larga cuando estén al máximo”, pregunta Michaels.

Rojas defendió la medida de bonos, indicando que los programas de bonos de hoy son muy diferentes de lo que eran hace 10 años.

“Los bonos no son sólo para construir edificios bonitos, se trata de añadir valor al distrito”, dijo.

La Medida GS requiere una aprobación de los votantes el 55% para ser aprobada.


Twitter @nancyreporting

MUSD Bond Measure Goes to Voters Tuesday

June 2, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Hoping to make a dent in the $1.2 billion in estimated district-wide needs, Montebello Unified is asking voters in the district –which includes Montebello, Bell Gardens and Commerce — to approve a $300 million bond measure on the June 7 ballot.

Revenue from Measure GS would be used upgrade everything from bathrooms to libraries to computer and science labs as well as other infrastructure improvements, according to district officials. The one thing funds specifically could not be used for is administrators’ salaries and pensions.

“The district was aware of the need for modernization, it was apparent,” said Ruben Rojas, MUSD’s chief business officer. And the “General Fund would never be able to address these needs.”

A needs assessment study conducted last year looked at the district’s 30 campuses and district office. It found that elementary schools need $390 million in upgrades, intermediate schools $320 million and high schools $487 million in improvements.
Rojas explained safety needs alone, for such things as security fences, gates, pavement, lighting, video monitoring and fire system improvements, add up to $130 million.

Complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will cost another $110 million while other facility renovations could add up to another $500 million, Rojas said. An additional $190 million is needed to make classrooms more energy efficient.

However, the big-ticket item getting the most attention from parents in the school district is technology upgrades, Rojas told EGP. According to MUSD’s assessment, fiber optic upgrades, wireless internet access in classrooms, computer labs and overall tech infrastructure will cost about $70 million.

“We are not even talking about iPads or computers,” explains Rojas. “We are talking about classroom readiness for the 21st century.”

Richard Michael, a school bond watchdog, told EGP he is concerned that a specific list of projects has not been included in the ballot measure. MUSD wants a blank check, he opined.

“Tell us what you really need,” said Michaels. “If it’s a leaky roof tell us what school has a leaky roof.”

Rojas, however, assures there are specific schools with specific needs and if the bond measure is approved the next step would be to prioritize those projects to get the “biggest bang for our buck.”

Election signs for Measures on the June 7 election cover the lawn of a Montebello home. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez )

Election signs for Measures on the June 7 election cover the lawn of a Montebello home. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez )

In the past, some residents and elected officials in Bell Gardens and Commerce complained that schools in the southern portion of the district receive less attention than their northern counterparts.

District officials, however, say they plan to ensure revenue is dispersed evenly across the district and will reach out to the community to determine funding priorities.

MUSD Board of Education President Ben Cardenas told EGP the district looks forward to optimizing every dollar to modernize and enhance classrooms and facilities.

“This funding will be integral to ensuring we continue to provide safe, clean and engaging learning environments in which our students can reach their potential,” he said.

G. Rick Marshall, chief financial officer for the California Taxpayers Action Network believes the project list provided in Measure GS is too generic.

“There’s no guarantee any particular thing will be done, at any particular location,” he wrote in his argument against the measure. “No specifics equals no accountability.”

According to Rojas, MUSD anticipates it will use 80 percent of the bond revenue to modernize existing facilities. “We want to be able to be on par with other districts, whether its LAUSD or children on the Westside,” he said.

If voters authorize the bonds, property owners in the area would be on the hook for the bond amount plus interest and debt service fees that would be collected through a tax levied on properties within the school district. The specific amount each property owner would pay depends on the value of the property. The tax would translate to $60 for every $100,000 of the assessed value of the property. The average resident would pay $144 in new taxes based on the district’s average property value, which stands at around $240,000, according to Rojas.

Improvements at schools could attract more students to the district and make MUSD a district of choice, raising property values in the area, he ventured, calling it a win-win for businesses and residents.

Not passing Measure GS would be “unfortunate” for a district that already has to do more with less, Rojas contends. “All we would be doing is patchwork,” he said.

MUSD voters approved a $98 million bond in 2004. School districts are allowed to issue no more than 2.5 percent of the total assessed value of property in the district, which according to Rojas limits MUSD to $366 million in total bonds.

“What’s going to happen if down the road when they are maxed out,” questions Michaels.

Rojas defended the bond measure, stating that bond programs today are much different than they were 10 years ago.

“Bonds are not just about putting up pretty buildings, it’s about adding value to the district,” he said.

Measure GS requires a 55% voter approval for passage.

Bell Gardens Students Receive Prestigious College Scholarships

May 26, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Four Bell Gardens students will be pursuing their dreams this fall at prestigious universities across the country, all at nearly no cost to them or their families.

Erik Herrera, Leslie Luqueno, Omar Morales and Ainslee Preciado received hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships to attend college from the universities themselves, the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators and special scholarships including the Dell Scholar and the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholar program.

“These four Bell Gardens High students, along with their peers across the District, represent the high-quality education offered and received at Montebello Unified,” MUSD Superintendent Susanna Contreras Smith said.

(Left to right): Bell Gardens High School students Omar Morales, Ainslee Preciado , Leslie Luqueno and Erik Herrera. (Photo courtesy Jesse Melgar)

(Left to right): Bell Gardens High School students Omar Morales, Ainslee Preciado , Leslie Luqueno and Erik Herrera. (Photo courtesy Jesse Melgar)

Herrera, who will serve as class valedictorian during next month’s graduation, will attend California Institution of Technology where he will study mathematics and music theory. He boasts a 4.37 GPA and serves as Bell Gardens drum major. Herrera received a scholarship from CalTech, which is expected to cover nearly all his tuition.

Preciado plans to attend UCLA this fall and will have her entire undergraduate and graduate school costs covered after being selected as a Gates Millennium Scholar. This is the second consecutive year that a Bell Gardens high school student is a recipient of the unique scholarship. Preciado is interested in pursuing law after attending the Yale Young Global Scholars program last summer. She is a singer, violinist and active member of her church youth group and is poised to graduate with a 4.02 GPA.

Morales will attend the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor on a full-ride scholarship from the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators. He hopes to study aerospace engineering. Morales has a 4.23 GPA and is an active member of the cross country and track and field teams.

Luqueno is one of 350 Dell Scholars selected in the country. She will be attending Haverford College in Pennsylvania this fall to pursue her interest in political science. As a Dell Scholar, she was awarded a $20,000 scholarship, a laptop, textbook gift cards and support throughout her academic career. Luqueno serves as editor in chief of Bell Gardens high school’s Lancer Scroll and has a 4.11 GPA.

MUSD Union Negotiations At Impasse

April 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Sporting navy blue shirts and wearing “Union Strong” buttons, over 150 teachers, counselors, nurses and other certified personnel of the Montebello Unified School District took to the streets last week to protest what amounts to a short-term, one-time pay bump proposed by the District during union negotiations.

“The district knows there’s money, they just don’t want to spend it,” said Lorraine Richards president of the Montebello Teachers Association, angry that the District has refused to raise employee pay long-term.

“The S-word is going around, we hope it doesn’t get to that point,” added David Navar, MTA’s bargaining chairperson.

Lea este artículo en Español: Negociaciones del Sindicato de MUSD Están Estancadas

Despite a light drizzle in the air, members of MTA – which represents 1,400 certified district employees – rallied at Montebello Park before marching the three blocks to Montebello Unified headquarters where the April 7 school board meeting was about to take place.

“The district can’t say they are putting students first if they are putting teachers last,” Richards told EGP.

For the first time in over two decades, District officials and MTA have been unable to reach a contract agreement. A state mediator has been called in to try to break the impasse, with the first meeting scheduled to take place yesterday. There was no word on the negotiations as of EGP’s press time Wednesday.

At issue is Montebello Unified’s offer to raise employee pay 2.3 percent retroactive to the start of the current school year. The union balked at the offer and instead wants an ongoing, 8.1 percent pay increase to their salary. Montebello Unified can afford the pay hike, say union representatives.

Although enrollment is on the decline, Montebello Unified is expected to receive more revenue due the state’s adoption of the Local Control Funding Formula, which gives more money to school districts with large numbers of English learners, foster youth and low-income students to try to narrow the achievement gap among these students.

Over 150 members of the Montebello Teachers Association rallied last week to protest a one-time raise. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Over 150 members of the Montebello Teachers Association rallied last week to protest a one-time raise. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Union employees received a 5 percent pay hike in 2013-2014 followed by an additional 4.5 percent hike in 2014-2015. Under the District’s latest offer, teachers and other certified personnel would receive a one-time check to cover the proposed 2.3 percent hike for this year, but stay at the current pre-supplement level next year, Richards explained. “Without an ongoing raise that money isn’t going to be there next year,” she added.

Saying educators are the “heart” of MUSD’s mission to prepare students to be successful leaders, Superintendent Susan Contreras-Smith told EGP the District is committed to resolving the current impasse in negotiations.

“We are confidant a conclusion that supports the best interest of our students and the overall well-being of our district short-term and long-term,” Contreras-Smith said.

Many MUSD employees believe, however, that district officials are too busy campaigning for a $300 million dollar bond measure on the June 7 ballot and not focusing on taking care of staff. If approved, bond money would be used to upgrade classrooms and address infrastructure needs.

During the school board meeting, speakers demanded the District reach an agreement with the union or suffer the consequences.

“It was us, the teachers, who made the phone calls to get parents to vote for the previous bond,” Douglas Patzkowski reminded the board.

“If you want us to use our time to get votes for bonds we need to have a bond to you,” he warned board members.

Speaker after speaker reminded the board of the added burden new instruction methods, such as Common Core, is putting on teachers, who are being required to create the curriculum themselves. They reminded the board that teachers take money out of their own pockets to pay for books, holiday decorations for the classroom, and even training materials and photocopies.

“Don’t forget we do the work that makes you look good,” Margie Granado said.

Disrespect to the teachers is equivalent to disrespect to her child, said one parent.

“They take care of our children” when we’re not there, said Tiffany Sanchez. “So when it’s time to vote, we’ll remember this.”

David Navar, bargaining chairperson for the Montebello Teachers Association, confronted the MUSD board over salary negotiations during the April 7 meeting. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

David Navar, bargaining chairperson for the Montebello Teachers Association, confronted the MUSD board over salary negotiations during the April 7 meeting. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Following meeting protocols, district officials did not directly respond to comments made by speakers or on the terms of ongoing negotiations, but instead asked speakers to be patient through the mediation process.

“This board feels very confident we are going to come up with a favorable solution,” MUSD President Ben Cardenas assured. “We understand there’s a lot of passion and we’re willing to listen, we’re just asking you to be patient.”

Hector Chacon, the longest sitting member on the school board, said he hopes a consensus is reached for the benefit of the children.

“Hopefully we reach a fair and reasonable settlement for all parties so we can move to the business of why we are here,” Chacon said.

Their assurances, however, did little to calm tensions among teachers who say they were understanding during troubling economic times, but no more.

“When there were budget cuts we took cuts,” said Alicia Ramos, a teacher at La Merced.

“Now the district has funding [but] it’s not being used to compensate the people who work directly involved with students,” she complained.

The District had no trouble giving long-term pay raises to its superintendents, MTA members reminded the board.

“Is your mortgage a one-time payment? Do you have one-time bills,” asked Granados, turning to the MTA members in the room. “If an ongoing raise is good enough for the highest paid employees, it’s good enough for us.”


Twitter @nancyreporting

Negociaciones del Sindicato de MUSD Están Estancadas

April 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Vistiendo camisas color azul marino y botones que decían “Unión fuerte”, más de 150 maestros, consejeros, enfermeras y otro miembros de personal certificados del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Montebello salieron a las calles la semana pasada para protestar el incremento a corto plazo de una sola vez, propuesto por el distrito durante las negociaciones con el sindicato.

“El distrito sabe que hay dinero, simplemente no quieren gastarlo”, dijo la presidente de la Asociación de Maestros de Montebello (MTA por sus siglas en inglés), Lorena Richards molesta por que el Distrito se ha negado a incrementar el pago de los empleados a largo plazo.

Read this article in English: MUSD Union Negotiations At Impasse

“La letra S [de strike, huelga] se esta mencionando, esperamos que no llegue a ese punto”, agregó David Navar, presidente de negociación de la MTA.

Pese a que había una ligera llovizna ese día, los miembros de la MTA—que representa a 1.400 empleados certificados del distrito—se reunieron en el parque Montebello para marchar tres cuadras hacia la sede del Distrito Unificado de Montebello para la reunión de la junta escolar del 7 abril que estaba a punto de comenzar.

“El distrito no puede decir que está poniendo en primer lugar a los estudiantes si está poniendo a los maestros al final”, Richards le dijo a EGP.

Por primera vez en más de dos décadas, los funcionarios del distrito y el MTA no han podido llegar a un acuerdo de contrato. Un mediador estatal ha sido llamado para tratar de romper el punto muerto, con la primera reunión prevista para ayer.

No hubo información sobre la actualización de las negociaciones para la hora del cierre de EGP el miércoles.

El problema es la oferta del distrito de Montebello para elevar el salario de los empleados 2.3 por ciento retroactivo al inicio del año escolar en curso. El sindicato se resistió a la oferta y en su lugar quiere un 8.1 por ciento de aumento salarial en curso de su salario. El distrito de Montebello puede pagar el aumento salarial, dicen los representantes del sindicato.

Más de 150 miembros de la Asociación de Maestros de Montebello se reunieron la semana pasada para protestar el incremento salarial propuesto. (EGP foto por Nancy Martínez)

Más de 150 miembros de la Asociación de Maestros de Montebello se reunieron la semana pasada para protestar el incremento salarial propuesto. (EGP foto por Nancy Martínez)

A pesar de que la inscripción está en declive, el distrito de Montebello espera recibir más ingresos por la adopción estatal de la Fórmula de Control Local de Fondos, la cual da más dinero a los distritos escolares con mayor número de estudiantes aprendices de inglés, jóvenes en hogares de crianza y de bajos ingresos para tratar de reducir la brecha en el rendimiento entre estos estudiantes.

Los empleados del sindicato recibieron un aumento salarial del 5 por ciento en 2013-2014, seguido por un alza de un 4,5 por ciento adicional en 2014-2015. Bajo la última oferta del distrito, maestros y otro personal certificado recibirían un cheque de una sola vez para cubrir la propuesta del alza del 2,3 por ciento para este año, pero se mantendrá al nivel actual pre-suplementado para el próximo año, explicó Richards. “Sin un aumento en curso ese dinero no va a estar aquí el próximo año”, añadió.

Diciendo que los educadores son el “corazón” de la misión de MUSD para preparar a los estudiantes para ser líderes exitosos, la superintendente Susan Contreras-Smith le dijo a EGP que el distrito se compromete a resolver la actual situación estancada en las negociaciones.

“Estamos confiando en una conclusión que apoye el mejor interés de nuestros estudiantes y el bienestar general de nuestro distrito a corto plazo y a largo plazo”, dijo Contreras-Smith.

Sin embargo, muchos empleados de MUSD creen que las autoridades del distrito están demasiado ocupadas en campaña por una medida de bonos de $300 millones en las elecciones de junio 7 y no se centran en el cuidado de personal. Si se aprueba el dinero del bono se utilizaría para mejorar las aulas y las necesidades de infraestructura de direcciones.

Durante la reunión de la junta escolar, los oradores exigieron que el distrito llegue a un acuerdo con el sindicato o sufra las consecuencias.

“Fuimos nosotros, los maestros, quienes llamamos a los padres para votar por el bono anterior”, Douglas Patzkowski le recordó a la junta.

“Si ustedes quieren que usemos nuestro tiempo para conseguir votos para los bonos necesitamos tener un enlace con ustedes”, advirtió a los miembros de la junta.

Orador tras orador recordó a la junta la carga que conllevan los nuevos métodos de instrucción, como Common Core, para los maestros, quienes están siendo requeridos a crear el plan de estudios. Se le recordó a la junta que los maestros toman dinero de sus propios bolsillos para pagar los libros, decoraciones de días festivos para sus salones, e incluso los materiales de entrenamiento y fotocopias.

“No olvidemos que hacemos el trabajo que los hace ver bien”, dijo Margie Granado.

La falta de respeto a los maestros es equivalente a la falta de respeto a nuestros hijos, dijo uno de los padres.

“Ellos se encargan de nuestros hijos” cuando no estamos ahí, dijo Tiffany Sánchez. “Así que cuando se llegue el momento de votar, vamos a recordar esto”.

Siguiendo los protocolos de reuniones, los funcionarios del distrito no respondieron directamente a los comentarios hechos por los asistentes o en los términos de las negociaciones en curso, pero en su lugar pidieron a los oradores que sean pacientes durante el proceso de mediación.

“Esta junta se siente muy segura de que vamos a llegar a una solución favorable”, aseguró el presidente de MUSD Ben Cárdenas. “Entendemos que hay mucha pasión y estamos dispuestos a escuchar, sólo estamos pidiendo que sean pacientes”.

Héctor Chacón, el miembro más antiguo del consejo escolar, dijo que espera que se alcance un consenso en beneficio de los niños.

“Esperamos llegar a un acuerdo justo y razonable para todas las partes para que podamos seguir con el negocio de por qué estamos aquí”, dijo Chacón.

Sus garantías, sin embargo, hicieron poco para calmar las tensiones entre los maestros que dicen habían sido comprensivos durante tiempos económicos preocupantes, pero no más.

“Cuando hubo recortes presupuestarios tomamos recortes”, dijo Alicia Ramos, maestra en La Merced. “Ahora, el distrito cuenta con financiación [pero] no está siendo utilizada para compensar a las personas que trabajan directamente con los estudiantes”, se quejó.

El distrito no tuvo problemas para dar un incremento de salario de largo plazo a sus superintendentes, los miembros de la MTA le recordaron a la junta.

“¿Es su hipoteca un pago de una sola vez? ¿Tienen facturas de una sola vez”, preguntó Granados, dirigiéndose a los miembros de la MTA en la sala. “Si un aumento continuo es lo suficientemente bueno para los empleados mejor pagados, entonces es lo suficientemente bueno para nosotros”.


Twitter @nancyreporting

Montebello Partners with MUSD to Sell Bus Passes

April 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Hoping to increase revenue and address declining ridership on the Montebello Bus Lines, the city of Montebello has launched a six-month pilot program aimed at getting students from the Montebello Unified School District on board.

Montebello has agreed to allow Parent Teacher Association (PTA) groups at five Montebello Unified high schools to sell its $30 monthly student bus passes on campus and to keep $5 from every pass sold.

Until recently the Montebello Bus Lines sold a very limited number of student bus passes, less than 100 annually, Montebello’s Interim Director of Transportation Tom Barrio told EGP.

“We believe that perhaps there has been a lack of awareness of the student bus pass program and its benefits, such as the ability to ride MBL any time using the pass and not just for going to and from school,” Barrio told EGP.

Over the last several years bus ridership has declined by 10 percent. The decline has not only produced a revenue shortfall for the city-subsidized enterprise, but has potentially impacted the amount the city receives from state and federal transit subsidies, according to a city staff report.


“The decrease in MBL ridership is part of a larger trend of bus ridership in LA County and the state generally,” explained Barrio. “Decreases in population and aging of transit riders transitioning from full time employment into retirement are all factors.”

PTAs began selling the passes this week at the Applied Technology Center, Bell Gardens, Montebello, Schurr and Vail High Schools. The PTA will be in charge of marketing and staffing the program.

Of the 7,500 students at the five MUSD high schools located in Montebello and Bell Gardens, less than 1,500 are bused daily to their school on district-provided transportation, according to the staff report.

If at least 500 monthly student passes are sold during the 10 month school calendar, the Montebello Bus Lines could see the number of annual bus trips go up by 375,000 and receive $375,000 in added revenue.

This is the first time the city has initiated an integrated marketing plan to increase student riders, Barrio told EGP.

“This is a win-win for the city of Montebello, MBL and the parents whose children are students attending Montebello high schools,” he said.

Montebello Bus Lines run out of Montebello reaching Downtown Los Angeles, South Gate, Alhambra and La Mirada.

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