Tuesday, January 25, 2011

And why so many parents are receiving letters their child is truant
By Diana L. Chapman
Even though most Los Angeles schools will be back in action in the summer heat mid-August with its new official start date, one family  paid for a family reunion not knowing the school district would change the playing field.
Their kids will not return the first week of school their first semester during the summer after the school board voted to start school Aug. 15.  
The question now is this: will their children be considered truants?
Another father complained, along with the swell of others changes mucking up the Los Angeles Unified School District due to budget cuts, the early start convinced him to start searching for alternatives to public high school for his straight-A daughter.
And in the case of my family, we  don’t have to worry about starting school early. We haven’t paid or planned our vacation yet. But we were worrying about a terse truancy letter involving our 17-year-old son when we arrived home from our holidays in January.
This flock of ongoing changes made some parents, including me, feel, well, somewhat ambushed.
Now, the district is scrambling to determine how best to handle incoming students who miss several weeks at the start of school due to already planned and paid for vacations.
In January, the Los Angeles school board voted  6-1 to have all its schools start mid-August, rather than the traditional fall date of Sept. 5 or after. Neither parents or teachers were given much warning and the change will happen this coming school year.
 While school officials believe this will improve test scores and grades, School Board Member Richard Vladovic who is up for re-election in March and who oversees the Harbor Area,  voted against the measure.
 He contended, while he would likely approve it in the future, that it was poorly timed, parents had little chance to give their input and that LAUSD should wait  until the remainder of its schools currently on year-round track return to a traditional schedule next year.
His objections were quickly voted down.
Tentatively, school administrators currently say students returning late to school will be taken on a case-by-case basis, explained  Mike Romero, superintendent of District 8, which includes all the Harbor Area and central portions of Los Angeles.
“I told our principals that the schools should be flexible and understanding,” Romero explained, “for a non-refundable vacation or a wedding or a reunion, I articulated that to our principals. I want to propose that our thinking be humane.”
 Los Angeles Schools Superintendent Ramon Cortines suggested exactly that philosophy, Romero said.
But getting all the schools on the same map could be tricky.
David Kooper, Vladovic’s chief of staff, indicated that absent students starting Aug. 15 can no longer be dropped from class after the first three days of school – as has been done traditionally in the past. Campuses will now have to determine whether each of those students was excused for their holidays.
Excused students, Kooper said, should receive ample amount of time to make up their work and parents can warn schools ahead of time of their plans.
In the meantime, another issue cropped up involving student absences. So many schools had neglected to follow a state education code that demands parents be notified immediately if their child reached three unexcused absences.
To fulfill that, the district began sending out a swath of automated letters from its downtown headquarters, shocking some parents who had never received such notices before.
This is what led to my son and many other families receiving truancy letters with little warning, school officials explained. The letter  threatened actions such as a student having their driver’s license yanked or delayed.
 “That letter is alarming, I know,” agrees Romero, the head of District 8. “But it’s been part of the education code for a long time and now it’s centralized. But it’s about the importance of attendance.”
Our son’s absences were actually excused, so I was able to rectify the problem writing letters. But it was a shock nonetheless, and while I agree the district needs to go after truants, it’s always a pleasure to have a warning. We received none.
Having written a column earlier about this plethora of changes, I urged that the second largest school district in the nation, with nearly 700,000 students, be broken up. I believe it’s too large to get a handle on itself and is a sinking ship.
Kooper, Vladovic’s deputy, disagreed:
 “We have real reform happening at our schools now,” he said. “We have great teachers, administrators, custodians, and other school site employees at our schools,” Kooper said. “The district would like nothing more than to provide our schools what we have in the past, but the budgetary shortfall coming from Sacramento is simply too much to bear.
 “Over 80 % percent of the LAUSD budget is used to pay for employees. When we have to cut funding from our schools, we are losing these valuable employees.”
As far as truancy now being handled in a more timely manner,  Kooper added, “Truancy is a real problem in our district. If students are not in school they are not learning. The goal of reducing truancy has always been an issue. But with newer technology, there are many more ways to notify parents and outside agencies that children are truant.”

In addition, truant students cost the district money. Schools are paid ADA – or an average daily attendance rate – about $30 per student a day.
While administrators say ADA is not the reason they are going after truants, Romero said  that his region’s goal is to jump at least one percent in student attendance. That increase would bring about $3.7 million to the district’s coffers.
All I can say is, I can’t wait to see what change comes next and whether parents will be included in the mix.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

By Diana L. Chapman
The kid who brought the gun to Gardena High School Tuesday morning and “accidentally” shot two students might have any of these situations surrounding his life:
He might have been bullied and brought the gun for protection.
He might have brought this big, bad revolver to show off.
He might have carried the gun to stave off gangs after school.
Ironically, Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Pat Gannon said the 17-year-old who toted a gun on campus in his backpack was not “hardcore,”  had no gang affiliations and was filled with remorse that his gun had gone off accidentally shooting two students with one bullet.
Gannon, having talked with the media all day long since the shooting around 10:30 a.m., said police consider the incident accidental because witnesses' views collaborate the suspect's statements. He apparently dropped his backpack down, which appeared to slam the hammer hard enough for the gun to go off, Gannon said. The bullet then ripped through the neck of a 15-year-old boy and slammed into the head of a 17-year-old girl, the deputy chief explained.
The suspect “has been very cooperative and his mother has been cooperative,” Gannon said. “There’s a lot of remorse. He’s just telling us what he did and how he did it and why he did it. He said he didn’t feel threatened at school.”
Although there were television reports the student was homeless, Gannon said officers were easily able to reach his mother at her Compton residence. The student had one fight in the past, possibly at another school, and was on probation for that, Gannon explained. He was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon.
What Gannon says is hard to understand is why the suspect brought the gun onto campus in the first place.
But whatever the 17-year-old’s reasons , it shows once again how we’ve failed our kids all the way around. Now we have one 15-year-old girl with a gunshot wound to the temple in critical condition and a 15-year-old boy with a neck wound in serious condition at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
Gardena High, with a 36 percent dropout rate and past clashes over racial tensions, immediately took a beating on talk shows. The Los Angeles Unified school board declared the sprawling school with some 3,100 plus students as a “public school choice,” about a 1 ½ years ago.
That meant outside agencies could have vied to take it over, but not a single organization offered to run the campus, one of the physically largest in the school district.
Today, on talk shows, the school was taking a beating. KFI talk show host, John Kobylt, said “we ought to bulldoze that school” and that parents should be smart enough to move out of the area.
I feel differently.
We can all sit around and clamor about how terrible Gardena High is and how it’s all the school officials fault – and maybe part of that’s true.
But in my book, we are all at fault. This same situation could have happened on any campus at any time as we first learned on April 20, 1999 when two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who were often bullied, sprayed bullets all over the Colorado campus in a middle-class enclave. They killed 12 students, one teacher, and injured 21 others.
Repeatedly, we have been warned that bullying is a common denominator at every school  no matter the economic background. It penetrates private schools, rich schools, poor campuses – and even colleges. And yet, we’ve still done nothing really to deter or resolve it.
What can we do? Here are some suggestions for schools and the community at large:
--Train – and I mean train – volunteer parents and community members to add additional supervision on campuses. Allow some volunteer parents to act as student advocates where they can come and report their troubles so they can be steered  to the right resources either at the school or off-the –campus. Later a news station reported the 17-year-old was homeless. This might have factored into his problems.
--Understand that parents must – and I mean MUST  – return to schools whenever possible in as many capacities as possible, helping with fundraisers, volunteering for tutoring, aiding in yard supervision, doing clerical work – no matter whether their child is in kindergarten or high school.  The more adults around, the safer a campus will be.
--Large urban school campuses should work directly with gang intervention workers and have them come to school to talk with students. They know more than we do, and can get students to tell them more than we can. They are only typically called in when there’s an emergency – instead of being on board to prevent them.
 Recently, Gannon commended several gang intervention workers and their organizations publicly for dramatically reducing crime in Los Angeles. If all a parent does is raise funds to bring intervention workers to school, then they’ve added to the solution.
--For once, parents and administrators need to come together to map out plans about how such emergencies should be handled. To tell parents not to come to school to pick up their children in such a crises is ludicrous. The minute I hear something like this happens at my son’s school, I can assure you I’ll be jumping in my car and speeding to get there.  So will most parents. Instead, parents and school administrators should come up with a plan where parents can wait at an area near the campus while school officials and police can keep them informed and children will be released when possible.
Life and death situations happen at schools. They are small cities. Students get sick. Students bully or get bullied, tease or get teased and hurt each other mentally – if not physically. Crimes happen.
The only way to solve this is for parents, administrators, school police, students, Los Angeles police, and community volunteers, to come together to avoid these catastrophes.
Most of all, we need to quit burying our heads in the sand, pretending it won’t happen again. History shows us one thing clearly  -- it will.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Jessica Martin, far right, trains two students how to write.Teacher Sionni Bongiovanni takes notes while learning.

By Diana L. Chapman
“I believe every child can write,” Principal Bonnie Taft, Point Fermin Marine Science Magnet Elementary School
 So do I.
 That’s why I was thrilled to  watch the kind woman sitting cross-legged on the floor, a pen perched over her ear, telling the first graders: “Today, you’re going to write a story,” immediately grabbing the wiggling students’ attention.
 The marine magnet first graders began oohing-and-awing with anticipation.
 “Writers, writers, writers,” said Jessica Martin, “everybody pick a writing partner and turn to them and share your story idea. “If you say: “I don’t know what to write about,” then one way is to think about it is the places you’ve been. I love to go to the park. I love to go to the beach. I love to walk in the sand and make a sand castle.”
  After watching her do quick sketches illustrating her own story, students scurried back to their desk to draw their own tales on three page booklets. What emerged were tales of victorious soccer plays, shopping trips to Target with parents and a shark and fish escaping from the BP oil spill searching for a castle where they could find safety. First, the students sketched out their ideas and afterward  wrote the story beneath the drawings.
Having for years believed we taught writing the wrong way in schools, I was as stoked as the kids to have a writing expert like Jessica Martin come in a series of workshops on campus where children will learn to provide content first and then come to understand grammar and spelling skills along the way. But Martin’s job is more about supplying teachers with new strategies than to teach students.
And it’s often done teaching teachers right in the classroom – alongside their kids.
Immanuel Huertas, 7,  right and Jhai Yarbough, 7, left share ideas about their stories. 
 Martin, and her partner, Renee Houser, who both trained with the Columbia Writing Project, are now visiting schools -- charter, public or private -- through their program --- www.growingteachers.com . The whole point is to supply teachers with new and inspirational ways to teach the precious skill, strategies that will supplement the current instructor’s curriculum.
“I saw the program demonstrated at another school,” Principal Taft said, “and I jumped on it. I saw it as a very workable strategy that would complement teachers in the classroom, give them a foundation and the work begins in kindergarten. They (Martin and Houser) don’t preach to the teachers. They work alongside them.”
Martin, who instructs kindergarten through second, and her partner, Roundhouse, who teaches third through fifth, have showed young writers a process that seems to work while revealing to teachers how the craft can become exciting and lifelike in a child’s mind.
“I’m so excited about this,” said second grade teacher Sionni Bongiovanni after Martin finished working with her students. “I have a thousand more strategies.”
As visitors clopped out the door, Bongiovanni turned to her class with a bold gusto in her words: “Wow, was that cool or what?” with the students screaming yes.
Ten teachers out of 13 at Point Fermin readily agreed to undertake the program, said Taft who believes it will enhance students work – and bring out writers in all of them.
Principal Bonnie Taft watches as Jessica Martin teaches a kindergarten class.
I can’t help – as a long time writer – agree that this new approach will aid would-be writers to come out of their shells, some of whom might be hiding due to their fears of  making a spelling or grammar mistake. Many students, as they grow older, dismiss their writing skills early on, often after they’ve received a paper back clotted with red ink.
Teachers don’t always look at content, but the precision of the grammar and spelling. This strategy flips that process around.
When Taft told me about the writing workshop, I was eager to see the interaction. On my own, I teach children the joy of writing at the local Corner Store – and what pleased me most with Martin’s work was the idea of making the skill fun – something a child can not only get a handle on, but embrace. The women model it by doing their own drawings and story first.
“I try to choose stories they can relate to,” Martin said. “I tell story and add dialogue to make it fun and playful. Stories start out with dialogue and settings. So they sketch first and then plan.”
On one visit, Martin – who always called the students “writers” first asks them to listen  – and then removes her trusty “writing tool” – a pen -- from above her ear. To illustrate, she’ll  quickly sketch it out on three pages using stick figures.
“One day,” she muses …”my family went to the beach” -- the beginning of the story which she draws on page one.
 Then, on the second page, Martin illustrates how she and her family built a sandcastle and put a feather on top – the middle of the story.
 On the third page, she draws  the family looking proudly at their work and  then announces and “do you know what my baby girl did?” – she jumps on it and ruins it (the end of the story)! The students giggle loudly.
Once she demonstrates, the students share their ideas with each other and then begin their own booklet. This system ingrains the idea that each story  must have a beginning, middle and an end.
Immanuel Huertas, 7, and Jhai Yarbough, 7, eagerly and happily begin sketching their tales out along with scores of other students showing off their work proudly.
 In other classrooms Martin visits, students follow suit. Little dramas unfolded on paper – and for those who struggled, Martin was able to show teachers how to pull  those students aside and work with them in a small group. Martin would   get them started on their beginning.  One boy told a story about playing soccer with his brother playing on a red team, but he was stuck on the first page.
Martin sat on the floor and guided him by saying: “What’s next?”
Finally, he tells her his brother kicked the soccer ball and ended with the red team winning. With his writer’s block eliminated, he was able to draw out and tell the remainder of his story.
No one can be more thrilled with the new process then teacher, Nichole Sakellarion, who teaches a fourth-and-fifth grade combination class. Sakellarion, who was coming to the end of the program with her fifth graders, said she bonded better with students and learned  how to write better herself alongside them.
“I didn’t feel slighted or out of place one bit,” Sakellarion said outside a classroom about having the experts come to her classroom. “I was open to the idea and now I’m writing with the students. I have a notebook just like theirs. It’s the idea that we are learning together.
“What I like is that this is content. Before what I would get was perfect grammar, but there was no substance. I just know my kids are getting so much more now.”
It appeared so as the students piled story after story high on teacher’s desks and many showed their work off proudly.
Both Martin and Houser were trained at the Teacher’s College at Columbia University. While the university brought to the classrooms lines of books to give teachers guidelines to teach writing – a large public school asked in 2001 how the strategies could be worked successfully in a busy classroom.
Born out of that question was the program, FirsthandHeinemann.  Lucy Calkins and many of her colleagues (such as Martin and Houser) streamlined the essence of books, developed strategies, and then began to show teachers how to  integrate them in the classroom.
When Martin decided she wanted to move back to California – and Houser later joined her, the two built their own program here.
Locally, the “buzz” started after Park Western Avenue Elementary School, using the initially developed program, found it exceptional. Since then, the local team has visited Bandini, Barton Hill, 15th Street and White Point elementary schools.
Los Angeles school officials have been so impressed they are considering using it on a much wider scale. To aid teachers, Martin and Houser also give Saturday workshops directly to instructors.
“It’s to support teachers to build confidence in their writing ,” Martin added that “Writing is often a sore point for teachers.”
Writing has become a focal point in education as student test scores in the area have plummeted. But if you teach students to enjoy writing, then they will learn the rest, Martin said.
“If you are going to love to write, then we can give you the mechanics. It’s a balanced literary approach.”
Nothing can be more true than that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

San Pedro activist John Mavar above is on a mission to name the new San Pedro High School annex,  currently under construction, after city father John Olguin.
John Olguin giving a speech -- Cabrillo Beach Aquarium

By Diana L. Chapman
Maritime lover John Olguin, a former county lifeguard who raised funds to develop the Cabrillo Beach Aquarium in San Pedro, brought lessons of the ocean into the households of thousands of kids throughout Los Angeles.
Many of those students visited the beach for their first time during field trips to the marine facility thanks to Olguin, who died at age 89 at the beginning of the New Year.
There could have been no better teacher than the always-tanned, silver-haired Olguin, who once told me that he wanted as many children as possible to learn about all the ocean’s creatures, great and small.  While captain of the Cabrillo Beach county lifeguards in 1949, he was named director of the then-small, but quirky museum, later remaining director emeritus.
And history was made. He became a treasured promoter of the aquarium that educated scores of students coming from across Los Angeles about the sea.  Now, another movement is afoot to honor the “humble” man, who taught the Harbor Area community in magical ways.  He organized midnight grunion runs so children could learn about the spawning habits of the tiny fish and launched some of the first whale watch cruises that educated hundreds of boat passengers about the mega-beasts.
Calling Olguin an “icon and city father,”  San Pedro resident John Mavar, who respected Olguin for his remarkable projects and dedication to the community,  said its time to honor him by naming the 810-seat campus currently being built in the Pacific Palisades after the time-honored mariner.
Mavar, 34, a community activist who serves on the North West Neighborhood Council and once worked for former Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn, said he befriended Olguin and supported many of the seafarer’s projects.
The new learning annex – which will host a marine magnet and be filled with marine research laboratories – currently is under construction at Angels Gate on the Upper Reservation of Fort McArthur and marks a perfect way to honor such a giving soul. The magnet, currently at San Pedro High, is expected to connect and continue work with the Cabrillo Aquarium.
“I started this movement about a 1 ½ years ago,” said Mavar, who admitted being met with resistance at the time from some community members who remained hostile about the building of the new school – an annex expected to relieve overcrowded San Pedro High and open in 2012.
“With John’s unfortunate passing, it’s my gut and my instincts that tell me this is right to do for John,” Mavar explained. “He brought people out to one of the biggest (gifts) on Earth. He wanted to teach and show people the accessibility of the ocean and the protection of our wildlife and coastline.
“He’s a community icon from what he’s done from the longevity of raising money for worthy causes to the teaching he’s brought through the aquarium. This is a fitting tribute.”
Los Angeles Unified School Board Member Richard Vladovic has supported the effort, said David Kooper, his chief-of-staff,  adding if the community wants the school to be named after Olguin, the board member will happily endorse the proposal.
Currently, one name being floated around is the John Olguin High School Learning Annex, Mavar said, but he’s open to suggestions on ways to fashion the name.
“John Olguin was a true American hero and a true hero of mine,” Vladovic e-mailed about the proposal. “It would be my honor to preside over the effort to name the new annex the John Olguin San Pedro High School Learning Annex.”
I agree this is a fitting tribute to the ocean lover for two reasons. There’s no way to count the endless gifts Olguin, who is survived by his wife Muriel, gave to San Pedro and the Harbor-area region in general.
Fireworks happened annually largely due to Olguin, who would stand in the Von’s parking lot on 25th Street with a tin can asking for donations to support the July 4 event. He had no shame about asking for funds when it came to his community and did so for decades. One year, Mavar said, Olguin dressed up like a fire cracker.
Among some of his many projects, Olguin also helped raise money for blue lights to grace the landmark Vincent Thomas Bridge, which connects San Pedro to Terminal Island and Long Beach. The bridge lights had grown dimmer over the years due to the high cost of lighting maintenance. The project was successful and new teal-blue lights now glint and glow across the curved roadway – one of the only  gateways to San Pedro.
Therefore, like Mavar, I find it a fitting tribute to name a school – largely dedicated to the marine environment – to a man who gave so much to all of us.

In particular, the soon-to-open campus, which ripped apart the community between the need for a new high school and the balance of keeping the serenity of beatific park lands at Angel’s Gate, needs to come to grips with the new school and begin to heal.
Olguin was one man – who seemed to dance around politics and bring people together to promote and accomplish tremendous gems in San Pedro and the Harbor Area as a whole. He was the master of his San Pedro ship, a  man who steered a course so that many good things happened here. Most of all, he was peaceful and would want this community to begin to heal.
Resident Jennifer Marquez summed it up best: “John Olguin gave so much to San Pedro and its residents. Who better to name the new school after? He is such an inspiration on some many levels and what a wonderful way to teach our children about the importance of community service by naming it after him.”

Saturday, January 08, 2011

 What parents might want to know…A School Officials Response Tomorrow
By Diana L. Chapman
We had a pleasant vacation, warm and toasty, surrounded by the moss-green hills in the Napa Valley where we celebrated Christmas with our entire family for the first time in more than a decade.
That’s why there were no postings on theunderdogforkidsblog for so long. We were mesmerized with the wine valley and a reunion where all three sisters for once were home for Christmas with our mom – including all the grand kids. It was  nothing more than a miracle.
Looking forward to 2011, we braced to leap in the New Year with a sparkle of happiness. When we got home, instead, we got this letter:
“This is to notify you that your child has been reported to the Pupil Services and Attendance Supervisor as a truant from school as required by the provisions of Section 48260 of the California Education Code after having been absent from school without valid excuse 3 or more days or tardy for more than 30 minutes without a valid excuse of any combination thereof on the following dates….”
A variety of punishments can happen including prosecution of the pupil “under Education Code Section 48264” and/or subject to suspension of driver’s license and so on.
The letter was signed by our wonderful San Pedro High School principal – Jeanette Stevens, who I respect greatly for her abilities to collaborate that’s slowly turning around San Pedro High School, a campus coping with severe overcrowding and poor test scores.
However, I need not say this:
 It’s  not what you want to come home too after a warm and toasty holiday; And I want to point out that while LAUSD is finally cracking down on truancy – which is a good thing, good students can still find themselves in trouble. It doesn’t matter that your kid has fairly decent grades – and is pulling his weight. What matters now is ADA – average daily attendance, which pays the school district roughly $30 a day per student – and test scores.
Student absentees have been ongoing for decades, but it took a $1.1 billion deficit over the several years to slap the district in the face and say – aha! It’s costing us money if students aren’t here.
By gosh, we should go after our truants! (It makes you wonder why this didn’t happen years ago.)
So I have to put this into perspective, we are absolutely at fault partly for this. We forgot to write letters excusing Ryan when he was absent – all of which were legitimate.  But being spoiled, we are used to receiving phone calls telling us what we’ve forgotten.
This year, we didn’t receive one call. Instead, we got the letter, which prompted many more concerns.
The reason I’m writing this is pure and simple. Parents need to understand that when school starts on Aug. 15 this coming year – there may be no easy out for vacations or any other situation we manifest (unless life threatening). The school board pulled the early school year on us suddenly – with only one Los Angeles School Board Member, Richard Vladovic, covering the Harbor area and parts of central Los Angeles, saying it was too sudden for families who had already paid for vacations expecting school to start. School doesn’t typically start until Sept.5.
The board voted 6-1 recently to make it sooner, with all sorts of what I consider shabby reasons, but to sum it up easily,  it’s mostly about test scores. The sooner they get kids back to school, the better their test scores might be. Of course, this was not backed with any data from LA Unified. It was decided on data from other districts. Now many families and teachers are stuck with some difficult choices.
Some people I know get excited, thinking students will actually receive more time to study so we can compete on the global level from an educational point of view. We are failing miserably in education compared to other countries such as China and Singapore.
But that our students will be getting more educational hours is not the case. Kids will end school earlier, June 1 – rather than about three weeks later.
With the new changes, I’ve heard from many parents who have already spent their vacation money. They are going to skip the first two weeks of school. As they see it, they have little choice.
One family I know goes to Yosemite every August – and has already paid – to have their large family reunion. Their children will not return to school Aug. 15. And who can blame them?
Fortunately, I believe we can fix this “truancy” situation with our son, Ryan, 16, a junior, because we failed to write letters to excuse him for his absences – in which he was truly sick. Ryan copes with asthma, serious allergies and other health issues. But it was, frankly, bizarre that his report card only reflected this – he’s had no tardies and only three absences if we can read his report card correctly. We could have corrected this easily had we heard  before the letter went out.
Furthermore, the report cards that come home are barely legible. Has anyone noticed that? Ryan has tried to decipher them for us – but even with his better eyes – he can’t always tell what they say, the ink is so murky, flooded and drowned in gray. The ink bleeds so terribly, in fact, you can barely read the grades.
“I can’t read it either, Mom,” Ryan says with resignation.
I’ve covered LAUSD
And this recent decision to return students Aug. 15 told me this: LAUSD doesn’t care one bit about what its families think. I’m frustrated that even while we have an incredible principal at San Pedro High – much to our benefit – the school she came from John H. Liecthy Middle School, was flourishing under her tenure.  Since her departure, it has fallen behind miserably, beleaguered by layoffs of the many young teachers there.
It’s not as though principal Stevens could have changed anything. It was going to happen even with her there. The layoffs were inevitable and became part of a lawsuit.
But what’s happening now is the school board  – despite its discussions about parent engagement – shows me they really don’t care about what parents think – or students for that matter. In fact, I wonder if they care about anything involving families.
Perhaps they  care about the average daily attendance and the test scores, but any smart educator worth a bit of goods would realize quickly what I’ve learned in such a short period of time. Students, who have so much to offer, are virtually ignored by the system every single day. I know – because as a volunteer – I’ve been able to turn many around with such little effort. The middle-of-the-rung-kids, the students who need just an ever-so-slight push to make it, are bypassed every day.
And it didn’t include the kid’s test scores. What it included was their personal situations – what they were coping with in their daily lives. Just an ever so slight push of support changed the lives of those kids with backing from the Boys and Girls Club and – they are now in university and still sending me letters.
But those same students – who would so easily bring up the test scores with a bit of help – are often just another blip in the chart or “a flea on a wall,” as one student described it.
Here’s what I have to say to LAUSD board members. Do what you say you are going to do. You say you want parent support and input; then support us. Other than Vladovic, the rest of you are shameful. It’s not that changing the return date to school Aug. 15 is the worst idea in the world. What is problematic, is the board’s complete disrespect, to not even allow parents the time to give their input before reaching such a decision and the time to change their calendars.
It makes me believe that down the road – we will not be included in even more pressing issues.
What you are also wrong about is not gathering the data within the district first, and then persuading us this is a good idea. I worry. I worry a lot that there is such a chasm between families and the school board that it’s no longer worth the battle to decide whether our child should stay in an LAUSD school.
This is ironic as I believe it can all work, always have.  In the past, our son received a great education in LAUSD. But with the combination of layoffs, furloughs, and this last school board movement – a decision that is just ludicrous to me because it’s not accommodating anyone or anything but test scores and didn’t take an ounce of parent input – shows me more than ever that the board could care less with what we think.
Well some parents have told me it’s not a big enough issue to split hairs over, to me it’s a much bigger to-do than one would think. It reflects the future. It reflects that the board has few concerns as to what should happen with families, and that they are too concerned with test scores. What I suspect, over the next few years, they will lose the kids that actually bring test scores up.
 The only person currently worth voting for is Valdovic, who I know won’t be so charmed by this column, because he believes LAUSD still has value. While I never thought I’d say this, I’m really not sure anymore. Every time I walk onto the campus, more layoffs have occurred. Staff that were once the glue of the school have vanished. Librarians jobs are shot. People that worked in San Pedro have to drive to the valley to maintain a job for three hours a day, and vice versa. Next year, according to our new California Gov. Jerry Brown, education is only going to get worse and face more cuts.
Ouch. Be braced.
When we came home, our son, a junior at San Pedro High, asked if he could take a test that would allow him to leave the school district early and start community college if he passes.
We said adamantly: why not?