Wednesday, February 02, 2011

By Diana L. Chapman
A full three months of sun and fun will continue for thousands of Los Angeles Unified students after the school board reversed its decision to begin school Aug. 15 – at least for now.
The reversal, partly led by School Board Member Richard Vladovic, was triggered due to potential additional costs to the district. Additionally, Vladovic, who is up for re-election in March, argued that it made no sense to begin an “early calendar start” until all the district’s schools are off the year round track.  He serves primarily the Harbor Area and parts of south Los Angeles.
Even more disturbing, Vladovic contended, was the lack of parent input the board sought before approving the change on a 6-1 vote– a similar misstep the Los Angeles Archdiocese might have made after announcing it would extend its school year by an additional twenty days. After backlash from parents who wanted to continue summers, archdiocese officials this week called it a “recommendation” to its 210 elementary schools.
Los Angeles school officials called the board’s reversal “a postponement,” saying the change will probably come the following year.
Vladovic was the single board member who voted against the action in January arguing  the district’s timing was off  – in particular because many schools are still on a year round track. The perilous state economy, he contended, also could make the change-over too costly – at a time the district is already swimming in budget cuts.
LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines announced the change in a letter to the “LAUSD community” Tuesday using those same sentiments.
“Beginning the year 2012, the District will no longer have schools on year-round schedules,” Cortines wrote in a letter to the LAUSD community. “It is expected that the Early Start Calendar will apply to every school in the district. We are currently discussing the 2011-12 academic school calendar and will make it available as soon as it is finalized.”
Cortines also blamed the postponement on the state’s economy: “The economic uncertainty in California,” he wrote, “continues to pose serious challenges to our District. Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed tax election in June could result in deferred State and district budget decisions…”
At his kick off campaign, Vladovic said to a reporter that he was  disturbed the board failed to gather much parent input. Only about 150 parents replied to a survey on LAUSD’s website, he said, and nearly 70 had protested the change. Many parents didn’t know the survey existed, he added.
“I am thrilled and relieved by the decision of the Superintendent to delay implementation of the early start calendar for another year,” Vladovic said. “As the lone dissenting vote when the item originally came to the board, I have advocated vigorously against this year’s implementation of early start calendar because of the lack of parental and community involvement as well as the lack of dialogue with our employees."
Ironically, one of Vladovic’s contenders, candidate Jesus Escandon, who was initially supported by the UTLA, the teacher’s union, backed out of the race. The UTLA had supported Escandon, but it was later learned he had two convictions, one for public drunkenness and another for drunk driving. His name will still appear on the ballot. Another candidate, Roye Love of Carson still intends to run, but lost to Vladovic in the prior election.
The “early start calendar” stemmed from  school officials urging that it would likely improve student academics and test scores in the second largest district in the nation.  The district, which has nearly 700,000 students, has a near drop out rate of 50 percent and abysmal test scores.

Starting school nearly three weeks earlier than the traditional dates of returning after Labor Day – would end the first semester before students broke for spring vacation. In addition, it would give additional time for students to prepare for student testing, done typically  in May.
If the new calendar is adopted, school would then end June 1 rather than about twenty days later.
Had the board gone ahead with its plans, several parents said their children would not be attending school due to prepaid vacations, family reunions and weddings.