Category: Education

LAUSD District 5 Board Election Could Shift Balance Of Charter Power Today

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As voters head to the polls to fill the vacant LAUSD board seat today, the board’s pro-charter majority’s power hangs in the balance.

Ten candidates will be vying Tuesday to fill a vacant seat on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education in an election that could again shift the balance of power on the seven-member panel.

The vacancy was created last July when board member Ref Rodriguez pleaded guilty to conspiracy and other charges for laundering campaign donations from family and friends. He resigned from his board seat the same day.

The vacant District 5 seat represents areas including Atwater Village, Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Los Feliz, Mount Washington and Silver Lake.

The LAUSD Board of Education is evenly split between pro-charter forces and those aiming to check charter expansion head.

Jackie Goldberg, 74, a former teacher, LAUSD board member, Los Angeles City Council member and Democratic state legislator, is widely considered a front-runner in the race. Two LAUSD board members last year unsuccessfully tried to have her appointed to the seat to serve out the balance of Rodriguez’s term, which runs through next year. But the proposal was rejected in favor of calling the special election.

Goldberg is heavily backed by United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing the district’s teachers. The union has been pouring money into Goldberg’s campaign, hoping to undo a board majority that generally favored expansion of charter schools in the district. Rodriguez’s departure left the board with a 3-3 split on the issue, and a Goldberg victory would swing the panel back in UTLA’s favor. Read more »

Teachers Approve Deal To End Strike

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“A vast super-majority” of teachers have voted to to accept an agreement reached Tuesday, ending LA’s teacher strike.

“A vast super-majority” of teachers have voted to approve the tentative agreement, ending the strike, United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl said. Teachers will return to their classes Wednesday, Caputo- Pearl said.

Union leaders and administrators with the Los Angeles Unified School District announced a deal Tuesday that could send teachers back to the classroom Wednesday, ending the first Los Angeles teachers strike in 30 years.

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner and United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl joined Mayor Eric Garcetti at a morning news conference at City Hall to announce the breakthrough, which Garcetti said came after “a 21-hour marathon session that wrapped up just before sunrise this morning.”

UTLA teachers went on strike Jan. 14, calling for smaller class sizes and the hiring of more support staff, such as nurses, counselors and librarians, and a pay raise. Beutner said during the standoff with the union that its demands would cost billions of dollars and bankrupt a district already teetering on insolvency.

The new proposal was voted on by UTLA members on Tuesday, and teachers will return to work Tuesday. The LAUSD Board of Education also needs to formally approve the deal.

“The strike nobody wanted is now behind us,” Beutner said at the City Hall news conference, reflecting confidence that the deal will be approved.

But he also cautioned: “We can’t solve 40 years of under-investment in public education in just one week or just one contract. Now that all students and our educators are heading back to the classroom, we have to keep pour focus and pay attention to the long-term solutions. … The importance of this moment is public education is now the topic in every household in our community. Let’s capitalize on this. Let’s fix it.”

Caputo-Pearl said the tentative agreement addressed the union’s core issues.

“We have seen over the last week something pretty amazing happen,” Caputo-Pearl said. “We went on strike in one of the largest strikes the United States has seen in decades. And the creativity and innovation and passion and love and emotion of our members was out on the street, in the communities, in the parks for everyone to see.”

The deal includes a 6 percent pay raise for teachers, with 3 percent retroactive to the 2017-18 school year and another 3 percent retroactive to July 1, 2018. It also includes provisions for providing a full-time nurse at all schools, along with a teacher-librarian. The proposal also calls for the hiring of 17 counselors by October.

The proposal also outlines a phased-in reduction of class sizes over the next three school years, with additional reductions for “high needs” campuses.

Caputo-Pearl said the issue of class size is a key element of the pact. He said the district agreed to eliminate contract language he dubbed an “escape clause” that would allow the district to increases class sizes in the future.

A main thrust of the union’s strike was a call for increases in the number of nurses, counselors and librarians at campuses. According to the district, the proposed agreement’s provisions for reducing class sizes and hiring nurses, librarians and counselors will cost an estimated $175 million from 2019-21, and $228 million for 2021-22.

It was unclear exactly how the costs will be covered. Garcetti said the deal’s various provisions will include a combination of funding or other support from the state, county and city.

The county Office of Education, which oversees the district and has raised questions in recent weeks about the LAUSD’s financial stability, will have to review the proposed deal.

“Our obligation is to ensure that the district has a funding plan in place to cover the costs associated with this agreement, and thereby able to remain fiscally solvent,” county Superintendent Debra Duardo said in a statement. “Now that a tentative agreement is in place, the Los Angeles County Office of Education has the legal obligation to review and provide comments before the LAUSD governing board takes action.

“While the statute provides a window of 10 working days, we intend to provide these comments as soon as possible once we receive the relevant data,” Duardo said.

The proposal also calls on the district to support a statewide cap on charter schools and to provide regular reports on proposed co-locations of charter and public school campuses. The deal also calls on the mayor to support a ballot initiative going to voters in November 2020 that would roll back Proposition 13 property tax limits on commercial buildings to increase state tax revenue for public education.

“We have seen over the last few weeks the way that the city has rallied around public education, and quite frankly it’s been breathtaking; it’s been inspiring to see,” Garcetti said.

Just before the strike began, Beutner said the district’s latest contract offer to the union “represents the best we can do,” but of the new deal, he said Tuesday that “this does even more” than the previous one.

The union had vocally disputed the district’s claim that it could not afford more extensive investment in school staffing, pointing to what it called an estimated $1.8 billion reserve fund and insisting the district has not faced a financial deficit in five years. The district contended that reserve fund is already being spent, in part on the salary increase for teachers.

Caputo-Pearl, who stood next to Beutner during the news conference, was asked about his past comments in which he harshly criticized the superintendent while accusing him of lying about the amount of money the district has available, and being dedicated to privatizing schools. The UTLA president was also asked if he could trust Beutner to follow through on the deal.

“We have, Austin Beutner and I, we certainly have our differences, and we’ve expressed those, and I think we will continue to express those. But what we’ve been able to do over the last chunk of days is work together with a bunch of partners and a bunch of help to forge an agreement that we are both committed to making sure is implemented, to make sure that our students are served and our schools are improved,” Caputo-Pearl said.

He added, “We are building trust, and the last several days have helped on that.”

Garcetti quipped that “I’m not saying that everybody is going to go and have a beer today, but I do think that this is a new chapter.”

The second-largest school district in the nation, the LAUSD covers 710 square miles and serves more than 694,000 students at 1,322 schools, although 216 schools are independent charter schools, most of which were being staffed with non-union teachers unaffected by the strike. The district says about 500,000 students have been affected by the walkout.

District officials said the UTLA strike, which kept teachers out of classrooms for six school days as of Tuesday, had cost the LAUSD at least $125 million in attendance-based state funding. That amount is partially offset by an estimated $10 million per day by the salaries that were not paid to striking teachers.

LA Teachers Strike Postponed

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Less than 24 hours before the possible strike of 33,000 LA teachers, the union announced plans to hold off for a few more days.
United Teachers Los Angeles is delaying the start of a possible teachers strike until Monday, union leaders announced Wednesday.

Thursday was the original strike date publicly set by the union weeks ago, but the Los Angeles Unified School District has challenged that date in court, contending it was not given official 10-day notice, as state law requires. Although the legal challenge is still playing out in Los Angeles Superior Court, UTLA leaders announced the new strike deadline at a news conference outside district headquarters just before entering into another round of bargaining with LAUSD leaders.

“While we believe that we would eventually win in court against all of (Superintendent) Austin Beutner’s anti-union, high-priced attempts to stop our legal right to strike, in order for clarity, and to allow members and our communities to plan, UTLA is moving the strike date to Jan. 14,” UTLA Vice President Gloria Marinez said.

Should more than 30,000 teachers, nurses, librarians and counselors strike, it would be the district’s first walkout in 30 years, impacting 600,000 students.

LAUSD officials have tried a number of legal maneuvers to delay the strike, but the district’s efforts to date have been unavailing. On Tuesday, no hearing took place after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Samantha Jessner denied a motion by UTLA for an exemption to the electronic filing rules that would have allowed a hearing to occur.

Before the delayed strike date, the union’s goal in court gas been preempt the district from going to court on the same issue after a strike begins; if that occurred, a judge could shut down the strike for several days, dampening its momentum.
No court rulings are expected to be made Wednesday, and both sides are scheduled to be back in court at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

The LAUSD case scheduled to be heard Thursday before Judge Mary H. Strobel seeks a delay of a matter of weeks based on grounds that UTLA did not comply with a requirement that its members not encourage a strike for a 10-day period after the Jan. 3 announcement of the walkout.

UTLA’s case, which maintains the union indeed gave the LAUSD a legally required 10-day notice that its members would stop working under the existing contract, is currently before another judge. The union attorneys will try Wednesday afternoon to get their case before Strobel to be heard Thursday morning as well.

The LAUSD Board of Education passed a motion Tuesday that eases background check requirements for some parent volunteers in anticipation of the need for help in the event of a strike. Those volunteers will not need to pass a full federal background check but will still be checked against a national database of sex offenders. The less-restrictive policy would kick in only if the superintendent declared an emergency. A volunteer would then simply fill out a form and the district would check a database to make sure the person was not a registered sex offender.

The district has 12,000 volunteers who have cleared background checks, said district spokeswoman Shannon Haber.

The board Tuesday also passed a resolution that directs Beutner to create a three-year “enterprise plan” aimed at bringing in more money. The resolution states that the district faces a structural budget deficit that requires the district to cut costs and generate additional revenue, and sets a March 18 deadline for creating a plan that could include parcel tax and school bond measures, as well as strategies for increasing enrollment.

“We recognize that Los Angeles Unified needs more resources, and this resolution confirms our commitment to work with families, labor partners, and the communities we serve to achieve this,” Beutner said.

No one issue separates the two sides. They have been negotiating for nearly two years without coming close to a resolution. They’ve already gone through mediation and a fact-finding session in recent months. The fact finder’s report was issued last month, and it sparked more verbal sparring between the two sides.

The LAUSD said it brought forward a new proposal Monday that would have added nearly 1,000 additional teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians, which the UTLA rejected. UTLA President Alex-Caputo Pearl told reporters he had several problems with the proposal and was surprised the district had “so little to offer.” He said, “Unless something changes significantly there will be a strike in the city of L.A.”

Caputo-Pearl said the district’s latest proposal was inadequate for several reasons, including that a potential raise for teachers would be contingent on cutting future health care benefits, that it actually increases class size instead of lowering it, and would not add enough long-term nurses, counselors, and librarians.

With about 900 schools in the district, Caputo-Pearl said the offer would only amount to about one additional employee per school. He added that it was not clear if the 1,000 positions agreed to by the district would be new hires or the result of the district shuffling around employees.

For its part, the district has insisted that its contract offer to the union incorporates many of the recommendations set forth in a previous fact- finding report, such as a 6 percent pay raise, a $30 million investment in hiring of professional staff, reducing class sizes and elimination of a section of the labor agreement that the union claims would allow the district to unilaterally increase class size.

UTLA officials have said many elements of the district’s offer remained “unclear,” suggesting that the 6 percent salary increase being offered still appears to be contingent on cuts to future union members’ health care and contending the offer also appears to maintain the contract section allowing increases in class size.

The union is also continuing to push for increased district investment in hiring of counselors, nurses, librarians and other professional staff, saying the $30 million proposed by the district would have a negligible impact on only a small percentage of LAUSD campuses.

The union has been pushing the district to tap into an estimated $1.8 billion reserve fund to hire more staff and reduce class sizes. LAUSD says the staffing increases being demanded by the union would cost an estimated $786 million a year, further depleting a district already facing a $500 million deficit.

Beutner told reporters the district simply did not have enough money to address all of UTLA’s demands.

“There’s no more than that, so the notion that we are hoarding reserves, the notion that more money exists somewhere else to give more to reduce class sizes at this time, is not accurate,” Beutner said. “We are spending more than we have in service of our students.”

Despite the absence of a consensus between the district and its teachers, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has no formal role in education issues, was relatively upbeat about Monday’s talks. He was involved in separate phone conferences with both sides, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“Yesterday was really a very positive sign that they’re at the table,” he said Tuesday. “An agreement won’t get finalized in the street or in a press release but in face-to-face conversations.”

He added: “There’s not a lot that separates them. People want lower class sizes. People want fair pay. People also want to make sure that there’s support in our schools.”

But could this be a long strike?

“It could be,” the mayor said. “It really depends on the leadership, both sides, the union and of the administration. Without betraying any of the confidential negotiations, I think real progress was made yesterday (Monday). Still many steps to go, but after a long time with them never really talking to each other for months, I think that conversation has finally started.”

Granada Hills Charter Captures Fifth National Academic Decathlon Title – in Six Years!

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Granada Hills Charter High School garnered its fifth United States Academic Decathlon (USAD) title – in six years – earlier today in Anchorage, Alaska. Granada Hills Charter scored 54,195.1 out of a possible 60,000. This award marks the end of the 2015-16 academic decathlon season in which Granada Hills Charter won all levels of competition including the city, state and national titles.

“It’s exciting to win at this level,” said Mathew Arnold, GHCHS English teacher and Academic Decathlon coach, “This win isn’t just for us. It’s a way to for the whole school to show our strength. I’m proud of our kids and feel fortunate to be a part of this team!”

The Academic Decathlon is a 10-event scholastic competition for high school students that consists of seven multiple choice tests plus a speech, interview, and essay. Granada Hills Charter captured the trophy in the fast-paced super quiz round, signaling the end of the competition on Fridayafternoon. The Awards Banquet was held at the Civic Center hotel in Anchorage and the team’s championship was announced to cheers in the packed auditorium, including all the parents of the GHCHS team.

“We are so proud of our son and his team mates for their dedication,” said Sundio Lin, father of Joshua Lin, a member of the team since 2015. “They work so hard. Seven days a week. The coaches and staff, they love our children and sacrifice so much, every year. We are grateful to see Joshua succeed like this.”

The Academic Decathlon divides the competition into three categories based on GPA: Honor (3.75-4.00), Scholastic (3.00-3.74), and Varsity (2.99 or below). Granada Hills Charter won the top individual scores in all three categories.

GHCHS also earned national USAD titles in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015. This year’s winning team of students are Mark Aguila, Julian Duran, Isha Gupta, Joshua Lin, Christopher Lo, Aishah Mahmud, Melissa Santos, Mayeena Ulkarim and Jorge Zepeda. The coaches are Mathew Arnold, Jon Sturtevant, and Rachael Phipps.

LA Unified Town Hall Meeting

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L.A. Unified, Local District Northeast (NE) and Local District Northwest (NW)
Invite you to meet

L.A. Unified Superintendent Michelle King

with Local District NE Superintendent Byron Maltez
and Local District NW Superintendent Vivian Ekchian

Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Pacoima Middle School Auditorium
9919 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Pacoima, CA 91331

(Entrance on Kagel Canyon)

  • 8:00 am Doors Open
  • 8:20 am Pacoima Middle School Cadets Flag Salute
  • 8:25 am Pacoima Singers Musical Theatre Group
  • 8:35 am Staff Meet & Greet
  • 8:45 am Meet Local District NE Superintendent Maltez and Local District NW Superintendent Ekchian
  • 9:00-10:00am Q&A with Superintendent Michelle King (Q&A Moderated by Board Member Mónica Ratliff, District 6)

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Granada Hills Charter High Sets Academic Decathlon Record

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For the fourth time in five years, Granada Hills Charter High School has won the Los Angeles Unified School District Academic Decathlon.

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Granada Hills Charter High School scored a competition- record 59,167.1 points out of a possible 65,400 to win the Los Angeles Unified School District Academic Decathlon for the fourth time in five years, district officials announced tonight.

Ten other teams qualified as wild card entrants for the California Academic Decathlon, which will be held March 20-21 in Sacramento: defending national champion El Camino Real (58,223); defending district champion Marshall (56,458.6); Franklin (55,166.5); Garfield (50,790.6); Bell (49,744.8); Hamilton (48,943.8); North Hollywood (46,232.2); Van Nuys (46,058.7); Grant (45,459.3); and Harbor Teacher Prep (43,178.2).

Irene Lee from Granada Hills was the top individual scorer with 9,461.4 points, tying the record among all competitions.

Kim Monson of Narbonne won the Coach of the Year award.

The Academic Decathlon began Jan. 31 at the Roybal Learning Center near downtown Los Angeles, with teams from 59 high schools competing in the speech, interview and essay categories.

The competition concluded Saturday with tests in art, economics, language and literature, mathematics, music and social science and the Super Quiz, also at the Roybal Learning Center.

The study topic was alternatives in energy.

The results were announced at an awards ceremony at Hollywood High School.

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Frost Middle School Receives Funds for Computer Lab

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Frost Middle School in Granada Hills received a $50,000 check Friday morning to help build a new computer laboratory at the school. Last year, parents and staff donated $18,000 and purchased 45 new Lenovo computers for a second computer lab at the school. Frost’s Parent Teacher Student Association, in coordination with Councilmember Mitch Englander’s office, secured $50,000 in contributions to add to the effort.

The second lab is being added in anticipation of online standardized testing.

By Matt Thacker on Dec. 5
[email protected]

http://www.postperiodical.com/frost-middle-school-receives-funds-computer-lab/

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