Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Westside Middle School Night

On Monday, December 3rd, I will be hosting a "Middle School Night" at Webster Middle School. The goal of the event is to address parents' concerns about the transition between elementary and middle school by giving them an opportunity to get to know their local school. Prospective parents will be able to engage in a dialougue with administrators, parents, and students currently attending their neighborhood middle school.

We will also have a presentation from the LAUSD Magnet Office to coincide with the CHOICES application time period. The event will take place from 7:00-8:30p.m.

The following schools have confirmed their attendance: Emerson, Marina del Rey, Mark Twain, Paul Revere, Webster, Westside Leadership Magnet, Wright.

Webster Middle School is located at 11330 W. Graham Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90064.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

LAUSD Board Unanimously Approves Flagship YMCA Project at University High School

On October 23rd, the Board of Education voted unanimously to execute a joint use-lease agreement and a joint development agreement with the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles.
The agreements will permit the development of a flagship YMCA on the University High School campus for use by the students and surrounding community.

In exchange for a one-dollar-a-year, and more than 60 year lease, the Westside Family YMCA will provide funding for the construction of instructional space to be utilized by University High students. The Westside Family YMCA will also provide programming to promote healthy lifestyles, leadership development and community service, augmenting the academic program of University High.

This project is a win-win for the students of the District, the YMCA, and the University High School community.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Community Events

Since becoming a board member in 2001, one of my main goals has been to increase resident enrollment in the schools I represent. As new schools are built all over LAUSD, the number of students traveling to Westside and Valley schools has decreased. As a result, many of the schools I represent have fallen below their operating capacities, and I am working to ensure that those seats are filled by neighborhood kids.

I recently had the opportunity to participate in two community events aimed at informing the community about their local schools. The first was a forum hosted by the Del Rey Homeowners & Neighbors Association showcasing the progress of the schools in the Del Rey area. Administrators from Braddock, Playa del Rey, Short, Stoner, Marina del Rey MS and Venice HS were on hand to discuss the academic and extra-curricular offerings at their respective campuses. I joined the principals in a Q&A session to answer questions from community members and prospective parents.

I also recently participated in a Community Meeting hosted by Act for Education. This event showcased Emerson Middle School and University High School.

One of the main take-aways of these two events was the amount of misinformation, rumors, and half truths circulating about our schools. I am thankful that these principals had the opportunity to dispel many of these myths and to showcase the accomplishments of their schools. While I acknowledge that every school has it challenges, it is important for the community to also learn about the positive things going on at their local schools. The staff at these schools are working incredibly hard to make sure your children get a wonderful education. Feel free to call your prospective school and ask for a visit or to speak with a principal, counselor, or dean. When you leave the school, tell your friends about the wonderful things you saw and lets all do our part in changing the face of public education.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Charter School Leaders Breakfast

On Wednesday morning, I hosted a breakfast for charter school leaders whose schools are located in Board District 4. As the Chair of the new Charters and Innovation Committee, I feel that it is important for me to hear from practitioners to inform my policy decisions.

At the breakfast, the charter leaders shared some of their "best practices" they've implemented to make their schools successful, and they were also able to express challenges they've faced when dealing with the District. I hope to am ameliorate some of their challenges through changes in the charter policy. Some of the concerns expressed by those in attendance included the allocation of District facilities under Proposition 39, the lack of understanding by District staff of charter school autonomy for affiliated schools and the cumbersome application process for conversion charters.

If you as a parent or a community member have other concerns about charter schools and their interaction with the District, please leave a comment below.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

New LAUSD Charters and Innovation Committee

I am pleased to announce I am chairing our new Charter and Innovation Committee which met for the first time on Oct. 4. The Charter and Innovation Committee will help drive the District’s efforts to quickly and dramatically improve the education of our students. It will also help the District improve our application and renewal policies for charter schools, develop rational policies and procedures for use of facilities and tackle other important issues. I am delighted to be leading this effort because I believe strongly in the need for new partnerships for our students.

The Charter and Innovation Committee is designed to drive school and District transformation. The Committee’s inaugural meeting provided the first opportunity for in-depth discussion of the District’s newly created Innovation Division and the LA Partnership for Schools, one of the first Innovation Division projects. In the coming months, the Committee will meet to vet additional proposals to the District’s new Innovation Division, review charter school petitions, and discuss policy reforms.

Board Member representitives include Board President Monica Garcia and Board Members Yolie Flores Aguilar and Julie Korenstein. To improve communication and coordination with the Charter School community and other external partners, the Committee includes several outside representatives. They are Judy Burton CEO of LA Alliance, Anita Landecker Executive Director of ExED, Tony Ressler of Ares Investments, and Stephen Rochelle the Principal of Wright Middle School.

The Charter and Innovation Committee will meet the first Thursday of every month to consider these issues at 1p.m. in the LAUSD Boardroom at 333 S. Beaudry Avenue, Los Angeles. Agendas are available online at:

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Payroll System Update 2

In response to questions about the LAUSD payroll crisis, Superintendent David L. Brewer III issued a letter to District parents and families last week explaining what steps he and his team are taking to correct the LAUSD's payroll issues. Click here to read the letter.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Payroll System Update

I’ve received numerous emails and phone calls from LAUSD employees, parents and community members expressing their frustration with the District’s payroll system. While a switch to a massive new technology system is hardly ever as smooth as one might hope, the issues with our payroll system have persisted for far too long. My colleagues on the Board and I will not be satisfied until every employee is paid on time and accurately. Last week, we approved an agreement with an Atlanta-based company to provide technical assistance and expertise on the District’s payroll system. The District has also retained Hess & Associates, Inc., the firm responsible for the successful implementation of the City of Los Angeles payroll system, to design and develop systems to validate and improve the accuracy of LAUSD’s payroll.

The Board of Education will meet weekly with Superintendent Brewer and his team to keep abreast of the progress toward fixing the payroll system. I will provide updates on these efforts here on my blog. In the meantime, if you have specific concerns about your paycheck, please contact the Payroll Services’ Call Center at 213.241.6670. These lines are answered by live agents from 7am - 5pm and I’m told that the usual wait-time is a minute or less. Additional resources are also available at the Payroll Services Branch website.

Preserving and Sustaining School Gardens

On Tuesday September 25th, the Board of Education will be considering the “Preserving and Sustaining School Gardens” motion which I co-authored with Board Members Julie Korenstein and Tamar Galatzan.

In recent years, there has been growing support for school gardens, culminating in the passage of AB1535 which is providing funding for 526 school gardens throughout LAUSD this year. Schools gardens are powerful instructional tools when incorporated into the curriculum. They provide children access to physical activity and fresh, healthy food, and they provide valuable opportunities for community building.

The motion directs the Superintendent to support the preservation of existing school gardens and encourages the use of gardens as outdoor laboratories for instruction. It also asks the Superintendent to promote the use of school garden produce through tastings, and by allowing Associated Student Bodies to sell items grown in school gardens.

Many schools in Board District 4 have very successful school gardens. For example, Webster Middle School does a great job of incorporating their garden into the curriculum – a 6th grade teacher grows papyrus in the garden and incorporates garden activities when students are learning about Egypt!

Richland Avenue Elementary has formed a great partnership with Urban Farming to donate the produce grown in their beautiful garden to the Westside Food Bank in Santa Monica. Last week I participated in an event when they also partnered with volunteers from the William Morris Agency to make improvements to the garden. The fourth grade class also participated in the event by building compost pillars!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Middle School Essay Contest

My colleage, Board President Monica Garcia, is co-sponsoring an essay contest with the LA County Bar Association for LAUSD 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. The Future Lawyers Essay Contest is asking middle schoolers "What would you do as a lawyer to improve your community?"

While the website states that the deadline is September 22, I was happy to learn that it has been extended to October 1. For more information on submission and essay requirements, please go here.

A New LA Times Blog on Education

The LA Times has launched a new blog called The Homeroom to take over school related news. As you may remember, the LA Times had both a column and a blog called School Me! which covered school news. School Me! ended several months ago and The Homeroom is taking its place. This time though, three bloggers are covering the news desk. Two of them are full time teachers through Teach For America and one is a high school student at South Pasadena HS. So far, with only two posts in, the insights are great and I look forward to reading it daily. I hope you do too.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Think Before You Drink

How many teaspoons of sugar did you guess were in one 20 ounce regular soft drink? I have to say when I first looked into limiting sugar filled beverages from our campuses, I was astounded to learn there are a whopping 16 teaspoons of sugar in just one 20 ounce regular soft drink. That's 250 calories, all of them empty and simply devoid of nutrition.

Perhaps this will help put it into perspective. If you were to drink one regular (meaning non-diet) soft drink a day in addition to your regular diet, you could gain upwards of 26 pounds in just one year. And we wonder why we have an obesity epidemic in this country.

This is what lead me to author "The Healthy Beverage Motion" in 2002, which essentially prohibited the sale of sugar filled drinks our students were consuming on a regular basis at school. Now our vending machines are filled with water, 100% fruit juices and Gatorade type beverages (for athletic purposes).

So before you reach for that regular cola or "fruit" flavored drink, remember how much sugar is in there and you might want to "rethink your drink."

Teacher Shopping Day!!

If LA Shares isn't already one of your favorite non-profits, look no further for a reason!

LAUSD teachers will have the opportunity to shop for items including: calculators, paper, pens, desk top accessories, staplers, tape, stationary supplies, books, envelopes, chalkboards, labels,
file folders, scissors, plus many more valuable supplies. All items are FREE OF CHARGE and were donated by various corporations throughout the Greater Los Angeles Area.

Monday, September 17, 2007
3:30 PM-6:00 PM (please arrive by 3:15 PM)

Location: L.A. SHARES Griffith Park Facility
3224 Riverside Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Free Parking is located just west of the building
Light food and refreshments will be served

Please RSVP to: For more information please call L.A. SHARES at 213-485-1097

Monday, September 10, 2007

Daily News Op-Ed

The Daily News ran an op-ed this weekend by David Lehrer and Joe Hicks about the "Healthy Families, Healthy Students" motion. It's a fascinating perspective and I encourage you all to read it.

Read Board Vote Not Aimed at Students

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

2007 API Results Released

The Los Angeles Unified School District continues to make academic gains according to figures released last Friday by the California Department of Education. The District increased 9 points on the Academic Performance Index (API).

Board District 4 schools continue to be models of academic excellence. The following schools deserve recognition:

Highest Performing Schools:

- Wonderland Elementary, 964 API
- Revere Middle School, 817 API
- Palisades High School, 781 API

Highest API Gains:

- West Hollywood Elementary, +68 points
- Le Conte Middle School, +33 points
- Fairfax High School, +26 points

I’d also like to congratulate Taft High School for exiting Program Improvement status this year!

And finally, I’d like to thank the school staff, faculty, administrators, parents and students who all work hard to achieve academic excellence. Keep up the good work!

Visit to view Academic Performance Index (API) results.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Assembly & Senate Appropriations Committees pass LAUSD Facilities legislation

The Assembly and Senate Appropriations Committees approved AB1014 (Bass) & SB121 (Romero) yesterday during their final official hearings of the year.

AB1014 (Bass) would revise the formula the State uses to allocate funding for construction and modernization of school facilities. The current formula used by the State overcorrects for small decreases in enrollment causing LAUSD to lose eligibility for state matching funds because it is experiencing declining enrollment in some areas of the District. The bill would authorize school districts to use an alternative enrollment projection formula that more accurately reflects the facilities needs of its students.

SB 121 (Romero) would amend current law to eliminate or reduce the requirement that schools districts receiving Operational Grants have at least 40% of their total enrollment on multi-track year-round schedules. To date, LAUSD’s new construction program has completed 67 new schools, allowing many campuses to return to a traditional calendar. If the law is not amended, LAUSD could lose up to $78 million per year once it falls below the 40% requirement.

The passage of these bills is crucial for the completion of the District’s mission of reducing overcrowding, returning all campuses to a traditional calendar, and providing a neighborhood school for all its students.

Both bills will now go to the floor of each House for a vote.

Healthy Families, Healthy Students?

On Tuesday, the Board of Education waded into a hefty discussion on health care. On its face, the resolution titled "Healthy Families, Healthy Students" and authored by several of my colleagues on the Board, was about ensuring that students have at least 20 minutes to eat lunch. In fact, it was really an effort to increase the hours that some 2,000 cafeteria workers from 3 ½ hours to 4 hours in order to make them eligible for health benefits. Board Member Tamar Galatzan and I voted against the resolution, which passed 5-2 and will cost the District $35 million annually. The truth is that the increase in hours will have no effect on the amount of time students have to eat lunch. What’s more, we already have plans – that we can afford – in place that move us to ensuring students have at least 20 minutes to eat their lunch.

The Board of Education recently adopted extended and multiple lunch periods as a strategy to increase students’ access to the cafeteria. We also began implementing the results of a Labor Organization Study which will increase 269 3 ½ -hour cafeteria worker positions to both five and six-hour positions. These and other operational changes will do more to increase the likelihood that our students have enough time to eat than a blanket increase in hours that disregards the individual needs of schools.

I absolutely understand my colleagues’ desire to provide health care to all our employees and I attempted to introduce an amendment that would have directed our negotiations team to work with the unions to provide scaled benefits for these part-time employees. Sadly, the Board voted down this amendment, leaving the Superintendent to present to the Board on September 4 an additional $35 million in cuts for this school year. Both the LA Times and the LA Daily News reported on this issue and the LA Times editorial board seems to agree that this was an irresponsible action.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Dear Friends,

Welcome to the new Canter Chronicle! I am incredibly excited to launch a blog to keep my constituents updated on issues facing the local schools, as well as events and updates that affect you and our students.

Come back here often as I will be updating the Canter Chronicle several times a week.