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.