Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Dear Friend,

I am leaving office today after serving the families of Board District 4 for eight years. I feel so blessed to have worked with each of you on behalf of the children of LAUSD and I am proud of the many positive changes this District has undergone in the last few years.

I feel confident that I am leaving Board District 4 in good hands with your newly-elected Board Member Steve Zimmer.

If you or your school need assistance, please contact szimmer@lausd.net.

Thanks for all you do,

Marlene Canter

Friday, June 26, 2009

Board Member Canter's Speech Following Board Tribute

Things I want to talk about at my last LAUSD board meeting on June 23, 2009.

I feel so blessed….. I have always loved my jobs…. And therefore I have never felt like I worked a day in my life…But today, to be here surrounded by my family…. My mom and dad, my daughter (my son and daughter in law could not be here)…. And my friends and colleagues….I don’t think I have ever felt prouder.

This has been an amazing 8 years for me personally and professionally. I have been inspired, I have been challenged, I have had to fight, I have had to compromise, I have had to be strong when I felt weak and I have been weak when I thought I was strong. I have won some, I have lost some. But underlying all of the eight years has been my lifelong commitment:

to children who only have one chance at an education and who are each unique onto themselves.

to education – which is now considered the civil rights for all children

to my morals and values that guided my decision making and allowed me to look in the mirror every night,

to my family,

to my old friends who have been so patient with me as I became engulfed in the LAUSD life of a board member;

to my new friends who I have been so lucky to meet along this path

to my belief in the power of relationships

to knowing that change is hard and long and often a bumpy road.

But mostly my commitment has been to myself and the promise I made when I got elected…. To make decisions that benefited the children. I always said that I would do the best I could to create change and I know there have been many changes that have been made since I have been here…. I also said that I would at least learn what were the barriers to success…. And I think I have a good understanding of those too

Besides my commitments that guided me…

I have learned so many lessons….life lessons. I have probably grown more in these eight years than I have ever….let me share a few of them:

1. The better relationships you can develop, the more that can get accomplished.

2. We all come from different backgrounds… what I called a melting pot and Monica calls a salad bowl… is really the same… an attempt to find a commonalities amongst our differences, to be able to unite on common ground for a higher purpose, to be able to reflect for the ones that follow that there is more strength in holding hands when you walk across a beam than there is when you walk alone….and I have learned that this lesson has to be renewed and reflected upon each and every day…. And a promise has to be made to each other that we will continue to strive for what is best for all of us…

3. I have learned that no matter what the reform is…. If we don’t have a good teacher in each and every classroom then we are failing our children… no matter what school, what size school, or what kind of school... all children have a teacher in front of them or with them each day… we must find a way to ensure that each one is the best

4. I have also learned that in order to have a successful school… you must have a good leader…. I had breakfast with Elizabeth Abramowitz the other morning…. And she taught me that managers manage all that is around them…. Leaders know what to manage… we have a lot to learn and to share about leadership with each other.

5. I have learned that being a superintendent is a very difficult job…I have been here with three of them… each different… but to each of them… I say thank you for saying yes…and for what you given of yourself to us. To Roy Romer… I loved being in the foxhole with you…you are my mentor and my friend. And to Ray… I may be leaving my job as a board member but I will never be farther than a phone call away… We are so lucky to have you… and I am so glad that our paths have crossed.

6. I have learned that there are so many factions here in Los Angeles that we need to work harder at being unified… the kids need us to be

7. I have also never met a parent that didn’t want their child to be successful… we must find better ways to engage our parents so that they are more knowledgeable about what makes a good school so that they too can help advocate for what we need to create change.

8. I have learned that you cannot replicate a charter school… I admire their tenacity but I am deeply aware that without the ed code or collective bargaining agreements or minimized agreements they have more freedom to work more efficiently and effectively… we must find better ways to foster reform and innovation from within the district or else all people who want to be reformers will go to charters and we will have created the demise of our public schools.

9. I have learned that the way money is allocated to us in the state of California does not work. We cannot be responsible to the county for three year budgets when we only know one year at a time what we are getting. And what we get… is not enough to even cover the mandates…it makes those of us with fiduciary responsibilities put in a position to make decisions that we know are sometimes not the best one.

10. I think the most important thing I have learned is that educating children is really complex… it is easy to beat up LAUSD… it is much harder to fix it… And we need to all work together to make that happen.

It would be impossible to recognize all the people that I have had the honor of working with… some of the smartest people I have ever met in my life…Some still here at LAUSD, some have moved on…some are my advisors…some I talk to everyday… some more infrequently...to all of you who know me and have worked with me…I know you know how much I think of you… How much I thank you for what you do everyday and how much I will miss not working side by side with you…and how much you all mean to me… changing jobs does not mean that we cannot continue to connect…

But… I will not fail to recognize those without whom I could not have done my work… And that thank you and acknowledgement of how much you mean to me and how appreciative I am of your dedication and inspiration and ability to get all the work done… to you… I will name you by name…..

My staffs…from 2001-2009…

If you are here please stand.

Andrew Glazier…..my first chief of staff

Jolene Shiffman Chavira

Amy Held

Marina Lang

Jordan Henry

Virginia Flores

Melissa Milios

Mark Taylor

Paola Santana

Melissa Infusino – my current chief of staff

Samira Estilai – my previous chief of staff

Beverly West – who unfailingly everyday for the entire eight years made sure that we were all taken care of

To all of you… It has been a privilege to share this work with you.

And lastly, to my colleagues… Present and past board members…I will tell you exactly what I told Steve Zimmer the other night when we had a chance to have dinner together.

We have all been given the honor of being an elected official – the only ones – that make policy just for the children of LAUSD… What an amazing responsibility it is….. What an amazing privilege… I know how hard this job is… I know how hard we get pulled in a million directions…but when you put your head on the pillow every night… I ask that you reflect on all that you did that day… And evaluate it in terms of how it helped the kids…

It is the only way that LAUSD will thrive and survive.

Thank you all for being here with me… for all that you said…. For all that you do…

Although this chapter of my life is coming to an end… my work is not complete…I don’t know exactly what I will be doing but you can be assured that my advocacy for having a good teacher in every classroom will continue… But I also have promised myself to add some balance to my life… to remember to enjoy each day… spend time with those I love… To paint beautiful pictures… to see sunsets at the beach… and every once in a while turn on KLCS…and catch up on the hard work that I am leaving behind to all of you.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Mark Twain Middle School Wins Ballroom Dancing "Dance-off"

Ten students from Mark Twain Middle School participated in a ballroom dancing "dance-off" yesterday at Hamilton High School. They competed against students from Audobon and Mann Middle Schools.

The competition was the culmination of a year-long partnership between the City Attorney's Office, Ballroom Madness and the aforementioned schools. Through a popular after-school program, over one hundred Mark Twain students learned many types of dance including the Foxtrot, Tango, Rumba, Swing and the Polka.

As fellow students and parents cheered on from the stands, the students performed a series of dances while being judged by a panel of dance and entertainment professionals. After a fabulous set of performances, the Mark Twain students were awarded the first place trophy!

Thursday, May 21, 2009


As part of our continuing efforts to bring innovative partnerships and additional resources to Board District 4 schools, we are excited to announce a new initiative in partnership with UCLA: Together In Education In Neighborhood Schools (TIE-INS).

TIE-INS will provide a link between three schools in the University HS complex and the UCLA campus. The partnership will substantially increase UCLA's presence and support of Nora Sterry Elementary, Emerson Middle and University High. UCLA will support high achievement at these schools starting at Nora Sterry in the 2009-2010 school year, and at Emerson and University in the 2010-2011 school year.

The TIE-INS partnership will also enable a limited number of children of UCLA employees who live outside the attendance area to attend these three public schools which are near the UCLA campus.

For more information about TIE-INS and Nora Sterry Elementary School, visit www.TIE-INS.gseis.ucla.edu.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Calling All Teachers, Parents, and Principals!

I am looking for parents, teachers, and principals who can to speak at our May 26 Board meeting in support of improving the teacher dismissal system. We cannot stand by and continue to depend on a state system that is broken and sends unfit people back to the classroom.

Have you read the recent LA Times Investigation entitled "Failure Gets a Pass" that details how challenging it is to fire ineffective and abusive teachers from the District? After the LA Times articles were released there has been an outpouring of support and even more demands for immediate action from every corner. As a result I have decided to bring my the motion back to the Board table for the May 26 Board Meeting.

Since last fall, I have been meeting with internal and external representatives trying to change the way we remove ineffective teachers. On April 28 I brought forward two motions that would ask Sacramento to seek changes in state law to permit a tenured teacher to be dismissed for poor teaching or egregious behavior and would internally change our system for making sure principals signed off on teachers before they become tenured. Those motions melded into a task force that will study the issue – but I am bringing the issue back.

This motion is not a statement about teachers, I was a teacher and helped support teachers my whole working life. They do important work everyday. This motion is about fixing a system that currently puts people who harm children, commit crimes, harass co-workers back into classrooms with our kids.

If you would like to come to the Board of Education to speak in favor of my motion, please call my office at (213) 241-6387.

I am looking for parents, teachers, or principals who have experienced an ineffective teacher and can to speak to why the system needs to be changed.

If you would like to come to the Board of Education to speak in favor of my motions, please call my office at (213) 241-6387.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In an effort to educate students and to reach out to community members about the benefits of recycling, Revere Middle School's PRIDE Booster Club will be hosting the

First Annual E-Waste Collection Event for the Palisades/Brentwood Community
Saturday, March 7, 2009, 9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Clear your garage of those old computers, TVs, LCDs and more!
The drop-off site will be at Paul Revere Middle School

For additional information, please visit

Friday, January 23, 2009

Superintendent Cortines announces that there will be no mid-year teacher layoffs

Superintendent Cortines issued the following press release today announcing that there will be no mid-year teacher layoffs:

Superintendent Cortines Announces No Mid-Year Teacher Layoffs

Even after the Governor’s plea to solve the budget crisis during his State of the State Address last week, the State has not made progress in finalizing its budget for the remainder of this year. Unlike our elected officials in Sacramento, we do not have the luxury of halting our decisions without suffering dire consequences. Our fiscal timeline requires that our decisions match our instructional calendar, especially for those of our schools that have started the second semester and schools that are about to start the second semester in February. Additionally, to date, over 2,000 certificated employees have indicated their interest in early retirement by participating in the District survey. A decision to offer the early retirement incentive will be made in the near future. Furthermore, all classified employees who are eligible for early retirement will be surveyed during the first week of February.

It is our responsibility to make the best decisions for our students based on the information that is available to us. Due to the lack of clear information from Sacramento, the need for stability at schools in the second semester, and the high level of interest in a retirement incentive program, there will be no mid-year teacher layoffs. Based on these factors, I do not feel that it would be appropriate to negatively impact our students and teachers without definitive information from the State.

Last week, the Los Angeles Board of Education granted me the authority to do mid-year teacher layoffs as a precautionary measure for a State budget scenario with no flexibility provided to school districts. Since we have not received any additional information from the State, we feel that we must make our decisions based on the Governor’s latest proposal that has included more flexibility for school districts to deal with these difficult economic hardships. Based on this anticipated flexibility, we can avoid teacher layoffs and still meet our financial obligations for this school year. To be clear, we will still need to make extremely difficult cuts, but at least we can ensure that the critical connection between our teachers and students will not be disrupted this school year.

As I have mentioned in the past, we will continue to be prudent and balance our budget to ensure we meet our financial obligations for next year as well. This will require us to fundamentally change the way we operate. If the State’s budget proposals remain the same, we will only be able to provide basic core services to our schools. Many important programs and services that we have had in the past will no longer be offered. To guide us in our difficult decision making, we will have a plan to present to the Board of Education and community by the end of February 2009. I want to be clear that this plan will not be comfortable and will result in layoffs at every level of the District in July. Once again, I want to clearly communicate that the priority for cuts will be on central offices, and local districts and finally, the schools.

I will continue to keep you updated on our financial condition as new information becomes available and I welcome your continued comments as we head down this difficult path together. We will all need to work together to reach out to our state representatives to communicate the need for a State budget that reflects the importance of education and services to our children and their families.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Debate with Candidates to Fill the Board District 4 Seat

On March 3, you will have the opportunity to elect a new board member to represent your child’s school. Please come and hear the candidates speak about their priorities and their ideas for improving your child’s school.

School Board Member Marlene Canter
and The League of Women Voters of Los Angeles

with LAUSD District 4 School Board Candidates:

Mike Stryer
Teacher, Fairfax High School


Steve Zimmer
Teacher, Marshall High School


February 9, 2009
Woodland Hills Academy
20800 Burbank Blvd
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
7:00 – 8:30 pm

February 11, 2009
University High School
11800 Texas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90025
7:00 – 8:30 pm

This meeting is neither sponsored by nor is it in anyway connected with the
Los Angeles Unified School District.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Budget Update

At yesterday’s Board Meeting, Superintendent Ray Cortines and Chief Financial Officer Megan Reilly provided the Board and the public with a budget update. Because of the State’s deteriorating fiscal condition, Superintendent Cortines and Ms. Reilly anticipate that the District will have to cut at least $250 million for the current school year. This is on top of $427 million the District has already cut from this year’s budget.

Unfortunately, we have very little clear information about what the impact of the State’s budget deficit will be on LAUSD. There have been five different proposals from the Governor, State Legislature and the independent Legislative Analyst Office attempting to close the State budget deficit. But, there has been no agreement. As the State continues to deliberate, the deficit continues to grow and our options to address any mid-year cuts driven by the State become fewer.

Because we do not have a clear picture from Sacramento the District has instituted spending and hiring freezes, and, yesterday, the Board voted to give the Superintendent the authority to send mid-year layoff notices to non-permanent teachers should the state budget crisis become so severe that this action would be necessary. I want to be clear that even though the Board voted to give this authority, the Superintendent will come back to the Board before enacting a mid-year layoff to share with the Board and public his plan for responding to the mid-year budget cuts we will have to make.

I’ve heard from many of you about the lack of logic in laying off our newest teachers. I agree. It is illogical to layoff non-permanent teachers at mid-year. It’s a blanket move that discounts other important factors like performance, the cohesion of a school site team, and the impact on students. But, as I said, with each day of delay, our options are more and more limited, and this action may be one of the few options – given legal and contractual obligations – available to LAUSD should the state budget crisis become so severe that we have to reduce the number of people we employ in the middle of the school year.

The bottom line right now is that no one is receiving layoff notices. We simply do not have enough information about what the State budget crisis will require of us. Superintendent Cortines will come back to the Board once we have more complete budget information from the State and he will share his plan, which will include above all, a focus on streamlining central and local district offices and reducing administrative and non-school positions.

In the meantime, please consider contacting your state representatives to let them know how they can help your child and your school by passing a budget that is fair to education. You can find your local legislator by going to

For more info on the budget, watch "Superintendent Cortines: On the Record" featuring LAUSD Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines, Chief Operating Officer David Holmquist, and Chief Financial Officer Megan Reilly. The three will discuss and examine the LAUSD budget outlook and the potential cuts that face LAUSD in the next few years.

The special report will air on KLCS on the following dates and times:
Wednesday, Jan 14 at 7 p.m.

Thursday, Jan 15 at 4:30 p.m.
Friday, Jan 16 at 6:30 a.m.
Sunday, Jan 18 at 8 a.m.
Tuesday, Jan 20 at 10 a.m.
Thursday, Jan 22 at 10 a.m.

Venice High School Pool Update

The City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks recently announced that the Venice High School pool will soon reopen. The pool is maintained and operated by the City of Los Angeles under a joint-use agreement with LAUSD.

Staff has been hard at work over the past few months repairing the facility. Currently lifeguards are brushing and vacuuming the pool, the water temperature is rising, and keys are being provided to the lifeguard on duty.

The pool will be ready to reopen on Monday, January 19, 2009.

Thank you to all the community members who have contacted my office to express how much this facility means to them, their children, and the Venice community.

New LAUSD Report Card to Measure Schools’ Success, Progress and Areas for Improvement

This week, LAUSD parents and guardians began receiving a new kind of report card in the mail - a school-level report card on the performance of their children's schools.

The Report Card is meant to be a public, easy to read, annual summary of school performance that goes beyond test scores and emphasizes both performance and progress. Many of the measures on the report card have long been available, but never in one place.

The Report Card measures include:

  • School graduation rate

  • Completion of required college-ready courses, such as the A-G course sequence required by the Cal State and University of California systems

  • Progress of English learner students becoming fluent in English

  • Percentage of students proficient and improving on California Standards Tests

  • Student and staff attendance

Future versions of the report card will include measures of students' and staff’s feelings about their safety on campus and student and parent satisfaction with their school.

We are grateful to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, and the California Community Foundation for funding the Report Card effort. Their contribution helps the District to deliver on its promise to provide transparency about school performance. This transparency is an important step towards joint accountability for student outcomes and achievement that includes the Central District, Local Districts, school administrators, teachers, parents, students and the community.

To access the Report Card online go to www.lausd.net/ReportCard. There you will also find instructional videos on how to use the Report Card. The Report Card is a living document that will be adapted over time to improve its usefulness. If you have suggestions for improvement please let us know. And, if you have questions about the measures on the Report Card please don’t hesitate to contact us.