Los Angeles Unified Shadiness District

As I anticipated, paying $92K to retain a math coach who has been managing the school yearbook became a sticking point in last night's 3.5 hour School Site Council meeting regarding the school budget. So, this morning, I delivered a letter to the principal of my kid's school, which said, in part:

"Quorum was lost before the School Site Council could reach a decision regarding funding of coaching positions. There were many hours of debate regarding these positions, with, prior to quorum being lost, the majority of SSC members present requesting that our coaching staff be reduced and that those funds be used toward hiring additional teachers to reduce class size.

Given that many hours were spent debating this, and wanting to ensure that the will of all stakeholders, including parents from CEAC and ELAC, is equitably upheld and respected, I am not signing the budget. Although all parent members present agreed to make themselves available to review the budget on the morning of 5/8/2009 to ensure it reflected the will of the Council, this offer was rejected by you.

Therefore, I cannot in good faith endorse with confidence a budget that our council membership cannot as a whole review, and so will not be signing until such time as our membership can review it."

Wanting to fund this position when no attempt to show and prove it's worth is dishonest and unethical. Ultimately, I know this coach wouldn't be working on the yearbook if his manager, the principal, required him to do other things. Yet, this principal does not.

So, what will LAUSD do about it? I spoke with a very helpful guy named William at one of the local district budget offices, but does he have any real authority? Any real power to ensure that this shadiness and complete disregard for the will of school stakeholders goes down? I don't know. He said he'd inform other people and they would get back to me.

Here's what I do know: This would not be happening in a school in a wealthier area of the city. This would not be happening if the school was 95% high income instead of 95% low income. Make the majority of the school's faces white faces, it would not be going down like this. There would be no threatening to veto any budget that did not include this coaching position. There would Ineffective leadership would NOT be tolerated by parents or the community. And parents in my community want to speak up, but they are often worried and afraid that there will be retaliatory actions against them or their children, or they are made to feel they do not have enough education to know what they are talking about.

It's unethical. It's unconsciable. It's immoral. These are people's children and you want to spend this money on someone who putzes around working on a yearbook??? That's the ultimate in shadiness.

I was so upset after the meeting last night, both over the budget situation and personal attacks made against me by the principal at the end of the meeting.

My children could see that even this morning, I was upset... and so they encouraged me to think of ponies and rainbows. As we walked into the school this morning, they were chanting, "Ponies and rainbows, ponies and rainbows," and holding my hands.

I love my sons and I want the best for them and everybody else's kids. So I'm not giving up advocating for them all. I'll do my best to think positive about all this, and maybe something good will come of it. But really, does anything ever REALLY change in the Los Angeles Unified School Shadiness District?


Remnants of U said…
Amazing how perceptive kids can be...and what a wonderful way to make mom happy. :-) Ponies & rainbows, it's making me happy. LOL

Be the advocate that you are supposed to be, and maybe the other parents will gain some self confidence they need to fight too. Change starts with 1...
Call Family said…
I applaud your boldness Liz, although I don't fully understand the circumstances you mention, I can speak to the fact that even in a high income school community (mine) there are crazy things happening. We have lost 3 kindergarten teachers at my school 28 district wide,"RIF's"-reduction in force) due to budget cuts, but there isn't a lot that parents/teachers or principals can do. My efforts are spent towards being informed/active with the local and state teacher union efforts, and writing/calling my state representatives.
sippinwineman said…
Ponies and Rainbows?!??! *sigh*
You've got your hands full, indeed. I'd love to hear of the personal attacks the principal made. I can just imagine me in that situation. Really.
Jameil said…
KEEP FIGHTING!! It is baffling to me that education is so low in priority for so many. How is this nation to regain prominence when teaching future generations PROPERLY is considered optional?
Mes Deux Cents said…

Do you think the L.A. Times or some other local media might be interested in this?

Media exposure might be a good way to get the Principal to come to her/ his senses.
Anonymous said…
As a former principal who built a budget, with parental and teacher involvement funding only projects, people and activities that showed PROVEN improvements in student achievement, it is unacceptable to continuially fund people/projects, etc. who are status quo and have not proven their value.

Teachers are being laid off because of the collapse of central and local district administrative personnel who are bumping into positions at the school levels. It is not necessarily due to raised class sizes. Raising elementary class sizes three or four children is still in the range of the size that is recommended by research-and it always comes down to the quality of the teacher, not the size of the class.

We should all be looking at funded positions through the positive impact of increased student achievement. That includes leadership as well.

Some coaches have positively impacted total staff-others have not and some have served as "quasi administrators".

Parents, stand up in the budget meetings -seek better leadership, stronger teachers, and evidence of a connection of the budget to improved studewnt achievement.

Malik Akbar said…
Keep fighting the good fight Liz.
April said…
My understanding has been that the teachers union has more say in what positions or teachers can stay than anyone. Has this been addressed in your meetings? (Just curious.)

I think this is a sign that it's time for YOU to run for office or a board position or something. You're doing so much work anyway and have a vested interest in your children. Otherwise I'd suggest looking into private schools. Go where your kids will be cared for. The State has to stop wasting so much $$$ on prisons instead of educating the children in this country.
Liz Dwyer said…
Thanks for all your comments.

It has been ponies and rainbows thinking a whole lot over here over the past couple of days. I contacted district officials -- some who have been helpful, and some who never even bother to call back.

The whole experience has been another lesson in inefficient bureaucracies not meeting the needs of children or thinking about staffing through the lens of what student achievement based results are being produced, not just what jobs can be shuffled around.

We stood up in the budget meeting, came to some good compromises, but were also basically told by some staff present we, as parents, haven't got a clue. It made the voting really insane and divisive. It became personal and it makes me uncomfortable to think that some of these people might end up being my children's teacher down the road... or are other staff people like the nurse going to treat my children, or other parent's children that did not vote as they wanted, differently?

I do not particularly want to run for office or board positions. I've thought about it but I don't think it's where my heart really is. But private school is really on my mind a lot more than ever now, and that makes me sad because I've always wanted to support and improve public education.
MizzB said…
The district has so much vested in maintaining coaching positions because coaches generate the data that can support the positions of administrators who can hold meetings with testing companies to analyze the data and find ways to create more tests to generate more data to generate more administrative positions and so on and so on and so on...

It's the education-industrial complex and coaches are their front line. The good ones try to SNEAK!!! in working with kids, even though they're not supposed to. The rest work on their computers all day or else go to meetings upon meetings. That's what I see happening from the inside, at least.

Has your principal or anyone else been able to give you a solid reason for why s/he needs coaches?
Unknown said…
Liz the only thing you do not get right is the fact that non-title 1 schools would not have this problem. They don't have that problem because they don't get any of the Obama money. A title one school may get $400,000 for 900 students and a non title ! school will get $85,000. I love your blog keep fighting the fight.

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