"We are looking at our Board rules soon to make sure that we can hear all voices. Time of meetings and all things I think are valid concerns."- LAUSD Board Member Nick Melvoin
One item is notably missing from the agenda for the Los Angeles Unified School District's (LAUSD) Committee of the Whole (COTW) meeting that was released yesterday. As permitted by Article 3, Section 35145.5. of the California Education Code, the "Board Meeting Accessibility to the Public" resolution was submitted to the District on September 27, 2018. While LAUSD Board rules state that these items will be heard before the COTW, the resolution once again has not been scheduled. The Board Secretary's office says that it will be heard next month, but they are not the ones that set the agenda.
As the LAUSD Vice-President, Nick Melvoin chairs the COTW and is responsible for setting the agenda. Melvoin ran on a platform of greater transparency and accountability. He also recognized the flaws in the current system at the Board meeting on January 29, 2019, and promised to fix them. Given that this resolution provides a framework for doing just that, why did Melvoin ignore the opportunity to open a discussion?
The truth is that Melvoin has no real interest in changing the rules because they work for the charter school industry that he represents. The groups that they fund, like Speak Up, can afford to send busloads of parents, eager to fulfill their required volunteer hours. They do not have to worry about picking up their children when the school day ends because, while LAUSD students were in their classrooms, the charters bussed in their students to wait in line for a Board meeting. They have mastered the tactics of making the 20% who attend their schools appear as representing the majority. Why would Melvoin change that?
In reviewing the meeting times for some other local school districts, it is evident that the LAUSD is an outlier:
The school district in Paramount makes of point of stating on their web site that "the public is encouraged to attend Board meetings and the agenda includes opportunities for comments from the community." The Long Beach moves one of their meetings to 4:00 "to accommodate parent's ability to attend the Special Board meeting as well as back to school night". The LAUSD will not even discuss changing their rules so that "half of all scheduled Board meetings shall begin no earlier than 6:00 PM if they are held on a weekday."
The LAUSD lists "parent and community engagement" as one of their five goals. Nick Melvoin and the rest of the Board could go a long way towards making this a reality by making their meetings more accessible to the public. It is time to turn promises into action and pass the "Board Meeting Accessibility to the Public" resolution.
Carl Petersen is a parent and special education advocate, elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a "strong supporter of public schools." His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.