Change The LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District), but that did not stop 2015 from ending in territory that was too familiar. The Office of the General Counsel had promised that "responsive documents [would] be provided on or before December 31, 2015", but the last day of the year passed without the LAUSD providing all the complaints filed with the Charter Schools Division (CSD) about Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) during the last two school years. Never mind the fact that this request was almost two months old or that a reasonable person would expect that this information would be readily available, the District's self imposed deadline passed without even a request for an extension. If the LAUSD is ever going to meet its core goal of "parent and community engagement", perhaps it should resolve in 2016 to be more open with the public that it is supposed to serve.
The LAUSD's continued refusal to abide by the California Public Records Act in a timely manner is only one example of how the District often seems to be an unyielding behemoth of a bureaucracy that is incapable of change. The CSD division was notified more than three months ago that GHCHS is violating the right of parents to opt their children out of standardized testing, but as of today the school's Parent-Student Handbook still states that "seniors will not participate in the graduation exercises if they fail to...participate fully in annual state testing" and "all students must participate fully in California CAASPP and Granda Testing in their 9th, 10th and 11th grade year to be eligible to participate in optional activities such as senior activities, school extracurricular activities and school athletics." Despite assurances that Sharyn Howell would finally be retiring from the Division of Special Education, she was instead given a promotion and allowed to continue to pushing for the mainstreaming of special education students, even when the practice is not in the children's best interests and can even put their health at risk. Although facing a $1 Billion lawsuit, the District continues to bully teachers through the use of Teacher Jail.
While it may occur at the same speed as a glacier moves, change is actually possible within the District. Though tempered by the loss of Bennett Kayser from the School Board, the most encouraging progress was the fact that charter school puppet Tamar Galatzan was forced into a runoff in the March election, which she then lost to Scott Schmerelson in May. After hounding the CSD for months, they finally issued a field letter to the charter schools under their authority reminding them that they "may not require students to purchase a cap and gown as a condition of participating in the graduation ceremony." Though it remains to be seen how they will follow through, "it is the expectation of the CSD that GHCHS will provide notice to all affected parents of students in the 2014-2015 graduation class regarding options for reimbursement or other remedy." We also begin this new year without the threat of a teacher strike since a contract was finally signed after thousands of teachers, parents and students demonstrated, making a stand at Grand Park.
With the knowledge that change is possible, I'll continue to throw bricks at the wall that protects the giant bureaucracy on Beaudry. If every once in awhile something connects, perhaps the students will finally get the public education system that they deserve.
A look back at some of the bricks that I threw in 2015:
Redefining Education Too often the LAUSD seems to focus more on branding than actually improving the education that our students receive.
Youthanasia I ask State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to rescind his endorsement of the One System Report on Special Education.
"Inappropriate Personal Relationships" The LAUSD needs to investigate the Principal who either bullied a parent or did not adequately warn parents of a legitimate threat.
Picking Cherries Since charter schools receive public funds, they need to serve all students, not just the ones that are college-bound.
Election Reform in the LAUSD One LAUSD election cycle has just ended and the next one has already begun. Can we look at changing the rules before we get too far in?
Diverting Attention While he won his seat with a winner-take-all, divisive campaign, Ref Rodriguez now says he'll govern by emphasizing the "unified" in LAUSD.