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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/17/23

Is Anyone Listening?

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Carl Petersen
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"A lie keeps growing and growing until it's as plain as the nose on your face." - The Blue Fairy (Disney's Pinocchio)

The LAUSD Board meets monthly in a closed session to discuss items California law allows to be shielded from public oversight. Calling it a "Personnel" matter, the evaluation of Superintendent Carvalho is included in the points of discussion that occur without the prying eyes of constituents affected by his performance.

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In the month since his last evaluation, news has broken that contrary to Carvalho's past statements, extremely personal information about students with Special Education needs was released to the Dark Web as a result of the September 2022, hack of the District's computers. I addressed the Superintendent's unwillingness to be transparent with the extent of the damage caused by the infiltration by Russian hackers in my comment before the session was closed to the public:

It has now been half a year since Superintendent Carvalho admitted that hackers had infiltrated the LAUSD's computer systems. In those six months, the Superintendent has had plenty of opportunities to let the stakeholders of the district know exactly what happened, what data was compromised, and what is being done to help those who were victimized. Instead, the information has dribbled out slowly, often exposing lies told by the Superintendent.

When Carvalho addressed the Special Education Committee in the immediate aftermath of the hack, he was insistent that the district's computers were attacked "one time, not more than one time." He also told a tale of the heroic IT staff who immediately recognized the incursion as it was happening in "real-time" on Saturday night, enabling them to immediately bring the systems down to protect against additional damage.

If this story had been true it would have been very remarkable. Unfortunately, we found out in January that the hackers had actually been in the systems for over a month. That is a considerable amount of time for the attack to go undetected.

It is important to note that the public did not find out about this change in the narrative because Superintendent Carvalho called a press conference to correct the record. Unfortunately, the District did not make any announcement about the change in the timeline. Instead, the district was forced to send out notifications to those potentially victimized by the data breach and the press got wind of these letters.

The Superintendent also has not been open about what type of information was leaked to the dark web. As late as October, he was insisting that no sensitive data was leaked, but an investigator from "The 74" found some of the most sensitive information contained in student files posted. Up until the time that "The 74's" report was published the District's representatives were standing by the Carvalho denial. It was only after examples of these documents were published did the District finally admit that sensitive information about both current and former students was compromised during the hack.

As you retreat behind closed doors to discuss the Superintendent's performance, these facts cannot be ignored. It is time to end the free reign that you have given Carvalho and start to hold him accountable.

As I noted, the disclosures by "The 74" were not the first time that the Superintendent had been caught being dishonest about the details of the hack. In fact, I have addressed Carvalho's lack of transparency in previous comments to the Board. While the public has no way of knowing if these issues were discussed behind closed doors, it is clear that no meaningful ultimatum was given since the public is still relying on the press to reveal details about the hack that Carvalho has tried to hide.

Another recurring complaint about the Superintendent is his lack of attention to students with Special Education needs. I addressed this issue as I closed my remarks:

It is also very telling that it was children with Special Education needs who were ignored by the Superintendent. They were victimized twice, once by hackers from Russia and then by a school district that refused to warn them of the danger that they faced. Once again, a District that claims to put "Kids First" has left our most vulnerable students behind.

During last week's Special Education Committee meeting
, there were disturbing stories told during public comment by representatives of this community. One parent alleged that records are being fraudulently doctored to say services are being provided when they are not. It was also said that the District is telling IEP teams that they cannot offer one-on-one aids, even when it is determined that they are necessary. There are also parents complaining that they no longer have access to successful programs like Aut Core. These allegations also need to be part of your evaluation.'

By conducting their evaluation of the Superintendent behind closed doors, the Board has excluded the public from knowing what expectations they have placed on him. California law allows these discussions to be held privately, but it does not require it. In the future, the Board should conduct these evaluations in full view of the public.

(Image by Morgan Thiroux)   Details   DMCA

Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for public education, particularly for students with special education needs. He was elected to the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and is the Education Chair. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him "a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles." For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.

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Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD's CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a " (more...)

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