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  • Selecting LAUSD's Next Superintendent

    Posted by JACQUELINE ROBINSON at 10/23/2015

    Dear Friends,

     

    There's an important conversation going on right now and I want to make sure you are part of it, because your voice counts.  It's the conversation about LAUSD's next Superintendent.

     

    The conversation is about the children, their education and their future. It's a conversation that affects every single student, every parent, every teacher, every staff member in the District.   And it's a conversation that requires vigorous input from all who care about our students and schools.

     

    We have developed a thorough, transparent process which replaces the approach of past years.  To encourage participation, we are holding more than 80 community meetings, in the morning and evening, throughout LA Unified. We are making hundreds of automated calls inviting parents, guardians, and employees to participate.  To spread the word even more broadly, we are partnering with KLCS-TV, the District's television station, to inform viewers.

     

    We are inviting your input through a survey that asks you what you would like to see in a new Superintendent.  You can complete the survey either online or on paper.  You can attend a community meeting to get a copy or you can pick one up at any school in the District.


    We have also developed a website with information in English and Spanish -- where you can find the survey.  Sharing your opinions, which are confidential, help to ensure the right person is hired -- by late December. 

     

    More importantly, you will be doing your part to improve our District and public education in Los Angeles.   So please lend your voice to the conversation.     


    Remember, your voice counts!

    Steve

     

    For more information, or to get involved, please visit: http://achieve.lausd.net/nextsuperintendent  (English) or

    http://achieve.lausd.net/proximosuperintendentent (Spanish)

    Comments (-1)
  • Off to a Great Start: 2015-16 School Year

    Posted by JACQUELINE ROBINSON at 9/18/2015
    Friends,
     
    As this first day of the 2015-2016 school year comes to a close, I wanted to share a few pictures and a message with you.  The pictures are from my first day tour across the District, I hope you enjoy them.  The message is Superintendent Cortines' letter to all LAUSD Staff.  I wanted to share it with you because I think it so perfectly captures the spirit with which we start this new year.  
     
    Here is Mr. Cortines' letter
     
    I started my day at the School Bus Yards in Gardena, with Max Arias, Executive Director of SEIU Local 99 and the dedicated drivers that make sure our students get to school safely.
     
    With Max Arias, Director of SEIU 99 and bus driver ready to go!

    I welcomed parents at Vine Street Elementary, with their new Principal, Kurt Lowry. 

    At Vine Street Elementary welcoming parents!

    It was inspiring to visit join students at the Maxine Waters Employment Employment Preparation Center, with Congresswoman Maxine Waters. 
     
    At Maxine Waters Employment Preparation Center with Maxine Waters!

    It was an honor to visit Washington Preparatory High School with Board Vice President Dr. George McKenna.

    With my colleague, Board Vice President George Mc Kanna at Washington Preparatory HS
    It was good to work supervision at Taft High School with Principal Delia Estrada and LASPD Officer Steinberg. 
     
     
    I visited after school programs with Beyond the Bell Executive Director Al Cortes, LA's Best Executive Director Eric Gurna and my friend and colleague Board Member Scott Schmerelson at Fullbright and Mosk Elementary schools.
     

     
    May the hope of this day supercharge a new spirit of collaboration around public education in Los Angeles that will change lives and transform communities.  
     
     
     
    Have a great 2015-2016 school year!
    Steve
     
     

     

    Comments (-1)
  • Labor Day & Beyond

    Posted by JACQUELINE ROBINSON at 9/8/2015
    Dear Friends,

    I was humbled and honored to spend this Labor Day marching with our teachers in Wilmington, celebrating an amazing year of progress and partnership.
     
    From the landmark agreement with UTLA, to the implementation of the $15 an hour minimum wage for all LAUSD employees, to the historic vote for a $15 dollar an hour minimum wage in Los Angeles, and the critical progress on family and sick leave and the critical compromise at our  at our ports, we have made remarkable progress since we marched a year ago.
     

     
    But we have a long way to go. I
    n LAUSD, we still struggle to ensure that every member of the LAUSD family has a voice and that conditions for learning, teaching and working in LAUSD are the best in the nation. We must make sure that every member of our LAUSD family has access to health care. 
     

     
    And as policy makers, we must make sure that we understand how our reach can affect conditions for working families who work for companies who contract with LAUSD. 
     
    Next month, we will face a critical test of our mettle as we attempt to affect conditions in the poultry industry through our food services contract, one to the largest public sector commodity contracts in the nation. Here is how you can follow this story: New York Times article about Tyson, article about the Good Food Purchasing Policy and the Food Policy Council, action alert by the Chain Workers Alliance.
     
    photo by Long Beach Press Telegram
     
    I know that to some the struggles of working families might not seem to be the business of a Board of Education charged with raising public school achievement outcomes. But in a district in which 80% of children live in poverty, working families and poor families ARE our LAUSD family. 
     
    Your Mom may not work closing shifts each night at McDonald's, but someone's Mom works that shift every night. 
     
    It may not be your Dad who is double shifting at chicken slaughterhouse in 1920's like conditions. But someone's Dad is working in those conditions every day. 
     
    It may not be your sister who earns $10 dollars an hour providing hospice care through each night for someone who is alone in their hour of greatest need.  It is certainly someone's sister. 
     
    It may not be your brother who drives the truck on 18 hour unregulated shifts for Walmart. But it someone's brother. 
     
    It may not be your uncle or your cousin in the fields.   It may not be your Tía cleaning the toilets in these luxury hotels and high rises. But it is someone's family. 
     
    If it was your father, mother, sister or brother  I am sure you would want them to be able to stay home for a day when they were sick.  I am sure you would want them to have rights in the workplace. I am sure you would want them to have health care. 
     
    As we start our work week after this Labor Day I ask us to keep dreaming of a city and a country where "these" families and "those" families become OUR family. But until that day comes, let us pause and thank those who organized for the changes we do have and the progress we have made. 
     
    Let us commit to keep marching, keep organizing, keep fighting for the "Our Family and Our Community" spirit that all of our families across our community deserve.
     
    Steve

     
     
     
     
    Comments (-1)
  • The Month of May

    Posted by Steve Zimmer at 5/30/2014

    Friends,

     

    As I visit schools and programs throughout the District I am humbled by the incredible work that happens every day. Amazing stories and unsung heroes. I wanted to take a moment to share this great work with you. These are some of the events in my month of May. This is what keeps me going and inspires me. Thank you to everyone working with our students, their families, our schools and our communities. Please take a few minutes to visit the links, websites and stories. 
     
     

    http://http://www.teamprimetime.orgprovides full-inclusion intervention programs in the form of athletics, academic support, leadership training and arts programs to youth from low income areas in Los Angeles. This organization is an excellent example of an outside group supporting our goal of enriched and diverse educational and recreational opportunities for all students. 

     
     Zimmer basketball
    University High School - Venice High School Tip Off 
     

     

    National Historic Designation for Hollywood High School

    We have amazing historic campuses throughout Board District 4. Through groundbreaking work with Hollywood High School's Alumni Association the High School received its National Historic Designation. We were able to unveil the plaque this month with Council Members Tom Labonge and Mitch O'Farrell.   

    Hollywood High School  
    Unveiling the Hollywood High School Plaque
     

    Graduation Reception for Homeless Students  

    Every year, hundreds of students graduate who have faced issues of homelessness and housing insecurity. This year, Monica Ratliff and I co-sponsored a luncheon in their honor. 

     Students, Monica, and Steve
     Students pose with Board Members Monica Ratliff and Steve Zimmer 
     
     

    Phoenix High School Student Advisory Council Members

    Though we were unsuccessful in securing an LAUSD Student Board Member position this year, I will continue to meet regularly with the Board District 4 Student Advisory Council. Jeisson and Catherine are two graduating senior representatives from Phoenix High School.  

    Phoenix High School  
     From left: Jeisson Chavez, Principal Nancy Huerta, Steve Zimmer and Catherine Argumedo
     
     

    60 Years After Brown v. Board of Education

    The UCLA Civil Rights Project released a comprehensive study this May marking the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board ruling. I was privileged to read this important research and reflect on its implications in an excellent piece by the LA Daily News. 

     
    The Civil Rights Project
     
     

    Celebration of Bilingualism at Grand View Elementary

    At Grand View Elementary, students, parents, teachers and staff celebrated the building of a K-12 Pathway to Biliteracy in Spanish in our Venice Schools.  Together, they are ensuring a new generation is preparing not just for college and career, here and abroad, but for honoring their language and culture. I am supporting Assembly Bill 2303 (Bloom-D Santa Monica) which recognizes Districts that have created these pathways and that support students so they may graduate with the Seal of Biliteracy.  

     
    Dual Immersion  
    Dual Immersion celebration at Grand View Elementary 
     
    Grand View Elementary  
    Dual Immersion celebration at Grand View Elementary 
     

    I am honored to represent Board District Four. Have a safe, wonderful weekend. 

     

    Steve 


     
     
    Comments (-1)
  • The LCFF and Beyond

    Posted by Steve Zimmer at 5/28/2014

    Friends,

     

    Over the past three months, I have engaged in a conversation with our families, our teachers, our school employees and advocates across my district and beyond.  The conversation was supposed to be about the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and the Local Control Accountability (LCAP), and the Budget.  It turned out to be much more of a conversation about who we are and what public education can be.

     

    I decided that I needed to go directly to our school communities rather than listen to scripted speeches at large public meetings.  I visited 17 parent centers.  I made sure that each person who attended these sessions had a chance to speak to me directly.  The conversations with teachers, parents, students and school employees have been amongst the most direct and honest I have ever had.

     

    It's impossible to summarize our dreams for our children.  I don't know how to address all the needs that folks shared with me.  Never have I felt the cuts more.  As with so many things, we realize how much we've lost when we try to figure out how to restore.

     

     

    WHAT STAKEHOLDERS SAID

     

    These are some of the priorities that were identified:

    • Class size reduction - this was the highest priority, across the many communities
    • Safety, counseling, and health support for students and families
    • Restore compensation for all employees and secure living wages for our lowest paid employees
    • Invest in extended day (after school) and extended year (summer school)
    • Rebuild arts education and creative programs

    There were long discussions about how we should do this.  Sometimes the priorities contradict each other, but I think we can figure out a way to make it work. 

     

    Here are some of the most important principles:

    • The schools facing the most severe conditions should be prioritized to receive the most funding first
    • No school should receive less funding under the LCFF than they have received previously
    • There should be both an index of factors contributing to the conditions of poverty that our students face and on essential attributes inventory; indicators of services, facilities and resources every school should have 

    The LCFF does not give us nearly enough funding to reach these principle-based goals.   

     

    Proposition 30 was a watershed moment because it was the first time in a generation that the voters of this state choose to invest and tax themselves to support public education.  It was a lifeline because we almost lost public education.  

     

    I do not need to remind any of you of the agony of the five years of budget cuts.  We hurt our schools, our teachers, and our communities.  We hurt our children.  Only Proposition 30 stopped this. 

     

     

    PROPOSITION 30 IS ABOUT STABILIZATION

     

    Proposition 30 was the great stabilizer, but it was not the investment we truly need.  In 7 years, Proposition 30 and the LCFF will bring LAUSD back to its 2007-08 budget levels.  So, we are no longer in budget free fall. Proposition 30/LCFF will allow us to build a foundation. But our students deserve more. Our families deserve more. Our teachers and school employees deserve more. The California economy and our collective future need us to invest more in our schools now.

     

    But the LCFF is not nearly that investment.  

     

     

    WHERE WE MUST START 

     

    Here is what we must do together to build that investment:

    1. Immediately and urgently push the Governor and the Legislative for a duplicated count to be used in the 2015-16 LCFF formula.  Counting students in poverty, English Learners and Foster Youth separately would result in additional funding for 141,459 students. 
    2. Immediately and urgently support HR 4136. The efforts of Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Chris Van Holland to have the federal government pay its fair share of the 40% IDEA (Special Ed) mandate.  Passing the full funding effort would mean almost 200 million annually for the LAUSD General Fund.
    3. Immediately and urgently, push for the legislature to put forth a ballot initiative that closes all the Proposition 13 corporate loopholes. Support the campaign
     

    In the coming weeks I will be communicating with you more about our budget. I will argue for some things that you may or may not agree with. But I need you to know this: I have decided that we must use this opportunity to build first what could be, in the places where it most should be. And that does mean concentrating resources to create models for transformation instead of spreading limited resources fairly but thinly in ways that won't create the type of change we need. 

     

    Some of the resources we could provide include:

    • Dramatically reduced class sizes and opportunities for more personalized instruction
    • Universal access to quality early education
    • Academic counselor ratios under 300 to 1
    • Universal access to extended day and extended year programs
    • Early intervention and school-based access to academic, health and social services
    • Universal access to arts education K-12

    And more.

     

    We can't do this everywhere right away. We can't even do this right away everywhere there is urgent need. But we can start where the need is the greatest and create the schools we will look to for the best models of practice and the best outcomes for children. At long last, the most desirable schools will be where our children need us the most. 

     

    We all know the promise of public education has been fulfilled for some students but not all students. And we all know the demographic reality of whose promises we've met and who we have abandoned. It is time for us to rebuild trust and promise and hope where we have let our children down the most for the longest time. Its not idealism; it is just doing the right thing.

     

    Let us move forward and with every moment we have let us try to do our part to do the right thing. The LCFF and the LCAP have provided us with this moment and this opportunity. Let us use it together.

     

    I will be in touch with you as this process continues.

     

    With great hope,

     

    Steve

     
    Comments (-1)
  • Orland

    Posted by Steve Zimmer at 4/15/2014

    Friends,

     

    By now all of you have seen the horrific pictures of the crash that killed and injured students and their chaperones on the way to an accepted applicant's weekend designed especially for first generation college students at Humboldt State University. There were 19 LAUSD students involved in the accident. The remaining students were from charter schools and other districts in Los Angeles County. All were scheduled to graduate this spring. All had been accepted to Humboldt and more than likely other Cal States, UC's and private colleges. Most were the first in their family to be accepted to a four year college. In the coming weeks, the stories of those we lost will surround us and we will see the positive difference these students had already made at their schools and in their communities.

     

    At this moment we are one greater Los Angeles community as we share the sadness of the Dorsey, Los Angeles Animo, El Monte and Riverside communities. We grieve the loss of students Jennifer Bonilla, Ismael Jimenez, Denise Gomez, Adrian Castro, and Marisa Serrato, as well as the loss of chaperones Michael Myvett, Mattison Haywood and Arthur Arzola.  To the friends and family of these amazing young people, we embrace you and offer any comfort we can provide as you grieve this unimaginable loss.

     

    I want you to know that in the midst of unspeakable tragedy, our LAUSD crisis intervention team has mobilized to coordinate, facilitate, communicate, comfort and stabilize one of the worst situations in LAUSD history. I can't thank our team enough. And every time I try, they cut me off to tell me how brave our students and their families have been throughout this ordeal. We will continue to provide support to affected schools even throughout Spring Break.

     

    But even the best school based supports and services cannot repair shattered hearts and broken dreams left behind in the wake of Thursday's accident. That will take each one of us. That will take a whole district. That will take our entire community.

     

    There are immediate and direct ways to help. The District, in partnership with Los Angeles Unified School Police has established a fund through the California Credit Union to offset hospital, medical, burial, transportation and related expenses incurred by the victims and their families. Any support would be greatly appreciated. Please visit the LAUSD Family Support Fund at http://www.laspoa.com/ for more information.

     

    It is not lost on any of us that this trip was designed especially for first generation college students. We are beginning to understand the challenges that these college students must overcome. That is why Humboldt and other universities sponsor trips like this one. Unlike those of us who were second or third generation college students, the students on the bus are forging a pathway for their children and grandchildren.  I am convinced that this generation of first time college students understands the significance of their success for both their families and their communities. They have already overcome, in ways we can understand and in ways we cannot. Let us have the courage to learn from them.

     

    We know the bus did not finish the trip it started here in Los Angeles, but we must make sure each student who can, finishes their journey. And we as a community must finish our journey. We must continue to invest in programs like the Humboldt program at all of our colleges and universities. We must continue the difficult work of eradicating the opportunity gap and ensuring every first generation student in every school has the support they need. We know there were hopes and dreams on that bus. And we also know that when we work together, our community can move from grief to healing and again towards hope.

     

    I know the coming week is a significant holiday for many of us. For those of you observing the holidays and those of you who pray or reflect in different ways, I ask you to keep the memory of each of the souls lost and the struggle of the survivors in your thoughts and in your hearts.

     

    Steve                  

    Comments (-1)
  • District 1 Ad Hoc

    Posted by Steve Zimmer at 1/29/2014

    Friends,

     

    I have had a lot of difficult moments since I've been on the School Board. But the most painful, personal and public moment thus far has been the loss of my mentor, colleague and friend Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. She passed away over a month ago and the feelings of loss are with me every day. Ms. LaMotte and I didn't always agree, but we always disagreed with love and respect. From her earliest days in segregated Louisiana to her last days representing Board District 1, she worked tirelessly for every child. She was my conscience on the Board.

     

    A few weeks ago, the Board of Education heard from over 80 community members from Board District 1 before debating whether we should choose a process of election or appointment to fill Ms. LaMotte's vacant seat. From the moment folks began campaigning for either an election or an appointment, I was torn. There were compelling arguments on both sides.

     

    Community leaders and activists pushing for an election rightly and justly demanded that the people of the district, not 6 politicians from outside the community, select their next representative. They powerfully invoked the voting rights struggle to emphasize the importance of enfranchisement for District 1.

     

    Advocates for appointment correctly prioritized representation for Board District 1 children, families and schools during the pivotal next couple of months and quickly illustrated the almost unprecedented impact a vacancy would create. They highlighted the hundreds of millions of dollars that were at stake in the next few months.

     

    Two issues were crystal clear to me. The first is that both "sides" were right. It was right to demand a vote and immediate representation. The second was that the Los Angeles City Charter artificially limits the Board to choose either an election or an appointment.

     

    My goal at that meeting was not to determine which "side" was right but rather to make sure that a solution for representation was found. First, I voted to approve an appointment, but that motion failed. Next, I moved that the Board challenge the limits of the City Charter by authorizing an election and also a process to appoint an interim representative to serve between March and July, when the most critical budget decisions will be made.

     

    A vigorous debate ensued about the parameters of the charter. I argued that the charter is a living document that can, in unique and urgent circumstances, be interpreted and adjusted to do what is right for the community. Unfortunately, my motion failed.

     

    Eventually the Board voted to authorize a June 3rd special election. I supported this motion for three reasons: first, because my colleagues agreed to an amendment to consider options for interim representation; second, because I was unwilling to send this issue to the courts and the county to order an election; and finally, because ultimately I do believe in voter enfranchisement in District 1.

     

    The Board President then asked me to form an ad hoc committee to gather community input on defining the responsibilities of an interim representative. This meeting will take place on February 4th at 6:00 pm in the LAUSD Board Room. At the February 11th meeting the Board will consider the selection process and at the March 4th Board meeting the Board of Education could appoint an interim representative to serve until the June 3rd (or August 12th) election is certified and the new Board Member can be sworn in to complete Ms. LaMotte's term. I will push to ensure that the responsibilities of the representative mirror those of a Board Member, and I will need the support of those who care about District 1 every step of the way.  

     

    I cannot stress enough the importance of representation during the next eight months. These are not just any eight months; they are critical. The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) decisions will be made dictating how State education funds will be spent. The Board will decide whether, and how, to fund the Common Core Technology project (CCTP), as well as where tablets and laptops will be distributed. Perhaps most significantly, the Board will set priorities for Measure Q, which is over 7 billion dollars in bond money for school renovation and modernization. Decisions like these require advocacy.

     

    It is estimated that the Board will be making decisions and providing guidance for over 10 billion dollars of funding for our schools. Ten billion dollars. If distribution is equitable, over a billion dollars of this money should be earmarked for District 1 schools. The potential fiscal impact of the vacancy on schools in District 1 could not be more serious.

     

    Then there is the question of direct advocacy. Every day I make somewhere between 5-10 calls to advocate for schools, principals, teachers, students and families in my district. I'm not sure anyone was better at this than Ms. LaMotte. She knew her schools, her community, her families and she knew how to fight for them. To leave District 1 without an interim representative would mean a loss of voice and influence in literally every department within LAUSD and every single government agency that connects or overlaps services with the District.     

     

    I didn't want to think about how to replace my friend. I still don't. Partially because Ms. LaMotte is irreplaceable and partially because I knew any process would divide the community she loved and cared for so much. I never doubted where Ms. Lamotte stood. And I always knew she would stand. Tall, beautiful and dignified. Even if she stood alone. Especially when she stood alone. 

     

    Please help me honor Ms. LaMotte's lifework and her memory as I seek a just solution for this representation dilemma.

    Comments (-1)
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