Board Meeting / Circus Show – a great day to be off from school.

I labeled this video, “Board Meeting Circus,” because it was indeed a spectacle that amazed and excited the audience. The big debate is about the encroachment of private charter companies on public school campuses. Steve Zimmer proposed that no newly constructed campuses be given over to charter companies until inside groups of teachers and administrators have had a fair chance to propose plans for these campuses. A compromise was finally reached which established two deadlines. November 1st was the deadline for UTLA and the adminstrators’ union to engage in negotiation with the district and the board over reform plans. November 18 is the new deadline for Public School Choice 3.0 reform plans to be submitted to the board. The board still has four mayor-sponsored board members who could easily out vote Zimmer, Kayser, and LaMott on any future decisions regarding school plans. That is probably why the mayor’s board members voted in favor of this compromise.

This video is worth the watch just to see Monica Garcia and John Deasy squirm a bit under public outcry.

The video goes dark at the very end because the flip video camera was in its cloth cover. I thought I had turned it off, but it was still recording. I included Gloria Romero, former State Senator, in the video audio section as she addressed the board. I also included a portion of Steve Zimmer’s speech as he attempted to explain what is going wrong with Public School Choice in LAUSD. His best moment is when he declares, “Conditions matter.” He repeats the sentence. “Conditions matter.” The conditions to which he is referring are over crowded schools and the concept six track system. Yes, it’s true. They didn’t help the situation, but I would agree with Diane Ravitch who believes that the conditions that lead to underperformance in the urban high school are social conditions that accompany poverty. These conditions produce the lack of effort and disregard for learning so prevalent in our urban schools. Steve Zimmer understands this but is limited in what he can say due to his public position as board member. The charter companies understand this too. This is why they actively engage in “counseling out” undesirable students and expelling the problems.

Let me remind all displaced teachers and those who sympathize with their plight that the next meeting of “Teachers Against Displacement Abuse” will be held on Saturday September 17th at UTLA Headquarters on Wilshire Blvd. The meeting will begin at 11am.

P.S. I am NOT the male voice that you hear cheering and making comments as we watched the board meeting on the big screen TV’s that were set up in the cafeteria. He was entertaining, however.    – Phil

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Save our Society

I am sitting at a Days Inn in Virginia with my wife. It is Sunday, July 24 in Newport News, Virginia, a sweltering 90 degrees at 8:45 am. Vacation time? Sort of. My son is with the Marines to Japan and then points unknown. His departure date. Well that’s a secret for now. I’ll tell you later. His choice was to serve our country out of high school, and to do what was not easy, but what was hard, to become a United States Marine. My wife and I are pacifists by nature and didn’t like the thought of our little boy going off to a foreign land and running afoul of dangerous and unsympathetic people bent on killing him. I guess that’s blunt enough. But, as a man, he made that choice, and is now on a first phase of overseas deployment for some years to come.

What does this have to do with education in our nation? Everything. If it weren’t for this trip, I would have been planning a trip just a little farther north, to Washington D.C. where another group of patriots will be protesting the cavalier and erroneous national educational policies that are bringing grief and confusion to many cities across the United States. Los Angeles is just one of the many cities across this great nation suffering through a process of reform that simply doesn’t work. Coincidentally, the state of Virginia, where we find ourselves at this moment, is one of a growing number of states that is requesting relief from the Bush-Obama policies of No Child Left Behind. None of the counties in this state have met their NCLB goals, and all are in danger of reconstitution, re-jiggering, reconfiguration or mischief that will throw them into despair, misery and confusion and open the door to modern  carpetbaggers, Charter School operators, who will give it a try from another angle.

No. Virginia wants none of it, nor do we the teachers in California. Nor do the teachers who will be marching at the end of this month on the capital in a great show of force, stating the obvious, “Let us teach!”.

We have had enough! Teachers have woken up across this great nation of ours and are proclaiming that the pundits have just gotten it wrong. What a revelation! We need to have a voice in the process that controls education in this country. We have seen the effects of too much government in our schools. This may not be a popular point with many of us, but it is clear to many others, that the Federal and State governments have taken the democracy out of our schools by imposing solutions in the form of giant bureaucracies. Instead of allowing educators to make decisions about homework, academic standards, and discipline, they have taken a government issue rectal thermometer and plugged it into a computer to see how our teaching practices improve from moment to moment. The government has ignored the humanity of our profession, have put us on a treadmill, and have decided to measure our ability to teach by measuring student outcomes on badly written standardized tests. What the nation has discovered time and time again is that students in poor areas tend to perform on the whole worse than students in affluent areas. Does that surprise anyone?

There are no magic bullets, but there are policies that aggravate this process, that alienate the educators from the students and drive the administrators away from the teachers. The policies of high stakes competitive testing do all that and more.

Another revelation that has dawned upon many educational pundits of late, is that, when you make the test the most important thing, relevance goes out the window along with honesty, passion and learning. What is good teaching? Good learning, perhaps. Many of us believe that the product is more important than a test. I don’t teach a subject that is as easily measured by a standardized test, although there are certification programs that can measure students ability to be employable after taking my class. I like that sort of test. You see. I don’t believe that the size of the rubber mallet is effective when promoting learning. Not every student in Los Angeles is going to college. Let me say that again. Not every students in Los Angeles is going to college. Why should we pretend that is true? Every student is going to do something with his or her life, though. We should help them discover the best path for them, not the proscribed path of a pundit.

How do students learn? Primarily through curiosity, of course. If we are to save our society, we must embrace the love of that innate curiosity that makes our students, our children and those we love around us ask questions, not try to answer all of them with 85% comprehension on a timed test. In our time, nobody is the great provider of knowledge. There is too much to be learned, too many ways to go about it. What matters is productivity through the learning process. As the saying goes,”Life is a journey, not a destination.”. We as teachers must wrest that essential paradigm from those who would control us, dehumanize us and reduce us to flesh and blood laser pointers who point out the best probable response out of four. We are human. Our students are human, and we embrace humanity! We will not settle for less, because we are teachers. We will not let administrators and school board members who act out of fear and the need to placate pundits in Washington or Sacramento, reduce us to pawns in the educational process. We may not always know what makes students learn, but we do know this; if we don’t work together, share idealism, keep the greater good of our country in mind, and do all this with passion and conviction, we will not save our neighborhood schools, and in the process we will lose the faith and respect of those who need to know what is the right direction to turn to for their generation’s salvation. Stand up! Be proud! You are the light!

Make a contribution to the S.O.S. Cause. It is our own.

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Welcome Back My Friends to the Show that Never Ends

…sang Greg Lake while describing a post-apocalyptic world controlled by androids who controlled every action of enslaved sentient beings and made them robotic, like them.

Phil has given me the username and password of the savehphs blog and has decided to lstep back a bit from the maintenance of it. Now that I am on Summer break, which is permanent break from HPHS after the cataclysm of reconstitution, I have some time to keep the blog alive and to make some important announcements:

1) There is an organized resistance to the plague of disruptions that has befallen schools slated for reconstitution. A number of teachers at schools that have undergone reconstitution have banded together to create a Facebook Site dedicated to communications amongst teachers who have gone through the experience, and are collaborating to fight back against the corporate machine that is pretending it doesn’t exist.

2) We are impatient to see that UTLA will change it’s direction, recognize our plight, and organize an official committee that will invite teachers at reconstituted schools to take an active part in the active opposition to the deforming process being hawked by specialists out of the classroom as educational change. That is why we have changed the focus of our web site to adopt a wider scope, spread a wider message, and reach a wider audience. The plight of Fremont, Huntington Park, Clay, Jordan and other schools is not unique. It is indicative of the treatment all Los Angeles Public Schools will receive if we do not organize to fight it.

3) Our organization of teachers comes from the educational leaders of schools that were reconstituted and is composed of teachers who want to help others avoid the errors of the past, and to get a big stick ready. As a wise man said, “you do not bring a pen knife into a gun fight.” We know how brutal, how disdainful, distasteful and arrogant our opposition is, and we are not going to be any kinder to them than they have been to us. How do we do that? We expose, expose, expose the truth about the reforms they are in the process of perpetrating upon schools that have been stripped of their ability to choose educational plans for themselves. As a group we are knowledgeable about what is happening to the teachers in our school district, and we need union to pull  together and fight the good fight together.

4) We refuse to be afraid. We have political will and we will use it. We have facts at our disposal and we will share them with the parents and with the public. We will expose the pyramid scheme of NCLB and RTTT (pronounced “rat”) for what it is. We will not support (read “vote for”) any politicians without a history of support for public service. We are proud of what we do. We do it well and we are not afraid to stand up to those who would take away our right to do our job well. That means that we have a right to contribute to curriculum, school governance, and to stand up and defy the conventional stupidity of our school board when needed. We honor intelligence, integrity, wit and reason and withhold the right to decry policies that hurt educators and students.

This blog may not be as fancy or as full of videos as the previous incarnation, but it will be as before, be open to contribution by teachers who have something to share. Hopefully, it will be published on at least a  monthly basis, perhaps weekly, and will contain information that will inform teachers who are going through these stressful times looking for a ray of hope.

About the New Huntington Park High School…

A full 70% of the faculty has been replaced by new teachers, teachers who reapplied to the school or by displaced teachers from other schools. Too few of the latter category are present at the school. Let us be clear. the leadership of Local District 6 is composed of Elementary School Personnel that has been very sympathetic to Yolie Flores. We all know who she is, and like Lord Voldemort, she will be back in another episode assisted by a newer and stronger cadre of super villains funded by Broadies and Gatesies.

So pervasive is the elementary school mentality in LD6 that the Superintendent, Rowena Lagrossa, The Director, Natividad Rosza and brand new principal at Huntington Park High School, Lupe Hernandez, all have elementary school pedigrees. What place does an elementary school principal have as the CEO of a large high school? Since LD6 makes the rules, they get to do what they want, I guess. This is only possible when their autocracy has the backing of influential money. Gates money? Broad money? I think so.

How would an elementary school teacher be greeted at a high school? With a nice hug and a pleasant walk to the parking lot, I’m afraid. Elementary school teachers are wonderful. We love them. We need them. Our kids love them, but they don’t have the credentials to teach with us any more than we have the credentials to teach with them. Even the school where I will be teaching, Elizabeth Learning Center, which houses students from K-12, understands this well. They have one principal, but also have vice principals that specialize in elementary, middle school, and high school issues and are credentialed to deal with these students in age-respective fashion . Rumor has it that the new principal at HPHS is enforcing the “no cell phone rule” so stringently that she is confiscating them from faculty members. I feel that is a bit too restrictive, don’t you? I hope to teach my students how to write programs for cell phones soon. They can be a real distraction, but are not evil, and certainly should not ring in the classroom. Some people believe that there is a lot of real value in encouraging the use of small devices in public schools in the 21st century. I plead guilty to that charge. I don’t think that the Taliban or Al Qaeda have a very charitable view of cell phone use in public classrooms, but they are great believers in rote learning(“teaching to the test”). That certainly can’t be the case in an enlightened 21st Century School. Can it?

It has come to my attention that the Juniors and Seniors at the new HPHS are not enamored with the loss of their teachers and are circling the few familiar faces looking for some warmth and comfort. The Freshmen are said to be doing better. They are young and flexible. It is all new to them. The principal was booed at an assembly according to one of the ex-teachers at Huntington Park High School, who continues to communicate with old friends at HP. This was because of a new and extremely rigid dress code that is being enforced to discourage gang-attire. One students remarked that she had no idea what the gang-attire looked like and was very confused by the whole thing. From my experience as a high school teacher, the gang situation was not really all that bad at HP, especially in the last five years or so. Hats, bandanas, saggy pants, suspenders, curlers, etc. were all verboten, and usually were removed or confiscated. Were there dress code violations?

Yes…but it was not a big problem, and was never allowed to reach epidemic proportions. The kids understood.

Another interesting note from another source… A plaque dedicated to Yolie Flores has been given shrine status in the Main Office. Other plaques and awards have come down. It is very important for the staff to understand who the leader behind the new Huntington Park High School is. Can a monument be far behind?

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Displaced, Disputing, Discerning, but never Dispassionate.

Displaced teachers gathered in the cafeteria after school on June 14th to hear assurances from District Human Resources that we are guaranteed employment. Our salaries and benefits will not be affected by our limbo status. It would be best if a school’s administration decided to hire us, but if this doesn’t happen by mid-August, we will become “pool” teachers on call at particular schools. How long can this situation continue? Well, apparently at this point in time, it could continue indefinitely, barring any unforeseen action by the board – uh oh, that’s ominous.  (Debbie is from Beaudry Ave. Tim is from District 6.)

 

How were selections made in this restructuring process? Why did any particular teacher get rejected after the interview? What were the criteria? No answers were given. What about this attitude that many principals in the district are displaying? The contract might guarantee that teachers on the priority placement list must be considered before other categories of candidates, but how is such a consideration enforced? The academic behavior of students came up in discussion once again. The testing process for the CST’s was also questioned. People are finally getting angry, but it’s kind of late now. None of this is fair, up front, or research based. It’s the agenda of people like Bill Gates coming to fruition by way of Yolie Flores and the purchasing of media coverage. Let’s get to know our shepherds in the Human Resources Office downtown. That’s our best bet right now. I’m not upset by the possibility of “pool” teacher life – less paperwork, no faculty meetings? I could live with that for a while.

 

The motion was passed at the UTLA House of Representatives calling on the leadership of our union to enforce the contract and make sure that displaced teachers are given priority in placement above new hires.  It was unanimous.

Don’t forget our End of the Era party

Huntington Park High School Farewell Party
Thursday June 30th from 3:30 to 5:30 PM
at La Villa Basque French Restaurant, 2801 Leonis Blvd. Vernon, CA 90058
(corner of Soto and Leonis Blvd.) (323) 583-1696

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Post Information as Comments

We’ve decided to use this particular post (if it gets too long, we’ll start another) as a bulletin board for information that our HPHS people have gleaned regarding open positions throughout LAUSD. Please post any information that you would like to share with your friends and colleagues regarding employment that is open for displaced teachers AS A COMMENT. I’ll approve the comment so that it can be visible to anyone who wishes to read it.

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“A Farewell to Arms” – Take a deep breath.

Things are winding down. For those of us who have been in the fray of battle for many months, but will now find ourselves in the hinterland of displacement, hearing those hints that we should seek placement in one of the other reconstituting schools, yet breathing a sigh of both resignation and comic relief, the conflict is over. The mess that ensues at HPHS will belong to someone else.

I’m baffled that people are still contacting Laurie Woerfel in order to brush up on their interview skills. It doesn’t matter people! You’re going to be interviewed by kids, parents, and out-of-classroom coordinators.  The list has already been drawn up. It’s all done. I’m sure Ms. Flores has been meeting with the “right” people for many months now to come up with the definitive list of “good” teachers to retain.

Those of us who know the dynamics of our school during the past several years can easily predict the names on the list of people to keep. The 15 people who will lead the SLC’s and “small schools” will be the familiar assortment of people who have enjoyed “in-group” status since they were first segregated and nurtured under the previous administration with the exceptions of Nick Adolfo and Maggie Mallen. The regular teachers on the keep list will be docile, unquestioning, and authority worshipping – perfect people to have a lasting impact on adolescents. We can also predict who they will be.

There will be a few exceptions to the description and that number could be a larger one considering the new staffing adjustments that have resulted from contract negotiations, but the poor souls won’t last long in the oppressive and unreasonable environment that precipitates. Have you seen the proposal for the remake of HPHS? Deasy wants constant, intense supervision, review, and assessment …… of students?  – NO, of teachers! Welcome to an evaluation system in which you have no control over any of the variables, but reap all of the blame for the results – this will be your reward if your name happens to appear on the keep list.  All I can say in response is a hearty, “no thank you.”

Those of us in the hinterland – and that’s the majority – must now focus on making sure that the district makes good on promises to allow us priority in placement at other high schools for next school year. I’ve heard that the board has set the reconstitution axe in place for Gompers Middle School in Watts.  That would be expeditious of them. The Gompers teachers would jump with enthusiasm at the opportunity to be in classrooms at HPHS. Does that mean that they expect us to move to Gompers? Oh please. I’d rather take out my retirement money early.  I might have to do this – who knows? We’ve reached a point where there are almost no rules in these games and the ones in operation change at the whim of Ms. Flores.

Displacement is okay with me. I can live with it. HPHS has not been a picnic over the past six years or so. With the pressure pushing down and the chaos encroaching, I look ahead with curious anticipation at what the reports from my “spies” will contain in July. The kids were promised no long-term substitutes. The kids were promised no disruption in their course work. The district made all kinds of promises to our kids in order to pacify them and keep them from any more televised embarrassing actions. These kids are the ones in honors classes and with normal GPA’s. They are the ones who will suffer most. The kids who are living it up at “camp HP” will be unaffected, and why should they be? They have no responsibilities and they have nervous “whipping boys” all prepped and ready to receive the consequences of student behavior – such a deal!!

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But it’s not that bad… We’ll just spank you a little bit.

This is Ms. Rowena Lagrosa, District Six Supervisor, speaking to faculty members and doing her best to suppress the shock and outrage during block Three of the school day at HPHS on May 17th. Two prior presentations paved the way for this one. As I replayed the video, I couldn’t help but marvel at the naivety of our faculty. I kept holding back the impulse to shout out loud, “People, Ms. Yolie Flores already has the names of the teachers she wants to stay at HPHS. If you haven’t displayed the levels of subservience necessary, you’re not sticking around at this school.”

Ms. Lagrosa makes a great effort to try to establish the coming interview process as fair and transparent, but oh please. A kid, a parent, a retired administrator, and a UTLA bargaining unit member (i.e. out of classroom coordinator) will be staging the interview? Oh there’s just no way that this is up front and legitimate. I believe it’s time to just step back and watch the chaos unfold. No long term substitutes in July? – that’s what the district has told our kids in order to placate them and keep them from any more protest actions – but let’s just wait and see what happens.

We need to concentrate on our new UTLA leadership in July. I want to see all of us displaced teachers treated fairly and decently. Yolie, if you don’t want me at HPHS, then okay, I won’t be there. I haven’t done anything wrong, and I won’t tolerate punishment.

Notice some of the questions that were raised and written down during all four presentations. Some of the questions were answered. Others were deferred for later answers which Ms. Lagrosa has promised that she will email to our faculty.

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