D-Day and the ripples keep forming….

     When the board meeting was over on Tuesday May 10th I walked out outside the building because I had heard rumors of our kids walking the 6 or 7 miles over to the Beaudry Ave. district headquarter Building. At first I saw a few students, some crying, outside the front doors. I thought that perhaps only a trickle of students made it to downtown LA. Then, I walked over to 3rd St. and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Hundreds of students were waving fists and chanting. They refused to get on the buses to send them back to HP. They argued with police and the district suits who were obviously frustrated and frightened by this display of protest from the students. The head count was over 600 (official word from HPHS administration) when they finally arrived back at school later on in the evening.

     Oh yes, the district is going to try to blame us, the teachers, again, but we had no idea this was going to happen. We were delighted, but there was no conspiracy on our part. It was a spontaneous action from the students.

Check out the video:

  During the board meeting, I was constantly distracted by text messages and cell calls, but I managed to scratch down a short speech to make at the microphone when the call for speakers on our reconstitution came up. They didn’t even bother to vote on this action. It was considered a “consensus” item. They allowed us to vent, I suppose. Here was my vent:

Good Afternoon Board Members:

Once upon a time there was a high school.  This high school existed in an urban setting with all of the attendant problems that come with that. The school suffered under poverty, street gangs, drug abuse, broken homes, and relatively high crime rates. These things just have a habit of getting in the way of academics.

This school was a needy place. It needed genuine leadership. It needed more space for its 4500 students. It needed a consistent discipline policy, not a bunch of head-patting for “positive behavior.” It needed support and guidance for its new teachers who appeared with regularity due to a high turn-over rate. It needed some serious auditing to ensure that QEIA and other special funding sources were used appropriately. It needed dialogue and conversation. It received none of these things.

Instead, it received a board member whose hostility toward teachers was matched only by her lack of understanding for the school she claimed to represent and for its students. Her hubris with regard to preconceived solutions already rejected by the majority of educational pundits was amazing. Small schools are not the solution. They’re more expensive. They offer fewer opportunities for their students. They are no more successful than their larger counter parts.

The reconstitution of a high school like HPHS in a mere seven weeks is a disaster. Our kids are going to suffer for it. The community will suffer for it.

I guarantee all of you sitting here that many of us will make it our solemn duty in the future to make sure that the community does NOT forget who is responsible for it. Retaliation against the teachers who disagreed with her and actually dared to express this disagreement will cost our kids a lot. There really is no other reason for this reconstitution.

Mat Taylor, our area chair until July, spoke the next day after school hours. “Displacement is not the end of the world. You are still an employee of LA Unified, and you will receive a paycheck.”  We are looking forward to new UTLA union leadership in July.

The worst case scenario might be a last minute placement into a middle school that is out of control.  Mat reminds the faculty that this whole mess is not about the education of the kids. It’s ultimately about the dismantling of public education.  Yolie and Deasy work for the same people. When Eli Broad says something, they listen. Private charter companies are ready to take public money.

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“Wham! Bam!….. “Thank you Ma’am”

It was Yolie’s day of vengence at Huntington Park High School. Ms. Rowena Lagrosa, speaking on her behalf, announced that at least 50 percent of the faculty must be “displaced” – put into paid limbo and reassigned to other schools or jobs. This is “Reconstitution” and it is not about helping students. It is about punishing teachers for speaking out and raising objections to the small school fantasy and also about retaliation for that embarrassing You Tube video that exposed Ms. Yolie Flores to the public. The students took the video, but it was alleged that they were acting out of “brain washing” by the faculty. Wow, the faculty at this school must be VERY effective. Then again, that’s not important, is it?

Watch out for these “benchmarks” and “heightened accountability.”  The periodic assessments purchased by the district from Princeton N.J. will be used a beating club for teachers who have passed an interview process in order to be placed into these new small schools that will NOT have any autonomy until they have “earned” it.  I can’t wait to see the dumping of special education students and low performers. Our kids will perform the way that they have always performed. Unless you’ve got honors kids in your small school, be prepared for a beating. Let’s not forget our budget cuts and loss of instruction time with added furlough days. It will be a real monopoly game that unfolds.

I see this as an absolute losing proposition, and welcome “displacement” with open arms.

Ms. Lagrosa tries to answer questions. You’ll notice that Tom from personnel is whispering in the background trying to get somebody to stop video taping. “Did you get her consent?”  Is this a public meeting or not?

More vague and sketchy answers.

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Yes, our Board member, Ms. Yolie Flores, who has had her hands in the process all along while sitting safely behind closed doors and behind distant podiums, has successfully “tabled” the recommendation brought to the board by Mr. Cortines and made the motion that Deputy Superintendent Deasey come back to the board in 30 … no, 45 days with a proposal that makes “faster” and “deeper” changes.

She wants reconstitution and a zone of choice with small schools rather than a comprehensive high school. She keeps saying that this is what the parents want. I don’t think she can dare to make the claim that this is what students and former students want after her December debacle as recorded by the kids themselves.

Reconstitution will mean the majority of current teachers at HPHS will be gone and replaced by newer ones, temporary ones, and displaced ones. Sudden transformation into her “zone of choice” will create a zone of chaos. This isn’t good for students, but it will mean delightful revenge for Yolie.

She is going to show these “despicable” teachers that no one can voice a disagreement with her and survive unscathed. We have until the end of May to mobilize in whatever ways we can.

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Ray Cortines has made his recommendation. He doesn’t like any proposal.

Cortines seems to believe that anything which comes from HPHS – its teachers or coordinators or administration – is not worth much. He rejects all the proposals saying that there is “little or no clear evidence that these proposals will be successfully implemented.” He wants the school to fall under PSC 3.0 so that it can be open for charter take over.

In the interim he wants us all to be busy coming up with new proposals that do a better job of guessing at his desires than these previous ones did, even though as he puts it, “HPHS does not have a track record of success.” We must be “restructured” in the 2012/12 school year with the best guessers at what will win board approval being awarded the privilege of deciding who gets to serve on the faculty.

Jon Chaikittirattana must establish a Ninth grade academy on his own for this coming July – Good luck Jon. Natividad Rozsa, Principal leader for District 6 and Rowena Lagrossa are commissioned to develop a correctional plan for the rest of us until restructuring takes place. I’m ready to be corrected. Are you? He also wants a council to be formed among the various administration teams (HPHS, Libra, and Social Justice) to share resources and develop PD plans.

This must be approved by vote of the board on Tuesday April 12. Let’s see what happens.

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OH, the irony of it all…..

It’s April. Months have gone by and strange, ironic twists and turns have taken place in this whole 2.5 mess. The proposals have been submitted and can be viewed by all on-line.


Dave Sievers should be congratulated for producing a lengthy proposal. In many ways Dave takes factors into account that the other proposal writers ignore. I am impressed by his discussion of “support” mechanisms that are necessary for teaching successfully at a place like HPHS. These are teaching prerequisites that are severely lacking not only at HPHS, but elsewhere in LA Unified.

The network Design team proposal, sponsored by local District Six, is well written and manageable. It does not “bash” teachers at HPHS. It does not propose radical whirlwind Jihadist style change, which would be doomed from the beginning. It plans to begin with freshmen and gradually divide the school into smaller schools. I like the emphasis I see in it on technology. On the other hand, small schools are not the answer to underperforming large schools as Bill Gates recently announced. We are all well aware of his pedagogical expertise.

The network does propose a large “Pilot” school as its umbrella governance structure. Such an umbrella structure flies in the face of the purpose of the Boston Pilot model. Pilot schools were meant to be small schools that function with collaboration. The only real difference that would be effected by a “big pilot” would be the streamlining of the District/ UTLA contract. There would also be an “elect to work” agreement, replacing article nine of the contract. Other than that, I see more top down directives coming at us from above with plenty of power concentrated in the hands of the principal. At this moment in time, we have a reasonable, even-handed principal who genuinely talks with teachers and does not play favorites. What about the future, however? LA Unified is notorious for its “dance of the lemon administrators,” as incompetent administrators move from place to place spreading dissatisfaction and petulance.

The Academies Proposal is a glaring disappointment. It proposes an elaborate reapplication process for teachers, strongly implying that teachers are the problem at HPHS. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I read through the section on selection. The proposal writers would be exempt from this process, not only that, but they would be sitting in judgment on the other teachers as the rest of us reapply through interview and the video taping of a lesson demonstration. The interviewers would be judging teachers on the basis of their “mind-set” which would include their “response to authority.” I threw up my hands when I read this stuff. Who hijacked this proposal?

There were other problems with the proposal. It relied far too heavily on our ridiculous Princeton NJ periodic assessments as gauges of classroom learning. Core academic teachers could have called this into question, but many of the ones who volunteered to be a part of the writing team felt pushed aside. These core subject teachers left the team many weeks prior to the pertinent discussions, a very unfortunate turn of events.

Defections from the Academies proposal team were rampant. A series of emails were sent to Ms. Woerfel asking for various and sundry names to be removed from the final draft of the academies proposal. Contention and heated words descended like hail stones.

Since the submissions were made, Ms. Woerfel was elected as UTLA Chapter Chair to replace Steve Scanlan for the remainder of this academic year by a close vote of 56 to 48 against an out-of-classroom coordinator. Yes, I plan to run for Chair next year.

So here we are. April 12th is our Dooms Day. We wait to see what the board decides to do with us. They still have innovative forms of reconstitution in their arsenal. Nothing is for certain, although I strongly suspect that the decision has already been made. We’re waiting like, let’s see what would be a good simile here, like dogs for a beating? …. like slaves at auction? …… like cancer patients in the waiting room? Figurative language has its limitations.

The truth is that none of these proposals in and of themselves will make any real difference since the problems of student performance have to do with socio-economics and demographics. No proposals for “reform” make any claim to address these issues. How could they?

Funny thing, the small schools network proposal minus the pilot umbrella and tweeked in a few other areas would look remarkably similar to our original ideas about reform discussed at School Site Council meetings last year BEFORE the 2.5 mess came snowballing down on us by way of that mysterious source who hides behind the passive voice.

The irony of the whole thing has my head spinning.

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My own comments on the latest move of the district in reconstituting Jordan High School.

Gee, do teachers take standardized tests? You would think they did by the way they get blamed for the results.

Cortines wants to give Jordan High School (which has been underperforming for DECADES) to charters and the Mayor’s Partnership. And just what will this accomplish?

I decided to video tape myself offering some commentary since sometimes you get a larger audience that way.

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Ms. Laurie Woerfel discusses reform plans and previous presentations

She begins by outlining what happened during the District sponsored parent meeting held in the auditorium on Tuesday, January 4th when parents agreed with Steering committee members to meet together and watch the power point presentations as a single group rather be split up and have the proposal writers come and talk with them as the reform writers moved from room to room.

Laurie does an excellent job of presenting the differences between the reform plans: A freshman house vs. small school split; governance from top/down over against governance from bottom/up; and finally the big question of who’s going to teach at HPHS and how they will get chosen.

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