Friday, December 10, 2010

Reforming Parent Engagement @ LAUSD

On December 14, 2010, the Los Angeles Board of Education will consider my resolution to reform parent engagement at LAUSD. Below is the resolution:

Parents as Equal Partners in the Education of their Children
Ms. Flores, Mr. Zimmer, Ms. Martinez – Resolution

Whereas, The Los Angeles Unified School District has set forth a vision that every student will receive an education in a safe, caring environment, and every student will be college-prepared and career ready;

Whereas, The Governing Board of the Los Angeles Unified School District has identified “Engaged Parents” as one of its five overarching goals to help the District track progress to meet the vision set forth above and ensure that every child it enabled to meet his/her full potential;

Whereas, Research has shown that parent engagement is inextricably linked to student achievement and success and the District has, therefore, identified family and community, together with students and educators, as part of its theory of change;

Whereas, The District’s Strategic Plan for Parental Involvement and Engagement, created by the 2008 Parent Engagement Leadership Task Force and implemented by the Parent Community Services Branch and the Parent Engagement Steering Committee, has made important progress in creating an infrastructure capable of transforming the practice and culture of parental engagement;

Whereas, Despite these efforts and incremental progress, internal and external parent engagement and Parent Center studies and surveys continue to reflect missed opportunities for authentic engagement and parental support and programmatic imbalance throughout the District;

Whereas, The Board believes that in order to fully engage and equip parents to participate fully in their children’s education at school and at home, school leaders, parents, teachers and students must first be clear and take ownership of each of their roles, rights and responsibilities in ensuring successful student achievement;

Whereas, In order to create the conditions under which parents are likely to become active participants in their child’s education, we must identify and help to remove real life barriers that hinder parental involvement by designing and aligning programs, partnerships and services that reflect the needs and challenges our families face everyday;

Whereas, We must prioritize and maximize the District’s support of parental engagement practices and promote an inclusive culture at all school sites through our office of School, Family and Parent/Community Services; and given the District’s shrinking and finite resources we must fully assess and deliberately (re)direct all our categorical, local, and discretionary investments, in compliance with federal and state laws, to reach this stated obligation to all parents; and

Whereas, Principals are the driving force behind the creation and sustainability of a welcoming school environment and the fostering of a strong culture of parental engagement; now, therefore be it

Resolved, That the Superintendent shall within 30 days deliver to the Governing Board of the Los Angeles Unified School District a report outlining the District’s current parent engagement funding sources, allocations, outcomes yielded from these investments over the last 2 years;

Resolved further, That the Board directs the Superintendent to commission a taskforce representative of District parents, each District-level parent committee, parent advocates, school leaders, teachers, staff, labor partners, key District units including the Parent Community Service Branch, Adult Education, Personnel Commission, Student Health and Human Services, Office of Curriculum, Instruction and School Support, Office of Early Childhood Education and others, key public institutions including County and City departments, universities and philanthropies for the purpose of developing the following:

• A District Parents’ Bill of Rights and Responsibilities
• A Core Parent & Family Center Resource Curriculum and Parent Center (henceforth renamed Parent & Family Center) Accountability Matrix
• A framework and menu of viable delivery models for our Parent & Family Centers and the implementation of a District Family Support Network as a key component of the Parent Centers

Resolved further, That the taskforce shall present their proposal for a District Parents’ Bill of Rights and Responsibilities to the Board for consideration and adoption within 90 days. The proposal, building upon current state and federal guidelines, shall be reflective of the following principles:

• Parents are the first and lifelong teachers of their children
• Parents are knowledgeable and critical advocates for their children
• Parents are equitable partners in education requiring access to all pertinent information about their child’s school environment, instructors, and educational options and school site personnel
• Parents are inseparable from the academic success of their children
• Parents are equally accountable for educational outcomes

Once adopted, the distribution and use of the District Parents’ Bill of Rights and Responsibilities as a tool to improve District-wide parental engagement shall be outlined in the District’s 2011-2014 Strategic Plan for Parental Involvement.

Resolved further, That the Taskforce shall build upon the existing Parent Engagement Toolkit and further develop a Core Parent & Family Center curriculum and Parent & Family Center Accountability Matrix within 60 days. The curriculum shall reflect the tools and resources necessary for parents to participate in and fully support their child’s education.

Programming at all school site Parent & Family Centers, at a minimum, must reflect the core curriculum and Parent & Family Center accountability measures set forth by the Taskforce. Parent & Family Center staff, together with the school principal, shall submit annual Parent & Family Center program plans to the Parent Community Service Branch for review and approval prior to each academic school year. Such plans should be developed in conjunction with a community organization with well-established parent engagement training expertise, reflect clear outcomes and accountability measures, and demonstrate sufficient staffing budget allocations for successful program execution.

Resolved further, That the Taskforce shall deliver within 90 days a framework for the creation and implementation of a District Family Support Network (Network). The proposed Network shall seek to remove barriers to meaningful parent engagement in our schools through the systematic alignment of comprehensive parent and family wrap-around services and trainings through a central access point, e.g. Parent & Family Centers, at every school site.
The Network framework shall set forth the vision, goals and outcomes for a family support system that seamlessly links existing District student and family services, both academic and non-academic, and creates partnerships that connect parents to additional family supports provided by the County, City and other community and government institutions.

Resolved further, That the Taskforce will also develop a menu of viable delivery models under which to operate the Parent & Family Centers and Network. Each model shall include all necessary staffing requirements and/or reconfigurations to ensure successful implementation and long-term sustainability.

In determining the necessary staffing levels and expertise to ensure robust Parent & Family Centers and the successful implementation and sustainability of the District’s Family Support Network, the Taskforce will, first and foremost, prioritize the interests and rights of parents to advocate for their children and the responsibility of District to support their empowerment to do so successfully. As such, the Taskforce’s staffing recommendations shall reflect exploration of typical staffing positions commonly found in successful parental engagement models around the country, pilot programs and mixed-resourced positions.

Resolved further, That the Parent Community Services Branch, in conjunction with District parent committees, using existing funds shall create an Administrator Leadership Best Practices program that identifies principal leaders who have successfully fostered a culture of parent engagement, disseminates best practices, strategies and models for parental engagement District-wide, and provides additional support for outstanding proposed and existing parent leadership and training programs;

Resolved further, That school sites (i.e. principals and teachers) and Parent & Family Centers shall support the full implementation of critical District parent resources e.g. the School Report Card and Parent Survey, as well as the generation of individualized Parent-Teacher-Student compacts outlining the annual expected academic goals and expectations of individual students and the responsibilities of the parent(s), student and teacher in supporting those goals; and be it finally

Resolved further, That every local district Superintendent will support principals in the development and implement of successful parent and family centers.

Resolved, That the Superintendent will work collaboratively with our Administrators bargaining unit to incorporate the use of multiple measures such as the successful implementation and execution of parent engagement strategies including the use of the District School Report card; accessibility of school site orientations; and successful elementary, middle school and high school student articulation as important and measurable components in the annual evaluation of principal leaders during the 2011-2012 collective bargaining negotiations.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Remembering Mr. Ruelas... And All Our Amazing Teachers

As I read, watch, and listen to the coverage of the memorial services and vigils for LAUSD teacher Rigoberto Ruelas, I can’t help but feel a deep and lingering sadness. The death of any member of our LAUSD family is always met with a heavy heart, but the tragic circumstances and abundant outpouring of love and appreciation for Mr. Ruelas’ impact on the lives of so many young persons has prompted me to reflect on my own life and the role teachers have played in making me who I am today.

I often talk about the impact of some of my teachers: Ms. Smith, Ms. King, Ms. Williams, Ms. Hakansson, and Ms. Loya. These were my LAUSD teachers from Gage Middle School and Huntington Park High School. They were – and still are – the treasures of my public education. They, like Mr. Ruelas, went above and beyond for their students. These teachers loved me… I knew that from the way they looked at me, talked to me, and over-extended themselves for me. I still recall phoning Ms. Hakansson at home whenever I needed help with an algebra problem; she always answered and guided me just enough for me to figure it out. Ms. King dedicated a weekend to take me to Occidental College and later introduced me to the University of Redlands; having no family who could expose me to higher learning, she made college a real possibility for me. Ms. Williams – my ever creative and dynamic history teacher not only made history come alive, but also taught me the critical note-taking and study skills I would need for college. And from Ms. Loya and Ms. Smith, I truly became bilingual; they taught me to not only speak and write well in two languages, but to also cherish my native language, Spanish, as well as the richness of English literature.

This is exactly what I imagine Mr. Ruelas to have been for his students. He seemed to be a lot like my teachers, who I consistently say are the type of teachers every student deserves. The kind of teacher we should lift up and support in every way.

Students like 13 year-old Karla Gonzalez, and many others that have shared their stories, confirm that he was exactly that type of teacher. For Karla, Mr. Ruelas was more than a teacher; he was a father figure who helped her learn to speak and read English when she first came from Mexico. A number of young male students shared that it was Mr. Ruelas who turned them away from gangs and offered them a different path through education. Mr. Ruelas believed in his kids… he helped them learn and he helped them dream.

The premature loss of a teacher like Mr. Ruelas, who has touched and transformed the lives of so many, is nothing short of devastating. While no one will ever know just how many students Mr. Ruelas inspired and uplifted, I can only imagine that over time, it would have been many, many more.

My hope is that his students honor his legacy by reaching their full potential and becoming all that he knew they could be. More importantly, my hope is that we enlist, nurture, and support teachers like Mr. Ruelas – the kind of teacher that every student deserves.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Delivering What We Owe Our Students: Effective Teachers and Principals!

Today our Board of Education approved directing the Superintendent to expedite union negotiations to ensure every student an effective teacher in every classroom and an effective administrator in every school. We also approved a set of principles that lays out what we expect from these negotiations. The vote was unanimous... it was a very proud moment! Read our statement below.

We, the Board of Education of LAUSD, stand united in our belief that our most important role is to set policies that ensure every student graduates college and career ready, regardless of race, ethnicity, primary language, circumstances of poverty, gender, or any other factor that may impact our youth and their families. We know, research tells us, and the experiences of the students of LAUSD demonstrate that the clearest pathway to this goal is through our ability to ensure every student has the opportunity to learn from an effective teacher, in a school led by an effective leader, supported by the highest caliber team of adults working on behalf of their success every day.

That is why we empaneled the Teacher Effectiveness Taskforce, which consisted of all our key stakeholders. This work began in April 2009 and set the course for a thoughtful and deliberate process to reach excellence for all our students. The Taskforce provided us with a set of recommendations based on the best available research and resources, the experiences of the Taskforce members, and their knowledge of the critical steps needed to move us forward as a system.

Because ratings based on a single measure cannot determine the effectiveness of a teacher, LAUSD is endeavoring to use several different methodologies to more effectively evaluate our teachers. We share the sense of urgency with the multitudes who have voiced qualified support of a more professional and data-informed culture of teacher and leader performance reviews. We also firmly believe that the ultimate determination of an individual teacher or administrator’s level of effectiveness must be comprised through thoughtfully using multiple measures of performance, including such measures as: observation by well-trained professionals, contributions to the school community, stakeholder feedback in a form such as surveys, and measures of student achievement over time. It is also important for this process to be developed with teachers and administrators and not done to teachers and administrators.

That is why we are asking the Superintendent to expedite negotiations immediately with United Teachers Los Angeles and Associated Administrators of Los Angeles to develop a fair and valid process by which we can employ multiple measure reviews that differentiate between performance levels of our educators, allowing us to better target our support, interventions and resources, and offering the opportunity to better leverage the amazing teachers and leaders throughout the district who are too often unrecognized.

As part of this effort, we have issued a set of principles that make clear our expectation from district staff as they begin negotiations in earnest with our union partners. These principles form our core beliefs surrounding this work and, as such, must be fully embraced by the eventual agreement. This Board will accept nothing less. The principles are as follows:

1. Our new evaluations must include multiple measures, including a balanced use of appropriate value-added data.

2. Our new evaluations must differentiate levels of instruction and performance, including actual good instruction/leadership.

3. Our new evaluations must place strong emphasis on evidence of student learning over time, offering feedback to instruction rather than feedback to simple routines.

4. Our new evaluations must mean something to the employee; ratings must always be useful to teachers and administrators. They must result in timely, specific feedback on all levels of performance, be used to establish a roadmap for needed supports, and to improve instructional dialogue at the school level, not just provide summative judgment.

5. Our new evaluation ratings must inform all employment decisions, including tenure, hiring for specialist or leadership positions, new hires, or when restructuring a school.

6. Our new evaluation ratings must include and reflect meaningful parent engagement that will result in multiple evaluation measures that address the needs of parents to understand student and teacher performance and to make informed decisions about their children's education.

This Board supports all of our employees. The recent results of CST scores, CHSEE exams, and Parent Surveys suggest that our employees are working harder than ever and are fully committed to the academic success of students. We will not rest until we reach success for all our students by having an effective teacher in every classroom and an effective administrator in every school.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

ALL Our Students Deserve An Effective Teacher!

The Los Angeles Time’s article, Who’s Teaching L.A.’s Kids?, touched upon the very heart, the lifeline, of our education system: teachers. Both in LAUSD and throughout the nation, teachers share the awesome privilege and responsibility for nurturing the social, academic and psychological development of our country’s greatest asset, our children. For this reason, I commend the Los Angeles Times for putting a spotlight on the critical issue of teacher effectiveness.

Most of us can draw upon our own personal experiences as to the importance of a good teacher. He/she was the one who nurtured our intellectual spirit, challenged our self-imposed limitations, fostered confidence, expected nothing but the best from each of us and, in turn, changed our lives for the better. National research supports what we have experienced to be true: that the positive impact of an effective teacher can have multi-dimensional and lasting effects on a child’s academic achievement and well-being.

Conversely, research also shows that just one year of ineffective teaching can have devastating and equally lasting negative consequences for students. I believe that we, as a District, have fallen short in providing an effective teacher in every classroom. We have not, as The Times points out, used the data at our disposal to inform our evaluation and professional development processes. That needs to change.

It is for this reason I authored a resolution in 2009 to create a Teacher Effectiveness Task Force. My desire was to advance this issue in the most thoughtful and aggressive manner, for both teachers and administrators. Since passage of the resolution, the Task Force (which included teachers, principals, parents, union and community leaders, as well as District and education experts) has worked to develop a provocative blueprint for reform and set of recommendations in five key areas: tenure, compensation, evaluation, support mechanisms and legislative action. The Task Force made public its final recommendations in April of 2010 and rightly concluded that, first and foremost, LAUSD needs a robust evaluation system that employs multiple measures for addressing effectiveness, including standardized test scores. Other measures - such as peer-to-peer review, principal assessments, and parent and student input - were also identified as equally critical.

The premise of our developing evaluation system is this: when we gauge our own children’s development, we do so through a comprehensive lens considering many factors such as physical, cognitive and psychological growth. So, too, must we apply a comprehensive lens when evaluating our children’s educators. A major challenge in looking solely at test scores is that we expect and need more from our educational system than what standardized tests alone can measure. We expect and need our system to develop and nurture global citizens with skills to communicate effectively, negotiate, think critically and rationally, understand national and global trends, speak multiple languages, and enter the world with confidence and goodwill. We have set to task in developing an evaluation system that credits and learns from teachers who are successfully imparting these seemingly intangible, yet indispensable, skills that are central to a quality education.

This idea is neither new nor revolutionary: it is simply common sense. Other parts of the country such as Pittsburgh, Memphis, New Haven and Hillsborough County are in the process of implementing multiple measure evaluation systems to maximize teacher effectiveness and student achievement. More compelling, perhaps, is that these school districts and their teacher’s unions are each working hand-in-hand to make the necessary institutional changes to their educational systems, so that they better reflect the needs of their students rather than the adults they employ.

In California and Los Angeles, we need to step up to the plate and do the same. It is simply irresponsible for our union leaders to continue to fight every effort that signals change for our children. Further, our state legislators must find the political courage to draft and pass legislation that allows school districts to move from a seniority-based system to one that includes measures of effectiveness when making employment decisions. And parents must be fully engaged and be equal partners in the education of their children, demanding great teachers for their children, but also ensuring that learning does not cease when the school day is over.

Until we close the shameful achievement gap, particularly for poor children and children of color, we cannot rest and we cannot just keep going along. No institution, no union, no government is worth protecting that does not take care of its children.
I invite you to view this Sunday’s Los Angeles Times series in the online Op-ed section of the paper. The series features various points of view on how to determine and ensure an effective teacher in every classroom, including my own. I encourage continued discourse on this important matter so we can make good on our promise to provide a quality education for all students.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It's Time to Change the Rules to Benefit Kids

As most of us know, the rules we have in place within our educational system do not – by and large – favor children. Mostly they benefit adults. This is certainly the case that the ACLU made in its recent lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District and the State Department of Education. Indeed, when faced with decisions to lay off teachers because of the draconian state budget cuts, the rules and practices benefited teachers with longevity in their employment with the District and not the needs of students.

While it should not have to take the courts to move us to do the right thing, this is how social change frequently comes about. In the case of the ACLU lawsuit, the District will now be required to address the needs of students at three middle schools: Markham, Gompers, and Leichty.

But we need to change the rules for ALL kids, not just some. This is why I am introducing a resolution asking the Superintendent to 1) immediately begin working with partners and advocates to urge the State to act on needed legislation to give districts needed flexibility to allow lay-offs based on criteria other than seniority; 2) work with UTLA to reform and improve all aspects of our union contracts that impede the stability of effective teaching staffs; and 3) work with reform partners to revise and improve procedures affecting staffing at school sites.

Ensuring equal access and opportunity for all our students is our moral imperative – but this requires that we change the rules to benefit students, first and foremost. Both the ACLU lawsuit and this resolution attempt to do just that. Please stand with me tomorrow and over the coming weeks as this resolution is debated. The message is simple: make the rules work for kids!


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

An Amazing, Effective Teacher for EVERY student!

Today, the children of LAUSD will be front and center of one of the most important reform discussions that our Board of Education has had in terms of teaching: how to ensure an amazing and effective teacher for every student.

On Tuesday, April 27, 2010, the Board of Education will be presented with recommendations from the Teacher Effectiveness Taskforce, a taskforce I called for last year to look at issues of evaluation, seniority, tenure, and pay — not only for teachers, but for principals and administrators, too.

At my inauguration almost three years ago, when I was sworn in as a school board member, I spoke of my commitment to explore these issues and foster a meaningful discussion on them. Clearly, they are controversial issues, but our children deserve no less than to at least have the conversation. At that moment, I had no idea that we would be faced with historic budget cuts and decisions to lay off thousands of teachers. I had no idea that the issue of seniority would be so prominent during my time. But it happened, and it made the discussion on the issues of evaluation and seniority more relevant and urgent than ever. Indeed, we were making decisions to lay off teachers without any regard to how amazing they are in their profession.

Every day, our children go to school and their parents expect that they will learn and progress. But we have little in place to guarantee this. And, data and research highlight that the difference between an effective teacher and an ineffective teacher can be as much as one year of learning growth for a typical student (Goldhaber et al, 2009). As the Teacher Effectiveness report asserts, multiply that differential impact over even a few years and it becomes clear why effective teaching matters.

I know that my amazing LAUSD teachers – Ms. Penny King, Ms. Bonnie Williams, Ms. Susie Hakansson, Ms. Linda Loya, Ms. Bernice Smith – all made a huge difference for me. Well, I want a Ms. King, Ms. Williams, Ms. Hakansson, Ms. Loya, and Ms. Smith for every single student. Nothing less should be acceptable.

Today’s report takes us one step further to reaching the goal of every student having an effective and amazing teacher. The recommendations are thoughtful and meaningful. Now it is be up to the Board and the Superintendent to move this agenda forward with urgency and resolve.

For a copy of the report, go to

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Office of Civil Rights Launches Investigation

Today, the Office of Civil Rights, under the leadership of Assistant Secretary Russlyn Ali, launched an investigation to review LAUSD's efforts to educate English language learners. The investigation will focus on two local districts -- one of which I represent: the southeast communities. This is a welcomed gift! Why? For years, the LAUSD has failed to serve this population well. Consider this:
  • Only 9% of English Learners in third grade are reading at grade level
  • Only 3 out of 100 English learners score proficient level in English and math in high school
English learners are also the largest group of drop outs and the least likely to be prepared to go on to college.

This shameful denial of a future to children is unacceptable. I am certain that this investigation will find a culture of low expectations, inadequate allocation of resources, an unlawful state-mandated cookie cutter approach, and racist practices that contribute to our unintended but complicit actions that deny children their right to a quality education.

Indeed, THIS is the civil rights issue of our time, and I thank the Office of Civil Rights for partnering with our community to bring educational justice to thousands and thousands of students.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Opening the Doors for Change: Yolie Urges the Adoption of Supt. Cortines' Recommendations for Public School Choice

Los Angeles Unified School District School Board Vice President Yolie Flores has commended Superintendent Ramon Cortines and his staff for their thorough review of the applicant proposals for the operation of 24 new schools and 12 existing “focus” schools on the eve of the School Board’s historic vote on Public School Choice. The Board’s vote this Tuesday is the culmination of the first round of this school reform process, which began when the Board of Education passed the Public School Choice resolution in August 2009.

“We have a historic opportunity to place high value – first and foremost – on quality education for all students. Not one school and not one student should have anything less. This has and continues to be my unwavering commitment.”

Expert review panels, an advisory vote process, and Superintendent Ramon Cortines’ experience over five decades in public education led to the recommendations that are now before the Board.

“Although there were initial challenges with the advisory vote process, the rigorous review process by multiple panels, consisting of individuals representing parents, higher education, district professionals, unions and charter operators has resulted in some exceptional recommendations by Superintendent Cortines,” said Flores “We have flung our doors wide open and invited partners to join our movement for transformation. The recommendations from Superintendent Cortines balance the voice of our parents and community with the best action plans for change.”

The Public School Choice motion introduced by Board Vice President Flores is a result of too many schools failing to meet the basic education needs of thousands of LAUSD students and failure to show significant improvements in academic performance and increased graduation rates over the years. Since its passage, the process has engaged thousands of parents, students, and community members in ways not seen previously in LAUSD. It has also created key partnerships with civic organizations, such as United Way, League of Women Voters, Families in Schools, the L.A. Chamber of Commerce, and others.

“This process has energized and provided the catalyst for hundreds of LAUSD teachers and administrators to put forth ideas and best practices they had been eager to implement but had been shelved because of archaic and bureaucratic rules or because of a culture of mediocrity,” said Flores. “Also, we are increasing our ability to learn from high quality charter schools and galvanizing the power of parents to take action on the quality of their child’s education.”

“Throughout this process, I have met with parents, grandparents, and foster parents. They all want change; they all want quality education for their children as soon as possible. We may not all agree on the ‘how’ – but we agree that change must happen now. I hope my colleagues on the board will focus on the merits of the proposals,” said Flores. “The proposals recommended by Superintendent Cortines represent the best action plans to improve student achievement, collaborate with parents, and result in long-term transformation for the entire school community. This is the beginning of greater expectations for all our schools. We should not squander this opportunity.”

Moving forward, Flores has urged a deliberate and robust review of the process, particularly the parent engagement and capacity-building efforts to help parents better understand the current educational system, the need for these and other reforms that will guarantee great schools for all students, and the choices that they have.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Change is on the way. . . But we have to do better

This past August, the LAUSD Board of Education passed the Public School Choice Resolution, a reform effort designed to shake up the status quo by challenging our own institution to offer up significantly better educational plans for failing schools and new schools. By inviting proposals from teacher groups, charters, and other non-profit educational groups, we created the conditions for interested stakeholders to put forth their best thinking and creativity to offer a quality education to all of our students.

As never before, the leadership of the District – namely Superintendent Cortines and his management team – embraced this reform effort and, together, they have worked diligently to implement the resolution with integrity and transparency.

Further, this process has engaged thousands of parents, students, and community members in ways not seen previously in LAUSD. We have also become a less insular organization by partnering with civic organizations, such as United Way, League of Women Voters, Families in Schools, the L.A. Chamber of Commerce, and others. And, perhaps more importantly, the process has energized and empowered hundreds of LAUSD teachers and administrators to put forth ideas and best practices they had been eager to implement but had been shelved because of archaic and bureaucratic rules or because of a culture of mediocrity that had become the way of life at LAUSD. Urgency has become the new watchword at LAUSD

Indeed, Public School Choice is bringing about exciting change at LAUSD on behalf of kids.

Simultaneously though, and not unexpectedly, the forces most resistant to change are hitting hard and, in some instances, even using despicable and unethical tactics to ensure that the status quo lives on. We have seen flyers to immigrant parents telling them they could be deported if they sign a charter petition; and parents have shared with me that some LAUSD employees are telling them that other operators will charge them tuition and the cost of meals, that an LAUSD high school diploma will no longer be valid, that their special needs children or English learners will not be serviced, or that their children will be kicked out of school if they do not perform well on tests. Other parents have shared that charters are paying parents to sign charter petitions. These lies, manipulations, and fear tactics are disheartening, deplorable, and an affront to those who want see the best for our children.

History has shown that there will always be those who look to thwart the Democratic process. With Public School Choice, this has been evident by those that have maligned competitor proposals and spread falsehoods rather than compete on the merits of their own proposals. This is politics as usual and why the advisory vote has had the potential to go awry. Our intention was and is to give parents the opportunity to have a voice in this process and engage them in the education of their children. It is about accountability. What we owe our parents is straightforward information, an understanding of best practices, an unbiased explanation of each plan, and a process to have their interests heard – not a vote influenced by fear and rhetoric. This approach is an insult to their capacity and right to make an informed decision for themselves and their children.

We knew going in that the process would be less than perfect, particularly the first time out, but we refused to let that deter us from taking bold action. Given where we are, the Board and Mr. Cortines must celebrate the change that is occurring, and at the same time embrace the lessons learned to improve the process for the next cycle.

To start, we must have a more thoughtful parent engagement process that truly and objectively builds the capacity of parents to understand the current system, learn about educational best practices, and know the pros and cons for the choices they have. Then we must develop a less politicized and more streamlined process to hear the voices of parents, students, teachers, and others.

Second, Mr. Cortines must develop and carry out real consequences for violating the rules he has set up for the Public School Choice process – including, if necessary, disqualifying plans that come from those violating the rules. He must also ensure that no one has an unfair advantage and that he specifies clear conflict of interest activity for internal and external applicants, as well as how we will hold everyone accountable for their actions.

Finally, we must have an improved community outreach and communication plan to continue to build public will for the reforms that our children deserve.

This is a historic time for LAUSD. As singer and songwriter Seal says, “change is gonna come.” But we must overcome the resistance to change and stand strong, making our decisions based solely on what is good for all students.