Sat, May

Pass the Popcorn: LA’s Education Establishment Explodes


EDUCATION POLITICS-The education news exploding through the tubes via KPCC and the LATimessince last Thursday is absolutely staggering. There is a soap’s-load worth of titters and twitters, readings and writings about fiscal improprieties, amoral, immoral and unethical behavior, all on the public’s dime. Our money, and our sacred trust in the chief education officer, superintendent Deasy, to educate our children well and properly, sluices straight through that public official’s office. 

And the environment there is none too clean. 

It is, as a friend says, time to Pass The Popcorn (that popper is reportedly perched on the front burner these days). Only there are so many flues from which feces is flinging they need numbering: 

1: John Deasy and his senior staff were all playing footsie with Apple and Pearson before ever a contract for common core technology was put out to bid. It’s possible that Apple-Pearson (“App-son”) never did “win” some free market competition to provide LAUSD with its best opportunity for technology. By all appearances that bidding process was rigged in advance to favor a pre-ordained “App-son outcome”. 

There is some rather titillating email evidence of this immoral if not illegal behavior. While the LAUSD’s Inspector General signed off on the cleanliness of the ipad deal and the city’s attorney general declined any prosecution, this was prior to the appearance of the smoking emails. 

Sources of amoral behavior might be: If Deasy held shares of Apple during these pre-bid conversations; mightn’t this be fraudulent, particularly if he increased his share-holding during this period? His much bally-hooed divestiture after the contract award would only be so much deal-clinching for him personally. And what of the precipitous departure of deputy superintendent of instruction, Jaime Aquino, former Pearson-employee and latter-day New Teacher Center second-in-command? These conversations may have violated the revolving door “waiting period” of contact with former employees. 

2: Another source of disarray involves a new information system that was rolled out district wide without any backup plan. As MiSiS faltered, as these things are wont to do, in its wake has been left thousands of students disenfranchised in some cases without schools or classes, teachers and administrators unable to access computerized records reliably including attendance and schedules. Collectively the amount of jeopardy is just mind-boggling, involving large amounts of lost instructional time and even operating revenue. 

The “MiSiS crisis” has been traumatic and not only predictable but according to PTA parent advocate Scott Folsom, a re-run of John Deasy’s and his chief of “Intensive Support and Intervention” (aka school reconstitution) services, Donna Muncey’s experience in Prince George’s County when they worked to rollout a computerized “accountability system” there too. 

SSDD — was there any “accountability” last time? This time although the horse may be gone from the barn, at least there will be an effort to tidy up the stall after the fact? There is so many questionable practices and procurements surrounding this snafu that boardmember Galatzan has requested a formal accounting. 

As if this weren’t enough, there’s much, much more… 

3. Governor Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula came with strict guidelines for implementation and accountability from local district stakeholders which were made a mockery of earlier in the year. Some rather questionable aspects of this were called on the table by the LA County office of education, to the board of which losing LAUSD1 candidate Alex Johnson was just appointed by his padrone, Mark Ridley-Thomas. 

This ought to be a real embarrassment to the district (both the fiscal impropriety and the pandering appointment), seemingly more likely to line the insides of their central administration with more high-paying staff (cf the new appointee to account for the stumbling accountability technology to the superintendent) than providing real live actual resources – teachers, support, services — to actual real-life needy kids. 

I’m embarrassed – are you?? 


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4. On Thursday an internal report of committees chaired by boardmember Ratliff was leaked prematurely censoring the entire iPad procurement process and even premise. In the context of the long-delayed seating of the first board district’s now-newly elected member, George McKenna, it is significant to learn of carefully documented discontent with district policies. In light of the subsequent “Appsongate emails”, it is interesting to speculate whether there will finally, at long last, be any accountability brought to bear in the top echelon of LA Education. 

This flurry of revelations has been voluminous from Howard Blume of the LATimes and Annie Gilbertson of KPCC. We are lucky citizens in Los Angeles to have this pair of clear-eyed and dogged reporters. But for a really great accounting from a citizen’s point of view, check out Scott Folsom’s blog, 4lakids.com. He does an amazing job tying together disparate threads from a long view that reveals some awfully morally curtailed shenanigans.


(Sara Roos is a politically active resident of Mar Vista, a biostatistician, the parent of two teenaged LAUSD students and a CityWatch contributor, who blogs at redqueeninla.com




Vol 12 Issue 69

Pub: Aug 26, 2014



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