July 27th Protest: After the Deal is Done, Clay still an “Issue.”

WordPress hates me tonight, so I am going to be amazingly brief. This is the third attempt to get this in.

Yesterday, a protest rally about two major actions in South LA education took place. The first was the reassignment of the Obama School’s principal, who, to all accounts, was brillaint and wonderful. That’s unfortunate for the school, as a good principal is a key element in success.

The other major issue was Clay’s reorganization by the Board as two Charter schools to be run by Green Dot. Board member LaMotte and her opponent, Rev. Eric Lee, were there for the protest/press conference, and outspoken on the issue. Seeming to agree to some extent, they felt that the “community’s wishes were ignored by the Board.”

75 protesters were present, to support these causes.

Let’s do a little “back of the envelope” math here, True Believers. For Clay’s Advisory Vote, in February, to decide its fate, 35 parents voted. So, this event shows a more than one hundred percent increase in partisipation from the directly involved community members, the parents, assuming that everyone present at the rally was a parent.

With 950 students attending Clay, that would still be less then ten percent of the parents. Simply put, less then ten percent isn’t even close to a simple majority of the parents. If a simple majority voted for one thing, and the Board ignored it, I’d say that was a serious problem. But…when about ten percent is very vocal, but not listened to…that’s unfortunate, but it isn’t the democratic process to listent to the loudest or most involved.

According to the district, the Advisory Vote had some ten thousand stakeholders that could have been involved as community members, and the total vote didn’t get up to five percent of that. That was with three days of voting, one of them Saturday.

I respect the idea of getting out to support causes that you believe in, but Board Member LaMotte said herself, last week that Clay was a “done deal,” because Green Dot had already moved in.

Team Kuppersmith did not attend the rally. When we got news of it, we had a discussion, and elected not to go, for three reasons:

* First, we were not invited.
* Second, the rally was for a position opposite to our own. It is just rude to crash that party.
* Third…we wrote our proposal, met with the Mayor’s Office, and Board Members…changed our opinion given politics, to some extent. We had hundreds of letters written to the Board and Superintendent. I got up, and gave a speech to the Board on March 15th, and they saw the wisdom of those words, and did exactly as I asked. In short…on March 15th, PSC ended, and we got change for our students. On July 1st, Green Dot started their quest to improve Clay. In short…you can stop competing when the competition is done.

The District is committed to giving Green Dot their chance, as it were. For the sake of the students, the public should to. Apparently, some of the things said about Green Dot were pretty rough…and I suggest, as a counter, that they voluntarily chose to take over one of the lowest performing schools around, instead of a shiny new one. That gets some respect.

As soon as WordPress stops being buggy, there will be a link to the LA Times coverage here.

Stay tuned, True Believers.


Changes Proposed for PSC 3.0

In a recent School Board meeting, Steve Zimmer proposed changes to the existing methodology of PSC, ostensibly to encourage Charter operators to bid on lower performing schools, such as Clay MS. He did publicly applaud Green Dot for bidding on Clay, when most Charter operators went for brand new schools.

What did he suggest? His proposal would have a separate round for “Internal Plans” which would be like the official plans backed by the Union and Administration, as well as plans like Team Kuppersmith’s Western Academy Proposal…since we are internal to LAUSD. It’s important to note that intimidation tactics by The District, LASDI, and the Union made Team Kuppersmith the only teacher led team, unendorsed, to make it to the end of PSC 2.0.

Is he aware of the unbalanced framework? Probably not, because he is, in fact, creating a round that increases the favorability of “official plans,” and increases the snubbing of smaller, internal teams. Team Kuppersmith hopes to meet with him about this.

After that, there would be a second round, where Charter operators could bid. It is unclear what, if anything, would precipitate a second round happening. It doesn’t really seem all that encouraging to charter operators.

This was noticed by Families that Can, who tweeted their opposition, stating that “collaboration should be encouraged” and criticizing that this revision does the opposite. (They are @lacharters, BTW….and Team Kuppersmith reached out to them several times, without response.)

Another change proposed is the total subtraction of a Parent Advisory Vote. This is a good thing, as it was really misleading…in fact, groups still believe that a majority of parents voted to keep Clay public and non charter. That’s not true. A majority of the parents who bothered to vote voted for Clay to stay “as is”…and that was 35 out of 950.

According to the Union’s “procedural” complaints, that isn’t the fifty percent plus one, needed to make a binding decision. Further, that vote was never intended as more than a survey of the desires of the parents…it was never a mandate.

Read more about the changes here.

A Few Comments…and Political Thoughts.

“The District and UTLA have not done all they could for Clay.”

Board Member LaMotte said that, on the radio, in a public forum this past week. In the same forum, she tried to make it credible that the Board’s decision to give Clay to other operators was a surprise, and further, that the meager academic gains made by Clay in the past two years were actually something worthy of respect.

In brief, I cannot believe that I was so even handed earlier today. The fact is, Clay has been an underperforming school for the twelve years that i have taught there, and the district has never taken an interest in the minority students that Board member LaMotte now says are being discriminated against. In fact, she hereself said that not enough was done at Clay. Too little, far too late, I think.

Another panel member stated that Clay has “been a tradition of academic excellence.” In the past twelve years, that is hard to see, and hard to find. With a top API of 555, and the cutoff for PSC being 600…as well as nine years as a NCLB year 5 program improvement school…academic excellence has not been the norm at Clay for at least a decade. I say that sadly, as the entirety of my time at Clay was in that time period.

The fact is…according to NCLB, Clay should have been reconsituted as a matter of Federal Law some time ago. To say otherwise, or to speak to some matter of “tradition” is to dress a sad and ugly truth of failing to serve our students in pretty words. To state that the “Advisory Vote” was not followed is to ignore the fact that at best, 5 percent of the parents involved voted, in a vote that was always intended to be only a single data point in the process.

All of that was stated up front, numerous times, by the District.

There were no surprises. When UTLA, or Board Member LaMotte, or the community, suggest that there were, it was because they didn’t come to the meetings. Or they believed the Charters would be closed out, as in PSC 1.0. Or that they believed, as many clay staff did, that this was another thing that would just “blow over.”

But it didn’t.

Now, in the aftermath, it is fine to say that you “didn’t know” or “procedure wasn’t followed.” However, teh public record shows otherwise.

To state otherwise than that is potentially slanderous, but at it’s heart, untrue. I would hope that our leadership at the District level could do better than that, but the facts of media quotation show me that the matter is otherwise.

Clay, as it stood, could not succeed. It did not succeeed, having been given nine chances, and nine stays of execution. Board member LaMotte herself spoke to the changes in leadership, and high levels of staff transiency. A change was needed, and a change was made.

In the interests of our students, we should stand by it, and not contest it. The students are always the highest priority, and Clay, without a doubt, has failed them for a decade. That much is a matter of statistical public record. For the good of them, we should embrace change, and hope for their future under new staff, and new guidance.

Radio Opinions about Clay

On Tuesday, July 19th, KPFK had a discussion on their show, “A Beautiful Struggle,” about the restructuring of Henry Clay Middle School. You can easily listen to it on their website, if interested, here.

I was pretty interested to hear it, since Board Member LaMotte was on, and she has been outspoken. Her view was interesting, to say the least, in that she perceived the change of hands as entirely political, and a complete surprise. To her credit, she did state that the District and UTLA did not do enough for Henry Clay, over the past years.

The word “illegal” was thrown around a lot. The idea being that the Advisory Vote being disregarded was somehow a violation of due process. Sadly, that’s a misunderstanding of PSC itself. It was also put forth that Green Dot didn’t even ask for the whole school, which a simple perusal of their proposal shows that they did.

Interestingly, when asked about what could be done to “save” Clay, LaMotte herself said, “It’s a done deal.” She cited the fact that they are holding summer school now.

Green Dot themselves weren’t present on the panel. A good number of things were said about them that would be, if they were true, would be violations of District Policy, and the agreements that gave them Clay. I would have been interested to have heard their response.

Ultimately, the discussion turned to PSC 3.0, and how the reorganization of Clay has influenced the schools in the area, which are also “up for grabs.” There are three of them, in the same community.

UTLA: an Endless Source of Shenannigans

UTLA is a fascinating organization. The more I even think about this group that I mandatorily pay dues to, the more incensed I become at the futility of most of their endeavors. Previous posts have covered the legal actions that UTLA has taken to block Green Dot’s take over, and the court system’s fairly rapid dismissal of most of them. At this point, barring a decision far in the future, by the Court system that some procedural issue was not followed in PSC 2.0, the transfer is a “done deal.”

Is this an obstacle to UTLA? Absolutely not. Time spent by their officers, paid employees, and legal staff on lost causes seems to have a near infinite source of funding. That near infinite source are my dues, which I believe are being squandered on hollow pursuits.

However, the battle to “save” Clay apparently continues, in the form of radio shows, rallies, and the involvement of Board Member LaMotte and Congresswoman Waters. It is put forth that the community was left out of the decision making, which is sad…

…since we never got more than 35 parents to come to a meeting about the school before it was reorganized. And equally sad, because all of these so called power players were drawn in late, after the school was given to a Charter.

If those people had all been interested in Clay years before, when it was failing, perhaps something could have been done to help those hundreds of students. But now, after several power players feel somehow snubbed…now there is real interest.

UTLA of course continues to not send Team Kuppersmith any information on the subject, despite the fact that we pay dues.

At Long Last…a Posting!

It is summer.

It has also been a few weeks since my last post, something of an oddity for the Hammer Lane. The reasons for this are threefold, and easily listed: it is summer, Henry clay is now officially in the hands of Green Dot, and finally, my team and I needed to get jobs.

The last, of course, was actually the highest priority. Myself and the primary co-writer of the Western Academy proposal are now hired by John Muir MS, a school that was reorganized on the same day as Clay. ironically, it was our first choice. Our translator, a good english teacher, will be at Markham MS, and our science teacher has landed at Carnegie. The remaining two members of the team are still pending, and we are a bit worried on that front.

The whole team attended USC Rossier School of Education’s Gifted and Talented seminars, at USC. As usual, it was pretty excellent, and the tweets for Team Kuppersmith were heavily quoted by the USC Rossier School later. You can check them out at #uscsgi.

All of us needed recovery from the past year. I myself am out of my typical uniform, dressed as a giant human peacock in tacky Hawaiian shirts, and a bucket hat with super hero pins. A few of the team went on trips. Now, with vacation halfway over, we tend to be coming back, and trying to figure out what the next school year will hold.

I made a number of posts about moving out of my classroom. Apparently, Mr. Mike Romero came to campus, and was incensed at the state that many Clay teachers left their classrooms in. incensed to the point of taking the kinds of steps that Local Superintendents can do to affect your next job. Now, I’m really glad I took my own philosophy of “giving it back the way I found it” as seriously as I did.

Today, I’ll be making a couple of postings. I’m trying to separate by content, since it has been a while, and be both summative and brief. This one, obviously, is directed to those who are actually personally concerned with what’s happening to the team in the future.