10 Questions That Could Define the New LA Unified School Year
Hillel Aron | August 9, 2013
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As the summer break winds to a close and schools open on Tuesday, the LA Unified School District finds itself in the usual swirl of change and challenge. Here are 10 questions to think about as the year unfolds. Consider it the first exam of 2013-2014:
1) Will Superintendent John Deasy really stay?
He said he would, in a speech to administrators on Thursday with school board members all around him. But will he? Tension between Deasy and the ideologically fractured board could influence what happens. Will the board move to replace him as the new president, Richard Vladovic, is said to have threatened? Will the board try to curtail Deasy’s power? Will that spur Deasy to resign? Will key staff members quit or be forced out?
2) How will Vladovic lead?
When Monica Garcia was president, she used to shout at the beginning of every meeting that the district’s goal is making every student in LAUSD college or workforce ready. What will Vladovic shout? What will his priorities be? And how efficiently will he keep the trains moving? Before becoming president, he had suggested that the board meet more than once a month. Will he make good on that?
3) How will Ratliff vote?
Will the newly elected board member, Monica Ratliff, side with the so-called reformers, Garcia and Tamar Galatzan? Will she align with union sympathizers Bennett Kasyer and Marguerite LaMotte? Or will she swing back and forth, like Steve Zimmer and Vladovic himself? What will her priorities be?
4) Mo Money, Mo Problems?
With passage of Proposition 30, a growing economy and Governor Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula, LAUSD should be due for an influx of cash — in theory, anyway. And so the question is not only how will the district spend it, but will fights over spending priorities intensify tension on the board? How much local autonomy will school sites be given to spend the money how they see fit? What kind of teacher-to-student ratios will be mandated? And what programs will be restored: Arts? Physical education? Adult education?
5) Whither the iPad?
The district made a rare splash into national, even international news when it approved a $30 million deal with Apple to buy almost 50,000 iPads for students in 47 schools. If all goes well with this first round of technovation, every student in the district will get one by the end of 2014 as part of a contract worth nearly half a billion dollars. But will everything go well? What problems will arise? Broken screens? Buggy software? Downed internet? And what stories will emerge about the bidding process? After all, you don’t just spend half a billion dollars without someone out there suggesting malfeasance.
6) How will the Common Core transition go?
LAUSD will begin phasing in the “Common Core” curriculum standards. Will students find the transition difficult? Will teachers? And, lordy, what will those test scores look like?
7) How will the new teacher evaluation rollout go?
For the first time, LAUSD teachers will be evaluated, in part, on their students’ test scores. Will we see a rise in below par evaluation? Will this create more tension between the teachers union and the district? (Maybe we know the answer to that one.)
8) Which way will Warren Fletcher take the union?
UTLA President Warren Fletcher faces re-election in January. Will he win? Will the union pressure him to take an even more aggressive stance against John Deasy?
9) Will LAUSD smoothly adjust to No Child Left Behind waiver?
Eight school districts in California got approval this week. What does it mean, really? More money is coming in, but how will it get spent? No one would fight over money, would they?
10) A Vergara bombshell?
Mark your calendars: the trial for Vergara v. California is currently slated to start January 27, 2014. The plaintiffs are seeking to overturn five California education statutes: seniority-based layoffs, teacher tenure, and three dismissal statutes that make firing a teacher so onerous. If the plaintiffs win, it would be the biggest change for public education in California since the passage of Proposition 13. Could that really happen?
First person with all 10 correct answers wins a free subscription to LA School Report.
Previous posts: Deasy Skirmish With Board Members a Long Time Coming; Apple to Replace LAUSD iPads if Broken, Stolen or Damaged; Teacher Evaluations Still a Work in Progress; Union Intervention Could Delay Tenure Lawsuit