STUDENT MATH WHIZ AND TEACHER-RAPPER WIN OPPORTUNITY TO RING
THE OPENING BELLSM at the NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE
“Ring the Bell” National Contest Winners Honored for Outstanding Achievements in Math
NEW YORK— A math teacher who engages his students through rapping his lessons and a young math scholar opened trading on the New York Stock exchange Wednesday as the grand prize winners of the nationwide “Ring the Bell” contest, recognizing excellence in math education. Reign Glover, a 10th grade student at Choctaw High School in Choctaw, Oklahoma, and Lamar Queen, an 8th grade Algebra teacher at Los Angeles Academy, a middle school in South Central, Los Angeles, were named as winners for their skill, dedication and innovation in math education.
Get Schooled, the national education initiative co-developed by Viacom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the New York Stock Exchange co-sponsored the contest as part of Financial Literacy Week and in recognition of President Obama’s pledge to improve American students’ performance in math and science.
“Improving math literacy is vital to our country’s workforce and our competitive role in the world economy,” said Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, who accompanied the winners and Celebrity Education Ambassador, actor Hank Azaria, at the bell-ringing ceremony. “This contest honors those who not only understand the importance of a good math and science education, but are shining examples of it.”
Math scholar ReignGlover impressed contest officials not only with her outstanding math accomplishments, but the fact that she balances her demanding course load while managing to help take care of her five younger siblings in a single parent home. Also a student athlete, Glover maintained straight A’s over the last year and a half following an unexpected move from inner–city Los Angeles to Oklahoma and a tragic family loss. For the last two summers, she has participated in the prestigious Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth summer program, completing a three-week advanced math course at the University of Santa Cruz. She has been invited back this year for the CTY program at the Roger Williams University in Rhode Island where she will study game theory economics.
“Reign’s compelling drive to succeed against the odds and her inner strength” sets an inspirational example to others, according to Sara Hahn, a former teacher who nominated Glover for the contest. Hahn is the cofounder of Determined to Succeed, an educational nonprofit she started with Azaria that mentors and tutors disadvantaged youth.
In an essay written by one of his peers, winning math teacher Lamar Queen is recognized for his innovative teaching style, composing his lessons in the form of math raps. His first rap, “Slope Intercept Form,” became an instant hit with students, who once considered his class boring, and received more than 50,000 YouTube hits (www.youtube.com/watch?v=REjcPZeypVg). Three years later, Queen and a fellow middle school teacher released a Web site, www.musicnotesonline.com, which features CDs and DVDs filled with songs and videos using Queen’s original music that are helping hundreds of students learn math concepts.
The essay stated, “[Queen] has developed a whole range of entertaining and educational raps for students of regular and higher math, and has turned on students to a subject they once feared.”
“NYSE Euronext's collaboration with Viacom's Get Schooled initiative reinforces the importance of being innovative and creative in how we reach today's youth with the fundamentals of education and financial literacy," said Duncan Niederauer, CEO, NYSE Euronext.
The “Ring the Bell” winners were chosen from a national pool of nominations that included students and teachers from dozens of middle and high schools across the country. In addition to having the opportunity to ring the New York Stock Exchange Opening Bell, Glover and Queen also received an all-expense paid trip to New York City, a chance to meet Get Schooled Celebrity Education Ambassador Hank Azaria, a backstage tour of the New York Stock Exchange, a Dell “Nickelodeon Edition” laptop and other prizes.
ABOUT THE GET SCHOOLED FOUNDATION
The Get Schooled Foundation connects, inspires and mobilizes people – from policymakers and corporate leaders to communities and kids – to improve high school graduation and college completion rates in the U.S. It provides resources and information and creative programming that engage a range of audiences to address America’s education crisis. An independent 501(c)(3) organization, the Get Schooled Foundation’s co-founders include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Viacom, including its divisions BET Networks, MTV Networks and Paramount Pictures.
6th Grade Teacher
Los Angeles Academy Middle School
When the Get Schooled foundation asked for nominations for outstanding math teachers in its Ring the Bell Contest, one name stood out among the other: resident superstar teacher Lamar Queen! Below is the essay that was submitted on his behalf:
In 2007 a new Algebra teacher arrived at our urban middle school in South Central Los Angeles. Lamar Queen was the kind of teacher that you know off-bat will have a bright future.
His calm demeanor, impeccable dress, and rapport with students was instantaneous. We knew he would be destined for greatness.
Well, it didn't quite work out that way. His students got over his youth and looks and soon started complaining about class being boring. Mr. Queen was mortified. He became stressed.
He showed up at our school's New Teacher support meetings and admitted he couldn't sleep well at night trying to figure out a way to make class more engaging. And that's when the magic began.
Mr. Queen began writing his lessons in the form of math raps. He wanted these raps to pass the stiff criteria our students use to deem what is "cool" or "not cool." His first rap, Slope Intercept Form, was a huge hit with students due to its original lyrics and beats. Soon, a youtube video followed, and Mr. Queen became a certified superstar in the 'hood. He has developed a whole range of entertaining and educational raps for students of regular and higher math, and has turned on students to a subject they once feared.
As an African-American male, in a community desperate for role models, Mr. Queen has lived up to the promise we saw in him. We are lucky to have him in our school. His video is at
If Mr. Q.U.E. wins the contest, he gets a free round-trip ticket to New York City to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, April 28th, 2010! Stay tuned for details, as we are awaiting word about the winners. Feel free to contact Lamar at email@example.com or follow him on Facebook at Mr. Q.U.E.'s fan page. His music can be found at musicnotesonline.com
This week at LAAMS we found out our counseling staff will be reduced in half next year, with each counselor carrying an 850:1 load of students. Our deans are being reduced from three to two, and our categorical program coordinators reduced from two to one. We may also lose an Assistant Principal, in our school of 2,400 students in South Central Los Angeles.
And we thought we were having discipline problems this year?
My position as half time GATE coordinator that oversees 700 Gifted/Advanced Students will very possibly be eliminated. How will these 700 students and their families be served during one conference period, in addition to the 150 other students I teach in the classroom?
If forward progress paused this year because of the layoffs, it will most certainly reverse direction with these "final blow" cuts to our school. If it wasn't for our fiercely dedicated teachers, our school may have collapsed already. But we have spirit.
It is beside the point to moan about how these cuts will hurt kids. All involved know that. What is important to consider is how decisions have been made at the top; how the Governor protects the wealthiest Californians at the expense of the least. How the President and Arne Duncan have decided to use Race to the Top Funding to further their own reform plans that have, through wide consensus in the education community, been deemed as not viable. These funds, by the way, are awarded not by need, but by how much each state agrees to pursue the reforms the feds are pushing. “We don’t know how many winners there will be,” Duncan said. “Quite frankly, there will probably be a lot more losers than winners in the first round.”
When our country collapses because we created a nation of uneducated, throwaway youth while fostering the development of hedge fund managers and the ruling class, let's be clear that it all started when we decided to kill public education.
Post by AvalonSensei, aka Martha Infante
This week, members of the United Teachers of Los Angeles will vote to approve 12 furlough days in the next 15 months. These furloughs translate in to a 5% pay cut. Should teachers vote for this measure, as a way to preserve jobs? Yes.
It is completely understandable why many UTLA members may want to vote this measure down. It is unclear whether the LAUSD has cut enough from its own bureaucracy in order to justify a pay cut for teachers. Although many districts have their budgets posted online as a way of promoting transparency, getting accurate numbers from LAUSD is like pulling teeth. As teachers see it, vast mismanagement of funds, and poor management in general led to a surplus of workers in a district with declining enrollment. Now, to balance the budget, teachers are asked to sacrifice pay. This is not okay.
Other UTLA members believe in the "last hired, first fired" way of fairly dealing with layoffs. That might make sense except at schools like L.A. Academy a.k.a. LAAMS (and Markham MS, and Fremont HS, and Jefferson HS) where no one wants to work, and thus are overly represented by bright-eyed, new teachers who had no other choice of where to work (we call them unknowingly lucky.) When cuts come our way, we lose more teachers than in any other part of the district. In the 2009 Reduction in Force, South Central Los Angeles bore 40% of all the layoffs. Again, not okay, and the reason why the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the district.
Clearly, the system isn't perfect. The time has come for UTLA to take the lead in ensuring the fair distribution of new teachers across the district if it wants to maintain the current seniority system used to conduct layoffs. Otherwise, every time there is a turn in the economy, schools like LAAMS will be decimated and our students will be left as they are now, bereft of teachers who chose to work with them, planned to stay at our school for a long time, and were invested in the school and its programs.
From a teacher's point of view, starting over with new staff is at best, making no forward progress. It takes time for teachers to learn about their new school, become familiar with the culture and climate, and to decide whether it is a place that is respectful and valuable for them to commit to. All momentum towards academic improvement is stopped, and in many cases, goes back the other way.
A possible solution: across the board pay cuts. Every school and office takes the same cut. Teachers can keep their district seniority if they transfer to a hard to staff school, and they will be virtually guaranteed employment because the average years of experience at schools such as mine (84% teaching <5 years) is on the lower end. But if they insist on staying at a LACES HS or a Bravo HS, they run the risk of being laid off in a RIF year. This seems fair. On an issue like this, it is imperative for the agenda to be student, not adult-centered.
Finally, the shortening of the school year is the lesser of two evils Far more harm will come to schools if you layoff the very people willing and able to make a difference in students' lives. When we lost the people you see in the sidebar of this blog, it was like a piece of our collective LAAMS heart died. We will never be able to replace the Ms. Sanlins and Ms. Umbers we lost to the budget cuts. And it is a move that can never be undone. Those 12 days will go by in a flash, but the loss of experienced and talented teachers is forever.
So UTLA members, we ask that you vote yes on the CBA. The future of LAAMS depends on it.
TEACHER: Natalie Umber YEARS TEACHING: 2 SUBJECT(S) Honors Math/Science core. This teacher was RIF’ed in March ’09 and kept hoping, and hoping, and hoping her RIF would be rescinded. Her students were heartbroken when they found out it wasn’t. She is now working at a local charter school.
MISSING IN ACTION
Teacher: Tracie Sanlin Years Teaching: 2 Subject(s) Honors and General Ed. Science and Social Studies. This teacher was RIF’ed in March ’09 and was immediately offered employment at a charter school in another state. Charter schools really scored some top teachers in the ’09 Reduction in Force.
MISSING IN ACTION
TEACHER: Libby Pier YEARS TEACHING: 1 SUBJECT(S) English. This teacher was RIF’ed in March ’09 and left LAUSD to teach at a local charter.
MISSING IN ACTION
TEACHER: Regina Green YEARS TEACHING: 2 SUBJECT(S) Math/Science core. This teacher was RIF’ed in March ’09 and left LAUSD to go back to Northern California.
MISSING IN ACTION
Teacher: Izmael Arkin Years Teaching: 3 Subject(s) Honors Math/Science Core. This teacher was RIF’ed in March ’09 and left LAUSD to work at a charter school.
MISSING IN ACTION
Teacher: Cindy Rivas Years Teaching: 6 Subject(s) Honors English. This talented teacher and young mother of 2, was RIF’ed in March ’09 and stayed with LAUSD until July ’09 in the hopes of having her RIF rescinded. It did not happen in time. She left LAUSD after she was offered employment in another district.
MISSING IN ACTION
Teacher: Brent Tercero Years Teaching: 2 Subject(s): Social Studies, Science This teacher has left LAUSD and is working at an independent charter school.
MISSING IN ACTION
Teacher: Alfredo Munoz Years Teaching: 10 Subject(s): Science As hard as it is to recruit and retain science teachers, this caring, bilingual GATE teacher immediately found employment upon being RIF'ed. After the RIF was rescinded, he kept his commitment to the other district. Our loss.
TEACHER: Hannah Kim YEARS TEACHING: 2 SUBJECT(S) Social Studies and Science. This teacher was RIF’ed in March ’09 but decided to leave the teaching profession entirely. Who can blame her?
LIVING IN LIMBO
TEACHER: Joe Zeccola YEARS TEACHING: 1 SUBJECT(S) English/Drama This teacher was RIF’ed in March ’09 but decided to stay at LAAMS as a substitute teacher. He is currently subbing in his own former position, at significantly less pay.
LIVING IN LIMBO
TEACHER: James Awh YEARS TEACHING: 10+ SUBJECT(S) English/Social Studies Core. This teacher was RIF’ed in March ’09 but decided to stay at LAAMS as a substitute teacher. Mr. Awh left teaching during a leave of absence and lost his seniority. He is a seasoned educator but is still in limbo as a RIF’ed teacher.
LIVING IN LIMBO
TEACHER: Carla Colindres YEARS TEACHING: 3 SUBJECT(S) Honors Algebra and Geometry. This teacher was RIF’ed in March ’09 but decided to stay at LAAMS as a substitute teacher. She is currently subbing in her own former position, at significantly less pay.
LIVING IN LIMBO
TEACHER: Derrick Marshall YEARS TEACHING: 6 SUBJECT(S) Math/Science Core. This teacher was RIF’ed in March ’09 but decided to stay at LAAMS as a substitute teacher. He is currently subbing in his own former position, at significantly less pay.
LIVING IN LIMBO
TEACHER: Kate Conrath YEARS TEACHING: 4 SUBJECT(S) Math/Science Core. This teacher was RIF’ed in March ’09 but decided to stay at LAAMS as a substitute teacher. She is currently subbing in her own former position, at significantly less pay.
LIVING IN LIMBO
TEACHER: LaMar Queen YEARS TEACHING: 3 SUBJECT(S) Algebra This teacher, also knows as Mr. Q.U.E., the Rapping Mathmetician, was RIF’ed in March ’09 but decided to stay at LAAMS as a substitute teacher. He is currently subbing in his own former position, at significantly less pay in spite of winning numerous awards and recognition for his creativity in the arts.
"If charter schools are doing the job for the student, and it is a better job than the traditional school, I'm not as concerned about the racial isolation." Ramon Cortines, LAUSD Superintendent, on findings from the UCLA Civil Rights Project study showing charter schools are more segregated than traditional public schools. Read article here.
Survival During a Gang, Race War. Just Another Day in South Central for Students.
Below is a link to an LA Times editorial that advocates for the elimination of due process for teachers. Again, the Times erroneously calls it tenure, but teachers in CA do not have tenure. We have due process.
Due process has protected hundred, if not thousands of teachers from vendettas, blacklisting, and termination by unethical administrators and school boards. Due process is a part of the checks and balances in the education system, and these checks are crucial to a democratic society.
I know teachers who were reassigned to less desirable positions because they disagreed with administrators, were moved from room to room, forced to rove/travel each period, were written up for little to no reason, all because they had the nerve to call out administrators on cronyism and nepotism. To take away due process is assuming we live in a perfect world, where administrators are all 100% ethical and only have the students' best interest in mind.
But the forces that spawned this editorial have nothing to do with student well-being. They have to do with a united, concerted effort between the LA Times and the philanthropists, who have seen themselves fit to destroy public education and reconstruct it under a private system. A crafty investigative reporter should take a look at what is obvious to anyone that keeps up with education news today.
What is truly despicable is the focus on this single teacher, who represents the worst of the teaching force, and to produce article upon article, special reports, and editorials on an issue that is a red herring. Teacher quality is not the problem. Can it improve? Yes. All professions can. And while the Times focuses on the minute number of poor teachers, the other 99% of the teaching force will continue serving students..and preparing to fight to keep our rights and due process. They will not be taken from us without a fight.
Fremont High School has been targeted for reconstitution, as authorized by the No Child Left Behind policy by the federal government. While it is easy to look at numbers and formulas to justify this drastic move, teachers in South LA schools wonder who is looking at the human element: students and teachers, and what reconstitution will mean to the people its supposed to benefit.
The excerpt below comes from the Susan Ohanian blog, and it sheds light on one possible effect that reconstitution had on Fenger HS in Chicago, where a student was brutally beaten to death in the fall, as shown on cell phone video. She writes:
[W]hen a school goes through turnaround, it loses the social fabric an experienced and professional staff provides. As the nation witnessed the horrific stomping/beating death of a Christian Fenger High School student on YouTube, they saw a "turnaround" become the deadliest school reform of all. Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, high school teacher Deborah Lynch pointed out that "reform" at Fenger meant "dumping all the staff, even the engineers," thereby removing human capital from the school. . . . The school website indicates that along with extensive building renovations, "a highly talented faculty and staff were hired," which means that when Derrion Albert was killed, no one in this turnaround school had known the kids for more than three weeks.--Gerald Bracey, The Bracey Report, Nov. 2009 (Read more here)
This blog agrees that a faculty that includes veteran teachers that hold the institutional memory of a school, that can tell you the reasons behind a school's policies, programs, or decisions, or can shed light on critical neighborhood knowledge is irreplaceable, valuable, and should not be eliminated from schools like Fremont. Talk about throwing out the baby with the bathwater!
This is the most cogent explanation about the true motives behind charter school expansion
“An ill-informed public will benefit people who can push an agenda without accountability and public scrutiny.” Virginia Edwards, the publisher of Education Week in educationnext.org
"School Choice" Quote of the Day
“It was clearly political. Los Angeles is all about power and control and nothing about attaining the highest possible educational achievement of its students.” David Brewer, immediate past LAUSD Superintendent quoted in the LA Wave Newspaper on YFA Resolution, 8/26/09
Superintendent's Message to Employees Re: Outsourcing of Schools
We have received word that RIF'ed teachers who are subbing right now on B and C Track at our school will be allowed to stay in their current positions beyond the normal 30 day sub limit. This will be tremendously beneficial to students who will be allowed to stay with the same instructor, maintain support and continuity, and feel valued.
New School Year Update @ LAAMS
At the end of this second week of the new school year, only 4 of the 20+ displaced teachers assigned to our school have reported for work. This leaves 20+ assignments unfilled, and taught by substitutes. Some of our RIF'ed teachers have continued to try to preserve the school community by working as substitute teachers for these assignments, many the very own assignments created by their dismissal.
If the assigned displaced teacher decides to show up, the RIF'ed substitute teacher must vacate the assignment. In other words, on Friday the students may have Ms. X as a teacher, and on Monday, a completely different teacher. This actually happened in one of the assignments.
As a 6th grader, you are new to the school, scared at being on campus with kids much bigger than you, trying to find the 5 different classrooms you are assigned to, and trying to remember the block schedule that meets on alternate days (and at different times depending on the day of the week). Your 6th grade teacher plays a huge role in making you feel safe, secure and welcome at the big middle school. Having this caring and supportive person disappear from your life from one day to the next tells students they are not important, worthy, or merit the security of having a permanent teacher in their lives.
For the RIF'ed teacher, working as a sub is a difficult thing to do. You are doing the same work, but at a lower pay, and without the full benefits and protections of being a full time teacher. If you get ill, you don't have sick days to fall back on. You grow emotionally attached to the students. You learn their lives and stories and develop plans of action to help them grow and prosper through the year. They are your children, and they live in your heart and mind, and your life revolves around your persona as a teacher and what you can do to make a difference in their lives.
Then, you get told that LAUSD will only allow you to stay in your assignment as a 30 day sub only, and at the end of July you must change assignments. Why? If you work in the same assignment for a certain amount of time, you earn bonus pay as a long term sub. The district's financial state is more important than the students' emotional one.
One former teacher stated, "Our collective love of LAAMS is greater than any of LAUSD." But no matter how much you love our school and the children, you still have rent, student loans, car notes, and other bills to pay. If you want to start your own family, you must find some money in our already low teacher salaries to save away for the future. Can this be done on an inconsistent sub pay basis? In Los Angeles? No.
LAAMS teachers wish the public would recognize that public schools can and do work. But the cards are being stacked against us, nip by nip, cut by cut, and Jason Song editorial by Jason Song editorial. And schools, such as ours in South Central, are feeling the budget cuts more than the majority of the schools in the city and state. Is this fair? No. But who cares what happens to the forgotten children of South Central?
16 Days Left Until the New School Year-Zero Teachers Hired to Replace 23 Laid-Off Teachers
After attending three hiring fairs, specifically created for the purpose of placing Beaudry bureaucrats and displaced coaches back in the classroom (to replace the 23 talented L.A. Academy teachers who have been given Reduction in Force Notices), a grand total of ZERO people have been hired, mostly due to lack of participation by said employees in the hiring fairs.
Public: The new school year starts in 16 days! We have 29 unfilled positions. That's almost an entire track of positions for whom we have no teachers. It is our understanding that due to the lack of seeming willingness to work at our South Central campus (or perhaps there are not enough single subject teachers available?) the District will MANDATORILY PLACE these employees at our school site. July 1st and 2nd have been designated "reverse-minimum days" where classes start at 10:00 am thus giving forced employees three hours to learn their class assignments and "prepare lessons" for their students.
Where in America, would parents find it acceptable to have a reluctant employee teach high-need children, with only three hours of preparation? How insulting is this to our parents, students, and laid-off teachers whose hearts are being broken because they have been separated from the kids they love teaching?
This is, in fact, the continuous march toward the dismantling of public education. Don't let this happen.
Layoffs mean LA schools lose new breed of teachers (from Associated Press)
Dorsey HS Expresses Concerns to Superintendent Cortines
March 2009 from utla.net
We met at the beginning of this year and enjoyed our conversation about your school and about a music program. I’m writing to say how well written your email to Cortines was. I really hope it works. I was at Markham MS a few weeks ago and they are really moving forward, all because they have a young, energetic staff to replace a large group of more senior teachers who left when a new administration came on board. To have that new staff leave would be devastating to the progress the school has made.I really hope it works. Our middle school kids need consistency in their lives. It sets the stage for so much of their future.
You perfectly outlined what the inner city corridor of schools is facing - the newest and some of the brightest will get laid off and that hurts kids.
Please know that as a fellow teacher I applaud your proactive approach regarding this situation, but--more importantly--your staff's amazing creativity and efforts on behalf of the students and families in your community.
Thank you for standing up for the voiceless in our society, our poorest children! I use to work in Watts I now work at a school in Wilmington that has many veteran teachers. I applaud your efforts and the courage to write this letter I only hope AJ Duffy gets a copy of it. I would GLADLY give up tenure, to keep my benefits for life along with other compensations so that good teachers get to teach and bad teachers leave the profession. Keep up the hard work and know you are not alone.
Thank you for your powerful and thoughtful email. You succeeded in the difficult challenge of making a vitally strong point without being incendiary. I hope your school and each of our schools can maintain its integrity and fine teaching ethic.
Things are not going to be easy for anybody this coming year or next, or next. I am a school psychologist at Mulholland Middle School, adore my job and my kids and know that we are losing some great teachers at the end of this year. There has always been a racial 'apartheid' in this district - the rich vs. the not rich. It is a fact of life. I have worked for over 30 years as a psych, and seen the money for kids lean to the south of the blvd, and west of the 405. Your letter sounds as if you are all doing just what you are supposed to be doing, and God bless you all for it. I feel like those of us who truly love being with kids and teaching them, and helping them are so flung out into outer space, with little emotional connection to each other, expect at union rallies, and then it is then too much yelling. Be well, keep faith, you WILL LOSE teachers, you will decrease in size, but your mission and your love has to continue. There isn't anything that can buy that out. I hope that you get tons of supportive replies back. Cortines is a very good man, and I know that his heart is breaking every time he gets an e-mail like yours (he got one from me also), and that he can only do the best he can. He knows, better than you think, the disparity in this district, but it is not something he can fix single handed right now. Keep your staff strong spirited, run a good race to the very end. This whole crazy budget thing, may get you and some of your teachers to learn about grant writing and becoming less dependent on district resources. I wish you peace..Lucia Jean Gutierrez-Wrightson
Unfortunately many of our young, committed teachers are being forced out. These are the teachers that we must fight to keep. The very lives of our children depend on them staying in school and graduating. We know that it's not the latest textbooks or state-of the-art technology. It's teachers who are committed to their students and are able to relate to these children. Thanks you for all that you are doing. At West Valley Special Ed Center, we, too, are struggling to continue the exceptional programs for our moderate to severe students. We are one of the schools that may be closed/consolidated. Like you, we are writing letters to Mr. Cortines and the School Board members. Like you, we are fighting to keep our staff together for the good of our students.
Good luck in your endeavor. I will keep you in my thoughts, and ask that you keep us in your thoughts, too.
Kim Lindaman West Valley School
I didn't get a pink, but I'll go on strike, and encourage others to do so, for as long as it'll take to support good teachers like you guys. (Too bad that they only considered seniority...)
I had the pleasure to visit your school last year and was impressed how the staff had come together to address the needs of your students. I applaud you for your success at LA Academy and hope you realize the support and stability that your school deserves.
Thank you for your well thought out and articulate letter to the Superintendent and the Board. Although I did not receive a RIF, a feel that it is very unfair that our area was hit the hardest with these cuts. At my school, at least 4 of the teachers that I know who received the notices were not probationary teachers. They were emergency credentialed teachers who have been teaching for almost 10 years but received their credentials in late 2004.
Thank you for speaking loudly on a particular issue that many of us are afraid to do so. I applaud your valiant effort as someone who is also a UTLA member. The young, talented staff that you speak of, is also scattered across other campuses. You speak not just all of them, but more importantly for the kids. Unfortunately our contract does not allow us to serve our students better by keeping the talented, regardless of age.
We are your neighbor over here at Trinity St ES. While we only received 3 RIF notices, we are facing the possible loss of our one and only AP, our Counselor and both of our coaches, along with the 3 or more teachers if the board votes to raise class size. Thank you for your impassioned plea. All of us have made tremendous gains in South Central and the proposed changes will really make it impossible to sustain.
Words are not enough to express my gratitude and to commend you on your courage at writing such an articulate and powerful letter to Mr. Cortinez. Thank you for accurately expressing all of our concerns for the children who are often plagued with abandonment and emotional hurt. I work for a small school in the Belmont Zone of Choice, Los Angeles School of Global Studies, and out of a faculty of 14 staff members, four outstanding and committed teachers received RIF notices. Sometimes the only stability our students have is our caring teachers. I hope your words and concerns are taken into consideration when the proposed budget is passed. Again thank you for speaking on our behalf.
We are all a part of a team, working toward the best education of the kids (and parents) we serve. May God help us all to still the waters and provide help and reassurance in turbulent times!
Thank you for writing this letter. I am inspired by your commitment to South Central and your professionalism while addressing the school board. I am a first year teacher at Huntington Park High School and although we are not experiencing percentages of cuts as high as South Central, we too are being greatly affected. I am especially concerned with the disproportionality you are describing. It is clear that schools of color and teachers of color are the most affected groups in LAUSD's budget "solutions".
I would like to extend my solidarity with you and your school and ask you if there are any planned actions (i.e. student attendance to the board meeting, letter writing campaign etc.) to further display the effects of these cuts on our communities? Although I am involved in the union and support the unions efforts to protect teachers, I feel that the issues you described in your letter will only be addressed by teachers who share the same concerns: disproportionality of effect and the need for stability and empowerment in communities of color.
Please let me know if there are any efforts your school will be making, in light of proposed cuts, which can be supported by other teachers and students in L.A. unified.
Thank you, Crystal Gonzalez
Response From Yolie Flores Aguilar
Thank you for expressing your views regarding our budget situation.
Please know that I am doing everything possible to avoid impacting children. For example, last year, I insisted on holding class size sacred; the Board agreed. We were able to avoid any cuts to schools: we did not increase class size and we did not lay off any teachers. Instead, we cut over $400 million by taking many one time reductions, deferring textbook procurement, instituting a hiring freeze, taking a 15% reduction in central offices, reducing travel, stopping new contracts, etc.
Now, however, the State is asking us to cut an additional $700+ million over the next 15 months. Further, the State has notified us that California's budget gap may increase yet another $8 billion. And, there is still concern surrounding the May 19 special election, which includes voter initiatives that must pass or another $6 billion will be added to California's deficit. These two items could total more than $500 million in further cuts to LAUSD in 2009-10.
While the stimulus package will provide some relief, it needs to get to the schools as quickly as possible. The District is anxiously waiting to hear officially from the State on how much is coming and when it is coming. We have dedicated this money to preserve jobs and prevent additional layoffs, keep programs running and doors open, and stabilize the budget, over the next two years.
Even so, the cuts to education are devastating and unacceptable; I share your anger and frustration, and I encourage you to also make your views heard in Sacramento. Please call your legislators and the Governor and ask them to stop making cuts to education. Clearly, education is low on our state's priority - we are 47th in the nation in per pupil spending. Yet, we have the most well-funded correctional (jail) system in the country. In my opinion, our lack of adequate investment in education is short-sighted, immoral, and foolish.
I continue to fight vigorously on our end at the school board for other options besides lay-offs. I oppose the system that "bumps" outstanding, young teachers out because they lack seniority. I also continue to look carefully at anywhere else we can cut before impacting our students. Many teachers and parents are asking us to consider furloughs, pay freezes, and pay cuts. I have asked that we consider this as well.
If you have additional suggestions, please pass them along. In the meantime, I am attaching a brochure that provides additional information. I also invite you to go to the link, http://www.lausd.net, to see the video of the March 24th board meeting to see the presentation made by Megan Reilly, our Chief Financial Officer. There you will also find documents with the information the Board has.
Yolie Flores Aguilar Board Member, LAUSD
p.s. Some of you have also asked about using our facilities bonds to offset the budget cuts. Unfortunately, we are not able to do so legally, as the bonds were approved by voters with the explicit understanding that they would be used for school facilities projects.
Response From the Superintendent's Office
Thank you for your email. It is my hope that the money that I am recommending to go to schools will be used to save many of the positions that you believe are so important. I am also hoping that the increase in early retirement will save jobs for new employees.
Again, thank you for your communication.
Nicole Elam-Phillips on behalf of Ramon C. Cortines Office of the Superintendent 213-241-7000
Response from Marlene Canter
Thank you for taking the time to share your feelings with me about the Superintendent's proposed budget cuts. I am taking all the emails and calls I've received into consideration. I appreciate your time.
Comments by Concerned Teachers
Thank you for such an eloquent letter! I truly hope they "read/heard" what I did from your letter! It is a sad state for our students/newer teachers as well. I used to teach in South Central (TAS, the Accelerated School) and have a soft spot in my heart for those kids (parents and fellow colleagues/teachers). I'd like to think we are all in this together!
Tien Huynh Dinh Bravo Medical Magnet
Thanks for this message and more importantly for all that you and your colleagues do for South Central Los Angeles. I hope that Mr. Cortines and the Board preserve and protect all your efforts. God bless you.
As a veteran teacher who worked in Rialto Unified district for several years, with only two years in LAUSD, I too received a RIF notice. Your words moved me to tears. I pray that the board doesn't forget South Los Angeles and the amazing work you and your colleagues are doing there. It is ALWAYS the least served that are forgotten in education. That 40% of all RIFs went to South Central is truly a crime. Please know, and let your teachers know that there are those of us in the district who support your efforts and all you have been able to accomplish in your community, even if I may not be able to do much about it.
I teach at 75th street school. I received a RIF notice and so did 30 teachers at my school. This will also be devastating to my school. I hope and pray that the board will make a wise choice.
Mrs. Moreno 1st grade 75th Strret Elementary
I am glad someone is finally pointing this out. I am a third year teacher at Bethune Middle School. I received a pink slip along with 40 other teachers at my school. You are speaking for all of us. Thank you.
Thank you for writing such a coherent and powerful letter to our Superintendant. I am not sure our Union is doing enough to protect probationary teachers and I hope you consider and share this perspective as well
You perfectly outlined what the inner city corridor of schools is facing - the newest and some of the brightest will get laid off and that hurts kids. Pam Nehring RST/ NBC West Adams
I am the principal of Main Street Elementary School and my 5th graders will be going to your school. We have been working very hard to prepare them for the middle school. I can see that they will be in good hands if the teachers that you have spotlighted stay in your school. I agree with everything you said. I am going to lose 20 of my best teachers if we have a reduction in force. The cumulative impact of this action will only hurt our students.
Eva N. Garcia Main St. ES
I heard about your school through the grapevine and how you have been affected by the enormous amount of RIF notices your staff received. I am a 4th year elementary school teacher and was one of the unlucky ones to receive a RIF letter as well. Your point was well stated and I hope Mr. Cortines will seriously take into consideration the damage a reduction in staff will do to not only your school, but to all schools in LAUSD. If they really cared about the district and the gains we have made as a whole, they will not proceed to vote for the increase in class size. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for all of us.
Thank you for sending this letter and expressing what many of us are feeling in South Los Angeles. I am not one of the new teachers who received the notices but I am one of those teachers who chose to teach in South Los Angeles and feel these cuts are extremely harmful to our children. We often get the new teachers and because of this my school had 32 teachers who received pink slips. Many of those teachers are the leaders on campus. There must be a better way.
You have pointed out that the District is once again using the teachers and the students to balance the administrative bloat that has grown over the last ten years.
I just e-mailed my own personal letter of protest against the RIFs and I wanted to tell you how glad I am that other teachers are taking a stand! I am a Kindergarten teacher at 92nd Street, which is in Watts, near Jordan High. My school has also had major academic gains in the past few years and having a positive impact on our students and community and I fear what may become of our students if these cuts are made. Good luck to you and know that you are not alone in this fight. Janice Reid 92nd St. ES