California education news: What’s the latest?

Wednesday, February 8, 2023, 9:54 am

Link copied.Biden highlights youth mental health in State of the Union speech

The U.S. Department of Education will invest $240 million in grants to help schools tackle the youth mental health crisis, President Joe Biden announced during his State of the Union address Tuesday, Education Week reported.

The president said youth mental health remains an urgent priority, as rates of anxiety and depression among young people continue to climb. The pandemic, school shootings and community violence, social media and persistent inequities and racism have all contributed to the rise in youth mental health challenges.

“When millions of young people are struggling with bullying, violence, trauma, we owe them greater access to mental health care at school,” Biden said.

The grants, which follow a $1 billion investment last year, are intended to help schools hire more counselors and other mental health professionals.

Biden also called for other education reforms, including free pre-kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds, pay raises for teachers,  upgrades to school buildings, expanded career training and protections for LGBTQ youth, EdWeek reported.

 

Carolyn Jones

Wednesday, February 8, 2023, 9:54 am

Link copied.Hundreds protest Bakersfield teacher who supports student confidentiality on gender identity

More than 300 people attended a Kern High School District board meeting Monday night to protest — or support — a teacher who was quoted in The New York Times supporting students’ rights to confidentiality regarding gender identity, the Bakersfield Californian reported.

The teacher, Olivia Garrison, did not attend the meeting. The board didn’t take action because the item was not on the agenda, but did direct the superintendent to review the district policy.

Brandon Holthaus, senior pastor of Rock Harbor Church, was among those who called for the board to investigate and possibly fire Garrison, who teaches at Del Oro High School in Bakersfield.

Garrison’s comments, Holthaus said at te meeting, “are a violation of parental authority. I understand that (teachers) hear a lot of stuff (and issues from students). We’re asking them: Punt that, please. Punt that to the professionals and do not try to take that on yourself. You’re an educator. You are not a psychotherapist or a counselor that can handle those kinds of things.”

The New York Times quoted Garrison as saying, “My job, which is a public service, is to protect kids. … Sometimes, they need protection from their own parents.” The article focused on teachers who don’t inform parents when students discuss their gender identity.

Lance Mack, a transgender male who attends a local college, spoke at the board meeting in support of Garrison and LGBTQ students’ rights.

“If a student has decided to come out to someone at school rather than someone at home, there’s probably something going on at home,” he said. “Sometimes students just need space to be themselves. Maybe that can lead them to coming out at home later if it’s more about just needing a separate space.”

Carolyn Jones

Tuesday, February 7, 2023, 5:58 pm

Link copied.West Contra Costa Unified, teachers union to enter fact-finding; strike could follow

West Contra Costa Unified and its teachers union, United Teachers of Richmond, will participate in a fact-finding hearing on Feb. 16, potentially leading to a strike the first week of March.

The fact-finding follows months of contract negotiations, including bargaining sessions with a third-party mediator after the district declared an impasse in December. At the hearing, both bargaining teams will present to a fact-finding panel, consisting of one person appointed by the union, another by the district and a state-appointed “neutral,” said United Teachers of Richmond President John Zabala. The neutral member will produce a nonbinding report from facts presented at the hearing, with recommendations for a settlement.

United Teachers of Richmond’s bargaining team must consider that report and the fact-finder’s recommended settlement. After that, the bargaining team can set a date for the strike. The union already held a strike authorization vote in December, with more than 90% of United Teachers of Richond’s membership participating and 97.3% voting in favor of a strike.

Zabala said the soonest the union could legally go on strike would be the first week of March, though he hopes the parties can reach a settlement before it comes to that.

Ali Tadayon

Tuesday, February 7, 2023, 10:36 am

Link copied.Psychologists in Clovis Unified seek better pay, more hires

The union representing psychologists at Clovis Unified is pushing for a new contract that includes pay increases and a commitment to hire more staff, according to The Fresno Bee.

The union is specifically asking for 12% raises and for 12 new psychologist positions to be added to the district’s payroll, the Bee reported. The union says the pay it’s asking for is comparable to the pay that school psychologists at Fresno Unified and other districts receive.

School psychologist Rachel Allen, who is on the union’s bargaining team, told the Bee that the union’s goal is to ensure “that our workload is sustainable to serve the mental health needs of students.”

Bargaining between the union and the district is scheduled to resume Thursday, according to the Bee.

Michael Burke

Tuesday, February 7, 2023, 10:26 am

Link copied.Marin schools institute temporary mask mandates after uptick in Covid cases

Four elementary schools in Marin County have temporarily reinstated indoor mask mandates in some classrooms after upticks in Covid-19 cases, the Marin Independent Journal reported.

The mandates are only for the classes where small clusters of Covid-19 cases have been reported, and not for entire schools, said Matt Willis, the county’s public health officer.

“We haven’t heard of any schools reinstating a full indoor mask mandate, where they’re saying everyone has to wear a mask,” Willis told the newspaper, adding that there have been no clusters of Covid-19 cases reported at middle or high schools in the county.

Michael Burke

Monday, February 6, 2023, 10:38 am

Link copied.Home visits help Stockton Unified reduce absenteeism

Social workers, counselors and other Stockton Unified staff have made more than 3,600 home visits this year, helping the district significantly reduce its rate of chronic absenteeism, the Stockton Record reported.

“You need a backpack, shoes, supplies, anything you need, we make sure we remove as many obstacles as we can,” said Christina Fugazi, vice principal of Edison High School and head of the school’s Child Welfare and Attendance Department. “You come on this huge campus with all these big kids in some cases, it’s easy to get lost or have anxiety or be afraid. … We build those relationships and let them know we want them here and we care about them.”

Before the pandemic, the district’s chronic absenteeism rate was below 20%. But by last year it had surged to 48%. Thanks in part to home visits by caseworkers, the rate has dropped by more than a third, to 34%.

After a student misses three to five days of school, caseworkers start calling and visiting the child’s home to help address whatever is keeping the child from attending school. They’ll arrange bus passes, connect a family with local housing agencies or take other steps to ensure the child can make it to class every day.

Ultimately, it’s about building trusting relationships within the community, said Estela Martinez, a social services case manager at Edison.

“We’re really able to break barriers,” she told the newspaper.

Carolyn Jones

Monday, February 6, 2023, 9:59 am

Link copied.Marin district faces third suit over tennis coach who allegedly abused students

A former player has sued the Tamalpais Union High School District, claiming he was molested by a tennis coach beginning in 1999, the Marin Independent Journal reported.

The plaintiff, who attended a school in San Rafael but played on the tennis team at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, said he was repeatedly abused by the coach, Normandie Santos Burgos.

Burgos was fired by the district in 2006 following similar allegations, but he continued working as a private coach. In 2019, he was convicted in Contra Costa County on 60 counts of molestation of two teenagers and is serving a 255-year sentence at Mule Creek State Prison.

Two other former players have also sued the school district over Burgos’ alleged abuse. In May, a Marin County jury awarded $10 million to one of those players, and another former player filed a lawsuit in November.

The school district had no comment on the most recent suit, but Superintendent Tara Taupier said the district has no “administrators or board members who were in their position when Mr. Burgos was employed by the district.”

Carolyn Jones

Friday, February 3, 2023, 11:23 am

Link copied.Activists push for a police-free Los Angeles Unified

Community and student activists are pushing for Los Angeles Unified to eliminate police from schools and reinvest that money in socioemotional wellness and in academic support for the district’s Black students. 

The Police Free Coalition, which includes organizations such as United Teachers Los Angeles and Reclaim Our Schools Los Angeles, released a report Tuesday urging LAUSD to redirect the funding and focus on fostering its connections with families and local communities. The coalition is pushing for more climate, mental health and college counselors as well as nurses in a plan that it said would cost the district $800 million per year.

This comes after activists successfully advocated for LAUSD to cut the police budget in 2020 by more than a third and reverted funding to an achievement plan dedicated to Black students. The district also stopped having police officers stationed in schools. The renewed call to address school policing also comes alongside labor negotiations with the teachers and workers unions. 

Kate Sequeira

Friday, February 3, 2023, 11:11 am

Link copied.Los Angeles Unified to partner students with mentors through new initiative

Los Angeles Unified is launching a new initiative to get students connected with mentors, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced Friday. Everyone Mentors Los Angeles will connect students with individuals across the L.A. area.

The district has currently partnered with 12 organizations across Los Angeles, including nonprofit Big Brothers Big Sisters, with the goal of providing LAUSD’s 27,000 most vulnerable students with mentors. Students targeted with the initiative are those who are struggling academically and are struggling with a range of issues, including mental health issues, family instability and housing and food insecurity, Carvalho said at a press conference Friday. 

“One powerful thing based on conversations with a lot of these students and their teachers and their principals is this, and this is their voice: ‘If I had someone, please show me a better way; if I had someone who would wake me up in the morning; if I had someone who would play ball with me,” Carvalho said.

Currently, LAUSD is launching the initiative by connecting the first 500 students with employees from across the district, including board president Jackie Goldberg, who was at the Friday press conference.

“Mentors will do whatever it is that a youngster needs to feel honored, to feel valued, to feel loved, to feel that someone’s taking their time to spend with them because they love them and care about them,” she said.

Kate Sequeira

Thursday, February 2, 2023, 5:26 pm

Link copied.CSU Chancellor’s Office will oversee outside investigation of biology professor’s sex case, alleged threats

Chico State officials will choose an outside investigator to probe how the school handled matters involving suspended biology professor David Stachura, but the California State University’s chancellor’s office will oversee the work, an official said Thursday.

“The chancellor’s office will coordinate and oversee the investigation,” Michael Uhlenkamp, a CSU system spokesman wrote in an email Thursday. It was not immediately clear when the selection would be made and the work started.

Edsource reported Dec. 8 that state court records show Stachura allegedly told his estranged wife he wanted to kill two professors who cooperated in an investigation that found he had a sexual affair with a graduate student who he supervised, a violation of CSU policy. Chico State officials looked into the alleged threat, suspended Stachura, and let him return to work. The alleged threat was not disclosed to the campus.

A Chico State lecturer said at an online campus forum on Dec. 12 that Stachura also made violent threats to her, saying, “If I wanted you guys dead, you’d be dead. I am a doer.”

The lecturer, Betsy Tamietti, also said he told her, “’If I do go on a shooting spree, maybe I’ll pass your office. I am not sure.’” Tamietti later told EdSource that she reported the threats in 2021 to the dean of the College of Natural Sciences. A professor who has since left the university also said she had reported what she’d heard about the threat.

University officials in December called Tamietti’s revelation new information that would be investigated.

The revelation roiled the campus of 13,00o students, with both students and faculty expressing outrage at both the sex revelation and the alleged threats, saying the university had not been transparent about possible campus violence.

Stachura was suspended with pay for 60 days on Dec. 9. Chico State spokesman Andrew Staples wouldn’t say what’s next for Stachura when the suspension runs its course next week. “The employee is currently on leave,” he said Thursday.

Chico State President Gayle Hutchison has said in numerous statements that Stachura won’t teach in the Spring semester and is banned from campus. The school’s academic senate voted in December to ask the school to obtain a gun-violence restraining order against Stachura. That has yet to happen. “The University continues to evaluate its legal options,” Staples said.

Stachura, an expert in fish cells, had sex with the graduate student in his office in 2020, an investigation found. A professor in an adjoining office told an investigator that she heard the sex through the wall. Another said she found Stachura and the student in his office with the room reeking of sex and a futon open to a bed. A professor also said she saw Stachura and the student kissing in his laboratory. Both Stachura and the student denied they had a sexual affair, records show.

Chico State settled the sex case with Stachura by suspending him without pay for a third of a semester. Shortly after he was promoted to full professor and named the school’s “outstanding professor” of the 2020-21 academic year. The award was rescinded in December. Provost Debra Larson, who approved the settlement, resigned in September, but is working as a consultant to her replacement until May.

Stachura’s estranged wife later sought a restraining order against him in 2021 in the midst of a contentious divorce. In a declaration filed in Butte County Superior Court, she told a judge that Stachura threatened to shoot the two professors. He “confided in me that he had purchased (a) semi-automatic shotgun, a handgun, and hollow-point bullets to kill his two co-workers and then himself.” Stachura, she told the court, “said he was planning on shooting them.”

In court filings and in an interview with EdSource, Stachura denied making the threats.

A receipt from a Chico gun store filed as an exhibit in the restraining order case showed Stachura bought hollow-point pistol ammunition and 50 rounds of .12 gauge buckshot on Oct. 15, 2021 – the day he received notice that his appeal of the findings in the sex investigation was rejected by the CSU chancellor’s office. In an interview with EdSoruce he twice said he didn’t remember the purchase, then said he did recall it, and that the timing was a coincidence. The munitions, he said, were for home protection.

He did not immediately respond to a message Thursday.

Thomas Peele

Thursday, February 2, 2023, 3:26 pm

Link copied.West Contra Costa Unified virtual academy, with enrollment down 17%, touted as ‘ahead of the curve’

West Contra Costa Unified’s permanent online K-12 school, Vista Virtual Academy, had a 17% enrollment drop from 505 students in June 2022 to 419 students now, as California emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic and its impacts.

Although the district launched the Vista Virtual Academy last year to accommodate students who weren’t able to attend classes in person, plans for it were in the works years before the pandemic broke out for families that had expressed interest in online schooling. The academy had become West Contra Costa Unified’s online independent study option, which was required by the state to serve students who weren’t vaccinated by the time the statewide mandate went into effect. Last school year, the district was concerned that it didn’t have enough space in the academy to accommodate all the students who lacked vaccine verification. Now, the academy has no waitlist for grades K-8, and only 16 high school students on the waitlist —- down from nearly 400 in December 2021.

The California Department of Public Health told Edsource that the end of the state’s Covid-19 state of emergency on Feb. 28 will effectively end its current plan to add Covid-19 vaccinations to the list of 10 vaccinations children are required to have to attend school in person. West Contra Costa Unified, in 2022, had aligned with the state’s previous vaccine mandate deadline of July 2023. Whether the district will keep its vaccine mandate remains to be seen.

Principal Edith Jordan-McCormick, in a presentation to the West Contra Costa school board Wednesday, said most of the students who have left the academy returned to the in-person schools they were originally enrolled in.

District officials and school board members touted the virtual academy at a school board meeting Wednesday. Board member Mister Phillips, whose daughter attends the virtual academy, said the district was “ahead of the curve” in planning for it prior to the pandemic and that his daughter loves her classes.

Ali Tadayon

Thursday, February 2, 2023, 12:51 pm

Link copied.Bill would bar schools from withholding outdoor recess or lunch as punishment

Elementary and middle school in California would be required to provide every student an outdoor recess period of at least 30 minutes — weather permitting — and would not be allowed to deny recess as a disciplinary measure under a bill introduced Thursday.

State Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, who authored SB 291, said in a news release that behavioral disruptions have become “increasingly prevalent in classrooms,” as California emerges from the pandemic and its impacts. That’s why the benefits of “unstructured play and peer-to-peer social interactions offered by recess” are more important now than ever, he said.

While other states including Florida, New Jersey, Arizona and Missouri have adopted standardized school recess policies, California’s education code on recess doesn’t pertain to the quantity and quality of recess times in schools, Newman said.

Rebecca London, a University of California, Santa Cruz associate professor of sociology, who has been studying recess in California for more than 15 years, said it’s “essential” that all California students have downtime every day to “stretch their social, emotional, and physical development through play, socialization with peers and interactions with adults.”

“Recess is an important opportunity for building a positive school climate and for helping all students go back to their classrooms after recess feeling restored and ready to learn,” London said.

Ali Tadayon

Thursday, February 2, 2023, 10:41 am

Link copied.LAUSD to allow students to carry spray that reverse opioid overdoses

Students will be able to carry Narcan, a nasal spray that can reverse an opioid overdose, in Los Angeles Unified schools under a soon-to-be-updated policy, The L.A. Times reported.

The move, announced to school board members in a message from Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho, comes amid continued alarm about the dangers of illicit fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that has been consumed unknowingly by teens in counterfeit pills that look like Xanax or OxyContin, the Times reported.

Carvalho wrote to board members Tuesday that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health “supports a clarification” in L.A. Unified policy “that would allow students to be able to carry Narcan in schools,” and that a policy bulletin was being updated and would be reissued shortly.

Narcan “cannot be used to get high, is not addictive and does not have any effect on a person if there are no opioids in their body,” Carvalho wrote to board members. Nor, he wrote, are there any “long-term consequences” from using it in emergency situations, the Times reported.

EdSource staff

Thursday, February 2, 2023, 9:58 am

Link copied.LA County’s K-12 students to have access to free mental health services

A new initiative from the Los Angeles County Office of Education will make it possible for L.A. County’s K-12 students to have free access to mental health resources such as therapy sessions. School districts can opt in to participate in an online mental health program from Hazel Health that will be accessible to students both at school and at home.

“This historic partnership will bring much-needed mental health support to our students across the county,” L.A. County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo said in a press release. “We continue to see the devastating impact the pandemic has had on our children’s mental well-being. This crisis has called us to collective action.”

San Francisco-based company Hazel Health specializes in providing virtual mental and physical health services to students and has expanded across 14 states. The new initiative is a partnership with public agency L.A. Care Health Plan and health insurance provider Health Net, which are funding up to $24 million to cover the services for L.A. County districts for the next two years. 

Los Angeles Unified as well as Compton Unified have already opted to participate in the program, according to the L.A. County Office of Education.

Kate Sequeira

Thursday, February 2, 2023, 9:54 am

Link copied.School board in Shasta County criticized for prayers at public meetings

An organization that advocates for the separation of church and state is calling on a school board in Shasta County to stop opening its public meetings with a Christian prayer, KRCR TV reported.

Trustees of the Gateway Unified School District in Redding voted 3-2 last month to open their meetings with a prayer. The practice was immediately met with opposition from parents, KRCR reported.

Trustee Lindsi Haynes led a prayer at a recent board meeting and could be heard saying the meeting was “dedicated to God,” according to KRCR. Now, The Freedom from Religion Foundation is calling on trustees to halt the prayers.

“It is coercive, insensitive, and intimidating to force nonreligious citizens to choose between making a public showing of their nonbelief by refusing to participate in the prayer or else display deference toward a religious sentiment in which they do not believe, but which their school board members clearly do,” the foundation wrote in a letter to the trustees.

The foundation cited several court cases striking down prayer at school-sponsored affairs in California, including one recently brought against the Chino Valley Unified School District in San Bernardino County, which was eventually ordered to stop reciting prayers at its own school board meetings and was forced to pay more than $200,000 in legal fees.

Thomas Peele

Wednesday, February 1, 2023, 12:33 pm

Link copied.California bill would ban ‘willful defiance’ suspensions in all grades

East Bay State Senator Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, introduced a bill Wednesday that would eliminate suspensions for defying teachers and school staff or disrupting school activities — known as “willful defiance” suspensions — for all public school students by Fall 2024.

Studies show that willful defiance suspensions disproportionately impact Black male students in California, and increase the likelihood of students dropping out of school.

“SB 274 puts the needs of students first,” Skinner said in a news release. “Instead of kicking them out of school, we owe it to students to figure out what’s causing them to act out and help them fix it.”

Legislation from 2019 had already permanently banned willful defiance suspensions for students in kindergarten through 5th grade, and banned them for grades 6-8 until 2025. Los Angeles Unified, Oakland Unified, San Francisco Unified and other districts have banned the practice over the past decade.

SB 274 would apply to all grades TK through 12 in both traditional public schools and charters. The bill would also prohibit schools from suspending or expelling students for being tardy or truant, according to the news release.

Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, February 1, 2023, 8:04 am

Link copied.Department of Education tallies up damage from storms

Most California schools reported minor damage from the succession of storms that hit the state in January, but four school districts are still trying to recover from major damage, according to information reported to the California Department of Education Emergency Services Team.

Classrooms, offices and the school library at Planada Elementary School in Merced County flooded after a levee broke. Three hundred students and teachers are now sharing classrooms at nearby Cesar E. Chavez Middle School, according to the Merced County Times. It could take up to 10 months to repair the damage to the elementary school.

At Sunol Glen Elementary, in Alameda County, classrooms and offices were flooded, and the playground and garden destroyed after a nearby creek burst through the fence leaving mud and downed trees in its wake. The students have returned to the school.

Damage was also reported at Collegeville Elementary School in Stockton, where three classrooms had unspecified damage, and at Arena Union Elementary School and Pacific Community Charter School in Mendocino County, where a tree fell on a building that houses both schools.

Diana Lambert

Wednesday, February 1, 2023, 8:04 am

Link copied.Sonoma County trustee Gina Cuclis named president of California County Boards of Education

Gina Cuclis, a trustee on the Sonoma County Board of Education, has been named president of the California County Boards of Education.

The board represents California’s 58 county boards of education. As president Cuclis also will serve on the board of the California School Boards Association.

“County boards of education’s responsibilities are very different from what school district boards do,” Cuclis said in a statement. “We have unique professional development and advocacy needs. I’m honored to be in a position to help them as we work together serving California’s public school students.”

Cuclis will prioritize training for county board members and increasing participation in the organization, she said in a press release from the Sonoma County Office of Educaton. She also plans to continue the organization’s legislative priority to create more equitable and sustainable funding for juvenile court and alternative education community schools operated by county offices of education.

Cuclis, who represents the Sonoma Valley, Oakmont, and east Santa Rosa, was first elected to the Sonoma County Board of Education in November 2012.

Diana Lambert

Tuesday, January 31, 2023, 9:42 am

Link copied.New study reveals global scope of pandemic learning loss

During the pandemic, children lost about a third of a school year’s worth of learning, and two years later, have still not recovered, according to a new study in Nature Human Behaviour,  as reported by The New York Times.

Students from low-income backgrounds and those in developing countries suffered the most learning delays and regressions, researchers said, worsening existing disparities and threatening to follow children into higher education and the workforce, according to the Times.

Delays were worse in math than in reading, and students of lower socioeconomic status likely faced noisier study spaces, spottier internet connections and more economic turbulence, making them worse off, The Times reported.

When younger students returned to school, they faced socialization problems, an expert said, and older students returned with anxiety and mental health issues.

According to the study, within districts that were remote for most of the 2020-2021 year, poorer schools lost twice as much learning progress as wealthier schools in the same district.

Fifteen countries were included in the data, published Monday. Researchers said providing intensive summer programs and tutoring initiatives that target low-income students who fell the most behind could help.

“Learning loss will be the longest-lasting and most inequitable legacy of the pandemic,” said Thomas Kane, the faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard.

Ashleigh Panoo

Tuesday, January 31, 2023, 9:41 am

Link copied.Mental health, inflation, causes of chronic absenteeism at San Diego Unified

San Diego Unified is seeing a big jump in chronic absenteeism this year, with some parents blaming mental health for their students missing days, CBS8 reported.

In the year before the pandemic, the number of students classified as chronically absent, or missing 10% or more of school days, was at 12.4%. That number is now 36.7%.

San Diego Unified officials list sickness, mental health, housing and food insecurities, lack of transportation and inflation as the causes, and say the problem has gotten worse at schools across the U.S.

Michael Lardon, a psychiatrist, is hearing some parents are keeping kids home for mental health days. He said the best thing to do is seek help from a professional or a school guidance counselor.

The district said it’s working to find solutions and ways to support families so students can regularly attend school, according to CBS8.

Ashleigh Panoo

Monday, January 30, 2023, 2:59 pm

Link copied.Education activist and advocate Rex Fortune has died

Rex Fortune, who spent his life advocating for better education for Black children, died Sunday. He was 81.

Fortune founded the Fortune School of Education in Sacramento in 1989 to prepare a more diverse group of teaching candidates for public schools, especially in the subject areas of science and mathematics instruction, where there were large shortages, according to the school’s website.

After his daughter, Margaret Fortune, joined Fortune School of Education as its president and CEO in 2008, the organization expanded to include a system of charter schools in San Bernardino and Sacramento counties.

Rex Fortune was a school superintendent in public schools for 20 years before founding Fortune School of Education. He holds a doctorate in education from Stanford University.

Fortune authored four books on education including “Bridging the Achievement Gap” and “Leadership on Purpose: Promising practices for African American and Hispanic Students.” Last year he published “African American History Presentation: Video Lesson Plan.”

 

Diana Lambert

Monday, January 30, 2023, 10:40 am

Link copied.New partnership with service volunteers aims to boost teacher workforce

California will pair its service volunteer groups with the state Department of Education in an effort to lure more young people to teaching careers, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced last week.

The partnership includes the California Climate Action Corps, AmeriCorps, #CaliforniansForAll Youth Jobs and #CaliforniansForAll College Corps.

More than 10,000 volunteers enrolled in those programs will get access to career fairs and information about scholarships and grants such as the CSAC Golden State Teacher GrantExternal link opens in new window or tab., which provides up to $20,000 for prospective teachers and counselors who agree to work at high-needs schools in California for four years. The first career fair, which will be virtual, is scheduled for Feb. 21.

“Our teachers do incredible work in and out of the classroom every day, but this remains a difficult time,” Thurmond said. “Teacher shortages are a long-term national issue exacerbated by COVID-19, and California is no exception—they are retiring or leaving the profession for other options. We are stepping in to support districts and schools on the issue of teacher recruitment.”

For more information on how to become a teacher in California, call a newly announced hotline at (916) 322-3051 or email TeachInCA@cde.ca.gov.

 

Carolyn Jones

Monday, January 30, 2023, 10:40 am

Link copied.Sanger Unified superintendent to retire

Adela Jones, superintendent of Sanger Unified in Fresno County, announced she will be stepping down June 30 after a five-year tenure, the Fresno Bee reported.

“I’m really proud of the team we’ve built, from the teachers on the front lines who work with our kids daily to our classified staff,” Jones said. “It felt like now was the time. It was a difficult decision to make because I love my district and the career I’ve had here.”

Jones started her career as a classroom teacher at Coachella School District, and began working in Sanger in 1987. Beginning as a first grade teacher, she rose through the administrative ranks and was named superintendent five years ago.

During her time in Sanger, she is credited with starting the bilingual program at Del Rey Elementary, and helping  the district win two Golden Bell awards, a Fresno County Teacher of the Year award and two Fresno County Administrator of the Year awards.

 

Carolyn Jones

Friday, January 27, 2023, 10:54 am

Link copied.San Marcos Unified school names new principal after announcing its former principal will not return

Mission Hills High School has named a new principal after San Marcos Unified announced its former principal will not be returning following his suspension in September. Former assistant principal Nathan Baker, who has been serving as acting principal, will assume the position permanently, according to Coast News Group.

This move follows an investigation conducted by San Marcos Unified over an undisclosed matter that led Cliff Mitchell to be placed on leave last fall. District officials said they could not disclose confidential personnel matters but said the matter did not involve students, according to Coast News Group. Mitchell will end his employment after finishing his leave June 30.

Baker will assume his new position Wednesday. Alongside him will be former English language coordinator and teacher on special assignments Tina Hernandez, who will become the school’s permanent assistant principal after temporarily filling in for the role.

Kate Sequeira

Friday, January 27, 2023, 10:53 am

Link copied.San Diego City College wins approval for new bachelor’s degree program

San Diego City College will now offer a bachelor’s degree in cyber defense and analysis following initial objections from the CSU system. The program is one of the first to be permitted under a new law that allows community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees.

Of the 10 new programs proposed under AB 927, City College’s program was one of three that received objections from the CSU system for being duplicative of degrees offered by CSU schools. That is not permitted under the new law. Those issues have since been resolved, according to Voice of San Diego.

The new program will launch in August 2024. Students can start applying to the program in the fall.

Kate Sequeira

Thursday, January 26, 2023, 10:28 am

Link copied.Richmond High School substitute teacher fired after alleged attack on student

The West Contra Costa School District has fired a substitute teacher who allegedly attacked a student at Richmond High School in an incident captured on video, the Richmond Standard reported.

The incident occurred Monday. A student allegedly called the teacher a racial slur. The teacher then grabbed the student and threw him to the floor, according to a report by KTVU television, which included a video of the incident. The Standard reported that Richmond Police are investigating the incident for possible criminal charges.

In a statement to the Standard, West Contra Costa Superintendent Kenneth Hurst said, “I strongly condemn the use of any racial slurs or harmful language, as well as the use of physical violence. Schools must be psychologically and physically safe in order for students to learn and for educators to teach. Physical violence by an adult is never an appropriate response to a child.”

Thomas Peele

Thursday, January 26, 2023, 10:26 am

Link copied.Proposed state law would ban homeless camps near schools

A state lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban homeless encampments within 500 feet of schools, daycare centers, parks, and libraries, the Sacramento Bee reported.

“This bill is all about keeping our public spaces safe for the most vulnerable people in our community, which is our kids,” Assembly Member Josh Hoover, R-Folsom, told The Bee. “It’s critical that we make sure all our kids feel safe walking to school.”

Hoover said that near his home in Folsom, he’s found needles and other drug paraphernalia where his three kids play. “The goal of this bill is to make sure our public spaces are safe and usable. It is simply one part of a larger issue.”

The cities of Sacramento and Los Angeles have passed similar local measures to prohibit encampments near schools.

Assemblyman Heath Flora, R-Modesto, co-sponsored Hoover’s bill. ‘“Our constituents are begging us to do something about this,” Flora told the Bee.

Thomas Peele

Wednesday, January 25, 2023, 9:35 am

Link copied.Schools honored for commitment to arts education

Nineteen school districts were selected for the California Exemplary Arts Education Award Tuesday. They will be honored in Anaheim in February.

“Congratulations to these 19 schools for their incredible commitment to arts programs, which can have significant positive effects on a student’s academic and personal life,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. “Arts education boosts school attendance, academic achievement, and college attendance rates. Arts programs also improve school climate and promote higher self-esteem and social-emotional development for our students.”

The winners of the 2023 Exemplary Arts Education Award are Joaquin Miller Elementary, William McKinley Elementary, Providencia Elementary and Thomas Edison Elementary in Burbank Unified; Carmel High School in Carmel Unified; Inspire School of Arts and Sciences in Chico; Reyburn Intermediate in Clovis Unified; Cold Spring Elementary in Cold Spring Elementary School District; Washington Elementary in Compton Unified; Los Berros Visual and Performing Arts Academy in Lompoc Unified; HARTS Academy of Los Angeles, Maywood Center for Enriched Studies, South Shores/CSUDH Visual and Performing Arts, and Walter Reed Middle in Los Angeles Unified; Marina Vista Elementary in Monterey Peninsula Unified;  Franklin Elementary in Santa Barbara Unified; John C. Fremont Elementary in Stockton Unified; Temecula Valley High in Temecula Valley Unified; and Meadows Arts and Technology Elementary in the Ventura County Office of Education.

Diana Lambert

Wednesday, January 25, 2023, 8:26 am

Link copied.Teachers at UCLA Lab School strike

Teachers at the UCLA Lab School went on strike Wednesday morning to protest what they say are unfair labor practices. About 40 people turned up in blue shirts to picket the school. The strike is scheduled for two days.

The UCLA Lab School is a hub of innovation and professional development, according to a news release from UC-AFT, which represents librarians and non-Senate faculty working in the University of California system. The teachers at the school apply their research and experience to serving 450 students in pre-K-6 throughout Southern California.

The union says the school’s administration has refused to negotiate on topics beyond compensation. The teachers want more time and resources for students, according to the union.

“We value the work of our UCLA Lab School Demonstration Teachers represented by UC-AFT,” said Bill Kisliuk, spokesman for the university in a statement. “UCLA is negotiating in good faith with the union and we are hopeful that an agreement can be reached soon.”

 

Diana Lambert

Tuesday, January 24, 2023, 5:08 pm

Link copied.State launches $100 million campaign to destigmatize youth behavioral health

The California Department of Public Health is offering $100 million in grants to raise public awareness of youth mental, emotional and behavioral health issues, the agency announced Tuesday.

Organizations can submit proposals aimed at youth that will improve behavioral health literacy for children, youth, caregivers and their communities in California. The proposals, which are intended to appeal to diverse audiences, can by multilingual and multicultural.

The campaign is part of the state’s Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative.

“The Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative is transforming how we support California’s youth and today we are requesting proposals from qualified agencies to help conduct these campaigns,” Dr. Rohan Radhakrishna, deputy director of the department’s office of health equity. “With these campaigns, we plan to focus on promoting well-being and preventing behavioral health challenges, including substance abuse disorders, among California’s youth.” 

Carolyn Jones

Tuesday, January 24, 2023, 4:20 pm

Link copied.Few answers about suspended professor at Chico State faculty meeting

Chico State faculty and staff members were given an update on campus security measures Tuesday, the second day of the spring semester, but many questions about the reason they were there — the case of suspended biology professor David Stachura — went unanswered.

Interim campus Provost Stephen Perez repeatedly declined to answer questions about Stachura, citing restrictions on discussing personnel matters.

“There are many things I can’t talk about,” he said. President Gayle Hutchinson did not attend the forum, which was both in person and online.

Most of the session concentrated on safety measures such as how to contact the campus police and report sexual misconduct.

EdSource reported on Dec. 8 that a  2020 university investigation found Stachura had a sexual affair with a graduate student he supervised and that his estranged wife alleged in court documents he’d threatened to kill two professors who cooperated in the affair investigation.

The university settled the affair investigation, giving Stachura a short suspension. He was later named Chico State’s “Outstanding Professor” of the 2020-2021 academic year and promoted to full professor. He was suspended again in August 2021 while the university conducted an assessment of the alleged threats. He was later allowed to resume teaching.

The revelations roiled the campus of 13,000 students in Butte County. Then Provost Debra Larson, who approved Stachura’s settlement, resigned. She is working as a consultant to Perez through May. Hutchinson and the school’s Academic Senate asked the California State University trustees to investigate how the Stachura matters were handled. The trustees have yet to announce a decision on the requests.

The Academic Senate also voted to ask the school to obtain a gun violence restraining order against Stachura. The university is continuing to weigh its legal options regarding the request, a spokesman said last week. Court records show no request for a restraining order has been filed.

Faculty attending the online and in-person safety session Tuesday expressed frustration at the lack of specifics.

“We already know how to report things,” said Troy Cline, a biology professor. He said the faculty has “a lack of trust” in the administration regarding how the Stachura case has been handled.

Perez asked for patience. “I am going to ask you to watch,” he said.

A similar session for students is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Perez is the spouse of Tanya Perez, coordinator of EdSource’s California Student Journalism Corps. She has no involvement in Chico State coverage.

Thomas Peele

Tuesday, January 24, 2023, 10:26 am

Link copied.Cyberattack at LAUSD reportedly began earlier than previously known

An intrusion into Los Angeles Unified’s computer systems began more than one month earlier than what was initially disclosed, according to the Los Angeles Times, citing a report the district filed to the state.

The report that LA Unified filed to the state indicates that the attack began as early as July 31, as opposed to the Sept. 3 date that the district has said the attack began and ended on, according to the Times.

In a statement, a district spokesperson said the attack occurred on Sept. 3 but said that around July 31 is when the hackers began to engage in “reconnaissance,” or the preliminary information gathering stage of a cyberattack.

The attack also likely exposed Social Security numbers and other confidential information of more than 500 individuals who work as contractors for the state’s largest school district. It does not appear that regular district employees were impacted by the breach, the Times reported.

Michael Burke

Tuesday, January 24, 2023, 10:26 am

Link copied.Ojai school district approves draft plan to close 2 schools, lay off staff

Ojai Unified School District approved a draft of a plan to close two schools in the district and lay off more than a dozen employees in an effort to save about $3.8 million, the Ventura County Star reported.

The move comes after Ventura County’s superintendent, César Morales, ordered the district to make cuts following an analysis that showed it would “deplete all cash” by 2024, according to the Star. The Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, a state-funded agency that provides financial oversight of K-12 and community college districts, also said in a report earlier this month that the district is at a high risk of financial insolvency.

“Addressing the structural deficit is a step in the right direction,” Superintendent Tiffany Morse told the Star. She added that her office will finalize the details of the cuts by March 15, the deadline for notifying employees it plans to lay off at the end of the school year.

Michael Burke

Tuesday, January 24, 2023, 8:02 am

Link copied.Complaint filed over ongoing staff vacancies at San Francisco middle school

The non-profit law firm Public Advocates filed a complaint Monday with San Francisco Unified over unfilled staff positions at Marina Middle School that it said are disrupting students and  teachers who must cope with the vacancies. The complaint said the “staffing instability and chaos” at the schools “are some of the worst we have seen.”

Public Advocates filed a Williams complaint, a process established in 2005 after the state settled a lawsuit demanding that California address unqualified teachers, a shortage of  up-to-date textbooks and substandard facilities. Schools must respond within 30 days to a complaint. Public Advocates was one of the litigants involved in the case.

The complaint cited vacancies since fall of 2022 of a 6th and 7th grade English teacher, a bilingual English, history and Mandarin language teacher, two special education teachers, and  a nurse, social worker and counselor. Instead of a full-time principal, the district has assigned two inexperienced assistant principals to the 647-student school, the complaint said. The district has responded to the open positions by hiring a revolving door of daily and permanent subs, sometimes asking  other teachers to add students to their classes, and sending unsupervised classes to the auditorium to watch movies. It said services for students with disabilities have been seriously delinquent.

A spokeswoman for San Francisco Unified told the San Francisco Examiner Monday that the district had no immediate comment on the complaint but that “Marina is experiencing staffing vacancies consistent with other schools and we have been actively working to fill vacant positions.” The district has several hundred teaching vacancies each year out of 3,500 teaching positions, she said. “We have qualified candidates in the pipeline who we hope to hire to fill most of the vacancies at Marina soon.”

Earlier this month, the newspaper described turbulence and student discipline problems at the school; it said that the school had lost a third of the staff since August.

John Fensterwald

Monday, January 23, 2023, 10:28 am

Link copied.California’s summer and after-school programs are effective and should be expanded, report finds

The state’s pandemic investments in TK-6th grade expanded learning programs have been so successful that the programs should expand to include more students and become permanent fixtures on school campuses, according to a new report by Partnership for Children and Youth.

The report, which analyzes the first year of California’s $4 billion Expanded Learning Opportunities Program, found that the state’s investments made it possible for far more students to benefit from summer and after-school enrichment programs, especially those from low-income families. Students benefitted academically as well as socially and emotionally.

To continue this success, the report recommends that schools start planning summer programs sooner and include district and community partners; survey students and parents to see what they like and what they don’t; use funds to create full-time positions with competitive salaries; and integrate the programs with academics and wellness initiatives happening in the regular school day.

In addition, the state should make the program permanent and expand it to include middle and high school students; adjust the funding so districts receive money based on their numbers of high-needs students; improve data collection; provide funding to help districts with planning; and advise districts on how, or whether, to charge fees.

 

Carolyn Jones

Monday, January 23, 2023, 10:28 am

Link copied.Santa Rosa school board mulls unifying 10 districts

In an effort to integrate schools and possibly save money, the Santa Rosa City School board voted unanimously last week to study a plan to unify its 10 elementary, middle and high school districts into a single district, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported.

Unifying the districts might be expensive in the short term, as district lose grants and basic aid funding, but may save money in the long term, district consultants said. The greater reason for unifying is to reduce segregation, school board members said.

“(Unification planning) leaves it open for everybody at the table to decide what’s in it for them, what’s in it for all of us,” trustee Laurie Fong said. ““We can’t have ‘our kids’ and ‘your kids.’ It has to be all our kids.”

Board trustee Omar Medina, who attended local schools and whose parents are immigrants from Mexico, said integrating the schools should be a priority.

“For as long as I’ve lived here, I’ve felt a lot of segregation in our community, and a lot of it from our school district,” he said. “In the long term, this will benefit our community on many levels.”

 

Carolyn Jones

Friday, January 20, 2023, 10:51 am

Link copied.Los Angeles Unified cafeterias to be equipped with air conditioning

Los Angeles Unified will provide air conditioning systems to school cafeterias across the district after the school board approved a $30 million bond-funded program Tuesday. The update will reach up to 682 schools, with the goal of completing implementation at as many sites as possible before the start of the next school year.

Schools that will receive air conditioning were selected amid consideration of their heat zones, which are categorized based on how many school days a school hits temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit. How many meals a school serves was also taken into consideration, according  to the district. Most of the upgrades will be in Region North.

“We all want improved safety, relief from oppressive heat, and decent working conditions for the workers who prepare and serve nutritious meals every day for our kids; cafeteria kitchen cooling upgrades does that,” board President Jackie Goldberg said in an LAUSD press release. “The public voted for Measure RR to tell us to invest in our schools and we’re getting it done responsibly and transparently.”

Kate Sequeira

Friday, January 20, 2023, 10:50 am

Link copied.Courts to reconsider ruling on San Jose Unified acknowledgement of Christian organization

A federal appeals court ordered a new hearing after withdrawing a ruling requiring San Jose Unified to acknowledge the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as an official student organization, despite it not allowing LGBTQ students in leadership positions. The new hearing will be before a larger panel of 11 judges, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco initially ruled on the case in August, declaring that not recognizing the group was an act of religious discrimination. 

The school district stopped recognizing the religious organization in 2019 because it was not open to all students. The organization was still permitted to meet but was no longer able to keep its money in the school bank account or be listed in the yearbook, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. In its policies, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes included a statement for its members, saying that biblical marriage is between one man and one woman.

In the 2-1 ruling, judges said the organization was targeted for its views rather than its alleged violation of non-discrimination policies and that, on the other hand, that the ruling was premature because students had yet to apply for recognition.

Kate Sequeira

Thursday, January 19, 2023, 10:24 am

Link copied.Peralta Community College District sued by student journalists over records

Student journalists in Oakland have sued the Peralta Community College District, claiming their attempts to obtain district documents under the state Public Records Act have been long ignored — in one case for nearly two years.

The suit was filed in Alameda County Superior Court on behalf of the Peralta Citizen, the district’s student-run newspaper, and four of its journalists. It was announced Wednesday. “The district routinely fails to comply with the PRA,” Oakland First Amendment lawyer Sam Ferguson wrote in the complaint.

In one instance, Peralta officials failed to answer a request dated Nov. 18, 2020, until October 2022, and then only issued a partial response, the suit alleges. The law requires a public agency to tell the requesting party within 10 days what records it possesses that satisfy the request.  The law requires the records to then be released promptly.

A Peralta spokesman did not respond to a request for comment from EdSource.

The Citizen has been investigating the district for years, filing requests for credit card receipts, contracts, bid documents, meeting minutes, checks, wire transfers, payments to vendors and other routine documents, only to see those requests ignored, become long delayed or only partially answered, the suit charges.

When the district has searched for responsive records, its work “appears to have been haphazard,” the lawsuit claims. In one instance, the district claimed it had no recording of a June 15, 2020, public meeting held via Zoom, only to later find the recording, according to the suit.

The newspaper has reported extensively on public safety across the four-college district, including the transition from contracted-law enforcement officers to private security jobs. But it has struggled to obtain basic bidding and contracting information on that process, the suit alleges.

The case number in the Citizen’s suit is 23CV025722. It has been assigned to Judge Michael M. Markman. No hearing date has been set.

Thomas Peele

Thursday, January 19, 2023, 10:14 am

Link copied.Palo Alto Unified teachers and staff get 7% raises

Teachers and other staff at the Palo Alto Unified School District are getting 7% raises under an agreement reached Tuesday, Palo Alto OnLine reported.

The raises are retroactive to the start of the academic year, the website reported. They are also larger than raises given in previous rounds of bargaining.

In a separate vote Tuesday, district trustees also unanimously approved 5% raises, plus 2% one-time payments, for each of the district’s six top administrators: the superintendent, deputy superintendent, chief business officer, assistant superintendent of equity and student affairs, assistant superintendent of education services, secondary, and assistant superintendent of education services, elementary.

“I think they’re healthy raises that reflect the economic conditions of both the district and the marketplace,” board member Todd Collins said.

 

EdSource staff

Thursday, January 19, 2023, 9:03 am

Link copied.Temecula’s divided school board ends special meeting before it begins

A special meeting of the Temecula Valley Unified School Board was never called to order Wednesday night after a majority of the school board members voted not to approve the agenda, which called for a closed session on personnel matters.

Hundreds packed the room after word of the meeting led to speculation that the newly-elected conservative majority on the board was attempting to fire Superintendent Jodi McClay.

Board clerk Jennifer Wiersma told the crowd that the meeting was to hire an outside attorney to advise the board about matters such as the recent student walkout at district high schools.

Hundreds of students walked out of classrooms last week to protest the boards recent ban on critical race theory. A district spokesman has said that district doesn’t teach critical race theory, which examines how laws and government practices perpetuate racial injustice. The theory is generally taught at the university level.

Board members expressed concern that board President Joseph Komrosky called a special board meeting to hire outside counsel, which allows only 24-hour notice, instead of waiting until the next regularly noticed school board meeting.

 

Diana Lambert

Wednesday, January 18, 2023, 7:55 am

Link copied.Music education may make students more hopeful about their futures

Music education can boost the emotional well-being of adolescents, according to research by the University of Southern California.

Researchers surveyed 120 students from 52 Los Angeles Unified School District middle schools online to determine the impact of music on positive youth development.

They found that students who started music education before age 8 were more hopeful about the future and that students who received musical training scored higher in areas of positive youth development, a measure of the strengths of adolescents and their potential to contribute to society developed by scholars from Tufts University in Massachusetts.

“We know that the pandemic has taken a toll on student mental health. The many narratives of learning loss that have emerged since the start of the pandemic paint a grim picture of what some call a lost generation,” said Beatriz Ilari, an associate professor of music education at the USC Thornton School of Music and an author of the study. “Music might be an activity to help students develop skills and competencies, work out their emotions, engage in identity work and strengthen connections to the school and community.”

The study on the impact of music education was published in the journal Frontiers of Psychology.

 

Diana Lambert

Wednesday, January 18, 2023, 7:55 am

Link copied.New charging stations will help modernize LAUSD’s bus fleet

Los Angeles Unified is adding 24 electric charging stations as part of a plan to modernize bus transportation in the district.

Six of the charging stations will be added to the Sun Valley bus yard and 18 to the Gardena yard, according to a news release from the school district.

“Los Angeles Unified is doing its part to reduce its carbon emissions and help combat the existential crisis of climate change,” said Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho. “The new charging stations will help the district support its current electric buses and allow us to scale the number of buses to serve current and future students. Our electric bus fleet will streamline and enhance student safety and transportation, while also incorporating an ecologically sustainable practice into the District’s operations.”

The program aligns with the 2022-26 strategic plan to modernize infrastructure in the district, according to the release.

Diana Lambert

Tuesday, January 17, 2023, 5:44 pm

Link copied.Low turnout at Los Angeles Unified’s optional learning days, but district still touts benefits

Nearly 40,000 students attended one or both days of Los Angeles Unified’s optional additional learning effort over winter break, but that was only a disappointing 56% of those who registered. The two days were the first of four the district is holding across the school year as part of an effort to get students back on track academically following the disruption of the pandemic.

Despite the low turnout, district officials continued to emphasize benefits gained by those who attended. According to district data, more than 80% of those who participated were those who most needed the intervention. The two optional learning days cost the district $36 million.

“Would we have liked to have more students engaged? Of course. Are we on the right track? No doubt,” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said at Tuesday’s board meeting, during which district officials presented the results of the acceleration days.

District officials attributed part of the turnout to parents’ misunderstandings of the optional days. Some families chose not to participate once they learned certain teachers would not be participating or that their school would not be hosting, they said.

As LAUSD prepares for its remaining two optional learning days in April, district officials are continuing to evaluate the program’s structure and curriculum. Feedback from teachers indicated that those participating would like to receive student data and resources earlier than they did in December, according to Andres Chait, chief of school operations. Teachers told EdSource that they received most of the guidance the week before.

According to Chief Academic Officer Francis Baez, the district also plans to implement more enrichment activities involving the arts, science and technology during the April days and will more aggressively promote to families the benefits of the extra learning. The district is still waiting to see the possible grade changes among secondary students who attended. Teachers were required to submit grades by Jan. 13.

Kate Sequeira

Tuesday, January 17, 2023, 10:30 am

Link copied.Sonoma Valley Unified considers closing schools amid declining enrollment

The Sonoma Valley Unified School District may consider closing and consolidating schools to address a drop in enrollment, The Press-Democrat reported.

Another option the district could consider is reconfiguring schools, such as establishing grades K-8 and 9-12 schools rather than the current configuration of grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12.

The district’s board will likely decide what steps it will take during meetings in April, according to the Press-Democrat.

“This isn’t the most fun conversation that we’re going to make as a community,” Trustee Celeste Winders said. “This isn’t a decision that any of us love. This isn’t a conversation that we’re looking forward to when we talk about definitely reconfiguring schools and potentially closing them due to declining enrollment.”

Michael Burke

Tuesday, January 17, 2023, 10:29 am

Link copied.Some LA Unified parents call for mask mandate

Some parents of students in Los Angeles Unified are calling for a new mask mandate across the district’s schools, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The group of parents, called Our Voice: Communities for Quality Education, is comprised largely of Spanish-speaking Latino parents in South and East Los Angeles neighborhoods. The group’s parents are concerned not only about Covid-19 outbreaks, but also flu cases and the respiratory syncytial virus, according to the Times.

“As parents who advocate for an equitable quality public education and safe school campuses, we’re concerned about a return to school without any clear preventative health protocols in place by L.A. Unified to protect our children from acquiring a respiratory virus infection,” the group said, according to the Times.

The group has not yet received a direct response from the district’s superintendent, Alberto Carvalho. So far, he has recommended students wear masks but has not required it, the Times reported.

Michael Burke

Tuesday, January 17, 2023, 9:15 am

Link copied.LAO warns that Newsom’s revenue projections may be too optimistic

The Legislative Analyst’s Office doubled down last week on their earlier prediction that California would generate less revenue than Gov. Gavin Newsom is projecting for the 2023-24 state budget.

There is a “good chance” that revenues would be lower for the rest of the 2022-23 and next year, the LAO said in its budget overview. As a result, the Legislature should “plan for a larger budget problem” and deal with it by cutting more one-time and temporary spending than Newsom proposes, it said.

In November, the LAO projected a General Fund revenue shortfall of $25 billion in 2023-24; using updated revenue estimates, Newsom last week projected a $22 billion deficit for the General Fund. Both estimates could be off by the end of the year, but with a risk of a recession lurking, the Legislature should proceed cautiously, the LAO indicated.

Newsom also forecast that funding would be $1.5 billion less in 2023-24 than is currently funded for Proposition 98, the formula that allocates 39% of the General Fund for TK-12 and community colleges. However, a declining enrollment statewide and expiring  one-time spending will free up enough to cover an 8.13% cost of living increase and build in $900 million in new spending. This would include another $250 million for literacy coaches in in the highest poverty schools, plus $300 million to address the needs of the lowest performing students in many of those schools.

To make the budget balance, Newsom would take back $1.2 billion, about a third, of the arts and instructional materials discretionary block grant that was passed in the 2022-23 budget and to withhold $500 million for transitional kindergarten facilities, which could slow universal TK’s implementation.

The LAO recommends that the Legislature consider the possibility of  rescinding more one-time education spending approved last year, in the event further cuts are needed when the 2023-24 state budget is revised in May.

John Fensterwald

Friday, January 13, 2023, 10:52 am

Link copied.UC Davis professor under investigation for allegedly raping high school student

A UC Davis professor is under investigation for allegedly raping a high school student he mentored, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The chemistry professor, who has worked at the school for more than 20 years, was placed on paid leave in January 2021 following a lawsuit from the student, which was later dismissed.

In the 2020 lawsuit, the student alleged professor Ting Guo raped her on three different occasions in 2010 when she was 18. She originally met him during an assignment in her AP Chemistry class that required her to shadow a chemist.

The student also filed a police report in 2018.

The university’s Title IX office is investigating Guo. An external investigation is also evaluating the university’s campus activities involving minors since 2010 and determining whether other department leaders should have known about the alleged misconduct, according to the Chronicle.

Prior to being put on leave, Guo was involved in multiple high school programs at UC Davis, including the UC Davis Young Scholars Program, a summer research program during which high school students live on campus for six weeks.

Kate Sequeira

Friday, January 13, 2023, 10:51 am

Link copied.SEIU Local 99 to vote on strike authorization in two weeks

Cafeteria workers, special education assistants, bus drivers and other essential workers will vote to authorize a strike against Los Angeles Unified in two weeks on behalf of SEIU Local 99. The union is pushing for increased wages, sufficient staffing and resources for each school and expanded health care benefits as it continues to negotiate its new contract with the district after its last contract expired in 2020.

The voting period for members will last between Jan. 23 and Feb. 10 and will give the bargaining team the power to declare a strike if the union and the district do not reach an agreement through the impasse process.

“A strike is the last option, SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias said in a press release. “Workers are hopeful that a fair agreement can be reached through the mediation process. However, there are major issues in LAUSD’s compensation system that are leading to severe staffing shortages for essential student services.”

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho commented on its labor negotiations at a press conference Monday, saying that the negotiations were one of the district’s top priorities during the new year. 

“We have more to put on the table, but we need the table to be populated with people willing to negotiate,” Carvalho said. “We are willing and I know our colleagues in labor are willing.”

Kate Sequeira

Thursday, January 12, 2023, 3:15 pm

Link copied.Newsom budget includes funds for naloxone at every middle and high school

Every middle and high school in California will get at least two doses of naloxone hydrochloride to reverse opioid overdoses, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2023-24 budget released Tuesday.

The state would increase Proposition 98 money by $3.5 million to cover the costs, with the money coming mostly from legal settlements with drug manufacturers, said Mark Ghaly, head of California’s Health and Human Services department.

“This is a small but mighty investment” to ensure all middle and high schools have access to naloxone, also known as Narcan, Ghaly said.

Opioid overdoses and deaths among young people have soared in the past five years, driven in large part by the prevalence of fentanyl. In 2021, 246 Californians under age 20 died, and hundreds more were hospitalized due to opioid overdoses, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Dozens of schools already stock naloxone on campus and have beefed up health education and drug abuse prevention in order to keep students safe. Newsom’s budget also includes an additional $79 million to provide naloxone to first responders, law enforcement, county agencies and community organizations.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that’s 50 times more potent than morphine, accounted for more than 80% of all drug-related deaths among young Californians in 2021.

Health educators were thrilled with the news.

“Naloxone is considered a safe and effective tool used to prevent fatalities related to opioid overdoses and poisonings, so in some ways, it’s similar to having an EpiPen, an automated external defibrillator or even a fire extinguisher on a school campus,” said Dareen Khatib, health and wellness administrator for the Orange County Department of Education. “Many districts across the state already have board policies on naloxone distribution, and the California School Nurses Organization has been a supporter of this effort.”

Carolyn Jones