He has a plan for up­grad­ing L.A.’s schools

In­com­ing school board mem­ber talks char­ters, teach­ers and dis­trict’s bud­get is­sue.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Howard Blume

A special pros­e­cu­tor for teacher sex­ual mis­con­duct, a sin­gle-payer health­care sys­tem for L.A. Uni­fied, teacher eval­u­a­tions based 40% on “mea­sur­able aca­demic growth” — in­com­ing school board mem­ber Nick Melvoin has ideas on how to im­prove school­ing in Los An­ge­les.

Melvoin, 31, won a seat on the Los An­ge­les Board of Ed­u­ca­tion af­ter a his­tor­i­cally ex­pen­sive, hard-fought cam­paign marked by re­lent­less mud­sling­ing from out­side groups, which contributed nearly $15 mil­lion. Much of that mud­sling­ing was paid for by sup­port­ers of char­ter schools on be­half of Melvoin against school board Pres­i­dent Steve Zim­mer, a two-term in­cum­bent.

The elec­tion of Melvoin in Dis­trict 4, which stretches from the West­side to the west San Fer­nando Val­ley, and Kelly Gonez in Dis­trict 6 gives char­ter sup­port­ers their first ma­jor­ity on the seven-mem­ber board of the na­tion’s sec­ond-largest school sys­tem.

Char­ter schools are pub­licly funded but pri­vately op­er­ated, and are typ­i­cally set up as non­prof­its in L.A. Uni­fied. They are free of many of the re­stric­tions placed on tra­di­tional pub­lic schools.

Melvoin sat down with the Los An­ge­les Times ed­u­ca­tion team to an­swer ques­tions about what lies ahead. Some of his ideas might sur­prise the pro-char­ter forces that helped launch him into of­fice. For one thing, Melvoin ap­peared to side with tradi-

tional cam­puses that ob­ject to the shar­ing of class­room space with char­ter schools.

Melvoin’s thoughts on key top­ics

On char­ter school over­sight:

“Some char­ters have been around for 25 years,” Melvoin said. “Why can’t there be a reau­tho­riza­tion process that’s less la­bo­ri­ous [for them] than for new char­ters?

“I think a lot of the is­sues we see … stem in part from the hos­til­ity be­tween the dis­trict and char­ters.… I’m hope­ful the re­la­tion­ship that I have with cer­tain char­ter lead­ers can help mit­i­gate some of those is­sues.”

On whether to limit char­ter growth or limit it to lower-in­come ar­eas where tra­di­tional schools are strug­gling aca­dem­i­cally:

“I haven’t been in the busi­ness of putting in ar­ti­fi­cial lim­its .... My goal is to mit­i­gate char­ter growth by im­prov­ing dis­trict schools,” Melvoin said, and “free­ing tra­di­tional schools from the red tape that keeps them from com­pet­ing.

“The op­por­tu­nity to choose a bet­ter school for your kids should not be lim­ited to low-in­come com­mu­ni­ties,” he added.

“We can’t stop a char­ter from com­ing into West L.A. … but I would re­ally hope a group of par­ents or a [char­ter man­age­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion] would come to us and say, ‘We’re think­ing of start­ing a char­ter.’ So we can say, ‘Why? Where are your needs not be­ing met within the ex­ist­ing ecosys­tem? Can we try to work col­lab­o­ra­tively to do that?’ ”

Melvoin sees a “win-win” when West­side par­ents leave pri­vate schools for char­ters, be­cause th­ese fam­i­lies then be­come in­vested in such causes as rais­ing rev­enue for all pub­lic schools: “We now have a nice ally in that fight.”

On hav­ing char­ters com­ply with the state’s pub­lic records and open meet­ings laws:

Al­though Melvoin has op­posed cur­rent leg­is­la­tion on the is­sue, he said “we should move to a place” where char­ters are op­er­at­ing “un­der the same frame­work” as tra­di­tional schools when it comes to pub­lic records and open meet­ings.

On pro­vid­ing char­ter schools with class­room space on tra­di­tional cam­puses:

“The first school I vis­ited last week was Wal­grove [a tra­di­tional pub­lic school] … and one of the things they showed me was a class­room that’s not an in­struc­tional class­room, but they use for a half-theater, half-art-type pro­gram,” Melvoin said. “And I think that is a valid con­cern of par­ents, like, are th­ese class­rooms going to be taken away?”

He said he didn’t think such spa­ces should be taken from tra­di­tional schools and made avail­able to char­ters.

On man­ag­ing and eval­u­at­ing teach­ers:

About 40% of a teacher’s eval­u­a­tion should be based on mea­sur­able aca­demic growth, such as stan­dard­ized test scores, Melvoin said.

Like char­ters, he said, tra­di­tional schools should have more flex­i­bil­ity to hire and fire staff. He said he doesn’t think “99% of teach­ers” are sat­is­fac­tory, which he be­lieves is what the cur­rent sys­tem implies.

“I’m not just talk­ing about fir­ing our way out of this prob­lem,” he said. “It’s about con­nect­ing teach­ers with op­por­tu­ni­ties for growth.”

He sug­gested also con­nect­ing the most ef­fec­tive teach­ers with the most chal­leng­ing schools, per­haps through one-year res­i­dency pro­grams or ex­tra money: “Right now there’s no real in­cen­tive for our best teach­ers … to teach in tough schools, and I’d love to see us think cre­atively.”

On the bud­get prob­lem:

Melvoin said that new em­ploy­ees should have to ac­cept less-generous ben­e­fits dis­trict’s and re­tire­ment pack­ages, and that the dis­trict should look at con­sol­i­dat­ing and clos­ing schools to re­duce over­head. One way to con­tain health costs, he said, would be to use a sin­gle in­sur­ance provider or even set up a sin­gle-payer, govern­ment-run health sys­tem man­aged by L.A. Uni­fied.

He said he also wants to pre­vent the need for fu­ture costly sex­ual mis­con­duct set­tle­ments: “I’ve talked to folks about bring­ing in kind of a special in­ves­ti­ga­tor or special pros­e­cu­tor . ... It’s not just that ir­repara­ble harm to the kids, but to the whole dis­trict — be­cause $300 mil­lion [in set­tle­ments] in the last four years … is re­ally then do­ing a dis­ser­vice to all kids.

“I think part of the rea­son the set­tle­ments were so high is be­cause the dis­trict knew about cer­tain in­stances and then didn’t move quickly enough.”

On L.A. Uni­fied Supt. Michelle King:

“I want to sit down with her in the next couple of weeks,” he said. “My plan right now is to work with the su­per­in­ten­dent. I don’t ex­actly know what her vi­sion is.

“The first job would be student achieve­ment,” he added.

He ex­pects to set bench­marks for growth that in­clude spe­cific, more-am­bi­tious tar­gets for im­proved stan­dard­ized test scores and progress on the per­cent­age of stu­dents qual­i­fy­ing for ad­mis­sion to a state col­lege, he said. He also ex­pects to see within two years a plan to fix the pen­sion and re­tiree health ben­e­fits deficit and a univer­sal en­roll­ment sys­tem that in­cludes char­ter schools.

Mark Boster Los An­ge­les Times

NICK MELVOIN, above, de­feated school board Pres­i­dent Steve Zim­mer, a two-term in­cum­bent, in May.

Brian van der Brug Los An­ge­les Times

NICK MELVOIN, right, is greeted by a sup­porter May 16 in Venice at his elec­tion night gath­er­ing. Melvoin was elected in Dis­trict 4, which stretches from the West­side to the west San Fer­nando Val­ley.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.