Monthly Archives: September 2015

PGCPS makes international news with horrible school lunches.

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FORT WASHINGTON, Md. – Students attending Prince George’s County Public Schools are complaining about some disgusting discoveries in the school cafeteria. Complaints about moldy and undercooked food were issued to the school district through Twitter directly from these students who say they have not heard a response from the school system.

But the outrage on social media was more than evident from these students who say someone will end up getting sick from these school lunches.

“Criminals are getting better food than we are,” said Tamera Perry, a senior student at Friendly High School in Fort Washington.

Photo Prince George’s County students claim school lunches are undercooked, contain mold
It’s not prison food, but these students allege their school lunches are not up to par.

“You’re giving us something that’s not healthy, that can possibly cause us to die and it’s just unacceptable,” the high school student told us.

A school lunch menu for Friday, Sept. 11 at Friendly included “Rojo Fiesta Pizza.” But Perry said, “What was in it was nowhere near salsa. That wasn’t pizza at all. It was just disgusting.”

Some students may not share the taste in ingredients or choices made by Prince George’s County Public Schools. But they said burger buns with mold and undercooked meat are nothing new to their lunch trays.

“I’ve gotten lunch where my mandarin orange has mold on it,” said Perry. “There have been incidents where the lunch lady had to collect our fruit cup because they were expired. Our milk has been expired. Open up apple juice cartons and it’s been green. It’s just disgusting.”

One picture showed hollowed out chicken nuggets. For these students, their lunches come at a price too high for many.

“They raised our lunches to $3,” said Perry. “We’re paying $3 for something that’s not edible, not organic and it’s not healthy … For some of the population of students, that’s their only lunch, so you’re putting them in a sticky situation where they can either continue to starve or they eat it because that’s the only thing they have to eat.”

FOX 5 reached out to Prince George’s County Public Schools on Monday. The school district was observing a holiday and there were no classes and their offices were closed.

But a school spokesperson wrote in a statement, “PGCPS cannot confirm the origin of the photo circulating on social media, but encourages anyone who has concerns regarding meals to call 301-952-6580. Providing healthy and nutritious meals for all students is a contributing factor to high academic achievement and the district prides itself on doing so for over 129,000 students each day.”

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Laurene Powell Jobs Commits $50 Million to Create New High Schools

14jobs-web-articleLargeLaurene Powell Jobs at a graduation ceremony for Urban League College Track students in New Orleans in May 2013. WILLIAM WIDMER FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

By JENNIFER MEDINA
SEPTEMBER 14, 2015
SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Her husband, Steven P. Jobs, famously helped reboot Apple with the “Think Different” advertising campaign.

Now Laurene Powell Jobs is starting a $50 million project to rethink high school.

With an advertising campaign that looks as if it came from Apple’s marketing department, the initiative is meant to create high schools with new approaches to education. In essence, Ms. Powell Jobs and her team of high-profile educators and designers hope they can crowd-source a solution to a problem that has flummoxed policy makers for decades.

“The system was created for the work force we needed 100 years ago,” Ms. Powell Jobs said in an interview here Friday. “Things are not working the way we want it to be working. We’ve seen a lot of incremental changes over the last several years, but we’re saying, ‘Start from scratch.’ ”

Called XQ: The Super School Project, the campaign is meant to inspire teams of educators and students, as well as leaders from other sectors, to come up with new plans for high schools. Over the next several months, the teams will submit plans that could include efforts like altering school schedules, curriculums and technologies. By fall next year, Ms. Powell Jobs said, a team of judges will pick five to 10 of the best ideas to finance.

Ms. Powell Jobs has for years financed College Track, which helps low-income students across the country to enroll and then succeed in college. Since the death of her husband in 2011, Ms. Powell Jobs has taken tentative steps into the public sphere, including advocating an overhaul of immigration laws.
The XQ project is the highest-profile project yet of the Emerson Collective, the group that Ms. Powell Jobs uses to finance her philanthropic projects.

Ms. Powell Jobs has assembled a team of advisers led by Russlynn H. Ali, who worked in the Obama administration’s Education Department as the assistant secretary for civil rights. Ms. Ali, who for the last several years has overseen education grants at Emerson, will serve as the primary public face of the campaign. Michelle Cahill, who has spent more than three decades in education, including as a senior adviser to Joel I. Klein when he was the New York City schools chancellor, has culled much of the research used on the website. Keith Yamashita, a consultant for the project, has worked with Apple, IBM, General Electric and several start-up companies.

Improving outcomes for high school students has long been a priority in education. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has financed scores of small high schools meant to better educate students through more focused attention and carefully tailored programs. Boston began a push this year to redesign its public high schools.

“There is a huge gap between what students want for their future and what their schools are offering,” Ms. Powell Jobs said. “Once you have liberation from a system that was designed for the beginning of the century, there’s nobody to blame.”

Ms. Powell Jobs said that while she was committed to ensuring that the new schools are public, she was unsure whether they would be charter schools. She pointed out that she, like most Americans, is a graduate of a public high school. Plans for a national tour to collect ideas for the project do not include a stop at her alma mater in New Jersey, West Milford High School.

“We want to make high schools back into the great equalizers they were meant to be,” Ms. Ali said. “The point is not to have some predetermined outcome. The hunger for change is real, and we’re offering up the tools to communities to make it happen.”

via New York Times.

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James E. Proctor Jr., Maryland delegate for 25 years, dies

James_E._Proctor,_Jr._(2007)Delegate James E. Proctor Jr. a Democrat, represented Prince George’s and Charles counties.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Del. James E. Proctor Jr., who has represented Prince George’s and Charles counties for 25 years, has died, state officials announced recently.

The governor, Senate President and House Speaker issued statements of condolence on Thursday last week on September 10th, 2015, but they did not say when or where Proctor, who was 79, died. Information on funeral arrangements was also not immediately available.

According to the Maryland Manual, Proctor, a Democrat, served in the U.S. Air Force in the 1960s, and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from then-Bowie State College.

Proctor was appointed to the House of Delegates to succeed William McCaffrey, who retired in 1990. He was vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and was a member of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus. Prior to becoming a delegate, Proctor was a School administrator in Prince George’s County Public Schools for a long time.

Gov. Larry Hogan ordered Maryland flags to fly at half-staff to honor Proctor.

The county’s Democratic Central Committee is responsible for recommending a successor to Gov. Larry Hogan within 30 days. Committee Chair Cheryl Landis says the committee plans to hold a hearing in October for all candidates interested in filling Proctor’s position and the seat vacated by Del. William Campos.

Each candidate must submit a résumé and will have a few minutes to present a case to the committee. The 24 members will then vote and send Gov. Larry Hogan a name for each vacant seat.

The same process will take place in Charles County, a portion of which Proctor also represented in the State House. Both county bodies will have to agree on a candidate to replace Proctor.

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Campos resigns from Maryland House of Delegates

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A Prince George’s County delegate is resigning from the Maryland House of Delegates for personal reasons.

House Speaker Michael Busch’s office says State Delegate William Campos submitted his resignation Thursday. The resignation comes nine months after Campos was sworn in. It was first reported by The Washington Post.

The district in northwestern Prince George’s County, which is home to the county’s largest concentration of Hispanic immigrants, was drawn in 2012 to increase the chances of electing a lawmaker from the growing Latino community.

Forty-one-year-old Campos says he recently married and wants to start a family, but he lacks employment outside the State House. He says it’s “too many transitions” to manage while representing his district. Delegates are paid about $45,000 for what is considered part-time work.

Prior to becoming delegate, Delegate Campos was engaged in a bitter nomination exercise with Natalie Cabrera.

Cabrera, 32, made some missteps as a leader when filing with the county Board of Elections just 49 minutes before the 9 p.m. deadline Feb. 25, 2014: She listed her father’s church as her residence, even though she did not move into a duplex on the property until weeks later; and she filed as a Democrat even though she had registered to vote years earlier as a Republican (she switched parties two days after filing her candidacy papers). Those missteps led to  State Delegate William Campos snatching the delegate seat. It will be interesting to see who takes over the delegates seat without County Executive maneuvering this time around.

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Natalie Cabrera filed to be a candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates on Feb. 25, but a judge disqualified her after a citizen filed a lawsuit against her alleging she broke election rules. (Courtesy of the Cabrera campaign)

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Company hired to find subs for Philly schools isn’t finding many

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The firm hired by Philadelphia public schools (PBS) under Dr. William Hite efforts to fill 5,000 substitutes for Philadelphia public schools has managed to hire only 11% of the number needed. The firm was paid $34 million. The money might have been better spent raising teachers’ salaries instead if trying to fill jobs with subs. Is that a reform strategy under Dr. William Hite Jr? It is certainly not in the interest of the students. Previously Hite fired teachers and breached their contracts willfully and resorted to under handed methods to short change teachers in Prince George’s County and now in Philadelphia public schools. What happened to common decency? 

The private firm that scored a $34 million contract with the Philadelphia School District to staff substitute-teaching jobs – and promised that 75 percent of those positions would be filled on Day One – has fallen far short of its goals so far.

On Tuesday, the first day of school, it had filled only 11 percent of the jobs.

That left 477 city classrooms without teachers.

On Wednesday and Thursday the rate and number of vacancies were roughly the same.

“I think it’s easy to say that we had hoped for a better result,” said Owen Murphy, spokesman for the firm, Source4Teachers of Cherry Hill. “We fully anticipate that the learning curve will soon go away, and we’ll soon be generating better results.”

To date, Source4Teachers has 300 workers credentialed and ready to accept jobs, well under the number of substitutes needed in Philadelphia classrooms in any given day.

An additional 500 teachers are in some stage of the application and credentialing process, Murphy said, and so far this week, dozens qualify and apply daily. By the end of the month, he said, 400 more workers could be qualified to teach, he said. The firm has said it would like a pool of 5,000 substitutes to be able to fill 90 percent of daily vacancies.

For peak teacher-absence season in Philadelphia – which generally begins in late November, Murphy said, and runs through the end of the school year – officials expect 1,000 daily vacancies.

District officials said they understand that the system is new and there will be hiccups, but that they are worried.

“Any time we don’t have a teacher in front of a classroom, it’s of great concern to us,” said Fernando Gallard, district spokesman. “This is something that is really unfortunate, and we want to see a rapid improvement.”

The district outsourced substitute-teaching services in the spring, saying that it was unable to effectively manage them in-house. On the district’s watch, about 60 percent of substitute jobs were filled daily, a rate officials found unacceptable.

The move to outsource union jobs – substitutes had been members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers under the old system – drew heat from some quarters, including City Council President Darrell L. Clarke, who has made no secret of his recent displeasure with the school system.

Gallard said the district is “working very closely” with Source4Teachers and that “we are expecting that they ramp up very quickly this month.”

If the Cherry Hill-based company does not fill 90 percent of substitute vacancies by January, it will be subject to financial penalties, according to its contract.

Some schools have had no luck filling open substitute jobs under the new system, and district staff say the absences have been particularly difficult to manage. If no substitute shows up, existing teachers cover open classes – but the district must pay them after they fill in four times.

One teacher at a city magnet said that the school has been able to fill zero open jobs this week.

“And it’s a great school,” said the teacher, who declined to be identified for fear of retribution. “We usually always have subs. I can’t imagine what the less desirable schools to sub in are going to deal with this year.”

Murphy said about 600 of 1,100 substitutes who worked for the district last year had raised their hands to work for Source4Teachers, though some merely started the application process and then trailed off.

“We’ve hired a good number of district originals, and many of them are just not accepting jobs,” Murphy said. “Frankly, we’re a little unsure why.”

Usually when Source4Teachers takes over substitute staffing from a district, he said, it converts more existing subs.

He said it was possible that some eligible substitutes did not want to work in warm weather. Another factor, he said, is the amount of time available to fill vacancies.

“It’s far easier to advance the fill rate when absences are logged in a timely fashion,” said Murphy. Data for when vacancies cropped up were not immediately available, he said.

Still, 99 of the Philadelphia vacancies were created not by employees calling out but by unfilled permanent teaching jobs, according to district figures. Other absences were created by maternity leaves or other long-term illnesses, which were not surprises.

Some of the issue is managing a new system, Murphy suggested.

“As time goes on, the teachers and administrators and the folks engaging with this program will be better equipped to manage absences,” he said.

Source4Teachers handles substitute staffing in dozens of districts locally and nearly 200 throughout the U.S., though Philadelphia’s is its largest client.

Over the summer, it launched a splashy campaign to attract 5,000 teachers to staff Philadelphia classrooms, placing billboards on I-95 and other prominent spots.

Murphy said that will continue.

“We’ve got to apply more effort and resources to bringing in folks who have not already worked in the district,” he said. “That’s a challenge we accept, and it’s something that we’re greatly contributing to from a time and effort and financial standpoint.”

Some teachers have complained about Source4Teachers’ pay rates. It is offering between $75 and $90 for uncertified substitutes, and $90 to $110 for certified ones. The district paid $126.76 for uncertified subs and $160.10 for credentialed subs, once they passed through an initial trial period.

The difference between the private firm’s pay scale and the district’s is particularly stark for retired teachers. Under the old system, the district paid up to $242.83 daily. Retired teachers receive no extra wages from Source4Teachers.

Source4Teachers officials have suggested that the school system’s pay scale was too high, and that it is offering market rate for the work.

Murphy said he did not believe pay was a significant factor in the company’s success to date. He emphasized that Source4Teachers is optimistic it will be able to turn things around quickly.

“I do feel good about the direction we’re going in,” he said. “We’ve got new applicants and we’re adding to the talent pool every day.”

kgraham@phillynews.com
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/education/20150911_Company_hired_to_find_subs_for_Philly_schools_isn_t_finding_many.html#FIcymabpr1c9zo8f.99

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After 25 Years, Teach for America Results are Consistently Underwhelming

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September 7, 2015; Las Vegas Review-Journal

America has a love-hate relationship with Teach for America. What began as the dream of one idealistic undergraduate in the late 80s is now, some 26 years later, an internationally recognized behemoth in the education reform movement, with more than $200 million (yes, you read that correctly) in investments as of last year.

A recent book, edited by T. Jameson Brewer and Kathleen deMarrais, titled Teach for America Counter-Narratives is the latest to put the organization under scrutiny. In anarticle this week in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Washington Post columnist Esther J. Cepeda writes about the “explosive and jaw-dropping” stories written by 20 of TFA’s alumni, which she says “eviscerate the myth of TFA’s unmitigated success.” Her takeaway is that the book should be a cautionary tale to those studying the education reform movement. The stories reveal the smoke and mirrors (“money and great marketing,” in her words) that TFA uses to recruit the best and brightest while convincing their donors and other partners that they are moving the needle on outcomes.

According to its most recent tax return, TFA has total assets of close to half a billion dollars and revenues of more than $330 million, of which about 90 percent comes from government grants and contributions from corporations, foundations and individuals. An organization of this size and stature has an obligation to its constituents to demonstrate its success, and TFA has accumulated years of research findings about its programming, expansion and scale-up efforts. Marty Levine and Ruth McCambridge asked on this site several weeks ago whether Teach for America’s results justify its pillar status.

In 2013, Mathematica Policy Research concluded a federally-funded controlled study of TFA. Comparing TFA secondary math teachers across eight states with a control group of math teachers in the same schools, the study found that, on average, students in TFA classrooms gained the equivalent of an additional 2.6 months of school, as evidenced by end-of-year math assessments. However, two years later, a subsequent Mathematica evaluation was unable to replicate those results.

While the later study concluded that TFA teachers in early primary grades produced roughly 1.3 months of extra reading gains, that good news was overshadowed by the more troubling evidence that an overwhelming majority of TFA staff (87 percent) reported that they did not plan to spend the rest of their career as a classroom teacher or, for that matter, in any education-related career.

TFA takes great pride in how well it prepares its corps members for the classroom (in a smidgen of the time it takes a teacher to train through traditional avenues). Studies published on its website find that TFA corps members are “as effective” as other teachers in the same schools and that they promote achievement in measures “equal or sometimes greater.” Two state-wide studies in North Carolina and Tennessee demonstrating TFA’s relatively higher effectiveness in teaching STEM content corroborate these findings, although the Tennessee Higher Education Commission report doesn’t go much further than stating that TFA teachers “tend to be” more effective than other beginning teachers.

As NPR correspondents Eric Westervelt and Anya Kamenetz point out, this can be read as either evidence of TFA’s superior pedagogy or an “indictment” of traditional teacher preparation programs. But it should also be noted that some question the reliability of the research itself or claim that even in those limited cases in which TFA shows a positive impact, it is consistently small, and other reform efforts, such universal pre-K, teacher mentoring programs, and smaller class sizes, may have more promise over the long run. The sticking point that returns again and again is that of teacher attrition.

While TFA claims that two-thirds of its alumni have gone on to pursue careers in the education sector, they do not have hard statistics on the number of alumni who have remained full-time classroom teachers for even a minimum period of time. That is a shame, as it’s an obvious question on people’s minds and would be compelling information. Moreover, it’s hard to align the two-thirds claim with the overall trend awayfrom the education space cited in Mathematica’s most recent study.

While there is little else in terms of concrete student gains, much less long-term, systemic results, what’s perhaps most confounding of all is TFA’s almost willful refusal to acknowledge the role of state schools of education (which train the majority of public school teachers) or its very partner schools, as allies in reform. The more one reads from those who have gone through the experience, the more apparent this becomes, with non-TFA faculty regarded as the “problem” that TFA must come in and “fix.” While it’s clear the majority of the TFA teachers and staff are sincere, smart, and hard-working, a corporate reputation too often deemed exclusionary and imperious precedes them, a reputation that seems to have fossilized despite numerous attempts at rebranding over the years.

So, for instance, while TFA has (wisely) moved its narrative beyond a rehashing of its early history and founder, conspicuously missing from the stakeholders it chooses to represent in the present day—its core members, alumni, students, and the more elusive “community”—are the very faculty and administrators of the schools they serve. Apart from national surveys that TFA commissions to query principals about their satisfaction with TFA faculty (consistently good), there is remarkably little testimony available from veteran teachers, guidance counselors, parents, and other school stakeholders about TFA’s ultimate impact on whole school environments.

Similarly, a five-minute video on TFA’s website focusing on greater New Orleans is astonishingly self-referential, attributing a disproportionate share of credit to itself for the turnarounds in that city. (“While [TFA] was expanding its footprint, the community has seen rapid growth in student achievement.”) While its footprint has indeed grown six-fold, the growth filled a notable vacuum resulting from the systematic firing of 7,500 public school faculty, and TFA teachers now make up 20 percent of the city’s teaching force. No mention is made of the hundreds of civic leaders, educators and others—for better or worse—who stepped up to reinvent the system in the disaster’s aftermath. And it should be pointed out that many questions remain as to how successful the Recovery School District has been. As reported recently in the New York Times, “there is perhaps no topic of the last 10 years as polarizing.”

At the time of this reporting, Matthew Kramer, appointed co-CEO of TFA two years ago,announced he was stepping down and handing over the reins to his counterpart, Elisa Villanueva Beard. I will leave to my colleagues in the field the question of what prompted TFA to experiment with a co-leadership model in the midst of an expansion effort unprecedented in its pace and scale. Like all other news coming out of Teach for America, it, too, will be closely examined.

In the meantime, the question of whether TFA is living up to its mission to enlist, develop, and mobilize future leaders to strengthen the movement for educational equity remains an unanswered one. With more than $75 million coming in from government at last count and another $220 million from the philanthropic community taking advantage of the charitable gift deduction, we should be seeing more evidence of long-term student gains and far more alumni continuing their impassioned work in the classroom.

Perhaps TFA’s real problem is that it has simply not paid close enough attention to the final core value cited in its literature, that of respect and humility.—Patricia Schaefer

via NPQ

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Students removed from classrooms with mold after 7 On Your Side report

Samuel Chase ESStudents in a Prince George’s County elementary school were removed from classrooms this week due to mold. But it’s not just any school. This comes just months after a 7 On Your Side I-Team report that students in the school were getting sick – possibly due to mold.

Samuel Chase Elementary is a 53 year old building. Parents here say it’s time for a new school. And during this investigation ABC 7 learned mold inside the building has been a reoccurring problem. The most recent coming this week.

Back in May, we first introduced you to Linetra Jackson.

“Who would be comfortable sending their child back there like that?” said a sobbing Jackson, when we first interviewed her.

Jackson had pulled her daughter out of Samuel Chase Elementary because she kept getting sick – and blamed mold. After our story aired, the district cleaned the school, though it denied mold existed. But, not any longer.

On Thursday, a letter was sent to Samuel Chase parents saying mold had been found. Eight classrooms were vacated and cleaned.

“I don’t know if you want to look at it as a way of being vindicated when these kid are still there. This new school year you have kids and staff that are getting sick now,” stated Jackson.

7 On Your Side spoke to other parents who say their children also have had health issues while inside the school.

“Shut it down. Get our kids somewhere safe,” stated parent, Aretha Williams.

“Something’s got to be changed,” added parent, Sherman MacCutchen

The I-Team obtained recent health records for Samuel Chase, which show the building does have a “recurring mold issue”. And these documents cite multiple “costly mold cleanups”. Two recent bills total nearly $9,000.

Keesha Bullock, a spokesperson from Prince George’s County Schools gave 7 On Your Side this statement: “The building maintenance team will continue to address all needs at the school, while we work to secure funding that allows for a preventative maintenance opportunity instead of one that addresses needs from a reactive stance.”

“I appreciate 7 On Your Side, more than you know for bringing the coverage and sticking with this story and trying to get the right things done,” concluded Jackson.

As far as Jackson’s daughter is concerned, she now attends a new elementary school and has had no health issues.

via WJLA

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John Deasy’s business dinners

lat-deasyhp-la0020338202-20140826 (1)former L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy

Zahira Torres and Howard Blume wrote a blockbuster assessment of John Deasy’s tumultuous tenure as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Being good reporters, they bent over backwards to tell this sordid tale without rendering judgment. But the facts they present are damning. They were largely gathered from Deasy’s travel and expense records, which the reporters obtained by a Freedom of Information request.

1. He had a heavy travel schedule, which took him away from the district for 200 days. His travels interfered with his responsibilities.

“At key moments of tumult in the district, the records show, Deasy was simply not in town….

“The beginning of the end came a year ago, just before the school year started. Deasy was in New York to discuss challenges threatening education reform.

“Back at home, the city’s public schools were in disarray. By the time Deasy returned for the first day of classes, a malfunctioning scheduling system had forced students into gyms and auditoriums to await assignments. Some of them ended up in the wrong courses, putting their path to graduation in jeopardy.

“Two months later, in October, a Superior Court judge ordered state education officials to meet with Deasy to fix the scheduling problems that he said deprived students of their right to an education. But Deasy flew to South Korea the next morning to visit schools and meet government officials. A week later, he resigned, under pressure, as head of the nation’s second-largest school system.”

2. He spent lavishly on travel and meals; foundations with their own agenda subsidized his expenses.

“Deasy, who was paid $350,000 a year as superintendent, took more than 100 trips, spent generously on meals as he lobbied state and national lawmakers and wooed unions, foundations and educational leaders, according to credit card receipts, calendars and emails obtained under the California Public Records Act.

“Deasy spent about $167,000 on airfare, hotels, meals and entertainment during his tenure; half paid by philanthropists and foundations, and the other half by the district. Private foundations often make contributions to school districts, and the LAUSD’s position is that those funds can be used for the superintendent’s expenses.

“Among the philanthropists who subsidized his expenses, according to district records, were entertainment executive Casey Wasserman and Eli Broad, both of whom support education causes through their foundations.

“Deasy attended conferences and held meetings in cities including Boston, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Seattle. The tab for an evening with teachers union officers at Drago Centro in Los Angeles ran to more than $1,000. During a one-night stay at the Four Seasons hotel in New York, for which he spent $900, he met, among others, Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and president of the Emerson Collective, which awards grants and invests in education initiatives.”

3. Deasy was hired without a national search. “Influential philanthropists” and then-Mayor Villaraigosa selected Deasy. We may safely assume that Eli Broadwas one of those influential philanthropists.

4. Deasy’s pals in Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and those “influential philanthropists” poured millions into school board elections to defeat Deasy critics and elect Deasy allies.

“Groups with ties to Silicon Valley and Wall Street have played growing roles in the education reform movement by donating to school board candidates. The Emerson Collective, along with Broad and others, put hundreds of thousands of dollars into campaigns for board members who supported Deasy’s goals.”

5. Despite his large salary, Deasy asked his powerful friends to pay for some of his expenses. Here is one example, that a tuay sounds humiliating to Deasy, who extends a begging bowl to Eli Broad.

“Some board members said they also worried that by requesting and accepting reimbursement for travel from Wasserman, Broad and others who supported his reform efforts, Deasy was creating the perception that he might give a special hearing to those donors.

“In an email, for example, Deasy sought a “scholarship” from Broad to attend a dinner in New York honoring two education leaders who shared his vision for turning around troubled school districts.

“Would Eli support my attendance at an event?” Deasy wrote in October 2011 to Gregory McGinity, a senior official with the Broad Foundation. “I do not have such means to buy the ticket myself…. Do you think he would ‘scholarship’ me?”

“The Broad Foundation reimbursed the district $1,400 for Deasy’s airfare and hotel. A board member of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan think tank hosting the event, covered the superintendent’s $1,500 ticket for the dinner, according to the email.”

6. Deasy’s iPad fiasco was a disaster that is now being investigated by the FBI.

“Deasy’s signature effort to provide iPads to all students failed, and the cost of untangling the troubled student records system has now topped $200 million.”

7. Deasy had to go not only because of the iPad mess and the disaster with the district’s computer programming, but because he testified for the plaintiffs when LAUSD was sued in the Vergara case, instead of testifying for the district he led.

“Board President Steve Zimmer said Deasy’s confrontational approach reached a breaking point for him when the superintendent became a star witness for the plaintiffs in Vergara vs. California.

“That case, now on appeal, was heralded by national school reformers for making it easier to fire teachers and ending the current practice of layoffs based on seniority. It angered teachers who believed that they were under constant attack from the superintendent, who did not consult the board about the litigation.

“Once he chose to do what he did in the way that he did it, I knew I could no longer support his superintendency,” Zimmer said. “There was no reason he had to be on that stand.”

And where does Deasy work now? For Eli Broad, training school district leaders based on his own experience as a leader of the reform movement.

The following are excerpts from the superintendent’s expense account:

Donors and the L.A. Unified School District paid about $167,000 to cover travel and meals, usually at high-end restaurants here and elsewhere, for former L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy, related to his local and national education agenda. Here are some examples:

Date: Jan. 8, 2013

Place: Craft, Los Angeles

Cost: $248.37

Purpose: Dinner with Newark schools Supt. Cami Anderson, an ideological ally, and two others.

Date: June 19, 2013

After John Deasy, LAUSD faces a tough choice: Play it safe or take another risk?
After John Deasy, LAUSD faces a tough choice: Play it safe or take another risk?
Place: Piccolo Ristorante, Venice, Calif.

Cost: $227.91

Purpose: Dinner with Pearson executives Sherry King and Judy Codding, the day after approval of iPads-for-all contract that included Pearson as curriculum provider.

Date: Oct. 22, 2013

Place: Drago Centro, Los Angeles

Cost: $1,014.45

Purpose: Dinner with midlevel teachers union leaders; Deasy wasn’t speaking to then-union president Warren Fletcher at the time.

Date: Dec. 9, 2013

Place: Bouchon Bistro, Beverly Hills

Cost: $183.60

Purpose: Dinner with board members Tamar Galatzan and Monica Garcia.

Date: June 18, 2014

Place: Water Grill, Los Angeles

Cost: $221.84

Purpose: Dinner with Tommy Chang and Donna Muncey, two senior staff members.

Date: July 23, 2014

Place: Vincenti Ristorante, Brentwood

Cost: $311.96

Purpose: Dinner with philanthropist Megan Chernin, head of L.A. Fund for Public Education, and fund manager Melissa Infusino.

Source: L.A. Unified records and interviews.

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Unionization Important to Closing Racial Wage Gap, Study Says

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A study released on Friday, noting the gains made by black union workers in New York City, said that raising the rate of unionization among black workers across the country would help narrow the racial pay gap.

The study, conducted by two professors affiliated with the Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies at the City University of New York, which issued the report, described high unionization rates for black workers who live in the city compared with national rates.

Nearly 40 percent of black workers who are city residents are union members, compared with roughly 13 percent of black workers nationally.

The difference between the rates of black and nonblack unionization is also especially pronounced in New York City. The black unionization rate is nearly double that of nonblacks in the city, a difference that is much smaller nationally.

The authors, Ruth Milkman and Stephanie Luce, found that black union members enjoyed higher wages than black nonunion workers, and were also likely to have better access to employer-sponsored health care benefits and pensions.

“Unionism offers black workers a substantial economic advantage in regard to earnings — to a greater degree than is the case for nonblacks, reflecting the fact that larger numbers of blacks than nonblacks are employed in low-wage jobs,” the study said.

Unionization shrunk the racial wage gap by roughly half, reflecting the tendency of unions to fight for more equal wage distribution across the workplace. Black nonunion workers who live in the city made about $4 less in median hourly earnings than their nonblack counterparts. Among union members, that difference dropped to $2.

Dr. Milkman, a sociology professor, said in an interview that the findings suggested one path to addressing racial disparities in pay and broader income inequality that have come under increasing scrutiny across the country.

“When unions were more powerful in the United States, income inequality was also smaller,” she said. “One component of that is de-unionization.”

She added, referring to the black unionization rate in New York City, “We knew it was better here, but the extent of that is surprising to even us.”

Dr. Milkman said the findings could be explained in part by the fact that the health care and transit industries, which are major parts of the city’s work force and have high proportions of black workers, are heavily unionized.

The study also found that the share of working city residents who identified themselves as union members continued to rebound, after concern swelled several years ago about the steady erosion of union influence in the city. One in four workers residing in the city were union members over an 18-month period from last year to this year, up from roughly one in five in 2012.

A version of this article appears in print on September 5, 2015, on page A17 of the New York edition with the headline: Study Says Unionizing Helps Close Racial Wage Gap.

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Workers Organize, but Don’t Unionize, to Get Protection Under Labor Law

05somos-master675Luis Muñoz, left, and Jorge Porras in front of the Squeaky Clean Car Wash in Santa Fe, N.M. The two were fired after they sent the company a list of grievances.CreditMark Holm for The New York Times

SANTA FE, N.M. — Jorge Porras used to report to his carwash job here most mornings at 8:15 a.m., but he said that his boss often did not let him clock in until 11, when customers frequently began streaming in. Many days he was paid for just six hours, he said, even though he worked nine and a half hours.

One day, when the heavy chain that pulled cars forward got stuck, Mr. Porras tried to fix it, but it suddenly lurched forward and cut off the top of his right ring finger. The injury caused him to miss work for the next two weeks, he said, but he received no pay or workers’ compensation for the forced time off.

Mr. Porras and nine co-workers became so fed up that they took an unusual step. They formed a workers committee (not a labor union) and sent a certified letter to the owner of the carwash. In it, they complained about being “insulted and humiliated” in “front of our co-workers and customers” and protested being required to work off the clock and not being given goggles or gloves even though they worked with toxic chemicals.

An advocacy group for immigrant workers, Somos Un Pueblo Unido, advised Squeaky Clean’s workers to set up such a committee because the National Labor Relations Act — enacted under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1935 — prohibits employers from retaliating against workers for engaging in “concerted” activity to improve their wages and conditions, even when they are not trying to unionize.

In an era when the traditional labor unions envisioned by Depression-era supporters of that law have weakened steadily, many advocates now see work site committees as an alternative way to strengthen workers’ clout and protections.

Simon Brackley, president of the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, said Somos had exaggerated the prevalence of wage violations and had been too quick to pounce on employers. But Somos is not backing down, and many worker groups are now copying its work site committee idea, which has been adopted at about 35 restaurants, hotels and other companies in Santa Fe.

“A lot of workers don’t know about labor unions, and a lot are scared of retaliation if they try to form one,” said Marcela Diaz, the executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido (We are a United People). “So we have to find ways to protect workers when there isn’t a union.”

Santa Fe may be a famously artsy, liberal community, Ms. Diaz said, but many businesses too readily take advantage of their immigrant employees.

Luis Muñoz, a co-worker at the Squeaky Clean Car Wash, said their boss frequently humiliated workers, sometimes shouting, “You’re good for nothing.” One winter day, Mr. Muñoz said, the boss — complaining that cars were not being washed faster — soaked him with bone-chilling water from a hose.

Only days after the Squeaky Clean workers sent their letter in 2012, the owner fired Mr. Porras, Mr. Muñoz and four others. The fired workers and Somos complained to the National Labor Relations Board’s regional office in Phoenix. That office soon filed a civil complaint against Squeaky Clean, accusing it of unlawfully retaliating against the workers for engaging in what the courts call “protected, concerted” activities.

 

“We knew we’d have little protection if we acted alone,” Mr. Porras, an immigrant from Guatemala, said in Spanish. “But we knew that if we formed a committee, we’d be protected.”

Ultimately, the labor board ordered Squeaky Clean to reinstate the workers and pay $6,000 in back wages. The carwash agreed separately to pay $60,000 to settle claims for minimum wage and overtime violations.

The workers say that, in response to the worker committee’s pressure, the carwash has improved conditions for those who complained (but not necessarily for the rest of the crew) — paying them for their full eight hours and giving a one-hour lunch break and one-week paid vacation. Jay Ritter, Squeaky Clean’s owner, did not respond to telephone messages seeking comment.

These newfangled worker committees have been accumulating victories. In recent years, workers at 12 New Mexico companies have complained to the N.L.R.B. that they were fired for pushing to improve conditions. In 11 of those cases, the labor board’s Phoenix office found that the firings had been unlawful and pressed for the workers’ reinstatement.

“A lot of people thought the National Labor Relations Act could be used only during unionization campaigns,” said Andrew Schrank, a labor relations specialist who recently became a professor at Brown University after teaching at the University of New Mexico. “They’re finding that the National Labor Relations Act is much more expansive than many people thought.”

Richard F. Griffin Jr., the labor board’s general counsel, said a 1962 Supreme Court case — involving a spontaneous walkout because a factory was so cold — makes clear that the National Labor Relations Act protects nonunion workers, too.

“It’s important that people understand that the law applies to all private sector workplaces and protects activity outside the context of union activity,” Mr. Griffin said.

Somos’s success has impressed officials at many of the nation’s 230 immigrant worker centers.

“We’re looking at taking some of these steps,” said Adam Kader, director of the Arise Chicago Worker Center. “We urge workers to form committees with as many people as possible. We know three people out of 20 at a workplace is much better than one out of 20.”

To the relief of business, labor specialists say these committees will rarely if ever be as effective as traditional unions, which are larger and engage in collective bargaining.

Somos, a 20-year-old immigrants’ advocacy group, originally focused on persuading New Mexico lawmakers to let immigrants without legal papers obtain driver’s licenses. That effort succeeded. The group has since found a fresh calling, fighting for immigrants who face workplace problems, sometimes by staging raucous protests after workers filed claims alleging wage theft or illegal firings.

“We feel that the group’s tactics are over the top,” said Carol Wight, chief executive of the New Mexico Restaurant Association. “I think there are nicer, more effective ways of getting what you want — achieving justice for workers.” She said most restaurants tried to comply with labor laws, but New Mexico has various overlapping minimum wage laws that can make compliance difficult.

Glenn Spencer, executive director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Workforce Freedom Initiative, voiced concern that some immigrant worker groups like Somos were fronts for unions and were being used to help rebuild the labor movement.

Ms. Diaz said Somos was not fronting for unions, adding that they had shown scant interest in organizing low-wage immigrant workers in New Mexico.

“It’s hard to form unions,” acknowledged Mike Archuleta, immediate past president of the Northern New Mexico Central Labor Council. “If these workers could join a union, I would prefer that. But as far as protecting their own rights, these worker committees are the next best thing.”

Four hotel housekeepers at the Holiday Inn Express in Los Alamos were fired after forming a workers committee and complaining to management about harsh treatment, favoritism and unfair punishments. A federal judge ordered them reinstated with $11,375 in back pay. A receptionist at the hotel said there was no one to discuss the case.

One of the first cases involved 19 janitors for the Santa Fe school system who formed a workers committee in 2008 because they were upset that a supervisor was repeatedly harassing female workers, they said. The committee contacted the cleaning contractor that employed them, Merchants Building Maintenance, and pressed it to take action.

That supervisor soon retired, but the next year, the contractor refused to rehire the committee’s 19 members, while rehiring almost everyone else. After extensive litigation, a labor board judge ordered that the employees be reinstated, and the janitors received $130,000 in back pay. The janitors were never rehired because the company lost its contract with the school system. Merchants Building Maintenance did not respond to inquiries.

Three workers at Posa’s El Merendero restaurant here said they were fired after sending a letter asking management to discuss their concerns: not being paid for attending a 5 a.m. monthly meeting, not being paid when they worked through lunch, and often not being paid time and a half for overtime.

“If I were to do this on my own, they would just fire me and that would have been the end of it,” said Mayté Flores, a cook who lost her job. “When we wrote the letter together, we were able to protect ourselves.”

The N.L.R.B. ordered the restaurant to rehire the workers.

Jeff Posa, the restaurant’s co-owner, criticized Somos and defended his actions.

“I can’t say anything positive about them,” he said, asserting that the group incites workers to attract members and membership fees. Somos’s membership fee is $20. Mr. Posa said the fired workers had provoked heated arguments in the kitchen with co-workers. I don’t want to have people that are upset making my food,” he said. “That’s not good for my workers or my customers.”

Mr. Porras, the carwash worker, said the campaign was having ripple effects across the city. “I’m helping other workers,” he said. “People in Santa Fe are less willing to abuse workers because they see workers are standing up for their rights.”

A version of this article appears in print on September 7, 2015, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: Workers Organize, but Don’t Unionize, to Get Protection Under Labor Law.

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