A daily round-up of education news and views for the Golden State.
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Wednesday, 9th June 2021




LA County seeks alternatives to deputies on school campuses

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously yesterday to collect more data on the effect of having sheriff’s deputies on local school campuses, even as some school districts pushed back against changes. On a 3-2 vote, the board also took back its authority to negotiate contracts for these services, rather than allowing the sheriff to hammer out deals directly with local school districts. Supervisors Janice Hahn and Kathryn Barger voted against the move to control negotiations, reacting to school district representatives demanding local autonomy. Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Sheila Kuehl were the co-authors of the motion proposing additional oversight of these contracts. “Law enforcement presence on school campuses can have a negative impact on students,” Mitchell said, pointing to research showing higher rates of fear and anxiety among students and a disproportionate negative impact on students of color. Kuehl said alternative programs, such as counseling and mental health services, would better serve schools.

The Signal  San Gabriel Valley Tribune 


Novato district appoints new principal at San Jose Middle School

Novato USD has announced the appointment of Michael Casper as San Jose Middle School's new principal. He has serviced in his current assistant principal role at San Marin High School for 16 years; prior to which he was a Marin County Office of Education Alternative Education Program teacher for seven years.

The Patch 




LA nun pleads guilty to $835,000 school theft

A Los Angeles nun who took a vow of poverty has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges for stealing more than $800,000 to pay for a gambling habit, prosecutors announced Tuesday. Mary Margaret Kreuper, 79, was charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering, the U.S. attorney's office said. Prosecutors said that in a plea agreement, the now-retired elementary school principal acknowledged that over a decade ending in 2018, she embezzled about $835,000 in donations, tuition and fee money from St. James Catholic School in the LA suburb of Torrance. Ms Kreuper could face up to 40 years in federal prison. 

Napa Valley Register  The Daily Breeze 


Teacher placed on leave over gender identity comments must be reinstated, judge rules

Judge James E. Plowman Jr. has ruled that Tanner Cross must be allowed to return to his job at Loudon County Public Schools in Virginia. Plowman concluded that the district's decision to place Cross on administrative leave was "an unconstitutional action … which has silenced others from speaking publicly on the issue." Cross, a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School, said he wouldn't address students by their preferred pronouns and names, and challenged the district's "Rights of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Students" policy on May 25 at a district board meeting. Michael Farris, president and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal group defending Cross, comments: "Educators are just like everybody else — they have ideas and opinions that they should be free to express. Advocating for solutions they believe in should not cost them their jobs."

USA Today  Washington Examiner 




OC schools partner with Children’s Hospital to address student mental health needs

Faced with rates of adolescent suicide and self-harm that have been among the fastest-rising in the country, schools in Orange County have teamed up with a local hospital to boost mental health services on campuses. The youth suicide rate in Orange County increased by 11% from 2010 to 2018, the sharpest increase among the 20 most populous counties in the U.S., according to the Community Suicide Prevention Initiative.  The partnership between Children’s Hospital of Orange County and the Orange County Department of Education will include a streamlined connection between the schools and the hospital system, and “well spaces” on every campus where students can visit counselors, do yoga or meditate, and generally relax. Located in converted classrooms, the well spaces are meant to provide a calming refuge for students to visit throughout the day. Each is furnished with comfortable chairs, desks, snacks, water, plants, books, space for yoga and meditation, and separate offices for private one-on-one counseling. “This is a passion for us. We get teary-eyed on a daily basis about this project,” said Mayu Iwatani, manager of mental health and wellness for the Orange County Department of Education. “We truly believe every child should have access to something like this.”





Systemic racism deters Black families in LA from sending kids back to school

Black families may be reluctant to send their children back to Los Angeles USD schools, after more than a year of coronavirus-induced virtual learning, because they feel the nation’s second largest school district is plagued by systemic racism, according to a new report from an educational advocacy group. Speak UP's report took into account responses from focus groups, analyses of district data and surveys, and the results from its own survey of 500 LAUSD parents, including 96 Black parents. Nearly two-thirds of Black parents said they did not want to send their children back to school. And while lingering concerns about the coronavirus pandemic was at least partly responsible for their hesitancy, 43% said they had concerns about bullying, racism and academic achievement, the reports says. “Black parents were able to see how their children were treated by their peers and instructors while kids learned at home, and in some cases, saw a system that did not benefit them,” the report says. “Many of the same parents who saw that their children seemed to learn better and thrive emotionally away from school now question whether it is in their child’s best interest to return to campus.”

Los Angeles Daily News 




New survey reveals continued existence of digital divide

While the country moves toward connecting more households to the internet than ever before, insufficient bandwidth remains a challenge for school districts and limits what tools students can use at home.  The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has surveyed 400 districts across the country, finding that basic internet access is less of an issue in distance learning than an inability to use bandwidth-intensive content, such as video conferencing and streaming. Ninety-four percent of districts faced challenges with video conferencing during remote learning. For 66% of those districts, the problems were caused by insufficient bandwidth. Respondents listed slow connections and multiple users as the top technical problems they faced. CoSN chief executive Keith Krueger said that part of the problem is that the federally recommended broadband thresholds for households don’t meet the needs of remote learning. Families may have plenty of bandwidth to stream or download content, he said, but not enough to upload. And most households have two or more students, compounding the problem.

EdWeek Market Brief 




Pandemic prompts some states to pass struggling 3rd graders

A number of U.S. states are revising policies stipulating that schools hold back struggling 3rd graders who don’t pass state standardized reading tests. Two states, Florida and Mississippi, decided this year that pupils who fail reading assessments won’t be held back. Lawmakers in a third state, Michigan, are debating the same policy. Proponents of letting students pass say states should focus resources on strengthening classroom instruction and literacy intervention efforts. “These kids are little. They’re eight-years-old and they’ve only been reading for two or three years,” said Franki Sibberson, a retired 3rd grade teacher and a former president of the National Council of Teachers on English. Sibberson said she understands the importance of assessments, but that focusing on one high-stakes test doesn’t provide teachers with a complete picture of a student’s progress. This emphasis on test scores makes it difficult to meet the child’s needs, she said. The U.S. Department of Education granted states flexibility on testing this spring, including altering the administration of tests and waiving accountability and school requirements under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, known as ESSA. Although the waivers are in place, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran still encouraged students to take the assessments. “All sides say you want accountability,” Corcoran said during a March news conference. “We gotta go out there and get the measurement. When we get the measurement, then we can sit back, look at the data and make the decisions that are best for children.”

Education Week 

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