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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Hello friends and partners, 

After a cheery and restful winter break, the new semester is in full swing at L.A. Unified. The first few weeks of the year have certainly been eventful, from the passage of my “Open Data” resolution to democratize data within the District, to the implementation of my pilot program to offer "Headspace" meditation to teachers and employees in my district (coming soon to all L.A. Unified employees!), to the leadership transition following Superintendent Michelle King’s retirement announcement.
One of my signature campaign issues was transparency and accountability — the T in my LIGHT platform — and I’m proud that we are now among the first districts in the country to implement a policy of open data. As constituents, you will soon have access to District data on potential subjects like growth in student achievement, achievement and opportunity gaps, and special education assessments. This comes after my TECH app resolution to create a smartphone app — all in the service of being more transparent and communicative with parents and other stakeholders.

Read on about these and other updates on labor negotiations, highlights from my latest visits to over 100 schools this year, and more!
With gratitude,
Increasing Transparency by Creating Open Data: Board Approves LAUSDATA Resolution
I sponsored, and the Board approved, “LAUSDATA,” a resolution to create a system of Open Data in the District to increase transparency and accountability. Open Data is publicly available and easily accessible data published by the District so that folks like you are able to engage and participate in L.A. Unified’s progress toward goals like 100% graduation, literacy and numeracy for all, closing achievement gaps, and college and career readiness for all students. When I started teaching, I quickly learned that the best teachers used student data to inform their instruction. I believe that the District should do the same, and do so transparently, inviting the community to join us in our continuous effort to best serve all kids. 
Honoring a Legacy and Looking to the Future: Dr. Michelle King Retires as Superintendent
Dr. Michelle King recently announced that she will be retiring from her position as L.A. Unified Superintendent as she courageously fights a cancer diagnosis. My thoughts and prayers are with Michelle and her family, as they have been for the last months. I am continually inspired by her lifelong dedication to this District, not only as Superintendent, but also as student, parent, teacher, principal, and administrator. In the wake of this news, the Board unanimously approved Vivian Ekchian, who has been serving as Acting Superintendent since October, as Interim Superintendent. Vivian’s leadership in this time has earned our confidence in this interim appointment, ensuring that we can keep working to increase student achievement during this transition as we begin our Superintendent search.
Balancing our Budget: A Tentative Healthcare Deal
The District and our labor partners recently reached a tentative three-year healthcare agreement, which only begins to scratch the surface of our $13.9 billion unfunded liabilities. This agreement is taking at least a small step in the right direction, but does not go far enough in addressing the financial crisis looming over L.A. Unified’s future. I believe it is possible to work through this process in a way that puts kids first and ensures our teachers and employees have the very best benefits possible. Considering that by 2031, 50% of our entire budget will be going to pay healthcare and pensions costs if we do not address these debts and liabilities in a serious way, it is our kids who will suffer as their class sizes get bigger and their art, music, and even science classes get cut. I am unwilling to accept a day when half of our budget is being taken away from the salaries of our hardworking employees and from the classrooms of our kids to compensate for the irresponsible decisions of previous generations. (Read my full statement here.)
Achieving with Innovation: Sutter Middle joins Verizon Innovative Learning Schools with New Grant
Sutter Middle School recently found out they will join the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools initiative from The Verizon Foundation, which will provide every teacher and student with their own tablet, 24/7 internet access and training on how to apply technology to learning in the classroom and beyond. I know firsthand how far this initiative will go at Sutter, where I visited last week to celebrate this awesome accomplishment.
We need to give more kids access to technology tools, resources and hands-on learning so that they can compete for the jobs of the 21st century. I was also able to honor this achievement at this month’s Committee of the Whole meeting, which was hosted in Board District 6 in an ongoing commitment to bring the Board of Education back into the community.
Getting Back to School: A First Day Visit at Bancroft Middle
I kicked off the new semester and new year at Bancroft Middle School welcoming everyone back and checking out all the diverse programs that the school has to offer, including an engineering class! So far I have made it out to almost 120 schools across the District, and I am committed to making it to every school in BD4 before the end of this semester. Thank you to all for the warm welcomes and keen insight into both the successes and challenges in your schools.
Recognizing our Talent: The Board-Certified Teacher Appreciation Event
I joined the new National Board Certified (NBC) teachers of L.A. Unified to congratulate and celebrate their accomplishments and hard work on behalf of our kids. NBC certification is achieved by successfully completing a voluntary program designed to recognize effective and accomplished teachers who meet high standards in their positions. This was the fifth year in a row that L.A. Unified has lead the nation in newly certified educators, and I was proud to recognize their commitment.
Protecting DREAMer Teachers: L.A. Unified Support for Lawsuit Challenging Rescission of DACA
There are 20,000 K-12 teachers with DACA status in this country, with about 5,000 of those in California. These Dreamers have taken on the task of educating our kids, and I, along with L.A. Unified leadership, am committed to fighting for their rights to live, work, and thrive in this country. The Board of Ed joined in an amicus brief in support of the University of California, State of California, and individual plaintiffs in a case against the termination of DACA. I have also submitted my own declaration in support of the irreplaceable undocumented teachers and staff in this lawsuit.
Investing in a Great Partnership: Lundquist Family Announces Renewed Financial Commitment to PLAS Schools in L.A. Unified
I celebrated the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS) as they received a renewed financial commitment of $35 million from philanthropists Richard and Melanie Lundquist (in total, the second-largest gift to a school district in the nation’s history), which will enable the nonprofit organization to continue its work on behalf of improving student outcomes in District schools. We are all grateful for the  Lundquists' unwavering dedication to L.A. Unified, and I am especially thankful as I began my teaching career in a PLAS school in Watts. 
School Spot-L.I.G.H.T.S.: Fairfax Finalists and Melrose Motivation
Congratulations to the three Fairfax High School students playing a role in the history of mass transportation in Los Angeles. They submitted entries to L.A. Metro to name the gigantic twin machines that will be used to bore four miles of tunnels as part of the much-anticipated extension of the Purple Line linking Koreatown to Beverly Hills. The complete essays from all six finalists are on display at—where visitors to the website can vote for their favorite idea.
We know that attendance matters for increasing student achievement in L.A. Unified. I am proud of the awesome efforts at BD4's Melrose Avenue Elementary Math, Science, and Technology Magnet. Melrose Ave has seen great results in improving attendance by engaging faculty, families, and students in ongoing conversations about attendance, and getting students excited about coming to school everyday!

Great things happening at your school? Email or call to let us know!
Stay in the Know:
L.A. Unified Updates
Know A Great Teacher? Nominations are Open for the L.A. Unified Teacher of the Year Awards! Click Here to Nominate an Outstanding Educator before February 16.
Make Your Voice Heard: The Multilingual and Multicultural Education Department is seeking input from the parents of English-learners about the academic needs of their children through community forums. Click here to learn more about these sessions and find one near you.
Stay Healthy: There has been an increase in the severity of reported flu cases this year (with dozens of deaths)—keep yourself and your families healthy and safe by following these tips.
Go Green: L.A. Unified invites our schools to enter the “Heroes for Zero” Contest, which challenges K-12 student teams to help make their schools “Zero Net Energy (ZNE) Ready” to promote Sustainability and Reduced Energy Consumption. Apply by April 22nd and click here to learn more.
Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for daily updates on L.A. Unified,
Board District 4, education news, and much more:
You can also contact my office anytime at (213) 241-6387 or

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Thank you!