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PUBLIC FORUM : MISMANAGEMENT MALIGNANT FORCE IN LOS ANGELES SCHOOLS.

There is absolutely no doubt that the lack of management in the district has caused the decline in education. The inability of school board members and Ruben Zacarias to take charge of building the most expensive high school in the nation is an example of how the district is run. To do a good job on a project so large, you have to be proactive. You have to have your finger on the very pulse of all the activities. The school board members and superintendent should have personally reviewed all of the environmental studies and reports. The high-salary management, the law firms and construction companies exposed by Don Mullinax in his report are just a few of the people who mismanage the LAUSD. I have witnessed the deterioration of our schools for years, and when I asked why, I was told that the defer-maintenance tactic is a way to get more money from Sacramento. Pretty ugly picture, isn't it?

- Michael C. Hines

West Hills

I do not think that children's poor education in the city schools is due to the mismanagement of the Belmont Learning Center. These are two different issues.

Our poor education for children is the result of proper teaching, lack of facilities, too many kids in the classrooms, lack of parental involvement and too many kids being shuffled around due to disciplinary problems.

The mismanagement of Belmont is typical of our bureaucracy - payoffs and underhanded issues, someone knowing someone and owning someone else. The sad aspect of this is that the money could have gone to enlarge and improve schools already there instead of creating this white elephant.

- Korey Passy

Beverly Hills

``Management'' is an oxymoron of the first degree for those tall, naughty children in the flagship of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The Ship of Fools at 450 N. Grand is an out-of-control candy store where world-class incompetents throw money around like it's their private stash, commit criminal acts and lie on a daily basis to an outraged public who knows only what the Daily News and other media can dig up from well-hidden records.

We taxpayers are impotent in any attempt to get to the sordid truth. Even elected legislators have been put off by those good ol' boys who have been allowed to destroy the nation's largest school district, now the worst.

I taught in the LAUSD for 15 years in a high school in the North Valley. Believe me, the state of noneducation is far more severe than the press reports. Those buffoons who parade around as administrators, especially the anachronistic Ruben Zacarias, have not the vaguest clue to what goes on at campuses around the district. They dribble a dollar here, a dollar there, to schools and make a big splashy deal out of it. Meanwhile, the beat goes on downtown to the tune of unaccounted-for millions that will never in any way benefit a child or his education.

A criminal by any other name is still a criminal, and the LAUSD is the prison that houses thousands of them along with our children on whom they are allowed to continue perpetrating their educational abuse.

- Bettie Kapiloff

La Canada

I am certain that most of the letters you will receive in answer to the question regarding the Belmont investigation will paint a highly negative picture of administrators on the district. I will probably be a lone voice crying in the wilderness for a measure of caution regarding this matter.

I will remind your readers of a few things. Some might think that a chain of command exists only in a military structure, but believe me when I say that chains of command exist in all types of management structure, civilian and military.

First, there is an adage that the chain is no stronger than its weakest link. A corollary to that must be that a strong link below a weak one has little chance of protecting the integrity of the chain.

I believe that one could safely assert that a whistle-blower is loved by nobody, often least of all by the people to whom the whistle is blown and who are thus forewarned of a problem.

If a link in a chain makes others above him aware of a weakness, most likely the informant will, at best, be thanked for the information and invited to get back to his office and mind his own business. At worst, the informant will have permanently damaged his career. Even in today's litigious world it is unlikely that the informant will ever be able to recover from the damage done by his idealistic efforts to make the situation better.

Finally, most often the links in the chain below the cognizant link probably will be aware only that their own superior has done nothing, so the cognizant link will be the one who to bear the onus of the errors, whatever they be.

I urge all readers to search deeply into their own souls to discover how far out on that proverbial limb they might have gone to inform the world of their concerns. Or would they have, as suggested, gone back to their offices and minded their own business?

- Richard Warren

Van Nuys

Thirty-some years ago I was an LAUSD teacher, and my third-grade class studied our city government. The students wrote letters to the various city departments asking for information about what they did and, in return, received booklets, pictures and charts describing each department's function.

Among these materials were organizational flow charts, and the students could see how responsibility began at the top and flowed out to an ever increasing group of workers. The LAUSD organizational chart stood out from the rest: a sheet of paper filled to the edges with boxes. To this day I remember how my third-graders looked at it in amazement and commented that it looks like nobody is in charge.

Not much has changed.

- Linda S. Hamilton

Calabasas

First, ``Follow the Money'' (Sept. 16) is an excellent editorial. We need more of this type of strong comment. I also believe that all of the Belmont crowd should be held responsible for the Belmont scandal. Firing may not be enough. Jail is recommended. It is my tax money. I had nothing to say about the program, good or bad, except in a few letters to your paper. The full report should be published when complete.

Second, ``Follow the Money'' is correct. I ask that you or the commission follow the money by conducting a full audit of the agencies and individuals involved, including overseas money.

Third, philosophically I do not believe in super-large education facilities. I believe they are not safe. They foster increased problems of teaching and behavior. The principals know but a few of the students.

I believe that all schools should be limited to 250 students. Schools would be in the neighborhood, less cost to build, maintain, less land. The teachers and principals would have their fingers on everything, and much more. If the 20 students per classroom work well, why not smaller schools?

- Charles Dusheck

Chatsworth

I think it is the LAUSD officials' fault that kids in the schools are getting a poor education. But only half of that can be blamed on Belmont. I think the LAUSD officials were so excited and concentrated on Belmont that they didn't pay a lot of attention to other schools, so the schools got left out and not supported. I also think that when LAUSD officials were not concentrating on Belmont and focusing on the schools, they didn't really think or care about the kids and teachers but only about their jobs and money. And I think that is why kids are getting a poor education.

- Matthew Hollander

West Hills

There have been 25 years of social promotions, abuse of office, unbelievable wastes of taxpayer funds and illegal meetings behind closed doors, and such practices go on and on.

Is there some way to throw out these people at the LAUSD right now? Our kids are among the lowest performers in the state and nation - and probably the universe - in math comprehension, as shown by standardized tests. How can we stop the bleeding? If you are a parent, check the quality of the textbooks that your youngster is given. Then check the fact that the LAUSD, while layers of management sit in an ivory tower, has millions of dollars that are not spent because they cannot agree on where the money should go. Then find out more about the LAUSD and what is being done to you, the parent, and your children, who are basically being denied a proper education and not being prepared to enter either the work force or a university or college. We will be in this bind for a generation, it seems. Please remember this at the next election. Or is there some way to get them out sooner?

- Walter Esser

Van Nuys

Shame on the LAUSD.

I say throw out all the bums responsible for the Belmont Learning Center fiasco. Start with Zacarias and fire everyone down the line - with no deals for them to keep their salaries, which, by the way, are obscene. They should not be reassigned, as some of them already have been, but permanently removed. They should never be hired again somewhere else in the school system.

Good work, Daily News staff. Keep a watchful eye on the rascals downtown.

- Barbara Doria

Northridge

I retired from the LAUSD in July after 30 years. In all those years, I never had the feeling that the district administrators truly cared about employees, especially the teachers. I also felt that every time they cried poverty, they were simply doing their best to shaft the employees and divert the funds to their own nefarious purposes. The Mullinax report tends to support this opinion.

That the district leadership often shows itself to be incompetent and untrustworthy is illustrated by the Belmont fiasco, the unbelievable squandering of chances to obtain state bond issue funds, and such situations as the one in which the Fremont High School principal was given a ``baby-sitter'' instead of being relieved from duty, as she should have been. It's not surprising since poor administrators are often transferred instead of being fired.

I could go on and on, but it's too depressing. I do want to say that whatever actions are taken against the district should not be so draconian that they hurt the employees who had no part in this mess.

- William Vallow

Arcadia

The mismanagement by and lack of knowledge in LAUSD officials - with Belmont as the most outrageous fiasco - and teachers' ineffectiveness are what harm education in city schools. As a student in the LAUSD, I clearly see that teachers are often just plain burned out. The lack of support from administration, the large class sizes, the inadequate supplies and books, the low pay and the general lack of respect create an almost impossible working environment. Until teaching is viewed as an honorable profession by our society, there is little hope for improving public education.

- Alaia Zeno

Topanga

Many years ago the LAUSD began on a long cruise of denial. This cruise is still in full sail.

In November of 1991, Warren Furutami, then an LAUSD board member, and Julie Korenstein, still a board member, denied knowing that the district had rental property that brought in $2.6 million per year. It was the staff's fault. They denied knowing why $72,000 was spent to recruit new teachers, when approximately 2,000 teachers had been laid off.

In March of 1992, Roberta Weintraub, then a board member, and Korenstein, along with Chief Financial Officer Robert Booker and Assistant Superintendent Sid Thompson, denied any responsibility for the LAUSD budget problems. It was someone else's fault. A month earlier, Superintendent Bill Anton beat them to the denial of fault.

In March 1998, Superintendent Ruben Zacarias denied that his letter to parents urging them to have their children opt out of tests was political in nature.

In June of 1999, the school board as a whole denied knowing that a new charter school was being opened in a building that housed a mental health center. They also denied knowing that there was a drug and alcohol treatment center nearby.

Now the entire LAUSD system denies any responsibility for the Belmont Learning Center fiasco. It's not the school board members' fault. They were given bad information. It's not the superintendent's fault. He wasn't the superintendent when the fiasco started, and never mind that he has been an administrator for most of his 32 years in district employment. It's not the attorneys' fault. They depended on other attorneys. It's not the other attorneys' fault. They depended on the contractors. It's not the contractors' fault. The LAUSD officials were not clear on what they wanted, except cheap land and expedited approval to build.

Denial, denial, denial. It's high time this cruise of denial ended. Time to fire people and break up the district before our entire $2.2 billion is wasted.

- Les Parker

Woodland Hills

In regard to the LAUSD: First, fire everybody who had anything to do with the Belmont fiasco, starting with Ruben Zacarias. Second, put a freeze on all administrators' salaries until the test scores improve throughout the school district. Third, double the teachers' salaries. Fourth, send a report card home every six weeks so the parents can grade the teachers. These report cards should be sent directly back to the district offices.

In June, teachers whose average grade for the year was an ``A'' will get a 10 percent pay increase. A ``B'' average will be worth a 5 percent increase, with 3 percent for ``C'' and 2 percent for ``D.'' Teachers with an ``F'' average will have six months to raise their grades or they will have to find employment elsewhere. It's time that we pay our teachers what they are worth. Good teachers are drastically underpaid, and bad teachers are grossly overpaid. Let's put the choice of raises in the hands of the people who know which teachers are good and which are not: the parents.

- Dana Currie

Sunland

Mismanagement by LAUSD officials is certainly a critical issue for our children. Yet this is only one of the examples, good and bad, that our children witness in our society.

First, when one makes a mistake, if one can stand tall, admit it and say I'm sorry and I want to do all I can to rectify it, wouldn't that make our world a better place?

What seems to happen more frequently is that one denies it, gets a lawyer and sues. Thus millions more dollars are wasted. Yet, we want our children to be honest.

Let us all join hands and try to heal our world and make known more of the honest and kind people. Let us all learn to like, respect and get along with ourselves. Then, and only then, can we reach out to like, respect and get along with others. Thus, we might set a positive example for all our children - the seeds of today for the flowers of tomorrow.

- Arleen E. Saykally

Encino

Your editorial, ``Teacher Power'' (Sept. 12) was well written. As a retired teacher with 36 years in the LAUSD, I feel a little awkward in making this statement because you seem to be knocking teachers constantly. When you stated, ``Much of the management of the LAUSD is incompetent, and new leadership is needed,'' that was right on, and teachers throughout the district have known that for years. Have you ever heard of an administrator's going back to the classroom for doing a poor job? Have you ever heard of an administrator's being demoted to assistant principal? The answer to both of these questions is never.

The only thing they ever do is send the principal to another school. We call it the dance of the lemons.

The problem is the ``old boy'' routine in which administrators protect their own. On top of all that, the board members are afraid to intervene. It's almost as if the board rubber-stamps everything the administrators show them. We now have three new board members. Let's hope they have enough guts finally to attack this recurring problem of allowing incompetent administrators to continue.

- Ed Rasky

West Hills

CAPTION(S):

Photo

Photo: The Belmont Learning Center had a ``guaranteed'' maximum price of $85.5 million. It now looks like the cost will double that.

David Sprague/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 25, 1999
Words:2752
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