Thursday, March 27, 2014

Play Space At Blach

At a recent LASD board meeting, quite a number of BCS parents expressed concern that BCS children at Blach had no place to play other than on the blacktop between the classrooms.  I believe this surprised most of the LASD board, since we provided for that in the 2013-14 facilities offer.  We actually had a lengthy debate when we constructed the facilities offer to provide both a way to share space (BCS and LASD kids playing together) and also a fall-back position in case the sharing didn't work out.

In point of fact, those parents have incorrect information.  LASD Superintendent Jeff Baier sent a letter today to BCS Principal Wanny Hersey to reiterate the sharing arrangements.  In his letter, he provides a copy of the sharing schedule that has been in place since November, and mentions that the BCS Asst. Principal Schwartzbaum have adjusted the schedule from time to time to meet the needs of the parties.  I provide a copy of the letter here in the hopes that BCS parents will see it and understand that the space has been provided properly.  Whether BCS chooses to use that space or not is entirely up to them, but the District has provided the space.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Passion Taking Root

Digging into a Passion

Last summer at EdCon 2013, one of the more interesting ideas floated by students was the concept of students creating their own electives.  Roughly based on Google's "20% time", it would allow students to create a course of study built around their own areas of passion.  The administrators in attendance were genuinely excited about this idea, and Sandra McGonagle at Blach wasted no time in putting this in place.  (Think about the timing for a moment- EdCon was held after the end of classes for the 2012-13 school year, yet in the fall of 2013, Sandra and her staff managed to get this up and running.  That in itself is impressive!)

So what has come from this?  Well, let's take a look at one student, Michael B. is an 8th grader at Blach who happens to be interested in botany.  Michael has been using his independent elective to explore this passion in greater depth.  Recently, he sent out a note via the weekly Blach newsletter to collect materials and build a living wall (a wall covered with plants.)  He wants to install it at Blach. Here's Michael's mock-up that he used in the approval process: 

Recently Michael and his parents visited the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco.  Apparently Michael has some admirers there as well.  Michael engaged in a discussion with some botanists there, and shared his website (Michael's Blog) with them.  They were so impressed that Michael will be interning in the Highland Tropics Gallery this summer, working directly for the botanist in charge of the gallery.  

It might be easy to think that Michael is just a "plant guy"- but he's not.  I'm told that he is involved in numerous school activities including the math team and yearbook.  As a parent of two teens, I already have tremendous respect for an 8th grader who puts together the effort and organization needed to complete this project.  For Michael to complete this project, while still remaining deeply involved in his other school activities (math team, yearbook co-editor, etc.)- well, that's an impressive young man.  

I'm thrilled that we've played some part in facilitating his deeper dive into a subject that holds his interest.  I'm thrilled when I see things like this in our schools.  This is what education is supposed to be about - inspiring students to go beyond the classroom, and learn even more.   If you ask Sandra about this, she'll undoubtedly be modest in her reply, but this is exactly what make LASD such an exciting place- our staff, our parents, and our students all work together to help each child explore their passion.  Well done, everyone!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Advocating for the Overthrow of Local Government

Our situation with our local charter school is fairly unique, so I try not to get too wrapped up in the politics of "The Charter Movement".  However, there are some things that i just can't accept- one of which is advocating that local communities should have no control over how their tax dollars should be spent.  The following is a direct quote from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings' keynote at the California Charter School Association's annual conference:

"Now if we go to the general public and we say, “Here’s an argument why you should get rid of school boards” of course no one’s going to go for that. School boards have been an iconic part of America for 200 years.  So what we have to do is to work with school districts to grow steadily, and the work ahead is really hard because we’re at 8% of students in California, whereas in New Orleans they’re at 90%, so we have a lot of catchup to do"

For just a moment I'll look past the obvious failure of so many schools in Louisiana.  Using them as a model is ridiculous.  But the idea that someone is literally advocating that local communities are not to be trusted to educate their own children?  Who in the hell do these people think they are?  How is it that Hastings thinks he is better qualified to run the Los Altos School District than the people of our own community?

Here's the short highlight from Mr. Hastings' address:

And here's the full address:

I am the first to acknowledge that not every community has a district as successful as LASD.  However, the fundamental principle that the citizens of this country are best suited to make judgments about how we shall be governed- that exists long before the CCSA or Mr. Hastings ever came along.

Folks, if your goal is to subvert the ability of local citizens to govern their own lives, there are places for that kind of behavior.  Many countries thrive under that system of government.  Just not here.