So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

South Pasadena students recall 1940 murder spree (archival photos)

Spencer Case Photos  - 1

Courtesy of the South Pasadena Public Library

According to records from the South Pasadena Police Department, Verlin Spencer entered the South Pasadena Unified School District administration building at 1327 Diamond Ave. around 2:15 p.m. on May 6, 1940. The following images are crime scene photos taken by the South Pasadena police.

Spencer Case Photos  - 3

Courtesy of the South Pasadena Public Library

The meeting where Verlin Spencer shot three administrators took place in this Board of Education room, the first of two murder locations.

Spencer Case Photos  - 4

Courtesy of the South Pasadena Public Library

A South Pasadena police photo shows blood left at the crime scene inside the Board of Education meeting room.

Spencer Case Photos  - 5

Courtesy of the South Pasadena Public Library

A bullet hole along the southeast door of the board room is measured. Verlin Spencer used a .22-caliber Colt Woodsman semi-automatic pistol. According to South Pasadena police records, Spencer also had 50 rounds of extra ammunition with him.

Spencer Case Photos  - 2

Courtesy of the South Pasadena Public Library

Verlin Spencer took these stairs in the administration building to attend a meeting with the district superintendent and other school administrators.

Spencer Case Photos  - 6

Courtesy of the South Pasadena Public Library

The south view of secretary Dorothea Talbert's office shows where she was shot after Verlin Spencer left the board room. Talbert survived.

Spencer Case Photos  - 7

Courtesy of the South Pasadena Public Library

A South Pasadena police crime scene photo shows blood on the floor of secretary Dorothea Talbert's office where she was shot.

Spencer Case Photos  - 8

Courtesy of the South Pasadena Public Library

A police picture taken inside the shop building at the South Pasadena Junior High School shows where mechanical arts teacher Verner Vanderlip was fatally shot by Verlin Spencer.

Spencer Case Photos  - 9

Courtesy of the South Pasadena Public Library

Verlin Spencer shot South Pasadena Junior High School art teacher Ruth Sturgeon in her classroom. She was one of five victims who died on May 6, 1940.

Spencer Case Photos  - 10

Courtesy of the South Pasadena Public Library

This crime scene photo shows blood where South Pasadena Junior High School art teacher Ruth Sturgeon was shot inside her classroom. Former student Glenice Hershberger remembers seeing Sturgeon taken from the campus with a bandage on her head.

Spencer Case Photos  - 11

Courtesy of the South Pasadena Public Library

According to the South Pasadena police, Spencer was surrounded in the junior high cafeteria by three officers armed with shotguns. Police say Spencer raised his pistol and shot himself in the side of his chest. He survived to stand trial.

Victims of the Spencer shootings

Collection of Stefanie Eskander

School Superintendent George C. Bush, South Pasadena High Principal John Alman and business manager Will Speer were shot and killed on May 6, 1940.

Victims of the Spencer shootings

Collection of Stefanie Eskander

Secretary Dorothea Talbert was wounded in the school administration building and art teacher Ruth Sturgeon and shop teacher Verner Vanderlip were shot and killed at the South Pasadena Junior High School in the May 6, 1940 shootings.

Pasadena shooting - Verlin Spencer

South Pasadena Jr. High Yearbook

On the morning of May 6, 1940, South Pasadena Junior High School Principal Verlin Spencer went on a shooting spree that left five dead and one injured.

School shootings have grown common in recent years, but that wasn't the case in 1940, when a shocking case of multiple murder unfolded in quiet South Pasadena.

The arrest last month of two South Pasadena High students who authorities say threatened a mass murder at their school has revived memories of the killings 74 years ago. 

Authorities received a tip of a planned shooting in the recent case. Back in 1940, there was no warning of the crime to come.

Roughly 14,000 residents lived in South Pasadena at the time. Serious crimes rarely occurred in the Los Angeles suburb. Pasadena felt so safe that many residents didn't lock their doors.

"It was a wonderful place to go to school and grow up," remembers former South Pasadena Junior High School student Glenice Hershberger, now 88. 


Few LA students using Pearson's iPad software, survey shows

Urban Teens Exploring Technology

Annie Gilbertson/KPCC

Developer Oscar Menjivar sits with student Jesus Vargas, checking out the Pearson education software loaded onto every L.A. Unified iPad.

This story has been updated.

Most Los Angeles Unified schools are not using the learning software pre-loaded on to iPads as part of the the district's one-to-one technology expansion, according to an interim report commissioned by the school district. 

Staff complained the administration's chosen software simply wasn't "robust." They told researchers lessons were often missing or incomplete. 

"Administrators at three schools said that components of the ELA curriculum were missing (e.g., narrative writing, Grade 3 curriculum), and administrators at two schools said that mathematics components were missing," according to American Institutes of Research, authors of the report, Evaluation of the Common Core Technology Project.

District officials held a press conference Thursday to say they're working with Pearson to close the gaps, and the full software will be delivered to schools soon.


More than 100,000 LA school repairs backlogged; fire safety at risk in some schools


Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Dan Sapia shuts off water to the fire sprinklers at Hoover Street Elementary School in the Los Angeles Unified school district. His plumbing crew is often pulled from one emergency job, such as repairing this water main leak, to another, leaving little time for outstanding requests.


Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Dan Sapia, left, consults Christopher Cadena while working on a leaking water main at Hoover Street Elementary School. The Los Angeles Unified School District plumbing crew estimated that the repair would take three days. Until the water main feeding the fire sprinklers is fixed, the school has someone on fire watch at all hours of the day.


Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Christopher Cadena climbs in a hole five-feet deep, unearthing a leaking water main that feeds the fire sprinkler system at Hoover Street Elementary School. A backlog of repair requests show plumbing problems plague many campuses.

This story has been updated.

From burned out light bulbs and cracked concrete to compromised fire safety systems and exposed electrical wiring, Los Angeles Unified schools are waiting on 116,000 maintenance and safety problems reported since January, records show, and officials said they don't have the staff or money to fix them all.

An analysis of 165,400 repair requests filed with the school district this year showed less than a third have been addressed.

"We are very short staffed," said Roger Finstad, head of maintenance and operations at L.A. Unified. "We're operating at less than half the funding we had just about six years ago." 

L.A. Unified set aside about $100 million for repairs this year, but Finstad said it would cost about $400 million every year to get all the work done.


Some LA Unified students wilting in heat waiting for air-conditioning repairs

courtesy of Karla Johnson

Spanish teacher Karla Johnson takes the classroom temperature at Franklin High School in L.A.'s Highland Park. She says she's been complaining about faulty air conditioning for 10 years.

L.A. Unified says it has air conditioning in all 32,000 school district classrooms, but 2,000 pending service calls have turned the current heat wave into a repair crisis.

On Monday, at Franklin High School in Highland Park, the conditions were sweltering.

"I have a temperature gun and the highest temperature inside the classroom was 92 degrees,” Spanish teacher Karla Johnson said.

That’s too hot for her students to learn.

“They are having problems concentrating, they’re falling asleep, they’re sweating. I can see sweat dripping down their face while I’m trying to teach them,” Johnson said, adding the air-conditioning problems aren’t new. She's been complaining about the situation for 10 years.

What's it going to take to lower classroom temperatures to a level where learning can go on?


AG truancy report: Student absences highest among low-income, black students

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

California Attorney General Kamala Harris unveils a report on chronic absences among elementary school students.

As many as 250,000 California elementary students missed 10 percent of the past school year or roughly 18 or more days, numbers that a report released by Attorney General Kamala Harris called alarming.

Most troubling are high absences among low-income and African-American students, said Harris, speaking at a Friday news conference at the Malabar Street Elementary School in East Los Angeles. 

“Students of color and high-need children are at an extreme risk," Harris said. "What we have found, and new research has unveiled, is that African-American students are far more likely to miss school than their peers.”

One in five black students are absent more than 18 days out of the school year, according to the In School + On Track report. And nearly all of the students who missed more than a month of school per year came from low-income families.