As she walked onto a rally in front of the Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters on Tuesday, Monica Ratliff was greeted as a minor celebrity.
Hundreds of union workers were applying pressure on the school board to spend new state revenues on cutting class sizes and rehiring laid-off teachers, counselors, and librarians.
Adult education teacher Juan Noguera spotted Ratliff, who’d just arrived from her job as a fifth grade teacher, and asked if he could take a picture with her.
“Adult Education supports you,” he gushed.
"I support adult education," she replied.
Ratliff said it's this kind of ground-level support that will put her over the top. It's pretty much all she's got. Ratliff has run a part-time campaign on a shoe-string budget.
As election day looms for this year's remaining undecided seat for the L.A. Unified's board, outside groups continue to pour money into the race -- all of it for her opponent, political newcomer Antonio Sanchez.
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A view of the California State Capitol in Sacramento. Two bills under consideration seek to reform how schools and police punish misbehaving students.
The Los Angeles Unified school district isn't the only government body seeking to reduce the number of student suspensions.
The Center for Public Integrity reported in a story today that a bill working its way through the California legislature, AB 420, would limit schools' ability to suspend students for defiance. In 2011-2012, 700,000 California students were suspended -- half of them for defiance.
Advocates have for years complained that minorities are more likely to be suspended than whites, and that a single suspension increases a child's likelihood to drop out of school.
L.A. Unified's board on Tuesday approved a student bill of rights that forbids suspensions for "willful defiance" --which includes mouthing off and not following a teacher's instructions, but can also include dress code violations-- until the third offense.
One way to secure a little extra arts funding for your school: have the kids draw an elephant.
On Sunday, Los Angeles Unified School District elementary students will compete in the "Love Elephants" art contest at the Bergamot Station Arts Center in Santa Monica. First, second and third place winners will earn a share of $2,000 in prize money for their schools' art department.
A partnership between the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Adopt the Arts and the school district, the project aims to "build knowledge and critical thinking about one of the world’s most beloved animals," according to fund's website. It also falls in line with the district's goals of using arts projects for more traditional learning, such as language arts, science and social studies.
By the way, the International Fund for Animal Welfare's website includes classroom materials and other resources for teachers.
David Hiser/National Geographic
Diego Rivera's fountain of the Aztec rain god Tlaloc is a pumping station in Mexico City's municipal water system.
The crowds at Tuesday's Los Angeles Unified board meeting came out in force to discuss a classroom breakfast program and the thorny issue of how to deal with unruly students. Less noticed was the board's decision to name a school after Mexican artist Diego Rivera.
In fact, it flew so low under the radar that even the school didn't seem to know about the name change.
As of this morning, the front office at South Region High School No. 2 still answered the phone using "South Region." Officials at the school said they have not received official notification from the district about the change -- and weren't interested in talking more about it.
The South Los Angeles school's new name, according to the district, is the Diego Rivera Learning Complex. The school is part of the district's $19.2 billion school construction and renovation program. It's been operating under the temporary name since it opened in 2011. The school is set up as four small learning communities that share a library, two gymnasiums and a multipurpose room.
Union leaders, parents and teachers packed the L.A. Unified Board of Education meeting Tuesday, when the board took on whether to continue the Breakfast in the Classroom program.
The “power struggle” fireworks promised for Tuesday’s L.A. Unified Board of Education over the Breakfast in the Classroom program never materialized.
Instead, speakers and the board had nothing but praise for the one-year old program.
“I’m here as a mother. I have five boys, single mom,” said Estela Tejada, who got choked up as she talked about how the program had helped her family. “I work the night shift every day and it’s hard for me to get up in the morning to even think about getting breakfast for my kids.”
Ultimately, the board unanimously approved a motion to continue the program – and expand it.
The decision was a big win for Superintendent John Deasy in his ongoing battle with the teacher’s union. He brought the issue to a vote after a union survey last month gave the program a failing grade. Teachers said the food attracts bugs and rodents and it’s taking too long to serve the kids and clean up after inevitable messes – up to 30 minutes of precious instructional time.