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

Readers quiz: LA Unified school board candidates

Alex Johnson and George McKenna

Annie Gilbertson, KPCC

Alex Johnson (L) and George McKenna (R) are running to represent a swath of South Los Angeles at the LAUSD board.

While the rest of us will have to wait for November to cast our next ballot, Tuesday is election day for one slice of Los Angeles.

Voters in South L.A. will choose between Alex Johnson and George McKenna for the open seat on the Los Angeles Unified school board. They replace Marguerite LaMotte, who died unexpectedly in December.

With only one question on the ballot, fewer than 10 percent of South L.A. voters are expected to turnout to Tuesday's election, making each vote extremely valuable. 

Neither candidate garnered enough votes to claim victory in the primary election last June - though McKenna raked in almost twice the number of votes as Johnson did. 

Tuesday's winning candidate will join an ideologically split school board.

Johnson, an education policy advisor, is the favorite for self-described school reformers, who favor tying teacher evaluations to test scores and champion charter school growth. 


Top LA arts high school to get new principal


Courtesy of CSULA Public Affairs

The crowd during the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts' grand opening of the new facility in May 2013.

The famed arts high school located on the campus of Cal State L.A. is searching for a new principal.

The Los Angeles County High School for the Arts will start the school year with an interim principal, following the July 1 resignation of George Simpson, who had led the school since 2008.

"I think the vision for the leadership for the school is different now than it was when I was hired six years ago," Simpson said.

He wouldn't get into details, but suggested that county officials wanted a different approach for the school. The school is run by the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

RELATED: The joy of a new school - LACHSA students celebrate a home of their own

Simpson spoke to KPCC from Boston, where he has relocated. Lisa Sherman-Colt is currently working as the interim principal for the school — she was previously the school's assistant principal. 


Under fire, Pasadena City College President Mark Rocha steps down


Pasadena City College

Pasadena City College President Mark Rocha announced on Thursday that he’s stepping down on Aug. 31 after four years on the job.

Rocha’s tenure the last two years has been filled with clashes with campus faculty and students. Rocha canceled winter session two years ago and that prompted many students to protest that the move upended their ability to graduate in a timely manner. The Associated Students took a vote of “no confidence” last year against Rocha and urged the board of trustees to fire him.

PCC faculty did the same thing. Professors complained that Rocha rejected curriculum proposals and ignored the faculty’s warnings of canceling the winter session in 2012.

“It’s a victory for faculty and staff,” said Roger Marheine, a past president of the Faculty Association. “If he would only have listened to faculty he would have been a great CEO."


After school arts tries to fill a void, but is it enough?

Photo Courtesy of Ben Gibbs

Los Angeles Unified students involved in LA's BEST's After School Arts Program compete in a Dance and Drill Team Competition at Cal State LA.

Mary Plummer/KPCC

Mario Davila leads an orientation for after school arts instructors in Boyle Heights. During the 2014/2015 school year, 190 schools in Los Angeles Unified will get LA's BEST arts programs.

Photo Courtesy of Ben Gibbs

Students from LA's BEST's After School Arts Program at UCLA's Royce Hall.

When Los Angeles students get ready to head back to school next week, many of them won't get arts instruction. 

Despite a requirement in the state's education code which requires that students have school day access to four different art forms (dance, visual arts, music and theater) each year from 1st through twelfth grade, L.A. Unified doesn't make the grade.

To help fill the gap, a public-private partnership called LA's BEST  provides after school arts instruction to 7,600 elementary students at 190 different schools across the district.

"Many times when we go out to a school the principals will tell us that they've lost their arts programming during the regular school day. And that the only arts education programing the children are getting are the programs that we're bringing in through LA's Best," said Mario Davila, director of LA's BEST's After School Arts Program, which also brings science, sports and many other programs to Title 1 schools after the final bell.


LA school board race: Quiz your candidates

Annie Gilbertson/KPCC

Los Angeles Unified school board candidates Alex Johnson and George McKenna have less than two weeks left to win the favor of Los Angeles voters before the runoff election.

So far, records show Johnson, an education policy advisor for L.A. county supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, attracted $314,000 in campaign contributions plus $518,000 in expenditures by independent groups -  more than double the funds McKenna garnered.

Johnson is backed by leading education reform organizations, including an advocacy group associated with the California Charter School Association.

McKenna, a former school administrator, won the endorsement of the teachers union, which plans to rally its members to the polls on election day, August 12.

Both candidates said promise to turnaround South L.A. schools plagued by poverty, high dropout rates and low reading and math scores — but how?