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

Audit finds Magnolia charter school operator in red after questionable purchases


401(K) 2012/Flickr

Los Angeles Unified auditors allege charter operator Magnolia Public Schools made questionable purchases then borrowed millions from classroom funds to stay afloat, according to a report released Wednesday.

Auditors found the charter organization was $2.9 million in the red at the end of June 2013.

Kim Onisko, accountant with Onisko and Scholz LLP representing Magnolia, said all improper accounting issues were addressed months ago and revenues now exceed expenditures.

"A lot of this is not fact, but opinion," said Onisko. "The opinion would have been modified if they would have interviewed staff to ask them about these issues."

In  June, L.A. Unified's charter school division auditors found questionable financial practices at Magnolia, prompting the school board to order the closure of two of the charter operator's campuses, Magnolia 6 and 7. 


Parents, students focus on classrooms in judging LA school superintendent

Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy speaks to reporters in this 2012 file photo.

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Unified school board is evaluating Superintendent John Deasy this month, and considerable opinion has been tossed around on whether schools have improved under his direction.

When several parents and students were asked about Deasy, they told KPCC that what matters to them is what is happening in the schools. They were not always certain about the impact the superintendent has had on learning and appear even less concerned about the politics swirling around Deasy's future.

Venice High School sophomore Andrea Pinto said she just wants better teachers.

"Some of the teachers don't care. They teach a couple of examples from a problem, something like that, and they expect you to know it right away," she said.

Deasy's supporters say he's had a positive effect on the schools since he joined the district in 2011. Test scores have inched up just about every year, graduation rates have risen.


LA schools' inspector general pleads for additional funding

LA Unified's inspector general is seeking more funding for his office.

Ken Teegardin/flickr Creative Commons

The Los Angeles Unified School District's Office of Inspector General is requesting another $1.8 million to address a growing number of concerns with charter schools, technology expansion and school finance. 

"The OIG needs to secure ongoing discretionary funds in order to adequately plan its work and activities as required by its Charter and government auditing standards," according to a report from Ken Bramlett, the inspector general.

Since 2009, funding for the inspector general decreased by 46 percent, diminishing staffing and creating a backlog of audits and investigations, according to the report.

Bramlett declined to comment before presenting the report to the board's Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee, but his office recently reopened an investigation into the district's $500 million iPad purchase.


High school throws a party to help kids apply to college

UCLA Community School party

Courtesy UCLA Community School

Two 12th graders, Ana Castro (left) and Natalie Valdovinos, work on their college applications at an after-school applications party organized by their public school, the UCLA Community School in LA's Koreatown.

Application season for universities is in full swing with submission deadlines for California State and University of California campuses scheduled at the end of November.

For students who will be the first in their families to apply to college, the process can be confusing and discouraging unless they get help.

On Friday, dozens of 12th graders at the UCLA Community School, a public school in LA’s Koreatown, got that help. With teachers and staff ready to assist, the students started on their college applications at an after-school party with balloons, soft drinks, pizza and rows of laptops.

“We’re celebrating the start of their new journey,” said math teacher Maria Nakis, one of the event organizers.

“They’ve worked hard for the last three–plus years. For them to really begin to see the finish line, to see the payoff for all the work they’ve put in the last couple of years, it’s exciting.”


LA Unified graduation rate improves in 2013-2014 school year

Kriss'Shawn Day

Daniel Castillo

In this 2010 file photo, Kriss'Shawn Day, right, stands with a classmate at his graduation from Morningside High School.

Los Angeles Unified's graduation rate improved to 77 percent in the last school year, the school district's numbers show.

The preliminary rate trails the latest statewide measure of around 80 percent, but increased by 12 percentage points from 65 percent. This marks a "historic high for L.A. Unified," Superintendent John Deasy said in a statement Friday.

"The preliminary rate does not factor in students who completed their requirements in summer school, and have also graduated. I expect the rate to grow," Deasy said.

The graduation rate is based on 9th-graders who are tracked over four years. The number takes into account regular high schools, not option programs such as those for independent study and dropouts.

Nearly 25,000 students graduated in the 2013-2014 school year.