Friday, September 13, 2013

Cooling down

Now that's it cooling down, a few words about the cooling situation (or lack thereof) over at Nobel Charter Middle School. And then we'll get to the iPad stuff.


The air conditioning at Nobel has been addressed and it seems that work on the system has been an on-going situation since before school started. According to sources at the school, the problem lies not only with just the cooling hardware (coils, etc.) but also with the underlying infrastructure which delivered water to the system and was the source of a lot of the cooling problems.

I know a lot of you were instructed to call Nobel and complain to the administration there, but believe me, they are well aware of the situation and we don't need to remind them of what they already know. The people to call when such problems arise would be the district offices.

Board member Tamar Galatzan visited Nobel last Friday and took a tour and assured parents that her office was keeping tabs on the situation and were doing all they could to assist in making sure classrooms were bearable for both students and staff. Portable cooling units were brought in to help keep things comfortable in the classsrooms and I think that at the moment, that's where the situation stands. Unfortunately, Nobel is an older facility and taking care of its bones isn't an easy or inexpensive proposition. Speaking of propositions...

The latest use of LAUSD voter-approved construction/facilities bond monies is the iPad/Common Core Initiative. The board approved the contract back in June (see video below) and the Phase 1 roll out is already in place. LAUSD went with the Apple iPad at a cost of $678 per device. I know many of you felt that this was incredibly expensive for a mass purchase but in reality, the $678 goes beyond just the device itself, it also includes the cost of a three year warranty as well as the software required to use it in the manner in which it was intended: to get students up to speed for the newly implemented Common Core instruction. Apple will also cover the first 5% of loss of the devices. Just the first 5%. The district is responsible for any additional expenses incurred under loss or unusable devices. There was a lot of chattering about using this money instead on salaries for teachers, etc. Because it was a construction/facilities bond passed by Los Angeles voters, it can only be used on construction/facilites related items. True, this contract with Apple does provide the salaries for a staff of 14 technicians who will be on call to help at all LAUSD schools with instruction and troubleshooting. After the contract expires, it will be left to each school to fund such a position if they feel their campus is in need of additional support.

Recently, there was a small kerfluffle in the papers regarding the lack of any wireless keyboards in the contract with Apple, and again, people wondered how this got by the school board and there were more than a few fingers pointed at the school board for assuming they didn't know the keyboards were not included. This is not the case. Again, at the June 18, 2013 school board meeting, Item 18 on the agenda was the authorization for contract with Apple re the Common Core Tech Initiative

At the 13:55 mark in the video below, watch the exchange between board member Dr. Richard Vladovic and Deputy Superintendent of Instruction, Dr. Jaime Aquino:




Dr. Vladovic: Does this include all the accessories that make it accessible to students?
Dr. Aquino: Yes.
Dr. Vladovic: So it does?
Dr. Aquino: Yes.

While not entirely accurate during this exchange, things to eventually get cleared up at around the 19:50 mark when board member Steve Zimmer tries to clarify in a question to Dr. Aquino:

Mr. Zimmer: I'm very concerned about secondary.... for our early grades I'm very convinced that the touch screen and the Apple product is a phenomenal learning device  I am concerned as we move into the resources that our secondary students need that without a stylus or keyboard... things like that.. and without the full composite of the word processing and all the things that are needed at that level.. do you have any concerns?
Dr. Aquino: No.
Mr. Zimmer: But they will need keyboards won't they?
Dr. Aquino: Yes.

Additionally, Mr. Zimmer also brought up the issue of e-waste at the 33:20 mark:

Mr. Zimmer:  The last question that I have is...this is a three year warranty; we would hope the devices last longer than three years..I know this is down the line and I do really believe that has not been part of the conversation... and I want us to think about:  if the devices don't have much use after three, four or five years we are potentially creating one of the biggest e-waste situations probably historically in a long time... Is that somewhere in the equation? Because ...we have an obligation to think through what's going to happen.
John Sterritt, Office of Environmental Health and Safety: The tablet program will fall in line with our e-waste program and protocols LAUSD has in place to address any e-waste... We have protocols and vendors in place to deal with any e-waste generated from this program.

Oh. Ok. Well, if you guys say so...

So really, despite whatever the newspapers write, or whatever those who follow the school board and the goings on inside LAUSD, the fact that there were no keyboards in this initial contract was a surprise to no one but parents not paying attention to the contract negotiations (this would include, uh... me).

Paying attention to the smaller details of things sometimes can be enlightening. But in any event, I wasn't familiar with Dr. Aquino so here are a few links to more info on him...


A little background on Dr. Jaime Aquino:

Before joining LAUSD, Aquino worked for America's Choice, an education research company acquired by Pearson in 2010. Aquino said he was not part of the panel that rated all of the software options, but was part of the team that reviewed the three finalists for the contract -- all of which had Pearson as the software provider. --Daily Bulletin News


Aquino was chief academic officer for the Denver Public School system from 2005-2008; in 2008, he was a participant in the [Eli] Broad Center for the Management of School Systems's Superintendents Academy. Since 2008, he has been affiliated with America's Choice, a "new kind of educational organization...a solution provider...the creator of research-based school improvement solutions." America's Choice is owned by UK-based Pearson, "the world's leading learning company." -- California's Children


A few blurbs about Pearson:

Apple will provide iPads that include the Pearson Common Core System of Courses delivered via a new app as part of the integrated solution. Apps such as iWork®, iLife® and iTunes®, in addition to a range of educational third-party apps are also included. --the Apple LAUSD/iPad press release.

LAUSD is paying $678 per tablet, a higher price than in many stores, but that includes preloaded software from Pearson Education Inc. A panel of district educators, students and technology experts tested Common Core-related packages from several educational publishers and New Jersey-based Pearson came out on top, officials said. --Daily Bulletin News

 What Other People Are Saying About The iPad Deal and tablets in general:

Babies and cats can use iPads. Simply using them does not make you technologically skilled. It makes you a consumer, albeit one who can use apps. Impress me by coding an app, game, or program. Build something. (Is that even a goal? Or were school administrators simply excited to buy cool toys? If teaching kids to program — build things — is the goal, maybe cheaper classic boxes run on open source code are a better way to go.Read about this remarkable 7th grade project in Maryland for an example.) -- K-12 News Network

The Los Angeles Unified School District buys iPad Trojan Horses for 30,000 students - CIS 471

No Child Left Untableted - New York Times

The LAUSD/Apple Contract (if you seriously can't sleep).


We'll see what develops next.

UPDATE: Something is developing.

UPDATE 2: LAUSD Superintendent of Instruction, Dr. Jaime Aquino has resigned.

Jaime Aquino quits as LAUSD instructional chief, blames school board for stalling reform - DailyNews

Deasy Deputy Jaime Aquino Resigns (Updated) - LA School Report





Thursday, August 1, 2013

Baby Steps

Today I had the opportunity to visit Beckford for the first time in a very long time.

Miss L. culminated a couple of years ago and it's probably been as long since I've been back. In case you hadn't noticed, there has been a serious lapse in postings here, as there has been serious business to attend to elsewhere and I'm hoping to rectify that situation now.

I was invited back today to attend the first PTA board meeting of the year, by invitation of new PTA president, Denise Mumma. Madam President asked me to attend the meeting in a parliamentarian capacity and I happily agreed. For you new parents who may have stumbled across this blog by way of a Google search, my name is Debbie Lopez and I started this blog years ago as a way to disseminate more information to our parents and the community at large, as things within LAUSD were changing rapidly, and this was one way to help parents keep abreast of those changes in a timely fashion. My two children are both products of a very fine Beckford education; the oldest Beckford graduate will be starting his second year at USC and his younger sister is enjoying her time at Nobel Middle School. There simply aren't enough wonderful things I can say about my children's experience as students at Beckford and my experience there as a parent volunteer. It is simply the best little elementary school in the Valley and if you are lucky enough to be a parent with a child attending or about to attend Beckford, I am giving you a virtual high-five, a cosmic fist-bump, a very enthusiastic thumbs-up. You are about to begin a school year with the best staff in all of LAUSD: the most incredible, dedicated teaching staff and teacher aids; an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and delightful principal; a plant manager who is legendary at Beckford and who after a seemingly long, long absence will make his triumphant and long awaited return this year; support staff who are helpful and caring; parents who go above and beyond to provide a stimulating learning environment and most importantly.... lots of fun stuff, too!


Beckford Plant Manager, Henry Callahan

As was mentioned above, our beloved plant manager Henry Callahan is returning after being reassigned to another another cluster of schools in a pilot program implemented by LAUSD in a cost-cutting effort. I don't really need to go over how that program didn't work out so well, after so much upheaval and inconvenience to many campuses. But in any event, all's well that ends well... Henry is back!


view of the new raised-bed garden, looking towards the kinder yard


The second thing I noted on campus and which made my heart soar: a new raised bed garden on the east side of campus. A school garden had been on my wish list for the campus for a very long time and I was so happy to see it actually happening. I understand the credit goes to teacher Tobi Milroy and her family. Thank you so much, Mrs. Milroy! This will only add to the innovative and thoughtful curriculum our teachers are implementing every day. The benefits of having a school garden are well documented and test scores of all stripes improve dramatically at schools which have gardens on campus.


another view, standing outside the Parent Center.


The board meeting went well and your Beckford PTA's first event out of the gate will be their Membership Drive, which will commence August 19. Please consider joining the PTA... they do such important work and membership gives you a vote and a voice on many issues and the support you are able to give is so invaluable. Denise Mumma will be an incredible president this year and I know she'd like to meet you so if you see her in the halls, don't hesitate to introduce yourself and let her know how you can help, there are so many opportunites for involvement so don't be shy.

from left, 5th Grade Chair Chana Gluck, Miss R., and PTA President Denise Mumma


My heart was so happy being back today and visiting with old friends and meeting new ones. Hearing that Henry is returning and seeing the new raised-bed garden only added to my elation. Baby steps back, here and there.

It's going to be an fun and fabulous school year. I can feel it in my bones. 




Monday, May 7, 2012

Zac Champommier Memorial Concert

Zac Champommier
 Jan. 21, 1992 - June 24, 2010


The Facebook invitation arrived on Saturday, and now we are sharing the details of this event with you-- a memorial concert in honor of Beckford alum, Zachary Champommier; here are the details from the Facebook event page:

The Granada Hills Charter High School Highlander Band is having a concert at the school to remember and honor our dear friend. We would love if you all could make it.

Zac's biggest regret in band was not playing as many solo's as he could have, so to make it up to him, we've gathered numerous pieces featuring a soloist in each section.


The concert is this Thursday, May 10th at 7:00 p.m. Granada Hills Charter High School is the location. We wouldn't miss this for the world. We anticipate seeing many of our Beckford family there too.


Miss you, Zac.



Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Tale of No Gift Cards

No Cards for Tamar's Kids


So we all know by now that our excitement over the Donors Choose-Wasserman Foundation- Starbucks gift card giveaway (pdf file) was premature. There were no local Starbucks participating in the North West Valley, nor the East Valley or anywhere near the two.

But why?

Two tales; one sent from a reader who received the following response from someone named Gwendolyn from the Donors Choose organization, and another from our Board of Education representative, Tamar Galatzan.

From: Gwendolyn - DonorsChoose.org <customer-service@donorschoose.org>
Date: Mon, Jan 23, 2012 at xx:xx PMSubject: Re: (Case XXXX) OtherTo: xxxxxxxxx <xxxxxxxxx@gmail.com>

Hi Xxxxxxxx
Thanks so much for writing in and providing this feedback. I'm truly sorry for the frustration. Please know our staff really takes to heart any challenges people have with our program. For this partnership with the Wasserman Foundation, the goals that we're trying to accomplish are both to give parents the opportunity to support their children's education and also to encourage citizens of Los Angeles who do not necessarily have a specific school affiliation to become citizen philanthropists and support education throughout the county.
In order to accomplish this, the funding that the Wasserman Foundation has so generously provided is being distributed in a variety of ways including gift cards given to all parents, the Double Your Impact offer, and now the gift cards available through Starbucks.
The goal of these Starbucks gift cards is to get the word out to individuals who (unlike parents) are not directly connected to one school, but may find and support a projects anywhere in Los Angeles that inspire them. We searched for a partner who would be able to help us achieve that and Starbucks really stepped up for us by donating their staff's time to help us connect with the citizens of Los Angeles. We're grateful for the locations that they were able to offer. While we're not able to distribute gift cards in every single Starbucks location, citizens who obtain these cards will not necessarily have ties to schools in the area where they happen to receive the card. Rather, they'll be visiting DonorsChooseLA.org and looking at projects from the entire county as opposed to just a specific school.
We certainly recognize your frustration and it's frustrating for us as well when folks are struggling to take part or feeling dissatisfied with the opportunity. We'll make every effort to avoid this confusion and distribute information more clearly in the future.
We know that there are other parents like you who are hoping to take advantage of these gift cards in addition to the cards distributed through schools, and in order to help however we can we've posted a list of all Starbucks locations where the cards are available. The list can be seen at the following link and does include a variety of locations in Glendale, Calabasas, and Burbank: http://help.donorschoose.org/app/answers/detail/a_id/388
Please do know that with these gift cards now available to a new group of potential citizen philanthropists, the teachers at your daughter's school who have posted projects still have a great chance of benefiting from these cards and having their projects fully-funded!
Please let me know if you have additional questions or further needs.
Thanks again for writing,Gwendolyn
--from Gwendolyn - DonorsChoose.org
P.S. If you reply to this email, please do not modify the subject line.




and then this from Tamar, a response on Facebook to the card situation:


It’s a foundation donating money to LAUSD & we don’t have much say over how the gift cards were distributed. I agree that they selected odd locations and have voiced my concerns.We talked to those in charge here at LAUSD & it turns out the Starbucks/Wasserman/DonorsChoose campaign is separate from the LAUSD/DonorsChoose/Wasserman campaign. The campaign that kicks off Monday is Starbucks’ effort to give back to the teachers, parents & communities of the entire LA region. Starbucks is trying to encourage everyday citizens to be mini-philanthropists at their schools. The decision of which Starbucks participate was between Starbucks & DonorsChoose.


Ok, so then which is it? This (bold emphasis mine)....

"The goal of these Starbucks gift cards is to get the word out to individuals who (unlike parents) are not directly connected to one school, but may find and support a projects anywhere in Los Angeles that inspire them. We searched for a partner who would be able to help us achieve that and Starbucks really stepped up for us by donating their staff's time to help us connect with the citizens of Los Angeles. We're grateful for the locations that they were able to offer. While we're not able to distribute gift cards in every single Starbucks location, citizens who obtain these cards will not necessarily have ties to schools in the area where they happen to receive the card. Rather, they'll be visiting DonorsChooseLA.org and looking at projects from the entire county as opposed to just a specific school." -- Donors Choose


or this...
"Starbucks is trying to encourage everyday citizens to be mini-philanthropists at their schools." --Tamar Galatzan 

You know what, go ahead and pick whichever excuse you'd like. I already feel bamboozled by the whole  thing. I can't figure out if I've been shilling for the Wasserman Foundation or Starbucks.

If you look at the map of Valley Starbucks giving out the goods.... you can see it's at places they need the foot traffic. Warner Center Marriott? I'm going to pay $8.00 in parking to pick up a $10.00 card?

Philanthropist, please.






Saturday, January 21, 2012

Happy Birthday, Zac

Today would have been Zac Champommier's 20th birthday.

We remember him today and always.

Love you, Zac.





Monday, January 9, 2012

Mitch Englander to speak at NWNC meeting at Beckford

photo by: j.f. mailander



Tomorrow night will mark the Northridge Neighborhood Council's first meeting of the year. Councilman Mitchell Englander will be the guest speaker. If you've never been to one of our Neighborhood Council meetings, plan on coming to tomorrow's meeting-- it should prove to be an informative one. The meeting starts at 7:00 pm. and all meetings are held in the auditorium at Beckford. 

Here's your chance to hear Councilman Englander speak on the issues affecting our community and also to ask any questions you may have regarding the future of  CD12 (redistricting, for example?).

WHAT: Neighborhood Council meeting

WHEN: Tomorrow night (Jan. 10)

WHERE: Beckford Auditorium

Special Guest Speaker: Councilman Mitch Englander








Hallmark in Porter Ranch set to close


After ten years in business, the Porter Ranch Town Center will be losing one of our favorite little stores, Hallmark Creations. The Closing Sale signs were noticed last week. We don't know exactly when the store will close its doors for good but the shelves are already beginning to thin out. Our sources tell us the owners of the Porter Ranch Hallmark were not offered the chance to renew their lease and they are "heartbroken" at the decision of the property owners, who informed the Hallmark owners of their decision right before Christmas.They will not be relocating and will sadly close their doors forever. It's been a lovely decade having them there at the Porter Ranch Town Center, and it won't be the same without them. It was the most charming little store to buy cards, stationery, wrapping supplies and sweet gifts. Go by and say your so-longs while you still can.




Monday, November 7, 2011

This Week At Beckford



Tomorrow night the Northridge West Neighborhood Council welcomes special guest speaker, Los Angeles Fire Dept. Chief Scott Mottram. Chief Mottram will be on hand to discuss safety issues unique to our community. The meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m. and takes place in our auditorium. All NWNC stakeholders (you are a stakeholder if you live, work, or otherwise do business in the area) are welcome to the Neighborhood Council's monthly meetings.



From Councilman Mitch Englander's newsletter -- the councilman would like us all to know that the City Council has voted to change the procedures in dealing with nuisance dog hearings:

Before, a citation could only be issued for licensed dogs because the citation was attached to the license. The owner first had to be forced to get a license. Under the new code, Animal Control officers can now issue citations even if the dog is unlicensed. (The dog owner must still get a license.)

A dog is a "nuisance" if it barks continuously for 10 minutes or for 30 minutes in a three-hour period. The owner first receives a written warning allowing them to improve the situation. If it persists, a hearing is held where the owner could get a $250 fine for the first offense, $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for a third offense.


Also from the CD12 News, a list of Veteran's Day activities and Volunteer Opportunities:

Our Veterans need our help and support. They are disproportionately represented among the homeless population, and many of them return from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan with lasting physical and emotional wounds.

WAYS YOU CAN HELP:

Donate or volunteer with Veterans Affairs of Greater Los Angeles.

The National Coalition on Homeless Veterans offers these tips to support Veterans:

Volunteering at a shelter, be a mentor or offer legal aid

Organize a Stand Down program

Develop a Veteran burial program

Volunteer or donate to community-based Veteran support organizations in your neighborhood

Advocate for homeless Veterans

Donate to the National Coalition on Homeless Veterans


Once again, Beckford will be closed on Friday. Enjoy your day and remember to thank a Veteran.



Wednesday, September 7, 2011



OHMYGAWD.... I wish this was tonight. It's certainly one of the hottest First Day of School I can ever remember. And I don't mean the "good" hot. I mean the very bad, hell-like, oven in your pants hot. Oy. Please send snow, kthxbai.




Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

Additions




A view of the new railings which have been installed in the front entrance of Beckford. There is also work still being done in the staff parking lot as well.

This will work out nicely when we parents want to stay and chat outside after we dump drop off the little darlings in the mornings! I can totally see myself sitting on this or leaning up against it!








Thursday, August 11, 2011

Around Beckford


rearview of the corner of beckford st. & los alimos


There's been lots of construction going on both on campus and around campus. We'll be posting pics of some of the work going on.

The pic above shows some of the work being done on the northeast corner of Beckford and Los Alimos. The corners are being redone so that they may be compliant with current accessibility codes. Of course, this would have been really helpful 18 years ago (as well as ten years ago) when I was pushing a baby stroller around the neighborhood, but that's neither here nor there. I'm glad to see them there now.

Here is a picture of the (almost) finished corner. I think there's a bumpy yellow plate that needs to be installed at the edge of the corner. Don't know if you can make it out.... but the street has also been torn up and reduced to loose gravel. Hopefully, it will happen before school starts. But then, that would make too much sense, wouldn't it? :)


More pics coming soon!





Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Open for business

The Ladies of the Office, Aug. '10

The Beckford office will officially open for business on Monday, August 22. Stella and Maureen will be there to help with new enrollments and other school business.

Remember: School starts on Wednesday, September 7th!

The Back to School Picnic is still going to happen.... the date had to be changed, and will be announced shortly!



Sunday, May 29, 2011

Movie Night - Despicable Me June 10th

The Beckford PTA cordially invites our Beckford families, neighbors and community-at-large to our Movie Night on June 10th!

We will screen "Despicable Me" out on the playground field.

Pizza, popcorn and other treats will be available for purchase.

It's going to be a great night, but we also need volunteers to help make the evening run smoothly and safely.