We asked Roy Romer what he saw as the biggest problems facing the district. Now we'll pose the same question to you all: What's the view from the classroom?
KAPLAN: I'll tell you a big problem. I've seen two sets of expectations in the L.A. Unified School District concerning children, one set for affluent white and Asian kids, and another for poor African-American and Latino kids who've been allowed to do work three or four years below grade level as long as the classroom is a quiet classroom. And we are all culpable.
ARIAS: I would say teacher morale is the biggest problem. Teachers get bashed from all sides. They get it from administrators who are not supportive, and they get it from parents who are not supportive. We took a 10 percent pay cut several years ago. Now the governor has set aside money for us. It's been sent down. But we're not getting it. We see surrounding districts where teachers got their money, so it's discouraging.
When Interim Superintendent Cortines and former Chief Administrative Officer Howard Miller came in, we were told that once and for all the problem of books and bathrooms would be solved. Did that happen?
SHEFFIELD: As far as my site is concerned, we have made sure that we have ordered enough books to have at home and at school. We've ordered them. They all haven't come in yet, but we've ordered them, and in certain departments that is happening. Bathrooms, definitely, yes, because there was a time when I didn't want to walk by the kids' bathroom. We have bathroom attendants now.
KAPLAN: We had a book order that didn't go in for some reason, I don't know why. And while I don't spend a lot of time in the kids' bathrooms, I hear that they're still filthy. The plumbing's horrendous, and there isn't toilet paper.
VALENCIA: Toilet paper is still a need in my school.
How do you feel about Mayor Richard Riordan's plans to work for the school district?
ARIAS: Extremely insulted. How can he just say, "I want a job with the district," and the district gives him one just like that. I think his plan is extremely subversive.
KAPLAN: Richard Riordan was the first public official to announce in the paper, whatever his political motives were, that the delivery of education by the L.A. Unified School District was certainly immoral and probably illegal. So I don't care if he wants to work on computers in the school district. As far as I'm concerned, he can't botch things up any more than they are.
VALENCIA: I want to know, what are his motivations? There are rumors that he has money to take out [school-board member] Julie Korenstein and put someone else in that position. Basically, it sounds like he wants to run L.A. Unified. I don't think that's a great thing. I don't think that one person should have so much power just because he has all this money.
Have we become too focused on test scores?
GLEN-LAMBERT: Assessment is very important. You want to use assessment to guide your instruction. But there can come a point when there's so much assessment that it becomes too much. Superintendent Romer mentioned testing the children every six weeks. This would take away from teaching them. And it can feel punitive to teachers.
ARIAS: I would like L.A. Unified to stand up to the state on the Stanford 9 [the state test that students take each year] and say, "This is not an equitable way of assessing children." It's especially cruel to test children who've recently arrived in this country and don't speak English.
Any final thoughts?
KAPLAN: Just this. Our jobs are real hard. We need the district to treat us like professionals. You know what I'd like? Just once I would like a district official or principal to come in my room and say, "What do you need? What can I do for you?" Just once in 20 years.