By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
And have you calculated the costs?
I have staff working on it now. What I'm trying to tell you is that this issue, in my mind, is the most explosive one in town.
Your point is, the cost goes way beyond building. It goes to running the building, to staffing the building.
And has the union had any response to this?
I can't get that issue on the table right now, because I would not have an audience for it. But I have to get it on the table. The union is saying, "Look, you got money from Gray Davis; give it to us, give us a 15 percent increase." I need to try to find a way to put that issue in perspective in this community. I want this community to understand that they have had a cheap ride by putting kids in sardine-can schools. And they have not recognized the cost of operating, let alone building, adequate facilities. If you put 4,000 kids into a middle school on triple tracks, you inevitably are going to save money. But quality goes out the door.
Shifting gears a bit: It was recently reported that Richard Riordan is going to become a district official after his stint as mayor is over.
No, no, no. Let me explain the facts about Richard Riordan and the district. He and I had dinner six or seven weeks ago. At the end, he said he'd like to come to work for the district, helping in the area of computers in the classroom. This is a man who knows an awful lot about this area and a man who's given a lot of money to provide computers in the classroom, and he's offering to volunteer his time. Of course I said, "Great. Come on over." This is not to take charge of that section of the district: In fact, I'm going to hire someone to head that division in the next 10 days. But it's an assignment which I think he has some real interest in, and gift for, and I'd like to use his talents. How do we do it? We haven't talked about any details. He's not coming as a paid employee; he's coming as a volunteer, as a kind of patriot.
But he's also someone who comes in wielding a big stick.
I understand that he has a political life as well. But there will be a firewall between that activity and what he would be helping on with computers. I'm not into getting into that election stuff. I'm a superintendent, I've got to deal with whoever's elected. The question is, do I foreclose his volunteering to help because he's politically active? I don't think I should or will.
Will he have staff? Would he have an office?
We haven't talked about it.
But you must know, obviously, that Mayor Riordan has announced his intention to unseat two of your sitting board members. What kind of situation does that put you in? They are, after all, your bosses.
It's not an easy situation. It's not easy at all. But look, I'm a very pragmatic man. Richard Riordan comes to me, a man who has given millions to schools, and he says, "I'd like to not just give you money; I'd like to come over and give you my time." What am I going to say to him? No? It would be wrong to do that. If I can't build a wall between that activity and his political activity, then I'll think further.
Couldn't you say, "Look, I want to have your help, but you can't be unseating my bosses and helping me on the side at the same time; you put me in an untenable situation."
You know, I might have to face that situation. When he raised this issue, I didn't even think about it. He offered help, and I said come. If it develops to where it is a disruption in the system, I'll have to straighten it out.
Let's talk about social promotion. There are two ways of looking at the issue. One is that you have to hold kids to standards, and that the best way to do that is to not let them advance to the next grade unless they've learned what they need to have learned. But on the other hand, if the schools haven't given a kid what it takes every year up until the year of the test, how do you then suddenly say, "Now we're going to hold you responsible for what we never taught you?"
We do need a social-promotion policy. But it's not fair to take eighth grade and second grade and have the guillotine come down, unless you're also fixing the system that produces this failure. I mean, you've got to enforce standards each year, each six weeks of each year. Every damn year you've got to bring them back up to grade level. We also, as a matter of practicality, don't have the space for them in the eighth grade. They'll probably drop out if you force them to stay in middle school. So there's a more creative response that I'm working on. We say to kids, "Okay, you're reading at third-grade level. You can't go up to ninth grade. But we're going to physically move you out of this building called middle school and into either a special school for you to catch up, or into the high school, but without ninth-grade status. You can't have it, you're not there." And then you give them a very concentrated course to bring them along. We have to look below the surface for answers instead of just saying, "Hold them back at second" or "hold them back at eighth."
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