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Letters

SEEN BUT NOT HEARD

Re: “The Parent Trap” [August 16–22]. Howard Blume’s commentary about the Title One parent committees was right on the mark. After having attended 18 consecutive District Advisory Council meetings at Belmont High School, my dad has asked that he not be re-elected, so that he will not have to endure another year of absolutely wasted time. When Mr. Almaguer got up in front of the LAUSD board meeting last month and complained that his parent committee was not consulted when Governor Romer’s contract was extended for two years, I almost doubled over laughing. The fact that Almaguer said it with a straight face says volumes about how he and the others have been deluded into thinking that parents actually have a voice in the system.

But the real question is, “Should they?” When a group of parents, no matter how well-meaning or informed, get to the point that they can tell the local principal and his professional staff of administrators how to run our school, then it’s time to pull the curtain on public education and privatize the whole mess. At least the Catholic schools understand who’s boss.

—Jennifer W. Solis
Los Angeles

 

Re: "The Parent Trap" [August 16–22]. Howard Blume’s commentary about the Title One parent committees was right on the mark. After having attended 18 consecutive District Advisory Council meetings at Belmont High School, my dad has asked that he not be re-elected, so that he will not have to endure another year of absolutely wasted time.

These parent organizations, which masquerade as input to the educational bureaucracy, exist only because the regulations that give millions of dollars to our poverty-demographic schools mandate some semblance of parental advisory. The cruel joke on the participating parents is that they are led to believe that their opinions actually count for something. They don't!

So what purpose do these committees really serve? The most beneficial result of the DACs are the seminars that are held two or three times a year for all LAUSD parents to come and learn how to better prepare their kids for success at school. Unfortunately, only a very tiny percentage of the parents take advantage of these conclaves. Most of the attendees are local parent leaders, who probably already have successful students.

A few parents, like Oscar Almaguer and Francisco Torrero, have done considerable research to make themselves, and others, knowledgeable about school budgets and policy. But if they try to use this knowledge to influence how things are done, they are rewarded by being slapped down hard. Despite the fact that both of them have devoted hundreds of hours a year attending parent meetings, both were spuriously removed by the district staff for "missing three meetings." Francisco was forced to step down as District F DAC chairman/president last month because he had gone to Florida to attend a national education convention, and missed three meetings within that month. His travel to this conclave was endorsed and paid for by school and grant funds, but apparently that fact did not excuse his absences.

In the past 18 months of District F meetings of the DAC, there has never been a single vote on any consequential matter, other than electing officers. The meetings are held to have these parent leaders sit for three hours, listening to the local superintendent and his staff tell how things in the district "are getting better." Test scores are analyzed, budgets are explained, wonderful plans of new programs that will help our kids are touted. If you leave before the three hours, no matter what reason, you are counted absent. All the wonderful solutions to our educational failures are examined in great detail — except the one problem, which is too politically sensitive to discuss, the fact that most of LAUSD's students don't know English, and that's the language in which all other subjects are taught. The DAC meetings, at least in District F, which covers from downtown to East Los Angeles, are conducted primarily in Spanish. The interpretation for the few English speaking attendees is uniformly poor, since the translators are mostly Spanish speakers who have problem keeping up word for word.

When Mr. Almaguer got up in front of the LAUSD board meeting last month and complained that his parent committee was not consulted when Governor Romer's contract was extended for two years, I almost doubled over laughing. The fact that Almaguer said it with a straight face says volumes about how he and the others have been deluded into thinking that parents actually have a voice in the system. But the real question is "Should they?"

When a group of parents, no matter how well meaning or informed, get to the point that they can tell the local principal and his professional staff of administrators how to run our school, then it's time to pull the curtain on public education, and privatize the whole mess. At least the Catholic schools understand who's boss.

—Jennifer W. Solaris
Los Angeles

 

FIRST STRIKE

Marc Cooper, in “Move Over, Mike Dukakis” [August 16–22], conveniently omits the strongest (and maybe the only) argument for going to war against Iraq — to prevent Iraq from becoming a nuclear power under Saddam Hussein. Cooper’s misguided isolationist approach does no good for the people of Iraq living under Hussein’s dictatorial rule, nor does it bode well for the real international threat such weapons of mass destruction would pose under Saddam’s control. To say that “Maybe we should be spending more energy worrying about the withered state of our own democracy” strikes me as selfish, narcissistic and the existential definition of the “me/us” generation. Does he seriously expect us to entertain the idea that the state of our democracy needs attention ahead of Iraq, where public and private criticism of the state is punishable by death?

—Elliot Semmelman
Los Angeles

MOUSE HOUSE GROUSE

Being a recently retired 20-year veteran of Disney Feature Animation (1981–2001), I thoroughly enjoyed Nikki Finke’s article “Something Fishy: Reeling in Michael Eisner” [August 16–22], which lambastes Mr. Eisner for his terrible mismanagement of the Walt Disney Co. Personally, it is that very gross mismanagement, which has been going on much longer than the article cites, that helped me make the difficult decision to leave my beloved craft of Disney-quality character animation at only 44 years of age and in the prime of my creativity. I could not stand to see what that company and its highly questionable leadership was doing to a unique art form and tradition.

—Dave Pruiksma
Altadena

ONE FOOT IN THE GROOVE

Re: “Into the Groove” [August 16–22]. Erin Aubry Kaplan ends her column by noting Janet Jackson’s modesty about her legs. Somehow, without disparaging the work of either Kaplan or Jackson, I wonder if Kaplan is aware of Jackson’s birth defect that left her with one leg shorter than the other.

That unfortunate episode of genetic bad luck aside, as an African-American/black/post-Negro male plus native Angeleno, I believe Kaplan’s social commentaries are regularly brilliant, and even when I don’t agree with her I respect her reasoning and that of the rest of the Weekly’s news staffers.

—Eric Ernest
Winnetka

FIND AND REPLACE

I suppose peppering articles with four-letter expletives shows what a freethinking, liberal-minded, devil-may-care attitude your writers have. But, of course, there is a downside. There always is.

To protect the young from foul-mouthed obscenities and porno sites, the use of filters is getting more and more prevalent — to such an extent that adverts for chardonnay may get blocked because a filter objects to the phrase contained from letter 2 to 7. Meanwhile, all your online articles that contain actual bad language go down the same tube as the porno promotions.

Now, if you could put a filter at your end of the Internet, one that would change obscenities into exclamation points or some such, every article would get through, and we adults will still understand how very audacious and refreshing your columnists were in their original writing.

A win-win all-round, if you ask me. (And please don’t think I have anything against potty-mouths. They tend to be so very, very witty.)

—Bill Robinson
San Clemente


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