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ISSUES

Will Local Approach Help Schools?

July 19, 1998

In an effort to improve classroom instruction, Los Angeles Unified School District officials are assigning about 90 administrators now working downtown and in administrative offices to campuses throughout the city, where they will work directly with teachers and principals. Three new assistant superintendents will oversee the district's 27 cluster administrators.

The plan, which has no fiscal impact, is opposed by those who believe the educational bureaucracy is big enough; those in favor of the hands-on approach believe it will push the district's resources closer to the schools.

DIANE WEDNER asked two parents and a school administrator whether they believe the plan will help streamline operations and boost student achievement.

PATTY KAGAN

Encino resident whose two children attend the Performing Arts Magnet at Van Nuys High School

The administrators at a school like Van Nuys High have a big job. But will putting someone new over the cluster help my daughter in her science class? I don't think so, unless they have the authority to act on the spot and make a difference. I actually believe all the administrators should be out of downtown, constantly moving around and checking out the schools.

To improve public education, I believe schools should be run like a business: Give every school a budget based on their students' needs--with extra funds for special-education classes, for example--then let each school do with the money what they will. . . . Make the administrators and teachers accountable for test scores, teacher performance and fiscal matters. If they fail, they lose money. How will three to five new layers of administration help?

If the school system is like a sick patient, then shifting administrators is like moving the IV pole from the right side of the bed to the left side of the bed. It's hardly a breakthrough cure.

ALLAN WIENER

Assistant principal, Cleveland High School, Reseda

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One of the big complaints about the downtown administration is that they don't get out to the schools to see what's going on. This [plan] provides an opportunity for administrators to go out to the schools and work specifically in the area of improving instruction, helping prepare our students for the 21st century.

While working with teachers, administrators can improve their delivery of information and of getting materials to classrooms. They can also help with staff development and in aligning our curriculum with the state's standards.

One of the problems we had with the [recently published] standardized test results, is that the students were tested in areas that they hadn't been instructed in. This [plan] should help hold teachers accountable for teaching the kids the materials that are on those tests.

It's my opinion that for many years our focus has been on operations. Now the district, under the guidance of [LAUSD] Supt. Ruben Zacarias, will focus on the classroom. Because of [past] budget cuts, we haven't had enough people and resources to help out at the schools. I think all in all, this new plan will work. The system's not broken. But everyone has to work together to get results.

JEANNINE RIESS

Sherman Oaks resident and parent of a child who attended Sherman Oaks Elementary School for five years

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I definitely feel that bringing the administrators to the schools will help because it will give them more hands-on participation. How can they know what's going on in the schools unless they're actually there?

When my son attended Sherman Oaks [Elementary], there were a couple of years there that were lost, completely lost. I had to buy books to help him learn what I feel he missed. Teachers today are burdened with so many responsibilities, when they should only be concentrating on teaching. They're just worn out.

If it's true that there will be no financial impact, that the administrators are just there to help, then I believe everyone in the school system will benefit, especially the teachers. Administrators can see what the teachers' needs are and can listen to what they want.

In the past, a parent could make a suggestion for something to be done for her son in second grade, and you wouldn't see a change for two or three years. I'm hoping that the reorganization will take care of this problem.

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