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L.A. Schools Need Better Oversight

January 20, 2002

Re "Tough Love for L.A. Schools," editorial, Jan. 15: I am in agreement with LAUSD Supt. Roy Romer's decision to remove some of the administrators from the 10 school campuses. I once taught at Wilson High School and am fully aware of the problems there. But we can't lose sight of other problems plaguing our schools, such as gross, tragicomic mismanagement at all levels. For example:

This past fall semester, a crew of workers appeared on our campus to earthquake-proof every room. All furniture, cabinets and desks were locked down with plastic adhesive strips. This in a school where every four months teachers rotate rooms and have to move furniture. They even attached my rolling file cabinet to a rolling book cart in my classroom.

Last week we received an in-school memo saying the district was considering taking back all unspent IMA money (the smallest budget on campus and the one that purchases classroom supplies) due to a mid-year budget shortfall. One Brentwood school campus had to cancel an after-school tutoring program due to similar budget cuts.

How much money was spent to earthquake-proof our 700-square-mile district? I see students every day discarding the plastic strips in the classrooms and in the hallways, leaving the rooms no longer earthquake-proof.

Do you think there might be a problem with oversight? There might be a budget shortfall, but who exactly is overseeing expenditures downtown?

Cindy Maguire

Santa Monica

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As the mother of five children who have been successful in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I agree that it's a great idea to clean the schools of poor administrators and teachers. But what about the poor parents, those with absolutely no conception of the importance of education, who refuse to support the teachers?

How effective can any teacher be when the student is so often absent? There are children who have not yet returned from winter break! And what about the many parents who never attend a back-to-school night, an open house or a parent conference and who refuse to be involved with their child's performance or behavior? How do we "clean them up"? With no solution, how can a teacher or administrator possibly be successful?

Tara Kaiserman

Sherman Oaks

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Re "LAUSD's Building Fantasy," Opinion, Jan. 13: Please let us assure you that the Los Angeles Unified School District can and will build new schools and expand existing campuses. Three primary centers have been opened in the past 18 months, one campus expansion is already complete and five other projects are currently under construction. This year, at least 13 more projects will break ground.

Promises and mistakes of the past have been and are being corrected. In the case of the Community Magnet located near Fairfax and Venice, the focus of the article, a plan that was budgeted at $6 million ballooned to over $12 million, and it was fiscally prudent to halt the project long enough to bring it back into line.

Under the design of a new architect, it is now included in the current priority plan and will include the following improvements: a new multipurpose/food service building and an administration building and restroom building. Some of the existing bungalows will also be renovated. Internet access will be added, along with other safety and technology features. Today, a team of professionals is in place to rebuild Community Magnet. Within a year, the design will be completed and approved by the division of the state architect. By next June construction will begin.

We have turned over a new leaf in the LAUSD building program, and in the year it has taken to bring the Community Magnet project back within budget, over 63 other new school projects have started and completed design within the anticipated project costs.

Jim McConnell

Chief Facilities Executive

Kathi Littmann

Deputy Chief Executive

of School Building Planning

LAUSD

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