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Our Dedicated Teachers

March 15, 2003

"Hold On to School Gains" (editorial, March 9) demonstrates a lack of awareness of the school environment. The Los Angeles Unified School District's "dilapidated" and "overcrowded" schools are due to the public's unwillingness to pay taxes to build new schools and update old ones. Both Richard Riordan and Eli Broad are wealthy. Somehow, they cannot understand the need for adequate teachers' salaries. Teachers, for the most part, are dedicated. However, dedication does not pay the rent and other bills.

I have been a mentor and bilingual teacher for the last seven years. In that time I have witnessed many of my former mentees change districts or careers because of the poor salary. This January, I became an Open Court literacy coach. Although I believe in the phonics-based program, I decided to make the change for the better pay. My bilingual stipend was stripped last year and the mentor pay was cut by half. I loved my students, but I could no longer maintain my lifestyle while teaching.

Supt. Roy Romer is encouraging the area superintendents and directors to be trained in Open Court. This will only help our schools as we work together to foster learning. But unless we have a school board that can work with the United Teachers-Los Angeles, little progress can be made to improve schools and teacher salaries. Without adequate pay, teachers will continue to leave the school district.

Glen Ljubenkov

Lomita Math/Science Magnet

San Pedro

*

Your editorial misses an important point about the March 4 LAUSD school board elections. To a great extent, the vote was a strong rejection of the current year-round tracking system. President Caprice Young and school board member Genethia Hudley-Hayes were not just architects and supporters of the long-overdue building of new schools but also strong supporters of the year-round plan, which, under current LAUSD policy, is to be implemented districtwide and be in place for the next seven to 10 years. It appeared to many parents and thoughtful citizens that districtwide implementation of year-round tracking was tantamount to squandering the education of the current generation of students in the hope that, seven to 10 years from now, the next generation of students will be adequately provided for. Parents justifiably blamed the ousted school board members and voted accordingly.

David Holmes

Woodland Hills

*

The Times is still dead set on blaming all the ills of the LAUSD on the teachers union. The school board has never been under the control of the teachers union. If it ever were, do you think our children would have been continually overcrowded, shortchanged on textbooks and housed in filthy, broken-down accommodations? The teachers work in those same filthy, overcrowded facilities, you know.

If teachers ran the school board, the wasteful, top-heavy bureaucracy would have been dismantled long ago. But they never have had control, more's the pity. It is this bureaucracy that puts bungalows in playgrounds when schools are overcrowded yet magically procures multimillion-dollar facilities for itself when it "needs" more room. It is the bureaucracy that runs -- and ruins -- the LAUSD. Try being fair.

Michael Helwig

Canoga Park

*

Pray tell why every time a teacher enters a political race it is painted as a union-control attempt. Do teachers always take the condemnation for lack of textbooks, lack of new schools, lack of programs -- for everything wrong with the LAUSD? We are plagued with too many levels of administrators and "advisors," yet we still lack the most important piece of the educational chain: teachers. You won't get this commodity unless something is done to draw them to our district.

"Greedy" teachers only thinking of their mounds of treasures is the picture painted by our former mayor and his partner in educational reform. I spent my wages as a teacher on luxuries like food, clothing and providing for my family. When salaries were cut or little or no cost-of-living raise was provided, we hurt with the bad economy. Today there are problems again, and again the blame is passed on to the teachers for demanding a cost-of-living increase.

After hearing the priorities that Young stated, and listening to her vacillate on fundamental issues, I would vote for Jon Lauritzen again in a heartbeat.

Ira Kaplan

Woodland Hills

*

Marguerite LaMotte was referred to in your editorial as the former principal of Washington Preparatory High School, "a campus plagued with open drug use, robbery and fistfights." As a former LAUSD administrator who supervised LaMotte and visited the campus regularly when she served as principal (1991-2000), I observed an orderly campus, teachers teaching and a well-behaved student body even during difficult periods of construction on the campus.

The Times should make note of the fact that under LaMotte's direction, 80% of the graduating students were planning to attend two- and four-year colleges and universities. The Times should not prejudge LaMotte's performance as a Board of Education member simply because it chose not to endorse her.

Dan Isaacs

Venice

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