Sunday, February 9, 2014

Tony Brandenburg: PUSD's Great Attendance Debacle

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Attendance issues have plagued Pasadena Unified School District for quite some time. The problem currently is that people simply do not want to send their kids to PUSD schools. Declining enrollment and population shifts have greatly affected the ability of many public school districts to fill up their classrooms. Locally, this problem is only further exacerbated by a teacher's union that is either unaware of declining enrollment, or painfully apathetic to the needs of the community. Most likely both. But that is a discussion for another day.

The Spangler Decision

Pasadena's attendance woes began in the 1960's with enclaves of families being directed by "logistics" to attend schools in their neighborhoods. The civil rights movement may have desegregated public schools, but neighborhood logistics defined where they would actually attend classes. Those logistics were not generally fair, and the kids figured it out. In 1968 a group of Pasadena students challenged both the status quo and the district over the Constitutionality of what they considered to be segregation.

The courts agreed with the students and ruled that PUSD had failed to adopt a desegregation plan (click here).  Pasadena City School District et al., Petitioners, v. Nancy Anne SPANGLER et al. would finally bring a resolution of sorts. Pasadena would become the first western school district to be desegregated after Brown Vs. the Board of Education.

"Ultimately in 1970, the District Court, holding that the defendants' educational policies and procedures violated the Fourteenth Amendment, enjoined the defendants from failing to adopt a desegregation plan, ordered them to submit a plan for desegregating the Pasadena schools which would provide that beginning with the 1970-1971 school year there would be no school "with a majority of any minority students," and retained jurisdiction so as to see that such a plan was carried out. The defendants did not appeal from this decree, and subsequently submitted the "Pasadena Plan," which was approved by the District Court."

As of late, the fine folks at PUSD have begun to try and repair the district's forever tarnished reputation, brought about by its horrendous system of documentation. Besides the especially sloppy record keeping in special education, it has been even worse in the matter of student attendance records. PUSD is now trying to remedy this by declaring an all out war on its families.

Busing Deux (or Don't)

For the last few years PUSD has been a district sans bus transportation for its students. This is not to be confused with mandatory busing associated with desegregation that I discussed earlier. At least not on the surface. You may recall that the city pretended to remedy all of that with redistricting. That is why we in Sierra Madre almost lost our voice on the school board. Of course, in 2015 we still might.

No, the busing we now lack was not the busing of the past - busing designed for desegregation. This most recent incarnation of busing was designed for transporting students from overpopulated area schools to those with some space. That kind of busing was cut out of the budget.

Never mind that there are school closures based on building instability or declining enrollment. The kids still need to go to school, right? Isn't that in the United States Constitution or something? Oh that's right, it's not. That's a state thing, and by God, they'd better get there. Even if a school is nowhere near their homes.

PUSD Declares All-Out War on its Parents

"Among school districts, three of the five elementary campuses with truancy rates at 90% or higher were in the Pasadena Unified School District, where the overall truancy rate increased to 66% last year from 17% in 2008-09. Eric Sahakian, Pasadena's director of child welfare, attendance and safety, said "dramatic budget cuts" in staff handling attendance as well as financial hardship among families during the recession contributed to the district's elevated rates. The system has launched a new attendance improvement plan this year." - Los Angeles Times, 9/30/13 (link)

So apparently the ball has been put back into the court of the parents to get their children to school. Naturally, that is our responsibility. We are parents. But what does a family do if it is not practical - or even possible - to accomplish this requirement? It is mandated that we send them to school. Private school is not always an option.

What does a family with one parent do? What if the family lacks for adequate transportation altogether? What about financially strapped and struggling families, or working families? Should they quit their jobs so that they can jockey their kids all over Pasadena, Altadena, and Sierra Madre? This is clearly unfair when the children all go to different schools that are miles apart, and when those schools all start at the same exact time.

The only families that this is truly fair for are those families who  have a nearby school that they can access. Or for families with lots of extended family support. Or families with lots of money. Money always helps. Ask a rich person if you don't believe me.

Nearby schools. Money. Extended support networks. Unfortunately, these are not universally available. Once again, the victims in this will be the poor, and the working class.

One group that the current system is fair for, however, are PUSD employees. It is fair for PUSD teachers. If you are a PUSD teacher, you can count on an enrollment perk. You can send your kids to the school of your choice, and you have a priority status. Don't believe me? Ask my favorite first grade teacher over at Sierra Madre Elementary.

PUSD multiple-scheduling is only meant to confound the rest of us. You know, the consumers. And when it becomes painfully clear that we can't manage the impossible, they send us threatening letters warning us that we are creating a generation of truant children.

That's right. We parents can get ourselves into big trouble with The Man because our kids are habitually late. That is because those tardies can be turned into absences, and those absences can turn into truants. Sacramento awards no state education money for that one.

There's not much you can do about it but surrender. Even then there is no promise that there won't be some clerical errors.

And, lest we forget: The City of Pasadena and the PUSD are buddies, remember? Community schools, mental health, and other healthcare and social services bind them together. So if you are naughty you could find yourself on the receiving end of a SART, a SARB or, if you are really lucky, you'll get to spend some time with the District Attorney.

I will discuss that a little more later.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

52 comments:

  1. i got this ad on my social networking page. the new age of campaigning is upon us
    http://www.arizmendiforcitycouncil.com/home

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    1. She's against Measure UUT. That is all I needed to hear. She's got my vote.

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    2. She's against the UUT and on the last card I got, it says specifically she wants to "...prevent our neighborhoods from being overrun with homes oversized for their parcels or homes not in harmony with their neighborhoods." Sign me up.

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    3. Can you imagine a city council run by people concerned about what the people of Sierra Madre want? Rather than Realtors, bond salesmen, developers and municipal employee unions?

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    4. She makes a lot of empty statements but offers no solutions. The City Sierra Madre has input into PUSD policy. What she says sounds good but means nothing.

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    5. Yeah, I prefer the direct and bold leadership of Gene Goss and Noah Green. Oh wait, they're about as direct and bold as skim milk. All they can think to do is raise taxes.

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    6. I would never vote for Green nor Goss.

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    7. They both look like they've been dipped in warm Crisco.

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    8. 12:08, look at the quote at 10:42. That's an empty statement?
      Either you're trolling against Arizmendi, or you're so embittered by the constant lies the Downtown Investment Club members peddle that you can't see straight.

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    9. i was just commenting on the use of social media for campaigning. i personally don't have much of an opinion on the candidate, or on the use of the new tool. i think the real story lies in the way that the internet is used to track us and target us for advertising.

      If I want something from PUSD i know how to get a hold of people to talk to. it doesn't mean much, but i can at least find another road to the dead end ;)

      Sierra Madre is capable of raising thousands of dollars for its schools. how it is spent is typical of the mindset of the people who run the school. Those decisions are made by the School Site Committee and in the School Site Plan.

      There is no money for a library, but there is money for a time out room. those are the priorities.

      a council member who wants to worry about accessing rescources from PUSD is awesome. if the coucil member ever wants to actually talk to someone about them, that would be great, too. but really, it starts at the local school site council.

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  2. I think the PUSD needs to come up with some reasons why parents would want to take their kids there. Outside of it being the law.

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    1. i think that is a really good point

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    2. It is sad to think that the only way the PUSD can get kids to their schools is threaten their parents with legal action.

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    3. People have got to get their kids to school - even if it's crummy. They have got to get them there, come hell or high water. That's got to be a priority, because without it, the kid has such a struggle to make it.

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    4. You'd think the inspiration offered by Board President Renatta Cooper would be enough.

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    5. Life lessons on how to be properly institutionalized, I guess. Eh 10:43?

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    6. People can live without institutions, but it's tough. Without a high school diploma, a person has to gifted with some unique vision that carries them along a rewarding path of well being, or work at MacDonalds. It's tough.

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    7. Without a hs diploma an 18-year old (or older) can enroll in a Community College. My son did. As a middle school drop out, he enrolled in a 2-year PCC technical program at 18, excelled, made the Dean's List, and graduated with a gpa high enough to get him picked up at a Pasadena auto dealership.

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    8. I am a big supporter of JCs, and that kind of turn around is what they are there for.

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    9. I have a relative who never graduated from high school, never went to junior college, lives off various hustles of the disability services. It can go all kinds of ways when someone doesn't make it through school. On the whole, I hope for people that they can get their diplomas and find something they want to do.

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    10. It is the parent's responsibility to get their kids to school. If they can't be responsible for their kids they should not have had any. PS. A woman that has kids and is now divorced is not a single mother she is a divorced mother. Never been married you are an unwed mother. Spouse died you are a widowed mothers. Stop this single mother crap.

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    11. Sure, Orwell. A mother who is raising children by herself is not a single parent. What a bunch of nonsense you speak.

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    12. i can always count on the idiocy of people like you, 1231. let me know if you figure out how to pull your head from that wedge.

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    13. 12:31, I said single parent. Your misogyny is shining through.

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  3. The last paragraph tells it all:

    Pasadena, CA—Students who have not yet been to school for the 2013-2014 school year will have visitors Wednesday, Sept. 18 as part of the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) “I’m In!” school attendance campaign. Volunteers and staff from PUSD and the city of Pasadena will visit homes across the district to find students who have been chronically absent since August or have not returned to school this academic year to counter the immediate and long-term effects of chronic absenteeism.

    During the Sept. 18 student recovery day, volunteers will target absent students at all grade levels to determine whether they left the district and enrolled at another school or if they have family, social, or economic issues that prevent them from attending school. Counselors and staff will offer on the spot help and support to bring them back to school to complete their education.

    “Our schools are working at an accelerated pace and a single day of missed instruction can adversely affect the student’s academic progress,” said PUSD Superintendent Jon R. Gundry. “Immediate action is necessary because research tells us that missing or skipping school occasionally in the early grades can easily become a habit that put students on track to drop out of school.”

    Student attendance is also important to the district’s financial bottom line. Schools are funded based on Average Daily Attendance (ADA), meaning that if a child does not show up for at least part of the academic day, the school loses the daily funding allocated for that student. A one percent increase in the district’s annual attendance rate would mean an extra $888,000 in funding from the state for PUSD schools.

    http://cityofpasadena.net/EkContent.aspx?theme=Navy&id=8589937633&bid=2970&style=news

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    1. my oldest child, who s in AP classes and will graduate from high school in three months just received her first threatening letter. Amazingly, my second child, who attends the same high school, at the same exact time has received his 4th letter. obviously their recording system is flawed.

      but gundry's quote- which is almost verbatim from the state's position on this- is also flawed. my oldest child has now been identified as a child who is habitually tardy- and she is not a child "in the early grades" nor with a habit that puts her "on track to drop out of school".

      That would be my youngest, and the scumbags that did it proudly spread their peacock feathers and strut around SME like they own it. and for all intents and purposes, they do.

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    2. and it's never about the kids and their families. it's always about the money and the power and the influence.

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    3. No attendance, no money from Sacramento. Kids should go on strike.

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    4. If only for 2 days. LOL

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    5. 1:12. My favorite post of the week.

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  4. It is that way about most everything around here. That is what happens when government runs everything.

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    1. When people are so apathetic and disengaged that the government runs everything.

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    2. Are we allowed to vote in Board of Education elections yet?

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    3. Exactly 3:10. If people had shown up in force during those discussions, it could have gone differently. If enough people had stormed the council chambers in opposition to having old Poison touch Bart Doyle as our rep., it could have gone differently.

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  5. There's a great documentary about educational reform called "The Education of Michelle Rhee". She stepped into the chaos that was Washington DC schools, where the attendance/drop out problem was acute, and brought improvement. A lot of what she did was fire incompetent staff and teachers. 100s of them. Of course you can guess what happened if you don't already know. But for the brief time she had, she really made the kids' lives better.

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  6. PUSD has always puzzled me. What happened to neighborhood schools that the kids rode their bikes to? The whole shell game is just bizarre, presumably a result of bussing and a mashup of public, magnet schools, charters, private and so on. I see a summary here. The city education system seems to have fallen apart into fragments...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pasadena_Unified_School_District

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    1. Agreed 11:03. Such a good set-up, wrecked through bumbling administration.
      The public school advocate Diane Ravitch says that each neighborhood, to really be a community, needs a public school just the same way it needs a Fire Department.

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    2. PUSD exists because Sacramento gives it tax money. And with that money comes state educational mandates that more often than not fail. If it had to rely on community support it would be gone within a year.

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    3. Sierra Madre Middle School thought they had a new idea last year. Ride your bike to school day.
      Why not everyday Bozo?

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    4. Except that some familiesand their children are attacked, excommunicated, and chased out of their neighborhoods by elitist scumbags. the same kind of elitist scumbags who doctor laws to chase people out of the neighborhoods where their families have lived for generations.

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    5. ride your bike and walk to school day comes from the state and community schools movement. there are whole studies/questionairres pitched at and collected at schools to get baselines to increase these activities among kids/families in the state...... the idea being to cut cars out of the equation- much like the push toward increasing new bike lanes (i.e. less car lanes) on Rosemead Blvd and throughout sub (neo) urban areas. Pasadena has a whole push toward this increase in bike usage.

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  7. Community Schools explained. Or, how to turn publics schools into welfare distribution centers.

    The Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) and the City of Pasadena have worked collaboratively over the years on a number of projects and programs ranging from joint- use of facilities, student transit, school security and after-school activities.

    The proposed School/City Work Plan (Attachment A) significantly furthers this collaboration through a process of aligning the delivery of School and City services for the purpose of improving outcomes for students and their families. This approach furthers the School District's efforts towards the creation of Community Schools. A Community School is both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources. Its integrated focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development and community engagement leads to improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities.

    Using public schools as hubs, Community Schools (Attachment B) bring together many partners to offer a range of supports and opportunities to children, youth, families and communities. Partners work to achieve these results: Children's developmental needs are met; students attend school consistently; students are actively involved in learning and their community; families are increasingly involved with their children's education; schools are engaged with families and communities; students succeed academically; students are healthy - physically, socially, and emotionally; students live and learn in a safe, supportive, and stable environment, and communities are desirable places to live.

    http://ww2.cityofpasadena.net/councilagendas/2013%20agendas/Feb_19_13/AR%205.pdf

    My question being, if these programs are as wonderful as the author of the above claims, why is it nobody wishes to attend?

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    1. I think we got a theory/reality clash here...

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    2. Community Schools are the combined legacy of Ed Honowitz and Peter "Snitch" Dreier. How could it fail?

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    3. I was at the Pasadena City Council meeting when they approved this collective weirdness. It was then that I concluded Bill Bogaard should be able to genetically trace his origins to another and very different planet.

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    4. I was there, too. This year's super bitchen joint meeting will be on February 24.

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    5. I wonder if the PUSD will ask the Pasadena City Council for approval on things that they haven't told Sierra Madre or Altadena about yet. They're real cute like that.

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    6. 11:03 AM here.

      Well, thank you for answering my question. Community Schools is simply mind-blowing bureaucratic babble, but I can see that it represents Sacramento special interests and education program specialties. So they're "marketing" individual hubs (used to be called schools) to the public, with no regard to the logistics of neighborhood structure because the "programming" has taken over the physical schools in order to capture the dollars as Sacramento has structured it so that special interests can steer all of it.

      The only way Sierra Madre can realistically deal with this is to set up its own district and accept transfers. It's small enough to create its own neighborhood, and the State would have to fund the whole district. Except Pasadena would probably never allow that...

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    7. What about sick kids? Does PUSD not get reimbursed by the state when students are sick? Is there pressure to send the germs to school to infect others?

      I remember catching hell when we went on vacation during school time. Screw them.

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    8. correct, the district does not get reimbursed when kids are sick. at first this might seem like an incentive to get kids to come to school sick, but its not because that would only cause more absences. vacation during school time is obviously also not reimbursed. it probably also counts as truant.

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  8. My favorite was a few years back, when we had the "swine flu pandemic", PUSD sent fliers home with the kids telling parents to keep their kids home if they are sick. I did just that 13 times that year. I got "The Bad Parent Letter" and was floored. We had an attendance dolt from the district speak at one of our school meetings and we let her have it. She came in with a smile and walked away pissed off beyond belief. My statement to her was don't send fliers home telling us to do one thing only to send us a threatening letter for following instructions.

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    1. i remember those letters. that's hilarious- so you got the "naughty-naughty parent" letter? amazing. truly amazing.

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