L.A. teachers can’t win, and the Los Angeles Times isn’t doing them any favors.

For the first time in 30 years, teachers in Los Angeles are striking. Despite what you may be reading or hearing in the ever-weakening mainstream media, the strike is not about a money grab.

Teachers are just like the rest of us. Survey after survey reports that long before most people want more money, they want three things:

  1. They want their work to have meaning
  2. They want to know that their work is appreciated
  3. They want more time off

Number three is growing in importance with millennials, who understand something it took my generation too long to figure out.

But number two is the real reason they are striking in Los Angeles. The strike is not about a fatter salary, more pension contributions, smaller class sizes, less testing, etc. Oh, sure, teachers would love to have all that and more, but at the heart of their frustration is a lack of respect, not just by the LAUSD,  but by all of us.

But to read the Times’ headline online, you’d think that teachers are evil and are striking to hurt students. The headline reads, ”

Teachers see what we see. They see a society that is supposed to place education at or near the top of the list of life’s priorities. They see ongoing attempts to get every kid to attend college, to the point where many believe that higher education should be free.

(NOTE: I do not believe every kid should go to college. Some just plain ol’ don’t want to go and our emphasis on this well-meaning but misguided effort is harming those who want to work with their hands, start an on-line business, etc. I believe it may even be driving higher drop out numbers.

I also believe that if we are determined to provide a free college education to anyone who wants one, we should also provide free trade school education. And none of it should be free in the literal sense. I believe that the cost of the education should be a loan that is forgiven once a degree has been earned. Or, we should be requiring some sort of public service in return for the education they are receiving. But flat out free with no strings? No.

Plus, frankly, we could use more roofers, plumbers, electricians, etc., and fewer eggheads. That’s not me talking, that’s a fact. I know from working with my trade clients and from someone who has a swimming pool repair business that the skilled labor they need is hard to find.)

Teachers see packed stadiums, including a sell-out crowd at Staples last night that saw the Lakers lose to the worst team in the league. Why anyone would pay to see them while LeBron James is injured is a mystery. But thousands paid. And of those thousands, plenty of them are parents who can recite the Lakers’ roster but can’t name any of the teachers in their child’s high school classes.

That’s what teachers see.

I support the striking teachers in Los Angeles but it’s going to take more than a walkout in Los Angeles to change things. Our country needs to stand down while we take a serious look at our attitudes toward our public school system and its place in the nation’s future.

We need to do this now because the learning process is undergoing a tremendous upheaval and we are not keeping up. Last night, I watched a movie called “Eighth Grade,” which was telling not only for the social interactions of the kids, but for their dedication to their smartphones and other technology. If the movie is even halfway accurate, we are all in for some serious education challenges in the years ahead.

Actually, check that… Those challenges are already here and we are failing to meet them.

“Anaheim, Azusa, and Cu-camonga”

Only old-timers like me will recognize that subhead, but it’s a perfect fit for a discussion of an ongoing pet peeve.

Prior to tonight’s 6:00 show, the board will be meeting in private to discuss the status of the latest charter school application and some potential “significant” legal exposure.

A six o’clock, the public proceedings begin. There will be the usual rubber-stamping of staff recommendations, which includes the roster of district travel through mid-March.

Las Vegas, Napa, Denver, Palm Springs, Monterey, and San Diego, are some of the cities that district officials will be visiting on your dime to attend meetings, symposia, workshops, and conferences. There are a lot of local trips, too. The travel expenses wouldn’t be so bad, but there is one thing missing: We never seem to get a handle on whether any of these travels are making a difference here in the district.

As a former senior manager in a national company, I insisted on a report from anyone in one of my departments who traveled on company business. I submitted them, too. It was not required and no one asked me to do – it was just the responsible thing to do.

I’d like to see travel meeting summaries from anyone in the district whose expenses are paid for with tax dollars. The report doesn’t have to take a lot of time, I’d just like to know

  • Where the person went
  • Why
  • How much it cost
  • What was learned
  • How it will be applied to improve academic performance or operations

This is the responsible thing to do and it is not too much to ask. But this super will not initiate this protocol because he is not wired to protect tax dollars.

This is the end

The end of the agenda is often the location of some important stuff that is buried so that it’s harder to find. That’s where, for example, you’ll usually find the super’s money gifts and other handouts.

This agenda is not much different. Though it’s not quite at the end, there is a big announcement that is buried in the CERTIFICATED EMPLOYEES’ RESIGNATION/TERMINATION REGISTER 01-15-19. It’s there that you will find this:

Camarena, Luis Assistant Superintendent Retirement 01/18/2019

Oh, and we have another one gone and another one in. Though the district did not make any attempt to publicize Camarena’s retirement, the addition of a new Director of Maintenance and Operations to replace the other one is on the home page.

The new one had a stop at the Anaheim Union School District. Just sayin’.

Finally, this…

I don’t what teams are playing tomorrow night or what’s on television. I do know that barring any unforeseen circumstances, I will be attending tomorrow night’s meeting and I will be wearing read in support of the teachers in Los Angeles.

Steve Smith

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