Thursday, January 31, 2013
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Monday saw Robert D. Skeels at the Northeast Democratic Club (NEDC) where he and three other candidates, including the incumbent, were asked a series of questions in addition to making an opening statement. The questions were challenging and policy oriented, allowing each candidate's fundamental principles to show. The incumbent, who easily thought she'd win the endorsement, lost heartily with only 70 of the 110 necessary votes to win. We believe that this vote of open endorsement along with the one earlier this month at the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, demonstrates that Los Angeles Democrats have grown tired of the harmful right wing policies embodied by Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and anti-public education reform leaders like the incumbent School Board President. We think these open endorsements indicate people had been waiting for a progressive alternative to Los Angeles education politics long dominated by DFER and the like.
On Tuesday, Robert participated in the third of the candidate forums held by the grassroots organizations comprising the District 2 Neighborhood Coalition. Held at the Boyle Heights Senior Center, the forum was somewhat relaxed compared to the previous evenings' NEDC debate. Audience members were able to ask questions and the format allowed the candidates to flesh out their positions.
On Friday Robert received exciting news that he had earned another critical endorsement—The Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA), who represent administrators in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Only one District 2 candidate has been endorsed by the unions representing the vast majority of Certificated Personnel. Only Robert D. Skeels is endorsed by United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) and Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA). The professionals know who to trust on matters of policy and pedagogy. He has also been endorsed by a broad range of academia, education experts, immigrant rights organizations, veterans, and community groups. A list of featured endorsement appear on his campaign website. That evening Robert attended a meeting of Adult Education Teachers to learn more about Governor Brown's proposed changes that include folding adult education into the already overburdened and underfunded community college system. While a position paper will be released sometime in the future, Robert expressed that he opposes the plan that would make adult adult education less accessible to the community and pulls parents off of their children's K-12 campuses.
Saturday morning was an exciting time with the campaign's third precinct walk held in Boyle Heights. The first two were in Lincoln Heights, then Historic Filipinotown respectively. Award-winning documentary filmmaker, Chris Hume, captured footage and interviews from the Robert D. Skeels for LAUSD School Board campaign's Boyle Heights precinct walking. Filmed on 1st Street in Boyle Heights at the location of our gracious sponsor, Purgatory Pizza, just prior to the group going out to talk to voters.
Featured in the video are two widely respected educators whose support is greatly appreciated.
- Dr. John Fernandez — Teacher, Theodore Roosevelt High School (Ret.) and former Director of the Mexican-American Education Commission for the LAUSD.
- Martha Infante — 2009 CCSS Teacher of the Year, National Board Certified Teacher, Past-President Southern CA Social Science Association, proud public middle school teacher.
Our group of over twenty-four volunteers canvassed Boyle Heights. We learned that the incumbent's event just south of us had fewer participants. That evening the candidate attended an event held by the Trinational Coalition, CEJ, and PEAC to see educator and author Dr. Lois Weiner and Chicago Teachers Union Staff Director Jackson Potter speak at UTLA.
Sunday afternoon consisted of a group of adult education student volunteers phone banking at Robert and Yoon Jung's house, which has become campaign central for many activities. Another documentarian came to interview Robert during that time. Afterwards, everyone enjoyed pupusas from Pupuseria Menchita, who are staunch supporters and are displaying our campaign placard.
This weekend is shaping up to be as exciting as last. We're having a press conference and precinct walk in Koreatown on Saturday. Hope to see you there.
Award-winning documentary film-maker Chris Hume captured footage and interviews from the Robert D. Skeels for LAUSD School Board campaign's third weekend of precinct walking. Filmed on 1st Street in Boyle Heights at Purgatory Pizza just prior to the group going out to talk to voters.
Featured in the video are two widely respected educators whose support is greatly appreciated.
Dr. John Fernandez — Teacher, Theodore Roosevelt High School (Ret.) and former Director of the Mexican-American Education Commission for the LAUSD.
Martha Infante — 2009 CCSS Teacher of the Year, National Board Certified Teacher, Past-President Southern CA Social Science Association, proud public middle school teacher.
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Now, our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality. For we know that it isn't enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn't earn enough money to buy a hamburger and cup of coffee? — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Adult Education means so much to so many people, especially our immigrant and underprivileged populations. One of the most important priorities of Adult Education is to prepare students for living wage jobs. Nowhere is this more true than in the few remaining vocational schools in Los Angeles Unified School District's (LAUSD) Adult Education division.
Recently LAUSD Superintendent Deasy and President Mónica García have once again expressed their willingness to axe an Adult Education program preparing community members for excellent, well paying jobs. On their chopping block this time is the North Valley Occupational Center's (NVOC) Aviation Center. Much like last year when the Deasy and García duo were all too eager to cut all the programs vital to our economic recovery, City Council Member Eric Garcetti has stepped up where the Superintendent and Board President have failed their constituents.
Last year in his eloquent save Adult Education speech Garcetti spoke about saving "the core" to "grow the economy," and he drove home the point that we grow the economy through adult education. Such speeches, support, and City Council Resolutions set the backdrop for an amazing campaign waged by adult education students, teachers, and community members, who were able to save Adult Education from complete destruction.
Thankfully Garcetti has stood up once again and is on the leading edge of the solution rather than the problem. Instead of accepting Deasy and García's logic that The NVOC-Aviation Center isn't as important as A-G Requirements or implementing more mind numbing standardized tests, Garcetti has been taking bold and innovative action to have the City significantly lower the rent to NVOC. He and the Council are working to get the Federal Aviation Administration to accept the deal. In other words, Councilman Garcetti is putting "students first" in practice.
As a School Board Member I will work hand in hand with leaders who want to serve the community instead of the interests of corporate plutocrats, privateers, and the testing-industrial-complex. I admire Garcetti's willingness to take a principled stand that doesn't just benefit Adult Education students, but benefits our communities at large by creating living —and better— wage jobs. It's sad that the current LAUSD leadership has neither the foresight, nor the concern for the community to care about saving such critical programs.
I commend Eric Garcetti and all the City Council Members who have stood up for LAUSD Adult Education. Real leadership doesn't reconstitute, close down, or privatize. Real leadership seeks local solutions that serve real people.
Friday, January 18, 2013
The Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA) represents administrators in the Los Angeles Unified School District. With a 31 year history of representing certificated administrators, AALA now includes classified administrators, as well.
AALA is organized into five departments: Adult, Elementary, Secondary, Supervisory and Classified. An Executive Board and Representative Assembly set the policy and direction of the Association.
Endorsements for Robert D. Skeels
Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education candidate Robert D. Skeels has been endorsed by both of LAUSD's major unions of certified personel in AALA and UTLA. He has also been endorsed by a broad range of academia, education experts, immigrant rights organizations, veterans, and community groups. A list of featured endorsement appear on his campaign website.
Only one District 2 candidate has been endorsed by the unions representing the vast majority of Certificated Personnel. Only Robert D. Skeels is endorsed by United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) and Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA). The professionals know who to trust on matters of policy and pedagogy.
Sunday, January 06, 2013
Thursday, January 03, 2013
First published on Echo Park Patch on January 2, 2013.
"Thinking is not the intellectual reproduction of what already exists anyway." — Theodor Adorno
One of the more intriguing aspects of being a candidate for a high profile office like Member of Board of Education, Los Angeles Unified School District, is the number of questionnaires various organizations ask you to complete. Some of these are for endorsement considerations, others are just to publicize your stances on various issues. Today Arts for LA sent me a five question survey. When answering the questions, I realized it would be worth publishing the Q&A since, in my eyes, it addresses many of the fundamentally flawed issues with national standards and punitive testing regimes they engender.
Arts for LA: What meaningful experiences with the arts (visual arts, dance, drama, and/or music) did you have growing up?
Robert D. Skeels: Even though I grew up in relative poverty (food-stamps, welfare, etc), our New York schools required playing an instrument, participation in drama, and taking classes in visual arts. I was exposed to French horn, trombone, and guitar, and still play the latter to this day. One of the most memorable field trips I recall from childhood is when our class went Radio City Music Hall to see Madama Butterfly. We even had electives like music theory which relate to mathematics. Classes in fine art gave me enough skills that when I later became a graphic artist, my illustration abilities kept me in constant demand. All of those experiences were interconnected with literature, an appreciation for arts, and an understanding that there is much more to being human than test scores and salaries.
Arts for LA: What role do you think the arts can play in supporting key priorities of the district, such as closing the achievement gap, reducing the dropout rate, and preparing more students for college eligibility and the twenty-first century workforce?
Robert D. Skeels: The critical thinking skills and ability to cognate interconnectedness between disparate disciplines fostered by the arts are far more important than rote memorization for standardized tests. For the record, critical thinking skills are essential regardless of what century we are in. This is why the children of the wealthy are exposed so heavily to the arts, whereas working class children aren't. Finding things that interest and captivate students is the key to reducing the dropout rate, encouraging students to find passions that lead them to college, etc. If we were educating the whole child in addition to providing wrap around services, then the achievement gap would ameliorate.
Arts for LA: A standards-based arts curriculum is one of the five core subjects in No Child Left Behind and critical for developing job skills vital in the creative economy and the twenty-first century workforce. Yet, most often, only "what is tested is taught" in our schools. How do you envision bringing balance back for a comprehensive education and ensuring all students have access to a quality, standards-based arts education curriculum?
Robert D. Skeels: The obsession with standards and punitive testing brought on by NCLB and its descendants RTTT and CCSS, have perverted and warped curriculum. Bringing balance back means resisting standardized tests and curriculum, and insisting that our students are provided rounded, culturally relevant curricula. While we still need to push for more arts and a rounded curriculum within the current regime of standards, ultimately we need to fight for curriculum decisions being made on a local level that address the needs of students. A nationally standardized arts curriculum further marginalizes children of color and those from different cultures. We need arts that are part of ethnic studies courses in order to respect cultural heritages.
Arts for LA: If elected, how will you engage classroom teachers, arts teachers, parents, and community arts organizations to implement your district's strategic arts plan? If you are not familiar with the plan, how can the district make the plan more visible?
Robert D. Skeels: Again, the de-emphasis in the arts in our schools is a direct result of national policies that have created an abject high-stakes environment where test preparation takes precedent over teaching and learning. I would work with all the stake-holders (who are natural allies) mentioned in the question above to create widespread awareness and outreach as to the critical importance of a rounded curriculum that sees the arts, including literature, as the primary, not secondary goal of education. Such a campaign would necessitate revising the existing LAUSD arts plan, which still sees test-prep as being paramount.
Arts for LA: Over 50% of School Districts in Los Angeles County have adopted Arts Education policies and plans to restore all arts disciplines into the core curriculum of K-12 classrooms. If elected, what would you do to develop and adopt a policy and implementation plan to increase access to the arts in the district?
Robert D. Skeels: Efforts to restore arts via policies and plans are laudable. However, so long as our public schools are threatened with catastrophic consequences like closure, reconstitution, or being handed over to a privately managed charter corporations, there is little hope that they will actually be able to execute such policies and plans. National education policy has created conditions where deviation from what is required on standardized tests is impossible, despite platitudes from the Secretary of Education on the importance of the arts. Board Members on the second largest school district have a moral obligation to challenge the reasons why the arts, electives, vocational training, and anything outside the narrow confines of NCLB/RTTT/CCSS aren't considered important. In practice, really expanding our arts curricula in LAUSD would be a visible sign of resistance to the testing-industrial-complex controlling U.S. education policy.
LAUSD School Board Candidate, public education activist, researcher, and writer Robert D. Skeels has lived, worked, and organized in District 2 for over 18 years. He and his wife, Yoon Jung Lee, make their home in Historic Filipinotown. Robert is a U.S. Navy Veteran. He attended Glendale Community College and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Robert taught Catechism at St. Teresa of Avila Church for 12 years. For the past 15 years he has volunteered ten hours a week teaching life and literacy skills at the Mary Lind Foundation. Robert is a committed member of a number of grassroots education and immigrant rights organizations including Coalition for Educational Justice, Public Education and Social Justice Advocacy, The Trinational Coalition To Defend Public Education, The Southern California Immigration Coalition, and Veterans for Peace. Robert’s articles and essays have appeared in publications including: Schools Matter, CounterPunch, Dissident Voice, Daily Censored, Echo Park Patch, and The Los Angeles Daily News.
Robert's grassroots school board campaign has been endorsed by United Teachers Los Angeles and some of the most celebrated experts on education in the nation, including Professor Diane Ravitch.
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
First published on Schools Matter on December 26, 2012.
"There is no evidence that standards and tests improve school achievement. The money budgeted for standards and tests to enforce the standards should be used to protect children from the effects of poverty." — Professor Stephen Krashen
The following is my edited commentary in response to comments by a CCSS supporter on the Professor Ravitch post: A Teacher of Latin Writes In Defense of Fiction.
Kaye Thompson Peters, I've grown weary of the trite "apple and oranges" device that you employ everywhere in your stalwart defense of Corporate Core. You even used it in a gushing apology for Common Core State Standards (CCSS) on Hoover's fringe-right EdNext. While you might not be uncomfortable that Pearson Education, Inc. has been promoting your writings on CCSS, it does cause some of us consternation. When discussing CCSS in relation to NCLB and RTTT, we're not conflating apples and oranges, we're discussing a bushel of rotten apples foisted on us by a bunch of billionaires suffering from the Shoe Button Complex.
To be sure, the revenue minded corporate overlords who coined Corporate Core have never considered high-stakes standardized testing a separate issue from their imposition of CCSS. They are one in the same and they serve the same set of goals in the neoliberal project of privatizing public schools. The Gates Foundation and the Duncan led Department of Education (my apologies for that redundancy) have been quite effective in convincing surrogates (some even in the AFT and NEA, sadly) to crow that they aren't inextricably linked. Such propaganda is so transparent that astute people see right through it. Ms. Peters, CCSS isn't a solution to, but instead it is a deliberate doubling down of, the vile policies of NCLB and RTTT.
Privatizer Dr. Catherine Thome's explanation for the impetus of Corporate Core tells us all we need to know about who stands to gain from CCSS:
"All students must be prepared to compete with not only their American peers in the next state, but with students around the world."
David Coleman's contempt for literature in English classes (at least for working class children) reflects both his corporate pedigree and that of his plutocrat handlers. It is no "red herring" to point out this glaring fault of CCSS, but I do agree with Mr. Heller that there are other fundamental flaws to this nationally imposed corporate curriculum. We need far more "Grapes of Wrath" and far less "FedViews" in this society. Sandra Stotsky does an excellent job taking on Coleman's corporate aims in her piece reproduced on the Parents Across America site.
Ultimately we must resist CCSS. Susan Ohanian, Professor Stephen Krashen, and the Schools Matter camp are leading the way on this. My recent short on Schools Matter has some great resource links for fighting CCSS.