Bullies in Elementary

According to school climate surveys in the LA area, the majority of schools reporting bullying behaviors are elementary schools.  The school district is now following a restorative justice model, but elementary schools have been late to receive benefits of the rollout.

"The data reflects responses from 786 district and charter schools across the city that participated in surveys given in the 2015-16 school year, the most recent available."

Read more here

Senior Walk

Nearly 850 Lynwood and Firebaugh high seniors marched with smiles, others with tears streaming down their faces, as they took some of their final steps on their old stomping grounds.

Seniors were honored throughout Lynwood Unified June 8 during the District’s Senior Walk, celebrating soon-to-be graduates for their accomplishments and motivating younger students to graduate.

“This is a truly exceptional event that motivates everyone on campus, especially teachers and younger students,” Lynwood Unified Superintendent Gudiel R. Crosthwaite said. “When we see this many seniors accomplishing their goals and moving on to the next phase of life, they deserve to have the spotlight on them during this time.”

Seniors clad in caps and gowns toured the District’s 12 elementary schools and three middle schools throughout the entire day to remind their young peers of what they can achieve in the future.

“All of them grew up and finished what they started,” Abbott Elementary sixth-grader Ilene Cardona said. “Anything is possible when you try your hardest.”

“This was really emotional for me to come back to Abbott Elementary and see the teachers who pushed me from the start to get where I am today,” said Firebaugh High senior Aileen Banuelos, who will study nursing at Cal State Fullerton. “I hope these younger students are inspired to graduate just like I am.”

Younger students created posters exclaiming “Congratulations!” and “You did it!” and screamed and clapped as the high schoolers walked on by, spreading a barrage of high-fives. Some seniors even stopped to sign elementary school yearbooks.

“This is a way we can tell younger students that if we can do it, so can they,” said Lynwood High senior Ernesto Lozano, who plans to study business and accounting at Cal State Los Angeles. “Despite any problems they might go through, they can always pull through.”

This is the second year Lynwood Unified has held a Senior Walk.

Stock Market Game

Five Washington Elementary School sixth-grade students learning the ABCs of free enterprise were recognized May 15 as California state champions in the Stock Market Game, an online finance game that allows players to pick and choose their own stocks using virtual money.
Bringing a fresh perspective to investing, a five-member team from Efrem Lewis’ sixth-grade class walked away with a virtual profit of $13,000 from an initial investment of $100,000, veering away from more traditional tech and health care stocks and focusing on smaller, niche companies such as party supply stores and chain restaurants.
“It’s imperative that students have access to tools that will help them gain financial literacy,” LUSD Superintendent Dr. Gudiel Crosthwaite said. “The Stock Market Game helps students prepare for their future, applying critical thinking and collaborative learning to achieve at the highest level.” 
Lewis used the Stock Market Game as a supplement to his classroom mathematics curriculum, enhancing the study of fractions, decimals and logical reasoning with a game that played out in real time. Lewis’ class formed several teams of five to six students each.
Lewis’ students, including the winning team – Aaliyah Jackson, Olivia Valadez, Amaya Padilla, Rebeca Lopez and Dayanara Lopez – had no experience in financial planning. Students not only had to invest wisely but had to work collaboratively through the team members’ divergent views to form a consensus.
“This was a great experience for us because we learned about saving money and not just spending it on things you want,” Padilla said. “I also liked learning new things about my classmates by what they wanted to invest their money into.”
During the six-week game, students spent hours researching publicly owned companies available on the New York Stock Exchange, investing $100,000 of virtual money, monitoring those stocks every week to see how they had fared, then making a decision on how to move forward.
“The Stock Market Game helps students visualize the concept of mathematics,” Lewis said. “Picking stocks is not merely numbers on a page and since it was a competition, all of the students wanted to show they could invest their time and money wisely. Honestly, the students did better than I did, and they won’t let me forget it.”
The Stock Market Game is a product of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) and seeks to prepare students from grades four to 12 for financially independent futures. Every year, more than 600,000 students in 50 states participate in the online competition.

ASES Funding

Last week, the California Legislature took a leap forward for students, families, and communities and provided critically needed funding for the After School Education and Safety (ASES) programs that benefit over 400,000 California low-income students every day.

After a decade of flat funding, double-digit rising operational costs, and a Trump budget proposal that threatens to eliminate federal funding for after school, California’s after-school programs are struggling to keep their doors open and retain quality staff. That is why over the past year more than 340 organizations including school and local government leaders, and 2,400 individuals told the Legislature and the Governor to ‘Save After School’ and provide additional funding for after-school programs this year. In addition to grassroots advocacy across the state, over 10,000 postcards from students, families, and after-school providers were delivered to the Governor in May – telling the Governor why after school is important to them.

“We thank the Legislature for responding to the voices of students, families and community partners from across the state and recognizing the critical role our state-funded after-school programs play in the supporting the success and safety of our young people,” said Jennifer Peck, President, and CEO of the Partnership for Children & Youth. “We urge the Governor, as a champion for educational equity and public safety, to accept the Legislature’s prioritization of after school programs in this year’s budget.”

Last night, the Budget Conference Committee voted to provide an additional $50 million for ASES programs in Fiscal Year 2017-18. The campaign is encouraged by the Administration’s support for the Proposition 98 conference committee package, which includes the ASES increase, which a signature is on its way. Though the Legislature’s proposal only goes halfway in meeting the field’s fiscal needs of a $9 daily rate in response to the state rising minimum wage, this is an essential first step that will allow programs to stay open and ensure thousands of students continue to have a safe place to go after the school bell rings.

About ASES

ASES programs benefit students across California, providing essential services including nutritious meals, homework help, academic enrichment, and safe places to play after the school bell rings. Students who regularly attend these programs show improvements in their grades, test higher in language arts and math, are 20 percent less likely to drop out of school and are 30 percent less likely to commit a juvenile crime.

ASES programs benefit California’s most vulnerable students and families: over 80 percent of participants are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, and over 35 percent are English language learners. In addition to providing critical academic supports, ASES programs build social and emotional skills that give students confidence. By keeping kids off the streets after the school day ends, ASES programs also help build safer neighborhoods.

Polls show that California voters overwhelmingly support funding for after school: more than 80 percent of Californians believe all children should have access to quality after school, regardless

of their ability to pay, and 62 percent believe that quality after-school programming is the best way to provide safe environments for kids outside of school hours.


Support for Students in LA

Supporting students' holistic needs can help students to succeed in and out of the classroom.  Ensuring that students aren't left behind to fend for themselves can help to even out inequities that otherwise hinder student achievement.

In the Integrated Students Support model, trained professionals are placed in the schools all day and after school to connect students with mentoring, tutoring, enrichment programs, mental health services, clothing, and other services tailored to their unique needs. 

Read more here

Superintendent Dr. Gudiel Crosthwaite

The Lynwood Unified School District Board of Education voted unanimously on May 23 to appoint Deputy Superintendent Dr. Gudiel Crosthwaite as the new Superintendent of Schools, effective June 1.

Crosthwaite, who succeeds four-year Superintendent Paul Gothold, has spent his 21-year career in education teaching, mentoring and removing barriers to student success. His collaborative work and leadership have been instrumental in Lynwood Unified’s extraordinary gains in student achievement over the last seven years, including rising graduation rates and increasing participation and success in Advanced Placement (AP) coursework.

“Seeing the tremendous growth of our students and the complete transformation of our school district over the past several years has been without a doubt one of the most rewarding experiences of my career,” Crosthwaite said. “I am humbled that the Board and this community has entrusted their faith in me to continue working collaboratively with our students, staff, educators, families and community to further our mission to prepare every student for success.”

After graduating from UCLA, Crosthwaite taught middle school English, English language development, and social studies. He returned to school to pursue a master’s degree at Harvard University Graduate School of Education and became the executive director of a nonprofit organization that provided educational support to students in need.

In 2010, Crosthwaite became Lynwood Unified’s director of elementary reform, supervising all K-8 school operations. He was promoted to deputy superintendent of educational services in 2013, monitoring and supervising student achievement, staff development, facility issues, data analysis, budget development and community partnerships.

Crosthwaite was instrumental in helping to develop a new strategic plan for the District, dismantling student tracking typically required for entrance into honors or AP courses, and raising student achievement to garner the highest API gains in the state two years in a row for a K-12 urban district with more than 7,000 students. Crosthwaite’s leadership has placed Lynwood Unified’s graduation rates on a consistent positive trajectory. Since 2010-11, Lynwood High has climbed 25.3 percentage points, and Firebaugh High has risen by 23.9 percentage points.

The District was named a 2017 AP District of the Year by the College Board for expanding access to AP courses while simultaneously improving AP exam performance. Lynwood Unified was one of only three Districts in the nation – and only one in California – to receive this distinction.

Black People Support Vouchers, Black Leaders Don’t. Who’s Right?

At times, black people, like any group battered and oppressed by the state, may celebrate any perception of forward motion. Folks scour social media pages to see who has what appointment, what political power is being amassed, and what black person has been newly elected.

Although I strongly believe in the need for more representation and more political action, unfortunately, too often, having black people in positions of power—especially politicians—does not necessarily further the educational causes of black children in America. Recently, I wrote about a local legislator who works to ensure other people’s children have the same opportunities he did growing up. But, for many politicians, including black ones, parity between the choices their constituents’ children have and the choices their own children have is always elusive.

In a 2002 New York Times article, “Why Blacks Support Vouchers,” Michael Leo Owens stated that black students’ achievement in schools should have a strong and direct positive correlation with the increase in black political power. Although it is remarkably clear that black people remain underrepresented in America’s legislative bodies, those who are in these positions too often side against the most disenfranchised of their constituencies.

An increase in black and brown political power should have ushered in unprecedented levels of black and brown academic achievement, but it hasn’t. 

The NAACP’s stance against charter schools and the right to school choice for millions of poor black parents starkly symbolizes how black political influence is too often black political cowardice and hypocrisy. 

The NAACP Will Learn the Pain Associated With Charter Schools

Owens remarked that:

... we are desperate for decent education for our children. And people in my generation and those younger doubt the ability of black government leaders to influence public education policies in ways that would benefit our children. Our support for vouchers is essentially a critique of politicians’ ineffectiveness.
In the post-civil rights era, the number of blacks sharing power and responsibility for urban public education has grown dramatically. From 1977 to 1999, the number of black elected officials with influence over public education in cities (mayors, council members, school board members and superintendents) more than doubled, to 5,815 from 2,724 …
The educational achievement of black children and the overall quality of urban public schools have failed to improve significantly.

I predict that if vouchers are funded, black families will flock to them. It is not that they believe they are the cure-all, but it reflects black communities’ desperation for better educational opportunities for their children. Those who strongly oppose vouchers—especially black politicians and policy influencers—are usually the same people who wouldn’t sacrifice their own children for the good of the poor. It is for this reason that black parents will typically ignore those cautioning against vouchers. Just as black folks braved the cautions about what lay north and west when they participated in the Great Migration, black folks know that hope is captured in moving forward, not standing still.

“Those who strongly oppose vouchers—especially black politicians and policy influencers—are usually the same people who wouldn’t sacrifice their own children for the good of the poor.”

The truth is that as much as black families need more school options, vouchers will be harmful in some ways, especially if the U.S. Department of Education fails to regulate them and continues to decline its responsibility to hold all schools receiving public dollars accountable for outcomes—especially for those who continue to suffer the greatest educational inequities.

Owens concluded by acknowledging the limitations of a voucher system in improving the overall educational justice that has been diverted from our communities:

My generation knows that vouchers have serious limitations. We recognize that no voucher program can save a failing public system. Poorly funded vouchers don’t offer much of a chance for poor children to enroll in expensive alternative schools. ... And vouchers can’t end the resistance of many suburban schools to black enrollment.
But they offer the only hope available to many poor students trapped in the nation’s worst schools. For a limited number of children, they may make a crucial difference. That possibility is enough for black parents to take a chance.

Owens’s reflections about poor black people’s perspectives about vouchers remind me of Pauli Murray’s poem about hope:

Hope is a crushed stalk
Between clenched fingers
Hope is a bird’s wing
Broken by a stone.
Hope is a word in a tuneless ditty —
A word whispered with the wind,
A dream of forty acres and a mule,
A cabin of one’s own and a moment to rest,
A name and place for one’s children
And children’s children at last . . .
Hope is a song in a weary throat.
Read Owens’ entire article here.

Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus, a neighborhood public charter school in Philadelphia that serves 750 students in grades 7-12. From 2013-2015, he was one of three principal ambassador fellows working on issues of education policy and practice with U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan.

El-Mekki holds a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and gained his master’s degree and principal certification from Cheyney University of Pennsylvania.

El-Mekki blogs at Philly’s 7th Ward.


Dear Bethune-Cookman and Notre Dame University

Respectfully, you owe your student body, especially those who graduated, a heartfelt apology and renewed commitment to respecting student's voice. 

When the news that US Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, was invited to deliver the commencement address to the graduating class of Bethune-Cookman University, the decision was met with fierce opposition and disdain. Founded by beloved education champion, Mary McCleod Bethune, BCU stands firm on a rich foundation and traditions of educational excellence for all, especially those who have been marginalized and denied access elsewhere. 

Betsy Devos has spent her career profiting from and contributing to the decline of public schools in inner-cities. Recently, she falsely opined on the origins of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, saying their roots were born out of the need for choice. So, inviting her to speak at one of most beloved HBCU's seems fair, right? Wrong! Students in attendance booed and turned their backs on the Education Secretary as she approached the podium to speak. 

Notre Dame tapped Vice-President Mike Pence as their commencement speaker. Dozens of students turned their backs or walked out as Vice-President Pence began his remarks. Vice-President Pence's presence at the Notre Dame commencement was as the representative of an administration that has promoted divisive rhetoric and policy. This rhetoric and policy is the antithesis of what much of the student body and the graduating class believes.

While some praised students at Notre Dame and Bethune-Cookman for voicing their opposition, there are those who labeled them as typical whiny and entitled millennials. In my opinion, millennials too often are told they are entitled, spoiled, lazy and hypocritically support freedom of thought and speech only when it suits their point of view and does not hurt their feelings. 

As a millennial, I find this offensive as I believe that not all opinions, schools of thought and beliefs are welcomed, especially when such is rooted in the oppression, intentional disenfranchisement and or marginalization of any group of people. Such speech is also not welcome on occasions where we are being honored and celebrated after, at least, four years of hard work and toil to obtain a degree and acquire student loan debt. 

When universities reach out to potential commencement speakers, they should do so with their student body in mind. It's their moment, and the accolades or titles of the invited speakers should carry less weight than their words or presence would inspire and galvanize the educators, families, and graduates in attendance.

Not Quite Expected

Don't expect for charter schools to take over the Los Angeles education landscape anytime soon.  Despite the charter-backed school board victory, there is still a lot to learn in the Los Angeles school system.

“The reasons I ran for school board and not to run a charter organization was to learn lessons from our charter partners and to bring that learning to the district. This was not a campaign that in any way was run against the union or in favor of charters.”


Read more here

When School Policies Interfere with our Children's Education

By Shawnta Barnes

Without fail, every month, there is a report of a child unjustly punished at school because of a school handbook rule or policy that is antiquated or discriminatory. These policies interfere with students’ education, make students feel targeted and less part of their school community.

This month, in Massachusetts and Florida, black girls were singled out because of their hair. Twin girls, Deanna and Mya, who attend Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden, Massachusetts have been assigned detention repeatedly, kicked off the track team and banned from prom for wearing box braids. School policy does not allow hair extensions. Many black women wear extensions as a protective hairstyle or a hairstyle to decrease the amount of time it takes to get ready in the morning. Although both black and white women can wear hair extensions, the majority of women wearing hair extensions are black.  

School is a place to obtain an academic foundation.  How do hair extensions interfere with this?  How did this become a policy in the first place, when it is clear it will mostly affect black girls?  Even after the media reported the story and there was an outcry against the policy, the best the school could do is indefinitely suspend the policy, not eliminate it.  

Straight-A Florida student Nicole Orr wears her hair natural. Her parents were informed that her natural hairstyle violated school policy and she needed to change the style. To back up their stance, the school referred her parents to a line in the school’s handbook that prohibits dread-like hair. When asked by the media why Nicole’s hair was considered a problem in the first place, Montverde Academy Headmaster, Dr. Kasey Kesserling stated, “My understanding in talking with the Dean of Students, I think it was more in line with that neat and organized look that we’re going for not so much the issue with dreadlocks.” Although after meeting with her parents, the headmaster agreed to remove the dread-like line from the handbook, I still find his explanation troubling. He essentially said it wasn’t about her hair being in dreads, but about her hair looking messy and unorganized.  

After being wronged by a discriminatory policy, to be told your hair in its natural glory is not neat and caused a problem is offensive.  I also wonder why at the end of the school year, this is now a problem when it is clear this is how she has worn her hair during year.

Another issue schools face is enforcing the clothing portion of the dress code. At Tri-North Middle School in Bloomington, Indiana, both male and female students peacefully protested language used in their school’s dress code policy which says, “No apparel should draw undue attention from other students or faculty members.” Female students felt this policy was mostly directed at them. The peaceful protest included female students wearing shirts stating, “Not a distraction” and male students wearing shirts stating, “Not distracted.”

 This subjective language is problematic. What may garner, “undue attention” or seem distracting to one staff member may not be the case for another staff member. I remember one morning a few years ago when two friends, a black female student and a white female student, came to my room during arrival. They had decided to wear the same pants to school.  The black student was told by a teacher her pants were inappropriate and violated the dress code and that she needed to go to the nurse’s office to get another pair of pants to wear.  The black student said to me, “That teacher is so petty.  She just doesn’t like me.  We are wearing the same pair of pants and she said nothing to her even after I pointed it out.”  Although Tri-North Middle School students had an opportunity to speak with the administration about the policy, it is not clear if any changes will be made.

School should be a safe haven where students of all walks of life feel accepted, not a place where students are anticipating or blindsided by a punishment that not only interrupts their learning but also makes them feel less connected and part of their school community.

The article, “Racial Disparities in Discipline Greater for Girls Than for Boys” highlights research conducted by Dr. Brea L. Perry, associate professor of sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington and Dr. Edward Morris, a sociologist at the University of Kentucky. “Morris and Perry examine referrals to the school office, the gateway to formal school discipline. They find the biggest disparities are for low-level offenses that could lend themselves to subjective responses by teachers and staff: things like disobedience, disruptive behavior, and inappropriate dress. We found black girls are disproportionately vulnerable to getting office referrals for these relatively minor offenses,” Perry said. “This is an area where there’s a lot of discretion on the part of teachers or other staff. They may just give a warning or they may give a referral.”

Policies with subjective language allow teachers and school staff to target students. Yes, I agree that school handbooks are not the most exciting read, but we should read handbooks before an out-of-line policy affects a child’s worth, self-esteem, connection to the school community and interrupts his or her education. Teachers have enough to worry about without wasting time and energy time enforcing or interpreting unnecessary and discriminatory school policies.

Changing Times

There was a pro-charter school victory very recently on the Los Angeles school board, with Nick Melvoin beating out Steve Zimmer for school board president.  Arianna Prothero, with Education Week, interviews Zimmer to better understand his thoughts on what this may mean for other districts in the future.

" I think this is a tectonic shift. We're the largest democratically elected school board in the nation. Yeah, all eyes were on this."

Read more here

Lynwood Unified Superintendent Named San Diego County Superintendent of Schools


Lynwood Unified Superintendent Paul Gothold has been named the next superintendent of the San Diego County Office of Education following a unanimous vote by the San Diego County Board of Education on May 10. Gothold will assume his new role on June 1.
Gothold has been a champion of equity and access for all students in Lynwood Unified, working to break down barriers to student success.
“It has been a real honor to have worked with some of the most skilled and dedicated teachers, staff and administrators who are wholeheartedly committed to ensuring every student finds a pathway to success,” Gothold said. “I am grateful to Lynwood Unified’s distinguished Board of Education for their support and for giving me the opportunity to serve such a unique community that values education and rallies behind our students, who have shown they are capable of doing anything they set out to accomplish.”
As San Diego’s top education leader, Gothold will take the demonstrated successes he’s helped forge at LUSD to address challenges and strengthen the academic achievement of the county’s more than 500,000 students.
Gothold joined Lynwood Unified as chief academic officer in 2011 before being named superintendent in 2013.
He crafted a comprehensive professional development plan for all teachers and administrators to improve the district’s instructional program and initiated the Achieving Greatness Strategic Plan, which focused on making systemic changes to improve student outcomes. His efforts to promote collaboration among the Board of Education, parents, teachers, staff and community has boosted student success and achievement across Lynwood Unified.
Under Gothold’s leadership, Lynwood Unified has eliminated prerequisites and tracking so that any student can enroll in advanced coursework, including Advanced Placement (AP), honors and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs. The District provides teacher training to support AP students; free AP summer camps and support outside of the instructional day; access to online tutoring courses; and District funds to cover the cost of exams.
For this, the District is one of three in the nation – and the only one in California – to be selected as a 2017 AP District of the Year for continuously raising the number of students taking AP classes while simultaneously improving passing rates on AP exams.
Since 2010-11, the graduation rates at both Lynwood and Firebaugh high schools have increased by more than 23 percentage points, with each achieving 93 percent in 2015-16.
The Lynwood Unified School District Board of Education will announce the District’s plans moving forward at its May 23 meeting.

After School Woes

Budget cuts in California may soon make it impossible for after-school programs to continue. As costs to run the programs are rising, many are concerned that ending the after school programs could lead to unwanted results.

“If we don’t have safe places for kids to go after school, they’ll find places to go, but they probably won’t be what we want them to do."

Read more here

Decision Day

More than 700 students packed into Lynwood High School’s gymnasium on April 26 to watch the upperclassmen commit to their future endeavors during the school’s second Decision Day, part of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s College Signing Day initiative to encourage all students to attend college.
Connecting with the hashtag #ReachHigher, 477 Lynwood High seniors signed a Decision Day poster, showing their intent to pursue their college or university plans, and hoping to motivate all students to strive toward college goals.
“This is important for us because it creates a more formal departure from high school and gets us excited about what’s next,” said Lynwood High senior Angel Gomez, who will be attending UCLA in the fall on a full-ride scholarship. “I hope the freshmen watching this are inspired to announce in front of the school where they will be going to college four years from now.”
Seniors took the stage one at a time to announce the college they will attend and their desired major, then grabbed a pen and signed their name on the official Decision Day 2017 poster on stage.

“I am very impressed each year with the number of students committing to their colleges and major of study while they are still in our high schools,” Lynwood Unified Superintendent Paul Gothold said. “This shows us that Lynwood Unified’s motto of equity and access for all is working, and our students know they are all capable of pursuing their dreams.”
Obama rolled out the Reach Higher campaign on May 1, 2014, to inspire every student to pursue and complete a postsecondary degree, whether at a traditional four-year college, two-year community college or through an industry-recognized training program.
As part of this campaign, Obama encouraged communities across the country to host their own College Signing Day events in 2016 to show their support for this call to action.
Lynwood Unified’s Firebaugh High will host its College Signing Day on May 18.

LAUSD students to gain scholarships, early admission into health care majors

On April 10th Lynwood Unified School District launched a partnership with Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science that allows students to apply for scholarships as early as 10th grade.

The partnership was created to encourage students to enroll in health-related disciplines at Charles Drew University (CDU), which will provide benefits that include scholarships, early admission and waived application fees. Academically qualified students will be given priority registration as they pursue Bachelor of Science degrees in biomedical sciences, radiologic science, urban community health, nursing or health administration, or an associate’s degree in radiologic science.

“This partnership is a great opportunity for all of our students who are interested in continuing their education with an emphasis in health care,” Lynwood Unified Superintendent Paul Gothold said. “Our students will have the necessary financial means to not only attend Charles Drew University, but to also ensure that the education they receive will serve them for the rest of their lives.”

The partnership was designed to expand college and career choices in the fields of science and medicine as well as scholarships for all qualified students from Lynwood Unified, Director of Secondary Education Tony Hua said.

“It’s amazing for our students to have this kind of partnership that allows them to work toward something that assures them priority enrollment at CDU,” Hua said. “Our partnership with Charles Drew University just makes great sense and their support in fostering our students who are interested in the medical and science fields will have a great and positive impact on our programs, such as our biomedical pathway program.”

The partnership gives socioeconomically disadvantaged Lynwood Unified School District students greater opportunities to attend college and attain a career in the medical field, said Dr. Steve O. Michael, CDU executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. Gaining acceptance into CDU is a difficult feat for any student because the university turns down thousands of applicants each year, Michael said.

“For the Doctor of Medicine program that we have, we get about 2,800 applications for only 28 places, and our Physician Assistance program gets about 3,300 applications for only 26 places,” Michael said. “The only way we can get our own kids from Lynwood Unified into Charles Drew University is to build this partnership and that is what we are doing today.”

Students can apply for the following four programs:

1. Early Admitted Student Program (EASP): Provides 10th- and 11th-graders with a $2,000 CDU scholarship for each year they have participated in EASP, early admission, waived application fees and discounted tuition for the Introduction to Basic Genetics and Genomic Science course. Students can also attend free public lectures at CDU while in high school.

2. Charles Drew President Scholars Program: Provides incoming 12th-graders with a $10,000 CDU scholarship, early admission, waived application fees and free tuition to the Introduction to Basic Genetics and Genomic Science course. Students are also invited to a President Fall breakfast for scholars and a President Spring lunch for scholars and parents, both held during their senior year of high school.

3. Guaranteed Priority Admission Program: Provides 12th-graders with a $2,500 CDU scholarship and waives application fees.

4. Opportunity Scholars Program: Provides 12th-graders with admission to a preparation/remedial program that would transition into a CDU undergraduate program. Students can also attend free public lectures at CDU while in high school.


Learning and Gardening in School

By Shawnta Barnes

The Kitchen Community (TKC) is a nonprofit organization that believes, “Every child deserves the opportunity to learn, play, and grow in a healthy community.”  To achieve this mission, they build learning gardens at schools.  TKC first began building learning gardens in Colorado and over the years expanded to other cities including Indianapolis.  “TKC’s goal is to build at least 100 gardens in each city it enters,” shared Theresa Vernon TKC Regional Director.  “The first two learning gardens launched in Indianapolis were at William McKinley School #39 and Global Prep Academy in November 2016. We have done six additional kick-off days in March and April 2017 at James Whitcomb Riley School #43, Cold Spring School Environmental Studies Magnet, IPS Newcomer Program, Wendell Phillips School #63, Butler Lab School #60, and Edison School of the Arts #47. By June 30, 2017, we will have built 20 learning gardens in Indianapolis.”

Wendell Phillips School #63, a recent recipient of a learning garden, submitted an application to TKC December 2016. On Wednesday, February 8th, Wendell Phillips was notified they had been selected to receive a learning garden. Next, TKC Indy met with the school’s garden team to discuss the learning garden plan.  Shaun Antrim, TKC Indy Project Manager, designed the garden’s layout and during spring break Gardens of Growth began construction.

On Tuesday, April 11th, an all day learning garden kick-off was scheduled at Wendell Phillips.  Many guests attended the event including Carrie Petty, TV personality, master gardener, and author. TKC's Garden Educators, Tim Villard from TKC Colorado and Joris Van Zeghbroeck from TKC Indy, facilitated lessons with various classes throughout the day.  In addition to the lessons, the first half of the day was spent with older students filling the garden beds with dirt and during the second half of the day, younger students planted the spring garden.  Students planted: peas, cilantro, spinach, lettuce, and radishes.  

After the school day ended, staff gathered in the learning garden to learn more about TKC and the learning garden plan.  TKC wants to remove barriers that could prevent garden success.  They provide videos, standard based lesson plans, workshops, and a garden educator to help schools have a successful garden.

The learning garden is not just for growing food, but it is also an outdoor classroom.  The following day after the kick-off, second grade teacher Ms. Tippmann took her class to the learning garden to teach her writing block.

Students at Wendell Phillips are enjoying their new space. They will be able to consume food grown in the learning garden before school ends on June 8th.  

Back to the Start

On a bright, sunny day this spring, a shiny black Escalade pulled up front at Mark Twain Elementary School and out slid tennis star and Olympic gold medalist Venus Williams.

Williams, who attended first grade at the Lynwood Unified school, was revisiting her old stomping grounds as part of a California Lottery “Back to the Start” social media video campaign to bring celebrities back to their California campuses to surprise inspiring teachers and reminisce on their educational paths.

This is the campaign’s third and final video, which aired on May 1 in honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week on May 8-12.

The teacher: Judy Vellegas, now a kindergarten teacher who has taught at Twain for 34 years. Vellegas’ dedication to her students shines through and, as Williams said, leaves a lasting impact.

“I love teaching younger students because they are very honest with you – what you see is what you get,” Vellegas said. “Students contribute and learn more when they are having fun with their education. When we laugh about something we are learning, I know they understand it.”

Williams snuck into Vellegas’ classroom to surprise her and neither could contain their tears as they greeted each other for the first time in about 30 years.

“I loved being in school and watching you with the kids here reminded me of my memories here,” Williams told Vellegas after the emotional reunion. “You are so amazing and such a calming force that a lot of kids, including me, need in their life.”

The two spent time reminiscing about Williams’ quiet personality in first grade, her dad taking her to the tennis courts in Compton after school, and her unwavering desire to dominate in tether ball at recess.

“I used to have to look down to talk with you, now I have to look up!” Vellegas told Williams. “You are such a great role model for my students because if you can do it, they can. I want them to know anything is possible.”

The social media campaign is meant to raise awareness of the California Lottery’s financial support of public schools in California. The California Lottery divides $1 billion annually among all California public schools.

“We want our students, especially our younger students, to see that role models like Venus Williams have come through Lynwood Unified and that they can be just as successful as her with hard work and dedication,” Lynwood Unified Superintendent Paul Gothold said. “I am grateful that she was able to take the time to come back to Lynwood.”

Lynwood Unified’s priority is to prepare all students for college and career and for alumni and former students to give back to their community, inspiring the next generation of students to do the same.

Watch the full video below: 

Thank You Mrs. Beaver

This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week, and I want to send my gratitude and appreciate to the unsung heroes of our world, our teachers. I have had the pleasure of being taught by some amazing teachers and I want to dedicate this week to the memory of Mrs. Kellie Beaver, my second-grade teacher who kept love at the center of what she sought to teach and give her students.

To teach is to love. A child who feels loved at home comes to school to learn; a child who doesn't feel loved at home comes to school to be loved. I remember when I shifted from being a child that went to school to learn to a child that went to school to be loved. 

Washington Elementary School in Lynwood, California was always my place of refuge. No matter what went on at home, I knew I could go to school and find my place among my peers and detach from the harsh realities that await me at home. I could also find love from adults that recognized something in me that showed them I needed a chance to realize who I was and what I could be. I was a child who came to school to feel loved. Even though I had a loving family at home that wanted the best for me, the love I needed did not show up in ways that I could tangibly understand until years later, when I was able to reflect on and understand my life. 

I was fortunate to have great teachers who saw things in me that I did not see for myself. Most of them never knew what I went through at home, and they just knew that there were days where I was not as talkative or engaged in class. They noticed when my grades slipped and when I struggled to stay focused or how I would fold into myself when something did not sit right with me. 

Mrs. Beaver, who served the Lynwood community in various roles from teacher to principal, lost her battle with cancer last year, was my second-grade teacher at the height or the turmoil at home. I do not think she ever knew the extent of what went on at home, but she always seemed to notice when something was off with me and knew what to say. I remember one incident after I had a rough weekend at home. 

That Saturday night started off normal. It was one of those rare good weeks where we were able to rent a movie from the video store, and we had my favorite dinner, chili cheese dogs. I do not recall what the occasion was, but I remember every other detail of that night vividly. We had just finished watching The Beauty and the Beast, and my mom sent us to bed because it had gotten late and we needed to be up early the next morning for Sunday School. For some reason, this sent my dad into a rage, and he protested. My sisters and I, knowing church on Sunday was as inevitable as the sky being blue went to our and got ready for bed. But my parents continued to argue. My mother is not the type to pursue an argument or any conversation longer than she feels necessary. So she left the room and walked toward the living room. 

In a fit and rage, my dad followed her. Concerned, I followed behind. When she reached the living room, I remember him grabbing her by the neck and threw her on the coffee table. She hit so hard that the table almost broke. As she lay on the floor, he straddled her and started to strangle her. I still remember the sound of my mother gasping for air. It is a scene that haunts me to this day. I was not old enough nor big enough to pull him off of her, and he completely ignored my screams. So I ran to get my sister to help.

"He's killing her!" I yelled, and my sister ran into the living room and hit my dad and yelled for him to stop. He stopped, not because he came to his senses, but because he was so upset that my sister yelled at him that he followed her back into our room to scold her. While his attention was focused on my sister, my mother was able to get her purse and get out of the front door. Before he could do anything to stop her, she had gotten into the car and drove away. Not satisfied and still angry, my dad went to the kitchen and found the biggest knife he could find and waited at the front door for her to come home. 

My heart was beating out of my chest, and in a silent prayer I just hoped and prayed that she would not come back. And thinking back to that day, I could not imagine what state of mind my mom must have been in and how hard it must have been for her to leave the house and leave us there with him. I know she knew that he would not hurt us, but she needed to get away.  

A few minutes went by, and he still stood at the door waiting for her to come back home. My heart sunk to the bottom of my stomach when I heard her car pull into the driveway. I eased up behind my dad, so I could see what was going on. My mother walked into the yard and behind her, two sheriff deputies. In a panic, my dad turned to put the knife back in the kitchen, and I ran back into my room fearing he would see me. She had not called them, one of our neighbors must have called them hearing the commotion come from our house. However they got there, I am thankful for them knowing how badly that night could have ended. My dad left our house that evening, and that was the last time he lived with us.

Monday, at school, my classmates and teacher noticed I was quieter than usual. Normally, I was keen to answer questions and participate in classroom discussions and was usually the first to finish my work. That day and the rest of that week I barely said a word and did not feel like going out for recess. I remember being asked over and over what was the matter and not understanding how to unpackage what had happened that weekend, I usually replied, "I'm fine." 

Later that week, with the incident still playing over and over in my head, I was just not in the mood for questions, and one of my classmates kept prodding for answers, I slammed a book on the desk and yelled for them to leave me alone. Of course, this caught the attention of the entire class and Mrs. Beaver, and she said I would have to stay after school to talk to her. 

After school, Mrs. Beaver sat me down, and she did not ask what happened, she did not try to get me to talk about my feelings, and she did not punish me for my behavior. Instead, when she saw the tears in my eyes, she just grabbed me and hugged me. What she said to me stuck with me ever since. 

She said, "I know it's tough, and it does not make sense. It sure as hell is not fair. But I never want to see you let things that happen to you or in front of you change who you are or what you do. You have a huge heart, and you bring so much joy to every room you walk in, your classmates love you and so do I. When you are not present we all notice, and our class is not what it should be. I need you to be as tough as whatever you are facing at home because I do not want to see you waste the talent or potential you have and I certainly don't want to see your heart grow cold. Your heart is a gift this world needs; one day you will see. We had a bad day today, but tomorrow we get a new one. We will try again tomorrow."The next day I came back and felt more like myself. 

Great educators have an instinct and ability to key into their students and discern what is needed for that moment. We have seen this in the wake of a national tragedy, terrorist attacks, and even recent elections. Students often look to teachers to make sense of moments they do not understand. Mrs. Beaver saw a kid who had all year long come to school eager to learn and engage with his peer one day come in, after experiencing trauma at home, now needing to be loved. 

Realizing what students come to school for helps educators make sure they leave with what they need. There is no greater gift or form of love than teaching, and whenever I have a chance to speak to teachers, I thank them for they what do and remind them of their tremendous influence. Mrs. Beaver is no longer with us, but her influence lives on in me. The words she told me are the words that I have uttered to encourage my students. She was most recently a the principal at Wilson Elementary School in Lynwood, California. The library there is fittingly named in her honor. 

I never had a chance to go back and thank her for what she did for me, but I was able to tell her husband and daughter at her memorial service.  I thanked them for allowing our community to borrow her for over 20 years and told them what she means to my life. One of the toughest parts of being an educator is that you are a sower of seeds that you seldom have the privilege of harvesting. Seeds sown over a 20 years career yielded a bountiful harvest, and I hope Mrs. Kellie Beaver is looking down on all of the fields of flowers, the countless children into whose life she sowed seeds. For me, she knew a boy was struggling with the reality of growing up without a father, trying to feel normal after experiencing trauma needed love and when she could have given me the punishment I deserved, she gave me what I needed instead. 

To every teacher out there who goes home at night wondering if anything they did or said hit home, know you are making a difference and you do God's work. Everything you say and do from the moment you park your car at school makes an impact on your students. We know you do not get paid enough. But for what is worth, the mark you leave on this world is immeasurable, and your work will outlive you. You matter and what you do matters! As we face uncertain times, never lose sight of the fact that what you do is life changing. We have to safeguard the well-being and development of our children. We have to continue to build strong, insightful, caring, critically thinking and empathetic young people because the prison cell or the emergency room will be too late. 


Don’t stop others from having school vouchers just because you don’t want one

Those damn vouchers. It’s the one education issue that departs me from the company of fellow school choice advocates. They’re with me on charter schools, but go ghost on publicly funded private school tuition.

The “I-don’t-think-public-money-should-go-to-private-schools” contingent is legion. They are absolute. And, in my opinion, they are in direct violation of their own progressiveness.

Enter my friend and colleague Beth Hawkins who wrote a blog post titled “A Voucher is a Voucher is a Voucher – And They’re All Wrong.” She calls it a rant, which is an apt description for a post in which she boils vouchers in acid and then arranges the bones to say “Hell No.”

Her prompt is Minnesota’s pending proposal for an “Opportunity Scholarship” that would fund private school tuition for low-to-middle income students. Given the shockingly poor outcomes for black and brown kids in our relatively well-resourced Twin Cities schools, I welcome anything that offers parents an alternative.

Beth isn’t a fan. At all.

“I have long opposed private school vouchers for many reasons–not least of which I think it’s morally wrong to give tax dollars to programs that can legally discriminate,” she says. “Against people like me, a gay woman. And against one of my children, who has an intellectual disability.”

We agree on that. Education should be about liberation, not discrimination.

Yet, we can’t fairly debate vouchers without a scan of real state voucher programs to see if the fears are sound.

Actually, a Voucher is not a Voucher – and some are good

Ironically, some charter supporters resort to making the same arguments that charter opponents make (i.e. “siphons” money from the public system, supports schools that discriminate, diminishes protections students have in district schools, etc.).

For her part, Beth argues “in the case of queer kids and kids with disabilities, taking a voucher to a private school means giving up the protection of the laws of the land that exist specifically to protect people whose needs are costly, inconvenient or uncomfortable.”

That would be bad if it were true.

Alas, most state voucher programs target tuition subsidies toward children in poverty and those with disabilities.

Here are a few examples:

Mississippi’s voucher program supports students with Dyslexia or speech-language impairment.

In Oklahoma, public school students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) can get a scholarship to attend private schools on the state’s approved list. To be approved schools must prove fiscal soundness, comply with anti-discrimination laws, and have fully credentialed teachers with more than 3 years experience.

Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship program offers subsidies for students with disabilities, military families, wards of the state, and students who live near “D” or “F” rated schools.

Ohio’s statewide program, EdChoice, pays for 60,000 low-income students in under-performing schools to attend private schools. Students with autism or other disabilities can receive larger subsidies depending on the severity of their disability.

Established in 1873, Maine has the nation’s oldest voucher program. As of 1980 religious schools are barred from participating. I don’t support that, but it’s an example of how safeguards can be installed to prevent faith-based, discriminatory “pray away the gay” programs.

These scholarships aren’t outliers. Indeed, they are the most common forms of vouchers (here’s a state-by-state comparison).

The Goose and the Gander

Beth says “We are talking about sending public money—which people of myriad creeds contribute, because way back when we decided we were one nation, indivisible—to institutions that may decide to flaunt civil rights.”

That argument is smothered in idealism about public schools, and steeped in dogma about private ones.

Truth is, America has never respected a “myriad” of creeds (travel ban anyone?); we have never been one nation; and living in Trump-world is obvious evidence we are only indivisible in the thinnest stretches of our imaginations. When exactly did “we” decide “we were one nation”?

Real talk, without vouchers in the picture we’re sending public money to institutions that “flaunt civil rights” all the time. I call those institutions “district schools.”

The evidence is in Beth’s piece. She relays a story about a traditional district school that “pushed out” her son due to an intellectual disability.

In another story she talks about a local school district that experienced a “suicide contagion” due to policies that were hostile toward LGBTQ students.

I could add to her stories. The district where my children attend school settled 15 serious claims of systemic racial discrimination with the federal government.

Not to be outdone, California has 99 school districts that had to settle discrimination cases with the feds.

Get this: The democratically elected school boards of Texas were under suspicion of working with a powerful law firm that train education leaders on how to discriminate against children with disabilities.

I could go on.

If the possibility of discrimination is cause for block funding for educational programs we might as well shut down public schools and start over. It’s that bad, and it’s the reason so many families want alternatives.

Yes, there are valid arguments against vouchers. Most can be addressed by the way voucher laws are written. But, it’s simply unfair to summarily disregard the aspirations of marginalized children and parents who currently make good use of public funds to access educational programs they want and need. They matter. They deserve choices. It’s their lives on the line and God bless them for actively seeking better for themselves.

For me, prioritizing their rights and their self-determination over the whims and privilege of voucher opponents is the truly moral thing to do.

This post was written by Christopher Stewart. To read more of Chris's stories, please visit Citizen Ed