Pomona Unified superintendent joins White House Summit

Richard Martinez, superintendent of the Pomona Unified School District, has been selected by the U.S. Department of Education as one of 100 top school leaders from across America to participate in the first-ever National Connected Superintendents Summit, on Wednesday at the White House.

Superintendent Martinez is among exemplary local school chiefs who will be recognized for their leadership in helping transition their districts to digital learning. This unique conference will bring together officials from throughout America to share with one another and the Education Department promising approaches to using technology in classes.

“It is a tremendous honor and privilege to be invited to the White House to represent the Pomona Unified community and showcase the innovative ways our talented teachers are revolutionizing digital learning and education in the classroom,” PUSD Superintendent Richard Martinez said. “We are excited to be recognized for being trailblazers in the world of digital education and are proud to be a model of success that other schools can replicate.”

The Pomona Unified School District recently won two Golden Bell Awards from the California School Boards Association for its innovative use of technology in Early Childhood Education, and educational excellence at the Palomares Academy of Health Sciences. The school district offers its students career pathways in computer science in partnership with Harvey Mudd College and Microsoft Corp., and courses in robotics through Cal Poly Pomona. Village Academy High School offers career courses in Film Studies and Computer Science/Information Technology.

Every PUSD classroom has Internet access districtwide. Thirty-two Common Core/SBAC assessment-ready labs are being completed and campus-wide WiFi is expanding at all sites across the district. Mobile devices such as iPads, Chromebooks and laptops are available in PUSD’s K-12 schools, bringing educational technology into the classroom. Through community partnerships with EveryoneOn and Southeast Community Development Corp., PUSD is bridging the digital divide for Pomona USD families.

“School districts across the country are helping teachers harness the power of technology to create personal learning environments for all students,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “We want to make sure every child – whether he or she is in the inner-city, in a rural community or on a Native American reservation – has access to knowledge and the chance to learn 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

The White House summit will be followed by a series of 12-15 regional summits that will focus on the digital progress made possible by local school districts.  The events will also include the unveiling of digital tools that facilitate incorporation of technology into short-term and long-range education planning.

To help spotlight the value of technology in schools, the Education Department is sponsoring a Future Ready Initiative aimed at showcasing outstanding school leadership and strategies.

“The Future Ready Initiative highlights the critical role of district leaders in setting a vision and creating the environment where educators and students access the tools, content, and expertise necessary for thriving in a connected world,” said Richard Culatta, director of the Department’s Office of Educational Technology.

Trio of teachers of year support Marshall Tuck

By Marshall Tuck campaign

Three former Teachers of the Year are stepping forward today to announce their support of Marshall Tuck for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. As awarded Teachers of the Year, Bhavini Bhkata, W. Kipp Morales, and Andrew Shean have seen firsthand how current rules and Sacramento bureaucracy hold back their chosen profession.

Despite being at the top of their profession, the three teachers have been pink-slipped nine times between them because of laws like those overturned in the Vergara case that hold back the profession and harm our ability to educate kids.

“As California public school teachers and educators, we have dedicated our lives to helping students learn and achieve. We know firsthand how important it is to have leadership that understands that in order for students to be successful, teachers must be supported and given the flexibility to work with our local communities, with school leadership and with parents to create the best possible experience for every child.

“We entered the profession of teaching to make a difference in children’s lives and ensure that all California kids are given the opportunity to receive a quality education. That is why we are supporting Marshall Tuck. His plan for supporting the profession through better pay, increased training, freedom from crippling bureaucracy and changes to laws like ‘Last in, First out’ are the right steps for California’s kids.”

“We are particularly disturbed by recent attacks on Marshall’s outstanding record improving schools in some of California’s toughest neighborhoods. As you know, Marshall has led two innovative school systems in high-need areas: Green Dot Public Schools and the Partnership for LA Schools.

“These school systems–both union systems–serve as national models for parental involvement, effective technology in the classroom, and excellent teaching methods. These schools have been good for teachers and we welcome Marshall’s leadership in Sacramento.”

About Bhavini Bhkata

School: Bradoaks Elementary School, Monrovia Unified

Award: Golden Apple Teacher of the Year Award

Times Pink Slipped: 6 (pink slipped or displaced based on seniority)

Additional Comments: “I’ve been a public school teacher for 10 years, and have been pink-slipped for 6 of them …. being a Teacher of the Year, and having received 6 pink slips — that doesn’t make much sense to anyone. Marshall understands what makes sense for students, for teachers, and for public schools. He is one of the first people I have come across who believes that teacher quality outweighs a teacher’s seniority. He is 100% for the best outcomes for kids. He believes teachers have the largest impact on students during their school day, regardless of their home environments. He doesn’t give up because students live in a certain zip code, instead, he welcomes the opportunity to provide a supportive and rigorous learning environment while kids are in school. Marshall is behind great teachers, he is behind great principals, and he is absolutely behind the students in our state.”

About W. Kipp Morales

School: Alliance College-Ready Public Schools

Award: Teacher of the Year

Number of times pink-slipped: 1

Additional statement: “I support Marshall Tuck’s innovative initiatives that seek to move student achievement, teacher compensation, and…yes…teacher unions…out of the self-created quagmire and into a culture of success like my school has obtained.”

About Andrew Shean:

School: Abraxas High School, Poway Unified School District

Award: Two-time Teacher of the Year

Number of times pink-slipped: 2

Additional statement: “We have to change a system that forgoes merit [and the] difference a teacher makes in the lives of children [during] tough budget decisions. It is time to start questioning the status quo and putting kids first. I fully support marshall Tuck and am hopeful others will too!”

Current role: Vice Provost of Curriculum and Innovation, Ashford University

Singer John Legend backs Marshall Tuck campaign

Singer and education activist John Legend announced his support for State Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Marshall Tuck by tweeting his support from the road of his “All of Me” tour and releasing the following statement:

“As you know, I believe it’s so important that every kid in the country has equal access to a great education–and I’m dedicated to helping turn around our schools.

“There is nothing more significant we can do for our kids than ensure that every child has a great teacher and a real chance to succeed. Yet in California we are fundamentally failing to provide that opportunity.

“That’s why I am joining thousands of Californians–liberal and conservative–in supporting Marshall Tuck for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Because when it comes to our kids, we need major change, now. A vote for Marshall Tuck is a vote for a ‘kids first’ agenda when it comes to education.”

Beyond his accomplishments as a talented and popular singer, Legend is known for his commitment to education, serving on the boards of Teach for America, Harlem Village Academies, and Stand for Children.

Legend’s endorsement adds to the growing momentum for Tuck, who was most recently leading in the polls and has received the support of every major newspaper in California.

The normally quiet race for California’s top education official is shaping up to be the most heated on the ballot and is seen nationally as a referendum on change vs. the status quo, with leaders like Legend siding firmly with Tuck.

“One-in-eight kids in public school in America is in California public schools, yet our schools rank 45th in the nation in reading and math,” Legend continued. “That’s unacceptable. In Tuck we have the chance to change the lives of the millions of kids in California, and to help lead a nation that must do better by its kids.”

Marshall Tuck campaign releases new ad against false attack

From Marshall Tuck campaign

The Marshall Tuck campaign has released a new ad in response to the multiple false and misleading attack ads from incumbent Superintendent Tom Torlakson and his Sacramento allies. The new ad, “Instead” focuses on the need for major change to turn around California’s failing schools and calls out Sacramento politicians for playing politics instead of focusing on California’s kids.

Listen here.

Torlakson and his allies are spending millions on radio ads, commercials and mailers full of distortions and half-truths in an attempt to distract voters from the the real issues facing the State Superintendent’s race.

Most recently, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and their California partner CFT, released a blatantly false ad that wrongly accuses Tuck of being a “Wall Street Banker” who would privatize California’s failing public schools.

The truth: Tuck is committed to public education and has spent more than a decade working in, opening, and turning around public schools in some of Los Angeles’ toughest neighborhoods.

Tuck worked in an investment firm when he was 22 and 23. Now 41, he has focused his career in education. This summer, the San Jose Mercury called the ‘banker’ claim a “hacdk cliche.”

The AFT smear ad came on the heels of a dishonest mailer recently sent to Californians by the incumbent himself. Read the fact check here.

It’s no surprise that every major newspaper in California has rejected Torlakson and endorsed Marshall Tuck for State Superintendent. The CTA is also airing false attack ads on the radio statewide.

Hacienda La Puente Unified holds finals cross country meet

Maya Rodriguez of Mesa Robles won gold medal  for sixth grade girl team.

Maya Rodriguez of Mesa Robles won gold medal for sixth grade girl team.

The Hacienda La Puente Unified School District held its annual finals cross country meet at Mesa Robles Middle School in Hacienda Heights.

The first top 3 runners were given a medal (gold, silver and bronze) and runners 4 through 10 were given ribbons. They all competed based on their gender and grade level.


Teachers upset by negative attacks by California Teachers Association

From Marshall Tuck campaign

California public school teachers are speaking out today against their union’s attacks on State Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Marshall Tuck by strongly urging the CTA to stop spending teachers’ hard-earned dues dollars on dishonest attack ads that mislead voters.

The union is airing a radio ad statewide that attempts to smear Tuck’s record by distorting the facts. The ad is the latest in a multi-million dollar campaign to bolster embattled incumbent Torlakson and avoid talking about the real issues facing California schools.

The teachers are speaking out in a public letter to California Teachers Association President Dean Vogel, urging him to stop the attacks and work together to find a solution for improving California schools:

These attacks are particularly disturbing in light of Mr. Tuck’s outstanding record improving schools in some of California’s toughest neighborhoods. As you know, Mr. Tuck has led two innovative school systems in high-need areas:

Green Dot Public Schools and the Partnership for LA Schools. Both of these school systems have unionized teachers under the California Teachers Association and serve as national models for parental involvement, effective technology in the classroom, and excellent teaching methods. Mr. Tuck worked successfully with teachers’ unions to improve education outcomes, outperforming similar schools in graduation rates and overall academic achievement. These schools have also been good for teachers; last year a clear majority of Partnership teachers said their schools are headed in the right direction. Our union should celebrate these results, not smear them.

We can all agree that California’s public schools are not adequately preparing students to compete in the 21st Century. While there are surely disagreements about how to improve schools, we strongly urge you to stop spending teachers’ hard-earned dues dollars on dishonest attack ads that mislead voters instead of informing them. Rather than trying to distract the public with mudslinging, let’s work together to demand a substantive debate about how to improve schools and give all children in California the education they deserve.

Read the full letter, here. Listen to the ad here.

Tuck, a Democrat, has spent more than a decade improving education opportunities and turning around schools in some of Los Angeles’ toughest neighborhoods. Tuck has only worked in union schools and supports teachers’ right to organize.

Tuck served as Founding CEO of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools from 2007-2013. Under Tuck’s leadership, the Partnership schools increased four-year graduation rates by over 60%. Over the last 5 years, the Partnership schools have ranked #1 in academic improvement among school systems with more than 10,000 students in the state.

Prior to his leadership at the Partnership, Tuck served as President of Green Dot Public Schools, an organization of unionized charter schools that has grown into a national model.

Tuck campaign demands removal of false attack ads

Today, the Marshall Tuck campaign’s legal counsel sent a letter to radio stations across California, demanding they immediately stop running false radio ads paid for by the California Teacher’s Association.

The ads are part of a large-scale independent expenditure effort the union is running to protect embattled incumbent Tom Torlakon. Unlike ads from candidate committees, TV & radio stations can be liable for airing false or defamatory content from independent committees.

These radio ads continue a pattern from the primary election – when Torlakson and his supporters ran ads called “slimy” by the San Jose Mercury News and “misleading” by the Sacramento Bee.

Amid a series of dishonest statements, the Tuck campaign’s letter points out that there is no evidence to substantiate the following:

  • Inaccurate statement: “Tuck’s management was so poor, federal tax liens were filed against his schools for tens of thousands in unpaid taxes.”
  • The truth: There were no federal tax liens against either school system led by Tuck, the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools or Green Dot, during his tenure according to IRS records.

The letter sent to stations is available here.

A complete fact check is located here.

More falsehoods and distortions from the radio ad:

  • CLAIM: that Tuck “failed as an executive at the Partnership for LA Schools.”
  • TRUTH: During Tuck’s six-plus years leading the Partnership schools, graduation rates were raised by over 60%, while significant improvements were made with school safety and student attendance.
  • CLAIM: “80% of teachers gave [Tuck] a failing grade.”
  • TRUTH: Under Tuck’s leadership, the Partnership schools made significant gains. And the “vote of no confidence” was in the first year of PLAS and was part of a broader political stunt by UTLA aimed at Mayor Villaraigosa, just months after the Partnership took over 17 of LA County’s lowest-performing schools. In fact, after five years of Partnership management, a vast majority of teachers and principals indicated in a year-end survey that they felt their schools were moving in the right direction.

Tom Torlakson visits Reseda High Police Academy Magnet

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson attended the first formal inspection of this year’s cadets at Reseda High School Police Academy Magnet.

The Los Angeles Police Academy Magnet School Program offers a rigorous, police officer-led high school curriculum developed for young men and women expressing an interest in a career in law enforcement.

The program provides a better understanding of law enforcement for students no matter what career path they eventually follow, and also provides a high quality recruiting resource for the Los Angeles Police Department.

Wedgeworth Elementary does flashmob at Puente Hills Mall

400 students from Wedgeworth School in Hacienda Heights perform an anti-bullying flash mob at Puente Hills mall on Thursday.

400 students from Wedgeworth School in Hacienda Heights perform an anti-bullying flash mob at Puente Hills mall on Thursday.

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Puente Hills Mall rocked out Thursday morning, thanks to a flash mob by 400 students and staff from nearby Wedgeworth Elementary School. The Hacienda Heights school filled the center court of the local mall as curious shoppers gathered around.

Clad in their bright red T-shirts, the school danced Gangnam style as parents and patrons lined the second floor balcony to watch.

“Our students wrote the lyrics and our entire student body learned the choreography to help spread the word about bullying prevention,” explained Principal Paulina Cho.

Cho said the Hacienda La Puente Unified school has been working on a campaign to prevent bullying. Each grade level did a different project based on the theme. On Tuesday, the fourth- and fifth-graders will perform an antibullying skit that they wrote themselves.

“For the younger students, we had them outline their own silhouettes, then write in words that bullies might use,” Cho said. “Later, we had them rip their silhouettes to show the harm done by the mean words.”

But the whole school decided they wanted to spread their message to the general public. And what better place to do that than the big regional mall down the street.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s FLASHMOB.

Plaintiffs join former LA Mayor Villaraigosa to endorse Tuck

By Marshall Tuck campaign

Several student plaintiffs from the landmark education lawsuit, Vergara v. California, joined with family members and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to endorse Marshall Tuck for State Superintendent of Public Instruction yesterday.

The event, part of the Tuck Campaign’s statewide “ School Turnaround Tour,” is the first public with the Vergara Plaintiffs since a Los Angeles County Superior Court found the statutes in California’s education code dealing with teacher tenure, dismissal, and layoffs—laws that handcuff schools from giving every student an equal opportunity to learn from effective teachers—unconstitutional.

“I’m thrilled to have the support of the courageous student Plaintiffs in Vergara, who bravely stood up for all kids in California and challenged the status quo in our education system,” said Marshall Tuck, Candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“For too long, we have defended a broken system that fails to put the needs of our kids first. As State Superintendent, I will be an advocate for our students in Sacramento. I will immediately push to stop the defense of the onerous laws challenged by Vergara and will work with any and all stakeholders who are interested in building a better education future for our state. We owe it to our kids, and they deserve nothing less.”

Earlier this summer, Tuck outlined a plan to address the Vergara ruling based on his experience working to turn around failing schools. Read the whole plan here.

During the press conference, Joe Macias, the father of Plaintiff Julia Macias, delivered the following statement on behalf of the Los Angeles-based Plaintiffs and family members present at the event:

“As a parent, my top priority is to make sure my children get the education they need to thrive in the future – to go to college and to have a successful, rewarding career. But for thousands of families across California, getting their children a good education from our public schools just isn’t an option,” Macias said.

“Vergara v. California achieved a tremendous victory this past summer, breaking down significant barriers to improving our public schools, but the problems and inequality challenged by the case still persist. Kids in California are still trapped in classrooms with highly ineffective teachers. And great teachers are still being demoralized by a system that serves the special interests in Sacramento, instead of the needs of real communities. We are very optimistic that we, the plaintiffs, will prevail on appeal.

“But we need leaders that will start working toward solutions today, instead of just denying that there are even problems. That’s why we’re giving our full support to Marshall Tuck for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. We’ve met with Marshall, and he not only understands the challenges facing our schools, he knows first hand how to overcome these challenges and turn struggling schools into hubs of learning.

“As Superintendent, Marshall Tuck will be the advocate that parents and students need in Sacramento. Marshall knows that there’s no time to waste and that there’s nothing more important than our children’s education.”

The race for Superintendent is quickly shaping up to be one of the most contested on the ballot as both private and public polling indicate voters are ready for change for California’s failing schools. Currently, California schools rank 45th in the nation.