MARLENE CANTOR at WVRC on Feb.18th
CURT SMITH led the Pledge. LEO TSENG provided the Invocation, although there seemed to be some doubt whether his philosopher came along in 600 or 300 B.C. “Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that coke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream.” Lao Tzu, 600 B.C. And LENNY again came forward, not knowing what his latest presumed title or escapade might be. After the loan of an Olympic cap, which he wore, LENNY took us through This is MY Country. We needed the song sheets.
We had two Visiting Rotarians. PP PETER MORE brought his friend, Beverly Fogel, who belongs to and is nicely involved in coordinating their Flying Rotarians group, A late attendee was Lloyd Young, from Switzerland somewhere. SUNNY was of course with LENNY, and PETER also brought his wife, SHIRLEY. Ted Gauld accompanied ED he lives in the Seattle area, and is VP of a Software outfit. MASAKI NAKODA was introduced by PP MIKE NEWMAN. It was good to see BOB THOM there. Lisa Flores of Reading To Kids was our guest also.
There were some announcements.
The next Auxiliary function is Wednesday, March 10th at the home of LYNN and MARK ROGO. UCLA Cardiologist Michelle Hamilton will speak. All Rotarians are invited.
April 17th is the Polio Plus Dodger Game Day. They play the Giants at 2 pm and tickets are $35 plus for another ten bucks you can be in the drawing to see who throws out the first pitch.
STEVE PETTISE and PP MIKE NEWMAN are going. The District Conference is May 13th to 16th, at La Quinta Resort. The District Website has all details.
Lisa Flores was introduced by CURT SMITH. The Jack and Denny Smith Foundation has supported Reading To Kids for the last several years, and last year they matched WVRC in donating $5,000 to the program. We will certainly discuss this at our next Board Meeting. Lisa is the local Director of Reading To Kids, and several of our members are participants, including ED JACKSON, MARSHA HUNT, PAT ANDERSON and YOE. Historically, RTK has been in Los Angeles for the past eleven years. They started with eight volunteers and twenty children, at one Elementary School. Today they have eight local schools, 450 volunteers, and 1200 kids enthusiastically showing up every second Saturday, from 0900 until noon. Perhaps 90% of the kids are from low income families, so they qualify for the free lunch program. My own experience has been that they have mostly been born here, so English is easy for them. They come because they want to, and this means they want to participate which is the fun part for us as readers. Each kid receives his or her own book, to keep, each time, and their parents also receive books. We break up into groups of two ‘readers’ with a group of perhaps 6 to 10 kids, and after the reading, there is craft time. And I have to tell you, they are almost all better at crafts then I am! They average about 80% of the total enrollment of each school coming every month. Most of the kids are Latino, and readers can choose the grade level they prefer for me, the fourth grade is best. New readers get instruction and they even provide chocolate donuts! But I have to repeat these kids WANT to participate, and that is the really rewarding part for us as readers. At the end of our meeting today, MARIE ROLF came forward to tell me she wanted to join us, but might need a ride. No Problem, MARIE we’ll pick you up!
Looking back to last Saturday, the 13th about fifty of us enjoyed Valentine’s Day at Lawry’s. And I have to tell you that SHIRLEY MORE was our unsung hero! When she arrived at the florist to pick up the bouquets for centerpieces, it turned out that what we had ordered was still green all the buds were closed. So SHIRLEY cancelled the order, choose individual cut flowers, purchased glass bowls to hold them, and along with ELOISE SISKEL and PAT ANDERSON, put together the lovely centerpieces we all enjoyed. SHIRLEY, PAT and ELOISE, we Thank You for stepping forward!
After a polite inquiry, it was determined that GORDON FELL was indeed present. After several hints and gentle nudges, it came out that he and Vacharee have just become Grandparents. Following some further prodding, GORDON admitted that the baby weighed “maybe six pounds”. This formed the basis for a ten buck fine per pound, so GORDEN is now on the hook for sixty bucks. It also developed that MIKE and SHEILA YOUSEM have just had their 50th Anniversary which of course resulted in a $50.00 fine.
Despite this setback, MIKE YOUSEM introduced our Speaker, Marlene Cantor. Marlene is a native Californian, and began her career as a teacher at LAUSD. She has a son, 33, and a daughter, 28 both of whom apparently went to private school! Some time later, she was elected to the Los Angeles School Board, and served for eight years she retired in 09. Her term on the Board included two years as President. When she quit teaching she and her husband operated a “school for teachers” for over twenty years. Thus she has a broad variety of experience in the field of education.
She firmly believes that the most important part of teaching is what happens between a teacher and her pupil. This of course means your child can attend a good school, and have a bad teacher, or a poor school but still have a good teacher. Their teacher training program was focused on how to make teachers better. If you look at higher education, you find that the lowest SAT scores come from those in teaching. Graduate schools of education are easy to get into, and not very rigorous. It’s been that way for a long time. Most new teachers today come into the profession poorly prepared thus LAUSD spends large amounts trying to bring them up to standard.
When kids go off to college, most don’t expect to become teachers, primarily because of the low pay. When Marlene began teaching in the 1970’s, it was the dawning of feminism but most women then looked at nursing, social work or teaching as their choices. Today, women compete in all academic fields, but her hope is that more of them will choose teaching. Pay remains a tough problem. When you go into a school today, you can usually tell right away if it is good based on what kind of principal they have. This one person makes a huge difference.
However, if you want to become more successful, that usually means eventually leaving teaching to go into administration. This of course takes you away from working with students and working with adults instead. In many cases this change in focus isn’t successful, since that isn’t why they choose teaching in the first place. So we need to find better ways of creating career ladders for teachers. You will find Principals today almost overwhelmed by the many budgetary limits they have to deal with daily.
The best schools have parents who are involved but we, as parents, often don’t know how we can help. Here are some barriers to success. Schools today are still bound by an ancient Education Code if you look carefully, you will find many, many rules that have accumulated over a period of time, which prevent getting the jbo done. The seniority rules are a major factor. Her example was when Supt. Cortinas needed to cut 25% of his costs, he simply eliminated 25% of his supervisors. This meant they dropped down to teaching positions which they had mostly outgrown. This also meant that 25% of the newest teachers got laid off. This should cause outrage!
The next point is teacher's unions. They were originally formed to protect teachers, and to this day, that function is what causes the conflict. Put yourself in the position of President of LAUSD, talking to the President of the Teachers Union there aren’t many areas you can agree upon. As one example, the health benefit package will bankrupt the District! The plan covers health care for the recipient, and spouse, for LIFE and at no cost to the recipient. It simply cannot work. In her own company, Marlene tried to pay for employee health benefits, but it couldn’t be done and still make a profit. Thus getting the teachers union and the administration on the same page must be done but it isn’t being done with today’s rules.
When Roy Romer was Supt, in her early time on the Board, Romer had a background in construction, and from that, he started with the foundation. He started with teaching the kindergarten kids how to read, then the first grade, and so on. By the time these kids got to Middle School, they were really performing. We must do a better job of monitoring the finances, because that is critical to the end result.
Note that most schools on the Westside are under-used, because sometimes as many as half the kids go to private schools. On the other hand, we didn’t realize how jammed the schools were in Korea town. The recent Bond Issue has helped with this overcrowding problem. And Marlene likes what Reading to Kids does it works! We cannot take for granted that our kids are being taught basic skills they will need she gave an example of some students she was with in Washington D.C, when she found they simply didn’t know how to adapt to unusual conditions.
We don’t teach life skills anymore, due to a shortage of funds and they are missed.
And now begins the Q&A: DAVID FRIEDMAN asked about Charter Schools. They started twenty years ago, and it was a great idea. But she worries that in thirty years, will we have little mini-fiefs, all independent, scattered all over? They don’t have the same oversight the public schools do. One of the good things they can do is fire poor teachers to fire one protected by the Union has become impossible, period. Aren’t they given a fixed number of years on their charter? Yes, five years. What about Partnership Schools? I think everyone is finding out that it’s harder to teach than you originally think it will be. They don’t seem to be doing any better than regular schools. She and the Mayor have discussed schools, and she continues to point out to him that if he could manage the neighborhood so the kids could get to school more easily, the whole system would improve. LOREN RUTTENBERG stated that she has a 2nd grader in public school, and next year they are going from 20 students to a teacher to 29 students. What can we do to make our outrage felt? The whole process is driven by state budgets, and we are stuck with the money we get. Charter schools sometimes pay their teachers less, and they do not have a benefit package. but this means they lose their teachers rapidly, because of their need for health benefits. LEAH VRIESMAN said her son, in the 4th grade, has 36 students so she pulled him out of public school. How do you feel about Vouchers? Marlene is not particularly attracted to Vouchers, but they do have a place in the system. Her own son was so stressed by private schools that he needed a hiatus after high school, and that can’t be good. She feels that the major feeling now is outrage, which hasn’t yet been translated into what to do about these things. Can you explain tenure to me? In the first two years of teaching, there are no guarantees. But if you pass that marker, you then become tenured, and cannot be fired. It used to be five, and then came down to three, and now it’s only two which isn’t a high enough bar. Last question what about merit pay? I love merit pay. Where is the Lottery on all this? It’s a great idea, but the actual income is so small as hardly to count. Lots of applause and Marlene has been invited back on April 1st! (The system WORKS!)
We raffled off a bottle of wine, and the winner was Dr. Colby Smith however, a caution here. Don’t expect a bottle every week, Colby!
Closing comment: (by a man named Lincoln)
People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.