stop me before I volunteer, again

 

I think I have a problem.

I can’t stop volunteering.

A few months ago I was elected head of my neighborhood association.  10 Saturdays out of the year I run the meetings, bring the refreshments and in general voice the concerns of our community to the city.  So far I threw a block party, longwood block partyhelped get some trees planted, advocated for some issues with our local councilmanherb wesson with constituents , and got a website up.

The jewel in my unpaid work history was my mayoral appointment to the Central Area Planning Committee.  Roughly twice a month I am one vote on planning issues that come before us.  I get to go to city hall and I have a laminated pass.  Never has anyone felt so excited to be accepted as a civil servant. Maybe because of all the years of freelancing, I like going to an important building with a clip on badge and working.. albeit with no salary.commissioner Brogdon

I’m also on a few committee’s for my daughter’s school. ( charter, underfunded).  So I take some interest in the school board races.  There are few that do.  It’s pretty un sexy, but in LA we have a mammoth school district and unlike other cities the mayor and the council have no control over them.  So, it’s a whole other empire.  Charter’s, while somewhat apart from regular public schools, still must be granted their charter through the school district.  So, the LA school board is “our” school board as well.   Teacher’s unions tend to not like charters because the teacher’s are outside of the union.  Charter’s are suspicious of teacher’s unions and afraid they will try to shut them down.

My take on all this is that parent’s are discerning consumers of education.  So, charter’s magnets, traditional, private they will be existing with each other. But, we need to put our best foot forward. There are people in our area who would be interested in going to the local public school, but they don’t offer tours.  “Why?’  is what we have heard more than once when calling the school…that sound you here is the interested parent filling out an application for a charter lottery. No surprise, it’s under enrolled.  A mile away a traditional public school does do tours and shows itself well. That school is humming along.

So,  heard some charter parents were rally around one candidate in a special election to be held August 12th.  Good lord, the only thing lamer than having a special election in the dog days of summer would be starting school that day.  OH, that is what LA unified is doing.   I spoke to some of my political mentors about one candidate, George McKenna.  He is a retired teacher and administrator.  Years ago they made a “Stand and Deliver” type movie about his work turning around a tough school starring Denzel Washington.  A friend set up a lunch for us to meet and I went, even though he looks nothing like Denzel.  While not a movie star, I found a charming Southern man who was very thoughtful and earnest about helping children.  Before I could order an ice tea he was talking about trying to get mental health services to students in LA schools who come from troubled places.  It was one of the concerns that reminded me of how vast the LA school system is. By the way since I was a kid I have thought the district should be broken up, but fat chance of that happening.   But, what can happen is for the grip to be loosened a bit on school so that a school can cater to their particular community.  This was something Mckenna and I agreed on. Well, we agreed on quite a bit.  From the good deviled egg appetizer to how a lousy principal can sink a school.

I told him, look the charter’s are scared of you.  He didn’t know why.  “I’ve gone on record as saying if a local school is working, charters wouldn’t exist”.  He was surprised the Teacher’s union backed him because of this.  He believes in traditional, charters, magnets, whatever works for children, not one ideology. I was touched by his sincerity and persuaded by his intellect and experience. He is being outspent. “Can Denzel give you some money?”

“I don’t know how to get to him.” he said.

So, before my after lunch espresso arrived I volunteered AGAIN.

“George, maybe I can throw you an event.” My dear husband was eager to hear about my lunch.  Later we attended a political meeting that a neighbor of ours had invited us too.  On the way out he met George.  The candidate was walking by himself having just thanked the group we were attending for their support and was on to the next.

“You need to go to 5 events a day.” Mark said earnestly.

“I wish it was only 5.” George said in his honey dripping accent.

We walked away and Mark said, “Let’s do grilled cheese.”  He was totally on board.  We must have done at least 3 grilled cheese events for Garcetti.  Now that the famous Thursday grilled cheese nights at Campanile are gone for good, it might be a bit of a draw for folks.  Former council members Nate Holden and Jan Perry who are my friends are also hosting.george mckenna fundraiser

The story has been picked up by a local online publication.  Come by if you care about educating the young, or just want to eat.  Don’t make my volunteering in vain!

 

 

 

NO Name calling

Our sweet Charter school won a National No Name Calling Contest.  Here is a video our friend narrated about the mural we won for. ( we, like I did anything).

We are underfunded, have chipped paint and bad drainage, but I love how our school teaches the students ( parents) how to resolve conflicts and to respect feelings

 

Thanks to our school dad and Huffington Post columnist  Bill Walker for spearheading this contest and always makes us aware of the power of hurtful words and the healing power of kind ones.

Angry room parent: c’mon help me out!

Here is a Momversation that I started. One of my pet peeves: parents who don’t help in their public schools.  Do you judge the non involved like I do?  Loved getting the input of Janice from 5 Minutes for mom ( who I met at BlogHer, Hi Janice! Let’s do “5 minutes for room parents”) and “Mr. Lady” ( love that moniker) of Whisky in my sippy cup (also met at Blogher, sassy, fun gal).

Since I can’t respond to the videos since I went first I will put them here:  I don’t find a difference between single or married parents.  In fact, my co room parent is a widower and he is very involved ( bless his heart).  Also, there are parents who don’t communicate with me, but go to the teacher.  That’s fine.  I check in with her so I know who to lay the heat on and who to leave alone.  Yes, the amount of communication you can get from a kids school is daunting. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to be the room parent to help streamline it and make it more clear.  I hate the amorphous “come help” email. People need specifics and they need to know why?  Example: This past weekend we kept hearing “come to a rally to support charter schools” on a Saturday morning when I –as a blogger– was given free passes for my family to go to Knott’s berry Farm.  My husband was all for ditching the social action and hitting the rides.  Since I grew up going to everything from Libertarian “victory” parties to marches for the the ERA this was causing me some pang.  But, frankly the whole event seemed to vague.  So I delved deeper into it and then I composed this email:

So, do any of us want to get up early and hustle somewhere Saturday

morning?  I know I don’t.  But, I’m going to suck it up tomorrow and

do just that.  We need to have a good showing to show the LAUSD and

the State they can’t pick the pockets of the Charter schools.  They’ve

done it and they will do it again if we don’t rise up against them.

It’s like when the ants face down the grasshoppers in A Bug’s life,

our collective numbers can send those who would underfund ( even more

than we are) into the mouth of a bird.

Okay, not a perfect analogy.  Look, drive downtown, wear a green

shirt, yelp and clap for an hour and go home.

Guess what?  It worked.  Our class had showed up in better numbers than most others ( along with the 15 parents who do most everything).

My family didn’t get on the bus with the crowd.  We put on our green shirts, found a meter, stayed for an hour clapping and yelping, then hoped on the freeway and a great time at Knott’s ( short lines, Camp Snoopy, good for little ones).  Btw, all having matching color shirts not a bad idea at an amusement park.  I could find them easily.

But, don’t tell me your busy.  We all have a lot going on.  I’m watching…