· I’ve scheduled this press availability to set the record straight about the accomplishments of the wonderful students, employees, and parents under my leadership over the past two years.
· Two years ago, I took the helm of the Los Angeles Unified School District with vision and optimism. You see, I firmly believe that every child can learn. Every child can succeed. Every child can do great things. I know the power of education. My grandparents, the grandchildren of slaves, graduated from college. I know the power of opportunity. As an admiral in the Navy, I saw thousands of sailors, including high school dropouts; earn college degrees while in the service and master skills that would lead to prosperous and productive futures.
· As a leader, I came to the Los Angeles Unified School District, with many goals, chief among them - results. I walked through this door with my eyes wide open. I did so with the belief that, together, we could take this District from good to great. We have many good schools. I wanted to support them so they could become great schools. I wanted to help our students read, write, think and speak their way into great futures.
· As an experienced warrior, I came ready to fight the battles on behalf of all of our LAUSD students. When I think of this current battle, I think of the students who have no one to fight for them. I challenge every adult in this District and every adult in Los Angeles, to fight on behalf of our students. Fight for their right to a world-class education. Fight for a future that includes college and a career. Their success is the only thing worth fighting for. What our students need—not what adults want—must be LAUSD’s guiding priority.
· To the people of Los Angeles, demand that political and adult agendas take a back seat to student agendas. The winners—today, tomorrow and every day--must be our students. The most important question we must answer is how to build on their most recent successes.
· I knew the students of the Los Angeles School District could do better, and they proved that on the 2008 Academic Performance Index.
· LAUSD students had the highest academic gains of any other major school district in the state last year. Elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools had record gains - and not just by a point or two, but by double digits.
· All of our ethnic groups, with one exception, exceeded the academic gains of their state counterparts.
· I am especially proud of one our high schools. For years, Jefferson High School had languished at the bottom in academic achievement. In 2008, thanks to great leadership and teachers, their scores soared and went up 59 points.
· There is much more good news at the high school level. LAUSD has the largest class of 12th graders – 34,768 students – since 1979. That means more high school students are staying in school. More high school students are passing the high school exit exams. More high school students are graduating and going to college.
· I am proud of these accomplishments, and so much more.
· Our students also deserve world-class campuses.
· In that regard, last month, thanks to the voters’ overwhelming confidence in LAUSD, we passed Measure Q - $7B - the largest school bond measure in the history of the nation, with nearly a 69% margin of voter approval. Because of that $7 billion investment, soon more of our students will study in traditional classrooms, not portables crowding on playgrounds. Soon, more of our students will attend schools that have state-of-the art computer centers, chemistry labs and modern cafeterias.
· To increase the safety of our students and decrease gang violence, we opened the first-ever Boys & Girls Club on one of our campuses at Markham Middle School. We will open a YMCA on the campus of University High School in the near future.
· I would like to thank all who have contributed to these successes. All of the students, all of the parents, all of the teachers, all of the principals, librarians, custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers—everyone who works for the Los Angeles Unified School District and every one who supports our students.
· The current debate about my leadership and the performance of the district has been contentious. It has been demoralizing and debilitating, not only to our valued employees, but has spilled over into the community. As an African-American, I’ve experienced my share of discrimination. When I joined the Navy as an officer over 37 years ago, there were only 250 African-American officers out of 72,000. I know what it looks like, smells like, and the consequences. Although this debate is disconcerting and troubling, it must not become an ethnic issue. When adults fight, it can manifest itself in our children. This must not become an ethnic or racial battle that infests our schools, our campuses, our playgrounds. This is not about settling an old score; this must be about what is best for every LAUSD student.
· Therefore, I have decided to do what I think is in the best interest of the children, to put all of our students first. Although my two years of service as superintendent contain an undeniable record of significant accomplishments, I am asking the Los Angeles School Board to shield our students from this contentious debate and honor the buy-out provisions of my contract.
· Regardless of the Board’s decision, I will continue to work for the children of LA and this nation.
· There’s still so much work to be done. We’re facing the worst budget crisis in since 1929; we must continue to have leadership in Sacramento. I have been leading this fight for the past year. This fight must continue.
* Gang violence persists. Too many of our young boys are dying or being maimed in the streets of LA. That’s why I’ve launched a Single Gender Academy initiative, with an emphasis on boys. Last month, I went to New York and visited two boys’ academies and one girls’ academy to benchmark and replicate in this District. Jordan High School, King-Drew Magnet School, Audubon Middle School and Tom Bradley Elementary School have very promising single gender pilot programs. We must continue this work to save our boys.
* One of my guiding principles in Life’s Little Instruction Book.. Let me quote: “Never deprive someone of hope, because that may be all that they have.” Let me give you an example. Harris Rosen, CEO of Rosen Hotels, is providing hope in Tangelo Park in Orlando, Florida, where he has established a Pre-kindergarten to College program for the poorest children in that city. He invests $1 million per year to provide educational and other services to these children and their families. He guarantees a college education to any Tangelo Park student who is accepted to college. Many of the District’s children are living in similar neighborhoods with no hope. That’s why I have solicited the support of various community leaders to work with me in bringing the Tangelo Park program to the District. This work must continue.
* We have the best students in the nation. One of the best and most rigorous academic programs in the world is the International Baccalaureate program. When I took the helm at LAUSD, there were 82 of these programs in California and zero in LAUSD. We now have nine programs, but we need to do more. LAUSD students deserve Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs in our secondary schools.
* My passion and commitment have not and will not diminish.
* I am proud and grateful that the Los Angeles Unified School District is better than I found it. As a third-generation college graduate who has benefited from his education, I want the same for all the students of this district. I’m reminded of my favorite hymn: “If can help somebody as I pass along, If I can show somebody that he’s traveling wrong, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, then my living is not in vain.” Live for our children.
Sunday resurrection and roundup
4 years ago