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L.A. Board Adopts Guidelines on School-Based Management

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Los Angeles--The nation's second-largest school system last week moved toward a system of decentralized decisionmaking with the release of guidelines that will enable some schools here to participate in school-based management.

The new guidelines--approved March 26 in a rare unanimous vote by the Los Angeles Board of Education--were explained during a live teleconference broadcast throughout the city by the district's educational television station.

Students were sent home early Thursday to give faculty members, principals, parents, and community members a chance to watch the teleconference and discuss the guidelines.

The program was repeated the same evening for parents unable to watch during the day, accompanied by a simultaneous Spanish-language radio broadcast.

The teleconference, the first of its kind for the district, included presentations by officials of the Los Angeles Unified School District and a panel discussion on school restructuring. Panelists included Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers; Robert Chase, vice president of the National Education Association; and Bill Honig, California's superintendent of public instruction.

Throughout the teleconference, school-board members stressed their commitment to decentralized decisionmaking.

In response to a called-in question, Warren Furutani, a board member, said, "We're putting our lives politically on the line in terms of making this work."

At a press conference after the teleconference, Mr. Honig said: "The most important message I have heard today is that we have to invest money and time in this. You've got to give it two to three years."

Contract Mandated Guidelines

The release of the guidelines for school-based management, which is mandated by the district's contract with United Teachers of Los Angeles, marks a new step in the effort to change the governance of the city's more than 800 schools.

Since last fall, leadership councils in each school--made up of principals, teachers, other school employees, parents, community members, and, in some cases, students--have been making decisions together in five specific areas defined in the teaching contract.

In contrast to the scope of the shared-decisionmaking process, which has been narrow, the guidelines for school-based management are open-ended. Schools may request waivers from federal, state, school-district, or union policy in order to accomplish their goals.

The guidelines call on schools to take into account the district's "multiethnic, multilinguistic" student body. More than 80 percent of the district's students are members of minority groups, and approximately 64 percent are Hispanic.

Up to 70 schools--10 from each of the seven districts represented by the school-board members--will be eligible to move into school-based management. Whether that many will be chosen, however, will depend on the quality of the proposals the board receives, officials said last week.

Schools that submit "requests to participate" must explain what model of shared decisionmaking they would use. They are not required to continue using the model now specified by the teachers'-union contract.

The requests must also include:

A statement of philosophy explaining the school's goals;

A description of the plan for school-based management detailing how it is expected to increase student achievement;

A statement of the rationale for suggesting the changes and a clear definition of their educational impact;

A proposed budget that stays within the school's total allocation;

An explanation of any waivers that would be needed to carry out the plan;

A method for evaluating its success;

An accountability plan defining who will implement and monitor the plan; and

A statement certifying that the school-based-management plan has been approved by the principal, the school's union representative, and a parent or community member of the school's current leadership council.

Proposal Procedures

The approval of the principal and two-thirds of the school's teaching staff is required before the request to participate can be drawn up.

The school-based Management Central Committee, the body established by the contract to write the guidelines for participation in school-based management and to provide training in shared decisonmaking, will review the proposals.

The central council will recommend up to 70 schools to the school board, which will make the final decision on which schools will participate.

To give as many parents and community members as possible a voice in deciding whether to approve a final plan, ballots will be distributed for a formal vote.

The district expects that the final decision on which schools will be selected for school-based management will be made in late August.

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