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LAUSD chooses Ref Rodriguez president

Ref Rodriguez (center) with friends and family just after being named school board president. (Courtesy LA School Report)

The new members of the LA Unified school board were inducted Thursday, and the board’s first votes — on who would be their leader — broke along expected lines. The pro-reform majority exercised its muscle, voting 4-3 to elect as their president Ref Rodriguez, the co-founder one of LA’s largest charter school organizations.
But immediately after that, a more unified board was on display when Rodriguez’s resolution declaring LA Unified “a district that puts kids first” passed 6-1.
Together, the votes revealed the power of the new majority but also showed that the unity Rodriguez called for was attainable.
In two sets of votes on the presidency, new members Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez joined Mónica García in supporting Rodriguez. Three incumbents — who have spoken of charter schools as threats to the district and who were elected with teacher union support — voted for Richard Vladovic, who had previously served as president. All three also cast votes against Rodriguez’s presidency.
Vladovic was nominated by Scott Schmerelson, who beat pro-reform candidate Tamar Galatzan two years ago when Rodriguez unseated union-backed Bennett Kayser. In the vote for president, Vladovic was supported by George McKenna, the board’s previous vice president. The vote on Vladovic was up first and was rejected by the four pro-reform candidates.
“I wouldn’t read too much into this first vote, it’s not necessarily an indication of what’s yet to come,” Vladovic told LA School Report as the board was heading into its first closed session. “I am just philosophically opposed to the way this board has been operating with resolutions, and I will keep making my point over and over again until they let the superintendent do her job.”
Before the individual votes for Rodriguez and Vladovic were cast, Gonez asked that each of the candidates make their case for president. Vladovic, who had previously served as superintendent for another school district, as had McKenna, said that he didn’t like the way board members at LA Unified set out resolutions for the superintendent to follow, rather than letting Michelle King do her job.
“We should stop running the district by resolution, and we need the superintendent to do her job and hold her to it, and if I became president I would call out people who bring up resolutions,” Vladovic said. “I feel very sternly about that, you need the superintendent to do her job and you hold her accountable.”
Vladovic said the district is heading toward “tumultuous times” and said he could “provide the support the superintendent will need.”
King has often sought out the advice of the board to make decisions, but many directions to her have come through resolutions, like García’s resolution at last month’s meeting on redistributing federal Title I money to schools with the most disadvantaged students.
Rodriguez said during the meeting that he always appreciated Vladovic’s advice. In a conference call for media later in the day, he said of the three who voted against his presidency, “I don’t want them to see me as aligned with three other people that don’t include them.” He added, “I don’t see them as anti-charter.”
He also said he wanted the school board meetings to take less time and that he is considering “chunking meetings” together and having two a month instead of one long one, “to make the business of the people go much faster.” He said he might break off the charter school hearings for days and times that parents would be able to attend.
He remarked that he was noted for not saying much during meetings but said, “I was listening and learning to constituents and colleagues.” He added, “We have to be a better version of ourselves on the board.”
Rodriguez, who is also a past principal, voiced his support for labor unions as he noted the upcoming contract negotiations.

“I truly believe we can get to 100 percent graduation, and I have no doubt about being able to make them all college-ready,”

he said. “This board can do it. I want to be your captain.”
Saying it was “for the children,” García voted for Rodriguez. Gonez said she liked what he said about “bringing us all together.”
“I have no doubt that Ref will do a good job,” Vladovic said.
But despite voting against Rodriguez as LAUSD president, Vladovic supported him on the resolution because he said that the superintendent was well on her way to doing what the resolution called for anyway. The resolution passed 6-1 with only McKenna opposed. Gonez, Melvoin, and García all voted for it and asked to be added as co-sponsors, something Melvoin said he just learned he could do.
One of the requirements in the resolution — called the “Los Angeles Unified Learning, Leading, and Succeeding for Students” resolution — calls on the superintendent to develop a “Student Impact Statement” for every item that comes before the board, particularly for how each item will impact low-income students, English learners, foster youth, African-Americans, and special education students.
The resolution aims for 100 percent of the district’s parents to sign up by the end of the 2018-19 school year for the LAUSD Parent Access Support System Portal (PASSport), which shows how a student is progressing and what requirements are needed to graduate. The resolution also calls for the creation of a $20 million philanthropically supported fund to provide high-quality and teacher-led professional development to improve outcomes in literacy, math, and science.
McKenna said he thought that dollar figure was arbitrary but said, “I am a strong believer that when you pay attention to those of greatest needs, immediately everybody benefits and it helps everyone.”
In the afternoon media call, Rodriguez said the resolution “was a great opportunity to move things forward” and “helps the board to make sure we are talking about kids at our meetings.” He said he wanted to “connect for the public” how the board’s actions impact children and student achievement outcomes.
He added, “It’s about setting the table for what’s coming ahead. It will show how things affect children, and we will tackle fiscal stability head on.”
Rodriguez blamed the media for creating divisiveness among the board and said, “Every time I read anything about the board we always hear how we are anti-charter and pro-charter and are a divided board. … Things are so much more complicated than that. Charters are part of the portfolio of many schools we have.”
He added, “It’s about high quality for all kids, not one way of doing schools. We need to create a bar and make sure that we all rise up to it.”
Rodriguez asked García to be vice president and appointed all the other board members to be LAUSD representatives for other boards. McKenna declined his appointment to the California School Board Association, which meets in December.
In closed session, the school board agreed to authorize settlement negotiations in a case supported by the ACLU, the Community Coalition vs. LAUSD. The case accuses the district of violating state law by not properly using Local Control Funding Formula money that’s targeted to low-income, English learners and foster youth. The board agreed unanimously to settle the case, and the settlement deal will be made public.
Although he said he couldn’t talk about the details, Rodriguez said, “I personally wanted to move forward with this and focus on important things we have on our agenda and want some closure here.”
Rodriguez is not the first openly gay LAUSD school board president. Jeff Horton was elected in 1991 and came out after he was on the board, and Jackie Goldberg served as president of the board during her term on the board.
“It is important for me to be public about my sexuality and my husband and my family and their acceptance of me,” Rodriguez said on the media call. “I want to be a model for young people and show that, whether you are gay or Latino or anything, you can accomplish anything with pride.”
His parents attended Thursday’s meeting and also visited his Beaudry headquarters office for the first time, which he said deeply impacted his mother.
“Imagine, this is a woman who was a peanut farmer in Mexico. Her son is sitting here making decisions about 700,000 kids and affecting their lives,” Rodriguez said. “She was moved — and I was moved by seeing her moved.”

Rob Kardashian “put on notice” by Blac Chyna attorney Bloom

Lisa Bloom, attorney for Blac Chyna is set to take reality TV star Rob Kardashian to court on Monday.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Two days after former paramour Rob Kardashian posted
explicit photos and messages about her on social media, Blac Chyna lawyered
up today, with noted civil-rights attorney Lisa Bloom announcing she will head
to court Monday to request a restraining order against the reality-TV
“I just gave Rob Kardashian notice that we’ll be in court Monday
seeking restraining orders against him,” Bloom wrote on her Twitter page.
In a statement, she accused Kardashian of revenge porn and cyberbullying.
“Chyna ended your relationship months ago and she has the right to live
as she chooses, work as she chooses, dress as she chooses, date who she
chooses and be intimate with who she chooses,” Bloom said. “Chyna and I both
believe that this is an important women’s rights issue, as too many women and
girls have been slut-shamed by exes.”
Kardashian was briefly engaged to Chyna, 29, and fathered a child with
her last year.
According to legal documents cited by TMZ.com, Chyna contends Kardashian
posted confidential personal information about her online, and also
physically assaulted her in front of her son in April.
On Wednesday, Kardashian, 30, posted a series of explicit photos on
Instagram and accused Chyna of infidelity and drug abuse. Some observers have
suggested that the posts, which have since been taken down, could open up to
criminal action under California’s “revenge porn” law.
Kardashian — younger sibling of reality television stars Kim, Kourtney
and Khloe Kardashian — and Chyna had a yearlong relationship in 2016. They
began dating in January, had a daughter in November and broke up in December.
After his Instagram posts were taken down Wednesday, Kardashian took to
Twitter to lash out.
“Loved Chyna as my wife and accepted all the wrong she did and
continued to ride for her and remain loyal to her. Never did I cheat,” he
wrote. “But she couldn’t remain loyal and cheated and (expletive) way too many
people and she got caught and now this is all happening and its sad.
“We had a beautiful baby girl that was the best thing that’s happened
to me and soon as that baby was born Chyna was out,” he wrote. “… I truly
thought Chyna wanted to be a family and that’s why I was so loyal to her but I
learned my lesson and everyone else was right.”
Kardashian has appeared on the television show “Keeping Up with the
Kardashians” and was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.”

L.A. crime rises less than 1 percent

LAPD officials said that from 2014 through 2016, violent crime rose 37.5 percent and total crime rose 21 percent.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Overall crime in the city of Los Angeles has risen less than one percent through the first half of the year, an improvement over the previous three years that saw more significant spikes in crime, Los Angeles
Police Department Chief Charlie Beck said today.

From 2014 through 2016, violent crime rose 37.5 percent and total crime rose 21 percent.

“We think we are making progress in the city of Los Angeles,” Beck told the Board of Police Commissioners while giving them the statistics. Through July 1, homicides have risen 2 percent compared with the same time period last year, rapes have gone down 9 percent, robberies have gone up 4 percent and assaults have been about even, Beck said. Property crime was up .7 percent. Crime in the city fell every year from 2005 through 2013, going from 489 homicides to 251, and 31,767 violent crimes to 16,524. The numbers started to rise in 2014, and in 2016 the city registered 294 homicides and 28,084 violent crimes.

Heat wave creates dangerous situation in L.A. region


LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The Southland slipped into the grips of another heat
wave today, with Los Angeles County temperatures forecast to reach triple-
digit territory in several communities and to be even higher Friday and over
the coming days.

National Weather Service forecasters said the high heat that will plague
the region for the next several days is the result of an upper-level high-
pressure system parked over parts of the southwestern United States.

“Very warm overnight temperatures are also expected during this heat
wave, increasing the possibility of heat stress. The warmest overnight lows
will be in the foothills and lower mountain areas where lows in the mid 70s to
mid 80s will be common,” according to an NWS statement.

“It is still too early to predict just how long this heat wave will
last. However, the mountains and deserts will remain well above normal through
Sunday and possibly into early next week.”

A heat advisory will be in force until 9 a.m. Friday in the San Gabriel
Mountains, the Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area and the San Fernando
and San Gabriel valleys, immediately followed by a more serious excessive heat
warning scheduled to last until 9 p.m. Saturday. The excessive heat warning
will be in effect in the Antelope Valley at the same time.

“The very high temperatures will create a dangerous situation in which
there is an increased threat of heat related illnesses. The extended heat wave will also bring elevated fire weather conditions through the weekend,” the statement said.

Forecasters urged Southland residents to protect themselves and their
loved ones from what will be oppressive heat. People who work outside should
schedule strenuous activity for early morning and evening hours, wear loose-
fitting clothing, drink lots of water and take frequent breaks.

Residents are also urged to check on relatives and neighbors and never,
ever leave kids, seniors or pets in a parked car, even with the windows cracked
open, because a vehicle’s interior can quickly reach lethal levels in the heat.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued similar
recommendations and also urged people living without air conditioning to take
advantage of cooling centers, shopping malls and libraries to stay cool. A list
of cooling centers is available online at www.publichealth.lacounty.gov or by
calling 211.

The NWS forecast sunny skies in Los Angeles County today and highs of
77 at LAX; 86 in Avalon; 87 in Downtown L.A. and Long Beach; 94 in San Gabriel;
95 in Pasadena and on Mount Wilson; 96 in Burbank; 103 in Saugus; 104 in
Woodland Hills; 106 in Palmdale; and 108 in Lancaster.

Temperatures will rise only marginally in the Antelope Valley Friday but
climb substantially in other communities. Downtown, for instance, will go
from 87 today to 96 Friday, Pasadena from 95 to 102, San Gabriel from 94 to
104, Woodland Hills from 104 to 110, and Saugus from 103 to 108.

Sunny skies were also forecast in Orange County today, along with
highs of 73 in Laguna Beach and San Clemente; 74 in Newport Beach; 89 in
Irvine; 91 in Mission Viejo; 92 in Anaheim. 94 in Yorba Linda; and 95 in
Fullerton. Orange County temperatures will also be higher Friday, when
Fullerton will hit 100 and Yorba Linda 101.

South Pasadena celebrates Route 66, bashes 710


Organizers of the 36th Annual July 4th Balloon Festival in South Pasadena made the 710 Freeway a central part of a theme that centered on Route 66 nostalgia.

Thousands gathered on Mission Avenue to cheer on a procession that included police cars, motorcycles, VIPs, music, student displays and so on. Most carried a ballon.

At its endpoint outside the city library City Councilman Robert Joe pointed out that the July 4 parade is a great way for all families to participate, celebrate, give thanks and continue to help build a great country.

South Pasadena resident Tang Weiming was among those on hand, cheering the South Pasadena High School swim team which participated in the parade.

But, the parade did not forget politics. State Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena, took a solid stand carrying a banner that proclaimed “Against 710 Extension”. But while Portantino and many others bashed plans to build a portion of 710 extension through South Pasadena, they also praised South Pasadena’s role as a destination on the now-decommissioned Route 66, and reminded all that their community isn’t against transportation, it seeks alternatives.

Should GOP Health Bill Prevail, Say Bye-Bye To Insurance Rebates

Rebates could end under the Senate health care proposal — now on hold until after the July Fourth holiday — to repeal the ACA.

If Senate GOP leaders have their way, the check may not be in the mail.

Many consumers collected unexpected rebates after the Affordable Care Act became law, possibly with a note explaining why: Their insurer spent more of their revenue from premiums on administration and profits than the law allowed, so it was payback time.

More than $2.4 billion has been returned to customers since the provision went into effect in 2011, averaging about $138 per family in 2015.

Those rebates could end under the Senate proposal — now on hold until after the July Fourth holiday — to repeal the ACA.

Insurers consider the requirement — known as the medical loss ratio (MLR) — onerous, and some had to change the way they do business because of it. To be sure, the rule didn’t resonate much with consumers, even if they received a rebate, because the amounts were relatively small, possibly enough to cover a family dinner out.

The MLR has fans among policy experts, who say it pushes insurers to be more efficient and creates a better value.

“When they struggle to pay premiums, when they’re making those sacrifices, [consumers] want most of the value of those premiums to go to actual medical care,” said Mila Kofman, a former insurance commissioner in Maine, who now runs the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority.

Like much else related to the ACA, the provision was controversial from the start. It states that insurers can spend no more than 15 percent of their customer revenue on administration and profits when selling large group plans to employers, or 20 percent for individual coverage. If plans exceed this mark, they have to pay back the excess, either to employers or to people who bought coverage from them on the individual market. Employers who got rebates for their work-based plans could decide how to redistribute the money as long as it was used to benefit employees.

The Senate GOP health proposal, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, would end that requirement in 2019 and let states decide whether to continue such limits and rebates.

In some ways, this change would be a gift to insurers.

The provision, as is, “limits their profitability” and, along with other factors, may have contributed to an exodus of plans from some markets, explained Christopher Condeluci, of CC Law & Policy in Washington.

“By allowing states to craft more flexible” rules, the Senate measure may make it “easier for insurers to operate,” said Condeluci, who served as tax and benefits counsel to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee when the ACA was being drafted.

From the start, insurers argued the one-size-fits-all rule was too strict and sought the broadest possible definition of medical expenses. Supporters maintained it could help slow premium increases or at least make them more in line with the underlying growth of medical costs. This point is “really important,” said Tim Jost, an emeritus law professor who studies the health care law and serves as a consumer advocate before the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

When the ACA took effect, health care inflation had slowed, but “insurers were still regularly raising premiums far above the actual growth in claims,” he said. “They were making a huge profit.”

The first year the provision was in effect, insurers paid more than $591 million in rebates for policies covering more than 8.8 million customers, averaging $98 per family. Not all insurers exceeded the limit, and the amount of rebates varied by insurer and state.

Over time, the number of customers in plans that exceeded the limit fell but was still nearly 5 million at last count.

The reason: Insurers both trimmed administrative costs and, in some cases — especially in the individual market — saw their spending on sicker-than-expected customers rise, making it less likely they would exceed limits. Indeed, some insurers were spending more than 90 percent of revenue on medical costs by 2014, according to a report by the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Some insurers have also reported losses on their individual market coverage.

Before the ACA, many states set rules on how much of their premium revenue insurers must spend on medical care — although those rules often did not apply to job-based insurance. The amounts varied, and they were often lower than what the ACA requires. North Dakota, for example, required 55 percent of revenue be spent on medical care, while New Jersey set the percentage at 80, according to a 2010 issue brief in the journal Health Affairs.

Like many other aspects of the Senate bill, the impact on consumers would vary by state.

The Congressional Budget Office, in its review of the bill, predicted that about half of people live in states that would maintain the current requirement. Others would loosen it and allow a greater share of premium costs to go toward administrative costs and profits. “In those states, in areas with little competition among insurers, the provision would cause insurers to raise premiums and would increase federal costs for subsidies through the marketplaces,” noted the CBO. The analysis also said the provision would have “little effect” on the number of people who have insurance.

Trial scheduled in Monkees band lawsuit

A musician is suing two surviving members of the Monkees because of how she was fired.

Trial is scheduled in musician Aviva Maloney’s lawsuit against two surviving members of the 1960s band the Monkees.

She alleges she was fired in a four-minute phone call after playing with the band for nearly 20 years and later was told it was because she didn’t look good onstage.

She’s suing Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, Warner Music Group and others involved with the
band’s tours.

Pasadena agrees to settle civil rights case


The City of Pasadena agreed to settle a civil rights suit in the amount of $300,000 for plaintiffs Michelle Rodgers and Selah Chavet, who were wrongfully arrested as a result of a dispute involving Rodgers and her brother, a Pasadena Police Sergeant. The women were represented by John Burton, a nationally recognized police misconduct litigator, and William Paparian, former Mayor of Pasadena.

“What happened here was really outrageous,” Paparian said. “The City Council ultimately did the right thing by settling this civil rights claim after mediation. These women are innocent victims of a department that has continually rewarded problem police officers instead of disciplining them.”

In March 2015 police officers handcuffed and jailed Rodgers and Chavet after Pasadena Sgt. Michael Bugh made a false report about a disturbance at the home of Rodgers’ and Bugh’s mother. The arrest came just 10 days after Rodgers filed a personnel claim with the Pasadena Police Department against Bugh. In the claim, Rodgers said Bugh abused his position as a police officer in an attempt to gain control of their family trust.

The dispute began on Feb. 27, 2015. Rodgers was falsely arrested by Pasadena police officers including Sgt. Keith Gomez on information supplied by Bugh, who alleged elder financial abuse. At the time of the arrest, Bugh headed the Pasadena Police Department’s financial crimes unit and supervised the police officers investigating his sister.

In a personnel claim filed with Pasadena PD against Bugh, Rodgers called the arrest a “preemptive strike by my brother Sgt. Michael Bugh to attempt to silence me,” She noted that Bugh hoped to prevent Rodgers from protecting the assets of the family trust.

Rodgers also said her brother “abused his position as a police officer for personal gain.” The March arrest of Rodgers and Chavet followed the filing of the personnel claim.

Ultimately the Los Angeles District Attorney rejected the elder abuse case and the Pasadena City Prosecutor rejected the trespassing case.

“The actions of the officers are part of a larger malady within the City and PPD wherein Chief Sanchez and his predecessor have allowed officers to treat the PPD as a personal fiefdom,” Paparian said.

Former Chinatown basketball coach sentenced to prison

Tony Wong, a former youth basketball coach was handed a two-year state prison sentence for molesting a boy more than a decade ago.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A former youth basketball coach in the Chinatown
area of Los Angeles was handed a two-year state prison sentence today for
molesting a then-teenage boy who played for his team more than a decade ago.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dorothy B. Reyes also ordered Tony
Wong, 62, to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

The victim, who is now in his late 20s, told the judge that he had no “real direction” in his life before he joined the Alpine Recreation Center’s basketball team coached by Wong, whom he described as the  “closest father figure I’ve had in my life.”

He said that he has subsequently lost friends who feel sympathy or
loyalty to Wong and that his mom feels like she’s a failure for not preventing
the crimes, which occurred between January and August 2004 at the recreation
center and in hotel rooms when the team traveled.

The young man’s sister described her brother as suffering “a betrayal”
of trust.

“It hurts to watch him suffer through it,” she said.

Wong pleaded no contest May 17 to three counts of committing lewd acts
on a child. Nine other counts involving the same victim were dismissed as a
result of Wong’s plea.

Wong was arrested last July 27 by Los Angeles police and released later
that day on a $240,000 bond.

He was handcuffed and taken to a courtroom lockup immediately after
today’s hearing to begin serving his sentence.

Dunkirk film goes big with 70mm release

The evacuation of Dunkirk.

BURBANK (CNS) – Director Christopher Nolan’s latest film “Dunkirk”
will have the widest 70MM release in 25 years, Warner Bros. Pictures announced

Directors such as Nolan and Quentin Tarantino are well-known fans of the
70MM film format, which is hailed for having higher resolution and better
visual impact that the more common digital showings.

Nolan is best known for films such as “Interstellar,” “Inception”
and the “Dark Knight” trilogy of Batman films.

Tickets for 70MM showings of “Dunkirk” went on sale Wednesday morning.
Tickets for regular showings will go on sale Friday. The film opens July 21.

Warner Bros. officials said the 70MM projection will make audiences
“feel they are a part” of the action in the film’s portrayal of an effort to
rescue British and Allied troops on the beaches of World War II Dunkirk. The
film’s cast features Harry Styles, Fionn Whitehead and Tom Hardy.

A full list of theaters in the United States and Canada offering 70MM
showings is available online at www.dunkirkmovie.com.