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LAUSD superintendent’s 100-day plan focuses on academic recovery, new COVID measures

L.A. schools chief Alberto Carvalho pumps his fist surrounded by students.
New LAUSD Supt. Alberto M. Carvalho tours the Maywood Center for Enriched Studies this month. He released an ambitious 100-day plan Thursday.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)
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Los Angeles schools Supt. Alberto Carvalho said Thursday he plans to prioritize the academic recovery needs of students — including year-round learning opportunities — and is devising a set of protocols to scale down costly coronavirus safety measures so that money can be directed to other areas of need.

Carvalho announced his ambitious “100-Day Plan” during his second week at the helm of the L.A. Unified School District. He faces the immediate task of addressing the pandemic’s impact on learning and the social and emotional toll it has taken on students in the nation’s second-largest school system.

“There is an urgency associated with today’s moment,” Carvalho said. “Our students in our schools are facing a crisis, and they do not have 10 years to wait on a system to figure out how it wants to improve.”

Carvalho said he intends to expand access to early childhood education as well as explore initiatives including creating spring break and winter break academies at schools serving the students with the highest needs, creating optional year-round educational institutions. He also spoke about expanding the school year by providing additional days of instruction and professional development, which he acknowledged would require union negotiations.

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As part of the plan, the district will also begin to develop steps to relax some coronavirus safety measures, including mandatory testing, in alignment with public health experts, taking into account high vaccination rates among students and staff and the prevalence of the coronavirus within the community.

The plan also outlines long-term goals, including establishing a five-year strategic plan and creating a system in which principals report directly to Carvalho and his cabinet with the goal of strengthening student achievement at each school and increasing data analysis to make better decisions.

“I want to condense five years’ worth of work into four years,” he told reporters Thursday. “So these first 100 days are critically important.”

Carvalho introduced his plan at an online welcome reception that included community activists who implored him to target the issues at the heart of the new leader’s framework. They called on him to close the academic achievement gap separating white and Asian students from their Black and Latino peers and to target help to those who most need it.

As part of the 100-day plan, Carvalho will hold “listen-and-learn sessions” across each board and local district and participate in focus groups with parents, students and district employees. He also pledged to create a Parent Academy, an independent program that will offer courses to help parents navigate their children’s education. And he wants to expand universal preschool and transitional kindergarten in high-need areas, which he believes is a first step to boosting graduation rates.

He also intends to:

  • Direct the district to fill staffing shortages at schools with the highest needs by fall 2022.
  • Conduct data review meetings for each school.
  • Partner with Los Angeles County officials and organizations to increase mental health resources for students and staff, such as therapy, grief counseling and substance-abuse treatment.
  • Analyze transportation options including offering more busing to provide families with access to more schooling options.

Carvalho said some of his long-term goals include reducing class sizes for students who most need support.

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He said his plans took into account existing budget limitations and would rely on moving funds to other purposes and on increased efficiency. He noted that only a small percentage of the 40,000 students who qualify for school transportation are taking advantage of the rides. He thinks more students could be added to the buses without increased cost. He’d like to provide transportation to students who want to attend a school two or more miles away. Currently, students must live at least five miles from a campus to be potentially eligible.

Carvalho also spoke of moving toward a system in which principals will get what they need quickly — and then be expected to use the resources effectively. But this process would not likely result in massive administrative turnover, he predicted. There would not be, he said, the “hurricane-style sweep” of change that Miami-Dade County Public Schools experienced when he took over there in 2008. Carvalho said he intends to build a direct line of communication with principals, whom he views as key to increasing student achievement.

“That direct connection of accountability to me and my entire cabinet is a significant shift from any practice that I’ve observed at LAUSD,” he said.

School board member Nick Melvoin said he was excited about the “ambitious but feasible” plan.

“I’m excited about what’s in the plan,” Melvoin said. “I think it aligns nicely with the board goals and other board priorities over the preceding years.”

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