Introducing Speak UP!

My work over the last decade with GoMamaGuide has been mainly to educate and assist parents in navigating the array of public school choices in Los Angeles. But choosing a school is only the first step. I’ve also encouraged you to stay active and involved no matter what kind of school you end up in, to speak up if something doesn’t feel right, and to work together to come up with solutions.

Speak Up logoBuilding on those ideals, I am excited to announce a new collaboration with Speak UP, a grassroots movement of parents and families who want a more powerful voice in shaping education policy in California.

Despite having the greatest numbers AND the greatest vested interest in our kids’ education, parents in California have historically NOT had a meaningful role in education policy decisions and have NOT engaged in the electoral process – even when the results have a direct impact on our children.

*In 2013 barely 1 in 5 registered voters cast ballots in the school board election, and fewer than 4 out of 10 voters were under age 55.

Parents, we’ve basically been ABSENT from the vote. We intend to change that!

We believe parents can be a powerful force for change if we unite and use our collective voice in our schools, communities and at the ballot box. We invite all parents from all types of schools. Our only “special interest” is our collective children.

If you believe that parent voices matter, please become a Speak UP member
(it’s FREE to join) and take our survey so you can help drive our agenda. We’re also looking for parent leaders and ambassadors to work closely with us in your communities.

Let’s spread this movement. Join us today!
http://www.speakupparents.org

Facebook page: /SpeakUpUnitedParents
Twitter: @SpeakUpParents

And no, I’m not abandoning you, I’ll still be offering all things GoMamaGuide. 😉

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Tanya Anton to Present at InnovatED LA This Sat, April 26 at New Roads School

innovatED.LAJoin an amazing group of key Ed innovators and Edupreneurs for a day of presentations, discussions, inspiration and action, as we tackle how to bring change to our middle and high schools. InnovatED.LA‘s inaugural event will be held this Saturday, April 26th, from 9:30a-3p at New Roads School, 3131 Olympic Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90404. Larry Rosenstock, CEO and founding principal of High Tech High, will highlight the event with his keynote presentation. Event organized by IncubatorSchool (LAUSD), PlayMaker School @New Roads, and New Learning Institute of the Pearson Foundation. InnovatED.LA

Among the hand-picked collection of presenters which includes public and private school teachers, school founders, and local innovators, Tanya Anton, founder of GoMamaGuide.com will lead the following workshop:

 Empowered Choices: Transforming Our Schools Together

Our world has expanded, yet our education system has, for the most part, remained flat. Many of us, no longer satisfied with the traditional model of top-down, assessment-driven, fear-based environments, are re-envisioning what school is and can be. With the multitude of options available to us now in the second largest school district in the country, each of us, whether parent or educator, has the potential to become an invaluable partner in shaping the future of “school” as we know it. In this hands-on workshop, we’ll explore our end goals including why we teach and the characteristics we hope to cultivate in students, unpack challenges both immediate and long term, learn how to maximize our communities, and share successful strategies on how to transform our schools.

It’s not too late to register for this event. Join us!
Schedule
InnovatED LA

PS Smart Tip: Be Your Own Best Advocate

This is from a dad I met at a recent talk:

“I went to the prospective parent meeting last month at our elementary school and the misinformation and confusion (about enrollment info) was unsettling to say the least. I’m quickly learning that, as in healthcare, if you are not your own advocate, you (and your kids) are completely screwed.”

I personally refuse to take a fatalistic approach about it all, although yes, I also have plenty of dark thoughts towards the LAUSD machine. However, I personally feel empowered to gather information, speak out, and stay on top of things. We tend to forget that these are OUR schools, OUR kids, OUR tax money. When parents make noise, and are aware of what’s going on, they can’t be so misguided or pushed around. It’s when we stay blind, deaf, immobilized with fear and passivity, that’s when we are controlled and pushed around, thus, as you put it, screwed.

Believe me, with our kids’ education at stake, this IS personal and WE ARE the best advocates they have. Count on it!

Stay strong and carry on! Be vigilant and it will all work out.

I find that a cocktail here or there tends to help.

Incubator School Town Hall This Thurs 6:30p Venice


Have you been hearing about the new Westside middle-high school pilot school, The Incubator School? Want to learn more?

Come to their introductory Town Hall!

Thurs, October 25th, 6:30-8p

826 LA/Sparc Building
685 Venice Blvd,
Venice, CA 90291

.
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-a new, tuition-free, public LAUSD pilot school supported by Future Is Now Schools led by Rock The Vote pioneer and Green Dot founder Steve Barr

-opening in August 2013 on the Westside with grades 6 & 7, and adding a grade per year until they reach 12th

-real wold project-based learning

-creative, entrepreneurial, design thinking-based instruction

-committed to nurturing children’s social drives and ethical inquisitiveness

-utilizing rich, vibrant technology to facilitate collaborative social learning

-partnerships with Silicon Beach companies

-college- and world-ready curriculum, with an interdisciplinary approach
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“Just as an incubator nurtures hatchlings, and a business incubator grows ideas into ventures, The Incubator School will provide kids with the skills, mentors, resources, social connectivity, and ethics to help their fledgling ideas fly. The school’s focus will be design thinking, a process-oriented way of looking at problems, generating ideas, and finding solutions.”
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Come with your questions to the Town Hall this Thursday. Read more about their vision here:  TheIncubatorSchool  Or, Join their FB Page.

PS Smart Tip: Transformation Begins With Visualization

Exhale Stress and Worry… Inhale Joy, Inspiration and a Vision of The Highest

Take in a deep cleansing breath and visualize your children among other children, in happy nurturing environments, excited to be amongst good-hearted caring people, with inspired lessons and wonderful opportunities for learning. Hold this vision for your children, your school, your community.

Collectively these are our schools. And we are creating them, shaping them, as we lean into and visualize the need. And as we fill them with our collective love and care and nurturing, they will soar. And despite the economic downturn, despite all you might hear in the press, many already are. And many more are opening, transforming, filling the need for something new. Because of all of us, together, holding the vision, asking for and creating change. For our collective children. For our future. Because we love them. Because we care.

Because we are all inter-related; not one apart from the other.

moneytree
So let’s hold the highest vision of possible school, and in joy, bring it into fulfillment.

And trust with all this school stuff, it’s gonna be alright!

Because it is.

Hidden Rival to Charter Schools – My Response

Have you read this recent article in the Washington Post?

Hidden Rival to Charter Schools by Jay Mathews

Fascinating. Shows just how frustrated parents are with the traditional, increasingly narrow, test-driven model of education. It’s not working. It hasn’t in a long time. We are collectively, desperately, ready and pining for something new. Even if it means trying something unorthodox or doing it ourselves. I see this all the time speaking to parents and helping them navigate their public school options.

Here in Los Angeles, the forefront of the charter movement and the second largest school district in the country, we’ve also seen an increase in collaborative homeschool study groups with organized educational field trips and social group outings. Many area museums and attractions offer programs/tours designed specifically for the homeschooler, and we also have a couple of hybrid schools that offer a part-time classroom /part-time home study combo.

Parents want options other than the traditional test-driven District model. That is unmistakable. Here’s what I’ve observed:

– communities desperately trying to support, reinvigorate and revitalize their neighborhood school despite the yearly onslaught of budget cuts and set backs, frequently get frustrated by the lack of engaging, inspired teaching and learning, and the unavoidable District policy ceiling they will hit, so they

-explore all their lottery options including magnets, charters or transfers/permits to find the best-possible school option for their children, and failing that they

– band together under a united vision to launch an indie start-up charter where collectively they can participate in an alternative model of education and have the freedom to collaborate on the shaping of their school. However, the space limitations under Prop 39 continually thwart rapid enrollment growth resulting in wait lists in the hundreds for the successful models, not to mention the rather sad lack of facilities (a row of temporary bungalows co-located on the side of another district school, or housed in a church, or concrete business park with no field, no auditorium, no library, few enrichments)

– some find a way to “make it work” and make the best of what they are offered, others frustrated by these options move to another more successful, better-funded public school footprint (if it exists nearby or if they can afford it), and finally having exhausted or summarily rejected all of the above for various reasons

– look into homeschooling options, which run the gamut from filing PSA affidavits, forming co-op home study groups, meet-ups, or utilizing online courses, such as K12, Kahn Academy or CAVA. With the ubiquitous accessibility of technology, I don’t doubt we will be seeing even more online and hybrid education models in the very near future.

There is plenty of research that points to best practices in 21st Century teaching and learning, yet for some reason the policymakers continually reject what the research shows and what the teachers already know, and set public school policy (federal and local) that instead narrows the curriculum and pushes top-down test-driven results, beating the very inspiration, depth and engagement we so desperately seek, out of education altogether.

I personally know my own limitations and don’t homeschool my daughter, but is it any wonder families are exploring any and all alternative options? “Hidden rival” to charter schools sound ominous and overly threatening. I’d say it’s more like growing numbers of families exploring their options and seeking different ones than the traditional model.

What do you think about this trend?

PS Smart Tip: Tame Your Willful Child With Teamwork

 Is your child testing boundaries, talking back to you or showing signs of self-serving behavior at the expense of others? One way to temper these eruptions is to get them involved in team sports where they will have a safe space to channel and release their pent-up feelings and stresses through regular physical exercise. In addition to the obvious health benefits, children will also learn discipline, goal-setting, good sportsmanship, teamwork and respect for the coach, the game, and other players. Hopefully they will build new and lasting connections to their teammates, and gain a sense of confidence and accomplishment as they grow throughout the season.

While it’s important for each of us to feel empowered as an individual, it is equally important to learn to work collaboratively and see our unique contribution as it adds to the whole. Organized sports offer a great opportunity for our kids to get out of their own heads for a while, work towards specific goals, and practice teamwork.

Parent Participation: Know Your Strengths, Know Your Boundaries

by Tanya Anton | GoMamaGuide.com

Now that school is back in full swing, as a public school parent I’ll bet you’re being hit up every which way from Sunday to contribute to your kid’s school. Gone are the days where you drop your kid at the door and expect the school/district/city/state/government to take care of everything else. With reduced budgets and diminished staff, regardless of the type of school you go to, schools need our help. And they are not shy in asking for it.

While parent participation is essential in today’s economy and the best way to build a strong program-rich community at your school, everyone needs to contribute something but it helps to pace yourself so you don’t burn out later.

Ask yourself the following questions: What are your strengths? What are your limitations? What are your boundaries? If you and your partner work full-time and your time is limited, consider writing a lump sum donation to the school.

You can also commit to a monthly payment plan so it is budgeted and spread out over the course of the school year.

If money is tight in your family but you have time to give, consider what you like to do or do best, and give of your time and expertise.

Can you help out in the classroom, or in the office? Can you write grants or the school newsletter after hours? Are you good at organizing or clean up? Can you work in the school garden or lead a fundraising event or man a booth at the upcoming festival? Will you bake cookies or make tamales or sell Tshirts? Can you go after business partnerships and wrangle a technology upgrade for your school? Can you solicit donations or equipment cast-offs or other services or benefits from within your business contacts? Can you chair a committee or mentor some kids or help supervise the play yard? Can you lead a prospective parent tour or special class project or launch an afterschool enrichment program?

We all have something to offer. But we work best when we are doing what we are good at and love to do. Are you a visionary, a connector, a number-cruncher or a worker bee? Do you like to work with kids, with staff, with other parents or alone? Cast your skills wisely and be realistic about the kinds of projects you can take on and the amount of time you can give to the cause. Ask to share duties if you sense you’ve taken on too much.

Every thriving school is surrounded by a strong community of support, both physically and financially. And if everybody offers in a little something, then much can get accomplished without burning out that core few who always manage to do more than everyone else. What is it that you do best and what will you offer to your child’s school? Time, skills, money, or perhaps a combination of all three.

How have you participated in your child’s school? Tell us how. Share your story. You just might inspire someone else.

Want to use this article on your blog or website? You can as long as long as you include this complete blurb with it:
Tanya Anton, author, speaker, public school consultant and advocate, is the creator/founder of GoMamaGuide.com helping parents demystify and navigate their public school options in Los Angeles. To read more articles by Tanya or to learn about her Guidebooks, House Chats, Consultations, and popular Seminars, visit GoMamaGuide.com or email us at GoMama@mac.com.
© 2011 by Tanya Anton, GoMamaGuide.com All Rights Reserved.

Prenatal Boost: The Friends of Playa Vista School

by Tanya Anton | GoMamaGuide.com

Ripple EffectBack in March 2009, I spoke to a group of what I affectionately call “stroller moms” – or moms with toddlers – in Playa Vista, who, like so many of you, were concerned about their future public school choices. Being residents in the recently formed Playa Vista development, they knew there was talk of a new LAUSD school for their community on the horizon, but without it being built yet there were so many unanswered questions.   

What kind of school would it be? What kinds of kids would it serve? Would it meet the needs and high expectations of its residents or should these parents be weighing their odds elsewhere?

With so many unknown variables, you can imagine how hard it would be to feel confident about your neighborhood school, especially when it wasn’t even built yet.

But rather than get discouraged, I shared my experience of working on behalf of a school before my daughter was even old enough to attend, so that by the time she got there we were already part of the revitalization effort. I encouraged these moms to get involved now while the school was being planned, and instead of just taking what was handed to them they had the opportunity to meet and connect with the movers and shakers of the development, the city council, the local district, the district’s Facilities department so they could have a voice in steering decisions, decisions that would directly affect their families. Most importantly, I suggested they think about starting a booster club and begin to organize and fundraise ahead of time so that by the time the school opened in 2012, they’d already be a strong and viable force. It was an inspirational night and I felt the energy in the room, but like so many of my talks, I don’t always hear how things turn out for folks.

This past month (July 2011) I went to see my husband’s band, Venice, aka Pine Mountain Logs, play an outdoor concert in Playa Vista Park. As I walked near the bandshell with my daughter, I noticed a table selling drinks laid with an assortment of papers and info. As I leaned in to get a better look, I saw the “Friends of Playa Vista School” logo and posters and beamed ear to ear like a proud mama. There they were out there galvanizing the hundreds of community members on behalf of their school, the school that wasn’t even born yet. They did it, I thought. They actually did it!

The Friends of Playa Vista School had formed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, created a board and several committees, built a website, email list, and Facebook group. They were out surveying their community members, gathering support and actively engaging participation. They were organized and already advocating for their future neighborhood school. As I read about the school I learned they’d formed a partnership with LMU’s School of Education, Center for Math and Science Teaching, and College of Science and Engineering. The school will have a math, science, and environmental focus, and the facility itself will be a model of environmentally sustainable design with solar panels, recycled water, geothermal heating and cooling, and is slated to become a LEED Gold Certified school, one of only four in LAUSD with this status and the only one on the Westside of LA. The Friends are advocating for it to become a non-traditional Pilot school with certain autonomies from LAUSD, and through perseverance they were able to remove it from the Public School Choice (PSC) 3.0 open bidding process that typically happens to new schools, meaning they’ve maintained control of their school. Nice work ladies! Brava! I couldn’t be more proud.

To read more about Playa Vista Elementary School (PVES or CRES#22) go to:
www.playavistaschool.org
Join their Facebook page: FOPVES
View the school’s sustainable design plan

The lesson we can all look at here is taking an unknown stress-filled challenge and instead of getting stuck there, turning it upside-down into empowered involvement. It’s amazing what we can do on behalf of our collective children when we’re motivated. It requires faith, vision, effort, organization and outreach. But we don’t have to do it alone. Once we become empowered to do something, we become the central catalyst for improvement and change, and then we inspire others around us and it spreads. Inspiration is contagious and ultimately, transformative.

Rather than spiral downward into disengagement and helplessness, we have the choice to spiral upward into empowerment, connection and transformation. 

I know it can seem impossible, one mom against the big giant public school machine, especially in this economy. But take a look around you. What one little piece can you see at your school that speaks to you, that you see potential in, or have a desire to transform? What steps could you take? How can you become a catalyst for positive change? Share your story. We’re all in this together.

© 2011 by Tanya Anton, GoMamaGuide.com All Rights Reserved.