When I say AALA, think Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, not Allah. This was no mosque, after all.
The AALA Fall Reception took place last Wednesday at the Plaza Center at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Maybe, with Pope Francis making the most sense of anyone in the halls of Congress last week, AALA was hoping some of that holy mojo would rub off on all the board members, senior district staff and administrators present. There was no mention of any sacredness of the spot by AALA president, Juan Flecha, separation of church and state and all. Still, it was not business as usual.
The AALA event was rousing. The speakers--especially the board members--seemed inspired.
California State Superintendent, Tom Torlakson offered a benediction of sorts and then the more personal messages followed. Board President Steve Zimmer, with his usual preachy oratorical flare, paid tribute to the superintendent.
"What Ray Cortines has done is one of the most incredible acts of public service I have ever seen," Zimmer said. He went on to thank the administrators, particularly in light of the horrific news of the high number of shootings in Los Angeles neighborhoods over the weekend, for being the rock that students and families lean on in such times. He reminded everyone there that school is the center of many communities.
Zimmer closed by reassuring the administrators in the wake of the privateers' declaration of war against LAUSD, saying, "We are going to walk through this fire together."
George McKenna offered the parables and personal anecdotes to which we've become accustomed. "We can't just fight to fight; we have to fight to win. When the elephants fight, only the grass gets trampled," he said.
McKenna's best line, which seemed to either search for encouragement or to serve as a warning, was, "We're either going to be the seven board members or we are going to be the seven dwarves. And I am not going to be Dopey!"
Monica Ratliff shared her uplifting comparison of those in attendance to the administrators she's now working with in a nearby school district. She said she had hoped to take a part time job outside LAUSD to bring in some great ideas but reported that she has witnessed no miracles.
"You experience challenges that many [administrators] in many districts do not." Ratliff also lamented, "We don't see a lot of news about how fantastic our principals are."
If it's true that God helps those who help themselves, perhaps the miracle was prophesied by the newest board member, Scott Schmerelson. He thanked AALA members for being the first to endorse him in his election.
A retired principal, Schmerelson's folksy remarks sounded typical at first: "I think it's very important that we model good behavior."
But then, like in a Catholic funeral mass, when a crescendo lifts the deceased into the heavens, Schmerelson led the charge: "There is to be no bullying anywhere in LAUSD. And that is not just for kids. We need to expose those bullies and embarrass them. And there is a big bully running around and his name is Eli Broad. And he will not bully us."
The audience seemed overjoyed. Or maybe that was the angels singing.