Windmill for May 11, 2006
Today’s meeting was presided by over president-elect Michael Gintz, who was standing in for President Don Nelson, who was away on a golf outing in the desert. A suggestion was made by Mark Block to fine President Don for his absence, but a decision would not be determined until a later date. Michael shared a thought about his recent trip to the Caribbean where he attended a meeting of the Rotary Club of Anguila. He noted that the meeting was conducted in English, with a group of fifteen members who recently completed a bus bench project in their community. They have a similar concern for their youth in their area.
The pledge was led by our Westside YMCA executive Ann Samson. The song “America the Beautiful” was led by Lenny Freidman, accompanied by pianist Jack Harris, who looked quite alive especially after his recent obituary notice in Wednesday’s newspaper. He wished that they had also mentioned that he was a great guy. The invocation was given by Ed Guald.
There were no visiting Rotarians, but we did have several guest of Shane Waarbroek. There was Kevin Badkoubehi, a Century City Lawyer, Tony Klein, who was joining us for the second time, and our speaker, Frank Baxter.
President-elect Michael made several announcements for upcoming events. First, the district assembly will be held on May 20. There will be many good workshops which are very informative for our new members. Please let Michael know if you wish to attend. Second, advertisement in the District Directory is still being accepted. Rates are very reasonable and it is a good way to highlight your businesses. Third, our club has twenty seats available for the July 30 event at the Hollywood Bowl. Please let Michael know if you wish to attend this fun event. Fourth and final announcement was for the July 8 Demotion Party for President Don at the Bel Air Country Club. There will be charge of $80 to your accounts.
Pictures of the recent District Conference are posted on the club website. Please take a look at the fun time our members had.
After a time for fellowship, Shane Waarbroek introduced our speaker Frank Baxter. Mr. Baxter visited our meeting last year when he was at the start of his charter school project in LA County. He is the chairman emeritus of the Jeffries Company, a board member of the Alliance for College Ready Public Schools, a board member of the After School All Stars, a member of the LA Opera, a member of the California Institute of Arts, a trustee of the University of California, and a trustee of the I Have a Dream foundation. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley in economics, and he and his wife Catherine have three children and six grandchildren.
Mr. Baxter started his talk with his thoughts that he has found genuine happiness comes from giving back, and doing things for other people. At last years visit he had asked the question about attendance of our members in public education in comparison to today. With a show of hands, it was evident that many of our members attended public schools for their education, whereas fewer members had children or grandchildren attending public schools. This was reflective of the decrease in public education within the last generation. He noted that schools cannot keep up due to two outdated thoughts. First, the availability of qualified teachers is a misconception. Today they have expanded the number of teachers, but the quality of teachers have declined. The teacher population has increased by 300%, but many teachers scored in the bottom 20% of the SAT, and have a tendency to leave within 5 years. Second, there was a thought that there is a large amount of affordable real estate. Currently public schools are segregated more now, with over half of the students dropping out, or the other half eventually graduate but are not qualified to enter college or the workforce. Unfortunately, students of public schools are a product of a terrible system, leading many parents to enrolling their children in private schools.
There are several things that must be addressed to improve public schools. First, public safety must be improved to prevent many of the best and the brightest students from being attracted to gangs, which currently have over 85K members. Second, education needs to help create a trained labor force. Even though students may graduate, they will not be able to compete based on talent. In comparison, the US educates 65K engineers versus China which produces 300K engineers. Third, teachers need to have the compassion or the commitment to teach.
Twenty years ago, Mr. Baxter joined the I Have a Dream foundation, which assisted in motivating students to attend college. In the beginning students were found to be 3 years behind in their education. With their help, students were performing better than their peers.
His foundation began supporting charter schools in the Oakland and LA areas. Charter schools are funded by the state, but are not under the management of the schools districts. In the LA area there are currently three high schools and one middle school. Enrollment in charter schools is a first come first served or by lottery. Within the first year, they had the highest scores due to good curriculum and a good CEO. Their success was attributed to the following factors which included: 1. The small schools provide personalized attention and safety. 2. The teaching staff has more latitude for their curriculum. 3. There are high expectations for the teachers and students. There are three more schools planned for next year, with 20 more over the next five years. He predicts that over 90% students will graduate and will be college eligible.
Ray Zickfeld asked what the core of his help is. Mr. Baxter noted that he has a talented staff and CEO Judy Burton.
Gordon Fell asked what his goal was. His goal was that every 18 year old would be college or job ready.
Al Bellanca asked if there were any problems with unions. The answer was yes.
Max Lichtenberger noted that in Europe that there is more of an apprenticeship to create a more prepared workforce. The competence of kids is important, with more movement towards the trades.
Shane Waarbroek asked about the affect of illegal immigration. Mr. Baxter indicated that immigration has not had much affect on education. Kids adapt well with limited difficulty in assimilating.
Ray Zickfeld asked how universities are helping charter schools. He noted that local universities could be doing more. Currently CSULA has a math and science school.
A correction to the last Windmill, Wally Frishman served on the USS Dale.