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Student Voice Project

August 2012

Is USC safe?

new documentary

by Alex Lau

Staff Writer

A wrongful death lawsuit and an upcoming murder trial have called into question the safety and security of students at the University of Southern California. Parents of two Chinese International Students who were murdered in April filed a wrongful death lawsuit against USC for giving misleading information about campus safety. Police arrested Bryan Barnes, 20, and Javier Bolden, 19, suspected of killing Qu Ming and Wu Ying. The trial is set for Sept. 20. As of July 26, students had mixed reactions about campus security. Xuan Sun, an international student from Shanghai, was initially worried when she heard the news of the two Chinese students. “I applied for on campus housing so I could be protected by the Department of Public Safety,” she said. Nathaniel Schermerhorn, a senior, said he considers USC a safe campus. “Walking to and from my apartment off-campus at night has never been a problem. The area I live in is extremely welllit. We have CSC (security) officers in the yellow jackets leading from campus to the street that I live on.” Since the shooting, USC and LAPD have added 30 new officers to the Southwest Division as well as more security cameras to monitor the area.

Voters urge feds to support schools by Jose Costanza, Van Han, Jeffrey Knepper

Staff Writers

Tourists, college students, recent high school graduates and a construction worker interviewed Thursday on the USC campus offered opinions about what government should do for public schools, with most saying that Washington should play a stronger role in education. “Public education is (about) ensuring … (the) future and stability of the country,” said Cassandra Ziskind, a USC graduate student in education. Interviewees were asked why they felt education should be supported by the government, and they responded with variety of opinions that referred to the education budget, job stability, family support, selfresponsibility, societal health, and high-quality education.

Volume 2, Issue 1

Art inspires homeless Latina in "Inocente"

photo courtesy of Seligman Consulting

Innocent voice Documentary sheds light on one girl's struggles with poverty.

be grateful for what we have,” said Ruano, a student at the Ambassador School of Global Leadership in Los Angeles. Producers hope that “Inocente” inspires young people while encouraging lawmakers to act on issues related to teens and homelessness. “Immigration is the civil rights issue of our time,” said Naomi Seligman, president and founder of Los Angelesbased Seligman Consulting, which is handling publicity and outreach for the documentary. Seligman said she hopes the message of being positive and loving oneself resonates with young viewers. She became involved with the project through her work with organizations such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), the California League of Conservation Voters, and the Student Voice Project, where

by Carmen Anders

Staff Writer

She dreams of being a professional artist but is undocumented and fears being deported. She has a father who has already been deported for domestic abuse. She has a mother, who has lost the will to live. The story of a young girl who struggles with homelessness but finds solace and inspiration in art is the subject of “Inocente,” a documentary to be aired on Aug. 17 at 10 p.m. on MTV. The tension in the film revolves around Inocente meeting a deadline for an art show that could possibly jumpstart her career, while dealing with her reality of poverty, homelessness, and a strained relationship with her mother. Felix Ruano, 17, viewed a trailer for the film. It “sheds a light on how our peers are worse off than us and we should

See INNOCENTE, page 2

Angelenos react to pot decision by Carmen Anders, Caroline Rhude and Patrick O'Donnell

Staff Writers

Angelenos – from an 18-yearold college student to a 68-year-old disabled grandfather – reacted Thursday to a city council decision on Tuesday to force the closure of medical marijuana dispensaries. “It (pot dispensaries) shouldn’t be around because a lot of people exploit it,” said Luz Martin del Campo, 18, a college student at Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles. “People abuse and sell.” The city council voted 14-0 July 24 to approve a proposal by Councilman Jose Huizar that would effectively shut down all medical marijuana clubs in the city. According to Councilman Paul Krekorian, Los Angeles’ 762 medical pot dispensaries — which he said outnumbered Starbucks’ coffee shops in 2009 — attract crime,

are difficult to regulate, and sell to healthy young adults who don’t require pot for health ailments. Not everyone agrees. “It’s better than drinking,” argued Donald Hopkins, 68 year-old Auto Club shipping and handling receiver. “I do smoke myself for (my) physical (well-being). I can’t eat without it,” said Elizabeth Garcia, a 30-year-old mother of three. Adding that she and her husband are marijuana card holders, she said, “we really don’t like going out on the street … it (buying marijuana) causes a lot of violence.” Banning pot dispensaries would curb recreational use and allow individuals who truly require medicinal marijuana to grow their own, according to Huizar. According to a 2009 report published by the American Medical Association (AMA), “Use of

Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes”, medical marijuana has been found to be effective in reducing neuropathic pain, improving appetite and caloric intake in patients with reduced muscle mass, and relieving pain in patients with multiple sclerosis. All 762 medical pot dispensaries are slated to close within 30 days after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signs the proposal. Dispensaries existing before a 2007 moratorium could be granted immunity under an exemption sought by the mayor. According to police Chief Charlie Beck, the city council’s unanimous vote Tuesday was meant to ensure community safety with the “least amount of litigation.” However, some Angelenos believe a dispensary ban may provide opportunity for a black market, resulting in more crime and violence.

A marijuana dispensary in 2011 in Denver. LA's city council voted to ban such dispensaries.

photo by O'Dea at Wikimedia

Commons/Creative Commons



friday night fever

teachers speak out

Journalism coach

Los Angeles disco lovers do the downtown hustle

Educators voice opinions on pressing education issues

Andrew Gumbel shares expertise with LA teachers

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A publication of The Student Voice Project

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Please recycle


August 2012


Teachers plan to revive journalism at Crenshaw H.S. On the job

by Antonia Guzman

An unidentified media student from Crenshaw High School films in Los Angeles. More students will get the chance to learn journalism skills if plans succeed for a new afterschool journalism program at Crenshaw High Schoool.

Staff Writer

photo by Kirby Winslow

provide students with the skills necessary to capture the voices in their community through television and radio. He believes this will build bridges between communities, and help youth become active members of society. Cheeseborough is diligent when it comes to building partnerships to continue his mission. At Crenshaw, his partnership with the Children Youth and Family Collaborative has provided a place to offer the journalism pro-

gram after school. CYFC serves the community by offering after school tutoring, mentoring, and field trips. Cheeseborough listens to the needs in the community and does what he can to find the resources to make things happen. “You can’t serve the community unless we know what the community needs,” Cheeseborough said. Cheeseborough and O’Donnell spent two weeks this summer at the Scholastic Journalism Institute,

a Student Voice Project program where they learned journalism basics and helped to produce a website and newspaper. Both teachers plan to use their new journalism skills to create an online publication, which will be part of Crenshaw’s afterschool program. The opportunity will be open to all Crenshaw students. Cheeseborough is in talks with administrators over the possibility of giving students who participate independent study credit for work-

Journalism is back at Crenshaw High School. That’s the headline that two teachers, Patrick O’Donnell and Martin Cheeseborough, hope to write this year when they launch a student website at one of Los Angeles’ largest high schools. O’Donnell, who teaches 10th and 11th grade English at Crenshaw, credited Martin Cheeseborough, his teaching partner, for getting journalism jumpstarted at Crenshaw, which had approximately 1,500 students during the 2011-12 school year. Last May, 30 students approached Cheeseborough, the video and multimedia productions ROP teacher, about re-establishing the journalism program at their school. Crenshaw’s student newspaper died two years ago. “Martin got me excited about it and the students are self-motivated, so it makes it so worth it,” said O’Donnell, 30. Cheeseborough, 55, believes strongly in empowering youth through technology and media. In 2001, he founded the Media Aid Center, a non-profit organization that provides media production help to south Los Angeles youth. The organization helps develop partnerships between schools and professionals to bring much needed equipment such as cameras, microphones, and software to classrooms throughout the county. “Give a student a camera and wow, it’s magical,” Cheeseborough said. Cheeseborough’s mission is to

Obituary: Willis Edwards, a 'fixer' who pushed hard for civil rights

Photo courtesy of Willis Edwards family, used with permission

by Martin Cheeseborough Staff Writer

Willis Edwards, a civil rights leader who opened doors for African Americans from Washington to Wall Street to Main Street, died July 21 after a long battle with cancer. He was 66. With a personal manner that was bold, direct, and yet understated, Willis Edwards accomplished more in a single phone call than most people do in a week of negotiation. And his accomplishments were many: Creating The Image Awards on NBC, arranging Rosa

Parks’ funeral, and contributing — frequently — to a wide range of political and charitable causes. Edwards was connected. He was classmates with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and District Attorney Steve Cooley; and he even had First Lady Hillary Clinton’s cell phone number on speed dial. The Los Angeles Times Magazine profiled Edwards in 2002, calling him “The Fixer” for his influence and impact. “Whether it was the person who needed a job or a newly elected Congresswoman (who) needed to be seated next to the president, you called Willis to get it done,” said lifetime friend Greg Franks, chief executive of the Tom and Ethel Bradley Foundation in Los Angeles. “Look behind the scenes, and you’ll find Willis.” Born on Jan. 1, 1946, Edwards was a Texas transplant who grew up in Palm Springs, Calif. His churchgoing mother allowed Willis to do only two things on Sunday: Attend church, or the local NAACP meeting. Edwards was born to be an activist, beginning with his role as the first African-American student body president at California State University, Los Angeles. He rose to lead the Beverly HillsHollywood branch of the NAACP, including serving on its national board of directors.

“His life was constructed around purpose,” recalled Franks. “He knew what people wanted.” From equal rights to LGBT rights, Franks said, Edwards was at the forefront of every cause that spoke truth to power. In addition to his work for the NAACP, Edwards helped manage the affairs of Rosa Parks, the famous civil rights icon. He arranged for Rosa Parks’ body to lie in state in the Capitol rotunda in Washington, D.C., arranged services in three separate cities, got a private jet to transport her family and staff, and did it all through donations. In another much-remembered story, Edwards encountered Brandon Tartikoff, then president of NBC, in a public bathroom, and emerged with a commitment from Tartikoff to televise the NAACP’s annual Image Awards, which honor African American achievement in the fields of film, television, music and literature. Persistence was Edwards’ calling card: “Willis would call, and call, and call until he got a yes,” said Clarence Avant, a wellknown Motown music producer. Edwards was wounded in Vietnam by a mine and received the Bronze Star. He was also active in the HIV/AIDS movement, and worked for the Democratic National Committee. Edwards leaves behind his sister Brenda and his brother Frank.

photo from Fair Use exemption

Best Doc "War/ Dance"

received two Emmys and an Academy Award nomination for best documentary feature. INNOCENTE, continued from page 1

she screened the “Inocente” trailer on July 24 for teachers attending the Scholastic Journalism Institute. Seligman and a coalition of interested organizations will hold a screening on Capitol Hill in the fall for members of Congress and representatives of the departments of Labor, Housing and Urban Development, and Health and Human Services. A date for the screening has not yet been set. “We hope to make a positive impact in the way these children are forced to live through legislative changes, and (to) increase funding for existing programs,” said Seligman.

ing on journalism. Journalism provides students with a place to put into practice the skills they learn in their core classes, the teaches say. O’Donnell believes journalism helps students find their niche and stay in school. “Journalism teaches voice and democracy in a way that no other course is doing,” O’Donnell said. Cheeseborough agreed: “Journalism makes my class and all other classes more relevant and exciting.“ Rooftop Films and The Fledgling Fund will hold outdoor screenings at locations in Manhattan on July 31, in Brooklyn on Aug. 3 and in the Bronx on Aug. 7. The filmmakers and Rooftop Films will also offer an art workshop for youth aged 8 to 18 with music, food, and drinks in a community event open to all. “Inocente” has already won awards at the San Antonio Film Festival and the Arizona International Film Festival. Directors Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine of Fine Films have already won two Emmy awards and an Academy Award nomination for an earlier film, “War/Dance.” In its treatment of difficult subjects, the documentary seems certain to have appeal to teens. “There’s a stigma about not having a home, and you’re scared your peers will ridicule you,” said Ruano, who is editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper. Inocente’s struggle “is motivation to the rest of us.”


for more information


August 2012

The Examiner



OUT What was your favorite summer memory?

photo by Alexandria Lau

DO THE HUSTLE Angelenos danced to the rhythm of disco July 27 at the Dance Downtown event hosted at the Music Center.

City music center gets disco fever by Alexandria Lau Staff Writer

What happens when you mix Donna Summer, bellbottoms, and afros? You have the perfect ingredients for a disco party!

The Active Arts program at the Music Center hosted Disco Night as a part of its Dance Downtown series, which is free to the public. The July 27 event drew people of all ages to the Music Center Plaza in downtown Los Angeles to shake their groove thang. Dance instructor Debbie Merrill could be spotted a mile away: Her firecracker red feather boa, bejeweled face and flared out bottoms were a dead giveaway that she was a disco fanatic. “I traded in my overalls for my boas, feathers, glitter, and bling and things and rhinestones and

"I think I am going to bring disco back. Donna Summer will live on as long as I am still alive." -­ Debbie Merrill, dancer I became a disco queen,” Merrill said. Merrill got her title as disco queen in the 70’s when she used to party all night in Miami. She started taking classes, then winning contests, and she has been dancing ever since. She has cassette recordings of Thelma Houston, Donna Summer and Gloria Estefan. Sometimes she plays the music out of her car and hosts a giant disco party on the street. “I think I am going to bring disco back,” Merrill said, adding, “Donna Summer will live on as long as I am still alive.”

Summer died May 17 from lung cancer at the age of 63. Summer was an American singer/songwriter who was known for her danceable disco tunes. The fivetime Grammy winner produced disco hits, such as “I Feel Love,” “MacArthur Park,” “Hot Stuff,” and “No More Tears.” Merrill is not the only one who has a passion for disco. She is a member of the Los Angeles Disco Society, a free Meetup group “by passionate disco lovers for true disco lovers in the Los Angeles area.” The founder, who said he wanted to only go by “Mr. Disco,”

said he started the group in 2006 because he wanted to bring all the disco fans together. The group now has 170 members. “We are the original disco party,” Mr. Disco said. “As long as you know disco, you’re in.” Not everyone who attended Disco Night was a disco enthusiast. Laurel Verner, who accompanied her mother Elaine, said she would rather be watching the Olympic opening ceremonies “but I wanted her to have her disco hour.” Make that a couple of hours. Disco night lasted from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. It included live bands and DJs. And for those who wanted to brush up on their dance moves, instructors gave mini lessons demonstrating the hustle. Soon everyone looked like they were backup dancers for Saturday Night Fever. The next Dance Downtown night will be 60’s Night on Aug. 10.

Journalist brings real-world skills to class by Van Han

Staff Writer

Facing a small group of wouldbe journalism teachers on a summer morning in a computer lab at the University of Southern California, Andrew Gumbel introduces himself. In the next heartbeat, he tosses a challenge to his class, telling them they have three minutes to write a lede for a news story based on a movie, song, or TV show like HBO’s “The Sopranos.” Jarred awake from the usual complacent role of listening to experts speak, the students start sweating over creating a newsworthy lede. Gumbel, 47, a British journalist who works for The Guardian, and has contributed to many other publications, such as The Los Angeles Times, The Independent, and The Atlantic, walks around the room, addressing student concerns in a low voice. A professional journalist, he is a volunteer writing coach for the

Student Voice Project, a program that aims to increase literacy in schools through journalism study. “There is a shocking lack of attention paid to the importance of good writing in U.S. K-12 schools,” said Gumbel. “I think the lack of training in critical thinking and writing is one of the big problems the United States has with its education system, and the budget cuts of recent years — all over the country — are unlikely to cause a turnaround any time soon. "This problem explains the existence of groups like (the) Student Voice Project, and the urgency of what they are seeking to achieve,” Gumbel said. Teachers attending the institute were appreciative of Gumbel’s

hands-on, student-centered way of teaching. Alexandria Lau, who teaches journalism at the Ambassador School of Global Leadership in Los Angeles, said that Gumbel “encourages us to take risks. "He gets us into the practice, and then critiquing us was very helpful,” Lau said. Carmen Anders, who teaches Advanced Placement Spanish and is also a teacher at Hamilton High School, noticed Gumbel’s emphasis on critical thinking. “He asks questions and waits for answers,” she said. “He doesn’t just fill in the blanks for us.” Gumbel said that he teaches the way he was taught at Reuters, an

international news agency where he spent six years in a graduate training program following Oxford University. “A lot of what I do teaching is based on how I was taught,” explained Gumbel. “I’m a skeptic about (journalism) school, because the only way to learn the craft properly is by exercising it.” Antonia Guzman, who is the journalism adviser at the International Studies Learning Center, a grade 6-12 school in Los Angeles, said that Gumbel taught her how to give her students the positive feedback to help them write. “The key is making them realize it,” she said, referring to students’ mistakes, and “not just me pointing it out.” Gumbel spent much of the past school year visiting classrooms and helping students with their writing and with the production of their student newspapers. “Definitely, I'll be back,” he said. “I believe in SVP's mission absolutely.”

“Last summer, I traveled to Costa Rica and I tried ziplining. It was a very scary and thrilling experience.” Antonia Guzman International Studies Learning Center

“I visited Zion and Bryce national parks in Utah, Yellowstone in Wyoming, and Sequoia (National Park) in California." José Costanza Ambassador School of Global Leadership

“I viewed the magnificent scenery of the Pacific coast, entering Carmel, then to Pebble Beach." Nina B. Brumfield Los Angeles High School


F i l m Re v i ew

“Moonrise Kingdom” flashes back to world of freshness, freedom Patrick O'Donnell Staff Writer

I have never wished that I could go back to my awkward and uncomfortable 12-year-old self, much less any dating experiences I had as a preteen. In fact, I don’t know if I even dated at that strange and bizarre age. However, Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” made me wish that my pre-pubescent self had run away with a partner from a dull and depressed world to a forest full of freshness and freedom, in the way that his main characters do. The film takes place in 1965 and follows the two main characters Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) and Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman), who secretly agree to run away together from their suffocating existence in their small rural town of New Penzance Island, which is off the coast of New England. Suzy is from the well-to-do Bishop family, while Sam is a struggling orphan in the foster care system. Opposites definitely attract in this case when they meet at a church musical the year before, become pen pals, and make a pact to run away together. The entire town is put on alert as the search for the two missing children uncovers a whole lot more than just the whereabouts of the young lovers. This movie has an all-star cast; however, the two relatively

Director: Wes Anderson Writers: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola Actors: Bruce Willis Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Kara Hayward Running Time: 94 minutes Language: English

In a world filled with celebrity betrayal and backstabbing, Wes Anderson definitely succeeds in encouraging the audience to love fully and love courageously. unknown young actors are what make this movie great. They are extremely believable and simultaneously entertaining in this comedy/ drama/romance as a couple doing whatever it takes to be together. Even while they exchange funny or intimate lines that would make most pre-teens lose it, they do not break character for an instant. In addition, the cinematography is absolutely beautiful. And the wonderfully eclectic soundtrack that ranges from Alexandre Desplat to Hank Williams completes the well-rounded film. In a world oversaturated with celebrity backstabbing and betrayal, Wes Anderson definitely succeeds in encouraging the audience to love fully and love courageously. It is refreshing to see a pure, loyal, and innocent love as the ideal in place of the too common “Flavor of Love” or “The Jersey Shore.” Even the adults in the film are inspired by the youth to shape up. The film does all of this while remaining funny, quirky, and at times perfectly outrageous. “Moonrise Kingdom” easily gets five out of five stars. I recommend it to older teens and younger ones at home due to the adult issues involved; you might not want your 12-year-old to see scenes of other pre-teens romping on the beach in their underwear. I hate romantic comedies, but I absolutely loved this movie.

photo from Use exemption

Bruce Willis (center) and the cast of "Moonrise Kingdom" are startled by a plot twist that takes place in a church one rainy night.

The Examiner

Summer 2012 "As You Like It" marries comedy, ...

Staff Writer

Director Kenn Sabberton rates four big stars – or make that four “Touchstone”-sized pelvic thrusts – for his enchanting staging of “As You Like it,” presented in The Japanese Garden on the ground of the VA West Los Angeles Healthcare Center Campus. The action is set in present day Los Angeles, with actors dancing and singing to original music.Yet it’s the pastoral setting that transports you from north of the 405 into the Arden Forest.

love, even accepting the help of Ganymede, who is Rosalind in disguise. Together the two find themselves traversing through the Arden Forest. When Rosalind (Tessa Thompson), whose father has escaped his brother ’s wrath, is banished by her uncle, Duke Frederick, she and her sweet cousin, Celia, traverse through the backdrop of ginkgo and pine trees. Lindsay Rae Taylor’s Celia evokes the charm and coquetry of Lucille Ball. She is delightfully physical as she seduces Oliver with her Southern twang, coltish movements and wide-eyed gaze. Her

portrayal of a dizzy ingénue is refreshing, and brings about a briskness that compliments Thompson’s Rosalind. Celia’s trusty sidekick, Touchstone (John Lavelle), redefines the phrase “dancing fool.” Never could Shakespeare have imagined actors with such agility and oomph, or for that matter, multiple sets of pelvic thrusts when delivering perfect iambic pentameter. Lavelle’s Touchstone is a performance of its own. Add a live band and a superb cast in a lush green setting, and there wais nothing not to like in this production, which ended July 29.

"Morlang" examines success, human misery José Costanza Staff Writer

Suicide. Secrets. Jealousy. A young lover. An older wife. Revenge. Those are just some of the themes in the movie, "Morlang," a 2001 movie out on DVD that explores the life of Julius Morlang, a successful artist who loses interest in his terminally ill wife, lets her involve herself in another relationship, and then punishes her for the consequences. The movie starts with the videotaped testimony of Morlang’s wife, Ellen, after she has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Using flashbacks, the film combines the talent of the artist and his double life — a troubled marriage and an unstable relationship with his young lover Ann. After making a moral decision — which can’t be disclosed for fear of ruining the movie — Morlang receives frequent messages on postcards and in phone calls, saying “don’t feel guilty, it is nobody’s fault.” However, he becomes oppressed with guilt. And at the end, he has to protect a deadly secret. “Morlang” is set in modern times, alternating between a peaceful residence on the coast of Ireland and the art district of Rotterdam, in the Netherlands.

Diva Aretha Franklin's soulful set sways crowd at L.A.'s Nokia Theater Staff Writer

SHAKING IT UP Jacques (Diane Venora) chastises a lord for killing a deer in an enchanted forest in "As You Like It," at the VA West Los Angeles Healthcare Center Campus. A classic Shakespearean comedy – with multiple marriages, cross-dressing, mistaken identities, and dueling siblings – is directed with mirth and levity. Peter Cambor’s Orlando is endearing and sweet, though his naïveté and aw-shucks expressions are cloyingly sweet. Still, Cambor’s ability to evoke defeat and pain after his brother Oliver prevents him from earning his birthright affirms his place on stage. When he sees Rosalind’s face and Cupid’s arrow strikes him for the first time, he is euphoric. Blinded by love, Orlando earnestly seeks any and all help in finding his

c o n c e rt R ev iew

Nina Beason-Brumfield

photo by Caroline Rhude

Caroline Rhude


August 2012

Aretha Franklin, America's queen of soul, sang, strutted and swept away a packed audience at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles on July 25, proving that she is still on top of her game. The crowd waited with great anticipation, chanting and clapping, “Aretha! Aretha!” as the diva emerged from backstage. Franklin strutted on stage in a flowing, soft, salmon-colored evening gown with spaghetti straps and a sheer wrap, making slow deliberate moves to the center of the stage, where her soulful moaning was met with a standing ovation and a thunderous eruption once her face was seen by her adoring fans. Hearing her sing “Baby I Love You,” the crowd harmonized in unison on the chorus “ain’t no doubt about it” — a memorable beginning to the 1 hour and 30 minutes concert. Franklin had a full orchestra; in an interesting twist, Franklin changed costumes with assistance from the orchestra director, including a switch into a Blues Brothers’ black hat and coat, which pleased the crowd as she began her rendition of “Think,” which was featured in the Blues Brothers movie. After “Think,” Franklin wasted no time shifting into “Giving him something he can feel,” the soulful title track captured in the movie “Sparkle,” also giving credit to the late Curtis Mayfield,

who wrote the sound track. A remake of “Sparkle” starring the late Whitney Houston is scheduled for release later this summer. Each time Franklin began a song, the crowd expressed approval promptly. “Aretha changed my life,” said Theresa, a middle-aged woman who did not give her last name. With tears in her eyes, she explained that Franklin’s songs helped her deal with relationship problems, and that today she is stronger after turning her life around. Franklin performed praise dancing to the delight of the audience, which was visibly moved by her church-inspired enactment. She bounced, shook her hips, stomped her feet and tossed her blonde hairdo as she sang “You’re Looking at a Miracle,” accompanied by a local church choir with tambourines and an additional piano player. Then the mood changed, with a tribute to the late Whitney Houston as Franklin softly sang, “I Will Always Love You,” a Dolly Parton song that was made famous by the iconic Houston. Franklin also acknowledged music industry celebrities in the audience, including former Motown president Barry Gordy and singer William “Smokey” Robinson. No Aretha Franklin concert would be complete without “Respect,” and Franklin sang her anthem to the delight of the crowd.

Hearing her sing 'Baby I Love You,' the crowd harmonized in unison on the chorus — “ain’t no doubt about it” — a memorable beginning to the 1 hour and 30 minute concert.

Interestingly, what triggered director Tjebbo Penning’s vision was reportedly a television interview in which a man and a woman announced that they were going to commit suicide. According to a press kit for the movie, Penning later learned that the woman had killed herself, but the man was still alive; apparently, he never had the intention of killing himself. Even though this is a disturbing psychological drama, and it shows the most hateful sentiments of revenge and selfishness, I highly recommend this movie.

Director: Tjebbo Penning Writers: Matthew Faulk, Tjebbo Penning

photo by Nina Beason-Brumfield

Actors: Paul Freeman, Diana Kent, Susan Lynch, and Eric Van Der Donk Running Time: 95 minutes Language: English

photo from Use exemption

Paul Freeman and Diana Kent star as Julius and Ellen Morgan, a troubled pair whose relationship takes an unexpected and sinister turn.



August 2012

The Examiner

The Examiner

Teachers' report cards on working for LAUSD Reconstitutions create divisions where reform is needed

Summer vacation means work not rest for pilot school teachers by Alexandria Lau Staff Writer

Many people believe that teachers spend summer break enjoying a lazy day at the beach or a pleasant walk in the park. But if you’re working at a pilot school, as I am, summer is the time when we work — hard — to plan for next fall. The last day of school in June, I left for San Diego and a one-week seminar in how to teach Advanced Placement English. After a weekend break, I left for a one-week global leadership conference in New York. I returned home for a week, and then left for a journalism advisers’ institute in Las Vegas. The last day of the institute, I caught a red-eye flight to Boston for another oneweek field study for history teachers. I got home, and the next day I began the Student Voice Project’s

parents and teachers share in the decision-making process, not a removed district policy. For example, teachers at a pilot school can vote to have longer class periods, and to meet every other day instead of every day. Teachers at a pilot school can work with the administration to choose which courses to offer and which to eliminate. Teachers at a pilot school can interview and select new staff members who fit the mission and vision of their school. But power doesn’t come without perspiration. If you want to make decisions, you have to put in the work. If you prefer block scheduling, you better research the programming that will maximize learning. If you want to offer Korean as opposed to auto mechanics as an elective, you need to explain why the class will prepare students

by Patrick O'Donnell Staff Writer

Patrick O'Donnell is a teacher at Crenshaw High School, an urban, inner-city school in South Los Angeles. To learn more, visit www.

Have you ever seen the destruction that a bomb causes when it rips through the entire campus of a school? I have. Unfortunately, I see it happening more and more often. However, this is not any ordinary bomb. It doesn’t go by the name of C-4, or more generally WMD. It is called reconstitution. Reconstitution is when the district lays off most or all of the teaching staff at a school site claiming that they are holding the school accountable for not meeting benchmarks (almost always test scores) set by the district and school site. This is allowed by the “No Child Left Behind” legislation signed into law by President Bush on January 8, 2002. In reality, it is a euphemism for the destruction

"... power doesn’t come without perspiration. If you want to make decisions, you have to put in the work." two-week Summer Journalism Institute, which is where I’m writing this story. In one week, the school year will start all over again. I’ll get some beach time, but it will be just two days, right before school begins. And I am not not the only one. Others on my staff have gone to campus on their own time to interview and select new teachers to bring into our staff. Another group of teachers volunteered to work on the school gardens. The fact is, teachers at our school are a family and our campus is our home. Why do teachers work so hard? For me, the thrill of working at a pilot school is that you can change the face of public education. Pilot schools emerged in LAUSD in 2007 with the goal of improving the quality of education by giving small schools more autonomy over instructional program, scheduling, staffing, calendar, and budget. In a pilot school, students,

for college and careers. And if you want your school to improve, you better do more with your summer than spend it at the beach. Thanks to my self-imposed summer school, I’ve brushed up on my rhetoric terms for AP Language. I’ll come back to my classroom with a lesson about John F. Kennedy’s impact on foreign policy. And I’ll be able to present a lesson about Common Core standards to my faculty. I realize that not everyone has the time to dedicate their time off to their profession. There are family obligations and personal responsibilities. I know. But, if we expect to offer our students a world-class education, we had better be willing to put in the time and commitment to become better teachers. Otherwise, all we are offering our students is a cookie-cutter education. Only 60 percent of students graduate from Los Angeles public schools. Obviously, we have to do better.

real contracts for the next year instead of waiting for potential lay off notices. However, the students and the surrounding community are the ones who suffer the most when this happens. When all of the teachers at a school are laid-off, many great students leave. Some leave because they do not want to be associated with a school that is “out of control.” They may not have felt this way previously, but a number of my students made remarks along these lines when discussing possible reconstitution. Additionally, many students leave because the bonds and relationships that they have formed are broken. The high school they currently go to is now no different from any other school if there are no relationships. This does not even take into consideration the many “at-risk” youth in

"... it is a euphemism for the destruction of schools and the surrounding communities."

Alexandria Lau is a teacher at the Ambassador School of Global Leadership, one of six pilot schools on the Robert F. Kennedy campus. To learn more, visit

of schools and the surrounding communities. It is when the superintendent and district decide to further tear apart schools that need the most stability. It throws the surrounding communities that have historically been destabilized and disadvantaged by racism and classism into further chaos. It is the latest and most illogical of actions that follow the trend of punishing inner-city schools for “failing” to perform at the same exact levels of much more historically as well as currently privileged and protected schools and communities. When all of the teachers at a school are laid-off, many great teachers leave. Some leave the profession completely because they are tired of the lack of respect for one of the world’s toughest professions and this is the nail in the coffin. Many others leave because they need stability. This was the case with three of our great math teachers at Crenshaw. They took jobs at schools that offered them

need of stability, who are disproportionately represented at inner city schools, that will be pushed out of school altogether when these bonds are forcefully severed by reconstitution. Reconstitution does not work. In fact, it creates much more harm on top of what inner-city schools must already deal with. It did not work for Fremont. It will not work for Manual Arts. The reconstitution, or charter takeover, of Locke has not produced noticeable results either because reconstitution, like the No Child Left Behind Act that spawned it, is only about political expediency. Wrong or wrong, it must seem like something is being done so that the votes keep coming. Former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ratvich ( acknowledged the complete failure of NCLB and its various elements. It is time we do the same and put a moratorium on the reconstitution of schools.

The Examiner T

he Examiner is a professional publication produced by Los Angeles-area teachers participating in the 2012 Scholastic Journalism Intensive (SJI) at University of Southern California’s Institute for Media Literacy (IML). We believe that we can instill young people with the power of words. Our goal as a publication is to serve as a model for scholastic journalism for educators in the professional community so teachers can advance the writing of their own students. Content is selected and edited by teachers. We believe all stories should meet journalistic standards. Journalists should seek to tell the truth by representing their sources and presenting information fairly and accurately. At the same time, journalists should do everything possible to protect the privacy and integrity of individuals. Journalists should strive to cover multiple perspectives when reporting on controversial issues. Journalists should also avoid reporting stories that produce sensationalism, using stereotypes, and employing language that is obscene or libelous. Plagiarism is unacceptable. In the case of error, corrections will be printed in our online edition. As an open public forum, The Examiner encourages readers to submit comments on our website at Letters will be edited for grammar, style and length. As writers of a teacher-focused newspaper, we share a commitment to empowering the disenfranchised and bringing equity to all classrooms in our school system.

News Editor

Antonia Guzman

Features/ In Focus Editor Alexandria Lau

Arts and Entertainment Editor Felix Ruano

Op-Ed Editor Caroline Rhude

Photo Editors

Martin Cheeseborough

Institute Director Beatrice Motamedi


Carmen Anders Nina Beason-Bloomfield Martin Cheeseborough José A. Costanza Antonia Guzman Van Han Jeffrey Knepper Alexandria Lau Patrick O'Donnell Caroline Rhude

The Examiner

August 2012


Students need voices Imagine a world with no newspapers, no editorials,


no websites, no photos or political cartoons. What are you seeing? Sadly, it may be your local public school. No places are in greater need of student newspapers than in the most disenfranchised communities. Arm students with the power to speak their minds and they are no longer marginalized; they take in their world not as an uncontrollable environment but as an entity of which they are completely aware of, and to an extent capable of changing. Amid the hyper-focus on student testing and performance data in public schools, it seems students are rarely asked to think critically. Yet there is something powerful in having students capture their world in words, photos, and videos; the value increases when these journalistic tools are in the hands of every student, not just a couple of bright-eyed over-achievers. The only way to foster this thinking is to make students feel represented. That is, students need other students in order to have a voice. No sooner are stuInfographic by Alexandria Lau

Rubrics are key to student learning by Carmen Anders

Staff Writer

Is it right for students to focus on the points they earn in a class instead of what they are learning? That’s exactly what is happening in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where teachers use percentage-based grading to evaluating students’ work. It sounds logical. But what happens in practice is that student focus on earning, not learning; they agonize over the five points they are missing in order to get a higher grade and not on understanding. Instead of focusing on “B” or “C,” students stress over whether or not they have earned 79.3 percent (a “C”) or 80 percent (a “B”). Unfortunately, this practice has consequences beyond the classroom. Students who constantly worry about their percentage totals miss out on the opportunity to learn and will continue to do so throughout their lives. What’s worse is that students are judged by their grade point averages on college applications. Wouldn’t it benefit students tremendously to be graded in high school in the way that colleges will grade them in the future?

Here’s a case in point: A parent told me at my school’s recent graduation ceremony that her child was 0.3 percent away from an “A” in a class and that the teacher did not round up the grade to that higher level. This in turn affected her overall GPA. The parent thought it was ridiculous and unfair; but the teacher did not change the grade. When grades depend on percentage points, teachers find themselves having to evaluate students based on numbers and not achievement. Just one homework assignment can make the difference between a promising “B” and a middling “C”. It’s not hard to see why students think this is unfair. We must move away from small measures of student performance and move towards broader measures that are based on skills and content. Rubrics can help. Let’s presume, the teacher has delivered instruction and set expectations in a clear manner and that thinking, such as analysis and synthesis, has taken place. Once this has happened, well-developed rubrics — a way of scoring work according to various areas of performance — can successfully be implemented. These rubrics, which typically use

a scale of 1-4, contain a narrative for each skill set or content requirement. Then students have the tools to self-evaluate and the teacher assigns a grade that reflects the degree of student mastery. When all of these conditions are present, it is reasonable to expect students to understand the grades they have earned. When students receive a 3.4 as a final mark in a class, they understand how the teacher arrived at that grade and how that 3.4 translates to a B on their report card; an 89.6 percent is much harder to comprehend. On the other hand, with the standard grading scale based on 10 percent increments translating to a letter grade, students tend to focus on points and ask for “extra-credit;” it becomes a game of numbers. Conversely, when we use rubrics, students understand that the grades reflect what they can do, so their focus shifts to learning how to perform specific tasks and how to discuss ideas, rather than earning points. Fewer than three in four LAUSD students graduate. Change is in order. Let’s make grades count — focus on skills and content – and create life-long learners and college-ready students.

dents entering freshman year before they are shuffled into adulthood, most of the time without any support. At this point, the majority of the facts they’ve been holding onto become obsolete (no one remembers the Pythagorean theorem forever). But journalism is a life skill. In this discipline, students are not judged by how many facts they know, but by how they process their surroundings. And in class, the idea is brought to life: The 15-year-old girl in journalism may not feel attached to the Civil War, but she can write hundreds of word on her experience as an immigrant. Take a student’s newspaper or news website away and he is left without a voice, no way to feel acknowledged. Sounds a bit alarmist, but a parallel to the real world is apparent: Where the media fails to do its job, disengaged citizensm appear. We must acknowledge that student publications are just that: For students, by students, about students. As harrowing to administrators as it may initially be, having students become publicly critical of their environment is a step in the right direction — assuming that we actually want to hear what underserved youth have to say. This editorial represents a consensus view of The Examiner staff. Comment on this story at

Wanted: Consensus on LAUSD's definition of diploma by Antonia Guzman

Staff Writer

The “D” is dead. That was the verdict in June when the Los Angeles Unified School District announced its plan to eliminate the “D” grade for the class of 2016-17, along with beefing up college-going curricula for incoming freshmen. The plan is a response to a 2005 resolution in which the Board of Education ordered that all students pass college A-G classes in order to enter a four-year college and the 21st century workplace. Eliminating the “D” is a laudable goal; for too long, “D” has stood for “diploma,” not real learning. But there’s just one problem with the Board’s plan: we still don’t know what we want a diploma to represent. Before we ended school for the year in June, I asked my students: What is the purpose of a high school diploma? Is the diploma a piece of paper

symbolizing that you have the skills to function successfully in our society? Or is it a piece of paper that shows that you endured 12 or 13 years of education — and haven’t learned to read or write at your grade level — but you’ve finished? Before we kill the “D,” we need to clarify what we mean by diploma. Times have changed since the days when a student could simply point to a piece of paper as evidence of education. Today’s high school graduates are required to have sophisticated reading, writing, critical thinking and problem solving skills when they graduate from high school. Even a “C” may not be enough evidence of learning. But that responsibility does not only fall on a district or a board of education. It is the responsibility of all stakeholders — teachers and parents — to adequately prepare students to face an economy that respects innovation and expects initiative. Simply changing our high school graduation requirements to the California university A-G requirements won’t

cure the apathy that causes students to settle for the “D” that lets them squeak by. Before we eliminate the “D,” let’s have a discussion about what we want a diploma to represent. Is it the end of high school? Or the beginning of a 21st century career? Although the LAUSD decision is a step in the right direction, it requires strategic planning and open communication about goals and expectations. Teachers need to have honest discussions about rigor, and come to an agreement about what the “C” represents to ensure they do not lower the standard for the sake of passing the same number of students as before. I want to believe that when my students get their diplomas, they won’t be deceiving the colleges and companies to which they apply. But making sure that diplomas stand for something will require more resources than we’re devoting now. Otherwise, the “D” won’t really die. It will just become … a “C.”



In Focus

August 2012

healthy u

Below: Knepper's students will calculate nutritional elements missing in their daily diets by subtracting polynomials.

The Examiner

romans math blog

Right: Teacher Jeffrey Knepper was inspired to make a blog for his math students to post their life-math discoveries.

Tweet for Green

VISUALIZE ALGEBRA Above: Students can capture a slope’s definition of rise over run on these steps, thereby learning about math while practicing photojournalism. Students will also need cameras, rulers, pencils, and papers to calculate the measurements.

Number of ungreen events per week



using twitter

Above: Twitter can help students document un-green events on campus and capture photos of algebra in action while learning how to use social media.




data analysis

Lights not turned off

Cans not recycled

Trash not picked up

Computers left running

Ungreen events

Left: Students can analyze ‘Tweet for Green’ data findings through use of bar graphs, pie charts or line graphs. photos and screenshot by

Jeffrey Knepper; bar graph by Alexandria Lau;

Twitter logo at

Teaching Tips

by Jeffrey Knepper Staff Writer



am a Special Education high school math teacher from Los Angeles High who is always looking for new ways to engage and teach our high school students, and save them from the clutches of the dreaded math ‘F’ beast. One day in April, I magically bumped into Johnny Duda, Executive Director of Student Voice Project, who was offering an innovative summer institute to engage and teach students about math through journalism. ‘Huh?’ – was my first thought, but Johnny quickly comes to my flailing mind’s rescue with journalistic ideas for teaching math. Two months later I find myself walking into USC for my first day at the SVP Summer Institute. During introductions, I quickly realized that I was the only math teacher among these eager journalism and language

An innovative way to engage students in math

teachers. Once again my mind raced with doubts. Teaching math through journalism? Where is Harry Potter when you need him? To my surprise, Potteresque magic did show up and created journo-math. I was transformed from a pigeonhole approach to teaching math to using a colorful palette of new strategies to teach Algebra through journo-math. My transformation has begun with three lessons focusing on three different math standards utilizing three different journalistic methods. First, I thought of an idea to help our school turn green through investigative ‘tweet’ reporting. Students would share un-green incidents around campus and analyze data through graphing. Second, I would use photojournalism to discover algebra around campus with the hopes of others guessing

their algebra term through the Visualize Algebra game. For example, I would instruct students to find a slope on campus. Finally, I would offer a new view on personal nutrition through daily journaling nutritional intake and compare their results to suggested Recommended Daily Allowance, through adding/subtracting polynomials. Today I learned about how to create your own blogs and immediately started creating a design for a math news website at our school. Students can author stories about their ideas on real world math applications, comment on social dynamics around campus through math, and analyze statistics on academia and school sports. Harry Potter, I thought you were just Johnny Duda. Common Core State Standards, here I come. Thanks to the Student Voice Project, I am ready to fly into the new year with the magic of journo-math.

The Examiner  

The teacher-produced newspaper of the Scholastic Journalism Institute, sponsored by the Student Voice Project and the Institute for Multimed...

The Examiner  

The teacher-produced newspaper of the Scholastic Journalism Institute, sponsored by the Student Voice Project and the Institute for Multimed...