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  • Get off to a Good Start with Your Child’s New Teacher

    Good Start with New Teacher -

    A new school year is often a scary time for our children, because they’re in a new class with a new teacher and probably at least some new classmates. It’s a new environment, with new rules and new expectations.

    But what about Mom and Dad? The start of a new school year can be a scary time for parents too, because we don’t know what’s in store for our children and there’s so much we can’t control.

    One of the best ways to ease your anxiety as a parent is to get off to a good start with your child’s teacher. Here are some tips to make that happen:

    Read everything your child’s teacher sends home. Especially at the beginning of the year, teachers send home a lot of information for parents. Be sure to read everything, even if it’s tedious, and even if it seems repetitive. Think about how frustrated you would be if you provided answers to the most common questions, but no one read them so you had to keep answering the same question over and over anyway.

    Keep an open mind about your child’s teacher. Regardless of what you may have heard about your child’s teacher – positive or negative – remember that a teacher’s relationship with every child is different. What your friend and her child may have experienced with a teacher may be the opposite of what another friend and her child experienced with the same teacher, and both of their experiences will differ from what you and your child will experience. In fact, I have friends who dislike a teacher as intensely as other friends like that same teacher!

    Have a chat. Sometime during the first week of school, make some time to have a chat with your child’s teacher. I usually just wait after class is dismissed, and then catch the teacher for a few minutes. If the teacher doesn’t open his or her door to parents during the first week of school (or if you work and rarely see your child’s teacher), send a note or email asking if you can meet one day before or after school. During the meeting, ask any questions you might have, and tell them anything you want them to know about your child. For example, one of my kids has food allergies, and I want to make sure his teacher knows that. Other friends have told me they talk with the teacher about their child’s legitimate need to use the bathroom more frequently than normal (something teachers discourage because it’s a distraction), and others simply discuss their child’s personality quirks. Be sure to ask if there’s anything the teacher would like you to do, or if there’s anything they need. At public schools in Los Angeles, parents are frequently asked to donate basic supplies like facial tissue, baby wipes, and antibacterial wipes for the classroom.

    Keep an open mind about your child and his or her abilities. Over the years, our children show some characteristics that don’t change. For example, some kids are chatty while some hate to raise their hand, and some kids work quickly while others work slowly. You may have some ideas about how best to help your child, and it’s great to share those ideas with your child’s teacher. At the same time, however, be aware that your child’s teacher may have some new ideas. Let your child’s teacher try “their way” first, before you get frustrated about how things are going.

    Be communicative and ask lots of questions. If your child’s teacher isn’t providing the information you want, ask for it. He or she may not realize that their communications aren’t sufficient, and you may have to ask specific, detailed questions in order to get the answers you want. For example, this past year, my older son’s teacher administered a timed math test on multiplication, but we didn’t really know anything about it until a note came home in May. All we knew at that point was that our son hadn’t passed, and we didn’t know what it would take to him to pass. So we met with his teacher for a few minutes one morning before school, and learned that the same test was administered over and over again, and that our son could bring the test home (why he didn’t do that on his own is one of the great mysteries of children). Once we understood the parameters of the test, we had him take the test multiple times at home and he passed within a few days.

    Be appreciative. Teaching is a hard job, and at times can feel thankless. Let your child’s teacher know that he or she is appreciated with a note, or a small gift like cookies or classroom supplies. Since my children attend a budget-strapped public school, I like to give classroom supplies like facial tissue, baby wipes, and even pens and copy paper. These are all inexpensive items, but they go a long way to making my children’s teachers feel that we’re all in this together, and that their hard work isn’t unnoticed.

    Image via by tor00722.

    LAUSD & Charter Schools

    LAUSD & Charter Schools -

    According to, “[c]harter schools are nonsectarian public schools of choice that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. The ‘charter’ establishing each such school is a performance contract detailing the school’s mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success.”

    Within LAUSD, there are two types of charter schools – a “conversion charter” whereby an existing public school is converted to a charter school, and a “start-up charter” established by a member of the public. Some charter schools are affiliated with LAUSD, while others are independent.

    District-affiliated charter schools adhere to all LAUSD guidelines and policies but have more autonomy with their school budget and curriculum choices than traditional schools. They can purchase services from LAUSD, hire LAUSD teachers who remain part of the teachers’ union, and have access to free LAUSD facilities.

    Independent charters have even greater autonomy than district-affiliated charters but receive no organizational support from LAUSD, meaning they must handle their own hiring, employee benefits, payroll, facilities management and more.

    Charter schools are public schools. There is no formal tuition, but most schools fund raise and solicit donations. Many schools also have substantial parent participation requirements.

    There are over 180 charter schools within LAUSD. You can find a list of charter schools here.

    Image via by Supertrooper.

    Ask for Class Supply Lists Before School Ends

    Ask for supply lists -

    If you’re like me and you enjoy supporting your child’s school and individual teachers by providing classroom supplies, ask for a wishlist or supply list for next year before school ends. In LAUSD, you most likely won’t know who your child’s teacher will be in the fall, but the school may have a grade-wide list of supplies that all teachers need/want. And some requests are universal – every teacher I’ve met can use the following:

    • No. 2 pencils
    • Erasers
    • Glue sticks
    • Facial tissue (like Kleenex)
    • Unscented baby wipes
    • Antibacterial wipes (like Lysol or Clorox)
    • Hand sanitizer

    In the coming months, Staples, Office Depot, Target, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid and other stores will start their back to school sales. It’s a great time to stock up on supplies – for home and to donate – at rock bottom prices.

    With all of the budget cuts, public education in LAUSD really only works now if parents, teachers and the administration are a team. Presenting your child’s teacher with a gift of supplies at the start of the school year sends the message that you’re there to support and help them, and helps everyone get the year off to a great start.

    Image via by Supertrooper.

    LAUSD Magnet Schools: The Priority Points System Explained

    LAUSD Magnet Schools Points System -

    The Priority Points System for Magnet Schools admission may be the most confusing, frustrating aspect of the admissions process for many parents. Admission to an LAUSD magnet school is determined by using a combination of a priority points system, a random lottery system, and a student’s race. Students with the highest number of points are admitted first. However, if there is a tie in the number of points, then a lottery system is used. The lottery is influenced by a student’s race since the district must create a diversified student body.

    Example: Magnet School A has 120 openings but there are 200 applicants with the following points (points are discussed in detail below):

    • 30 applicants – 23 points
    • 35 applicants – 20 points
    • 40 applicants – 15 points
    • 60 applicants – 12 points
    • 35 applicants – less than 12 points

    The first three groups with 23, 20 and 15 points total 105 applicants, so they fill the first 105 slots. That leaves 60 applicants with 12 points competing for the remaining 15 slots.

    The admission process now goes to a lottery system. But because diversification must be achieved, there are essentially two lotteries – one for “white” applicants and one for “non-white” applicants. Each school has a certain target racial composition, such as 60% or 70% non-white. Thus, the number of students admitted by lottery from each lottery group depends on the number of such students needed to achieve the school’s desired racial composition.

    In this example, 15 of the 60 applicants with 12 points will be randomly admitted to Magnet School A. The 35 applicants with less than 12 points will not get in.


    Points are awarded to magnet school applicants as follows:

    12 points for Matriculation – Students who are “graduating” from one magnet school receive 12 points when they apply to a magnet program at the next level.

    4-12 points for being placed on a Waiting List – Students who have been previously placed on a magnet school’s waiting list and are not already enrolled in a magnet program receive 4 points for each consecutive year of being on a waiting list, up to a maximum of 12 points.

    4 points for students whose “home” school is a Predominantly Hispanic, Black, Asian And Other Non-Anglo (PHBAO) School – Students whose resident LAUSD school is designated as PHBAO receive 4 points (non-cumulative). {Note: PHBAO is pronounced “f-bah-oh” – LAUSD employees use it as a real word all the time.}

    4 points for students whose “home” school is designated Overcrowded – Students whose resident LAUSD school is designated as overcrowded receive 4 points (non-cumulative).

    3 points for students applying to a magnet school attended by a Sibling. – Siblings must reside at the same address at the time of application.

    Maximum possible points: 23

    Image via by Grant Cochrane.

    LAUSD Magnet Schools: The Basics

    I will be shutting down my other website, LAUSD, and moving its content to Chief Family Officer. Our children’s education is a huge part of parenting and family life, so it’s a good fit here, and I plan to write even more about education as my older son approaches middle school age. If there’s a specific topic you’d like to see covered, please let me know!

    LAUSD Magnet Schools Intro

    The Los Angeles Unified School District’s Magnet Program is a court-ordered voluntary integration program that is available to students in grades K through 12 who live within the LAUSD boundaries. What that means in more simplistic terms is that years ago, there was a lawsuit alleging that LAUSD discriminated against minorities and provided fewer educational opportunities to them. As a result of that lawsuit, the Magnet Program was instituted to ensure that resources are extended to minority students as well.

    There are over 150 schools that offer the Magnet Program. Each magnet school has a different theme, and offers a curriculum that incorporates and focuses on that theme. There are magnet schools available at each grade level, though I believe there are only two magnet schools that are open to kindergarteners.

    With the exception of gifted/high-ability magnets, magnet schools are open to all LAUSD students and admission is determined through a points and lottery system. Gifted/high ability magnets admit only qualified students, but the admissions process for those who qualify is also through the points and lottery system.

    Image via by Grant Cochrane.