When Stefanie Gluckman, the new director of Los Angeles County’s Education Coordinating Council, talks about the goals that the council outlines in its new strategic plan, she circles back to the word “opportunity.” Opportunities to connect youth with services and activities, to connect service providers with each other, to connect information between departments—these are all ways Gluckman believes the council can improve lives of youth touched by the system.
TheEducation Coordinating Council (ECC) is a public/private partnership made up of a few county departments as well as a variety of advocates, former foster and probation youth, and the court* “to prevent system-involved children from being left behind educationally.” It’s done this through efforts like creating a tool to enroll foster and probation youth in school more quickly, meeting requirements of education-related legislation and working on the Gloria Molina Foster Youth Education Pilot.
Gluckman has been at the helm of the ECC just under a year, doing outreach to the educational community in preparation for the new strategic plan, which charts the course of the council through 2021.
Trained as an attorney and economist, over the last twenty years Gluckman has worked in policy analysis in education, welfare, civil rights and advocacy for youth in foster care pertaining to healthcare. Below are highlights from The Imprint’s conversation with Gluckman about the new strategic plan, how becoming part of the Office of Child Protection (OCP) has impacted the ECC, and the ways in which she plans to make the most of the opportunities she’s identified.
The Imprint: You’ve been with ECC seven or eight months. What have you learned during that time?
Stephanie Gluckman: I’ve learned a lot! The biggest things I saw them do—and perhaps I think that because my passion is in electronic information sharing—is that they got a blanket order from the court, which Judge [Michael] Nash was involved in then, that permitted the sharing of school-district educational information on foster and probation students with social workers, the juvenile court and children’s attorneys. And it paved the way for eventual sharing of data electronically, which is what they have now in L.A. County with respect to educational information. Not all the districts are signed up, but we’re about a third of the way there.
I’ve learned about the importance of leadership because I saw what was accomplished in the ECC when there was strong leadership and then I saw it kind of wane for the past few years when there was no real leader. I have seen the opportunity now, the new opportunity that we have that’s unique because we’re under the OCP and we’re under the Board, and we have Judge Nash, who has so much history and is so connected to the Board. So I’ve seen who that brings to the table and what ears are open to us.
CSC: So as you’ve been doing that work and thinking about the newest version of the strategic plan, what are some of the highlights of the new additions in comparison to the last plan?
SG: In the area of achievement for school-aged youth, I think the focus on local control and accounting plans, that’s new – to collaborate with partners to identify best practices, to set up an evaluation rubric, all of that.
Another area that wasn’t in the last plan is trauma-informed care and supporting the training of teachers and implementation of new pedagogy in the classroom… Also, in this area, working toward early and timely identification of special education, behavioral and mental health needs. A really exciting new area for me is increasing access to the arts and sports. Because there have been lots of studies and evidence showing that attendance is related to interest in school.
I worked very closely also with Judge [Donna] Groman, who heads the delinquency court at children’s court, and she really wants case planning as part of each of the cases and insists on behavioral and mental health needs being included, focusing on education rights holders. Making sure there’s high quality care in the short-term residences, if when youth are put in short-term residences they switch from their home school to that school.
And something really big that we discussed at the last meeting that gained a lot of support is creating a county-wide policy regarding active implementation of legislation, because one of the things I learned in talking to a lot of people is [that for] a lot of the problems, there’s already legislation to solve it at the state, federal level. But there’s not always implementation of that legislation.
The Board has just passed a motion requiring the Office of Child Protection to revisit an integrated service plan that was developed for transition-aged youth, and create a new plan and new goals. So this is an area that we’re really focusing on right now and it’s really an area of opportunity, because the Board wants to hear about it and do work on it right now.
And then finally, we’re really focusing on the health and education passport and that’s something that’s been mandated for many, many years to be filled out but the information is very, very hard to get. The education piece of it is going really well because that’s already up and running…I have been in communication with the health department and with LA County’s health information exchange called LANES, and we are talking about connecting their electronic information that they gather and having public health nurses have access to it, and then having that downloaded into DCFS’ information. And this is all just in initial talks, but this is like the future—this systemic future of where we’re trying to go.
CSC: Circling back to the educational liaisons, this was something that was brought up at CYC’s policy forum a couple of weekends ago. What are some of the concrete ways that you think ECC can ensure that those liaisons provide that encouragement, support and monitoring on the ground?
SG: We are in discussions right now to be formal partners with a couple of groups who are piloting plans where they develop educational champions in the districts and they have educational liaisons that train the educational champions.
There are different programs that we’re talking about, but the thing that’s similar in these programs is they all have a technology tool…to track that the mentor or champion is actually meeting with the youth, and actually to track the goals that they have in there, to track the communication. Because as you say, it’s one thing to connect a youth with a mentor, but to make sure that the visits are happening and to sort of look at what’s going on is a different step and is what’s needed.
CSC: How does the ECC and its strategic plan address the concerns that were brought up [in a public meeting] about students moving across school districts and losing out on the safeguards that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has implemented to protect homeless children and those in out-of-home care?
SG: We talk about school stability in many areas of the strategic plan. So that’s sort of first off, really trying to train everybody about the importance of school stability. The second thing, and I think most important to this question, is drafting county-wide policy that talks about the implementation of already-existing legislation.
There’s McKinney Vento, which speaks specifically to homeless youth and school stability, and then there’s AB 490, which is a state legislation, which talks about school stability. It’s already policy; LAUSD actually has a policy written up about following this legislation – we just have to make it implemented county-wide.
CSC: The strategic plan points toward efforts to improve policies and resolve barriers that impact the ability of transition-aged youth to benefit from education and employment opportunities. What are some of the key barriers that ECC is prioritizing?
SG: In terms of transition-age youth being most able to take advantage of the education and employment opportunities that are provided to them, [Judge Nash] and I have been talking about training youth who take psychotropic medications to obtain those medications themselves and to learn how to take them themselves. And then the other piece is really just starting engagement on transition-age youth much earlier. We’re looking to go down and start at age 12. And that’s not just with respect to the psych meds, that’s with respect to everything that has to do with transitioning eventually.
This interview has been condensed for clarity and length.
*Correction: The original article stated “The Education Coordinating Council (ECC) brings together about two dozen members from departments across the county” when the ECC is actually a public/private partnership made up of a few county departments as well as a variety of advocates, former foster and probation youth, and the court.