PUSD 'ringers' back in the news

By Joe Piasecki 03/02/2006

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Rene Amy is at it again.

And apparently so is the Pasadena Unified School District.

Last year, Amy learned that more than 30 members of the PUSD's first-ever Rose Parade All-Star Marching Band weren't really with the PUSD, but were students from other districts from as far away as San Bernardino County.

This year, after filing a lawsuit to force the PUSD to honor his Public Records Act request for information on this year's Rose Parade band, Amy found that 72 of the 274 band members were not enrolled in PUSD schools.

On Tuesday, City News Service broke the story about Amy's lawsuit and the so-called "ringers," which was picked up by Associated Press. After that, the story was picked up by major newspapers around the country and television stations here in LA, including Glendale-based KABC Channel 7.

Also on Tuesday, Amy received a letter of apology from Assistant Superintendent George McKenna, who promised to deliver requested information within 48 hours. "I accept responsibility for the tardiness of our response," McKenna wrote.

But apparently it was too late. Late Tuesday afternoon, a Channel 7 helicopter could be seen hovering over PUSD headquarters.

District spokeswoman Janet Pope was surprised by the amount of coverage the story was getting, primarily because there was never anything sinister or secretive about what the district did.

"Yes, there are kids from outside the district who participate, but the band is filled first with all the kids in PUSD who are eligible and want to participate. Then the band is filled with additional talent if needed," Pope said.

The effort was largely made possible due to the band's volunteer boosters, who include former Planned Parenthood of Pasadena head Ellen Pais, wife of school board President Ed Honowitz.

Pasadena City Councilman Paul Little, a regular participant on Amy's Greatschools Internet listserve, scolded both Amy and the district.

"What a waste of time and money. PUSD should cough up the info and the list-en-fuhrer shouldn't even have considered suing over this. Silly on all counts," Little posted to the listserve.

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