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LAUSD’S Quest: Drive What’s Left of the Middle Class From the District

July 16, 2011

Think I’m being a bit conspiratorial? Let’s look at some cold, hard facts:

1) The giveaway of  Central Region Elementary School # 14 in Echo Park to Camino Nuevo Charter School even though the community voted three to one to keep it public.  This is a multi-racial and socioeconomically diverse community that was eager for its new public school (read: parents would be involved).   Watch this exchange between a clearly em0tional parent and a clueless Nury Martinez who doesn’t give a damn about the community she is supposed to serve. 

2) The deliberate destruction of a publicly funded Academic Decathlon program

a) Cortines threatened to pull funds for Aca Deca right after El Camino Real High wins the title. This turns out to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for El Camino which goes charter- and unaffiliated at that.   This wasn’t just a separation, it was a divorce. They followed Birmingham High, which successfully went charter about two years ago and quite liberally expels students on a regular basis- because they can.

b) The “reassignment” of Cliff Ker, the brilliant Academic Decathlon coach to “1/2” time- meaning no time- and the rest of the time as a “part- time” AP at Bell High- which is at least a 45 minute drive from his home.

3) The colocation of charters in stable schools such as Taft High and Sun Valley High and a tight knit elementary school in Mar Vista.

This is due to Prop. 39 which was approved by California voters.  What they didn’t forsee was that these privatized charters would demand parent, music and art rooms from public schools. With the amount of empty real estate around Los Angeles,  these charters should easily be able to find space.  Parents at Taft HIgh in Woodland Hills were fuming at the  potential giveaway of 12 classrooms to charters, and were ultimately successful when the district rescinded the offer to the charter school as were seven other public schools who were able to keep all of their classrooms.   But that was with Cortines who is looking pale in comparison to the corporatizer Deasy.

4) The reassignment of competent principals as in the case of  Suzanne Blake at the new downtown arts campus with the replacement of a district crony (Luis Lopez) who has much less experience in the arts. Sorry but “professional” in the same sentence as “ballet folkloric0” doesn’t cut it.  Dale Vigil, the local district superintendent rubbed the wound a little deeper, “Suzanne did an admirable job of getting the school up and running, but at this point I feel the school needs the leadership of a seasoned high school administrator.”  Yet Ms. Blake was also an experienced administrator.   There was quite an uproar and parents were furious but as in other LAUSD decisions, the beauracrats prevailed.

Why are successful schools being gutted of successful programs like Aca Deca?  Why are colocations being pushed in areas like Woodland Hills?  Why are schools often converted to charters in areas with heavily educated and involved parents?  Because middle class parents are more likely to show up at school board meetings and aren’t going to take any guff from the likes of that plastic princess, Nury Martinez accusing her constituents of racism.  (See video above).  Middle class parents know how to work the system and form local organizations.  But they also above all want their kids to have  a high quality public education and when they can’t get that, they either ask for passes to go to outside districts that have a few spaces, such as Glendale Unified or they scrimp and  scrape to send their kids to private schools.  

How does that benefit the district?  No more pesky, PTA type, English -speaking parents with high-achieving kids to deal with who might demand better electives or creative, independently run programs like AcaDeca.  No more parents like those at Wonderland Elementary in Laurel Canyon (which by the way rarely uses Open Court and gasp! has a peace sign on their home page, those commies!) who demand safe, clean and high quality schools.  No more parents to interfere with corporate cronyism. No more parents who stand up for teachers and schools.   So far, I’d say LAUSD is getting their way.  You can count the number of really decent  public schools in LAUSD now on two hands and most are in the Valley which is rapidly declining economically.   And LAUSD is licking its chops, biding its time, to devour the rest of true, great public education.

How do surrounding districts like Glendale and Burbank run their schools and how does this differ from LAUSD?  That will be the subject when I continue.

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