My friend Deborah Meier tells me she loves this school in Long Beach, California. It is a charter school that fulfills the original vision of what charters were supposed to be: innovative, risk-taking, open to all kinds of kids. That’s what this school is and does, but its test scores are low. The Long Beach school board wants to close it; they should not.

To the members of the Long Beach school board: Save the Néw City School. Let innovation thrive. Let this functioning community live.

This is the letter that Deb Meier forwarded to me:

Dear Dr. Ravitch:

Several hundred low-income kids in Long Beach, CA need your immediate help. Their teachers and parents are desperate.

I have been following your work over many years, in particular the series of letters between you and Debbie Meier – she is a friend of mine whom I met through the North Dakota Study Group. It is for this reason that I dare to write a request, will the full knowledge that I might come off as a bit crazy.

15 years ago, I co-founded the New City School in the center of our city. Long before most had heard of charter schools, we rescued an abandoned hospital building [and later a warehouse] and turned them into learning oases in a blighted community that had long been without a small, loving neighborhood school. Consistent with the original intent of charter school legislation, our school would innovate in a district that has a single-minded focus on Broad-funded test-prep. Our school is fully bilingual – Spanish speakers learn English AND English speaking students of many backgrounds learn to read and write in Spanish too. We feature lots of art, great literature with read-alouds every day in every grade, 2 huge libraries, and music instruction for all students, grades TK-8. Members of our community built the area’s biggest playground AND a 1/3-acre working organic farm, growing fresh fruits and vegetables with our students and their families.

Scholars, including Deborah Meier, Stephen Krashen, and Constance Kamii have visited and worked with our teachers to help them be the best they can be. Students share their accomplishments via quarterly public exhibitions in two languages. We are a neighborhood school that does not prequalify students for enrollment. Parents love the school and would do anything to help it survive.

The problem is that The Long Beach Unified School District cannot stand us because we don’t get high test scores and we won’t stop our teaching and learning practices in order to simply prepare students for exams day in and day out. For years, the LBUSD has threatened our school with closure for refusing to comply with their dystopian view of education as standardized test preparation. Two years ago they nearly closed us down, but we closed our high school and combined our 2 small elementary campuses into one, and kept moving forward. In addition to ideological blindness, LBUSD seems hell-bent on reclaiming the meager per pupil allocation our school manages to live on. We have no corporate sponsors or celebrities hosting galas on our behalf, just working-class parents and highly professional constructivist teachers sacrificing to save a school they love.

As you might imagine, the constant threat of closure distracts us from our mission of educating young people.

This Tuesday, November 18th, the LBUSD is holding ANOTHER hearing to discuss whether or not to renew our charter or close our school. When this happened a few years ago, the school district police ended up dragging parents out of the meeting and turned off their cameras! One parent was hospitalized in the melee.

You have an enormous platform to generate assistance for us. Would you please consider writing a letter of support? I would appreciate it so immensely if you could ask your colleagues and readers to do one of the following:

Send a message of solidarity and support for The New City School – a small community-centered, authentic public school – to the Long Beach Unified School District Board [Diana Craighead, President] and Superintendent Christopher Steinhauser. Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education – 1515 Hughes Way, Long Beach, CA 90810…send letters to info@newcityps.org

Visit the New City Public Schools (Long Beach) Facebook page or the New City Farm Facebook page and leave an encouraging message there – we will collect and send them as well – say why it matters to stand up to relentless testing and “accountability” that discounts parents’ involvement in teaching and learning, as well as their children’s development and interest!

For any support or encouragement you could offer to us, I will be forever in your debt.

Sincerely,

Stephanie nicole Lee
Public school educator since 1990