Karen Wolfe is a parent activist in Los Angeles. She wrote the following plea to the school board of LAUSD, which will make a decision tomorrow:
Dear Board members,
I just learned that a proposal for a brand new LAUSD Playa Vista middle school is to be voted on at tomorrow’s board meeting.
Please vote No on Agenda Item 14, Establishment of the New Middle School Pathway in Collaboration with Loyola Marymount University.
· It was clear last December, when the board rejected this, and it is clear now. This is a segregated school for certain families to feel more comfortable being in LAUSD. The curriculum is STEM, which is already available at the curriculum at the existing middle school. If this becomes the well resourced, favored school, all nearby middle schools will experience an exodus.
If the only justifiable rationale for an additional middle school on the west side, where enrollment has dropped, is that these families prefer to segregate themselves from our LAUSD children, then it is morally imperative that the school district do everything in its power to make integration of our students a priority. Especially given the potentially horrifying impacts of last week’s world events, then Interim Superintendent, Ramon Cortines’ words from last December’s board meeting seem prophetic:
“There are some people in our schools that don’t want to go to school with ‘those children’ based on class.…Because there are people that feel that they are entitled because of where they live, and I am saying you can’t escape it anymore. Our children need to grow up in an education that deals with all levels of socio-economics, all levels of ethnic and cultural diversity. We cannot escape it anymore.
This district and this area needs to be a model for this.”
I am not saying that parents have racist intentions. But unintended bias is something that needs to be interrupted.
· The Board Informative erroneously states that the policy implications of this vote are “unknown at this time.” Since the School District creates policy through board action, the policy is well documented in the near unanimous vote recorded at the December, 2015 board meeting, and the policy rationale is well documented in the transcript and recording below. In fact, then Superintendent Cortines requested board approval for a plan that prioritized integration policy. The only opposing vote was because Ms. Ratliff perceived the associated charter school as getting special treatment in the facilities upgrade.
· The communities most heavily impacted by the establishment of this school should be provided an opportunity to give input for the board to consider. School board president Zimmer wisely stated in December, 2015, “it is absolutely clear to us now, and is the way we are going to move forward. All stakeholders together working together for a solution here that works for all families. For all families. I believe even in this difficult week, even as there’s been missteps and communication which I apologize for, I believe it is possible for us to get to answers that work for all families, all children and all schools by working together. All stakeholders together in this process.” That was a year ago. Last month, at a small meeting of the education committee of the Westchester/Playa neighborhood council, we were told that one group of stakeholders had worked to create this school. We were reassured though, that a community meeting would be held before the board voted. This new school would have wide reaching impacts, and the larger community including Westchester HS, Orville Wright MS, Marina Del Rey MS, and feeder elementary schools should have a fair opportunity to discuss them and propose mitigations for potential problems.
· I have heard two different district staff explain that this proposal is what Orville Wright teachers want because they did not want this school located on their campus. That is like telling a restaurant owner that a new restaurant is being built next door because he didn’t want one on his patio. The teachers and parents I have spoken to at Wright tell a different story. They would have felt differently if LMU had approached them in a collaborative manner, rather than simply to take Wright’s real estate for their own separate school, offering nothing to the teachers or children at Wright.
· The agreement calls for waivers from the UTLA and AALA contracts. Parents do not have contracts with the schools. We and our children have to live by the rules contained in those labor contracts, and we can look them up on the internet. If this school is going to have different rules, then those rules and the reasons for waivers should be part of the community’s consideration of this project.
· Loyola Marymount boasts the largest and longest running Teach for America corps. TFA is a drastically different organization than it was 20 years ago. Our board president is a rare exception to the well documented attrition rate of TFA. Over 70% of its temporary teachers leave after two years. Using a large number of TFA temps in one school would have a significant impact on a school. This should be part of the discussion.
· The further gentrification of the west side is bringing new families into LAUSD’s boundaries. This could become the future lifeblood of our neighborhood schools. Creating a new school for a wealthier, predominately white population will set a dangerous precedent. As new families continue to move into the west side, they will expect their own schools. These newer families could enroll their children in existing middle schools and prevent the closure or merger of existing schools. The possibility of such segregation, especially in such close proximity should be avoided.
· Adding schools and classrooms to the west side will increase the available Prop 39 space, creating more work for principals and more conflict in schools already beleaguered by charter co-locations.
Finally, please do not go down this path. After last week’s presidential election, the beautifully diverse and vibrant California made clear that it would lead the way in protecting the values we hold dear. Please do not let us down; raise us up.
TRANSCRIPT AND RECORDING OF DECEMBER, 2015 BOARD MEETING
Superintendent Cortines said:
Wright has an opportunity to be an outstanding middle school for the feeder elementary schools. “I really see a seamless system” in Westchester. It shouldn’t be about those that can yell the loudest. It needs to address the issues of Wright that this district has neglected for years of it becoming a leading middle school on the west side of the City. That is the plan I am recommending…
3:44 Now, I’m going to say it the way it is. I’ve been to those schools. And there are some issues here, and you’re going to disagree with me, some of you. I’ve spent my life, my professional career, 60 years, dealing with the issues of integration. I want you to know that when I was superintendent in Pasadena, and they would say to me, well the African American community or the black community. And I would say which one of the communities? One of the issues that you as a community are going to have to face is the class issue. There are some people in our schools that don’t want to go to school with ‘those children’ based on class. Ma’am, I see you saying it’s not true. I’ve seen it and I’ve gotten the letters that it is true. So I’m saying you together, in working on an instructional plan for the elementary and for Wright are going to have to face that head on. Because there are people that feel that they are entitled because of where they live and I am saying you can’t escape it anymore. Our children need to grow up in an education that deals with all levels of socio-economics all levels of ethnic and cultural diversity. We cannot escape it anymore. This district and this area needs to be a model for this. My recommendation is very clear that under the direction of Dr. Gibson and Mrs. Hildreth, the superintendent and other that we should begin the study that should be in the middle school , not just in one elementary but in five elementaries. That’s my recommendation.
Board President Zimmer said: I understand this is a public meeting. The courage that you have shown all of those 60 years demands all of our respect and thanks. If this was not clear from the beginning, it is absolutely clear to us now. And is the way we are going to move forward. All stakeholders together working together for a solution here that works for all families. For all families. I believe even in this difficult week, even as there’s been missteps and communication which I apologize for, I believe it is possible for us to get to answers that work for all families, all children and all schools by working together. All stakeholders together in this process. We can’t do it if we don’t have the facilities investment. Very clearly, that I believe in Orville Wright Middle School. I believe in the efforts, driven by staff, not by this district, by staff, teachers and families It’s s transformation process that I will continue to invest in. Has to be about instruction. So when we make commitments about meaningful instructional pathways, we have to work out how we fulfill that commitment without injuring a commitment to others…Each of the elementary schools in the feeder pattern, as we see a reinvestment in each of our schools, again driven by instruction, driven by the quality and excellence that we demand for our children, and we should demand for all children
@kwolfepack on twitter
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