LAUSD awaits todays vote on Public School Choice

Cynthia E. Griffin- | 12/14/2011, 5 p.m.

While about 100 parents, community stakeholders and school officials spent Saturday and Monday vetting plans to operate three Los Angeles Unified School campuses as part of the Public School Choice program, the next step in the process to select new operators will depend on how members of United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) vote on a proposed agreement.

If the agreement between UTLA and the LAUSD is approved, it would change the way Public School Choice operates and would send the potential operators back to the drawing board to incorporate some of the modifications in the agreement into their proposed plans.

Among the highlights of the agreement is to only allow internal teams to submit plans to operate schools for the next three years. There are also a list of new flexibilities that will be allowed in areas such as curriculum, and schools will receive key supports from the district, UTLA and other educational entities.

Voting on the plans concludes today, and the union will post the results on their website (utla.net) Friday.

If the agreement does pass, the district will hold a fourth meeting sometime in February to give the proposed operator teams an opportunity to meet directly with parents to answer questions.

If the agreement is not OK'd, the district expects to go ahead with its scheduled Jan. 21 and Jan. 28 meetings to give parents an opportunity to ask questions directly of proposed applicants.

The three local schools that are being eyed for a change in operations include 42nd Street Elementary School as well as Dorsey and Los Angeles high schools. (See ourweekly.com for related video.)

These campuses are part of a list of low-performing focus schools that have been approved for a potential change in operators under Public School Choice.

At 42nd Street, about 12 parents showed up Monday morning to look at the submitted plans. While the LAUSD website indicates two plans were submitted, the summary for only one was presented.

New principal LaTaska Pittman-Ridgeway said that despite the poor turnout for the Public School Choice meeting, parents were very involved in the formation of their plan with 30 and 40 individuals showing up at planning meetings.

Among the challenges this school faces are lack of a librarian, no resources to obtain a guidance counselor, and a reported teacher turnover problem.

"If I could get Black men to come in and mentor my Black male students . . . . A lot of them are from single-family homes and don't see those role models," Pittman-Ridgeway noted.

She said a key part of the plan submitted by her school committee is to get the students involved in understanding the importance of taking an active part in their education.

The principal is also excited about some of the flexibility and autonomy the school will be able to take advantage of as a Public School Choice campus. That includes potentially choosing curricula that work better with the learning styles of her students.