More than 100 parents, students, teachers, school district employees alumni, and community stakeholders turned out Tuesday night for a community town hall on the future of Crenshaw High School and, in addition to having a lot of questions about how the “reconstitution” of the school would specifically work, there was a very audible undercurrent of anger at the school district for failing to talk directly with all or any stakeholders about how to help turn around the academic program.
Many were also angry at the Los Angeles Unified School District for failing to provide adequate resources to the campus, and questioned how reconstituting would make any difference, if the needed resources were not forthcoming.
According to an Oct. 24 letter sent out to school staff, LAUSD Superintendent of Schools John E. Deasy, says that after reviewing four years of student achievement data, the school’s results have either stagnated or in some cases declined.
Consequently, the letter said, effective immediately, Crenshaw will come under the direct supervision of the Intensive Support and Innovation Center, which will take over the work of the Greater Crenshaw Education Partnership (GCEP).
GCEP is the community-school partnership that was formed in an effort to improve the school’s academic performance.
The letter goes on to inform readers that three magnet schools will be created at Crenshaw that will be open to all resident youth, and any other students who wished to apply.
The letter added that the curriculum at the magnet schools will be rigorous with college and career-ready pathways provided for students. Additionally, a full complement of Advanced Placement courses will be imbedded within the schools. The district will also immediately begin to explore the International Baccalaureate option.
The International Baccalaureate® (IB) offers high-quality programs of international education to a worldwide community of schools. There are more than 900,000 IB students in more than 140 countries.
As part of this transition to the magnet schools, Deasy writes: “all current staff members at Crenshaw will be invited to apply for positions in the transformed school. In addition, the leadership of Crenshaw will be redesigned to support the new school configuration. There will be an assistant principal who will oversee the overall operations at the school, and each magnet school be led by an instructional supervisor.”
The transformed Crenshaw is supposed to launch July 1, 2013.
And although the letter promises that LAUSD will conduct a series of meetings to seek input from stakeholders and community partners during a comprehensive needs assessment and plan-writing process, no such get-togethers have been detailed as of yet.
And that was at the crux of many of the questions asked at the town hall.
Parents of special needs students wanted to know some specific and key details.
“What if none of the magnet schools is a fit for my son’s success,” asked one mother, who posed the additional question of whether or not the adult educational assistant who goes to class with her child would have reapply for his or her job.
Another parent, Stephanie McFadden, has children in both the special needs and gifted programs at Crenshaw and after two years of frustration is ready to pull her offspring out of the school totally.
This is despite the fact that she believes and is willing to fight for her children’s right to obtain a quality education in their neighborhood.
“It’s getting more and more difficult,” explained McFadden, who says she is at the school constantly, and drew audience laughter when she repeated comments from her children that their schoolmates were afraid of her because she did not hesitate to check misbehavior in any student.
Students, parents and teachers questioned whether the new teachers brought in will spend the same time (working until 5 p.m., keeping classrooms open at lunch time) and dedication to the students.
In fact, Flora, a student at Manual Arts High School, which was reconstituted in the 2012-13 school year detailed her own experiences with the process.
“The teachers they hired were White, new graduates and didn’t look like they were old enough to shave,” said the young Latina. “They were extremely young.”
Additionally, most of them did not live anywhere near the school, and Flora mourned the lost relationships she and other students had built with their old teachers.
Rev. Eric Lee of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and one of the facilitators of the town hall, detailed his own experience with his daughter at Westchester High, which was reconstituted as a magnet for the 2012-13 year.
Westchester, too, was reshaped into three magnet schools where staff had to reapply for their jobs.
“That had a direct effect on the students for that year,” said Lee about the resulting low teacher morale.
He went on to say that the first day of enrollment was chaotic and he spent all day on campus trying to enroll his daughter in 11th grade and had to fight to get her accepted into the magnet program.
Among the other questions thrown out at the town hall was whether students have to reapply, and how difficult the process would be.
Michael, a student at Manual Arts, recalled that after reconstitution, many of the Black and Brown teachers were gone and there was a much stronger police presence on the campus.
And because his mother could not get off from work, he, at age 14 had to spend the entire first day of school slogging around trying to get all the paperwork to re-enroll himself.
The other question that repeatedly popped up was: “Is this a done deal?”