Rosalind Harris is no stranger to public education. She has one offspring who matriculated through L.A.-area schools and is now at Clark Atlanta University and another in eighth grade at a local charter school. But it is what is happening at Crenshaw High, where her 11th-grader attends that has this parent feeling upset, disrespected and just plain angry.
She, along with a number of parents, teachers and even students, went to a meeting Tuesday evening at Crenshaw held in the library which was filled to standing-room-only capacity where some chastised the Los Angles Unified School District (LAUSD) because the meeting was called during finals week. It was supposed to talk about the cataclysmic change proposed for the high school.
One of Harris’ key concerns is just how interested is the district is in making sure that all parents know about the proposed changes for Crenshaw, beginning in the new school year.
“I didn’t know about the parent meeting on Tuesday until I came to the meeting tonight, and I talked to the principal on an unrelated matter this morning. He didn’t say a word,” said Harris on Monday night during a community forum on the future of Crenshaw held at the African American Cultural Center.
Harris was informed about the meeting by Rhonda Adway, community liaison at the high school. The Tuesday meeting was called by principal Lenalda Corley to inform parents about upcoming changes and to give them an opportunity to ask questions of district personnel.
But it is not clear whether the parents of all Crenshaw students were informed, and Harris proved to be a good example of how hit and miss the outreach efforts were.
This, in part, was the subject of the Monday community forum, where organizers indicted LAUSD by saying that had Crenshaw not been considered a “Black” school, the district would have made a greater effort to partner with parents and community stakeholders to effect change.
At Tuesday’s meeting, according to Rev. Eric Lee of the Black Community Clergy and Labor Alliance, another parent stood and said that even though his business was located down the street from the school, he only heard about the parent meeting when his daughter came home and told him.
Another action LAUSD took that played into the disrespect Harris felt, was the fact that she first learned of the proposed changes at Crenshaw from her child instead of directly from the school district.
“He came home telling me about what was supposed to be happening,” explained Harris, adding that apparently Superintendent John Deasey had informed students about the plan during a series of assemblies held at the school.
That angered Harris, and she voiced that concern at the meeting with the principal and district officials.
A number of other parents voiced their outrage Tuesday about the manner in which information has been released. They specifically pointed out the assemblies where Deasey spoke.
Harris was also extremely upset that at the assembly her son and the other students were told the changes were a “done deal” and nothing could be done to reverse the plan.
She said parents were told the same thing Tuesday, another fact that angered her.
What is proposed for Crenshaw is to reconstitute the campus so that is comprised of three magnet schools. All staff would have to reapply for their jobs and students would have to enroll in one of three magnets.
The decision to make this change came from the superintendent’s office, because the school was continuing to struggle academically.
But the action was apparently taken without any substantive input from students, teachers, parents or community stakeholders. And people in the trenches at the school feel the action totally discounts the improvements that have been made in the last year.
Additionally, there have been questions about how to deal with such issues finding teachers willing to go to Crenshaw (there are currently five teaching vacancies that have gone unfilled for some time.)
Some parents have also questioned the fact that if there is money to transition into magnets, why can’t the district use those funds to improve the school as it currently stands.
A look at the Academic Performance Index scores confirm the growth in all the significant student population groups. Scores of students with disabilities grew from a base of 328 in 2011 to 420 in 2012; African Americans scores increased to 564 in 2012, up from 543 in 2011; and scores for Hispanic students stepped up to 579 in 2012 from 574 in 2011.
While the district has not publicly identified the three new magnets, Crenshaw teacher Alex Caputo-Pearl said that in a recent meeting before faculty and staff, three concepts were mentioned–Science, Engineering Technology and Mathematics (STEM); Information Technology; and Arts and Entertainment.
Crenshaw currently has several magnets in place, including Teacher Training and Gifted. There are also the Social Justice and Business academies (which grew out of the Food From the Hood program that began in 1992.)
The school also instituted an extended cultural learning model on a pilot basis, and that, too, has apparently yielded positive results.
A number of questions have been raised about the fate of these programs. No answers have been yet forthcoming from the district. And this, too, angers parents and other stakeholders.
But Estelle Luckett, director of Student Integration Services (which encompasses the magnet schools), explained that magnet schools have helped improve student academics.
Still, parents questioned the fate of students who were already struggling in a traditional setting. “What would be done to help them?”
According to Rev. Lee, district officials struggled to maintain control of the Tuesday meeting amid parent anger and frustration. Harris said they promised a series of additional parent meetings, but she questioned the timing, because school will be out Friday for a three-week winter break.
Lee also questioned the purpose, since LAUSD officials indicated that the reconstitution was a “done deal.”
Harris does not accept that, and is among a group of parents who are meeting to ensure that their voices are heard during this process.
“First, I want an apology (from the district) that they even did it this way, and I want my voice to be heard,” Harris said. “I also want (students) to know they have rights.”