A desire for autonomy… not independence?

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The press conference at Crenshaw High School was, more or less, what I expected it to be. As you can see to the right, the most surprising thing was the amount of mainstream press at the event.

The collection of supporters was quite impressive. More than a dozen teachers were in attendance, a staggering number considering that Crenshaw was still in session for summer school at the time of the press conference. Members of the community were there, including various pastors and preachers, as well as members of community groups, parent groups and student leaders. All of the speakers outlined, in varying detail, Crenshaw’s plan.

Ah, yes! The plan. Teachers at Crenshaw have been developing a reform plan for quite some time. This past year, they began collecting signatures from supporters of this plan. According to their statements, over 80% of faculty signed by June, and over 600 parents and community members have given written support. Their plan does not seem earth-shattering, or even extravagant. While some of the plan’s details can be found after the jump, the gist of it is that Crenshaw is seeking autonomy from LAUSD. Not independence, mind you, for that would be more like Locke High’s desire to convert to a charter school. No, Crenshaw wants decision-making power.

The district is not keen on letting schools decide their own day-to-day operations (the fact that Locke took the extreme step of secession should be a big clue). Combine this aforementioned fact with these: Crenshaw’s accreditation is consistently in doubt; their principal just wrapped up her very first year as an administrator; and the district has a history of heavy-handed, if not downright shady, dealings with Crenshaw faculty. To many teachers at Crenshaw, LAUSD seems like a cat-stroking super-villain.

According to my sources at the school, complaints run from the banal to the soul-crushing.

Issue #1: While many schools have moved to small learning communities (with LAUSD’s blessing and support), Crenshaw leadership has been told, in so many words, that they should focus on accreditation first, SLC’s later. Teachers at Crenshaw argue that moving to SLC’s would fulfill the accreditation requirements by enhancing and personalizing the learning experience for the students.

Issue #2: Earlier this year, around the start of the spring semester, I started hearing complaints from teachers at Crenshaw about their copiers. Due to a “budgeting error” there were no working photocopiers on campus available to the teachers. The union’s chapter chair filed a complaint, as the school was therefore in violation of the California Education Codes. As of yet, there are still no working copiers.

Issue #3: District and administrative oversight is necessary. As a teacher, I know full well that awful teachers make good teachers look bad. At Crenshaw, however, there was some grumbling among the faculty this year that some teachers’ evaluations did not go “by the book” and were consequently asked to leave. Whether this was due to malice, incompetence, or accident is still up for debate. Regardless of the reason, schools like Crenshaw can hardly afford to lose teachers, especially good ones. From what I’ve been told, one of these teachers had received a commendation from the school board earlier that year for excellence. Go figure.

Anyhow, the list of complaints goes on and on. Surely there are also issues only being discussed in-house.

As for their plan, they want to establish small learning communities (issue #1, check), oversight over budgets (issue #2, check), and decision-making power over who they hire and fire (issue #3, check). It appears that if they can attain all of these things, then the cause of their complaints would shift away from the district. If these problems didn’t get fixed, they would have no one left to blame but themselves. Good luck, Crenshaw. You’ll need it.

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2 Replies to “A desire for autonomy… not independence?”

  1. Sounds like the school wants to copy Green Dot concepts without becoming a Green Dot school, which the LAUSD and UTLA opposes whenever it can, right?
    But if the Principals are not subject to oversight by the parents/ indep. admin. review board, then bad or at least really controversial ones like the guy at Santee would just amass more power in their hands and make matters worse. Are principals the new gods, then?

    As for the lack of copiers: the papers reported that LAUSD bought over a million bucks worth of fax/printer cartridges that will expire before being used. They spent over 30 million on some inventory software years ago that clearly doesn’t work. LAT has reported there are warehouses full of supplies but problem is, they can’t locate them so have to duplicate them. More waste, showing it’s not lack of money/more taxes they need, but organization and being forced to give a s-t.

    At least it sounds like the LAUSD is running scared enough to consider giving up some control.

    I’m writing just as a taxpayer; my kids can’t go to the public schools, because there isn’t a single one at the middle and high school level which is both safe and good enough, anywhere in the city (except the West valley). Even Paul Revere and Pali High are too crowded with bused-in kids to accommodate the locals. How sad.

  2. Not just principals are the new gods, but all staff… Counselors and office workers can be just as inept and cold-hearted about the students’ well-being…

    Even without the lack of copiers, getting supplies in can be difficult. at various locations throughout lausd, i’ve heard of schools ordering supplies, only to receive them (finally!) a semester into the year, sometimes even the FOLLOWING year.

    you are correct that they don’t need more money. they need better MANAGEMENT of that money.

    also, since Quality Education Invest Act money coming in, (MILLIONS of dollars) schools are worried that a great opportunity will (yet again) be wasted by the district.

    yeah, even as a public educator, i doubt i will send my kids to public schools for the same reason.

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