Crenshaw Reconstituted, Aspire Squeaks By*
Hillel Aron | January 15, 2013
While an avalanche of charter school approvals and renewals dominated today’s Board meeting, and two controversial resolutions were postponed, the Board did manage to approve a symbolic resolution in support of state lawmakers seeing to speed the removal of teachers accused of predatory sexual behavior, veto (and then approve) the creation of two more Aspire charter schools, and endorse the reconstitution of Crenshaw High.
Read below for a rundown of the key votes, quotes, and links — including two Board members’ changed votes on Aspire — or skip below to Twitter updates from the event itself.
Resolutions, Postponed & Approved
Dr. Richard Valdovic was absent from the meeting, apparently the latest victim of the flu. It was perhaps for that reason that Board member Marguerite LaMotte postponed her resolution to limit the school board president’s term to two years (see: LaMotte Proposes Limit to Garcia Presidency), which surely would have needed Vladovic’s vote to pass.
Board member Steve Zimmer also postponed his resolution about teacher evaluations for the umpteenth time, saying that he wanted to wait until after UTLA voted on the new teacher evaluation agreement. Voting is currently taking place, and results should be on Saturday (see: Teachers Set to Vote on Evaluation).
The Board did manage to pass a resolution in favor of speedy dismissal of teachers who “prey on children” by a vote of 5-1. Board Member Lamotte was the sole dissenting vote.
No less than 20 charter schools were up for approval (Board Preview: Charters, Dismissals, Tenure).Most were approved with little or no discussion.
One that did draw discussion was Extera, which was approved by the Board against the Superintendent’s office’s recommendation. Deasy suggested that Extera, which only recently opened its first school, wasn’t quite ready to expand since it didn’t have enough data to be judged by. But the Board was unmoved by these concerns, and Deasy seemed unsurprised when it voted 3-2 to approve Extera no. 2.
Board member Tamar Galatzan expressed a concern that the board had “created this bizarre policy where if you open your second school before your test scores are in [from the first school], you’re golden.”
Galatzan also expressed reservations over Lashon Charter, a new Hebrew / English dual language school slated to open in the Van Nuys area that Galatzan represents.
Although she said she couldn’t find a reason not to support it, she worried that it would be a “private school masquerading as a public school,” since only one ethnic group – Jewish people – would be likely to apply.
“I just want us to keep an eye on these programs,” she said. “If the only kids going there are white Israeli kids from the Valley.”
In the LA Daily News, she’s quoted saying “This is a choice that parents should make, and it’s called private school.”
Two schools proposed by Aspire charter schools were denied, even though the Superintendent’s office had recommended their approval and Aspire had recently won a federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant from the US Department of Education. The Board deadlocked 3-3, with Vladovic absent.
*Update: At the end of the meeting, two Board members — Steve Zimmer and Bennett Kayser — changed their votes, so the two Aspire schools were approved after all.
But the real action was inside in the meeting, where about 30 parents and students showed up to speak out against the plan. (For more background on the fight, see: Crenshaw Protest Heads to Board Decision).
Parents accused the board of “opening the door for the privatization of our schools,” and demanded to have a say in the future of the school. “This is so wrong what you’re doing,” said one female student. “You haven’t even asked the students.” Said a parent: “You wouldn’t do this in Beverly Hills. You wouldn’t do this in the Valley.”
“This is not about blame, this not about shame,” he said. “Students at Crenshaw have the lowest achievement rate of any school in LAUSD… I visited the school 13 times in last year, and the quality of instruction is nowhere near what it needs to be.”
Parents and students sat stone-faced as Deasy listed various benchmarks which Crenshaw High has failed to meet – attendance, enrollment, graduation and test scores, which unlike the District as a whole are getting worse instead of better. Deasy argued the reconstitution plan was designed to help the school, not hurt it.
“We will put more resources and more personnel into the school and attract more students,” he promised. “Every single student who attends Crenshaw will continue to, and staff will continue [to stay employed]. The most successful model in LA has been the magnet programs.”
Next to speak was Board member Marguerite LaMotte, whose District 1 includes Crenshaw High, and who has often times opposed Deasy, but this time found herself on his side.
“Crenshaw has been a political mystery to me,” she said, sounding truly pained. “There’ve been lies, there’ve been secrets. And I’m angry. Because I live in the community. I want people to say, ‘I want to go to Crenshaw.'”
She continued, speaking directly to the audience: “I’ve never stood against you before, but we’re going to get a quality school.”
The rest of the Board praised LaMotte for her emotional speech, and then voted unanimously in favor of the plan. The audience immediately stood up and chanted, “The fight is not over! We will take over!” as they filed out of the room, while LaMotte watched in apparent dismay.
In the KPCC story on the Board meeting, LaMotte was quoted as saying “I want to know why anybody would want their child to go to a broken school?”
Previous posts: Board Preview: Charters, Dismissals, Tenure, LaMotte Proposes Limit to Garcia Presidency, Controversial Grant Approval Measure Passes, 4-3, School Board Round-Up, School Board To California Voters: Send Money