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Roosevelt’s Future Uncertain: School Scrambles to Meet LAUSD Deadline

A feeling of urgency and uncertainty is in the air at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights, where teachers, parents and students are mobilizing for a possible whirlwind of change coming their way.

Staff and stakeholders are working on a reorganization plan for the school as directed by Los Angeles Unified School District) Superintendent John Deasy. In a letter to Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS) CEO Marshall Tuck, Deasy said the results of the reorganization effort would determine whether LAUSD would renew the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) allowing PLAS to continue to operate the eastside school.


ESP students told PLAS CEO Marshall Tuck, left, they do not want to be part of the main Roosevelt campus on S. Mathews Street. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo).

Deasy’s letter states: “After much consideration and discussion we have determined that Roosevelt High School has not demonstrated adequate progress overall.” He set Feb. 22 as the deadline to receive the plan, acknowledging it is “an aggressive timeline” for PLAS to come up with a reorganization strategy for the school to be “more cost-effective and functional.”

The superintendent also states “it is essential that we continue to set goals, monitor progress, and hold the school accountable to student outcomes,” he elaborates the need for Roosevelt to be held to an “annual performance standard” and for each of the small schools to set and meet a range of annual performance targets. Failure to meet or exceed the “low targets” in the range annually, beginning with the year-end date of 2013-14, could result in LAUSD reconsidering the Partnership’s role at the site, Deasy writes.

According to PLAS spokesman Patrick Sinclair, the LAUSD School Board back in October voted to give Deasy authority to determine the terms under which Roosevelt and other Partnership schools would be allowed to operate. Each of the PLAS schools is subject to different terms and Roosevelt is the first school to receive instructions from the superintendent, Sinclair said.

PLAS and the high school’s Shared Decision Making Council, comprised of principals and UTLA Chapter chairs from each of the seven small schools, are now scrambling to meet Deasy’s deadline.

On the table are discussions about cutting the number of small schools down from seven to two or four, and bringing the Academy of Environmental Science Policy (ESP), now housed off-site, back onto the main campus. That idea does not sit well with the school’s principal, Bruce Bivens.

“Maintaining this school, this program, this togetherness is my top priority no matter what,” Bivens recently told his students, explaining the circumstances are complicated and there are a lot of “moving parts and missing parts” in the equation.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Trabajan para Crear un Plan de Reorganización para Roosevelt [2]

ESP, Roosevelt’s first small school, moved to the East LA Skills Center in 2006, prior to Partnership’s take over in 2008. It was moved to relieve overcrowding at the main campus, which has since been reduced by the opening of the Mendez Learning Center, Torres High School and declining enrollment in the district in general.

Today ESP is one of Roosevelt’s top performing schools and seems to have the most to lose if they are relocated to the main campus. Last year, ESP experienced the highest jump in CST scores of all of Roosevelt’s small schools and the third highest jump in the entire district, ESP teachers point out.

ESP’s location and autonomy, in addition to it’s climate of personalization, is its forte, and moving the campus back to Roosevelt would be a “devastating blow,” ESP Math Teacher and UTLA representative Randall Childs told EGP.

Childs, also a member of the Shared Decision Making Council, said people are frustrated that they are supposed to reorganize the campus in a matter of weeks. Creating a plan “under duress” is obviously not in the best interest of the kids, Childs said.

While the cost for housing ESP at a Lincoln Heights-area adult educational campus is minor, transporting the students to and from the main campus on school busses is expensive, Sinclair said.

Last Friday, PLAS CEO Marshall Tuck heard an articulate and compassionate plea from students in a leadership class at ESP to keep their school as is. Talking about her experience at ESP, junior Clarissa Mancha, 17, at times elicited tears from her fellow classmates.

“This school gave me the motivation to get into a UC, because when I was in middle school… I never thought about college, until I met [Principal] Mr. Bivins and all the teachers were telling me to go to college,” said Mancha.

Mancha said her two older siblings both went to school on Roosevelt’s main campus and both dropped out. They’re now in their 20s and barely starting to go to school, she said.


Clarissa Mancha, center, brought her classmates to tears last week during the meeting with PLAS CEO Marshall Tuck.

Other students said ESP’s unique environment allowed them to have extra attention from teachers, something they fear will be lost on the main campus.

Responding to the students’ pleas, Tuck acknowledged that there are “a lot of good things going on at ESP,” but also noted that “If this school wasn’t what it is, this decision [to move] would have been made a long time ago.”

Tuck met with ESP teachers later that day after school. According to ESP Social Studies Teacher Erica Huerta, who was at the meeting, Tuck said he was greatly impacted by what the students had to say and supports finding a solution to the problem.

But the achievements at ESP are not the norm at Roosevelt. Parents at the school have complained for some time that they are not satisfied with the progress being made at Roosevelt, which has repeatedly failed to meet State benchmarks for academic progress. Last year EGP reported that a group of parents had demanded action from School Board President Monica Garcia, in whose district the school is located. They wanted Garcia to allow a referendum on whether PLAS, launched by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, should continue to run the underperforming school.

The superintendent is expected to make a final decision around March 9 on PLAS’ reorganization, which could be implemented at the beginning of the next school year.

Parents who want to attend the Shared Decision Making Council meetings can contact their student’s principal at (323) 780-6500. Community members can contact Dr. Sofia Freire, Senior Director of School Transformation, Sinclair said.