After hours of taxing discussions regarding the future of Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights, a committee representing the school’s seven small schools this week voted to consolidate the five schools on the at the school’s main campus into one, and to keep one off-campus school in place, for now. Roosevelt’s Math, Science and Technology Magnet Academy will also continue as a separate school.
Directed by Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy to quickly develop a plan to get operating costs in line and to deal with inadequate academic progress at some of Roosevelt’s seven small schools, the school’s Shared Decision-Making Council (SDMC), comprised of principals and UTLA chapter chairs from each of the schools, on Tuesday evening voted for the change, according to Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS) spokesman Patrick Sinclair.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Preparatoria Roosevelt Consolidará Sus Escuela Pequeñas 
The council started its lengthy deliberations on Monday, but after several tied votes, discussion was carried over to Tuesday, when the 10 to 6 vote approving the merger was finally reached.
Roosevelt Associated Student Body President Rafael Huipe, School of Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM), told EGP that a majority of students wanted Roosevelt to once again be one school, and since he represents them, he voted for the consolidation plan for the main campus.
Huipe told EGP that there had been a lot of unhealthy competition going on between the schools. He said the schools compete for resources and promote their school as better than the others in order to recruit more students. The competition heated up during the reorganization process, Huipe said.
Tuesday’s vote does not end the planning process, but it does set the stage for the next round of issues that need to be considered during the reorganization that must come up with a plan that will be acceptable to Deasy. The plan is due March 8, according to Sinclair.
Currently, each of Roosevelt’s schools are organized around a central theme, such as the environment or engineering, but whether those learning communities can continue under the new structure is an issue still to be decided.
“There was a lot of discussion about trying to maintain what was created, combining some of the small schools into Small Learning Communities to maintain some of the relationships and the structure that has been created over the years,” Huipe said. “But I’m confident that the communities who created these programs will try to stick together as much as they can in order to preserve them.”
Some of the advantages of consolidation are the elimination of “passports” program that enabled, or hindered, students from taking classes at different schools on the main campus, the creation of uniform rules, and facilitating the ability to organize school-wide activities, Huipe said.
Other potential advantages could include double-block courses that provide more intervention for students who are not at grade level, according to Sinclair, who noted that PLAS had recommended consolidating the five small schools into two.
Funding and staffing details will also have to be addressed and resolved in future discussions. But with fewer schools, it seems likely that some teaching and administrative positions could no longer be needed.
The Academy of Environmental Science Policy (ESP) was given a temporary reprieve prior to Tuesday’s vote. The council last Friday voted overwhelmingly to allow the school to remain off-site at the East LA Skills Center. A member of the council said he didn’t believe it was a good idea to move ESP back to the main campus if they didn’t want to go. The final vote was 12 yes, 2 no and 3 abstentions to allow ESP to remain off-site.
While the vote was a victory of sorts, it comes with a short timeline for the school to figure out how it can cover its $50,000 annual cost for transporting students from Roosevelt to the school site in Lincoln Heights. They must submit an acceptable plan by July 1, or ESP could be disbanded and students and teachers sent to other schools within the local Zone of Choice.
As previously reported by EGP, Roosevelt established ESP as its first small school and moved it to the East LA Skills Center in 2006, two years before the Partnership took over managing Roosevelt in 2008. The school also gets additional resources from the adult school campus where it is located, but is also vulnerable to any funding cuts that hit the adult school.
While some members of the council have expressed doubts that ESP can sustain itself for more than a year, ESP teachers say they think they can attract students and parents who want a small personalized learning environment, and would otherwise choose a charter school. The school is considering opening recruitment to students from the Lincoln Heights attendance area in order to address the transportation issue and increase enrollment.
The singling out of ESP as model for why a small school should be kept in tact did not sit well with some of the other schools, which feel that Deasy has unfairly characterized all the school as underperforming.
Faculty and students at Roosevelt’s School of Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) defend their school’s academic program, noting that their scores are second only to the Magnet school that has a different enrollment process.
STEM Coordinator Adriana Trejo and STEM teacher Israel Hernandez recently told EGP their school has consistently experienced grains in student achievement and state test scores.
“I am proud to say I am a member of the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) at Roosevelt. For the past two years we have raised our test scores, graduation rate, attendance rate, and API,” Trejo told EGP. “We have earned the respect of many members of the education community and our outside partners, which include STEM Up, MESA, Sea Perch with the US Navy, and many others. Our students have competed in national competitions and represented the Boyle Heights community with dignity and pride,” Trejo said.
The STEM school will be consolidated with other schools under the reorganization plan.
Meanwhile, Roosevelt is not the only local PLAS school undergoing changes. Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez Learning Center in Boyle Heights is also now undergoing a self-imposed reorganization, Sinclair told EGP. Mendez staff voted earlier this month to consolidate the two schools—Engineering & Technology and Math & Science—into one before the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.
The move to consolidate the schools at Roosevelt and Mendez goes against recent trends in education reform that have promoted the adoption of small schools and learning communities as a valuable tool for improving school performance and alleviating the achievement gap, issues that will be hotly debated as the schools try to achieve those goals by adopting new organizational plans.
Parents who want to attend the Roosevelt 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.