County Closes Down Boyle Heights Alternative School

By Jacqueline Garcia, EGP Staff Writer

A small high school in Boyle Heights was forced to close its door on short notice June 26 leaving 40 or so students scrambling to figure out where they will go to school in the fall.

For eight years, the Boyle Heights Technology Academy has enrolled youth offenders and other students who do not perform well in a regular public school. Enrollment over the years has averaged around 75 students, but dropped last year to fewer than 45 students, according to Ramiro Palomo, a teacher at the school.

Lea este artículo en Español: Condado Cierra Escuela Preparatoria de Boyle Heights

The problem was LAUSD said they would not send us any more students, Palomo told EGP.

According to the L.A. County Office of Education (LACOE), parents were informed that the county could no longer afford to keep the school open “due to a decrease in student enrollment,”

Students and parents, however, say the school closed after county education officials and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) failed to reach an agreement about who should pay for the students’ education and LAUSD wanted students to return to their home school rather than continue paying the county to educate them.

Students, parents and teachers question the soundness of that plan, noting that many of the students were expelled from their local school and might not be allowed to return.

The Academy, one of 11 community schools operated by the county, primarily served students from the area surrounding the Pico-Aliso Housing projects. Many of the students are on probation or parole, homeless or face other issues that put them at high risk of dropping out. In some cases, parents requested placement at the school for a child needing a different learning environment to succeed.

Adam del Real (center) with teacher Ramiro Palomo (right) and another student during their graduation on June 25. (Courtesy of Ramiro Palomo)

Adam del Real (center) with teacher Ramiro Palomo (right) and another student during their graduation on June 25. (Courtesy of Ramiro Palomo)

Adam del Real of Boyle Heights is one of those students.

On June 25, he took part in the school’s last graduation ceremony even though he still needs to complete 20 more units before he gets a high school diploma. Adam said he’s not happy with the options presented to him for completing school: Mujeres y Hombres Nobles County Community School in Monterey Park near the East Los Angeles border, or Roosevelt High, his home school.

“I don’t really want to go to another school, I’m better at independent studies,” he told EGP.

The 16-year-old says he’ll struggle at Roosevelt and that the travel time to Mujeres y Hombres is too long.

His mother Claudia del Real agrees. “They don’t understand the damage they cause these kids,” she told EGP.

They claim the county failed to evaluate the school on its merit. “Don’t they see the good that the school does,” del Real said.

Making things worse, stakeholders claim they were given very little notice of the impending closure, and little direction as to where they could get help finding a new school.

A two paragraph letter saying the school is closing and directing “enrolled students to report to Mujeres y Hombres Nobles County Community School” is not enough of an explanation or a plan, parents said.

According to a June 18 memo from the school’s then-Interim Principal Diem Johnson and then-Assistant Principal Adriana Hernandez, addressed to Palomo and other staff, “On or about June 5, 2015” [Los Angeles County Office of Education] Central Office sent “students, parents, guardians, paraeducators and teachers” correspondence explaining why the school was closing. The memo went on to say there has “been a lot of inaccurate information” spread, creating “confusion and frustration for families.” It also directs staff to “refrain” from providing information and to instead direct all stakeholders to the Central Office.

EGP has a copy of the two-paragraph letter addressed to parents and guardians dated June 2, also signed by Johnson and Hernandez, informing them of the school’s impeding closure, but according to some parents, they never received the letter.

Rachel Cohen, a former staff member at the site, said she never receive a letter either. “I was notified by Human Resources just before July 1st that I would be moving” to the Hollywood Media Arts Academy, the East LA resident told EGP.

Margo Minecki, a spokesperson for the office of education, said students, parents and other stakeholders were all informed of the school’s closure, but could not verify when or how they were notified. Johnson and Hernandez could not be reached for comment.

“We’d love to run more programs but we can’t afford them anymore, because we are getting fewer and fewer students,” Minecki said. “The districts where they live are responsible” for their education, she told EGP.

Parents and teachers said the decision should not have been just about money.

“We have had students accepted to schools such as UC Irvine and Cal Poly Pomona, it’s like a private school for this area,” Palomo said.

According to the teacher, about 95 percent of the school’s students are Latinos and 5 percent are African-American. He’s worried that LAUSD may not be willing to accept juvenile offenders at a traditional school if they were previously expelled. He’s also concerned that students like Adam — who has never been in trouble with authorities — will not be comfortable at a traditional school.

“Teachers were very attentive in the academy and I got very comfortable,” Adam echoed.

An adult school, 5 Keys Charter School, will take over the school site. Because “They serve students 18 and over and we serve 14 to 18 years old,” most of our students can’t go there, said Palomo.

LAUSD spokesperson Shannon Haber told EGP that they didn’t have a say in the decision to close the Academy, but that LAUSD takes full responsibility for the education of all students living in the school district.

“We are absolutely on board to [help] relocate these students,” Haber said. LAUSD has “so many schools” there’s bound to be “a good fit for each student,” she said. Any student having trouble finding a school should contact the LAUSD East L.A. district office, she said.

Adam said students like him need more support. He just wants to finish high school without any obstacles and to apply to a college where he can study to be an X-ray technician.

“It is not good that people just think about the money and not about the students,” he lamented.

 

Students needing help finding a new school can contact Jose Huerta, administrator of the LAUSD East L.A. office at (323) 224-3100, or the L.A. County Division of People’s services at (562) 803-8451.

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Twitter @jackieguzman

jgarcia@egpnews.com

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July 9, 2015  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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  2. County Closes Down Boyle Heights Alternative School - Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council on January 22nd, 2016 7:49 pm

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