Another Corner Market In East Los Angeles Transformed

February 16, 2012 by · 2 Comments 

A neighborhood in East Los Angeles turned out Saturday for the re-opening of Ramirez Meat Market, the second corner store to receive a healthy food makeover as part of an effort by UCLA and USC researchers and community members to increase the number of healthy food options in the low-income community.

Brightly colored vegetables and fruits were strategically placed where a giant rack of chips was once displayed, welcoming customers as they entered the revamped market, which now includes an expanded selection of produce from the East Los Angeles Farmer’s Market, and the same quality-service at the meat counter.

The Ramirez Meat Market reopened this past week with a new emphasis on healthy foods. (EGP photo by ELizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou)

The chips, soda and candy are still there, but customers will have to hunt for them at the back of the store.

“I like the way this is set up. I like the convenience. When you see pretty fruits and vegetables you just want to come,” says Diana Razo, 50, a long time East Los Angeles resident who lives across the street from the market.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Transforman Otro Mercado en el Este de Los Ángeles

The neighborhood where Razo lives is not necessarily a “food desert,” just down the hill is a Superior Market. But “sometimes you want that quick thing and you don’t want to go to the supermarket and deal with all those people,” she said.

Razo added there has always been a demand for fresher produce and a desire for an upgrade in grocery store options, but sometimes neighborhoods in East Los Angeles get ignored. “I go to the market all the time, so I do get a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. Right off the farm? No. But we do get them,” she said.

The UCLA-USC Center for Population health and Health Disparities launched this corner store makeover project, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health, to cut back on high rates of cardiovascular disease among Latinos in East Los Angeles. Students from Esteban Torres High School also took part in the makeover of the Ramirez Meat Market.

Last October, another store, Yash La Casa Market, went through a similar transformation, and has since experienced a 25 percent increase in revenues from a year ago, according to project organizers.

Planifican una Reunión Comunitaria a Cerca del Progreso y Futuro de Roosevelt

February 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Se está armando una posible batalla acerca de si la Preparatoria Roosevelt en Boyle Heights debe permanecer bajo la asociación del Alcalde Antonio Villaraigosa “Partnership for Los Angeles Schools” (La Alianza para las Escuelas de Los Ángeles, o PLAS) cuyo contrato con el distrito escolar será considerado de nuevo el próximo año.

Al menos así se siente un grupo de padres de familia y miembros de la comunidad quiénes se reunieron con EGP la semana pasada. Ellos quieren un referéndum sobre la cuestión y quieren que la presidenta de la junta escolar del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles (LAUSD) Mónica García programe un foro donde los padres, profesores, estudiantes y la comunidad puedan expresar sus puntos de vista.

Read this story in ENGLISH: Community to Discuss Roosevelt’s Progress, Future

Ellos dicen estar preocupados que la asociación del alcalde no esta llevando a cabo las reformas académicas que prometió cuando se le concedió la autoridad para dirigir algunas escuelas bajo un Memorando de Entendimiento, o MOU por sus siglas en inglés. El acuerdo permitió que la asociación tome control de 10 escuelas comenzando con el año escolar 2007-2008. Actualmente ahora dirigen 22 escuelas y más de la mitad están ubicadas en el lado este de Los Ángeles.

El grupo sostiene que el progreso en Roosevelt ha sido demasiado lento bajo la asociación, y lo llamaron un fracaso. El memorando de entendimiento le dio cinco años a la Asociación a mejorar algunas de las escuelas con peor desempeño en todo el distrito escolar, incluyendo Roosevelt. El MOU incluye una opción de renovación, lo que le daría a la asociación otros cinco años al mandato.

Pero ahora, algunas personas están diciendo que el memorando debe ser terminado por falta de cumplimiento.

El activista comunitario José Aguilar y el crítico de Villaraigosa George Buzzetti dicen que la asociación ha violado el acuerdo al no mejorar suficiente el rendimiento académico del cuerpo estudiantil y al faltar de atender adecuadamente las tasas de deserción escolar y los problemas de asistencia.

El lunes, un pequeño grupo de padres y miembros de la comunidad se reunieron con García, quien además de ser presidente de la junta escolar también representa muchas de las escuelas en el lado este.

Antes de la reunión, miembros del grupo dijeron a EGP que tenían previsto hablar sobre los problemas que ellos ven en Roosevelt, incluso el bajo rendimiento académico, la deserción y el absentismo, además problemas de seguridad, y el fracaso del personal de la escuela en atender de manera adecuadamente las preocupaciones de los padres.

El superintendente del Distrito Local 5 Roberto Martínez y la directora de Roosevelt Sofía Freire también estuvieron en la reunión, que se tardó más de un año para programar, de acuerdo con Bárbara Martínez, quien tiene un hijo en Roosevelt y es miembro del Comité Compensatorio Asesor para la Educación en la Escuela Humanities Art and Technology.

Según Aguilar, un mayor progreso ya se debería haber hecho en Roosevelt.

“Roosevelt tiene la misma demografía que Garfield pero en conjunto tienen 100 puntos más que el API de Roosevelt…”, dijo Aguilar a EGP.

Buzzetti, del Congreso de Igualdad Racial de California, dice que los números no mienten y Roosevelt se está quedando atrás.

Martínez dice que ella ha sido objeto de represalia por criticar a la escuela pero esto no se trata de ella, ella dijo. “Esto se trata de lo que está pasando con las puntuaciones API y los niños con necesidades especiales… No voy a dejar de renunciar porque son nuestros niños y nuestra comunidad que está en juego,” dijo Martínez.

Por su parte, García dijo que “absolutamente” apoya la idea de una reunión. “Podemos unirnos y podemos repasar lo que hemos hecho, lo que hemos intentado, lo que ha funcionado y donde podemos mejorar”, ella dijo. Sin embargo, los detalles de esa reunión, como la fecha, todavía tienen que ser resueltos.

A nivel estatal, el objetivo del Índice de Rendimiento Académico (API) es 800 puntos. Cada año, el estado establece un objetivo de crecimiento para cada escuela, el objetivo puede variar de un 5 por ciento de la diferencia entre la puntuación API de la escuela y la meta de 800; a 5 puntos o menos durante un año; o mantener al menos 800 puntos cuando se alcanza ese punto de referencia.

Pero intentar averiguar exactamente donde se encuentra Roosevelt actualmente en comparación con otras escuelas puede ser un reto, ya que la escuela ahora cuenta con siete escuelas pequeñas, cada una con su propio código de identificación de Condado-Distrito-Escuela (CDS).

Garfield, por ejemplo, el año pasado tuvo un API de 707 puntos, un incremento de 75 puntos durante el año escolar 2009 a 2010, pero esto incluye todas sus cinco escuelas, incluso su escuela “magnet” de alto rendimiento.

Calculado de esta manera, el puntaje acumulado API de Roosevelt es 598 puntos, inferior al API de la Preparatoria Lincoln, que elevó su puntuación durante 2009-2010 por 25 puntos, dándole una calificación de API de 641 puntos.

Lincoln, al igual que Garfield, se sometieron a la reforma escolar Elección de Escuela Pública (PSC), en la cual grupos basados en la educación competieron por hacerse cargo de la gestión de algunas de las escuelas con peor desempeño del distrito, con la esperanza de mejorarlas.

El API de Roosevelt, sin embargo, es superior a las dos preparatorias en el Centro de Aprendizaje Méndez, que abrió bajo la asociación del alcalde en 2009. La escuela de Ciencias y Matemáticas de Méndez el año pasado tuvo una puntuación de API de 549, mientras que la escuela de Ingeniería y Tecnología tuvo una puntuación de API de 551.

Desde el año pasado que Roosevelt formalmente separo las siete escuelas, y solo una escuela tiene el antiguo código de identificación que clasifica a esa escuela como estar su quinto año de Programa de Mejoramiento (P.I), mientras que las otras 6 escuelas se consideran “nuevas” y su historial recibió un borrón y cuenta nueva.

Por otro lado, mientras que Garfield y Lincoln también se han dividido en varias escuelas en un plantel, sus resultados son para toda la escuela, e incluyen los puntajes de las escuelas selectivas con alto rendimiento.

En 2009-2010, cinco de las siete escuelas de Roosevelt recibieron una calificación API de 600 o menos puntos, mientras que la escuela magnet de Matemáticas, Ciencia y Tecnología superó al resto de la escuela con un API de 724 puntos.

El presidente de la asociación Marshall Tuck dice que al haber separado formalmente a las siete escuelas pequeñas ahora se ven las “piezas del rompecabezas” que revelan cómo van los estudiantes y dónde se necesita más atención.

Él dice que la asociación esta muy consciente de que tiene que mejorar el rendimiento académico, y reconoció que hubo una caída en las puntuaciones API durante el último año.

“Una cosa para recordar, cuando la asociación inició nos pusimos a trabajar en las escuelas que eran las escuelas del 10 por ciento mas bajas del distrito, y la mayoría fueron el 5 por ciento las más bajas. Esto no significa que estos niños no eran niños con potencial, pero estas son las escuelas que históricamente han tenido algunos de los números más difíciles en respeto a los abandonos, y en respeto a los logros de los estudiantes”, él dijo.

Ha habido décadas de abandono y se necesitará tiempo para cambiar las cosas, él dijo, añadiendo que solo tienen tres años y medio trabajando con Roosevelt y la estructura de 7 escuelas solo ha estado en vigor durante dos de esos años.

Tuck admite que Roosevelt hizo algunos de sus más grandes logros durante los primeros dos años, y que la transición a las siete escuelas independientes pudo haber causado un reciente revés, pero en general, Roosevelt ha aumentado 45 puntos durante los tres años como una escuela de la asociación.

La tasa de deserción ha disminuido de 33 por ciento durante el año escolar 2007 a 2008 a un 26 por ciento en 2010-2011, y las tasas de suspensión continúan igual (10 por ciento), de acuerdo con la asociación.

Al mismo tiempo, la reclasificación de los estudiantes de aprendizaje de inglés ha aumentado 12 por ciento, cuando antes era 7 por ciento.

Y una caída en la matrícula es más probable debido a la apertura de las escuelas Esteban Torres y Méndez, de acuerdo con la Asociación. Esas escuelas fueron construidas para aliviar el hacinamiento en Roosevelt y Garfield.

La asociación esta financiada por 10 años y continuará después que finalice el término de Villaraigosa como alcalde.

“Nuestra meta y nuestra atención se centran en hacer todo lo posible para mejorar la educación que consiguen los estudiantes. Así que, técnicamente, el memorando de entendimiento se vence en 2012-2013, pero esperamos estar en esa escuela durante mucho tiempo”, dijo Tuck a EGP.

Mientras tanto, Martínez y otros están colectando firmas de apoyo a favor de acabar con el papel de la asociación en Roosevelt.

Los críticos de la asociación dicen que otras alternativas para mejorar a Roosevelt merecen consideración.

“Nuestro acuerdo es evaluar el progreso al marcar los 5 años, y ya sabes… mejorar el rendimiento en las escuelas es algo muy difícil, pero me alegro de que en el año 2012 las personas están trabajando en conjunto y están tratando de ubicar soluciones… estas son buenas preguntas que se plantean”, dijo García a EGP.

“Creo que a todos nos gustaría mejor rendimiento… tenemos indicadores que muestran que las cosas avanzan, lo cual es bueno,” ella finalizó.

Transforman Otro Mercado en el Este de Los Ángeles

February 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Un barrio en el Este de Los Ángeles celebró el sábado, 11 de febrero, la reapertura del mercado Ramírez Meat Market, la segunda tienda a recibir un cambio de imagen de alimentos saludables como parte de un esfuerzo por investigadores de UCLA y USC y miembros de la comunidad.

Las verduras y las frutas de colores fuertes fueron colocadas estratégicamente donde antes estaba un estante gigante con papas fritas, estas les dan la bienvenida a los clientes al entrar al mercado renovado, que ahora ofrece una amplia selección de productos del Mercado de Agricultores del Este de Los Ángeles gestionado por Volunteers of East Los Angeles (VELA), mientras continúan a ofrecer carnes frescas.

Silvia Ramírez, izquierda, pesa las verduras de su clienta muy satisfecha. Foto de EGP por Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou

Mientras tanto las papas fritas, los refrescos y los dulces siguen allí, pero los clientes tendrán que buscarlos en la parte trasera de la tienda.

“Me gusta cómo colocaron todo esto. Me gusta la conveniencia. Cuando uno ve las frutas y verduras bonitas, lo atraen”, dice Diana Razo, de 50 años de edad, residente del Este de Los Ángeles durante hace mucho tiempo que vive al cruzar la calle del mercado.

El barrio donde vive Razo no es necesariamente un “desierto de alimentos saludables,” porque justo bajando la colina esta un mercado Superior Market, pero “a veces uno desea comprar algo rápido y no tener que ir al supermercado y hacer frente a todas aquellas personas”, ella dijo.

Globos atrajeron a los niños de la vecindad que llegaron al mercado jalando la mano de sus padres.El mercado esta ubicado en 3618 Folsom Street, Los Angeles 90063. Foto de EGP por Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou

Ella añadió que siempre ha habido una demanda para productos más frescos y el deseo de una mejora en las opciones de tiendas de comestibles, pero a veces los barrios del Este de Los Ángeles se ignoran. “Voy al mercado todo el tiempo, así que obtengo un montón de frutas y verduras frescas. Pero son directamente de la granja? No. Pero sí las conseguimos”, ella dijo.

Aunque hay algunos mercados de barrio y grandes supermercados muy cerca, dice Esmeralda Carrillo, de 10 años de edad, que los productos que se venden “no sabe bien.”

Read this story IN ENGLISH: Another Corner Market In East Los Angeles Transformed

El Centro de Salud de la Población y Disparidades en la Salud de las universidades UCLA y USC pusieron en marcha este proyecto de remodelación de tienda de esquina, que es financiado por los Institutos Nacionales de Salud (NIH), con el fin de recortar las altas tasas de enfermedades cardiovasculares entre los latinos en el Este de Los Ángeles. Estudiantes de la Preparatoria Esteban Torres también participaron en la remodelación de Ramírez Meat Market.

En octubre, otra tienda, Yash La Casa Market, también pasó por una transformación similar, y desde entonces ha experimentado un aumento del 25 por ciento en los ingresos en comparación al año anterior.

Concejal de Commerce Renuncia Tras Acuerdo de Culpabilidad

February 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

El Concejo de la Ciudad de Commerce comenzará discusiones, tan pronto como hoy o el martes, acerca de si realizarán una elección o harán un nombramiento para reemplazar a Robert Fierro, quién anunció su renuncia inmediata como concejal el pasado martes.

Durante su renuncia Fierro dijo que su presencia en el consejo “podría causar una distracción indebida de los temas importantes que enfrenta nuestra ciudad”.

Fierro, de 40 años de edad, ha admitido haber intentando ubicar testigos que presentaran declaraciones falsas para ocultar su participación en un esquema de financiación ilícita de campaña investigada por un gran jurado federal.

Él y su cuñada y tesorera de campaña, Ana Pérez, serán sentenciados en abril tras firmar acuerdos de culpabilidad por los delitos graves de conspiración. La esposa de Fierro, Linda Fierro, también irá a juicio en marzo por un cargo similar.

Debido a los plazos procesales, la ciudad no podrá dejar el asiento vacío en el concejo. Según la Secretaria Municipal Linda Olivieri, la ciudad tiene la opción de nombrar a alguien o realizar una elección especial que llenará el lugar de Fierro por el resto de su mandato, que se finaliza en marzo de 2013. Si la ciudad decide tener una elección deberá ocurrir el 6 de noviembre, dijo Olivieri.

Toman en sus Manos el Embellecimiento de Boyle Heights

February 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

El sábado 11 de febrero se realizó una limpieza de la calle 1st Street. Residentes barrieron las calles y recogieron basura.

La limpieza se repetirá cada sábado, voluntarios se unirán en la Plaza del Mariachi a las 9 a.m.

Foto cortesía de Tonie Juarez

Para más información llame a (951) 224-4164.

‘Wildlife’ Sighting at Busy Highland Park Intersection

February 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Not your ordinary utility box, this one is located directly in front of The Shop Auto Body. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Wolves have made a come back on North Figueroa Street in Highland Park, but these larger than life beasts are no threat in this urban environment.

On Feb. 10, artists Carlos Callejo and Carlos Duran finished painting two utility boxes just off Avenue 50, and a third utility box mural near Avenue 52 will be going up soon, the artists told EGP.

The eye-catching artwork — intended to beautify the busy corridor and deter graffiti —join 35 other murals in the Northeast LA area, mostly in CD-13, and are funded through Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative and by CCAC-Central City Action committee.

Activista Se Declara No Culpable de Violaciones a las Leyes de Armas

February 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Defensores de un activista hispano que enfrenta juicio por un hecho ocurrido hace más de 40 años alegan que el proceso en su contra demuestra la persecución por parte de la Oficina Federal de Investigación (FBI) a varios líderes antibélicos.

Carlos Montes, activista del movimiento chicano en la década de 1960 y cofundador de los Brown Berets en 1967, se declaró el 8 de febrero no culpable de seis cargos relacionados con violaciones a las leyes de armas.

Según la acusación, Montes compró varias armas de fuego ilegalmente y un arresto que data de 1969 por posesión de armas lo hace merecedor de hasta 18 años de cárcel si es condenado.

El 24 de enero, el abogado de Montes, Jorge González, presentó una petición ante el juez George Lomeli para desestimar los cargos contra el activista, que fue negada.

Luego de escuchar los argumentos de la fiscalía y la defensa, el juez Lomeli ordenó iniciar un juicio contra Montes, cuya primera audiencia se celebró en Los Ángeles.

“Esto prueba lo que todos creemos”, argumentó Eric Gardner, miembro del Comité para Detener la Represión del FBI de Los Ángeles (Stopfbila), organización no lucrativa que defiende al activista.

“El gobierno va a usar todos a su disposición para tratar de poner a Carlos -y a otros activistas contra la guerra de todo el país- tras las rejas”, sostuvo.

El 17 de mayo de 2011, agentes de la Oficina del Alguacil del Condado de Los Ángeles realizaron una redada a la residencia del activista argumentando violaciones a las leyes que regulan la compra y porte armas y por presuntos vinculo con grupos terroristas, confiscando computadores, teléfonos celulares y documentos.

“Las presuntas violaciones (para la redada) no tienen ningún fundamento en la realidad. El tema en este caso son las libertades civiles de todos los que estamos contra la guerra y la injusticia”, declaró Mick Kelly, portavoz de Stopfbila.

Stopfbila asegura que el caso contra el activista chicano “es débil” y ha citado a una reunión de emergencia para el 11 de febrero en Los Ángeles para preparar la defensa de Montes.

Vernon Says Goodbye To Heavily Reduced Rents

February 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Vernon residents who for years enjoyed unusually cheap rents will begin paying more over the next few years.

The move to raise rents, set to increase this July, is one in a series of reform measures the city promised to put in place after narrowly escaping disincorporation last year.

But some members of the close-knit Vernon community who feel they did their part to pass several reforms in two recent elections balked at the raised rents.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Vernon Dice Adiós a Rentas Muy Reducidas

Dean Gullah, who lives in a city-owned apartment unit, said at the housing commission meeting where the new rents were approved, that the city is “forgetting about the residents.”

One of the commissioners, Gabriel Early, who voted against the rate increase, said he did it for the residents. A resident himself, Early found a home in Vernon through an online database for low-income housing.

Several Vernon residents who attended a recent housing commission meeting said a proposed rent increase should only be applied to new residents. The commission approved the increase for all residents at their Feb. 9 meeting. (EGP photo by Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou)

Vernon, the landlord for most of its 100 or so residents, formed a housing commission last year made up of four members of the business community, two residents, and one city councilman tasked with setting rental rates and policy for 26 city-owned apartments and homes within Vernon, as well as several homes Vernon owns in surrounding cities.

One of the housing commission’s tasks was to set rent at market value, part of an agreement the city made with Senator Kevin de Leon, who issued a set of mandates for the city in exchange for his opposition to AB 46, a bill that would have disincorporated Vernon.

Last Thursday, on Feb. 9, the commission voted 5-2 to raise the rents over a period of five years to market rates, adjusting rents that were set as low as $120 a month to $696 a month for a one bedroom apartment.

The highest rent the city of Vernon had been charging residents was $360 for a three bedroom unit. Rent for those units will now cost around $1000 a month.

The commission developed the new rates by reviewing market rate analysis done by three firms. Based on the information it got from the firms, the commission also reduced the market value rents by 30 percent to account for the adverse impacts of living in an industrial city.

Resident representatives Gabriel Early and Bill Davis, who is also a city councilman, cast the dissenting votes. An earlier motion to delay the vote failed 4 to 3, with the three residents on the commission voting in favor.

Due to the heavy subsidization of city-owned housing, and because city officials also serve as the landlord for almost all of its residents, state lawmakers questioned whether Vernon’s residents could truly function as an independent electorate.

The subsidization was also frowned upon because it was seen as an improper use of funds to benefit some employees and city officials, including council members, who live in city-owned housing.

The approved increases were met by resistance from some residents who feel only new residents should be subjected to them.

“[The new rental rates] should apply only to new residents. The current residents should all be grandfathered,” said Michael Ybarra, a longtime resident who is running for city council in April. He is also the son of former councilman Thomas A. Ybarra.

He also tried to push for an additional 20 percent reduction in rent, pointing to the health hazards of living in an industrial city. “The smog particles settle on almost everything. You almost have to dust daily… We live everyday with the danger of chemical spills and toxic air pollution from nearby businesses. The risk is high even though we have a good track record,” he said.

He asked the commission to pay less attention to pressures from outside the city. “Don’t worry about what the LA Times or others will say. Be sensitive to Vernon residents. Do what’s good, do what is right for Vernon,” he said.

Meanwhile, Carol Menke and her husband Dennis Gullah say they would have been homeless if they had not found a home in Vernon. Gullah lost his business and recently underwent two surgeries that racked up high medical bills.

“I don’t think you even looked at what we make and what kind of need each of the residents has,” Menke told the commission last Thursday.

She agreed homes should not be subsidized to gain favor “or to garner votes, or to make an electorate non-independent,” but governments often do subsidize homes “for the poor… the indigent,” she said.

Menke also said she pitched in to fight Vernon’s disincorporation. “Let us breathe. We’re just finishing a sigh of relief knowing we would be able to stay here. Don’t make us pray not to lose our homes once again,” Menke said.

After hearing the comments, one of the residents on the commission, Reno Bellamy considered delaying his vote, saying that while they might try to implement the rate increases differently, there is no way around raising the rents on current residents.

“I know we don’t have to worry about the watchdogs as much as we might be. We should say, ‘Hey, we are Vernon. This is who we are. This is what we are about, and leave us alone.’ And we can get to that place, but it’s got to make sense,” he said.

If they chose to keep the rates low for current residents, “it won’t necessarily make sense to a lot of people” outside of Vernon, he said.

“Maybe it wasn’t any of you in this room, but we’re dealing with that perception and that is a challenge. And that perception is going to still be there if we keep things current,” he said.

A motion to delay the vote ultimately failed, with four members of the commission, all from the business community, voting against it.

Vernon’s Independent Monitor John Van de Kamp spoke twice during the meeting, advising the commission that they have a responsibility to raise the rents on current residents. “The realization has to be that this has been a good deal for a long time for a lot of people,” he said. “I would not make that a lifetime deal. That I think is bad public policy for a city.”

Community to Discuss Roosevelt’s Progress, Future

February 16, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

A battle could be brewing over whether Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights should remain as one of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, PLAS, under a contract with the school district that is set to come up for review in the next year.

At least that’s the word from a group of parents and community members who last week told EGP they want a referendum on the issue, and they want Los Angeles Unified School District Board President Monica Garcia to hold a town hall meeting where parents, teachers and students can voice their views.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Planifican una Reunión Comunitaria a Cerca del Progreso y Futuro de Roosevelt

Related storyMendez High Makes Small Gains

They said they are concerned that the mayor’s Partnership is failing to bring about the academic reforms it promised when it was granted the authority to run schools under a Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU. The agreement allowed the Partnership to take over 10 campuses during the 2007-2008 school year. It now runs 22 schools across the district; over half of those schools are on the eastside.

Roosevelt has not been subject to LAUSD’s in-house reform Public School Choice because it is under the Mayor’s Partnership. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

The group contends that progress at Roosevelt has been too slow under the Partnership, going so far as to call it failure. The MOU gave the Partnership five years to turn around some of the school district’s lowest performing schools, including Roosevelt. It includes a renewal option, which would give the Partnership another five years at the helm. But now, some people are saying the MOU should be terminated for non-compliance.

Community Activist Jose Aguilar and Villaraigosa critic George Buzzetti say the Partnership has violated its MOU by failing to improve academic progress and to adequately address drop out rates and attendance issues.

On Monday, a small group of parents and members of the community met with Garcia, who in addition to being school board president also represents many of the schools on the eastside.

Prior to the meeting, they told EGP they planned to talk about the problems they see at Roosevelt, including poor academic performance, drop out and absentee rates, safety issues, and the failure of school staff to adequately address parent concerns.

Local District 5 Superintendent Roberto Martinez and Roosevelt Principal Sofia Freire were also at the sit-down meeting, which took over a year to schedule, according to Roosevelt parent Barbara Martinez, who is also a member of the Compensatory Education Advisory Committee at Roosevelt’s Humanities Art & Technology School.

According to Aguilar, greater progress should have been made at Roosevelt by now.

“Roosevelt has the same demographics as Garfield but they collectively have 100 API points over Roosevelt…” he told EGP.

Buzzetti, a member of the Congress of Racial Equality of California, says the numbers don’t lie and Roosevelt is falling behind.

This is not about me, said Martinez, “It’s what’s going on with API scores and children with special needs… I’m not going to give up because it’s our children and community at stake.”

For her part, Garcia said she “absolutely” supports the idea of holding a town hall meeting. “We can come together, and we can take a look at what we’ve done, what we’ve tried, what has worked and where we can do better,” she said. Details of when that meeting might take place, however, still need to be worked out.

Garcia said she told the group that she is “interested in supporting whatever is helping us better serve students and support schools, and I am interested in LAUSD changing from a 50 percent graduation [rate], and in our neighborhood, when it comes to Roosevelt, its somewhere between 35 and 45 percent.”

She said she also shared with the group some of the positive changes that have taken place at the high school, such as finally being off a year-round schedule, and the move to small schools that allows for greater personalization.

“We’re all wanting to see better,” Garcia said.

Statewide, the API goal is 800 points. Each year the state sets a growth target for each school, the target can vary from 5 percent of the difference between the school’s API score and the target of 800, to 5 points or less points a year, or maintaining an API of at least 800 points, when that benchmark is reached.

Trying to figure out exactly where Roosevelt stands in comparison to other schools can be challenging, since the school now has seven separate small schools, each with its own County-District-School (CDS) code.

Garfield for example, last year had a 707 API (Academic Performance Index) score, a 75-point increase from 2009-2010, but that includes all five schools including their high performing Computer Science Magnet.

Calculated this way, Roosevelt’s cumulative API score is 598, lower than Lincoln High School’s, which raised its 2009-2010 score by 25 points, giving it a cumulative API score of 641.

Lincoln, like Garfield, underwent the Public School Choice Reform process, during which groups competed to take over management of some of the district’s lowest performing schools, in hopes of turning those schools around.

Roosevelt’s API, however, is in line with those at Mendez Learning Center’s two schools, opened under the Partnership in 2009. Mendez’s Math Science School last year had an API score of 599, while the school of Engineering and Technology had and API score of 606.

Unlike charter schools, Partnership schools are still part of the LAUSD, but the school district’s report card for the schools does not include a cumulative API for Roosevelt, nor does it include year-to-year changes since, in theory at least, 6 of the schools are considered “new” and now have a clean slate.

On the other hand, while Garfield and Lincoln have also been broken up into several schools, their scores are for the entire school, including the high achieving magnet schools.

In 2009-2010, five of Roosevelt’s seven schools received an API score at or below 600 points, while the Math, Science & Technology Magnet score soars well above with an API of 724.

Further convoluting the numbers, Roosevelt’s data at the California Department of Education website only reflects last year’s API score for the School of Communication, New Media & Technology, which last year had an API score of 521, the lowest score in the group.

When the campus switched over from seven small learning communities to seven small schools, each with its own principal, the CDS code remained attached to only one school. According to the data, that school had been in Program Improvement Status for five years, but the other 6 schools have no such status.

Partnership CEO Marshall Tuck says the seven small schools have helped to separate the “puzzle pieces” to reveal how students are performing and where to target resources.

He says the Partnership is very aware that it needs to do a much better job in improving academic performance, acknowledging a drop in scores during the last year. But he is also quick to point out that the Partnership has taken on LAUSD’s worst performing schools.

“One thing to remember, when the Partnership started, we went to work at the schools that were the lowest 10 percent in the district, and most were the lowest 5 percent. It doesn’t mean that these kids weren’t great, but these are schools that historically had some of the most challenging numbers as it relates to drop outs, as it relates to student achievement,” he said.

There has been decades of neglect, and it will take time to turn things around he said, adding that they have only been at the school for three and a half years, and the 7 school structure has only been in place for two of those years.

Tuck admits Roosevelt made some of its largest gains in the first two years as a Partnership school, and while the process of transitioning the schools to the new model might be the cause for the recent setback, overall Roosevelt has increased 45 points in it’s three plus years as a Partnership school.

Principal Freire told EGP that the change to small schools comes with a new instructional program. “The biggest innovation our schools have is the flexibility to really own and implement their curriculum,” which was teacher driven, she said.

Core improvements can be seen in California Standards Tests (CST) scores — 7 percent increase in English Language Arts, 2.2 percent increase in Math, 7.9 increase in History and a 7 percent increase in Science — all in the category of advanced and proficient, Tuck said.

The drop out rate has declined from 33 percent in 2006-2007 to 26 percent in 2010-2011, but suspension rates continue the same at 10 percent, according to the Partnership.

In the same time, reclassification of English Learners has increased from 7 percent to 12 percent. A drop in enrollment is most likely due to the opening of Mendez and Esteban Torres high schools, according to the Partnership. Those schools were built to ease overcrowding at Roosevelt and Garfield.

“We’ve got a big hill to climb… we’ve made progress, but not fast enough and not enough,” Tuck said.

The Partnership is funded for 10 years, and will continue after Villaraigosa’s term as mayor ends.

“Our goal and our focus is on, do whatever we can to improve the education students get. So technically the MOU expires in 2012-2013, but we expect to be at that campus for a long time,” Tuck told EGP.

Meanwhile, Martinez and others have been collecting signatures they say they will turn over to the district to show they have support to end the Partnership’s role at Roosevelt
Critics of the Partnership say alternatives to turn-around Roosevelt deserve consideration.

“Our agreement is that at the 5-year mark we’d take a look at it, and you know … these turn-around schools are very difficult things, but I am glad that in 2012 people are working together and trying to figure [it] out,” Garcia told EGP.

“I think we’d all like to see better, I’d like to say ‘we’re not where we used to be, and not where we want to be,’ to quote [LAUSD Superintendent] John Deasy, and that’s true with Roosevelt,” she said.

But “we have indicators that show things are moving, which is good.”

Editor’s note: a previous version of this story used the 2009-2010 API score for Mendez high school, the current score, 2010-2011, are slightly higher.

LAUSD Postpones Cuts to Adult Education

February 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles Unified School District Tuesday postponed voting on the proposed elimination of adult education and other programs. The delay came after several loud protests during which hundreds of adults rallied against the cuts.

During a Feb. 9 protest outside of LAUSD headquarters, UTLA Director of Adult Education Ernest Kettenring told EGP that protesters had a message directed at School Board President Monica Garcia, who represents numerous eastside schools in District 2.

“She said she has to support her superintendent from Boston, [but] she was not elected by the superintendent, she was elected by the people who live in East LA. She needs to represent those people,” Kettenring said.

Protesters shouted “Save Our Schools” and paralyzed traffic around LAUSD’s headquarters on Feb. 9. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

“About 18,000 people voted for her and put her in that office … she needs to remember who she was elected to represent, do her job on the school board, and spend less time trying to run for the state legislature,” he said.

“For the 5th year in a row, LAUSD is facing cuts and [these are] beyond devastating — none of these are good ideas,” Garcia told EGP on Wednesday, adding that she is not running for office and her critics must have her confused with a Baldwin Park resident with the same name who is running for the State Assembly.

“I think we have 7 people on the board who do not want to see the reduction of services, the reduction of school days, the reduction of support, the reduction of Adult Ed, but we are faced with $557 million in cuts again,” that are taking us to a $2.8 billion cuts in 5 years, she said.
This budget proposal does not cut school police, doesn’t put more high school students in classrooms, but it does call for changes, Garcia said.

She said parents have told her they want to see more students graduating, but acknowledged that some high school students have to take adult education classes to earn enough credits to graduate.

The school board is exploring putting a parcel tax on the ballot to increase revenues. She said cuts in Adult Education and other areas don’t mean people have given up on it or think it’s a bad idea.

“We’re trying to preserve education and when people say bare bones — our K-12 program is already very underfunded —we are 49th in the nation for per pupil funding and we support more revenue,” she said.

Kettenring said last year approximately 357,000 students were enrolled in Adult Education courses citywide, but cuts will hurt the eastside disproportionately.

“East LA is the most heavily impacted in terms of language acquisition—that’s the path forward for that community, and to cut that off for those people is talking about, basically pocket change in this district’s budget.”

The local adult schools that would be affected include Roosevelt and Garfield Adult Schools, East LA Occupational Center, East LA Skills Center, and the Wilson/Lincoln Adult School in Lincoln Heights.

Adult English students came out in large numbers to protest the cuts. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

California implemented adult education in 1856, and in 1927, the California Department of Education’s Division of Adult Education was created, according to the UTLA Adult Education Committee.

UTLA Chapter Chair and Kennedy-San Fernando Adult School teacher Julie Carson says the school board should not eliminate a program that is only two percent of the budget and that has been in existence over 100 years

“Nine-hundred students a day drop out of high school, so where are these kids going to go?” she said.

According to Carson, students have called Garcia’s office and she’s directed them to call state legislators, but legislators put the decision back on the school board.

“Monica’s excuse is not action. We elected those people to represent these people and they’re not doing it,” Kettenring said.

Forty-five-year-old East LA Skills Center student and bartender Ramon Acosta has three children at local universities and a senior in high school student who’s waiting for admission responses.

Although the Mexican immigrant has been in this country for 20 years and has struggled to support his family, he’s also hit the books to learn English and he’s gone to the East LA Skills Center on and off several times.

“Knowing English is important in this country, it’s the official language, it’s necessary for advancement,” he told EGP, speaking in Spanish.

Anaíd Saldaña, 24, is also learning English at the East LA Skills Center, she says she can’t afford to pay for ESL classes at a college or for private lessons.

But Adult Education doesn’t just benefit immigrants like them, there are young people, K-12 products of LAUSD, who depend on the occupational courses to earn competency in careers like auto repair, protesters said.

Saldaña said closing down adult education would send the wrong message.

“In our efforts to become educated, we are examples to the younger people,” he said. “And hopefully, we’ll be able to contribute more in taxes.”

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