LAUSD Moving to Later Start Date

August 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Citing concerns about the heat and conflicts with family vacations, three members of the Los Angeles Unified School District board called Tuesday for a later start to the school year.

LAUSD classes for the fall began on Aug. 16, at the tail end of a days-long heat wave, but school board members Richard Vladovic, George McKenna and Scott Schmerelson want that date pushed back by about three weeks in future years, beginning as early as 2017-18.

The trio introduced a resolution saying the district has heard repeated concerns about the hot weather forcing students to remain indoors — limiting their physical activity — and about the cost of running air conditioners to keep classrooms cool.

“Maintenance on AC units is an ongoing and increasingly costly issue, including rising electrical costs; additionally, some activities must be conducted in rooms or facilities built without climate control,” according to the resolution, which is expected to return to the board for discussion and a vote on Sept. 20.

The resolution also states that the district has received complaints from families “unable to travel due to affordability and time-off periods running concurrent with the August start period, or parents opting to travel when they can afford and/or have leave time from work, thus causing children to miss critical start-of-year classroom time.”

The resolution asks that the start of the school year be delayed until an unspecified date after Labor Day beginning next year.

The LAUSD moved up the start of school in 2012, opining that the earlier start would allow the semester to end before the winter break, meaning students can take midterm exams prior to the winter holiday break. District officials also said the change bolsters scores on Advanced Placement exams in the spring and allows the school year to end in June, giving students more options for college and university summer programs, and for summer jobs.

The 2016-17 school year is scheduled to end June 9.

Plomo de Planta Exide Contamina a Escuelas del LAUSD

August 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Después del descubrimiento de plomo en la tierra de la Escuela Elemental Lorena Street, a la cual asisten sus dos nietas, Rosalia Valle necesitaba una garantía de que las niñas estarían seguras y que la limpieza comenzaría inmediatamente.

“Estoy bien preocupada” dijo la residente de Boyle Heights. “Lo único que puedo decirles por el momento es que no se metan en la tierra”, dijo Valle.

La semana pasada, el Departamento de Control de Sustancias Tóxicas (DTSC), analizó los resultados de las muestras de tierra de la escuela junto con los de otra escuela primaria, Rowan Elementary en el Este de Los Ángeles. Ellos determinaron que los niveles de las dos instituciones sobrepasaban el nivel aceptado por el estado de 80 partes por millón (ppm).

El DTSC recomendó al Distrito Unificado Escolar de Los Ángeles (LAUSD) a que encerraran las secciones afectadas por el plomo, temporalmente.

La descontaminación en ambas escuelas empezará tan pronto como éste fin de semana y podrá durar hasta el descanso del Día de Acción de Gracias, de acuerdo a oficiales del LAUSD.

Carlos Torres, director adjunto de la oficina de Salud y Seguridad Ambiental del LAUSD, dijo a EGP que el distrito planea en ir más aya de simplemente limpiar la tierra y los troncos de los árboles, como les fue recomendado. En lugar, planean remover y reemplazar todo el terreno afectado.

“No queremos preocuparnos por esto en el futuro”, dijo Torres. “Queremos asegurar que los recintos se mantengan seguros a largo plazo”.

Norma Servin se dio cuenta del peligro al que se enfrenta su hija de 7 años cuando vio las cercas en la escuela a la que la pequeña asiste.

“Apenas me dí cuenta de que hay plomo en la escuela a la que mi hija ha asistido por años y a donde la venía a dejar cuando yo estaba embarazada”, dijo Servin.

La exposición al plomo puede resultar en daños neurológicos en los niños y en partos prematuros. Aun si el nivel de plomo es bajo, todavía puede causar problemas de aprendizaje y de conducta además de niveles más bajos de cociente intelectual, IQ en inglés, de acuerdo a la Agencia de Protección Ambiental.

Ambas escuelas en adición a nueve más fueron originalmente inspeccionadas por contratistas empleados por la planta responsable de la contaminación, Exide Technologies, durante el verano del 2015. Ésto se realizó bajo ordenes del DTSC como parte de la limpieza acordada por Exide.

Antes de su clausura, la planta reciclaba cientos de baterías de carros usadas con plomo y acido. La planta fue permanentemente cerrada en marzo del 2015, después de violar, por años, las regulaciones de control de emisiones tóxicas ilegales.

En esos tiempos, los niveles de plomo descubiertos fueron encima del valor límite de 400ppm en la Escuela Elemental Eastman en el Este de Los Ángeles a lo que el distrito rápidamente respondió con una limpieza del lugar.

“No quisimos perder tiempo esperando así que decidimos remover toda la tierra”, dijo Torres a EGP esta semana.

Desde ese entonces, el DTSC ha examinado unas 11 escuelas adicionales dentro de las 1.7 millas que rodean el lugar donde se ubicaba la planta anteriormente.

Sin embargo, antes de que el DTSC pudiera confirmar los resultados de los contratistas empleados por Exide, ellos decidieron reexaminar todas las escuelas. Esto resulto en la decisión de no limpiar la Escuela Elemental, Fishburn.

Los exámenes conducidos en las escuelas, Lorena y Rowan si mostraron los niveles suficientes para intervenir en sus recintos.

Mientras todo esto sucedía, algunos de los padres de los estudiantes dicen no haber sido informados acerca de los acontecimientos.

De acuerdo a Torres, el LAUSD mandó una notificación por correo a los padres para informarles acerca de los resultados en marzo. Una segunda notificación también se les envió la semana pasada, incluyendo los resultados que también han sido publicados en la página oficial del LAUSD.

A diferencia de Eastman, Torres dice que las escuelas Rowan y Lorena tuvieron unos resultados de 100ppm que solo ligeramente sobrepasan los limites estatales de 80ppm. También agregó que dado a que el distrito escolar esta conduciendo la limpieza en vez de los reguladores estatales, no se necesita un Acta de Calidad Ambiental de California.

“Si nos hubiéramos atenido a eso, ésta limpieza no habría sucedido hasta el próximo verano”, explicó Torres.

La subdirectora de justicia ambiental del DTSC, Ana Mascarenas dijo a EGP que los niveles de plomo fueron generalmente bajos.

A su comparación, “las 50 residencias que hemos descontaminado en el vecindario desde ese entonces resultaron con niveles arriba de los 1,0000ppm”, declaró Mascarenas explicando la necesidad de atendar a esos lugares primero.

El asambleísta Miguel Santiago representa el área en donde están localizadas las dos escuelas afectadas. Él se reunió con oficiales del LAUSD y del DTSC la semana pasada y dijo que fue asegurado de que en estos momentos las escuelas están seguras.

“La obstrucción de las áreas afectadas en las escuelas nos ayudó a mantener la seguridad a comparación de dos a tres semanas atrás”, dijo a EGP. “Pero la limpieza permanente es nuestra meta final”.

El LAUSD calcula que el reemplazo de la tierra en la escuela Eastman costó miles de dólares. Aun no se ha determinado cuanto será el costo total del reemplazamiento en Rowan y Lorena. Sin embargo, el DTSC dijo a EGP que la agencia espera que el distrito busque un reembolso del estado.

“Lo importante no es quien se hará responsable del pago sino lo es la seguridad de la comunidad”, dijo Santiago.

Al observar a sus tres hijos mientras se formaban en línea antes de clases, Romero fijó su mirada en su niño más pequeño y no pudo evitar su frustración en que la limpieza aun no haya empezado.

“Si el plomo afecta a los niños, pensaría de que hubiecen limpiado las escuelas de inmediato”, dijo Romero.

Students Head Back to School

August 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Many of them might have preferred to be visiting the beach Tuesday, but more than a half-million students instead headed back to class as the 2016-17 school year began for the nation’s second-largest school district.

“I am tremendously excited to begin a new school year,” Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Michelle King said Tuesday. “Today sets the tone for the work we do throughout the year to guide all students on the road to graduating ready for college, career and life.”

King joined dignitaries including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, members of the LAUSD board and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education James Cole Jr. in visiting a variety of campuses and meeting with students and parents throughout the district, which covers 710 square miles and includes about 640,000 students.

“We are here to welcome every child— from the very youngest pre-kindergarten students to our graduating seniors — to a new year,” LAUSD Board President Steve Zimmer said. “What we say and do for these students today and every day makes a difference in their lives, their communities and helps guide them on the pathway to achieving their dreams.”

District officials said there have not been any reports of problems with campus air-conditioning systems — a positive sign in light of a heat wave that’s expected to linger for a few more days.

King, who recently announced that the district had a 75 percent graduation rate for high school students in the class of 2016, will be pushing for an increase in that figure. She said the district is making an extra effort this year to help keep kids on track in their studies.

Specialized counselors will be assigned to “high-needs” high schools, while college and career counselors will be working with students at “struggling” middle schools. The district is also planning to provide additional resources to help English-learners — a group that represents almost one-third of the district’s students.

Parents, meanwhile, will have to ensure that their children are fully immunized before they’re allowed to attend classes. A state law that took effect in January eliminated the so-called personal-belief exemption to the vaccination requirement, so LAUSD students will have to show proof of immunizations against such diseases as polio, measles, chickenpox, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.

The start of school also means more children on city streets in the mornings and afternoons, and Los Angeles police issued a warning to drivers to be extra cautious. The LAPD will be conducting a “traffic education and enforcement task force” at various campuses to drive home the point.

Police reminded motorists to:
— slow down, particularly in school zones;
— be alert for small children who sometimes cannot be easily seen from
behind the wheel; and
— come to a full stop when a school bus has its flashing red lights and
signal arm activated as it loads or unloads passengers.

Students in the nearby Montebello Unified School district return to school Thursday. District officials plan to be on hand to welcome students back.

LAUSD Graduation Rates Improve

August 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The graduation rate for the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Class of 2016 was 75 percent, a new high mark for the district, Superintendent Michelle King announced Tuesday.

King delivered the news as part of her first State of the District address at James A. Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. She said the rate topped the “expectations of those who said our students couldn’t do it.”

She added, “Our students can and will thrive to meet the standards of the 21st Century.”

The graduation rate topped last year’s mark of 72.2 percent and continued what has been a steady increase over the past six years. The district’s graduation rate in 2009-10 was 62.4 percent.
Particularly satisfying about the latest increase, King noted, was the fact that this year’s class was the first required to meet tougher graduation standards, including the completion of so-called “A-G” college-prep courses – although LAUSD students only needed to achieve a D grade on those classes.

Next year’s graduates will have to earn at least a C grade.

In her speech, King also touted notable increases in proficiency rates in math and English, in some cases by as much as seven percentage points. She also outlined major steps planned for the district in coming months, including the introduction of 16 magnet programs at various campuses, expansion of dual-language and bilingual programs and a commitment to bolstering arts programs.

King also said classes being held in bungalows would be moved to modern classrooms, and the district would be working to increasing attendance.

“Attendance is the strongest predictor of high school graduation,” King said, noting that just a 1 percent increase in attendance can mean an additional $40 million in state funding for the district.

Estudiantes de LAUSD Sobrepasan Expectativas con Índices de Graduación

August 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

La superintendente del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles (LAUSD) anunció que la tasa de graduación del año escolar 2016 fue de 75%- un margen elevado a comparación de años previos.

En su discurso, dado en la Escuela Secundaria James A. Garfield en el Este de Los Ángeles el 9 de agosto, Michelle King, dijo que estos resultados superaron las “previsiones de aquellos que dijeron que los estudiantes no podrían lograrlo”.

“Nuestros estudiantes son capaz y lograrán alcanzar los estándares de vida del siglo 21”, dijo King.

El crecimiento en la tasa de graduación ha sido firme durante los últimos seis años ya que el año previo el porcentaje fue de un 72.2. En 2009-10 el margen fue de 62.4%.

Según King, la clase de estudiantes del año actual fue la primera en completar requisitos de graduación más rígidos, incluyendo la finalización de cursos de preparación universitaria titulados “A-G”.

En el LAUSD, los estudiantes pudieron pasar los cursos “A-G”, este año escolar con un grado mínimo de una D. Sin embargo, el año entrante, el requisito será elevado a una C.

Incrementos en el dominio de la matemática y del inglés también fue celebrado por la superintendente en su discurso, notando que en algunos casos la mejoría fue de siete puntos de porcentaje.

Nuevos planes, según King, están planeados por el distrito para los próximos meses, los cuales incluyen la introducción de 16 programas “magnet” en varias escuelas, la expansión de los programas bilingües y un fortalecimiento a los programas de arte.

Aulas modernas también reemplazaran los bungalows en los cuales muchas de las materias son impartidas y un enfoque mayor se pondrá en incrementar la asistencia estudiantil.

“La asistencia es el indicador mayor de la graduación de las escuelas secundarias”, dijo King, mencionando que tan sólo un por ciento de crecimiento en asistencia resultaría en $40 millones adicionales recibidos en ayuda estatal hacia el distrito.

Deserción Escolar Disminuye Entre Latinos en California

August 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

La deserción estudiantil de los latinos bajó a 1,3% con respecto al período académico 2013-14.

Sin embargo, los latinos todavía son el tercer grupo con mayor deserción escolar en California, con una tasa de 12,6%, de acuerdo a datos difundidos el 5 de agosto por las autoridades estatales.

Según datos del año académico 2014-15 presentados por el Departamento de Educación de California, por encima de los latinos se hallan los afroamericanos, con el 18,8%, y los nativos estadounidenses, con el 18,1%, como los grupos étnicos con mayor deserción escolar.

En el caso de los estudiantes blancos no hispanos el índice de deserción fue del 7%, mientras que en el caso de los asiáticos fue el 4,5%.

El índice de deserción en el total de escuelas preparatorias de California durante el año escolar 2014-2015 fue del 10,7%, por debajo del año lectivo anterior cuando se registró el 11,5%.

Por otro lado, los asiáticos presentaron el mayor índice de graduación en ese año académico, con el 92,6% del total de estudiantes de su raza, mientras que los estudiantes blancos no hispanos presentaron el segundo índice más alto, con el 88% de graduados.

Los latinos graduados alcanzaron el 78,5% y los afroamericanos 70,8%.

Del total de estudiantes inscritos en las escuelas públicas de California en el año académico 2014-2015, desde kinder hasta el último año de secundaria, el 53,6% fue hispano, el 24,6% blanco, el 8,8% asiático y el 6% afroamericano.

De ese total de más de 6,23 millones de estudiantes, cerca de 1,4 millones (equivalente al 22,3%) eran estudiantes que no tienen el inglés como idioma materno.

USDA to Keep Children Fed While School Is Out

July 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

To ensure children from low-income areas do not go hungry this summer, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) will serve more than 200 million free lunches to children nationwide.

The federally funded, free lunch program picks up where schools, closed for the summer, leave off, providing what for many is the only nutritional meal of the day.

Lea este artículo en Español: USDA Provee Alimentos para los Niños Durante las Vacaciones

According to the USDA, 1 in 5 children live in households struggling to consistently put food on the table. USDA reports millions of children depend on the school lunch but only 1 in 7 of those children have access to that same meal during the summer break.

Numerous cities and the Montebello Unified School District are partnering again this summer with the agriculture department to provide the free meals to local children 18 years and under at area parks, schools and libraries.

Over 85 percent of students who attend Montebello Unified schools receive free or reduced-priced lunches during the regular school year. The district has schools in Bell Gardens, Commerce, Montebello and portions of East Los Angeles, Monterey Park and Pico Rivera.

Free lunch will be offered throughout Los Angeles County at schools, parks and libraries. (Montebello Unified School District)

Free lunch will be offered throughout Los Angeles County at schools, parks and libraries. (Montebello Unified School District)

“This program is vital in providing assistance to families who may struggle financially,” said MUSD President Benjamin Cardenas. “We hope our community’s students who qualify take advantage of this program throughout the summer.”

MUSD will offer lunches at nearly all its elementary, middle and high school campuses. Cities like Bell Gardens, Commerce and Montebello will also make lunch and snacks available at various locations.

The free lunches are offered Monday through Friday starting as early as 10:30 a.m. at most sites.

For specific schedules, visit www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks.

 

Local Sites offering Free Lunch Program
(Now – July 15)
Bell Gardens High School – 6119 Agra St.
Montebello High School – 2100 W. Cleveland Ave.
Schurr High School – 820 Wilcox Ave.
Applied Technology Center – 1200 Mines Ave.
Vail High School – 1230 S. Vail Ave.
Greenwood Elementary – 900 S. Greenwood Ave.
Rosewood Park School – 2352 S. Commerce Way.

(Now – July 29)
Bell Gardens Intermediate – 5841 Live Oak St.
Eastmont Intermediate – 400 S. Bradshawe Ave.
Montebello Intermediate – 1600 Whittier Blvd.
La Merced Intermediate – 215 E. Avenuda de La Merced.
Macy Intermediate – 2101 Lupine Ave.
Suva Intermediate – 6660 E. Suva St.

(Now – August 5)
Over 45 Los Angles County parks –
For locations and times call (310) 965-8630

(Now – August 12)
Bristow Park Library – 1466 S. McDonnel Ave.
Veterans Park – 6364 Zindell Ave.
Montebello City Park – 201 S. Taylor Ave.
Washington Elementary – 1400 W. Madison Ave.
Over 350 LAUSD School Sites –
visit http://lausd.schoolwires.net/Page/462

(Now- August 26)
Bell Gardens Youth Center – 5856 Ludell St.
Bell Gardens Ford Park – 8000 Park Lane

Demanda de Padres de Joven Ahogado en el Este de Los Ángeles es Transferida

June 30, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Un juez concedió el miércoles una petición del Distrito Unificado de Los Ángeles para transferir fuera del Condado de Los Ángeles una demanda presentada por los padres de un joven autista de 16 años de edad que se ahogó durante una excursión en el este Los Ángeles en 2014.

La juez de la Corte Superior de Los Ángeles Teresa Beaudet estuvo de acuerdo con abogados de LAUSD que bajo la ley, cuando una agencia local demanda a otra y ambas están ubicadas en el mismo condado, el caso debe ser enviado a un condado neutro.

La transferencia fue necesaria cuando el condado de Los Ángeles presentó otra queja contra el LAUSD, según los abogados del distrito. La contra demanda alega que el LAUSD está obligado a compensar al condado de Los Ángeles por defenderse en la demanda Ortiz.

César Ortiz y Claudia Herrera presentaron la demanda de negligencia/muerte ilícita en la Corte Superior de Los Ángeles en agosto de 2014. Los padres demandaron al distrito primero, luego al condado de Los Ángeles. Ambas demandas fueron más tarde consolidadas.

El joven, un estudiante con necesidades especiales en la escuela preparatoria Garfield del este de Los Ángeles, estaba en un paseo en el parque Atlantic Avenue operado por el condado de Los Ángeles. Durante el evento patrocinado del 4 de junio de 2014 el joven fue sacado del agua de una piscina de tamaño olímpico, establece la demanda. No pudo ser resucitado y fue declarado muerto en un hospital.

La demanda alega que el adolescente no fue apropiadamente supervisado.

King Outlines Steps to Better Schools

June 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Education, prevention and intervention are three of the most important components to improving schools with high needs in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), said Superintendent Michelle King last week.

King, who in recent weeks has been on a “Listen and Learn” tour of LAUSD schools, was speaking June 6 at a forum at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights hosted by a coalition of community organizations.

A veteran LAUSD administrator and former teacher, King is relatively new in her superintendent position, appointed by the school board back in January. She is the first African-American woman to lead the second largest district of the nation.

King takes charge following the departures of two former superintendents — John Deasy and Ramon Cortines — in less than three years.

While the “Community Unity Forum” on the School Climate Bill of Rights and Comprehensive Wellness Strategy was not technically part of King’s Listen and Learn tour, it was another opportunity for the superintendent to hear from east and southeast area education advocates what they believe is needed to improve schools, from added funding to changes in discipline policies. It was also a chance for King to share her views on the topic.

According to King, education is the first step. People need to know what a healthy school climate looks like and educated about the components to achieve it, she told the audience of about 200 people.

Prevention is the second component, said King. “What is the root of the problems? What is it that harms the community?” she asked. “We have to identify what those are and think about how we go about preventing.”

Third, and equally important is intervention, King said.

 Superintendent Michelle King met with students, parents and activists to talk about the needs at East and Southeast Los Angeles schools. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Superintendent Michelle King met with students, parents and activists to talk about the needs at East and Southeast Los Angeles schools. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

“Expulsion is not the way…It’s not just ‘here’s the punishment’ and the problem hasn’t been addressed. Counselors should be available not only for academic purposes but to help guide and heal,” she said.

The forum included a resource fair where King got a close-up look at local efforts to put the three tools into action. Students and staff provided information on health and wellness, LGBTQ rights, parent involvement and how to advocate for funding directed at “restorative justice,” an effort to use counseling and dialogue to resolve issues that affect students and their families or friends, in hopes of preventing problems from escalating.

Many in the restorative justice movement complain that too much money is spent on school police and would be better spent on restorative coordinators trained to do more than just give out punishment. According to an informational graphic in one booth, LAUSD has over 476 sworn and unsworn police officers but only 52 restorative coordinators.

“Sup. King needs to step up with more after-school programs and continuation schools instead of giving more money to police,” Roosevelt 10th grader Nancy Ruelas told EGP.

Local activists say they want King to prioritize school climate programs in LAUSD’s 2016-2017 Fiscal Year budget by increasing funding for such programs from $7 million to $60 million to at least match the budget for school police.

“Trying to solve the problems only with police is not fair; we need counselors,” said Ruelas.

The School Climate Bill of Rights resolution approved by board members in May 2013 called for creating more prevention and intervention programs aimed at increasing graduation rates and decreasing incarceration time, according to LAUSD.

District data show that restorative justice programs created under the measure have had positive results, decreasing out-of-school suspension rates nearly in half, from 12,353 in 2012-2013 to 6,184 in 2013-2014.

During the resource fair, students explained to parents that under the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), more money is given to poor-performing schools with large numbers of low-income students, foster youth and English learners, but added that more money is still needed.

“Our intent is to get parents involved with local organizations to fight for more money for their schools,” Lucia Ortiz, a senior at Roosevelt, told EGP.

Sophomore Laura Gutierrez added that they are encouraging voters to extend Proposition 30 tax increases on the wealthy set to expire at the end of 2018. Approved in 2012 as temporary, advocates back extending the tax increase for an additional 12 years.

Gutierrez said passage would help stop future cuts to schools, put more police on the street—not in schools—and help balance the budget.

Ultimately, the goal is to have healthier and safer schools with less police intervention and fewer school suspensions, according to the hosting coalition, which includes Building Healthy Communities—Boyle Heights Initiative, the Brothers, Sons Selves Coalition and the Dignity Schools campaign.

The group provided King with a list of recommendations to work on:
—Develop racial justice reforms to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline for the youth.
—Ensure dollars allocated for Restorative Practices.
—End in-school suspensions and report discipline data as required by the School Climate Bill of Rights in a format accessible to the community.
—Add intervention and prevention programs for the LGBTQ community in wellness centers.
The superintendent has yet to respond to the group’s list of priorities.

Parents Push Education Agenda as Crime Scene Unfolds

June 9, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A group of Spanish-speaking mothers were waiting outside the Highland Park Ebel Club on Avenue 57 last week to meet with their local school district board member when L.A. police units swarm the location in pursuit of an alleged “armed” gang suspect, yelling at the women to leave the area. They take refuge across the street inside a local coffee shop where they hope to continue their meeting.

A few doors down on Figueroa Street, a man in a white shirt and tie stands outside a new hip, antique-filled bowling venue and restaurant greeting the mostly White guests, he seems oblivious to the chaos unfolding less than a block away. A street vendor sells ice cream to a man waiting at a bus stop while people gather on street corners as police cordon off several blocks, denying them access to their homes and cars left in public parking lots. The only vehicles being allowed through are those with loud sirens; firefighters, an ambulance, police patrols and three K9 units. A helicopter combs the area at a close range.

It could have been a scene right out of a Hollywood movie but instead was real life in Highland Park, a community at the crossroad of change.

Perhaps most striking that day was how the community seemed to take things in stride, for the most part just going about their business in a neighborhood where gentrification is changing the face of what’s normal.

The best example being the group of mothers who, undaunted by the scene taking place outside of the Antigua Café, continued to press forward with their meeting with Los Angeles Unified School Board Member Ref Rodriguez, who initially followed police instructions to leave the area because it wasn’t safe, but at the women’s urging returned to meet with them.

“Padres de Highland Park,” a group of about eight mothers representing the 11 public elementary, middle and high schools in Highland Park, had a long, organized list of items they wanted Rodriguez to address. Charter schools were not represented and all the women taking part are Latina. They primarily spoke in Spanish, and repeatedly emphasized their desire to be partners in their children’s education.

Calling the mothers and children “mi familia” (my family), Rodriguez said he was ready to listen.

“The school never asks our opinion,” complained Daisy Ortiz, whose child attends Garvanza Elementary. “We are giving them our most precious treasure and you just make business out of their education,” she told Rodriguez.

The parents complained about schools that wait to incorporate accelerated or advanced classes until middle or high school.

“Advanced education has to start from elementary school,” said one mother as Rodriguez listen attentively and a member of his staff took copious notes on a laptop computer.

Some of the mothers stressed the importance of inclusion in the education of their children and asked the board member to help make it a school district goal.

“We want a resolution approved that will require the involvement of parents at the beginning of any process, instead of at the end,” Ortiz said.

You [the District] don’t have a vision for our children, she continued. “There are new positions in LAUSD to make money, but not to fix the educational system,” she lamented.

Taking turns speaking, the women asked Rodriguez to work with them on a list of goals they said would help improve Highland Park schools. Specifically, they want schools and the District to:
—Always consider parents and give them full and concrete information;
—Include parents’ opinion when implementing new school programs;
—Listen to [parents’] questions and concerns;
—Give parents workshops on how to conduct meetings and understand District information and;
—To hold quarterly meetings with the board member.

We don’t want to go to our school parent centers for Zumba or knitting classes, said Alma, who did not want to give her last name.

What we really need, she said, are experts who can teach parents how LAUSD meetings work so they can take part.

The best thing schools can do for families is to give them the opportunity to be included in the process, the women said.

They said they volunteer at their schools so their children will have a better future than the man police were searching for right outside their meeting.

“We are not against the District, we want to work with you, but words are not enough,” said Susana Zamorano, an organizer with CARECEN who works with the group.

Public schools need to work harder to keep students instead of pushing them to charter schools, Leticia Aldana told Rodriguez.

“[Students] leave public schools because they don’t feel welcome,” she said.

“Charter schools have more programs,” added another of the mothers.

Rodriguez answered specific questions about school data and other matters, and what he could not answer, he said he would look into and come back with an answer. He concluded the meeting by saying he would take all their comments and suggestions under consideration, and agreed to meet again.

Outside, the neighborhood was returning to normal as streets were reopened to pedestrians and traffic. LAPD Northeast Division Sergeant Christopher Gomez told EGP that police officers had observed a known gang member with a gun walking near Avenue 57 and attempted to stop him, which led to the foot pursuit and the suspect discarding the gun along the way. The suspect eventually surrendered without incident, said Gomez. The gun was not found.

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