The Division reveals itself, an abandoned letter and a defection, December 5, 2010

So, it’s all out there in plain view for everyone to see at this time. Our PSC 2.5 web site has listed SIX letters of intent which have been submitted for HPHS. Have a look at them.  None of them are from charter companies.

Most of the outlines sound the same, as if buzz words and officially sanctioned pundits such as Marzano were thrown into a meat grinder and then spread out onto paper, with one notable exception, Nick Adolfo’s plan. The biggest curiosity in the listing is the collection of “small schools” that have been placed under the heading of a Network of 21st Century Schools. You will find a collection of repeated names at the top of their letters of intent. I believe the parents (who were recruited by the mostly out-of-classroom personnel which authored these “small school” outlines) signed each of them.

The collaborative letter that was the product of much fuss and angst on Monday November 29th seems to have died a natural death, unless a group of individuals wants to pick up the ball and write for that outline. Our UTLA Steering committee wrote a letter and outline. That one remains in play. Mr. Sievers submitted his own letter. A proposal between now and the end of February will be a lot of work to do on your own Dave. Are you sure you want to do it? District Six submitted a letter. I suspect that was merely a place-holder, just in case, and the mini-district will support the 21st Century Network proposal because they are being pressured to do so by a person who shall remain concealed behind the use of the passive voice. Of course, I could be wrong. The emerging School of Social Justice submitted a pilot proposal for themselves.

Our principal, Mr. Al Castillo, and I have had a few long conversations about the situation. We see two basic models here: one represented by the “Small School Network” and the other one being drawn up by the UTLA Steering committee. The faculty will need to decide which one it prefers.

The UTLA Steering committee, acting on what it considers to be the majority opinion of the faculty, is choosing to write a proposal that includes a freshman house. Those of us serving on the Steering committee want to see our in-coming ninth grade students segregated so that they can become the subjects of more intensive and concentrated attention.  We wish to alter their behavioral habits and help instill habits that will improve their academic performance. When our ninth grade students have genuinely passed their ninth grade requirements, we want to see them move on to an academy of their own choosing which will be their small school for grades 10 through 12.

The Network model will not include a freshman house, but will consist of “small schools” which will NOT be pilots, but semi-independent entities under an umbrella governance and ONE funding location code. The small schools will include grades nine through twelve. The structure of these schools has no definition at this point in time leading several people to smell a conspiracy to usher in reconstitution “on the sly” by later defining them in ways that fairly closely approximate pilot schools and requiring faculty to reapply for their jobs at Huntington Park High School by applying at one of the “small schools”.  This is a real possibility, especially when one considers the attitude of the out of classroom individuals who have spent time writing these sub-outlines for the “network of schools’” letter of intent.

Unfortunately, at HPHS, out of classroom most often means out of touch. I find it more than just a coincidence that the bitterest criticism of teachers comes from people who are not in the classroom and who have often been out of it for years.  The small school defection letter composed by coordinators and coaches and distributed to faculty mailboxes on December 2nd appears to reveal a desire to implement “significant reform” and “improve the quality of education” for HP students. That appears to be the case, but what actions are advocated to accomplish this? The only course of action I see advocated in the letter is a call to align ourselves to “directives we have received.” How does unquestioning and unthinking conformity to top down directives qualify as advocating for the good of our students? I would love to have someone explain that to me. Do you follow the line of reasoning here? Help me out please. I see puppy-dogging with authority figures accomplishing other goals, especially for people salivating over administrative jobs, but functioning as an indication of having the good of kids at heart? I don’t see it.

For the record, the instructions on the letter sent to the school by Mr. Cortines announcing PSC 2.5 called for small schools or learning communities. Further correspondence with Mr. Cortines unveiled a more open-ended idea of what these entities might be. Joel Jordan from UTLA has informed us that District Six has no business giving out directives in the PSC writing process.

Recently I have received a request as a UTLA rep. to do whatever I can to assist a teacher at our school who is prevented from doing his or her job by having a class of 35 “nine-plus” students still classified as limited English proficient with RSP students thrown into the room for good measure. Students in this class do not wish to cooperate. He or she feels incapable of doing the job in this situation. What a marvelous opportunity for our out-of-classroom crowd to show their altruism and desire to put students first. Hey people on the small school letter of intent list!! Let me know when you would like to demonstrate some expertise and significant reform. This teacher would be happy to step back and let you work your miracles.

Freshman house, small schools, academies – these are only surface issues for you to consider when deciding where your supporting efforts should be placed. Underneath this I see a choice between genuine collaboration among faculty and parents that gleans from years of personal experience on the one hand and the triumph of buzz words and teacher scape goating for purposes other than education on the other hand. I understand that people on campus are frightened and pragmatic – certainly not everyone listed in the 21st Century network is acting selfishly, but I would ask that all of us consider carefully where our loyalties are being placed as the next two very traumatic months transpire.  A high school is an instrument of juvenile upbringing. We help raise kids. We don’t hire coordinators to raise teachers.

FACULTY MEETING ON TUESDAY – it should be a humdinger.

– P.R. Keller (UTLA Acting Chair for HPHS)


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One Response to The Division reveals itself, an abandoned letter and a defection, December 5, 2010

  1. Barbara says:

    Great post. You all need to listen to teachers who have been played like a violin by the district at schools like Fremont and now Jordan. They promise certain people coordinator positions and of course those already out of the classroom who think they are superior to those inside the classroom are offered more -and are paid more to boot.

    If you all don’t figure out how to unite for the benefit of your students, all of you will suffer down the road, even those who think they are in such powerful positions. Even Bill Gates, a proponent and starter of small schools realized they were no more successful in that comprehensive high schools (Ravitch, 2009, pp. 209- 211).
    Not surprisingly, comprehensive high schools are successful when you have a middle class with parents who push their kids to succeed. These schools also have union contracts with seniority. So what you should be doing it fighting for the comprehensive high school and fighting for economic goals in your community.

    Wake up. Teachers in LAUSD are 48th out of 50 in pay while the administrators are near the top of pay in LA County. Teachers at the bottom and administrators who are cushioned from RIF’s are at the top. And you are all turning on each other??? Why??

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