When the board meeting was over on Tuesday May 10th I walked out outside the building because I had heard rumors of our kids walking the 6 or 7 miles over to the Beaudry Ave. district headquarter Building. At first I saw a few students, some crying, outside the front doors. I thought that perhaps only a trickle of students made it to downtown LA. Then, I walked over to 3rd St. and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Hundreds of students were waving fists and chanting. They refused to get on the buses to send them back to HP. They argued with police and the district suits who were obviously frustrated and frightened by this display of protest from the students. The head count was over 600 (official word from HPHS administration) when they finally arrived back at school later on in the evening.
Oh yes, the district is going to try to blame us, the teachers, again, but we had no idea this was going to happen. We were delighted, but there was no conspiracy on our part. It was a spontaneous action from the students.
Check out the video:
During the board meeting, I was constantly distracted by text messages and cell calls, but I managed to scratch down a short speech to make at the microphone when the call for speakers on our reconstitution came up. They didn’t even bother to vote on this action. It was considered a “consensus” item. They allowed us to vent, I suppose. Here was my vent:
Good Afternoon Board Members:
Once upon a time there was a high school. This high school existed in an urban setting with all of the attendant problems that come with that. The school suffered under poverty, street gangs, drug abuse, broken homes, and relatively high crime rates. These things just have a habit of getting in the way of academics.
This school was a needy place. It needed genuine leadership. It needed more space for its 4500 students. It needed a consistent discipline policy, not a bunch of head-patting for “positive behavior.” It needed support and guidance for its new teachers who appeared with regularity due to a high turn-over rate. It needed some serious auditing to ensure that QEIA and other special funding sources were used appropriately. It needed dialogue and conversation. It received none of these things.
Instead, it received a board member whose hostility toward teachers was matched only by her lack of understanding for the school she claimed to represent and for its students. Her hubris with regard to preconceived solutions already rejected by the majority of educational pundits was amazing. Small schools are not the solution. They’re more expensive. They offer fewer opportunities for their students. They are no more successful than their larger counter parts.
The reconstitution of a high school like HPHS in a mere seven weeks is a disaster. Our kids are going to suffer for it. The community will suffer for it.
I guarantee all of you sitting here that many of us will make it our solemn duty in the future to make sure that the community does NOT forget who is responsible for it. Retaliation against the teachers who disagreed with her and actually dared to express this disagreement will cost our kids a lot. There really is no other reason for this reconstitution.
Mat Taylor, our area chair until July, spoke the next day after school hours. “Displacement is not the end of the world. You are still an employee of LA Unified, and you will receive a paycheck.” We are looking forward to new UTLA union leadership in July.
The worst case scenario might be a last minute placement into a middle school that is out of control. Mat reminds the faculty that this whole mess is not about the education of the kids. It’s ultimately about the dismantling of public education. Yolie and Deasy work for the same people. When Eli Broad says something, they listen. Private charter companies are ready to take public money.