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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A big blue barrier comes between a Mt. Washington parent and her neighborhood school

It was not uncommon on school days for the front doors of Mt. Washington Elementary to be swung wide open, a welcoming symbol for kids as well as neighbors of this hillside neighborhood. But when the school reopens after the summer break, students won't be greeted by those open doors. Instead, they will encounter a big wrought iron gate that was installed a few weeks ago for reasons that have mystified and angered some residents and neighbors.

Why the school district spent an estimated $20,000 on the fence has never been made clear to parents and residents, said former Mt. Washington Elementary PTA board member Roberta Tinajero-Frankel. Tinajero notes that there is already chain link fence surrounding the rest of the campus. Vandals still managed to break into a school building over the winter break, but this new fence would not have prevented that, said Tinajero. The principal told Tinajero in May that the fence would probably not be installed because of budget cuts. But apparently the district found the funds.

"This is a school that does not have a functioning photo copier," said Tinajero. "This what our very limited resources are being spent on? It's the wrong message at the wrong time."
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What bothered Tinajero, whose son attended the school, and other neighbors the most was that the decision to install the barrier was done without input from parents despite their request to get involved. One Mt. Washington resident, in an email Tinajero forwarded to principal Sosie Kralian, said the lack of community involvement about the fence could hurt the school:

"It is counterproductive to push forward with a fence without parental and community input. It is creating controversy where there needn't be any, and it's making many parents and community members feel shut out of the process and therefore upsetting them. I'm not arguing for or against a gate. I am arguing in favor of healthy communication and an atmosphere of inclusiveness."

The principal did speak about the fence in a meeting in June - after the project was already approved. There was apparently some concern about providing additional protection for kindergartners students located near the entrance. But, if there was a security concern, shouldn't residents have been notified, asks Tinajero.

The school is closed for the summer break, and principal Kralian could not be reached for comment.

Tinajero is no longer involved with the PTA since her son will be attending a charter school this fall. But she walks past the school nearly every day and the new fence serves as a reminder of the long way the school district has to go to keep parents and residents in the loop.

"I feel like the elementary school is one of the top schools in the district - it's the pride of the community," said Tinajero, a longtime Mt. Washington resident. "We should have been able to work collaboratively on this decision."

Top photo by Roberta Tinajero-Frankel; bottom images from Mt. Washington Elementary website

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hermon charter school to continue operations

The Boulevard Sentinel reports that Los Angeles International Charter High School in Hermon was able to get necessary approvals to continue operations after they faced the prospect of losing their charter at the end of the semester.

"Determined to provide a superior educational opportunity for Northeast L.A. children, the school's administration, volunteers and consultants worked through all the necessary steps -- despite being assured by others that [obtaining a charter through the Los Angeles County Office of Education] was a "lost cause." That Office of Education has only ever charted a small handful of schools, and hasn't added any new ones in more than 10 years.

Nevertheless, LAI held strong and convinced the County board that their students would be best served by the school continuing to operate here. In the end, they were granted a full 5-year renewal (the maximum), rather than the 1-2 years they requested originally from LAUSD – a "blessing in disguise."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cutbacks force leadership change at Silver Lake middle school magnet program

The magnet program at Silver Lake's Thomas Starr King Middle School has drawn students from far and wide with a focus on the arts as well as technology. But the leader and one of the founding teachers of the magnet program, artist and educator Alice Hayward, is being forced to leave the school as coordinator because of cutbacks, reports the Los Feliz Ledger. Hayward, one of the teachers who started the program in 2001, works an independent contractor, whose ranks are being reduced as the Los Angeles school districts struggles to save money.

“My view of the magnet program has been to produce classical scholars with 21st century skills,” she told the Ledger. “We want them to be great thinkers and what we can do is teach them skills and analysis and evaluation for whatever their work lives may be.”

Hayward played a role in the hiring of her replacement, teacher Carlos Hernandez. She approached Hernandez, who is technology cooridnator for the middle school, about succeeding her as coordinator of the magnet program. Hayward may end up working for Hernandez. She has applied to work at the magnet, this time as a substitute teacher.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Atwater group seeks to start an after school program at GlenFeliz elementary

The Friends of GlenFeliz, a nonprofit formed by Atwater residents and parents to support Glen Feliz Elementary School, will be offering scholarship assistance to kids who attend an after school program the group plans to launch this fall, according to the Atwater Village News.

"The Learning Enrichment Program will be a daily after school program focused in academic support and instruction in arts and science classes. The program, which will be fee based, offers a Homework Club, nutritious snacks and a menu of enrichment classes. Enrichment classes include music & singing, yoga, gardening, cooking and soccer classes."


Friday, July 10, 2009

Why a middle school science fair in Boyle Heights is important to national security

The Science Fair at Hollenbeck Middle School last March attracted 218 entries and found students trying to impress judges with projects bearing titles like "The Velocity of Filling Spheres" to "How Does Asthma Affect Lung Capacity?" This typical looking science fair, is now part of a pilot program in Boyle Heights that is funded by the Department of Defense. Why is the Pentagon financing this pilot-program at Hollenbeck Middle school and several other Boyle Heights campuses schools?

The purpose of the program, called Stem-Up, is to attract more young people living in low income and minority neighborhoods into science, technology, engineering and math (or STEM). Organizers and supporters of the program told EGP News that getting more Latinos from Boyle Heights and elsewhere to join the ranks of scientists, engineers and mathematicians is vital to national as well as economic security. Said Councilman Jose Huizar"

“If you look at the places where most of our young people are being educated, it is in places like Boyle Heights—large urban public systems that this country depends on for the future of its workforce. It’s not only a moral issue, it is an economic issue, it’s a national security issue,” he said.

Read more about the program, which is organized by a Los Angeles nonprofit dedicated to attracting more Latinos into the science and technology fields, at the EGP News.

Photo from the StemUp.org

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What not to wear at Franklin High School


The dress code for Franklin High School in Highland Park leaves little room for students to express themselves. The long list of prohibitions range from bans on tube tops that display "excessive cleavage" to t-shirts bearing beer company logos. Then there's the policy on collars:

"No dog collars or any spiked accessory that could be considered a safety hazard."

Apparently Franklin High is an off-leash school.

Photo by Star 5112 via Flickr