Thursday, May 10, 2007

Locke Seceeds From Union: Rebs To Fly Green Dot Flag

By now, you've probably heard about the secession in LAUSD started by over forty teachers at Locke High School in the heart of Watts. If you haven't, over forty teachers signed a petition to disassociate themselves with LAUSD and their union, UTLA and join Green Dot. This comes roughly a month or so after the LA School Board voted against allowing Green Dot come in to take over Locke. You can read a Green Dot board member's thoughts on it here, while you can read my take on it here.

In California, state law allows this and the LA school board would basically have to approve the change for the 2008 school year, says this LA Time article. It shouldn't have come as a surprise to those who read this LA Times article six days earlier, where the writing was on the wall as to what was going to happen.

Here is a brief "bio" on the school, as most articles/ commentary on this issue simply label the school as "bad":

Locke High School is a large, urban school in the heart of south central Los Angeles, where the median household income is $26,449 and half of the population speaks Spanish as their primary home language. Less than six percent of adults in the surrounding community possess a college degree, and less than 50 percent of adults hold a high school diploma. The demographic profile of the school reflects the impact of immigrant families who have settled in south central Los Angeles during the last decade. Its student body is 63 percent Latino and 37 percent African American. Approximately 33 percent of Locke High School students are identified as English Language Learners.

The high school’s graduation rate is 44 percent, below the district-wide graduation rate reported by the Los Angeles Unified School District and consistent with recent findings by the Civil Rights Project of Harvard University of the significant statewide dropout rates of Latino and African American students in California. Standardized test scores are also below reported state averages, and in 2004 the school did not achieve “adequate yearly progress,” as defined by No Child Left Behind Act guidelines. Attendance rates have since increased by 15 percent, indicating that Locke High School is moving toward improving its graduation rate. Its student enrollment is approximately 3,400.


This is a school in trouble-- the grad rate for LAUSD (47%) is dismal, and this school is below that pitiful benchmark.

I wonder what precipitated the petition signing in the building. If you read the latest article, you'll notice that the principal was escorted from the building after the results were announced, so clearly the administration holds him responsible. Was it the principal who encouraged it? Was this a teacher-driven action, completely independent of the principal?

What is troubling about this incident is so for two reasons:

1) This is a wake-up call from teachers that they have completely abandoned LAUSD. There is nothing left; to these teachers the district is done, worthless.

2) This is a wake-up call from teachers that they have completely abandoned their union. The fact that UTLA was unable create alternatives for the teachers of Locke High School to believe in does not bode well for the future of their organization, nor does the fact that they did not have a finger on the pulse of the building to be aware of what was happening. While Green Dot is unionized and does have a published salary schedule, these teachers are leaving a lot of contractual "goodies" behind.

These actions speak louder than any rhetoric.

What next for UTLA and LAUSD?

Hopefully you "got" my historical reference in the post title. I believe this is the modern-day attack on Fort Sumter, the event that officially started the Civil War for the United States. Casualties were light in that attack, only one Union soldier was killed (and not even during the fighting, as he was part of a gun crew that was killed/ injured as they were firing a salute to the southern forces to whom they were transferring control of the fort) and a handful were wounded; it was an inauspicious start to a very bloody war. Slightly more than forty teachers can be considered "casualties" in this very minor skirmish-- greater battles have yet to be fought.

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