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Locke High -- a new beginning?

September 18, 2008 | 11:37 am

Strike_up_the_band If the name Locke High rings a bell, it could be that fight last spring, which quickly became a brawl with 600 kids duking it out as police were called, parents panicked, the school went into lockdown and images from the fight made the afternoon news.

Now the troubled school, which in recent years had more dropouts than grads, is looking to make headlines of a different kind. Our own Howard Blume visited and has the story -- there's a great video, too. And here's a little Web-only peek into Locke High 2.0, also from Howard:

The main office at Locke High in Watts has been renamed the Welcome Center. The wall on one side used to display framed photos of Locke’s principals in chronological order. Now there are only 20 nail holes in the unevenly painted drywall, and, below that, colorful new posters of families from Albania, Mexico, Japan, Bhutan, Thailand and England. And below that a pile of toys and picture books to keep younger siblings busy while parents registered the high schoolers.

The new décor is a sure sign of the new sheriff in town, and, on the first day of classes, Steve Barr, the founder of Green Dot Public Schools, was standing by, at the ready, to help both disoriented students and clamoring reporters. He was having much more trouble keeping his own shirt tucked than most of his freshly scrubbed charges in regulation polos and khakis. Most of them were adjusting fine to the new mandatory uniform policy. And those who forgot, or decided to test it, had to line up for loaners.

In recent years Locke has had more dropouts than graduates -- despite the best efforts of some dedicated teachers and hardworking students and families. And now it’s a charter school, part of a groundbreaking experiment that is being watched around the country.

Lots more photos here, and a look at Green Dot here.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times