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Plans to replace teachers at Manual Arts High spark new protest

Manual Arts High School students, parents and teachers protest a decision to replace more than half the school's teachers.

More than 100 students, teachers and parents demonstrated after school Thursday outside Manual Arts High School against plans to replace at least half of the teachers at the school.

The controversial process, called reconstitution, has become increasingly common in the Los Angeles Unified School District, but there’s a different twist at Manual Arts, located several blocks south of the USC campus near downtown. This reconstitution is being managed by an outside group, L.A.’s Promise, that already has been in charge of the school for nearly four years. And it comes one year after L.A.’s Promise removed as much as 40% of teachers, which also generated ill will on campus.

The leadership of L.A.’s Promise was not available for comment Thursday and the school’s principal declined to be interviewed, but it’s been clear for some time that the nonprofit was dissatisfied with the school’s academic ranking. It remains low even though test scores and student performance on the high school exit exam have improved.

L.A’s Promise was itself under pressure to show progress or possibly lose control of the campus.

Still, protesters felt the move against teachers was disruptive, unnecessary, heavy-handed and punitive.

“Most of these teachers are like family to me and I don’t want them to lose their jobs,” said Maira Meza, a 16-year-old 10th-grader. “They have made me what I am today.”

Students participated in or organized at least three previous demonstrations since the May 22 announcement about the pending replacement of teachers.

Parent Maria C. Reza said, in Spanish, that she was taking part “to support all the teachers the school wants to fire.”

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-- Howard Blume

Photo: Manual Arts High School students, parents and teachers protest a decision to replace more than half the school's teachers. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

 
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